Bible Prophecy Fulfilled
(Matthew 24, Genesis 6, Daniel 2)
Introduction: What is the purpose of prophecy in the Bible? Is it to motivate you to do good now? Is it to get you to be more patient about current problems? Is it to make you excited about a future reward? Is it to give the Bible credibility? Is it to help you trust God? Is it to test your faith? Let's jump into our study this week and learn more about prophecy and fulfilled prophecy in the Bible!
- The Temple Destroyed
- Read Matthew 24:1-2. Why do you think the disciples called Jesus' attention to the way the Temple in Jerusalem was built? (It was beautiful. The New Bible Commentary tells us it was one of the architectural wonders of the world.)
- What is Jesus' response to their comment on its beauty? (It will be destroyed.)
- Put yourself in the place of one of Jesus' disciples, how would that make you feel? (My first thought might be that Jesus was having a bad day. Losing the temple would be an unmitigated disaster. There no longer would be a place where God dwelled with His people. It would likely mean the end of the nation.)
- Would it cause you to distrust Jesus? (It certainly would be a big test of my confidence in what He had to say.)
- Read Matthew 24:3. We have been speculating about what the disciples thought the destruction of the temple would mean, now we read it plainly. What did they think the destruction of the temple would mean, as a practical matter? (They thought it meant the end of the world. With all of the prophecy about Israel triumphing over its enemies, the destruction of the temple must mean the end of the world. For contrary prophecy, see Jeremiah 7:4-15.)
- In the following verses, Matthew 24:4-31, Jesus describes both the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. Jesus not only failed to correct the misunderstanding of His disciples about the timing of the end of the world, but He strengthened their error by discussing the end of the world and the end of the temple together. Why would God do that? (Two things: First, the IVP Bible Background Commentary says that it was common for Old Testament prophets to group events by topic, rather than chronology. Second, God is God and we are not. Sometimes we cannot understand God's ways. To me, this is a powerful warning against being very rigid about our understanding of end-day prophecy.)
- Read Matthew 24:32-36. What does Jesus say that we can know about the future? (This reinforces what we just discussed. Jesus admits to His disciples that He does not know when the world will end - and neither will they know it. However, there will be signs that will give us a general warning about the timing of the end.)
- If this is the message (Jesus does not know details and Jesus merges two different events), why does Jesus say, "Heaven and earth will pass, but my words will never pass away?" When you introduce ambiguity, and say you don't know, why make a statement like this? (God does not want us confused about the source of the error. His words our true, our understanding is limited.)
- Read Matthew 24:42. What is the bottom line for Christians looking forward to Jesus' Second Coming? (To be ready at all times.)
- There is a sub-text here about Bible prophecy. What are we learning about prophecies in the Bible? (At least with end-time prophecy, there is going to be sufficient ambiguity that we can only rely on being ready at all times.)
- Read John 13:19. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D. The generation that heard Jesus' words in Matthew 24 had not passed when this came true. Tell me now why the Bible contains prophecies? (Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed. It was. This, as Jesus says in another context in John 13:19, gives us confidence in God's word.)
- The Earth Flooded
- Read Genesis 6:11-14. Imagine you are Noah and you just heard these words of prophecy. How would they make you feel?
- Would some part of you doubt this could be true?
- Read Genesis 6:3. The Bible does not say to whom God was talking. It does not appear He was talking to Noah. Add that fact to the picture. How would you feel if God told you He was going to destroy humanity with a flood, you were told to build a boat, and God waited 120 years - but did not tell you the time frame?
- How do you think Noah felt 115 years later? (2 Peter 2:5 suggests that Noah was building and preaching during this time. No doubt people were making fun of Noah for preaching about the coming disaster which had not come for 115 years. An interesting comment is found in 1 Peter 3:20 which says that it was God who was waiting on Noah this 120 years, not Noah waiting on God.)
- What lesson about Bible prophecy do we learn from Noah's story? (It is sure, but it might take a while. Be patient.)
- The Span of Time
- What could Nebuchadnezzar do with this prophecy?
- What can you do with this prophecy? (Just like the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple, and the prophecy of the flood, this prophecy gives me confidence that God has His hand on the throttle of history. Our God is in charge and He knows the future.)
- The End of Earth's Time
- Perhaps the most important prophecy for us today is the Second Coming of Jesus. Let's turn back to Matthew 24 to see what Jesus says about His return. Read Matthew 24:3-5. Is it your opinion that many false Christs have come to date? (My knowledge of history in this regard is limited.)
- If this has not been a temptation or a problem for you, perhaps this is a future event. How serious a problem will this be? (Jesus says that "many" will be deceived. Indeed, the first thing Jesus says about His Second Coming is "Watch out that no one deceives you." This is a serious issue.)
- Let's jump down and pick up the rest of Jesus' prophetic statements about false Christs. Read Matthew 24:23-27. As you consider these verses, is there a simple way to distinguish Jesus from the false Christs? (Yes. If someone has to tell you about the Second Coming, that is not it. When Jesus comes again, everyone will know it. No one will have to be told about it.)
- I read an article suggesting that Jesus was anticipating modern technology; therefore we would all see Him come again by means of television. What do you think about that theory? (Television is one human telling another. If you need television to know about Jesus' return, it is not Jesus that has returned!)
- If the false Christs and false prophets cannot replicate the "every eye will see" requirement, what is it they do which is so compelling? (They perform great signs and miracles. Compare Matthew 7:22-23.)
- Why is are miracles so compelling? (Because when Jesus came the first time, He used miracles to prove His divinity. See Mark 2:6-12.)
- Notice in Matthew 24:24 that Jesus warns about something other than those trying to impersonate Him. Who else is a problem? (False prophets who perform great signs and wonders.)
- A false prophet will (I assume) not suggest that he is Jesus, but will nevertheless be a part of the great deception. How can we identify a false prophet in this context? (Read 1 John 4:2-3. A true prophet acknowledges that Jesus is God. A false prophet does not acknowledge Jesus is God. Thus, any "prophet" working with a false Christ is a false prophet. Any prophet who does great things on his own, without acknowledging Jesus is God, is a false prophet.)
- How many are deceived today by a false prophet?
- Friend, prophecy fulfilled strengthens our faith. It increases our trust in God. Prophecy to be fulfilled guides us in avoiding placing our trust in false Christs and false prophets. Will you carefully study the prophecies to avoid being deceived?
- Next week: The Bible is Reliable.