Knowing the time of day is critical. Whether you need to catch a plane, meet with your child’s teacher, show up for a doctor’s appointment or bake a cake—all of these require an awareness of time. Almost every room in my house has a clock, several of which are radio-activated so the time is accurate to the second. Otherwise, I may be deceived into missing an appointment or being too early or running too late—or burning the pot roast.
It’s just as important to know what time it is in human history. We need to know the signs, stay informed of the news and be ready for the end. We don’t want to be deceived or distracted, ignorant or indifferent, surprised or scared. Therefore, it’s critical that we know how to tell time!
In Matthew 24:1-2, as Jesus looked over Jerusalem, He lamented that the city would be destroyed completely, a prophecy that was fulfilled in A.D. 70. But then His disciples asked Him two critical questions: “When will this happen?” referring to the destruction of Jerusalem; and “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” It was the second question that Jesus answered, by giving signs that would indicate the end of human history as we have known it. Jesus wanted His disciples, and you and me, to know how to “tell what time it is” so we are prepared to see Him face to face. With no regrets.
Read Matthew 24
I. THE TIME IS LATE
A. SIGNS IN THE SPIRITUAL (RELIGIOUS) WORLD
- What warning did Jesus give in Matthew 24:4? How many times does He refer to this danger in this chapter? Give the phrases and verse numbers for each.
- Give the phrase that repeats this warning in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
- Give some practical examples of how people today—especially the religious—are being deceived in regard to the end of the world and the coming of Christ.
- From Matthew 24:5-12, give at least five signs in the religious world, what each one means and a contemporary example of each.
B. SIGNS IN THE NATIONAL WORLD
- What are two of the signs Jesus gave regarding nations, from Matthew 24:6-7?
- What is another national sign, from Luke 21:25?
- Give examples of these signs being fulfilled in our world today.
C. SIGNS IN THE NATURAL WORLD
- Give signs from the world of nature, in Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11; 21:25.
- List examples of these signs that have occurred in our world during the past year.
D. SIGNS IN THE SOCIAL WORLD
- What happened in Noah’s day? Read Genesis 6:5-14; 7:11-12; 17-23.
- Is there anything wrong with eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, from Matthew 24:38? What was the real problem with Noah’s generation?
- How does Peter use this same analogy, in 2 Peter 3:6?
- What similarities do you see between Noah’s generation and ours?
- What are some other signs in the social world, from James 5:3? 2 Timothy 3:1-5? Give examples of each.
II. THE TIME IS SHORT
In Matthew 24:8, Jesus used “birth pains” to describe these signs. Birth pains have two primary characteristics: They occur at intervals of increasing frequency, and they occur with increasing intensity—each pain is stronger than the last—before the baby is delivered. While the signs Jesus gave have always been present in our world, He was warning that when you and I see them increasing in frequency—when they occur yearly, monthly, weekly, then daily; and when we see them increasing in intensity—one after another in record-breaking intensity, all in the same generation, then you and I are to lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (see Luke 21:28).
- From Matthew 24:14, what is perhaps the most exciting sign of all?
- How is this sign uniquely being fulfilled in our generation?
- What are you doing to help bring this to pass?
III. THE TIME IS NOW
A. TO WATCH
- What do you think Jesus meant by “Keep watch,” in Matthew 24:42?
- Why is this important, according to Matthew 24:42-44?
- What are some practical things you can do in order to “keep watch”?
B. TO WORK
- From Matthew 24:45-47, what does Jesus want to find you and me doing when He returns?
- If He returns in the next five minutes, what will He find you doing?
- Would you take a moment now to ask Him to give you a work assignment—something you can do that will make an eternal difference in the Kingdom of God?
C. TO WALK
- What does Jesus not want to find us doing, according to Matthew 24:48-51?
- What are several things we are to do, in light of the imminent return of Christ, from 1 Peter 4:7? 2 Peter 3:11-12? 3:14? 3:17? 3:18? 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12?
- How does the hope of the return of Christ impact our lives, according to 1 John 3:3? Can you give an example of this impact from your own life?
- Describe a walk that is pleasing to God, from Ephesians 4:1-3. How does your walk compare?
- What are some practical things you need to do to adjust your walk so that it is pleasing to Him?
From your answers to the above questions, what time do you think it is?
Five minutes before you see Jesus face to face, what will you wish you had done differently? What will you wish you had said? With whom will you wish you had shared the Gospel? Do it. Say it. Now. Time is running out … ©2022 Anne Graham Lotz
This article is adapted from a study originally published in April 2005.
Anne Graham Lotz has proclaimed God’s Word worldwide for more than 40 years. Her newest book, which she co-authored with her daughter Rachel-Ruth Wright, is “Jesus Followers: Real-Life Lessons for Igniting Faith in the Next Generation.” It is available from major booksellers online.