Sabbath School Lesson for May 12-18, 2018
As often happens, we’ve put so much emphasis on Matthew 24, which outlines final events at the end of the world, that we fail to notice Matthew 25 which follows. In this second chapter we are given the most essential information of all: how to prepare for those events!
While it’s important to be aware of the signs of His coming, it’s just as important to know how we can be ready for them. Jesus’ discourse applies not only to the Jews living then (the generation which would witness the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), or even those living at the very close of earth’s history. We recognize the dual application here, but the things Jesus told the disciples that day have served to prepare all the generations in between with the same lessons of watchfulness and preparedness that God’s people need in every age.
Jesus used His last opportunity of intimate conversation with the disciples, just before His crucifixion, to dwell upon the subject of His Second Coming. By mentioning the temple being destroyed, the disciples immediately thought He was speaking of the end of the world, and they questioned Him for further information. It must have been a scary thought not to have their temple with them any more. Why did Jesus bring up such dire predictions when He knew His own time on earth was coming to a close?
But Jesus didn’t fail to offer them hope as well. He knew the ending of the story and beautifully described the glory of the scene, picturing for them His descent with bright, holy angels, gathering up His elect, His chosen ones, to be with Him forever.
Focus Text: ” ‘For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.’ “ Matthew 24:24 NIV
Through the ages, Satan has been behind every form of deception possible on this earth, as he tries to divert God’s people from their devotion to the Creator of the universe. And how much more so, as earth’s history begins to shut down. The elect, God’s chosen ones, need to be guarded against these attacks with an armor of faith. Only by staying close to the Savior through faith will we be safe from the darts of the wicked one. See Ephesians 6:16.
Sunday: A Powerful Confirmation of Prophecy
If Satan has been active in the past, Jesus knew that he would step up his deceptions in the end times. As we’ve been told, his time is short, and he goes about “as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Jesus, likewise, is referred to as a Lion, the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). Satan seems to delight in making himself appear in some fashion as Christ, his arch enemy. It’s no wonder that Jesus warned his disciples of false messiahs. They were prevalent during the time of Christ’s First Coming, and will obviously make a sweeping comeback in the final days, as His Second Coming draws near. And unfortunately, they will look very much like the real thing.
And what about false prophecies? They will also be hard to detect. They are often so close to the truth that we fail to see the subtle differences.
But knowing Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him certainly helps in alerting us to false teachings. Combining that with diligent Bible study, faith, and prayer should equip us enough not to be fooled.
Read Matthew 24:1-3. What would make the disciples think that the destruction of the temple would mean the end of the world?
Read Matthew 24:4, 5, 11, 2 Peter 2:1, and 1 Timothy 4:1, 2. What makes these false teachers hard to detect? What quality would make it difficult for you to recognize a deceiver? What are their true motives?
What are some of the ideologies of the world that some have thought would bring a utopia, a perfect society on the earth? How and why have they all failed? [examples: education, medicinal research, government programs, economic growth, labor unions, peace treaties]
Monday: Enduring to the End
Not only will religious deceptions be rampant in the last days, but Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat the persecution and trials that His people will have to face. Evidently this time of tribulation is greater than any the world has experienced so far (Matthew 24:21). Jesus mentions that they will be killed and “hated by all nations” for His name’s sake (Matthew 24:9). This must therefore be a global experience. All nations are involved.
Revelation 13:11-17 describes this time of persecution by a beast power as well. Identifying the deceptive teachings are key, but more than knowing what they are, we need to know how to resist them. For this, faith and endurance must be manifest in our lives. And one of Jesus’ parables reveals another secret.
In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in His Sermon on the Mount, He told us about building our house upon the rock. Remember His words…
” ‘Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mind, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:’ “ Matthew 7:24 NKJV
So, the secret of enduring is to obey what Jesus has told us. We have to do what we learn. Saying it alone will never be enough. Actions do count.
Read Matthew 24:21, 9, Psalm 91:15, 16, and Hebrews 11:35. How will this tribulation be greater than others? Why do you suppose will some be martyred and others will be miraculously rescued at this time?
Read Revelation 13:11-17. What makes this image of the beast so dangerous? How does it control both religious (v. 15 and civil life (v. 17)?
Read Matthew 7:24-27. How does obedience help us endure the hard times ahead–even now?
Tuesday: The “Abomination of Desolation”
Besides the deceptions and persecution Satan instigates in the final days, Jesus told His disciples they must also deal with “an abomination of desolation” that was also spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15). Was this related to the desolation which described the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., when even the sacred temple was destroyed? The parallel chapter in Luke seems to indicate a connection with that event:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.” Luke 21:20 NKJV
Daniel speaks repeatedly of this abomination. References to it are found in Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. It seems to involve the sanctuary services, which would significantly affect the plan of salvation, which the sanctuary represents.
An “abomination” in God’s eyes is defined as something that seriously violates His holy law, such as idolatry, immorality, and other forms of apostasy (Deuteronomy 27:15 and Leviticus 18:22). As much in Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24 seems to have a dual application, we might look for another time(s) when God’s law is put aside. In essence, destroyed.
Looking back to Daniel 8:9-12 we may find another application, besides the time Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D.. There seems to be a two-phase power system for Rome, a kingdom portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from chapter 2. Daniel 8:9 refers to the vast pagan Roman Empire (the first phase of this kingdom), but the rest of the passage points to a religious power structure, which, of course, would be the religious, or papal, phase of Rome’s power.
We understand how the papal rule upset in many ways the teachings of salvation God set up in the temple services in Jerusalem. For instance, the pope and even the priests were empowered to forgive sins in this new religious system. Something only God could do previously (Mark 2:7). Many other abominations were introduced which corrupted and altered the gospel, and lessened God’s influence over His people.
Read Matthew 24:1, 2, 15, Luke 21:20, and Daniel 9:27. Why would the temple especially be the target of this “abomination of desolation”?
Read Daniel 8:11, 11:31 and 12:11. What part did the daily sacrifice play in this “abomination of desolation”? How would papal Rome become involved in it? What have they done to the “daily sacrifice”?
Read Daniel 8:9-12. How can we see both pagan and papal Rome in this passage?
Wednesday: The Ten Virgins
We have seen so far how Satan has attacked God’s people…
- mentally (by introducing false doctrines and encouraging apostasy and disregard of God’s word)
- physically (by promoting persecution and physical suffering of God’s people)
- spiritually (by altering or destroying the meaning of God’s holy sanctuary, called the “abomination of desolation”)
Now we are ready to see how we can overcome these barriers that Satan has erected. After Jesus told His disciples many predictions that must have alarmed and disheartened them, He was quick to follow up with two stories that were designed to give them tools for preparing and surviving any trials that might come their way.
The parable of the ten virgins relate the happy scene of a wedding. We know the details pretty well. Five virgins were prepared with enough oil in their lamps, and five were not. This tells us that we must be spiritually ready for Christ’s Second Coming. Our hearts and minds must be in line with the will of God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Read Matthew 25:1-5, 24:42, Luke 22:46, and Ephesians 6:18. Why is prayer important during this “watch” period, as we wait for the Bridegroom to come?
Read Matthew 25:6-13 and 2 Corinthians 11:2. Who do these virgins represent, both the wise and the foolish ones?
Read Matthew 24:36 and Acts 1:7, 8. Why do you suppose God doesn’t give us the time for His return? For what reason would the virgins need plenty of oil in their lamps when the bridegroom comes?
Thursday: Using Your Talents
Jesus’ second parable dealing with our preparation involved something more tangible: the parable of the talents (both found in Matthew 25). It almost seems like the story of the ten virgins was about getting our minds and hearts prepared, and this next parable is about using our actions to prepare for the Lord’s return. Remember the forehead and hand analogy (used in Revelation 14:9 and Exodus 13:16). We must worship God in our thoughts AND actions.
So, the parable of the talents reminds us that it’s important not only to receive the Spirit of God, but to act on our beliefs–to help grow God’s kingdom by sharing our faith with others.
In both of these stories, the bridegroom and the master of servants may seem unusually harsh to us. The bridegroom would not make exceptions for those who weren’t ready when he arrived. And likewise, when the master returned, he didn’t hesitate to condemn and relieve the lazy servant of all future duties and trust.
These unforgiving, strange actions on the part of the bridegroom and master perhaps mirror for us how it will be at the very end of time. The destruction of the wicked is called “a strange (or foreign, unusual) act”. See Isaiah 28:21…
“For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon–That He may do His work, His awesome work, And bring to pass His act, His unusual (strange, KJV) act.” NKJV
As was mentioned in the previous parable about the ten virgins, the Holy Spirit played a prominent part as the symbol of oil in their lamps. Likewise, the amounts of money, which were distinctly different, reminds us of the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows upon God’s people in order to build God’s church. They, too, will be of various kinds, depending both on the qualities already inherent in a person, and the needs of the church at that time. See 1 Corinthians 12.
Thus, we can conclude that the Holy Spirit will play a massive role in preparing us for end time events. Without the Spirit’s help, we won’t survive, both individually and as a church. The term “latter rain” signifies this role of the Spirit (James 5:7 and Acts 2:16-18). There will be a great outpouring of His power, right when we need it most as Christ’s Coming draws near.
Read Matthew 25:14, 15 and 1 Corinthians 12:11-13. Upon what basis does the Holy Spirit distribute His gifts?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:20-26 and John 17:22, 23. Why will it be important for God’s followers to be united when He comes?
Read Matthew 25:21-30, 8:12 and Psalm 112:10. Why do God’s “unprofitable” followers suffer the same fate as the wicked? What kind of trust is needed to make us profitable to God?
Matthew 24, Christ’s famous dialogue with His disciples about the signs of His Coming, involve these components:
- powerful delusions and miracles, meant to divert our worship of the Creator God, will come upon the world (Sunday)
- severe persecutions, even a death penalty against God’s people, will encompass the whole world (Monday)
- something called the “abomination of desolation” will attempt to hinder our ability to understand the plan of salvation, through the sanctuary services (Tuesday)
Matthew 25 contains parables that show how to prepare for His Coming…
- the parable of the ten virgins–showing us that we must have our hearts full of the Holy Spirit (Wednesday)
- the parable of the talents–showing us that we must prove by our actions our allegiance to God (Thursday)
The Holy Spirit was present at the beginning of our world (Genesis 1:2 says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” NKJV). In like manner, the Holy Spirit will be actively involved in the close of this earth’s history (Acts 2:17 says, ” ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh…’ “ NKJV). Thus the Holy Spirit is one of the key understandings we must have as we prepare for the Second Coming.
Jesus, still in Matthew 24, also recounts a parable of a fig tree. He uses it to illustrate how we can know the end is near by the signs all around us. Then in telling about a faithful and an evil servant, He shows that there will appear to be a delay in His Coming, but we are still to be found waiting and watching for Him to come.
After the parable of the talents in chapter 25, Jesus tells about the Son of Man dividing the sheep from the goats. This shows us clearly that in the end, there are only two kinds of people: those who are safe to save, and those who aren’t. Thank heaven, our God is faithful and just. We can trust Him to make an honorable end to this horrible mess we, of our own choosing, have made of the universe.
Next Week’s Lesson: Worship the Creator
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/