Introduction: Prior to December 31, 1999, we heard all sorts of talk
in the media about the end of the world coinciding with “the end” of
the millennium. Speculation about “Y2K” problems that might cause a
general break down of society was taken seriously by many in
responsible positions. In my area, I was sobered when I learned the
National Guard was called up to duty during the two weeks around the
new year “just in case.”
How should we react to predictions about the end of the world?
Didn’t we decide last week that we are part of the “big angel” and we
should be warning of the final judgment? What about those who study
the Bible to interpret prophecy to have a better “fix” on when the
end will be? What about those who go further, and attack their fellow
Christians now based on their prophetic understanding of the future?
Let’s dig in and see what the Bible teaches us!
- WHY PROPHECY?
- Should we have an interest in prophecy? Since the Bible
contains prophecy, what do you think is its purpose?
- Read Matthew 24:1-2. Why do you think Jesus told His
- Let’s read on. Matthew 24:3 Did Jesus have the attention
of the disciples?
- Why did they come to Jesus “privately?”
- What did the disciples want to know? (When will this
happen and how will we know it.)
- Read on: Matthew 24:4-5. What is the problem with trying
to understand the future? (There are many with a false
- Read Matthew 24:6-10, 13. What do these verses suggest is
Jesus’ reason for telling His disciples about the future?
It seems that several reasons are sprinkled into these
verses. Let’s list them. (Avoid alarm (v.6); encourage
faithfulness and community among believers(v.10); stiffen
the spine of the believers by reminding them of the Second
- WHY NOT PROPHECY?
- Is there a danger to prophecy? Can prophecy be too
detailed, too specific? Read Matthew 24:32-33, 36. This is
a continuation of Jesus’ discussion about the destruction
of Jerusalem and the Second Coming. How specific is Jesus
being in response to the disciples initial question (v.3)
- Why do you think Jesus is being general as opposed to
- Let’s read on in this chapter. Read Matthew 24:44-50. What
does this suggest is a danger to prophecy, particularly a
very specific interpretation of prophecy?
- Why does Jesus say in v. 44 that we will not expect Him
when He comes again when He has just gone through the
effort to tell His disciples “when?”
- Does an intense interest in prophecy discourage us
from being ready at all times?
- Which is more important, being ready at all times, or
- Are these mutually exclusive — understanding
and trying to be ready at all times?
- When we looked at the reason that Jesus shared
the future with His disciples, was it to give
them a time line, or to encourage them in future
- Should a church focus on prophetic time lines or
the types of problems (and relief) believers can
expect in the future?
- Read 2 Peter 3:8-10. What does this text teach
us about time lines? Can any be reliable?
- PROPHECY DIFFICULTIES
- Read Daniel 2:1-4. The King cannot sleep because of this
dream. He calls in his experts for help.
- Do these sound like experts to you?
- Do we still have these kinds of “experts” around
- Read Daniel 2:5-7. Ah, the danger of being an expert. Why
do you think the King required them to tell him his dream?
- The wise men told the King this was impossible. Read
Daniel 2:12-13. Do you think Daniel and his friends among
the “top” wise men? Did we turn a corner and go from
sorcerers to all wise men?
- Why would they (Daniel and friends) get executed
without even knowing about the problem?
- Read Daniel 2:16. What does this tell you about the
relative importance of Daniel? (He must have had some
influence for he was able to see the King. On the
other hand, perhaps God intervened for him and got
him in to see the King.)
- Read Daniel 2:31-35. How do you understand the King’s
- Let’s go for the toes. Read Daniel 2:41-45a. What do
you understand the composition of the toes to mean?
What is the meaning of the big rock?(This is a
prophecy of the state of the world before the Second
- Does this tell us that no country will dominate the
world when Jesus comes again?
- Read Revelation 13:11-14, 16-17. How do you understand
this end-time prophecy?
- Doesn’t this prophecy reveal a dominating world power
before the Second Coming?
- Is the “toes” prophecy in conflict with the “two horned
- If you say, “no,” would you bet your life on it? If
you say, “yes,” would you bet your life on it?
- What should a believer conclude from these two
prophecies? (I think absolute certainty about
prophetic interpretation is dangerous arrogance.
Certainty undermines the idea of constant readiness.
What steels my opinion the most is the fact that
God’s people completely misread Jesus’ first coming.
Couple that with His repeated warning that His Second
Coming will also be unexpected.)
- Today we see Christians ganging up with pagans to attack
fellow believers over religious liberty issues. Pat
Robertson, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell are common
targets. Part of the attack stems from a prophetic
certainty that fellow believers (as opposed to pagans)
will try to limit religious liberty by breaching the “wall
of separation” between church and state. Let’s turn to
- SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
- When you hear the term “separation of church and state,”
what do you understand it to mean?
- Does it mean the government cannot give money to
- Does it mean the government cannot put the Ten
Commandments, a manger scene or a cross on public
- Some say Christian parents who home school their
children or send their children to religious schools
should get a tax credit because they pay to support
the local public schools, but do not use them. Would
a tax credit violate the separation of church and
- Can you think of any Bible text that says it is wrong for
the government to give support to religious institutions?
- Can you think of any Bible texts that support the idea
that government should give support to religious
- Let’s turn to Nehemiah 2:1-3. Do you know this story? What
had God put in the heart of Nehemiah? (Read Nehemiah 2:4-5.)
- Was Nehemiah just asking to be sent to be able to
rebuild Jerusalem and God’s Temple? (Read Nehemiah
2:8 – he was asking for building materials.)
- Was the idea that the government should give God’s people
money to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple unprecedented?
(No! Read Ezra 1:1-3.)
- If God put it in the heart of these governmental leaders
to financially support His cause (even the rebuilding of
His “church”), on what basis can we claim it is wrong for
that to happen today?
- Can we claim the times have changed?
- If so, does this apply to other Biblical
- Can we claim God changed His mind? He no longer wants
- Our lesson (Thursday) has an interesting historical note
about attempts to limit religious freedom in the United
States in the late 1800’s and efforts by church leaders to
stop this problem.
- Should the church try to stop infringements on
- Should we be careful about the advice given to us by
“religious liberty” leaders? How can we know what is
good advice and what is not?
- Should all advice be tested by the Bible or (in
the U.S.) the U.S. Constitution? (Consider a
very interesting quote from a writer involved in
the debate of that time period who took the
position that government aid to religion should
not be questioned: “The Lord still moves upon
the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of His
people, and it becomes those who are so deeply
interested in the religious liberty question not
to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves
from the help that God has moved men to give,
for the advancement of His cause.” E.G. White,
Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 197-203)
- From where does the term “separation of church and state”
come? (It is not in the U.S. Constitution. It comes from
an exchange, in 1802, of letters between Thomas Jefferson
and Nehh Dodge (among others) of the Danbury Baptist
Association. Jefferson wrote that he thought the
prohibition in the First Amendment against any “law
respecting an establishment of religion” created a “wall
of separation between church and state.”)
- While it is far from clear (to any student of
Jefferson) that Tom Jefferson would consider any of
the items we previously discussed as church state
separation problems, to whom should we look for our
position- the Bible or Tom Jefferson?
- What do the disciples tell us we should do when we
face a conflict between the words of man and the
words of God? ( Acts 5:29)
- Our lesson (Wednesday) speaks of religious people having
influence at all levels of government. Is it wrong to
encourage our laws to reflect Biblical principles instead
of pagan principles? (Our lesson seems to suggest this is
- Should, for example, we try to encourage our
government promote the teaching of the Creation
account as opposed to the evolutionary theory?
- Or would that have the government improperly
- Or are both explanations (Creation and
evolution) of the origins of life “religious” in
that they are a matter of faith (belief based on
observation) rather than evidence?
- Are we promoting pagan religious doctrine by
sitting idly by while Biblical teachings are
swept from the public schools and the public
- Is it a violation of the separation of church
and state to pattern the laws of a nation after
Biblical principles? (Consider this counsel:
“The laws of [earthly] governments shold be in
harmony with the law of Jehovah, the standard by
which all created beings are judged.” E.G.
White, Letter 187, 1903, p.5)
- Friend, God gave us prophecies about the future for our
comfort during difficult times to come, not to make us
arrogant about the future. Our best course is to
constantly be prepared and alert for Jesus’ Second Coming
however events unfold. An important part of being prepared
is to encourage prominent fellow Christians and not join
with pagans in heaping scorn on them.
- Next week: The Certainty of the Second Coming.