Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Matthew 24:1-25; Revelation 13:11-17; Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 21:20; Matthew 25:1-30
The end of the world has arrived—at least for some residents of Leilani Estates in Puna, on the island of Hawaii. The ongoing volcanic activity has brought outbreaks of lava fountains up to 300 feet high, along with lava flows and volcanic gas. In the last few weeks, 27 houses have been destroyed and 1,700 residents have been evacuated. The eruption began on May 3 with a 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
Officials are warning many more residents in Lower Puna to prepare for a possible evacuation. New eruptions are spewing more hot lava after a brief reprieve. As of Sunday, May 13, there are 17 fissures. Vacation rentals in the area have closed and residents have getaway kits packed and are ready to flee at a moment’s notice. Scientists do not know when the activity will cease. They warn residents and visitors “about the threat of explosive eruption that could fling boulders ‘the size of cows’ over a half a mile from Halemaumau Crater.”1
Our Sabbath school lesson this week focuses on Jesus’ teaching about last day events. Some of the descriptions certainly remind us of catastrophes taking place around the world, including what the people of Puna are experiencing. But, as our Sabbath Afternoon lesson points out, “Jesus didn’t just warn about what was coming. … He also told parables that, if heeded, will prepare His people for when He, the ‘Son of Man,’ returns.”
Two of the parables told by Christ in Matthew 24 and 25, tell us how to live in light of His soon return. The focus of these parables is not so much on having correct theology or a certain amount of intellectual knowledge in order to be prepared. Those who would be ready for Jesus’ second coming have a burning faith (like the extra oil of the Ten Virgins) and are busy using their spiritual gifts (as described in the Parable of the Talents).
Difficult days are ahead and we certainly need to study the Scriptures and have a clear knowledge about what is to come. But none of that can stand alone. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Of the coming storms, Christ said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
The residents of Puna know that even physical houses built on rock can shift and even melt. The spiritual getaway kit isn’t something you can toss in your car. It’s a preparation of the heart.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Have each member of the group share a sentence statement beginning with either “I’m excited about the last days because...” or “I’m scared about the last days because...”
Sharing: Jesus said: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). What is Jesus trying to tell us about the end of time or last days?
1. We need to trust that the Father has complete control of the last days.
2. We need to relax since we can’t figure out when the last days will happen.
3. We need to focus our time and energy on our relationship with Jesus, which prepares us.
4. We need not fear the last days’ calendars and charts.
5. We need to work harder at setting dates and times and affixing them to current events.
Applying: Take a close look at your local church and what it does for the community. Is the church acting more like sheep or goats in its programs and actions? What programs can be created to give water, food, clothing, healing, etc., to those the King cares about? Compile your ideas and share them with the church for input, comments, and action.
Valuing: Share with another person one change you believe you need to make right now to be a better virgin, servant, or sheep. Pray for each other.