"The Time of Trouble"
Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
The Great Controversy
(or Love Under Fire) Chapter 39
The time of trouble is one of those phrases that fills Seventh-day Adventists and others who look for Jesus’ appearing with trepidation. Yet even though trying times are ahead, God has promised that His faithful followers will endure to the end.
Nothing haunts the Seventh-day Adventist imagination like the Time of Trouble.
Though it’s right there in Daniel 12:1, the Time of Trouble has always been a distinctly Seventh-day Adventist concept. While closely related to other Protestant interpretations of end-time persecution, the Time of Trouble stands out with its recognition that the greatest persecution comes from the most religious people. The worst actions come from those who believe they’re doing God’s work.
In the Time of Trouble, God will let nature—both physical and human—take its course. Politics, religion, and society will all reap the tragic results of rejecting God. Yet God does not want us to despair, but to rest in Him, assured that He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).
Supplies needed: Paper, pens (if desired)
Share the following questionnaire with your students (download pdf version), either by passing out individual printed papers, having them note down their answers on their own paper, or simply discussing it with them.
2. If I wake up one day and it seems clear that the Time of Trouble has begun, I’m going to think:
3. As I try to imagine the world of today turning into the one predicted by prophecy, I think:
The Time of Trouble will test the faith of God’s people like no other moment in history. The time to prepare our hearts and characters to endure is now, but we should not despair that we won’t be able to endure it. God promises to give us all the strength we need, and to cut that time short (Matthew 24:22). As the world spirals, God promises to take care of His people as surely as He protected Elijah, Daniel, and the widow of Zarephath.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
A time to reap, a time to weep
Read Daniel 12:1. (The NRSV Updated Edition was chosen here for the term “time of anguish.”)
1 “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.”
A less understood part of Adventism’s concept of the Time of Trouble is its spiritual dimension. For the believer, it is also “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” a spiritual parallel to Jacob’s midnight wrestling with the angel as he feared that his sin against Esau would finally catch up to him (Genesis 32:22-32). Like Jacob, God’s people will experience a true “dark night of the soul.” As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).
Read Genesis 32:22-30 (NIV).
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, k because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Days of Noah
We typically emphasize the chaos of the last days, but Jesus gives us another striking description: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away” (Matthew 24:37-39).
In other words, for many, if not most people, much of life will go on pretty much as it always has—to a great extent, at least. They’ll try to keep life as “normal” as possible. Despite the chaos, they’ll be focused on their wealth and their next vacation and the latest fads. Perhaps it will be easy, because they’ve grown used to plague and persecution and natural disaster that isn’t particularly affecting them in their day-to-day life.
Read Exodus 20:8-11.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Read Revelation 14:6-7.
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
The Sabbath plays a central role in the Adventist interpretation of the Time of Trouble. Revelation, chapters 13 and 14 reveal that worship is a central issue in the end-time spiritual crisis. The first angel’s message of Revelation 14 calls people to worship God while referencing the Sabbath commandment. As Jon Paulien wrote, “Seven times in Revelation chapters 13 and 14 the word `worship’ is applied to the unholy trinity. `They worshiped the dragon.’ `Worship the beast.’ `Worship the image of the beast.’ Only one time in this whole section is there a call to worship the true God. If true versus false worship is the central issue at the end, this passage (Rev. 14:7) is the central text of the section, perhaps of the entire book. When Revelation finally gets around to calling on people to worship the true God, it does so in the context of the fourth commandment, the Sabbath command. In a special sense, therefore, the author of Revelation understood the Sabbath to be the crucial issue in the final crisis” (Paulien, Jon. What the Bible Says About the End-Time, p. 126).
The Bible doesn’t tell us about the Time of Trouble to scare us. It lets us know ahead of time so that we may watch for it and be prepared, knowing that God will never leave us, no matter what happens. It helps us know that God is always active in history, even when He steps aside to let the universe see what the world would be like without Him.
Lesson Plan 2: “On the Plain of Dura” Relational Bible Study
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
When you think of trouble, what comes to mind? Is it a result of something you or someone else did, and you're receiving the consequences of the action? Or does trouble come whether you instigated it or not?
Trouble is an equal opportunist. It can come because of our own actions, or without provocation on our part. It's not a question of, "Will trouble find its way to my front door?" The answer is, "It will."
Everyone faces trouble. However, for the believer in Christ, the question should become, "What will be my response when trouble comes knocking?" Perhaps we need to consider those like Daniel and the three Hebrew boys who faced personal times of trouble. Daniel continued in prayer during his those difficult times, while the three Hebrew boys exercised a strong faith in the ability of God to deliver them during their time of trouble, without Daniel’s presence.
In the face of their greatest trouble, these individuals remained faithful to their God. Perhaps these stories hold the keys to how we should all feel and react as we face the troubling times ahead. Like them, we can face difficulties with confidence and assurance that our God delivers those who stand for His great name. And even if God chooses not to deliver at that time, we will stand firm for the right, in hope and trust in His delivering power.
While the topic for this week’s lesson deals with the time of trouble expected at the end of the world, we turn to the Old Testament example of the time of trouble Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced, found in Daniel chapter three. As Hebrew captives in Babylon, they certainly had already faced troublous times with the apostasy in Jerusalem that led to their captivity. The first two chapters of Daniel identify other times of trouble for them, with Daniel as the leader of their small group of four faithful Jews among 10,000 Jews who had been taken captive to Babylon. But chapter three describes how these three faced another time of trouble without Daniel leading the way or even being by their side.
Would they remain faithful to God by relying on Him even when their godly leader wasn’t present? Had earlier times of trouble in their lives prepared them for this particular time of trouble?
By the way, if music is a big deal to your youth, notice the role music played as Nebuchadnezzar built an image he covered with gold. This image He created was in contrast to the image God gave him in the dream found in Daniel two that limited Babylon’s golden kingdom to just the top of the image, to be replaced by other empires.
On the Plain of Dura
American Idol, The Voice, The Masked Singer—which do you like best?
Read Daniel 3:1-30.
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 At this time some astrologers z came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
1. Why did Nebuchadnezzar build the statue on the Plain of Dura?
2. What do you sacrifice if you don’t fit in a large group?
3. What influences us enough to make us “bow” or “worship”?
4. Why did the three Jewish friends trust God would deliver them?
5. What does it mean to worship?
6. What are “times of trouble” from which God can deliver you?
7. What can give you the confidence to face your “time of trouble” like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did together?
8. What “times of trouble” have you already experienced in your life? What “time of trouble” are you experiencing now? How will God see you through your next “time of trouble”?
Thinking of the time of trouble causes many people much fear and anxiety. However, God in His Word reminds us that He did not give us a spirit of fear; but rather, He gave us a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. This means when times of trouble come, we can face them confidently just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did in Daniel 3.
No matter what troubles may come, God’s Spirit gives power to face the circumstances head-on. No matter the difficulty that shows up, God’s Spirit surrounds us and fills us with His love. And finally, no matter what dangers lay ahead, God’s Spirit can calm our fears, give us His peace, and protect our thoughts from racing all over the place.
Times of trouble will come, and when they do, we must know in Whom we firmly place our trust. Remember, our God is bigger than any trouble we can or will ever face. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is not some made-up fairy tale that helps lull us to sleep at night. No! It’s an actual, factual story placed in the Bible to keep ever before us that when it comes to times of trouble, we will never face them alone.
You might not face a literal fiery furnace, but you are sure to face your own times of trouble in the future. This might happen by yourself or with a small group. It could be the pressure you feel from others or from circumstances or something else. Your trust in God will be tested and revealed in such times. Your preparation comes before you face trouble. Try one or more of these applications so you can face your times of trouble trusting God.
Think back on a time when you found yourself facing something that seemed to be a hopeless situation.
God is so awesome! Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of just how awesome and faithful He really is.
If you feel bold, share it. If not, keep it in your Bible or on your device and revisit it from time to time.
By Vandeon Griffin, Tracy Wood, and Armando Miranda
The #ONETEAM CHALLENGE is a 21-day devotional written by leaders for leaders. As co-laborers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church commissioned to lead and serve the youth and young adult generation, we share the burdens and triumphs of ministry.
In this devotional, we will walk together through scripture and journey through the lessons of life and ministry. Daily, you will be challenged with reflective questions and to share your affirmations on social media to encourage and inspire others. We are #ONETEAM!
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Cost: Less than $10.00
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Give the item most requested at homeless shelters. Collect and donate white crew socks for men, women, and children.
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Add pizzazz to lunch for seniors. In addition to receiving the hot portion of the meal in a tray, Meals on Wheels recipients get the cold portion in a lunch bag. Add life to their meals by decorating lunch bags. Simply buy paper lunch bags and use your creativity, crayons, markers, stickers, or any art materials you have on hand.
Cost: Less than $5.00