MATTHEW 16:1-4


1Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; 3and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." And He left them and departed. (Parallel in Mark 8:11-21)


In Jesus' day the Jews were obsessed with searching for apocalyptic signs that would indicate the dawn of the messianic age. They longed for the date that would announce the final war against Rome and its demonic allies and harbored a fierce hope for a millennial (1,000 year) age of peace. 

Note confusion of the Three Kingdoms, their purpose, methods and power! Jesus' Kingdom was no threat to Pilate. It is not of this world. His is the Kingdom of Grace. In His Kingdom there are no swords other than the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. His is a Kingdom that produces faith within by the power of the Spirit. The Kingdoms of this world are kingdoms of outward, earthly power. Believers await the Kingdom of Glory. 

v. 4 - "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign" See also 

  • Matthew 12:38-39- the Pharisees and Sadducees will be given no sign.

         Luke 11:29-32 - one greater than Jonah is present. They expected detailed references to the zodiac, astrology, earthquakes, storms, etc. They would receive no such. 

         Mark 13 - Jesus speaks to His disciples about the temple's destruction. Between that time and His return believers are to wait expectantly. No signs are given, however, by which believers may know for certain when He will come with great power and glory. 

  • What to expect: 
    1. The end will come when God chooses. He gives us no warnings or signs here. 
    2. Elijah must come,
    9:11-13. He has in the person of John the Baptizer. 
    3. The Son of Man must suffer many things,
    8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34
    4. The disciples will face persecution and they have and still do. 
    5. The gospel must be preached to all nations and it is. 
    6. So how long the period is to be we do not know. We do know that summer is near! 

Jesus speaks about wars, earthquakes, famines, persecutions, betrayals, hatred, the abomination of desolation, tribulation, false messiahs, false prophets, darkened sun and moon, fallen stars. Are these not signs? No! They are rather reminders to be ever ready for the Master's return. 
  "An evil and adulterous generation" - sign seeking is a human effort to penetrate God's silence about the future. The Jewish leaders had already rejected the signs given them: 

         John 7:31- And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?"

         John 11:45-53- After Lazarus is raised the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation." The simply would not accept the great sign of Lazarus' resurrection. They rejected their own Messiah. So, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. 

Sign seeking easily becomes evil. It led to zealous rebellion and has often produced fighting, wars, mass suicide, brutality across the course of human history.

"Hypocrites!" - outward piety really disguises self-interest. The in-group stands at the center and glories in being the true Biblical students! They are the Gnostics of our day, the people in the know! 

v. 2,3 -"When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening" - How extremely important is the weather to farmers. Jesus grew up in farming country. He knew that farmers had to understand the weather signs. In like manner He urges us to understand that ALL human efforts to "discern the signs of the times" (v.3) are doomed to failure.


  • 4 B.C. - death of Herod the Great - thousands of Jewish zealots took that as a sign to begin their rebellion against Rome. 2,000 zealots were crucified by the Romans on the roads around Jerusalem. In Sepphoris, 3 miles north of Nazareth where Jesus grew up, all citizens were sold into slavery for participating. But the zealot movements continued through Jesus' lifetime and beyond. 
  • 66 A.D. - Jewish war against Rome broke out. There were over one million casualties. The last of them retreated to the Herodian stronghold of Massada in the southern desert. They held out for nearly two years and finally, lest they be captured by the Romans, thousands committed suicide. 
  • 1200-1260 - followers of Joachim of Fiore anticipated the Millennium.
  • 1369 - Konrad Schmid predicted the Last Judgment and the Millennium
  • 1420 - Taborites of Bohemia urged slaughter of unbelievers and were themselves slaughtered
  • 1830's -The Millennium was predicted by various groups before and after the Civil War: "Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory Of The Coming Of The Lord." 
  • 1843 - The Millerites (later Seventh Day Adventists) set this date for the end. 
  • 1889 - Claass Epp predicted Rapture on March 8.
  • 1934 - The Christian and Missionary Alliance predicted the end in 1934. 
  • 1939 - The German-Soviet non-aggression pact seen as fulfillment of Ezekiel prophecy
  • 1948 - Israel established. Many said it was time to begin the countdown to the Millennium. 

v. 4 - "no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." 

  •  Matt. 12:38-42- no sign will be given. 

          Mark 8:11-12- 11Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. 12But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation."

         Matthew 24:1-3 - 1Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Note again the context: magnificence of the temple buildings. Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple by Rome (70 A.D.) as a paradigm for the end. His coming will be sudden and unexpected, v. 26, as was the destruction of the temple. Note also that He firmly reminds us that "no one knows the day", v. 36. What follows are parables about being prepared because "you do not know the day or the hour," 25:13

         The sign of Jonah -Jonah 2 - Jonah prays from the belly of the fish and is vomited on dry land after three days, nights. So Jesus rose on the third day. 

         Luke 11:29-30 -this evil generation will only receive the sign of Jonah. All this is a reference to the resurrection, the Great Sign! 

         John 2:19-22 - 19Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

Jesus warns against sign-seeking. On the one hand, those who are "in the know" are tempted to fall into spiritual pride. They are tempted to seek glory at the price of the wicked. On the other hand those who feel like they do not "know enough" are tempted to fall into anxiety, despair and doubt. Will they be among the elect? 


1. What do you mean by a "sign" from God?   
2. Why is it important to so many that they find a way to interpret the "signs"? 
3. Is there anything wrong with seeking a sign from God? 
4. What sign or signs has God already given to us? 
5. What do you now understand by the "Sign of Jonah" to which Jesus referred? 
6. Do we have evidence of the power of the Gospel today-also in our midst? 
7. What evidence do we have of the power and presence of Jesus' Kingdom today? 
8. Why are so many in our day suggesting that the teachings about the end of this age and the return of Christ are irrelevant? 
9. What influence does the "religion of evolution" have upon our thinking as concerns these matters? 
10. Are there signs that we are indeed in the last times? If so, how should that affect our attitude toward the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection? 

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