Archive for the ‘Mark 13’ Category

Well, perhaps you’ve heard of the groups that have been proclaiming that Jesus will return on May 21st – which is this Saturday. They seem to be everywhere. They’ve been talked about a lot in the media, and they have a robust presence through their signs, websites, RV caravans in the U.S. and even missionaries going to other countries to spread their message.

This is all based on one man who feels he has been given special insight into Scripture; insight that has been withheld for centuries. [familyradio.com/PDFS/nmk_en.pdf] He uses cryptic numbers and dates to find hidden messages in the Bible. For instance, he gives a speculative date for Noah’s flood and then using symbolic numbers he forecasts the end of all things.

Many have bought into this, and some of these have even left jobs and spent their savings because everything will end this Saturday, so, ‘Why bother with worldly concerns?’

This man also preaches that people in churches – like us, who don’t listen to and respond to his teaching about the end will be judged and condemned by God on the 21st.

This is nothing new. In fact this very man predicted the end would come on September 6, 1994. As one news article says, “On September 6, 1994, dozens of . . . believers gathered inside Alameda’s Veterans Memorial Building to await the return of Christ, an event [he] had promised for two years. Followers dressed children in their Sunday best and held Bibles open-faced toward heaven. But the world did not end. [He] allowed that he may have made a mathematical error. He spent the next decade running new calculations . . ..”  [sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/01/BA8V1AV589.DTL&feed=rss.news]

And there have been other groups that have set dates like this. The most famous example in American history is called ‘The Great Disappointment.’ The date was set for October 22, 1844. Some left jobs and responsibilities behind. But, of course, it didn’t happen. And people were certainly disappointed.

I want us to think about this today, and especially this group that says that Saturday is the big day – because this is an object lesson for us about listening to Scripture, and about how seriously we can get ourselves in trouble when we don’t.

First, let’s listen to the Scriptures, which teach that –

No one knows when Jesus will return

Turn to Mark 13, if you will. Jesus address this topic here head on. Speaking of his second coming he says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” – Mark 13:32. The phrase “that day or that hour” speaks to the issue of timing, when Jesus will return. And then he says clearly “no one knows.”

And then the next part I teach in the catechism class (it’s so basic and clear that beginning Bible students know it):

  • If the angels don’t know the time, you can be sure that neither you nor anyone else knows.
  • And if the Son, that is, our Lord Jesus, doesn’t know the time of his return, you can certainly be sure that no human knows.

Are we really supposed to believe that anyone knows more than Jesus – about his own return!!! Only the Father knows the time.

Moving down to v. 33, Jesus says, plainly, “You do not know when the time will come.” And then look at v. 35. Speaking of his coming, Jesus said,  “. . . you do not know when the master of the house will come.” This man says he knows. Jesus says to him and everyone,  “you do not know.” In the space of 3 verses Jesus says this three times – “no one knows” “you do not know,” “you do not know!”

And think about it. This last verse comes from the parable of the servants. The master goes away and puts his servants in charge. The point of this parable is to teach us to be ready and alert for Jesus’ return. Why? Precisely because we don’t know when Jesus the master will return. These people think that if we know a particular date it promotes being ready. But this is the opposite of Jesus’ message.

If you know the exact date, why be ready until the day before? Live your life like you want. The servants can sleep all they want, as long as they wake up on the day they know their mater will return. Their teaching undoes the very logic of the clear message of Jesus to be ready and awake at all times because it can happen at any time.

As if this were not enough, Jesus also teaches us that we should not even try to find a date. He warned us ahead of time that some would try. In Acts 1:7, regarding the coming of the kingdom, Jesus says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” So why do people try – when Jesus says, don’t? There is no possible reason to nullify our Lord’s word. As he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” – Mark 13:31.

So after all the calculations and corrections and charts from this man, as my title says today, we still don’t know when Jesus will return.

So let me say to you today with utmost confidence that there is nothing to what this group is saying about Saturday. Not because I know – no one does. I can’t rule out May 21, or any day for that matter. But Jesus did say “the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” – Luke 12:40. So therefore May 21st is an unlikely day for Jesus to return.

The serious consequences of not listening to Scripture

When we don’t listen to Scripture and make it our standard we are susceptible to false teaching. This is a reminder to us that false teaching is alive and well. And we are called to avoid it. But we are vulnerable when we don’t listen to Scripture or when we give that responsibility over to some teacher and we just listen to what they say.

Jesus himself said concerning the coming of the end, “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” – Matthew 24:11. He knew people would take advantage of others with regard to his second coming. And so we are to be careful.

Jesus gives this warning in Luke 21:8 – “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.” We have already seen the Scripture is clear that no one knows when Jesus will return. And any time someone sets aside the clear teaching of Scripture – the very words of Jesus – they take up the role of a false teacher.

  • These people say, “the time is at hand” – this Saturday.
  • But Jesus warns us and says, “Do not go after them.”

And as your shepherd I am reminding you of your Lord’s teaching and warning you, “do not go after them.”

Also, when we don’t listen to the clear teaching of Scripture we become a stumbling block to others. Most of those swept up in this don’t know much if anything about the Scriptures. They are just following someone that they think does know. And they will be greatly disillusioned when nothing happens on Saturday. It will cause them to question their faith; to doubt Jesus; to doubt the Scriptures.

What I am saying is that the leaders of this movement are causing these believers to stumble; to fall off the path; to lose their way.

Jesus talked about this, and the seriousness of this in Mark 9:42. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Let me just say that drowning is not the way I want to die – and certainly not with a large stone around my neck. But Jesus says that it will be a worse judgment than this.

This reminds us of what James says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my sisters and brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” – James 3:1.

All who don’t listen to Scripture and then, as in our case, set themselves up as the teacher that everyone should just listen to, and mislead others with false teaching will be judged. This is very serious.

Finally, when we don’t listen to Scripture, and then act on this, as in this case setting a date for the end against Jesus’ clear warning we defame God’s holy name.

Here I am talking about unbelievers. As Christians we are not to “misuse God’s name.” This is the third of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:7). Rather, Jesus teaches us to pray every day for God’s name to be “hallowed” or honored (Matthew 6:9).

And we bear God’s name. We are called by his name. And when we act in ways that bring ridicule to our faith, we bring ridicule to the Name that we bear.

Israel did this (Ezekiel 36:22). As Paul said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” -Romans 2:24. And Christians have done this. And now these people are doing this. For when nothing happens on Saturday in the eyes of many, Christian faith will have been shown to be foolish and false. “Here we go, once again. Those Christians are sitting on hills waiting for Jesus. Don’t they know by now that it won’t happen.”

It gives God a bad name, even though God is not behind this and Jesus forbids it. Indeed, there are already Atheist parties planned so that they can celebrate when nothing happens and mock the faith of these people, and Christian faith in general.

This is a serious thing. For the third commandment ends with these words – “The Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name” – Exodus 20:3 (NRSV).

The message

So as I said this is a kind of object lesson for us, of what not to do. And what will happen because of it. In this particular case it has to do with the return of Jesus and the resurrection. But it could play out in other areas of our faith as well.

The lesson is, listen to the Scriptures! Listen to Jesus. Because when you don’t, it gets you into all kinds of trouble. And you will see this play out this very week. As it does, remember what we have looked at today from the Scriptures.

William Higgins

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We’re continuing on in our series on the second coming today. Last time, two weeks ago, we went through the second half of the Olivet discourse. We looked at what I called “Jesus’ Roadmap to the End” – with its three major points:

1) The destruction of Herod’s Temple and the events associated with this, which happened within a generation of Jesus’ words, just as he said they would.

2) The times of the Gentiles – a time when God is working with the nations of the world for both salvation and judgment, as people respond to the gospel. This is the time we live in, and we don’t know how long it will continue.

3) The return of Jesus and the resurrection of the righteous.

We also saw how once the Temple was destroyed, Jesus could come at any time. Nothing else has to take place in the scheme of things.

And finally we saw how no one knows the time, not even Jesus. The Father will make the call for when the times of the Gentiles are over and Jesus will return.

Today we begin to focus on what Jesus talks about the most with regard to his coming – that We must be ready! Next week we will look at “How to be ready for the great gathering.” In other words, how to be ready for Jesus’ return and the resurrection of the righteous. Today its “Why we need to be ready for the great gathering.”  We begin by looking in more detail at . . .

The resurrection of the righteous

1. It will happen after Jesus returns and the nations experience great tribulation. Matthew 24:30 talks about the second coming and this time of suffering when “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” And then Matthew 24:31 (the next verse) talks about the resurrection of the righteous. There is a sequence here.

2. The resurrection is called a “gathering” (as in our title today). Mark 13:27 tells us that after Jesus returns, “he will . . . gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” 

This gathering language is used in other places:

  • In Matthew 13:30 (the parable of the weeds) speaking of the resurrection, Jesus says, “. . . at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” – a reference to resurrection.
  • In 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Paul says, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him . . .” – again, speaking of the resurrection of the righteous.

Also, the word “taken” is used for the resurrection. Jesus said in Luke 17:34, “one will be taken, and another left.” The one taken is resurrected. The phrase “caught up” is also used in –  I Thessalonians 4:17.

Whatever the language, the point is that we will be brought to Jesus, from all the ends of the earth and gathered around him.

3. Angels will be involved in this gathering. They are not always mentioned, but they are involved.

Matthew 24:31 tells us that Jesus “will send out his angels . . . and they will gather his elect . . ..” And as Jesus said in Matthew 13:39 (the parable of the weeds) speaking of the resurrection, “the reapers are angels” who will gather us to himself.

4. The resurrection will be signaled by a trumpet blast.

  • Matthew 24:31 speaks of “a loud trumpet call.”
  • I Corinthians 15:52 says that at this time “the last trumpet . . . will sound.”
  • In 1 Thessalonians  4:16 the resurrection is accompanied by “the sound of the trumpet of God.”  

5. The faithful who die before Jesus’ return will be first. At death they go to be with the Lord (as Paul talks about in several places) and they will come with Jesus as he returns in the clouds.

  • They will receive their resurrection bodies first. Their souls and their new bodies will be joined.
  • And then the faithful who are alive will be resurrected. Our current lowly bodies will be made imperishable.   

Paul teaches on this in I Thessalonians 4:13-17 and I Corinthians 15:52.

Finally, and the point we are heading to – 6. Those who are gathered will be sorted. For the dead in Christ, this happened at death. But for those who are alive when Jesus returns – as the angels gather us – there will be a process of separating those who are faithful and those who are not.

The angels will gather in all who profess Jesus as Lord; who look to him as the Messiah (Matthew 7:21; 25:11; Luke 13:25). But not everyone who is gathered, or seeks to be gathered will make it into the eternal Kingdom.

This will be when, in Jesus’ words, “those who are considered worthy to attain . . . to the resurrection from the dead” (Luke 20:35) will be blessed. They will be given resurrection bodies and will receive the rewards of the faithful. And as we will see, those who are not worthy will be cast away from Jesus.

This is why we need to be ready!

This is the moment of our greatest hope, for resurrection life and blessed reward. But it is also the moment of our greatest testing. Have we been faithful to our Lord and King? Or have we squandered his grace and mercy? And the truth is that not all will make it in.

Jesus speaks of this on a number of occasions. Here are some of them:

Matthew 7:21-23. This is Jesus speaking about the final day.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

As Jesus teaches here rather straightforwardly, “many” who confess him as Lord and even do works of the Spirit will not make it in. Rather, Jesus says to them, “’I never knew you; depart from me” – v. 23.  They are sorted out.

The parable of the bridesmaids: Matthew 25:1-13. In this parable about the second coming, there are ten bridesmaids waiting for the groom, Jesus. As we know, five made it because they were ready, and five did not make it in because they were not ready.

When these last five came back later to try to get into the wedding banquet they said, “’Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he (Jesus) answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’” – vs. 11-12.

The parable of the talents: Matthew 25:14-30. This is a familiar story. The master gave his three servants tasks to do while he was gone.

When the master returned, the second coming, two servants had worked hard and they entered in. But one did not work, and he was excluded.

Jesus said about this last one, “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – v. 30.

The parable of the weeds: Matthew 13:24-30; 37-43. We have already looked at this in part. At the end of the age, as v. 41 says, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,” that is, all the weeds. And then the wheat, the faithful ones, will be gathered. 

Those who are a part of Jesus’ kingdom, who are not faithful are separated from those who are faithful.

Jesus said about the weeds, “Throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” v. 42.

The parable of the fishnet: Matthew 13:47-50. The net of the gospel has collected fish of every kind. Some Christians who are faithful, and some who have responded to the gospel, but are not faithful.

As v. 49 says, “The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.” It concludes by saying of the former, “throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – v. 50.

As we see in all these examples (and there are more) there is a sorting process. Some who are gathered, or seek to be gathered, will not make it into the kingdom. This is why . . .

Jesus calls us to be ready

He calls us to be alert. At the end of the Olivet discourse he says, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” – Mark 13:33. He also says, “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” – Mark 13:37. We will look at how to be ready and alert next week.
William Higgins

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We are continuing on in our series on the second coming of Jesus. Last week we began to look at Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Mark 13, Jesus’ primary teaching on his return.

Here’s a recap: Jesus predicted that Herod’s temple would be destroyed. The disciples, who saw this as something that must be connected to the end of all things, asked Jesus – “When’s it gonna happen?”

This is a picture of a model of Herod’s Temple:

second temple

But instead of answering their question right away, in vs. 5-13 Jesus talked more generally about how we are to expect  false teachers and persecution as we wait for the end and his return.

Today, we look at Jesus’ answer to the disciple’s specific question of – “When will Herod’s temple be destroyed?” This is where Jesus presents, what I am calling his roadmap to the end.

Stage 1: The destruction of the temple

Jesus talks about four things here:

1. The abomination of desolation.

Mark 13:14a – “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand) . . ..”

Jesus is using prophetic – apocalyptic code language – “abomination of desolation.” This is emphasized when Mark invites the reader to understand what is being said. Its like saying – “Do you get it?”

Jesus is drawing on the book of Daniel here. Daniel portrays a pagan king who defiles the temple, most often associated with Antiochus Epiphanes and what he did in 168 BC.

By using this phrase, Jesus is saying that this will happen again (or perhaps he is even saying that this will be the true fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy).

In Luke 21:20 (Luke’s account of the Olivet discourse) we are given the decoded version of what Jesus means: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.”

This helps us to see that Jesus is talking about events that occurred not long after his death. In 66-70 AD the Roman armies came against Israel.

  • They laid siege to the city and eventually destroyed Jerusalem and the temple under General Titus, who later became emperor.
  • Then they offered up sacrifices to their idolatrous banners on the temple site

In these ways the pagan Roman empire, its armies and emperor, showed itself to be truly an “abomination of desolation.”

In answer to the question – “When will Herod’s temple be destroyed?” Jesus indicates that, it will happen sometime after you see the Roman armies coming ready to attack.

2. Flight to the mountains.

Mark 13:14b-18 – “. . .  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter.”

The recognition of the Roman armies coming against the city is the cue for the Jewish Christians in Judea to flee. Usually you would flee into a walled city in time of war. But not this time. This time God’s judgment is coming on Jerusalem and the temple. 

Jesus emphasizes the seriousness of the situation. Leave your possessions and extra clothes behind and run! Jesus also speaks to the practical difficulties of fleeing:

  • It will be very hard on women who are pregnant or with small children.
  • He also tells them to pray that it not be in winter, when the rivers are flooded and hard to cross and the mountains have snow.

According to one report the Christians in Jerusalem did in fact flee the city, sometime at the beginning of the war.

3. A great tribulation.

Mark 13:17-20 – “For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.” 

Luke’s version here shows us that this time of tribulation is still speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. “For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles . . .”  – 21:23b-24.

This was a horrific time of suffering for the Jewish people:

  • They were subjected to the realities of seige warfare being stuck in Jerusalem. Some resorted to cannibalism when the food ran out.
  • Over a million were killed throughout Israel (which was a huge percentage of the population in that day). So many were crucified that it was said that there were few trees left in the region.
  • Almost a hundred thousand were taken away into slavery
  • Their temple was defiled and destroyed, the city of Jerusalem was burned, and their national-political identity was taken away

As Jesus said, if God did not cut short the days for the sake of his chosen ones, followers of Jesus – none would have survived.

Now, when Jesus speaks of suffering beyond what has ever occurred or will occur again:

  • He may be speaking figuratively, as the prophet Joel does in Joel 2:2. This would, then, simply be a prophetic way of describing suffering beyond imagination.
  • With regard to Jerusalem, he could be speaking literally. For it is true that it had never suffered this much before. And, if this is what he meant, then it will never suffer this much again.

4. A time of deception.

Mark 13:21-23 – “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.”

Jesus already warned of this, as we saw last week. Here he gives a specific warning. During this time of chaos and distress, don’t listen to false messiahs and false prophets. For they will seek to lead followers of Jesus astray through the use of signs and omens.

And this kind of activity – false prophets and talk of omens – did take place during and after the war that destroyed the temple.

This leads us to . . .

Stage 2: An undefined time of geo-political turmoil

Mark 13:24-25 – “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” 

This is a new section, for he says, “after that tribulation.” We are past the destruction of the temple and that awful time.

But what does all this cosmic language of sun, moon and stars mean? Is it literal? Well, when we look at the rest of Scripture, we find out that this is prophetic speech that was used to describe geo-political change as one empire rises and another falls at the hand of God:

Isaiah 13:10 uses the same cosmic language that Jesus does to speak of God’s judgment of Babylon. “For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light, the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.” As we know, it wasn’t literal here. It was a way of speaking of God’s judgment on this nation.

Isaiah 34:4 also uses some of the same language that Jesus does to speak of God’s judgment on Edom. “All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall . . ..”

The prophets Ezekiel, Joel & Amos  also use cosmic language to speak of judgment on nations.

Luke confirms this understanding. In Luke 21:24 the destruction of Jerusalem is followed by “the times of the Gentiles.” God will be dealing with the Gentile nations now.

Then in verses 25-26 comes the cosmic language with additional statements that help us see what is going on. Jesus speaks of “. . . distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the wave, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” Why are the nations distressed? Because of “the roaring of the sea and the wave.” And as we saw in our study of baptism this has to do with chaos, turmoil and judgment in the world (see Revelation 17:15).

Jesus here speaks in the most general terms possible about a time when nations will rise and fall in the world at the hand of God.

This section recalls Mark 13:8. “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” These are the birth pangs of the end expressed in cosmic language.

This brings us to the last stage . . .

Stage 3: The coming of the Son of Man

Mark 13:26 – “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

After this undefined period of Gentile geo-political turmoil, “then” Jesus will return as ruler and king.

We learn from Matthew’s version that a part of this is that the peoples of the earth will be judged. Matthew 24:30 says “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” Jesus’ return will bring great woe upon the people of the earth. The book of Revelation expounds on this in some detail.

More hopefully this also involves the resurrection of the righteous.

Mark 13:27 – “And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

Jesus will send out his angels to gather together his followers. Again, this is a common way of talking about the resurrection of the righteous.

Next we see the connection between . . .

The temple destruction and Jesus’ return

Mark 13:28-31 – “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Now notice, the phrase, “these things” in this passage cannot refer to the coming of the Son of Man, for “when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” The two are differentiated by Jesus. “These things” must take place first, then we know that “he is near.”

The phrase, “these things” connects back to the original question of 13:4 – “When will these things be and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” In other words, the phrase “these things” refers to the temple destruction and the beginning of the times of the Gentiles.

Jesus gives us more information about “when” in this section:

1. “These things” will happen within the span of a generation. That is, the destruction of the temple through to the ushering in of the times of the Gentiles will occur in the lifetime of Jesus’ hearers. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” – v. 30.

And Jesus stakes his prophetic authority on this prediction. He said, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” – v. 31. And, in fact, “all these things” did happen by 70 AD, within a generation of Jesus’ words!

2. Once the temple is destroyed, Jesus’ return is imminent. That is, no other event must happen before he returns. Which means he could come at any time!

But, lets be clear as we end . . .

No one knows when Jesus will return

Mark 13:32-33 – “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”

Although the other events will be fulfilled in the generation of Jesus’ listeners, no one knows when the Son will come in glory and power.

He could not emphasize this point more. Not even Jesus himself knows when! Only the Father knows.

So if anyone tells you that they know, ask them if they know more than Jesus! Then tell them what Jesus said, “you do not know when the time will come.”

We currently live somewhere in stage two – the times of the Gentiles. And Jesus could come at any time.

Since we don’t know when, as Jesus said, we should “be on guard” and “keep awake.” We should be ready at all times!

William Higgins

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We have begun a series on Jesus’ second coming and today we start to look at the Olivet discourse of Mark 13. It’s called the “Olivet” discourse because Jesus spoke these words as he sat on the Mount of Olives.

This is Jesus’ primary teaching on his second coming.

  • There are other places where he talks about this, but not in as much detail.
  • And we have this same Olivet discourse in all three of the first Gospels, with slight differences. So we can use all three of them to help us make sense of what Jesus is saying, which is a real help.

Now, when I look at all the debates and discussions about the end times today, much of which revolve around trying to make sense of the book of Revelation, which is the hardest book to interpret because of its symbolism (because you can read into it pretty much whatever you want), when I look at all this . . .

  • My choice is to start with what Jesus said. And to look at his main teaching on this.
  • And then move from there to make sense out of other passages that speak of his second coming.

So, we start with Mark 13:1 and . . .

Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple

Mark 13:1 – “And as Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’”

The temple here is Herod’s temple. It is usually called the second Temple. The first temple was Solomon’s and it was destroyed by the Babylonians. So when the exiles returned to Jerusalem they built another, second temple.

And it was this temple that Herod had extensively remodeled and turned into a wonder of the ancient world. It was justly famous for its size and beauty. The stones were massive – 25’ x 8’ x 12.’ The disciples were certainly impressed by it.

Mark 13:2 – “And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”

He predicts its destruction. Now, this isn’t the only time that Jesus predicted impending doom for Jerusalem:

  • Jesus says in Matthew 23:34-38 that Jerusalem will be judged and its temple (or “house”) left desolate.
  • In Luke 19:43-44 Jesus talks about judgment on Jerusalem for rejecting him – “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Mark 13:3a – “And as Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple . . ..”

After his prediction, Jesus and the disciples went out of Jerusalem and onto the Mount of Olives. It’s just across from Jerusalem and you could see the Temple from there.

The disciples must have been thinking about Jesus’ prediction and so when they got there, they ask Jesus –

When will it happen??

Mark 13:3b-4 – “. . . Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?’”

The phrase – “these things” refers to the prediction of the destruction of Herod’s temple. They are asking, ‘When will Herod’s temple be destroyed?’ They want to know about the timing of this prediction by Jesus.

In Matthew 24:3 (Matthew’s version of the Olivet discourse) there is the additional phrase “ . . . and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

The disciples saw the destruction of the temple as an event connected in some way to the end of all things. This idea would have been understandable for any Jew. Today we just don’t understand how important the temple was for their faith. For it to go must mean the end of all things.

Well, Jesus does answer their question and he confirms that there is a connection between the destruction of Herod’s temple and the end.

As we will see In vs. 14-33 he tells them:

  • when this temple will be destroyed and
  • the connection of this to the end – his second coming

He gives them what I call – “Jesus’ Roadmap to the End.” But that’s for next week!

Today our focus is on vs. 5-13, which contain Jesus’ initial answer to them, before he answers their specific question. This initial response gives some general teaching on what to expect as we wait for Jesus’ return.  For an outline of Mark 13:5-13 click here: Two Parallel Warnings About The End

The first thing Jesus tells us is to –

Expect false teachers

Mark 13:5-8 – “And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.’”

Jesus is giving us a warning, which we need to hear today. Deceivers, false messiahs will come:

  1. They will use troubling events in the world to alarm people – wars, earthquakes and famines
  2. They will say that the end is here – “Can’t you see it! All these events are taking place!”
  3. They will call people to follow them. And in this way they will lead people astray.

This has happened throughout history, from a Samaritan false prophet who gathered quite a following before the destruction of Jerusalem, all the way to the present and David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.

In contrast to all this – Jesus, the real Messiah tells us:

  1. These things must happen – there will be troubling events – but don’t be alarmed
  2. The end is not yet
  3. So don’t listen to them! They are deceivers who will lead you astray from your faith in him.

Just as a point of emphasis because we don’t always get it: These things (wars, earthquakes, famines) are not signs of the coming of the end. They are simply the beginning of the end. That yes, we are in the last days, (which began in New Testament times) but not that the last day is here, or even around the corner.

Christians today are often the first ones to be alarmed by events in the world. But we of all people should be calm, because we know this stuff must happen, but the end is not yet. Jesus has told us so. And he said “do not be alarmed.”

Jesus says of these in v. 8 – “these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” The metaphor is that of a new world being born out of the ashes of the old. And so the kinds of things we see in newspaper headlines are simply the first hints of labor. The full birth pains will come when Jesus returns.

The second thing Jesus highlights is that we should –

Expect persecution

Mark 13:9-13 – “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Jesus gives us another warning: The world will oppose us. Christians will be handed over, betrayed even by relatives. They will be beaten, put on trial, and some will be killed. We will be hated by all people.

This has happened all throughout history since the coming of Jesus.

  • In the first century the Roman emperor Nero persecuted and killed Peter and Paul and many others in the city of Rome.
  • In the 1500’s the first Mennonites suffered one of the most devastating examples of persecution in all of church history.
  • Today there are more martyrs than ever, and persecution abounds in various parts of the world even as we speak.

But he not only told us it would happen, Jesus tells us how to respond:

  1. We must endure, for the one who endures to the end will be saved. He’s saying, don’t let persecution cause you to renounce your faith; to turn away from him.
  2. We must fulfill God’s purpose of spreading the gospel to all nations. Even turning our persecution into an opportunity to witness for him.
  3. We must rely upon the Spirit to help us. For the Spirit will give us the words to say when we are put on trial; when we are put on the spot; when we are afraid.

[Just a note here: Jesus says, “The gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations” and as Matthew’s versions says, “then the end will come.” What I want to say is that this doesn’t set a time for Jesus to return that can be measured, so that we can say, “Hey, its done Jesus has to return now. Lets go sit on a hill and wait for him.” How do you measure this? Is it geographical, is it political – to every nation state, is it social – to every specific tribe? Its unclear. Paul said in Colossians 1:23 that in his own day the gospel had “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” So it’s unclear.]

Alright, summing up Jesus’ initial response to the disciples –

What should we expect? The testing of our faith

Scripturally, the danger of living in the last days, like we do, is that we will lose our faith.

  • As Jesus says in Matthew 24:10 (Matthew’s version of the Olivet discourse) – “Many will fall away.”
  • As Paul says in I Timothy 4:1 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith . . ..”

As our verses today have shown us:

  • We can lose our faith if false messiahs, prophets or teachers lead us astray, and
  • We can lose our faith if persecution causes us not to endure

So Jesus warns us and encourages us in these verses to:

 Resist false teachers who raise alarm

And remain true to share the gospel amidst persecution

Next week – the “when” question. When will the temple be destroyed, and what is the connection of this to the end and Jesus’ return.

William Higgins

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