APRIL 17, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MARK 13: 3-23
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, 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?” 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.
“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.
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), 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. For in those days there will besuch 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. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For 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 has just predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This prompted His disciples to ask about the timing of these things. They associated the destruction of the temple with the end of the age. Jesus skillfully talks about both a near event (destruction of the temple – it happened 30 years later by the Roman Army), and the far event (the coming of the Son of God with power and glory). Some things Jesus talks about would happen in their generation and other things will happen at the final end – but He tells them that no one knows the hour.
This text is extremely difficult to interpret. It is hotly contested. Great Bible-teaching scholars and theologians differ on the details. We can fail by going to extremes. First, we can operate like “Chicken Little” and insist at every moment that the sky is falling. We can obsess with calculations, predictions, charts, graphs, codes, celestial patterns, moon color, symbols–often times interpreting them through a narrow lens. Second, we can operate out of indifference or develop a disposition that is apathetic. This position just wants to move past the conversation and talk about other things. Neither of these postures are biblically warranted. We should care about (not obsess over or be indifferent towards) the second coming of Jesus. This is our hope and Paul tells us hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:5).
The emphasis of this passage is very clear: Wake up and stay awake! Watch!
Jesus talks to His disciples and addresses the longing of their hearts. As Jews they felt the oppression of Rome and they wanted to be free. They felt the anguish and angst that every human being feels when they are oppressed and mistreated. They had hopes that cannot be fulfilled and they were hoping for resolution, redemption, and renewal.
Jesus acknowledging their hope – but is calling them to hope bigger – more significantly. He wants them to have a bigger hope and He tells them that there is a bigger one. Jesus also acknowledges that while they wait for the bigger and greater hope (His return and the redemption of all things) life will happen. Real life will be full of those that tell you who and what to hope in – and they will be wrong (verses 5-6). Jesus said, “See that no one leads you astray”.
We will experience war, natural disasters, persecution, “but the end is not yet” (verse 7). There will be wars between nations, there will be wars in our homes (James 4:1), and there will be wars in our hearts (Romans 7:14-15). This is living in the real world which God called good but has been torn apart by sin. Creation is till good but it is warped, twisted, and distorted because evil has come into it. Therefore there will be false Christ’s.
These things are not unique – they are a part of real life. These things should not cause us to say, “the end is coming”. They are birth pains (verse 8). These things feel wrong because this is not the way that God created the world – it’s not the way it is supposed to be. We are to anticipate the day that we are liberated and freed from anguish – disease, sin, and hatred (Romans 8:19-23). All of mankind feels this groaning for a better day – when these things will be gone. Jesus is preparing His disciples for real life.
Verse 14 refers to the abomination of desolation. This is referring to the desecrating of the holy temple. It is the ruining of the holy place. In a real sense, Adam and Eve were an abomination of desecration. They released evil, sin, and death on the earth – and with it came murders, disease, and a perversion of what God made as good. Perhaps there will be a day when someone will sit in the most holy place and desecrate it, but the whole world is God’s dwelling place and it has been desecrated by sin. Billions of charitable and capital dollars are spent every year to make the world a better place. We all long for healing – real healing. The words from Jesus make it clear that real healing will only come from the coming of Jesus – the Son of Man (verses 24-31). The sun and moon will go dark and the earth will be lit with His presence. Jesus is returning and He is bringing His healing with Him – He is bringing summer with Him. Most yearn for summer. Jesus comes with healing to restore and to renew. He is coming as the hope of the world. He will satisfy all the cravings of the human heart and will set the world straight. He will set our homes straight. Disease will be abolished. Murders will cease. He will be the redeemer and restorer of the whole creation. He will come with the clouds to reward those who seek Him. He will remove all sin and its effects on all of creation. Christ’s return is the rescue of the world and will put all things to the way that God intended it would be. There are two obvious truths about end times:
Jesus is coming and you will now it(verse 26).
You don’t know when (verse 32).
Will we heed the call given over 300 times in the New Testament told? Stay awake! Watch! Be ready!
What does real faith look like? Jesus gives us a few indicators of real faith. The first is evangelism – we must speak the name of Jesus (verse 10). The second is endurance (verse 13). The one with real faith endures because they are saved – they are not saved because they endure. They are convinced and nothing can knock their faith out of them (Romans 8:35-39). Lastly, real faith recognizes that we are not the judge. There is only one judge. At the Second Coming of Christ we will be fully exposed – in spite of this, we long for it (Matthew 23:37). We will stand in Christ when we are fully exposed.
C.S. Lewis said, “Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.”
Wake up and stay awake!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 13:3-23
Do you remember hearing any predictions of the end of the world? What did you think at the time?
When we see that “death” is a possible result of persecution, what should be our Christian attitude toward death? Why is this sometimes difficult to take to heart?
What are the indications in this text that God is completely in control of events all the way to the end of time? How is this encouraging?
What value is there in studying current events and analyzing whether they are fulfilling the prophecies of the end of time? What should we be doing with our time and talents while we wait?