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This morning we are picking back up in the Gospel of Mark.
If you’re new to MCF, it would be good for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”. What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught and understood by taking books of the Bible and then studying them from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to understand what it means for our lives today.
With that said, we are currently walking through The gospel of Mark. A book written to help us understand who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what it means to follow him.
So, if you haven’t been with us, I would encourage you to download our smartphone app or go online to where you can listen to all the messages leading up to today.
As we come back to
Today as we come back to Mark’s Gospel, you may recall we came to the end of chapter 12 and the end of Jesus’s public ministry. And what we’re going to discover is that from chapter 14 on, the remainder of the Gospel will be focused on the events leading up to Jesus’s death and resurrection.
However, before Mark takes us to these final events, he strategically gives us chapter 13. A chapter that is different than any other chapter in Mark’s Gospel. A chapter that is meant to give us hope and encouragement as dark days loom ahead.
And so in order to give us framework and set the tone for where Mark is taking us, I want to begin by asking you this question.
Hook Question - Have you ever wondered when the end of the world is coming?
You know, that point when something catastrophic happens, and life as we know it on planet earth comes to an end.
The point when somebody presses a button and nuclear weapons ravage the earth.
The point where a virus is unleashed and wipes out mankind.
Or maybe that moment when an astroid strikes the earth and decimates the planet.
Now, you might be thinking, “Wow, pastor. That’s rather grim. Is that what you sit around thinking about? That’s depressing.”
The truth is, I think if we’re all honest, we’ve probably all considered an end of the world or end time scenario. As we’ve watched the news, as we’ve witnessed the moral decay of our culture, as it seems like life couldn’t get much worse, we’ve all wondered, “When will the end finally come and how will it take place?” In fact, I would say our culture is consumed by this thinking.
For example, it might surprise you to know in the last 8 years Hollywood has produced 75 movies that focus on some type of end of the world scenario. Movies like:
World War Z - Where a lethal virus spreads through a single bite turning healthy people into vicious zombies.
Battle: Los Angeles - Where aliens invade the planet and start taking out mankind.
or the movie
2012 - Where a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind.
And the list of movies goes on and on as the earth and mankind face some type of end time or end of the world cataclysmic event. The truth is, our modern culture is fascinated by apocalyptic events or stories.
The truth is, we are fascinated by apocalyptic events or stories.
And what is true now, was true in . Because as we come back to Mark’s Gospel today, the disciples have the same type of curiosity. And they have a question for Jesus concerning the end of the world. And their question is going to lead Jesus to give us an apocalyptic scenario. A story that foretells the end of life as we know it on planet earth.
But in this case, it’s not a movie. It’s not a work of fiction or fantasy. It’s not something that might happen in the future. In this case it’s a true story, it’s something we can count on.
So, if you’ve ever wondered when the end of the world is coming, what to look for, and what we can expect, then you don’t want to miss the next few weeks because Jesus has much to say about this. Because from this chapter we are going to learn what has happened, what is happening, and what is to come when it comes to the end of life as we know it on planet earth.
might happen. In this case it’s a true story, it’s something that has happened, is happening, and will happen.
But before we get into the text, and to understand what Jesus is saying, we need some context for chapter 13, and to do that we need to answer a few key questions.
Question 1 - How does the Bible convey end time material? In other words, just like we often use movies to depict end of the world scenarios, what method does the Bible use to tell its end time stories.
Interestingly enough, the Bible uses a specific genre of literature called “apocalyptic literature”. The word “apocalyptic” literally means “revealed”, with the idea of revealing end time events.
However, there are some challenges with apocalyptic literature. Because unlike modern literature, apocalyptic literature is often difficult to interpret.
The reason being, a large percent of apocalyptic literature is written using symbols and imagery that is derived form dreams and visions.
For example, the majority of the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, is written in this way. Just to give you a taste of what I’m talking about, listen to how the Apostle John describes his apocalyptic vision of Jesus in :
“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (ESV)
As you can see, John’s vision of Jesus is complex. It’s full of imagery and symbols and within that imagery are hidden meanings that must be deciphered in order to understand what John is seeing and describing.
Because in this instance John isn’t just describing the physical appearance of Jesus, but the very essence of who Jesus is, what he represents, and the power he holds. But he does it through symbolic imagery.
And that’s what makes a book like Revelation so difficult to interpret and apply.
The good news for you and I though is, Jesus doesn’t use typical apocalyptic language in . Instead he uses a mix of apocalyptic and what we might call narrative literature. In other words, Jesus uses plain words.
Because while there is some imagery in what he says, Jesus also mixes in some practical material, which is going to help us as we seek to understand what he is saying.
Question 2 - What apocalyptic question do the disciples ask, and why do they ask it?
As I said, the disciples have an end time question, but in this case it’s not so much their curiosity that spawns their question as it is something Jesus says.
So, what does Jesus say that leads to their question? Let’s find out as we begin to move into the text. Listen to what Mark tells us beginning in :
“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (ESV)
Mark says as Jesus and his disciples exit the temple, one of the disciples makes an observation as he begins to marvel at the temple structure and the buildings that surround it. As he looks around at the temple he says, “Wow Jesus, look at how amazing these buildings are!”
Now, you might be wondering, “Why would this disciple say this?” Well, it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe he thought Jesus would be impressed with his observation. Maybe he thought it was important to Jesus. To be honest, we really don’t know.
But what we do know is the temple was something to marvel at. In fact, in the first century the temple in Jerusalem was considered one of the most impressive sights in the ancient world and was regarded as an architectural wonder. It had been built by Herod the Great, the same man that had tried to kill Jesus when he was a baby. And although Herod was a wicked person, he was an architectural genius.
Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, according to 1st century historians, some of the stones that made up the temple structure were 37 feet long by 12 feet high, by 18 feet deep. That’s a large stone. And keep in mind they didn’t have cranes in the first century to move or stack these massive hand cut stones.
Just to give you an idea of what they looked like. Here’s a picture I took of my wife Denise standing next to what’s left of the outer wall that surrounded the temple.
Show picture
All that to say, for the disciples to wonder at the temple and it’s structures shouldn’t come as a surprise. It was something to see. I remember feeling this way when I stood next to the Empire state building. I was like, “Wow, what amazing building!”. Same thing here.
But what’s interesting is Jesus’s response to their observation. Listen to what he says:
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.” (ESV)
This probably caught the disciples off guard. They weren’t expecting that response. What they were probably expecting Jesus to say was, “Yeah, it’s something. Wow, Herod out did himself. You’re right, it’s breathtaking.”
But Jesus doesn’t say that. Instead he says, “Take a good look and enjoy the sites boys, because there’s a day coming when this temple and these buildings will be torn down.”
And to be honest, that would have been a shocking statement for the disciples to hear, for two reasons:
First, the temple was the central point of Jewish worship. Everything revolved around it. To not have the temple would throw Judaism into a spiral. For many Jews, if the temple were destroyed, it would signify the end of the world. It would be no different for us if all of a sudden all of our churches were destroyed. We’d all think the end of the world must be upon us.
Second, Jesus’s pronouncement has a hint of OT judgment upon it. In other words, the language Jesus uses, “stone upon stone”, has ties to OT passages that declare the judgment of God upon Israel. For example, in , Jeremiah makes reference to how God destroyed the temple in the OT because of the wickedness of Israel.
So, by making this statement, Jesus is in essence declaring a prophecy of destruction upon the temple in relation to the wickedness of Israel that will result from their rejection of Him.
All that to say, when Jesus makes this statement, the disciples end time warning bells would have gone off. And that’s what spawns them to ask their question.
So, what’s their question? Mark tells us. Continuing in verse 3 Mark writes, “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?” (ESV)
Apparently there is a passing of time between verses 2 and 3. Possibly just a few hours. We know this because Jesus and his disciples go from standing at the exit of the temple entrance at the end of verse 2 to sitting on the mount of olives in verse 3.
What that means is Jesus and his disciples took a short journey. Because the Mount of Olives was located to the West of the Mount of Olives. Which meant between verse 2 and verse 3 Jesus and his disciples traveled down through the kidron valley and then up the Mount of Olives where they now sit, directly above and to the East of the Temple.
And it’s here where Mark picks back up on their conversation as the to the Mount of Olives. Mark picks back up on the conversation later that day as Jesus and his disciples make their way off the Temple mount, cross the Kidron Valley, and arrive on the Mount of Olives just east of the Temple.
Show Picture - And just to give you an idea of what their view would have been, here’s a couple pictures I took that refelt that journey. The first picture is the kidron valley just off the temple mount. The mount of olives is then located up that hill. This next picture then shows the view the disciples would have had looking back at the temple from the kidron valley. You can see the temple mount where a Mosque now sits. That’s where the temple would have been.
Show Picture - You’ll notice the wall, where Denise was standing, and more than likely, where that Mosque sits today is where the Temple used to be. It’s quite a view.
And apparently as they are sitting their, viewing the temple from a distance, they ask Jesus a question. They ask, “Jesus, when is the Temple going to be destroyed? When is the end coming? And what will be the sign that this is about to happen?”
So, that answers our second question. What their question is, and why they ask it. Their question is when, and they ask it because Jesus predicted its destruction.
Question 3 - Why does Jesus tell them the temple is going to be destroyed?
What we need to understand going into chapter 13, is that Mark has strategically placed this chapter between chapter 12 and 14. Chapter 12 is the end of Jesus’s public ministry. Chapter 14 is the beginning of his betrayal that will lead to his death.
So, the reason Mark puts this chapter here, and the reason Jesus shares this information with the disciples at this point is for three purposes.
First, Jesus wants his disciples to know the time of the temple is about to come to a close. Because following his death and resurrection, there will be no need for a sacrificial altar or system. Jesus is the final sacrifice and the people of God will become the temples that God’s Spirit dwells in. The disciples need to understand Jesus is the final sacrifice and we are his temple now.
Second, Jesus wants to give them a heads up and prepare them for what is to come. As we’re going to see in the next few weeks, Jesus doesn’t hold back on giving them an answer. In fact, he gives them more information then they asked for. He wants them to be prepared for what is to come.
Third, to give them hope and encouragement. The truth is, while they don’t realize it at this point, challenging days lied ahead for these disciples. Things aren’t going to play out like they hoped. Jesus is about to be killed and their world is going to be turned upside down. And as we’ve discussed in the past, of the 12 disciples, 10 of them were brutally executed for their faith. Jesus’s words in this chapter are meant to give them hope and encouragement in the midst of future trial.
Now, a good question might be, “Why do we need to know the answers to these questions before we get to far into the text? And how does this apply to us?”
First, what we need to see right away is that what Jesus predicted has already happened. In other words, the picture I just showed you of the temple mount, is a picture of a mount with no temple. The temple of the 1st century is gone. In fact, not one stone remains of that temple. It was destroyed in 70 A.D. just 40 years after Jesus made this prophecy.
It came as a result of a Jewish revolt against Rome in A.D. 66 that led Rome to totally decimate the city of Jerusalem, including the total destruction of the temple. By A.D. 70 Roman soldiers had tore it down stone by stone until there was nothing left of it.
Here’s what that means for you and I. What Jesus said in verse 2 about the temple being destroyed was no joke. It happened exactly as he said it would. So, if that happened, you can be sure the rest of what Jesus is about to say has either happened, is happening, or will happen. Because the truth is, the first part of this prophecy has been fulfilled, and the rest is to come.
Let me put it like this. You and I are living in the midst of this prophecy. In other words, chapter 13 is an ongoing chapter in our lives. The theological name for it is “The Church age”.
So, what’s the church age? The church age is the time between Jesus ascending into heaven and returning in Revelation. Meaning, everything we read from this point on in chapter 13, has to do with us. We are living within the time frame of the completion of this prophecy.
So, it very much applies to us.
So, that’s the first way this applies to us.
Second, just like Jesus gave the disciples this information for their encouragement, Jesus gives it to us for the same reason. The truth is, as disciples and followers of Jesus, we are all going to face challenging days in our faith.
Days where we wonder where Jesus is.
Days where we question his presence.
Days where we may even feel like throwing in the towel.
It’s possible you may even feel that way today. Maybe you’re facing something difficult in your life, and you’re wondering where God is. You’re wondering why you’re having to face the challenge you’re facing.
And even if you don’t feel that way today, there is a day where you will.
The good news is, Jesus’s words in this chapter are meant to give us hope not only in our current trials, but the trials to come. They are meant to keep us focused. They are meant to help us keep moving forward.
And even if you don’t feel that way today, there is a day where the words of this chapter will give you hope.
So, that being the case, and now that we’ve laid some groundwork, here’s what I’d like to do with the remainder of our time today.
First, I want to read through the first part of Jesus’s answer to the disciples question, which will take us up to verse 9. And just know, it’s going to take a few weeks to get through Jesus’s entire answer.
Second, I want to give some explanation to what Jesus is saying.
Finally, as we walk through each explanation, I want to give some application for our lives.
Finally, I want to show you how it applies to our current situation.
So, let’s pick back up in verse 5 as Jesus begins to answer their question. Mark writes:
“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.” (ESV)
As Mark indicates, this is the beginning of what Jesus has to say, but before Jesus gets to far, Jesus takes a moment a clarify something important. Notice again what Jesus says at the beginning of his answer. He says, “See that no one leads you astray.” (ESV)
Another way to say that would be, “Don’t be deceived”.
Now, a good question would be, “Why would Jesus begin his answer with the warning, ‘Don’t be deceived’?”
The reason he does, is because when it comes to end time prophecy, when it comes to when the world is going to end, when it comes to when Jesus is coming back, apparently it’s going to be easy to get deceived or buy into something that isn’t true or accurate.
And we know that’s true, right? For example, you may recall that apparently April
So, right at the beginning of his answer, Jesus warns the disciples and he warns us, what to not be deceived by when it comes to the end of the world and his return. And from these verses Jesus gives us three warnings when it comes to predicting the end:
Don’t be deceived by false teachers or teaching.
Jesus begins the warning by saying, “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”
What Jesus wants his disciples to be aware of is when it comes to end time prophecy or the end of the world, there will be people who make false claims. People who bring false teaching. People who even claim to be Jesus himself.
For example, when it comes to people who claim to be the Messiah, one of the first instances took place in A.D. 132 as a man named Simon Bar Kosiba claimed to be the Messiah and led a failed revolt against Rome.
We’ve also seen instances of this in our own day through men like Jim Jones, a false Messiah from the 1970’s that led 918 of his followers to commit a mass suicide. And even as recent as David Koresh in Waco, Texas who in 1993 led 79 of his followers to their death.
Jesus says, beware of such people, and don’t be deceived. False Messiah’s will come.
But not only will there be false Messiah’s, there will be false teaching concerning the end time. The Apostle Paul dealt directly with this.
In his letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul addresses a group of false teachers who were teaching that Jesus had already returned and raptured the church into heaven. Listen to what Paul says in response to this teaching:
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way.” (ESV)
Paul says, “Listen, the rapture of the church hasn’t happened yet. Don’t be deceived.” And then he goes on to explain that when the rapture of the church does take place, there will be no doubt. Paul writes in that it will be an unforgettable day. He writes, “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (ESV).
Paul says, “You’re going to know when Jesus comes back.” It will be a world wide event that rattles the world. All that to say, from the beginning Jesus knew people would come up with all kinds of false teachings and claims concerning his return. And the truth is, we still see it today.
And the truth is, we still see it today.
For example, a man named David Meade recently claimed that the rapture was going to take place on April 23rd. Now obviously he was wrong, and to be honest, I could have told you on April 22nd he was wrong. Because later on in verse 32 Jesus will say this about his return, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows...” (ESV)
Jesus says, “Nobody knows when I’m coming back.” So, the next time somebody claims a date for Jesus’s return, don’t sell all your stuff or run your credit card up, because nobody knows when it’s going to happen. Nobody is going to be able to predict that day. Jesus says, “Don’t be deceived.”
And the same is true when it comes to false teaching. For example, there is a movement in the church world today called the “New Apostolic Reformation” or NAR for short. And I’m not going to name the churches that follow this, but I would encourage you to look them up, because it might surprise you what churches and pastors who have given themselves to this false teaching.
And basically what they teach and believe is that Jesus has already established his kingdom on earth. And in order for Jesus to return, we have to help him usher it in by pushing back the forces of darkness.
But here’s the problem with that teaching. In , right before Jesus is getting ready to ascend into heaven, the disciples ask Jesus this question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (ESV)
In other words, “Jesus, are you establishing your kingdom now?” Listen to Jesus’s response, “He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (ESV)
Jesus says, “Guys, it’s none of your business to know when God is going to establish his Kingdom on earth. But let me tell you what your business is. Your business is to be my witnesses. Your business is to reach as many people as you can with the Gospel. Because someday I am coming back. And on that day, people need to be ready.”
And that’s the problem with the NAR movement. They’re not focused on reaching people for Jesus. Not even on their radar. They’re focused on making heaven on earth. And in the process they are leading people away from the mission Jesus gave us. They are leading people astray. And Jesus says, “Don’t be deceived”.
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, that’s not something we really need to be worried about is it?” You might be surprised. The truth is, I’ve had to correct some individuals in our church on this, and some of them have left as a result of that correction. As you’re pastor, I’m not going to let that kind of teaching into our church. Jesus says, “Do not be deceived”.
So, here’s the bottom line, when it comes to end time stories or prophecy, we need to make sure whatever somebody is teaching or saying lines up with the Words of Jesus. Because the fact is, Jesus didn’t say, “Sit around and try and figure out when I’m coming back? He didn’t say set up my kingdom so I can return.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Concerning the end times, that’s the mission and focus he’s given us.
2. Don’t be deceived by the threat or reality of war.
Jesus says this, “And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.” (ESV)
The reason Jesus brings this up is he knows in the not to distant future, Israel is going to face a war that will nearly destroy them. In the conflict between Rome and the Jews in A.D. 66, Jerusalem was decimated and the temple was destroyed.
And the truth is, it would have been easy for the 1st century Christians to look at that situation and say, “Wow, this must be the end.”
But it wasn’t the end. And what Jesus wants to remind his disciples of, and what Mark wants to remind his readers of, is that wars or the threat of war are not the indicators for the end of the world.
I remember growing up, one of the fears that was instilled in my generation was the fear of a third world war. Anybody remember that? WW3. And what we were conditioned to think was, if WW3 ever took place, it would be the end of the world because it would be a nuclear war. A war unlike any war.
You want to know something. Every generation throughout history has had that thought. Because in the midst of their conflict, in their mind, nothing like it had ever happened. It must be the end.
Here’s a little fact for you. It might surprise you to know that over the last 3400 years of human history, there have only been 268 years where mankind lived entirely at peace. In other words, of recorded history, only 8% of that history has been war free.
The point being, war has always been a part of human history. And as long as the earth is spinning and until Jesus comes back, there will always be wars and rumors of wars. That’s not going to change. That’s why Jesus says, “This must take place...” And by saying that, what Jesus is referring to is the sinful human condition.
You see war is the result of our sinful human existence. It started in the garden as one brother killed another, and it has existed ever since. And it’s to be expected as long as sin rules this world. But what it’s not, is a “sign of the times”. In other words, even if nuclear weapons are used, that doesn’t mean it’s the end.
Now, “You might be thinking, “Pastor, why do we need to understand that? Why would Jesus reference this?”
Now, I will say this, war could mean the end of a nation. It could mean the end of a people group. Listen to what Jesus goes on to say:
“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom...” (ESV)
Jesus says, “Kingdoms are going to rise, and kingdoms are going to fall.”
So, what odes that mean for us? Here’s what it means for me. To be honest, one of the most sobering moments in my life took place when I was on a tour in Israel while we were standing at the remains of an ancient city called Meggido. Archeologists refer it as tel-Meggido.
If you’re not sure what a tel mound is, a tel is an artificial mound that has formed over time as a result of civilizations building on top of one another for hundreds and thousands of years.
Show Picture - In fact, here’s a picture of Tel-Meggido.
And what archeologists do is they excavate the tel in order to uncover the layers of civilization that exist beneath each layer. It’s honestly one of the most fascinating sites I’ve ever seen.
And I remember standing there, amazed by what I was seeing, and hearing our guide say, “Tel-Meggido has anywhere from 30-40 layers of civilization that spans back to the time of Joshua over 3000 years ago.”
And I remember standing there thinking, “Wow, 30-40 civilizations over a 3000 years period.”
And as that thought sunk in, here’s what I realized in that moment. I realized that the United States is just a blip on the radar of history. And that before we existed as a nation, other great nations existed before us. Other people groups. Nations that thought they’d last forever. Nations that saw no end to their reign. And now, here they are, buried under the dirt. Sobering, isn’t it.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Whether you believe it or realize it, the United States isn’t going to last forever. Now, you might be thinking, “Wow, pastor, you sound like some kind of dooms day prophet.” No, it’s not a dooms day prophecy, it’s just a fact. History shows us that no nation has ever lasted forever. Nations rise against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, and nations fall. And it will be no different for our country, someday.
My dad once told me something, and I’ve never forgot it. He said, “Brad, nothing lasts forever.” And he’s right. and that same truth applies to a nation. I know, it sounds grim. It almost sounds anit-American. But it’s true.
Here’s why you and I need to come to terms with this. If in your lifetime, if a war breaks out, that ends life in the United States as we know it, the truth is, it would be really easy for us as Christians to freak out and think, “The end must be coming.” To think, “Jesus must be coming back.” Because if the United States falls, the greatest nation that has ever existed, then it must be the end. Evil has won the day.
Can I tell you something. We wouldn’t be the first to think that. I can promise you, the Jews were thinking that as the Romans tore down the temple. The early Christians were thinking that as their friends were being burned alive and thrown to lions.
Here’s the danger. The danger is, if something like that happened to our nation, and we freak out, in that moment we open the door to fear. And with fear comes a loss of hope. And with a loss of hope comes a loss of focus on Jesus and what he’s called us to do.
And what we can’t forget, is regardless of a war, or its outcome, as Christians we still have one mission and one purpose. To take the good news of Jesus to the world. To show people in the midst of war, in the midst of conflict, peace can be found in Jesus. That there is hope.
Let me tell you something, it probably won’t be the end. It will be what Jesus said it is. Something that must take place.
You see, this is why our faith can’t be based on the stability or the lack of stability of a nation. Nations will rise and fall. Wars will come and go. It’s the way of the world.
And what our faith must be grounded in is the promise that Jesus has given us. That one day he will return, and according to , in that moment, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (ESV)
In that moment, his kingdom will be established. A kingdom were war doesn’t exist. A kingdom that will never end.
But until then, don’t be alarmed, don’t freak out, these things must happen.
3. Don’t be deceived by natural disasters.
Jesus goes on to say, “There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (ESV)
Jesus ends his warning of “Do not be deceived”, by referencing natural disasters. Why this reference? Really for the same purpose he mentions war. The truth is, when cataclysmic events out of our control take place, like an earthquake or some other natural disaster, it’s easy for us to come to the conclusion that the end is near.
That’s why so many “end of the world movies” are often linked to natural disasters as a tsunami takes out New York City or an Earthquake drops California into the ocean. Or a Volcano erupts and the ash blocks out the sun. And the list goes on.
That’s why a lot of preachers often link natural disasters to the sinful state of an area as a result of God’s judgment. For example, when hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, a lot of Christians pointed to the judgment of God on a sinful city that God was brining an end to.
But Jesus says, “Don’t do that.” Why? Two reasons:
First, natural disasters have been happening for centuries. The fact is, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami’s, and the list goes on, have always existed. In every generation, in ever century, and among various people groups, there have been natural disasters that have wrecked, destroyed, and killed. It’s nothing new under the sun. Jesus says, “They’re going to happen”.
Second, natural disasters are the result of a sin stained world. How do we know? Because of what Jesus says. he says, “These are but the beginning of birth pains.”
Think of it like this, just like a nasty flu virus can create an chaos in your stomach, sin creates chaos within the earth.
The fact of the matter is, we live in a sin stained world, and with it the consequences of that stain. That’s why Jesus goes on to say, “These are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
So, what does he mean by that? Think of it like this. Obviously I can’t get pregnant, but for you ladies that can and have, how many of you know that when you get pregnant, one of the consequences you will face is birth pains? It comes with the territory, right? I mean, no woman starts having birth pains and says, “Oh my goodness. What is happening. I wasn’t expecting this.”
That’s what Jesus is saying here. Sin and its affects on this life should come as no surprise to us. Why?
Because when Adam and Eve opened the door to sin in the Garden of Eden, mankind wasn’t the only thing affected. The animals were affected. The vegetation was affected. And believe it or not, the earth was affected as well. And just like sin brought chaos into our lives, it brought chaos to the earth. So, in a way, natural disasters are the result of sin. The result of something good God made now exposed to something that destroys.
Think of it like this, just like a nasty flu virus can create an chaos in your stomach, sin creates chaos within the earth.
So, when it comes to War, no surprise. Earthquakes, no surprise. Famine, no surprise. Tornadoes, no surprise. It’s to be expected. It’s the result of sin. They aren’t signs, they’re birth pains. They don’t mean the world is ending. These things come with the affect of sin.
Now, that doesn’t mean God won’t use natural disasters in the last days to bring final judgment. The book of Revelation does talk about some natural disasters that God will use to bring final judgment on the earth. But those natural disasters will be unlike the world has ever seen.
Because they won’t just affect a small area or a city, they will affect the entire world. In fact, one of the cataclysmic events in is so severe that 1/3 of mankind will be wiped out. I want you to think about that. If that judgment came today, that would be 3.6 billion people. Now, that’ll be a sign.
But until then, Jesus says, wars, part of it. Natural disasters, yup, come with the territory. They’ve been happening and they’ll keep happening. They’re not a sign, they’re a result. The result of a sin stained world. Jesus says, “Don’t be deceived.”
So, a good question might be, “What does this all mean for us? What’s the takeaway for us today?”
I would suggest three take aways:
Takeaway #1 - Without a doubt, we are living in the end times. What I mean by that is, we are living in between the time of Jesus’s ascension into heaven in and his return at some unknown date and time. And the proof of that is seen in . The first part of Jesus’s prediction has already happened. The temple was destroyed. The clock is counting down to a day, an hour, a minute and a second when Jesus will return. It’s a fact.
Takeaway #2 - While we are living in the end times, determining that end should never be our focus.
In , when the disciples wanted to know if he was setting up the kingdom now, Jesus redirected their focus. He said, “Quit worrying about that.” What you need to focus on is being my witness. Your focus needs to be leading as many people as you can to me.”
And what was true for them, is true for us as well. Our focus isn’t to be on trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back, but on the fact that he is. And because he is coming back, we have a job to do. To lead as many people to Jesus as we can. That’s to be our focus. That’s to be your focus.
Takeaway #3 - While we wait for Jesus’s return, we can’t get discouraged or distracted.
Here’s what we need to remember. Jesus has given us this information for two reasons.
First, he doesn’t want us to get discouraged. As we’re going to learn next week, the Christian life isn’t an easy life. And in the midst of the challenges to come, and the chaos of this life, Jesus wants us to know in the midst of wars and earthquakes, he is with us.
The truth is, some of you are here today, and you’re facing some chaos in your life, and you’re thinking, “This must be the end”. But what if, I don’t want to sound insensitive here, what if what you are facing is simply a birth pain?
You see, it’s easy to get discouraged when the consequences of living in a sin stained world play out in our lives. It’s easy to get discouraged when a loved one dies. It’s easy to get discouraged when we have to face the consequence of a sin. It’s easy to get discouraged when somebody harms us.
And in those moments, what we have to remember is, it’s what comes with the territory. Because we live in a sin stained world full of wars and earthquakes. And in the midst of your war or your earthquake, the enemy wants you to get discouraged. He wants you to freak out. But Jesus says, “Don’t be deceived. It’s not the end. This was all to be expected. Keep your eyes on me. Keep moving forward. I’m with you.”
Second, Jesus doesn’t want us to get distracted. The truth is, you can’t turn on the news without getting discouraged and distracted by bad news. But what we have to remember is the bad news has always been there. It’s existed in every century and civilization. We just happen to live in an era where that bad news can be transmitted more easily.
And the danger for you and I is that in the midst of the discouragement, we’d get distracted from what God has called us to do. That in our disgust of the sin, we’d close ourselves off, put up walls, and just wait for the end to come.
That’s what a lot of churches and Christians do. They get shelter focused. It’s that mentality of, “Well at least I’m in the shelter. I know there’s a storm going on out there. I know it’s killing people. But I’m just going to sit here in the safety of my shelter and wait for the end to come.” Churches like this become inward focused churches, as they focus on what’s best for them. And by doing so, they get distracted. Distracted from the mission Jesus has given us.
We can’t get distracted MCF. The fact is, we live in a world where there is a lot of pain, and it’s not going away, and it’s not going to get any better. We live in a sin stained world. And we have a choice. We can sit around and point fingers at the signs, and say to cities like New Orleans, “See, the judgment of God is upon you!”.
Or, we can do our job. We can get up and show up in a city like New Orleans and say, “We are here to help you in your pain. We are here to show you there is God who can heal the pain.”
The truth is, I know to many churches that are distracted. Distracted as they cast judgment. Distracted by false teaching. Distracted as they point at signs of sin, but do nothing to lead people away from sin and to the truth.
MCF, I don’t want to be distracted. I want to make sure we stay focused on the mission. That we never lose sight of what Jesus has called us to do. That we would never be deceived.
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