Sign of the Times - Problems and Possibilities
Signs of the Times: Problems and Possibilities (Mark 13:1-13)
Recent events in the Middle East call our attention to a biblical reality. Both the beginning and end of recorded history center in that area, according to biblical prophecy. Even a superficial reading of the Bible would indicate that the decisive and final events of time will in some way be connected with events in that part of the world. How are we to weigh present events in light of biblical belief?
Our Lord always give us a sufficient word. He does not tell us everything, but He tells us enough. He predicted that some of the problems of today would characterize the entire age until He comes. He told us specifically what our responsibility should be during this age. In an age of deception, disruption, and persecution, we must take the gospel to everyone and see that we stand firm.
Christ Demonstrates the Difficulties of This Age
Jesus predicts the difficulties that will characterize the entire age until His coming. These realities will not be peculiar to any part of that age, but will be part of the entire age.
Jesus warns against deception. His first words are "Watch out that no one deceives you" (v. 5). Be forewarned. This age is one of spiritual counterfeits and misinformation. Many will wander off course because of this deception. Specifically, those will deceive who say, "I am he" (v. 6). Some will openly claim to be Christ and others will claim the powers that belong only to the Christ. We are to be spiritually on guard throughout this age for those who make claims to be the Christ.
Jesus warns against disruption. The entire age will be characterized by national, physical, and social disruption. The Christian is never to be alarmed (v. 7). The entire age will be characterized by wars and rumors of wars, wars near and remote, wars actual and threatened. The history of the age will be the history of war. No single war indicates the end or the absence of the end. Every war should remind us there will be an end.
There will be further physical disruptions of earthquakes and famines. These seismic events will characterize the age as we wait for His coming. No one of them indicates the end or the absence of the end. All physical disruptions should remind us of the ultimate disruption—God will end history in the coming of the Christ.
Jesus warns about persecution. We are to be on guard because persecution will come. This persecution will be local, regional, and national (v. 9). The tension that Christ brings will invade families. It will lead to betrayal in life's most intimate relationships. All of this indicates that Jesus foresaw a considerable passage of time before He returns.
The entire age waiting for Jesus to return will be characterized by deception, disruption, and persecution. Our responsibility is to watch and be on guard. The world will never be friendly to the people of the gospel.
Christ Demonstrates Our Responsibility in This Age
As individual believers, there is little we can do about the difficulties of the age. We must pay attention to the two things that we can do.
We must pay attention to proclamation: "the gospel must first be preached to all nations" (v. 10). Before the King comes, the gospel must be proclaimed everywhere in the world. It is proclamation, not speculation, that brings back the King. Do you wish the soon-coming of the Lord Jesus? He will come when the message is taken everywhere. Many people waste energy on speculation about the end. Only worldwide proclamation hastens the return of the King.
We must pay attention to perseverance: "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (v. 13). A faith that lasts will be the virtue of those who truly await the return of the King and the end of this age. We cannot puzzle out the meaning of every war and earthquake. We can see to it in faith and commitment that we ourselves persevere, that we endure until the end.
Whether or not we are alive at the end of the world, each of our earthly lives must come to an end. Are you ready to meet the Christ? Is your commitment to the proclamation of the gospel and perseverance in Christian service such as will please Him? We should focus on what we can change, ourselves.