The Servant King Unveils the Future – Part 1 – Mark 13:1-8
Last week we talked about the resurgence in our culture of interest in the after-life, i.e. of Heaven. Along with that is a new obsession with the end times, i.e. the end of the world. Though our culture and media has never stopped showing interest in talking about the “end of the world” and the apocalypse, it does seem like there is a whole new level of interest nowadays.
Hollywood has made lots of money feeding off of our anxiety and obsession about the end times. People seem to love watching and imagining about the many ways the world might get trashed, especially if it’s in 3D and IMAX. Whether it is by an asteroid that is coming to hit the planet sparking tsunamis and wiping out cities (remember Armageddon?) or the sun burping out an enormous wave of radiation that will cook the earth (that was the premise of 2012, predicted by the Mayan calendar). Another famous scenario is that we will bring the end of the world ourselves through pollution or global warming or from our plants dying (The Day after Tomorrow, Wall-E and recently Interstellar). How about robots taking over the world (Terminator and The Matrix)? Apes? Alien invasion? Viral pandemic (Outbreak and Contagion)? Or maybe a viral pandemic that turns everyone into zombies? Isn’t it weird that in the past people used to go to the movies to escape their messed-up world and now we go to see how more messed-up it’s going to be?
Adding to the mix are Christians talking about being “left behind.” Since 1995, 13 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins called the Left Behind series have sold 65 million copies, has been adapted into three films, with even a reboot released this past year with Nicolas Cage as the lead. The premise behind the series is that Christ comes and “raptures” all the believers away, leaving the world shattered and in chaos, looking for answers.
Adding to this mix are end-time junkies, constantly decoding biblical images, crunching in the numbers, predicting dates (remember the late Harold Camping who predicted the Lord was returning in 1994 and then 2011?), drawing endless charts and watching the Middle East closely in the news. There is a danger with this kind of obsession.
But with believers, I see a complete shift in the opposite direction of fanaticism. There is apathy. Pre-millennial? Post-millennial? Mid-tribulation rapture? Someone said, “I’m pan-millenial! Everything will pan out in the end!” Jesus wins right? That’s all that matters.
The thinking goes something like this. First of all, smart Bible-believing scholars differ on these things, so how is an ordinary Joe Schmo like me going to figure it out? Secondly, this isn’t a major doctrine right? We all believe He’s coming back so I don’t want to be divisive over a minor doctrine, especially since everything is so speculative? Why spend time studying for something so uncertain? And besides, what relevance does it have for me now? It’s just way too complicated!
There is some truth to those arguments. We are not to quarrel over those things and obsession over timelines and calendars is not healthy either, however let me propose that a total disinterest and apathy is sinful as well. Jesus says over and over in Mark 13 to watch and “to look for these things,” and if we are not caring and apathetic, we are disobeying His clear command. 2 Tim. 2:15 calls us to “rightly handle the Word of truth.” We can’t be “buffet” Christians, just studying the stuff we like. True, we can’t figure it all out, but that does not mean we totally disregard all these passages.
How do we come to a biblical balance with all this? We don’t want to be an end-time junkie nor completely lazy and apathetic either. Well, I hope to the Lord to help us with that and give us some basic understanding of “last things” (eschatology) as we will look at Mark 13 the next couple of weeks not so we can begin to make calendars, but so He can make us closer followers and better disciples of Him because of our future hope that comes from the Gospel. The title of the message is “The Servant King Unveils the Future.” We will do this in two parts, Lord willing. First:
Four Views of the End Times
There are basically four views. Before we look at them, let’s look at Rev. 20:1-6. Here is where we read of a millennium. Rev. 21 speaks of Heaven. So what is this 1,000-year period referring to? Should we take it literal or is it symbolic? So with that in mind, first, we have dispensational premillennialism:
According to this view, Christ will return in the Rapture at the end of this church age to eventually reign with His saints on the earth for 1,000 years as King. At the end of the 7 years, we have the second coming of Christ with His church. So the second coming and rapture are two different things in this view. After the second coming, we have Christ reigning on this earth with us for a literal 1,000 years, then final judgment of unbelievers ushering into eternity.
Second view is called historic premillennialism:
This view is different from dispensational premillennialism in that Christians will remain on the earth during the great tribulation, not be raptured away. The millennium is still a literal 1,000-year event and the rapture and second coming are one event. You go up and come right back down.
Thirdly, we have amillennialism, which basically means no (“a” means “without”) millennium.
This is the belief that Jesus will come again some day, but there is no literal thousand-year rule by Jesus on earth. Rather, the millennium symbolizes Christ’s reign in the lives of his people from the beginning of the church until his second coming. Persecution of Christians (tribulation) will occur until Jesus comes again, as will the expansion of God’s kingdom (the millennium). Some of the stuff we will look at and see as “signs” of the end, amillennialists would say already is happening or happened.
One more: postmillennialism:
In this view, Christ comes after the Millennium. The millennial reign described in Revelation 20:1–6 represents a long time period when (not literal), through the preaching of the gospel, most of the world will submit to Christ.
The view I take currently is the dispensational premillennialism, though I am not as convinced as I used to be. The one thing that nags at me about it is the fact that God’s people are taken away from suffering. I don’t see a precedent in Scripture. God’s people often are persevered in the midst of suffering, not taken away from it. Maybe all of these views are wrong. Nobody really predicted the first coming 100% did they? The top scholars in those days, after all their study, couldn’t see the Messiah when He came right up to them. Nevertheless, the reason I hold it is because of the prophecies of the first coming. They literally happened. Jesus was born in literal Bethlehem like Micah said and came on a literal donkey like Zechariah said, so I take the second coming prophecies literally too. Of course, you don’t have to agree with me, but this will be the framework I will be using in understanding a difficult passage like Mark 13.
Do I believe we are living in the end times? Well, the Bible describes the time after Jesus ascended as the end times, so in that sense we are living in the end. Do I believe Jesus will return in our lifetime? No idea, but I would love that! Of course any day could be the end of the world if we die. At the same time, I do see some signs increasing from our passage that makes me wonder if we are close to the end.
With the basic framework out of the way and instead of focusing on making timelines, I want us to look at this passage answering this question: “In light of the signs unveiled by the Servant King for the end times, how then should we live?” We will get our answers from Jesus here in Mark 13. First of all:
I. Rising Religious Deception: Don’t be led astray (vv.1-6, vv. 21-22)
Jesus finally leaves the temple. It’s a Wednesday. Thursday He’ll have Passover with His disciples. Friday He will be crucified and Sunday He will rise from the grave. This is His last day of public ministry. As He leaves the temple, this is more than a physical leaving. His leaving shows a definitive break from the temple. He’s not coming back. Why? He has judged the temple, overthrew the moneychangers and told us it was like a fig tree with leaves, but no fruit (Mark 11:12-14). His heart was broken. In Matt. 23:37, we see that Jesus is heartbroken because so long has God called them to Himself, like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they didn’t want to come. He had called them to a relationship, but they wanted religion instead.
The temple became an outward religious thing. Jesus is not interested in things that look good on the outside, but is dead on the inside. Materialism and busyness and religious activity replaced the heart behind it. It was corrupt. If they had turned to Him, they would have found healing. Instead now they find judgment. Jesus is also the fulfillment of the temple. The temple was where you met God and had your sins forgiven. That would be in Christ now.
Of course the disciples don’t get that aspect. As they are walking out, they are marveling at how beautiful the temple was. Rightfully so. The temple was considered an architectural wonder of the ancient world. It was built with large white stones, polished and generously decorated with gold (Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 15. 11. 3–7). It was breathtaking. It had been in construction for almost 50 years (kind of like roads in Chicago) but in 64 AD, it was finished.
Jesus startles them with a prophecy. It’s going to completely leveled. That’s exactly what happened 40 years later and just six years after the Temple was finished in 70 AD. The Roman army came in and the Emperor, according to the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus, “ordered the whole city and the temple to be razed to the ground…All the rest of the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited (War 7.3).” It’s never been rebuilt.
This is a warning for all of us. No denomination or Bible-believing church starts out wanting to drift away and end up being liberal. But that’s what always seem to happen. Churches start and are on fire for the Lord, start to drift and end up as liberal pagans. There is always a remnant and God continues His work. How does that happen? They forget the WHY behind the WHAT. Intimacy before activity. No amount of activity in the Kings’ service will make up for the neglect of the King Himself (R. Murray McCheyne).
People start forgetting why they are doing what they’re doing. It becomes empty ritual and that cancer starts to eat away and destroy us. Why are we meeting on Sunday? Why am I singing these songs? Why are we hearing the Word today? When the worship leader says, “Take some time to prepare.” That’s what you should be asking and praying. Lord, I am here to meet you. If only I can see you with my heart to be great as the songs we sing about you! Etc.” Why are we meeting this week in small group? Why am I preaching? There always be the captivity of activity and you end up being a gerbil in a cage going round and round or like cycling on a stationary bike, with lots of activity and no progress because we stop asking WHY I am doing this? Let’s not be self-deceived.
Jesus and His disciples end up sitting on the Mount of Olives (this chapter is called “The Olivet Discourse”) looking at the temple. Rising 150 feet higher than Jerusalem, the mountain afforded a dramatic view of the Temple.  And the disciples can’t stop thinking about the fact that Jesus knows the future. What else can He tell them they wonder? So they ask Him when questions? Tell us the future.
Edwards notes, “The disciples—and believers since—want to know the future, but Jesus directs them unflinchingly to the present: “ ‘Watch out that no one deceives you.’ ” Beginning in v. 5 and continuing throughout the chapter, there is a running admonition against future speculation at the expense of present obedience.” Take heed lays upon them the standing duty to keep their eyes open to the danger of being misled.
Jesus says apostasy will go to a new level. People will start showing up saying they are Jesus and they will gain a following. Down through the centuries different individuals have claimed to be some variation of the Messiah. In the 18th century, Ann Lee, one of the leaders of a religious group called the Shakers, proclaimed herself to be Jesus’ female counterpart. And then there was Sun Myung Moon, the 20th-century Korean founder of the “Moonies,” who said he was the second coming of Christ. These false Messiahs confused and deceived many.
Has it gotten worse now? Possibly. In Florida, José Luis de Jesús Miranda claimed he was the returned Christ and the AntiChrist at the same time. He claimed to have “millions” of followers in 30 countries in 2008. People were celebrating Christmas in April because that’s when he was born. He passed away in 2013 (no resurrection though) and now people call him Melchizedek. In Australia, Alan Millar and his partner say he’s Jesus and she’s Mary Magdalene and they are a couple. He says he remembers the crucifixion clearly. Hundreds of people flock to hear him. In Siberia, Sergey Torop says he’s Jesus after he was fired as a traffic officer in 1990. He has 5,000 followers and 2,000 live in a settlement in Siberia to worship him. He has long hair and wears long flowing robes and had his sayings transcribed into 10 volumes. The list goes on. Not to mention new religions and cults popping up all the time.
We can laugh at these who seem to be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. There’s no way we are wondering if any of these guys are for real. But we have our own false Christs leading us astray:
- We have the “Santa Claus Jesus.” This Jesus says you be nice all year, go to church, tithe, do nice things and I’ll answer your prayers just like you asked. If you follow this false Jesus, you are lead astray as you become bitter and resentful when he doesn’t deliver the goods as you asked.
- How about “Sergeant Jesus”? This Jesus is never happy with you. You got the A, but where is the A+? He’s always shaking His head and disgusted with you because you are not measuring up. This Jesus leads you astray you feel hopeless.
- How about “Teddy Bear Jesus”? This Jesus makes no demands. Just hugs. Fight sin? No, just rest. Next week maybe! Don’t want to read the Word? It’s ok, grace. This Jesus leads you astray as sin deceives and destroys your life and eats away your joy.
- Many of us follow the “Karma Jesus.” Got sick? Well, that’s what you get for missing your quiet time. Don’t get too happy things are going well. Don’t celebrate. Karma Jesus is waiting to get you and get you real bad. This Jesus always makes you suspicious and cynical.
We need the real Christ. As John MaCarthur says, “Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing. Then when they see bogus money they recognize it.” 1 Thess. 5:21: “Test everything.” Study the Word, but “hold fast to what is good.” In other words, don’t waste so much time fighting error that you are not embracing the truth. Be mastered by the real Christ, the one who is full of grace and truth. Get to know the real one, who really died and lives for you. Secondly:
II. Escalating Human Suffering: Don’t be alarmed (vv.7-8)
Watch out for threats to your discipleship from the inside with false Christs. But look out for threats from the outside as well. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines, but don’t be alarmed. Every age has these but notice what Jesus says: Don’t be alarmed. Don’t let these things upset you emotionally so that you are unfit to carry on your proper work.
I was curious to see if there were any changes in worldwide conflict, earthquakes and famines. CBS News this year says, “a new study finds there were more than twice as many big earthquakes in the first quarter of 2014 as compared with the average since 1979.” Again, I’m not making any predictions or statements. A report in the journal of Peace Research, used in a report to the United Nations, concluded that in 2011, the number of armed conflicts in the world increased markedly. Almost a billion people are now hungry – one in seven of the global population – and the number of acutely malnourished children has risen for the first time this decade.
Jesus does say when these things are like the beginning of birth pains, meaning it’s going to get worse before it gets better once the contractions hit. He says there will be these things and we are not to be alarmed. I remember watching the news a couple of months ago and someone working for ISIS tweeted a picture of the White House saying “we are here” or something. It kind of freaked me out to be honest. Don’t be alarmed, Jesus says. Why? Two reasons.
First of all: “This must take place.” That means God is in control. These things are inevitable consequences of human depravity and they are not a surprise nor does it in anyway impede or disrupt anything that God has planned. Secondly, “they are the beginning of the birth pains.” Before the miracle of birth comes the torment of labor. Before the rapturous joy comes the escalating agony. And that’s how Jesus described the events leading up to his second coming. He called them “birth pains.” I have seen the beginning of birth pains twice. They are horrible. Jenny ripped my arm socket off because of the pain initially. I felt like she was being tasered every five minutes. But ask any mom. The joy of holding that baby swallows up the length and depth of the pain. Don’t be alarmed Jesus says. Pain is but a moment. Joy is coming. Persevere.
We’ll stop here for now and pick it up next time.
Robby Robins was an Air Force pilot during the first Iraq war. After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home. They flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then had a long drive to western Pennsylvania. They drove all night, and when his buddies dropped him off at his driveway just after sun-up, there was a big banner across the garage—”Welcome Home Dad!”
How did they know? No one had called, and the crew themselves hadn’t expected to leave so quickly. Robins relates, “When I walked into the house, the kids, about half dressed for school, screamed, ‘Daddy!’ Susan came running down the hall—she looked terrific—hair fixed, make-up on, and a crisp yellow dress. ‘How did you know?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t,’ she answered through tears of joy. ‘Once we knew the war was over, we knew you’d be home one of these days. We knew you’d try to surprise us, so we were ready every day.'”
As I was working on this message, I asked myself, “How much do I long for His return?” Am I ready every day? Or am I more anticipating Black Friday deals this week? How do we cultivate such hope? Paul says in Col. 3:4 a great line: “When Christ, WHO IS YOUR LIFE appears, you will also appear with Him in glory.” Life is what makes you come alive. Is Jesus your life? How do you make Jesus your life? You go to the Ultimate Black Friday 2,000 years ago. How about that deal there? Worship this real Jesus. There He made you His life. Our sins did not make Him come alive, but led to His death. But in paying that debt, He took care of the real end of the world that all of us deserved, which is a never-ending world of hell, more worse than any earthquake, more worse than any war one has ever seen, more worse than a famine. Those death pains led to our new birth! If you have never received Him into your heart, knowing Him is how you can survive the end of the world. His love is the only love in this world that goes past the end of the world.
And if you have received Him into your heart, knowing Him deeper is how you can survive Him too. Is there a love like this love? Listen to the old Puritan David Clarkson:
No, Lord, there was no sorrow like your sorrow, no love like your love. Was it not enough (dearest Saviour) that you were willing to pray, and sigh, and weep for us perishing wretches? Will you also bleed and die for us? Was it not enough that you were hated, slandered, blasphemed, buffeted? but you were also scourged, nailed, wounded, crucified. Was it not enough to feel the cruelty of man? Will you also undergo the wrath of God? Was it not enough to die once, to suffer one death? Will you also die twice, and taste the second death, suffer the pains of death in soul and body? Oh the transcendent love of Christ! Heaven and earth are astonished at it. What tongue can express it? What heart can conceive it? The tongues, the thoughts of men and angels are far below it. Oh the height, and depth, and breadth, and length, of the love of Christ! Our thoughts are swallowed up in this depth, and there we must be content till glory shall enable us to have no other employment but to praise, admire, and adore this love of Christ. 
Rinne, Jeramie (2014-07-03). How will the world end?: and other questions about the last things and the second coming of Christ (Questions Christians Ask) (Kindle Location 65). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.
Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.). (Vol. 2, p. 167).
Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (pp. 388–389). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior (Vol. 2, p. 136).
Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
Edwards, J. R. (p. 390). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
Hiebert, D. E. (1994). The Gospel of Mark: An Expositional Commentary (p. 369). Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.
Rinne, Jeramie. (Kindle Locations 266-269).
Biema, D. V. (2007, May 09). A Different Jesus to Believe In? Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1618968,00.html.
Clark, H. (2014, September 18). False Christs Arising Worldwide Claiming to Be Second Coming of Jesus. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://christiannews.net/2014/09/18/false-christs-arising-worldwide-claiming-to-be-second-coming-of-jesus/.
MacArthur, J. (1994). Reckless Faith: When the church loses its will to discern (p. 79). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Hiebert, D. E. (p. 370).
Oskin, B. (2014, July 1). Big earthquakes double in 2014, but scientists say they’re not linked. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/big-earthquakes-double-in-2014-but-scientists-say-theyre-not-linked/.
The number of armed conflicts increased strongly in 2011. (2012, July 13). Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://phys.org/news/2012-07-armed-conflicts-strongly.html.
Morrison, S. (2012, August 5). Almost a billion go hungry worldwide. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/almost-a-billion-go-hungry-worldwide-8007759.html.
Eclov, L. (2008, October 1). Ready Every Day. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2008/october/1102008.html.
Clarkson, D. (1864). The Works of David Clarkson (Vol. 3, pp. 13–14). Edinburgh: James Nichol.