The Servant King Unveils the Future – Part 3 – Mark 13:14-37
We’ve been talking about the end times as we finish off Mark today. Our thesis has been that Jesus calls us not to be crazy about it and obsessing over it but also not to be lazy about it, apathetic and uninterested. How do we get a biblically balanced view of the end times?
Mark 13 some have said already happened in the first century. Because look at v.30. It sounds like Jesus is saying everything in Mark 13 is going to happen in their lifetime. I do take it to mean that in that verse is He is just referring to those who will live to see the Temple in Jerusalem destroyed and fall of Jerusalem. Here’s why.
If you’re reading the chapter in Greek, in the very first verses, the disciples say, “Master,” or Lord, “when will these things be? When will the temple be brought down? When will the Romans attack? When will Jerusalem be destroyed? When will these things?” That’s the Greek word that he uses.
In verse 30, Jesus looks back on all of his teaching, and he looks back to that question. He says, “I’ll tell you when these things will be.” He means the destruction of the temple. He says, “These things will happen within your lifetime,” and they did happen. In AD 70, Titus, the Roman general, sacked Jerusalem, and did all these things, within 37 years of the time he was speaking.
However, that doesn’t mean everything else is going to happen in the future. We are saying both are true. The basic events of Mark 13 did happen in some sense (and is still happening), but it is a foreshadowing of what is still yet to come. Here are some signs to look for but more importantly how we are to respond to those signs:
I. Rising Religious Deception: Don’t be led astray (vv.1-6, vv. 21-22)
False Christs will arise in every century, escalating to the time when the AntiChrist will show up (more on that in a second). The response? Don’t be led astray. Keep your eyes open. Stay close to the real Jesus and you will avoid the counterfeits.
II. Escalating Human Suffering: Don’t be alarmed (vv.7-8)
Earthquakes, wars and famines are there in every century, but the future will have even more. Keep your eyes open, but don’t freak out either. God is sovereign, as “these things must take place.” Thirdly:
III. Increasing persecution and adversity: Don’t be anxious (vv.9-13)
Jesus says expect growing persecution before He comes. We see more and more of it in our century. More Christians have died for their faith in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. We looked at expecting adversity and finding Christ in the middle of it through the Holy Spirit. Last two signs:
IV. Unparalleled Tribulation: Don’t despair (vv.14-23)
As religious deception, human suffering and persecution rises as well as the gospel expanding like never before, it will lead into what is called the “Great Tribulation” (v.19). These “near” tribulations (like the Temple destroyed) foreshadowed the “far” Tribulation of the end time. Jesus says the Great Tribulation is so bad the world has yet to see it. Sometimes the way we see the broken world now, we feel like maybe we are in it right? Some say it will be seven years. Here is our chart again:
Some say believers won’t go through this because of the Rapture. I am not so sure. Anyway, in the middle of this tribulation, “the abomination of desolation” will stand where HE ought not to be. Notice “HE.” This is a male person. Mark puts in a note that we should pay close attention to this part (let the reader understand). What is the “abomination of desolation”?
This phrase, from the book of Daniel, is mentioned three times (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). The phrase “the abomination of desolation” referred to the presence of an idolatrous person or object so detestable that it caused the temple to be abandoned and left desolate. This happened about 200 years before Christ. Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the Syrian general …outraged the Jews in 168 b.c. by erecting an altar to Zeus on the altar of burnt offering in the temple and sacrificing a sow on it. In the historical writings during that time, this blasphemy was called “the abomination of desolation.”
Jesus is now saying, “You thought the pig event was bad right? You will see more and more increasing levels of blasphemy.” Perhaps another “abomination of desolation” could be the Romans entering the temple in September AD 70 and destroying it, leaving it desolate.
Some would then say the tragic events of 167 BC and AD 70 anticipate yet another climactic event of horrible destruction and desecration just prior to our Lord’s second coming. What is that? 2 Thess. 2:1-4 tells of a “man of lawlessness” taking seat in the Temple of God, saying he is God and force people to worship him. That sounds like an abomination to me! Both texts depict a blasphemous Antichrist who will do a scandalous deed that will trigger the return of the Lord. We should not try to identify who this is as people have tried to do in the past. He seems to be a nice guy promoting peace, making peace with the Jews and all of a sudden turning from Dr. Jekkyl into Mr. Hyde.
Right now there is no Temple for a person to go and sit there and do this. There is a mosque on the Temple Mount. But interestingly, the Jews are confident they will get their Temple back, rebuild it and sacrifice again. I even saw a website about this.
Nevertheless, Jesus does not seem to be concerned about who this guy is and even what he has done. He is concerned for His sheep. Actually when the Temple was destroyed, the believers did obey the Lord’s words here and fled for their lives. Some lessons here whether this chapter is for first century, last century or any century. Consider:
a) Jesus’ compassion and care in our hard circumstances
Notice the urgency here of the Lord and His interest in our safety and practical matters of our lives. Run away. Life is at stake. Run for the mountains. Don’t waste time looking for your coat or valuables. Notice that Jesus felt special compassion for expectant and nursing mothers whose condition would hinder flight (v.17). The time would turn the joy of motherhood into a pathetic handicap. Pray it doesn’t happen in winter. Why? If the flight would come in the winter, during the rainy season, the rains and swollen streams would definitely add to the danger, and they would be unable to glean food from the countryside as they fled.
Jesus is telling us to pray for our circumstances. Does God want us to make us into the likeness of Jesus by refining us? Absolutely. But the Lord also calls us to cast our cares on Him and to pray for our daily bread as well. Sometimes we go too much on either extreme only praying for character or only praying for circumstances.
I don’t know why some of our circumstances never change. I don’t why some of you go through things that are so hard. I don’t have answers. And though we don’t know a reason for them doesn’t mean God doesn’t have reasons for them. But I get comfort from one of the verses that probably almost all of us have memorized growing up in John 11:35: Jesus wept.
It is such an amazing verse for me. Here is Jesus standing at the tomb of Lazarus, knowing He is about to raise him from the dead, and He is weeping. Shouldn’t He be excited? It reminded me of a place in Narnia where a character named Digory went to the great lion Aslan because his mom was dying. “Can’t you give her anything that will cure her?” Digory asks. Because Aslan was so big, Digory had only looked at his claws and great feet up to this point, but this time he decided to look up at his face. Lewis writes, “For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.”
Jesus is not saying at the tomb, “Every cloud has a silver lining, bad things are blessings in disguise, he’s in a better place, etc.” No hallmark card sentiments or clichés here. Him weeping at the tomb tells me He’s entering into our circumstances and saying to us sometimes things are just bad. He can turn bad things into good, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bad. Some things are bad. This means I can lament to God in anger and frustration, He understands.
Paul says, “I want to know the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). Every time we are misunderstood, treated unfairly, feeling unloved, rejected, wounded, heartbroken, etc. Jesus says, “Come and enter this fellowship of mine.”
He is a Man of Sorrows. He hates death, loneliness, separation, pain and suffering. Jesus hates it all so much that he was willing to come into this world and experience it all himself, so that eventually he could destroy it without destroying us. So don’t despair.
Pastor Sammy Rhodes says, “Sometimes we sing, ‘Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God woulds’t die for me.’ Yes. But we can also sing, ‘Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God woulds’t cry with me.’ In the words of church father, Gregory of Nazianzus, Christ is the only one “Who cries, yet causes tears to cease.” He weeps with us, but one day we will laugh with Him! Consider also:
b) Jesus’ control over our hard circumstances
Jesus says a couple of times that the Lord…“God of the Old Covenant, is in sovereign control of the affairs of this world, and He had graciously decreed a limitation on those days. The aorist tense, had shortened, puts this action in the past. God has already decreed that those days will be shortened.” Because of those whom He has chosen as His own (we are not going to debate that right now) He has decided to shorten those days.
What’s He saying? Sometimes we feel like we are tossed in the fire like gold by a goldsmith, but that doesn’t mean He left us there to rot and burn. Sometimes we feel like He’s left us and threw away His watch. Never. His hand is on the thermostat and on the clock. Not only Has He entered the fire itself, but He knows exactly how long we need to be in there and He’s not sadistic, purposefully inflicting pain on us for the fun of it. We are not suffering one second longer than He has decided. Don’t despair! One last sign and response:
V. Glorious Return of the Lord: Don’t be asleep (vv.24-37)
The Tribulation ends with a total cosmic upheaval. The picture is one of total cosmic collapse. Darkness and chaos will envelop everything, just as before time (Gen 1:2). C’mon Robin! It’s Christmas season! Don’t scare us with end time stuff. We love the first coming right? Baby in a manger, a star in the sky, silent night…so soft and gentle. The second coming is the opposite. Instead of a star in the sky, we have all the stars falling out of the sky. He doesn’t look like a little baby here, does He? Everything is shaking (earthquake, sun and moon go dark, stars falling from the sky), and just as, literally, all hell is breaking loose and the Son of Man comes with clouds and great power and glory.
Virtually the entire section consists of allusions to various Old Testament texts. Jesus is taking stuff they are familiar with to show that He is the One they have been waiting for so long. So what does the return of Christ mean according to this passage?
a) A Final Reunion
Notice the point of His coming: “to gather His elect” from every direction and location (four winds, ends of the earth to the ends of heaven)…in other words, no one will be lost or forgotten. The Lord is not focusing on Armageddon or when He’s coming or what’s happening when He comes or even judgment here directly. He’s coming for His kids. It’s a dad coming to pick up his kids from another’s house to bring them home. It’s a picture of relief, celebration and thankfulness. It’s only scary if you were never His kid and embraced Him as your Savior and Lord.
b) A Full Renewal
Notice the image that Jesus is coming “in clouds with great power and glory.” He’s not coming through the clouds, but in a cloud. “Clouds” were always a picture of the presence of God. It was in the Garden of Eden. In the presence of God there, there was overwhelming beauty, power, glory, and holiness, in the presence of his absolute and utter aliveness, nothing dead, nothing diseased, nothing broken, nothing evil, nothing twisted can exist.
We lost it when Adam and Eve decided to be their own Saviors. After the Fall, we are now like we’re on the side of the moon that never sees the sun—coldness, injustice, poverty, slavery, disease and death. But the presence of God still would come leading the Israelites out of slavery, in the Tabernacle and finally in the Temple.
But now look. Jesus Christ is coming back as the presence of God Himself down to envelope the whole world and make it the Garden of Eden again. Look also at the image of the fig tree Jesus uses (v.28). In contrast with most of Palestine’s trees, fig trees lose their leaves in winter and bloom later in the spring. Thus whenever the stiff, dry, winter twigs become tender, softened due to the rising sap, and leaves appear, then observers know that winter is past and summer is near. What’s He saying? He’s saying He’s bringing the Ultimate Summer and Spring that is going to make all of our best springs and summers a faint echo in our minds. He’s restoring and renewing creation, He’s ending poverty, He’s ending injustice and He’s ending death, disease and hunger.
c) Faithful Justice
Jesus says yearn for this renewal in his coming. If we are not yearning for it, it means we are asleep in our self-absorption. We are living in a bubble. This world is filled with bad news. You can hear the call in our country now. As we hear about Michael Brown and Eric Garner and others, there is a call for justice. There is a yearning for it. So the second coming is good news for people whose lives are full of bad news! God’s kingdom has always sounded like good news for people whose lives are bad news.
Yet people say God is love. He loves everybody and will accept everybody. Yes, but is a God who loves without justice a good God? Is that what we really want? A God who loves everyone and judges no one?
A believer in Somalia, a country that is 100% Sunni Muslim, was recently beheaded in the streets in front the villagers and children, after she refused to denounce Christ. When I hear that, I want justice! We hear of children being raped and sold, AIDS devastating whole populations, world hunger, etc. While we are sad someone sad something bad about us on facebook, these people are crying out for justice and redemption. Terrible things are being done every day and there seems to be no punishment. Jesus says, “No, not forever. I will judge because I love.” A loving God must be a just God. Listen to N.T. Wright:
We need to remind ourselves that throughout the Bible, not least in the Psalms, God’s coming judgment is a good thing, something to be celebrated, longed for, yearned over. It causes people to shout for joy and the trees of the field to clap their hands. In a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression, the thought that there might come a day when the wicked are firmly put in their place and the poor and weak are given their due is the best news there can be. Faced with a world in rebellion, a world full of exploitation and wickedness, a good God must be a God of judgment.
Jesus says yearn for this justice in His coming. If we are not yearning for it, it means we are asleep in our self-absorption. Notice in vv.32-36. Circle all the times you see “Stay awake” and “asleep.” He says, “Wake up from sloth of self-absorption.” He is like a manager who put us in charge here as a steward until He returns (vv.34-35). What does that mean for us in light of the thought of Him as our coming Judge?
Cry for justice because that means crying for His return. Go and listen to those who are suffering. Weep with those who weep because they can’t find justice because that means weeping for His return. Be His hands and feet now because that is being alert and awake for His return. Get His tears and wait for Him to come wipe them. Empathize.” This also means:
d) Freedom to forgive
The second coming also frees us from being the judge of all the earth. The second coming reminds us that none of is worthy to sit on the judgment seat. Every time we are wronged, we push Jesus off that seat and we sit on it and we decide we know what that person deserves. We start calculating and extending punishment. We are on the judgment seat. Spouses, listen up!
When we take the judgment seat and refuse to forgive others, it will poison us, make us bitter, make us vengeful and suck the joy out of us. It’s like a baby sitting on a huge throne. It’s too big for us. So the doctrine of the second coming teaches that only God deserves to be on a judgment throne. Only God deserves to be the Judge. Why? Because you’re imperfect, and you deserve a few things for what you have done, so you have no right to be there. Secondly, only God has the knowledge requisite for sitting on that throne. When someone wrongs you, and you start to say, “I know what they deserve,” you think you know that person, and you don’t. In fact, your bitterness almost always blinds you to who they are. Keller uses this example:
Have you ever talked to somebody who was really mad at, let’s say, person X? You know person X; you’re not mad at them. When they describe person X you don’t really completely recognize them, do you? See, when you’re angry at someone, you caricature them. You play up their bad parts, and you play down their good parts. Besides that, only God knows what that person has been through. Only God knows who that person really is. Only God knows all that’s in their background. Only God knows what they deserve. You do not know what they deserve. Last of all, only God has the power to actually give people what they deserve. The doctrine of the second coming is someday he will put everything right. He will, and you won’t.
Jesus says, “Get off of my throne. I got you. I will make all things right” And we can say, “You’re God, and I’m not. You’re the Judge, and I’m not. I don’t have to be. I’m free! I don’t have to do it. I can forgive. I can make peace. I don’t know enough to know what they deserve. I don’t have the right to give them what they deserve. I will certainly over- or underestimate what they deserve. I don’t have to do that. I stop it. I get off the throne.”
Where do we get the power to forgive like that? How do we wake up and yearn for the Lord’s return? And we have here is the problem. We say, “I want God to end all the wickedness and put the wicked in their place!” People say that, but the problem is what about the wickedness in their own hearts? How does God destroy wickedness without destroying all of us? If God even used the standard of judgment I use for people, I am in trouble. Did you notice how scary vv.24-25 sound like all hell breaking loose, but when you get to vv.26-27, it sounds like Heaven breaking in? Jesus is saying if we don’t know Him, the end of the world is hell breaking loose.
But if we do know Him, the end of the world is heaven breaking in. Have you noticed that almost always that at the end of the end of the world movies, humanity finds a way to survive? Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey or somebody always seems to figure it out. For example, at the end of World War Z, Pitt’s character says, “This is not the end—not even close.” Yeah, we will be fine. Brad Pitt says so. But will we? Listen to what the real “end of the world” is like in Rev. 6:15-17:
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?
Who can stand? Answer: You can, if you know the Lamb who stood in your place. There was another Judgment Day that happened 2,000 years ago. Mark 13 says, “… the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light … the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” But in Mark 15, we read, “Darkness came down, utter darkness, over the whole land.” In Matthew 24, which is the place in Matthew where this occurs, we read, “On that day [judgment day] the earth will be shaken.” When was that? On the cross.
It was Judgment Day for Jesus on the cross. God’s judgment came down on Jesus. The penalty for our sins was placed on Him. The great Judge of the universe was willing to be judged for us, that the great Judge of the universe was willing to leave the throne, the judgment seat, and stand in the dock. In the first coming, He didn’t come to bring judgment, but He came to take it. He faced God’s absence on the cross so in the second coming, we can receive God’s presence. He was plunged into utter darkness of hell, so we can receive His light at the second coming. He took our hell so we can have heaven. He put death to death without destroying us!
In the second coming, He will bring the ultimate sunlight that will heal you of everything, the ultimate presence, the infinitely healing presence of God … the ultimate life, to get rid of all death; the ultimate love, to get rid of all loneliness; the ultimate light, to get rid of all darkness and ignorance and evil. Have you accepted the Judge who was judged for you? To the degree we let that sink in, the more we will wake up to the world around us, the more self-absorption will be destroyed and transformed into generous compassion and the more you see the power of forgiveness fill your heart and lives. May the Gospel do that in our hearts, for His sake. Come, Lord Jesus!
Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 169). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 396). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
Edwards, J. R. (p. 398).
Hiebert, D. E. (1994). The Gospel of Mark: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 377–378). Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.
Hiebert, D. E. (p. 378).
Lewis, C. S. (1955, 1983). The Magician’s Nephew (p. 168). New York, NY: Harper Trophy.
Rhodes, S. (2013, November 10). Why God Weeps (It’s Not Because He’s Been Listening to Bon Iver) – Embracing Awkward. Retrieved December 4, 2014, from http://sammyrhodes.co/embracingawkward/13911797.
Hiebert, D. E. (p. 378).
Edwards, J. R. (p. 403).
Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23, p. 214). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Grassmick, J. D. (Vol. 2, p. 172).
Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon, “Watching for the Son,” preached September 10, 2006. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
A United Evangelical Response: The System Failed Eric Garner. (2014, December 4). Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/december-web-only/united-evangelical-response-system-failed-eric-garner.html.
Plantinga, Cornelius. Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (Kindle Locations 1210-1211). Kindle Edition.
Wright, N. T. (2008). Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (p. 137). New York: HarperOne.
Keller, T. J. Ibid.