Things To Come

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Jesus made several trips to Jerusalem during His ministry on Earth, but Mark records just one, and Mark 11 and 12 describe our Lord’s actions and teachings in Jerusalem and around the Temple. The Jerusalem we read about in these two chapters of Mark is a dark and dangerous city. Jerusalem had become a hotbed of hostility and unbelief. Like the prophets before Him, Jesus experienced the constant hostility of the city’s religious and political leaders.

Throughout Mark 11 and 12 we witness what happens to a community, Jerusalem in this case, when it fails to fully realize its calling to follow the Word and the will of God. There is a breakdown in society and culture and especially of religion. This is shown in Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, which had been turned into “den of robbers” by the religious elite. Most preachers and Bible students like to talk about the righteous anger of Jesus when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers, but Mark wants his readers to understand Jesus didn’t do these things because He was angry. It was a form of judgment. He had previously cursed an unproductive fig tree (Israel) and would tell a parable about the destruction of the tenants of a vineyard who were also unproductive (Israel). These three incidents show that God takes seriously the moral and spiritual conduct of a nation, and they set up Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13.

A change of scene, same teaching Mark 13:1 – 4

As he was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, what beautiful buildings these are! Look at the decorated stonework on the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look! For not one stone will be left upon another, except as ruins.” (Mark 13:1, 2 TLB)

As Jesus and His disciples left the Temple grounds, the disciples couldn’t help but comment on the greatness of the architecture. You and I have no concept of how beautiful Herod’s Temple was. Apparently it was truly a magnificent structure that literally took the breath away. That makes Jesus’ statement all the more startling. On that beautiful day, how could the apostles imagine a day when that great Temple, not even finished yet, would lay in ruins? How would it even be possible to topple the massive stones used in the Temple’s construction?

What Jesus said was startling, but it shouldn’t have been surprising. The prophets had already written about the very thing Jesus was talking to His disciples about this day.

It is because of you that Jerusalem will be plowed like a field and become a heap of rubble; the mountaintop where the Temple stands will be overgrown with brush. (Micah 3:13 TLB)

But Mark, far from writing like an ignorant fisherman, wrote like a theologian. He made it very clear that the coming destruction would be a direct judgment of God. George Beasley-Murray in his work, Jesus and the Last Days, wrote:

Mark’s setting of the prophecy at this point inevitably confirms the impression that the ruin of the Temple is the divinely ordained judgment upon Israel for its rejection of the Word of God brought by Jesus.

The judgment of God upon His people as predicted by Jesus was absolute. Josephus, our go-to Jewish historian wrote about the destruction of Israel and the Temple by Titus in 70 AD:

Caesar ordered the whole city and the Temple to be razed to the ground…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.

Make no mistake: Caesar was angry with the Jews. But he was only a tool in the hands of God as He executed His judgment upon His people.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! (Galatians 6:7 TLB)

The disciples asked Jesus two questions that are the key to understanding Mark 13 and our future.

And as he sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives across the valley from Jerusalem, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got alone with him and asked him, “Just when is all this going to happen to the Temple? Will there be some warning ahead of time?” (Mark 13:3, 4 TLB)

Two streams, one destiny

Mark 13, along with Matthew 24, are difficult for modern Bible readers to understand. There is a lot of Jewish apocalyptic language used that would have been easily understood by the disciples that we miss. And there are really two levels of prophecy in Mark 13: prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (fulfilled in 70 AD) and prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ (not yet fulfilled). These are interwoven, spoken in the same breath. Some were fulfilled in 70 AD, some will be fulfilled in our future, and others had a partial fulfillment in 70 AD but will be fully fulfilled at the Second Coming.

Let’s look at the disciple’s questions.

Will there be some warning ahead of time?

Naturally the disciples wanted to know about signs. Lots of Jews wanted to know about signs. Previously the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and He refused. But the disciples asked for signs and our Lord answered their request.

The signs Jesus gives He treats like one, long continuous sign from His time, through our time, into the Tribulation, and ending when He returns. There will be:

False teachers, vs. 5, 6.

These will be people supposedly preaching the truth, but they will be preaching lies; they will be preaching their own brand of theology that has little or nothing to do with the Bible.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible wrath of God is upon all those who do them. Don’t even associate with such people. (Ephesians 5:6, 7 TLB)

There have always been false teachers, by the way. They aren’t an invention of a liberal church in America. Although you could say liberal evangelicals have perfected the art of false teaching. False teachers were the bane of Paul’s existence and were the main reason why he wrote some of his letters. These false teachers claimed to be messengers from God but were really anything but. Their purpose was to lead gullible and ignorant believers astray.  That’s the purpose of all false teachers, of all time.

Wars and rumors of wars, vs. 7

And wars will break out near and far, but this is not the signal of the end-time. (TLB)

Again, just like false teachers have always been around, there have always been wars going on all over the earth. In point of fact, peace is the exception, not the norm in most places. Wars actually serve a very useful function: they bear testimony to the fact that Prince of Peace has not yet established His kingdom on earth. There was plenty destruction and violence leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, yet during the years just prior to the return of Christ, conditions on earth will have degenerated drastically, as sinful man casts off all restraints and the Lord allows him to do so.

Natural disasters, vs. 8

...there will be earthquakes in many lands, and famines.

When we read in Revelation about the strange events taking place on earth during the Tribulation, it’s easy to understand why there will be an increase in things like earthquake and famines.

Hatred for His sake, vs. 9 – 13

You will be dragged before the courts, and beaten in the synagogues, and accused before governors and kings of being my followers. This is your opportunity to tell them the Good News. (Mark 13:9 TLB)

We know this happened in the early chapters of Acts, and in various parts of the world Christians have been “dragged before the courts” since the book of Acts. It’s hard to believe that Christians are being sued and fined outrageous amounts on account of their faith in America, but this “soft tyranny” against believers is becoming all-too common in this land of the not-so-free-anymore.

Natural affection perverted, vs. 12

Brothers will betray each other to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will betray their parents to be killed.

This must surely be the most heartbreaking sign of all. Not only will Christians face hostile courts, councils, synagogues, politicians, beatings, and other persecution, they will also experience hostility from their own families.

Don’t trust anyone, not your best friend—not even your wife! For the son despises his father; the daughter defies her mother; the bride curses her mother-in-law. Yes, a man’s enemies will be found in his own home. (Micah 6:5, 6 TLB)

How is this even possible? Matthew gives us the answer:

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… (Matthew 24:10 NIV)

Deceitful workers of wonders, vs. 22

For there will be many false Messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children.

False teachers are one thing, but false teachers that seem to be able to work supernatural wonders are something else. Demon possessed preachers and religious leaders, claiming to do the work of Christ, will cause even believers to fall away from the true faith.

Changes in the material universe, vs. 24

After the tribulation ends, then the sun will grow dim and the moon will not shine, and the stars will fall—the heavens will convulse.

These verses have traditionally been regarded a description of what will happen in the sky just prior to the glorious appearing of the Messiah. Bible scholars are divided as to how literally to take this verse and verses like it. One thing is certain, though, the coming into our world of the Messiah and His kingdom will be a cataclysmic event.

When is all this going to happen?

Contextually, the disciples were wondering when the Temple was going to be destroyed. Jesus, in He giving His answer, answers that question but then proceeds to talk about His Second Coming.

Nobody knows for sure, vs. 32

However, no one, not even the angels in heaven, nor I myself, knows the day or hour when these things will happen; only the Father knows.

As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of Christ be. The fact of the coming flood was preached by Noah for two hundred years as he built his ark, but nobody, not even Noah, knew when the time would come to shut the door.

The fact of Jesus’ Second Coming cannot be denied. The Old Testament prophets saw it, Jesus talked about it, and the New Testament predicts it. It will happen; He will come again.

The Gospel will be preached, vs. 10

And the Good News must first be made known in every nation before the end-time finally comes.

This is a sign but also a condition to be fulfilled. When the last person on earth has heard the Gospel, the time will have come to Jesus to come back.

The abomination of desolation will be set up, vs. 14

When you see the horrible thing standing in the Temple—reader, pay attention!—flee, if you can, to the Judean hills.

This prediction is found in Daniel 9 and was previously fulfilled in Jewish history, but it will happen one more time just prior to the Second Coming.

Jesus’ advice

Our Lord had given His disciples a lot to think about. And we have a lot to think about, too. Jesus is coming again. We don’t know when it will happen. But one thing is certain: we are to be ready. There is no room for apathy, indifference, or unbelief in the Church regarding this. Jesus’ advice to His disciples is His advice to us, today.

First, we are to trust Him.

Take care! I have warned you! (Mark 13:23 TLB)

Indeed He has. There are no surprises. Jesus has warned us that things will get worse and worse in our world before He returns. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when we see Christians persecuted anywhere in the world, even here in America. But we need to trust Him.

Second, we need to be watchful. Three times in verses 33 – 37 He urged His followers to be watchful; to keep their eyes open; to be alert. Jesus hasn’t left us in the dark. He has told us everything we need to know. Our job now is to be wise; to be spiritually wide awake.

Third, we are to pray.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:33 AV)

The one who is watching and paying attention to the signs will also be an intercessor. Don’t become discouraged or disheartened about the state of our country or of the world. Pray! Watch and pray! Faith in His coming should lead to a better, more spiritual life.

Paul, who knew the Lord could come at any time, gave the best piece of advice:

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. Ephesians 5:15, 16 TLB)

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