Sunday, June 07, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Watching for the End Times" Mark 13:1-37

“Watching for the End Times”
June 7, 2009
Mark 13:1-37

No. The sermon series on money is still not ready.

Lord-willing, we’ll begin that next week. Please continue to pray for me as I prepare.

What’s funny is, after I finally get started, you’re going to be like “What was so hard about that?”

But I have found studying what the Bible says about money to be more full and deep than I had expected. So I’m studying and praying and hope to share some of the fruit of my study with you starting next Sunday.

So, again this week, we are going to look at something else.

And I was thinking about what else to preach on, I thought about a conversation I had with George Leathers about a month ago.

George is one of our elders; and he was in my office; and we talking about the Church and the National Day of Prayer and about what Christians need to be thinking about and doing these days. And George asked that I devote some time either in the pulpit or in a Bible study or Sunday School class to the subject of the End Times.

A lot of Christian people are talking about the End Times right now.

With the current global financial crisis, with North Korea launching missiles, with ongoing wars in various places around the world, and with various troubling changes here in our own nation, a lot of Christians are asking more questions about eschatology.

“Eschatology” is the big word that means study of the Last Things or the study of the theology of what will happen at the End of the World when Jesus returns.

Mark 13 is all about eschatology. It’s all about the events that precede Jesus’ Second Coming.

So it makes sense for us to go back to Mark 13 today and talk about eschatology.

Now, there are few parts of Christian doctrine that are so hotly disputed as the End Times. I think that’s because eschatology is all about the future and things that haven’t happened yet, so there is more unclear than in other areas of Christian teaching, and therefore more areas for disagreement.

I am certainly not claiming to have it all figured out.

I know that we in this room are probably not all on the same page with some of the finer points of eschatological doctrine. And that’s okay. We are still brothers and sisters in Christ.

I believe that there are two major ditches that we can fall into when talking about the End Times. One is what I call “End Times Fever.” That’s the folks who have their prophecy charts out every morning at breakfast when they read the newspaper and are trying figure out what everything in the paper means in light of Daniel and Revelation. “End Times Fever.” We can be more concerned about the time-table than about the Lord’s return. And if someone doesn’t agree with us on each part of our time-table then we are up in arms.

The opposite error of that is also a ditch that we need to avoid. I call it “End Times Indifference.” These are people who couldn’t care less about prophecy. “End Times Indifference.” All too often, we can make the mistake of thinking that it doesn’t matter and not concentrating on what Jesus has said will happen in the last days in such a way that it changes our lives.

So, we want to steer, as a Church and as Christians between those two ditches.

In Mark 13, Jesus confronts both the errors of End Times Fever and End Times Indifference. And the key, according to Jesus, to staying on the road and not falling into either ditch is application.

The key to thinking about the End Times is living in light of them.

And Jesus sums up how we are to live in light of His Second Coming with one word: “Watch!” It’s the very last word of the chapter and it occurs throughout.

Jesus is not so much concerned to give us answers about events in the future as to give us perspective on how to live in the present.

And He says, how to live in the present is to “Watch!”

Jesus is in Jerusalem on what will be His last week before His crucifixion.

He has put the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Teachers of the Law in their place. And they are rip-roaring mad and out to get Him.

They will kill Him.

Jesus is leaving the temple for the last time. V.1

“As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’”

Herod’s Temple was magnificent. It took up one sixth of the land mass of old Jerusalem. It was a wonder of the ancient world. The stones, according to Jewish historian Josephus, were 37 feet long by 12 feet high by 18 feet wide and gilded with gold! The outer dimensions would cover twelve football fields.

But Jesus says that this amazing, massive building will be torn down.

“Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Well, that sounded to the disciples like the End Times. If that was going to happen, that would surely signify the End. V.3

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple [He’s now outside the temple looking back at it...perhaps in judgment], Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’”

Peter, James, John, and Andrew were the first four of Jesus’ disciples. And now, they are getting a private tutoring in eschatology that we are invited to listen in on.

They want to know when the temple will be destroyed and what signs will accompany it; and in their minds that signifies the End Times.

But Jesus is more concerned with how they act in the present time than in giving them a bunch of signs about the future.


“Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many.”

Watch out for deceivers. There were be many, and they will deceive many.

They will claim to be the Messiah and lead people astray.

This happened in the first century, and it has happened in every century since then.

They have names like Sun Yung Moon and David Koresh and Jim Jones. And they are sneaky and don’t always look like bad people.

There is a man right now named José Luis de Jesús Miranda who lives in Miami that claims that He is Jesus Christ returned to Earth. He calls himself "Jesucristo Hombre" -- "The Man Christ Jesus.” And he followers in 35 countries with a radio program that reaches 287 stations. People listen to this guy.

And catch this! He has a tatoo with the number 666 on his arm.

Watch out for deceivers.

And watch out for distresses. V.7

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”

Notice closely what Jesus says to His disciples. He says that there will be various distresses: wars, rumors of wars, international rivalry, earthquakes, and famines.

Now, does He say that that means the End Times are here? Actually not.

He says (v.7) “the end is still to come.” He says (v.8), “These are the beginning of the birth pains.”

All of these things are signs but they are not signs. They are signs of the age between the two comings of Christ, but they are not signs of the End.

All of these things happened in the first century. And they have happened in every century since then.

They are the birth pains.

Birth pains are awful suffering that a mother must go through to get to the great joy of a baby.

The birth pains of the world are the awful sufferings that come between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming that the world must go through to get to the great joy of His return.

And whenever we see wars, rumors of wars, international rivalry, earthquakes, and famines, we are reminded that the Lord is coming.

But we aren’t to take any of these distresses as a definitive sign that He is here.

And we aren’t to be surprised that life will be tough until He returns. We feel the birth pains, too. Especially the persecution. Look at verse 9.

“‘You must be on your guard [in Greek that’s the same word as “WATCH”]. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

All of that happened in the first century, and it has happened in every century since then. And it will happen again and again until Jesus returns.

We can expect persecution. We can expect families to turn on one another. Jesus said He brought a sword that would divide families. We are to watch out for distresses because they are coming.

And in the face of these distresses, we are to preach the gospel boldly.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is to be spread to all the nations while we wait for the Lord’s return.

Because God is gathering for Himself a people from “every tribe, people, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7)–just like we read and sang this morning.

And when we are called upon to testify, we don’t have to worry. God the Holy Spirit will give us words!

Don’t be surprised that hard times will come. Just be faithful in them. “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Those who bail on Christ when it gets difficult may not have belonged to Christ in the first place.

Watch out for deceivers and distresses. Jesus said they are coming.

Now, has Jesus answered their question?

Not really. He hasn’t really given them any signs that they can hang onto or told them when the temple will be destroyed.

I think, that in this next part (verses 14-23), Jesus answers their question.

He teaches about the fall of the temple which actually happened forty years after this teaching in AD 70.

However, many good Bible believing scholars disagree with me and think that this next passage is all about the Great Tribulation that is coming at the End of this Age. And some scholars take it to be about both AD 70 and the Great Tribulation. So, there’s room for disagreement here. And I’ve gone back and forth over the years.

Regardless of exactly when this happens, it describes a time of unparalleled distress. And it is an actual event that will occur before the Lord’s return. V.14

“‘When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong–let the reader understand [Mark says, and I wish I did fully!]–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible [and it’s not]. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”

You can see why I think that this is a description of the Jewish war in AD70 and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple that happened then.

The ancient historian Josephus describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in much the same horrifying way.

And it answers the disciples’ question.

But you can also see how this sounds like a description of something that will happen in the future at the Great Tribulation, especially with the words “those days will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now–and never to be equaled again” (v.19).

Perhaps it’s both. Either way, Jesus said that it would happen, and He wants us to “watch out” because of it. V.23

“So be on your guard [Same word again, “WATCH!]; I have told you everything ahead of time.”

And then, the next item on God’s prophetic time-table is the return of Jesus Christ! V.24

“But in those days, following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Behold, He Comes
Riding on the Clouds
Shining Like the Sun
At the Trumpet Call

Lift Your Voice
It’s Year of Jubilee
And Out of Zion’s Hill Salvation Comes! (“Days of Elijah” Robyn Mark)

Jesus is coming back...soon!

Jesus’ words come right out of Daniel chapter 7, verses 13 and 14.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Jesus will return for His people.
Jesus is the King.
And His Kingdom will never be destroyed!

Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Maranatha!

That is our Blessed Hope! The return of Christ!

But Jesus says, beware. Watch out for date-setters. V.28

“‘Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. [Or “He is near, right at the door.”] I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

I think that Jesus is saying that like a fig tree that blooms in late Spring, you can tell by seeing the things in verses 5 through 23 that the return of Christ is near. But you don’t know exactly when it will happen. Summer is close if there are figs, but you don’t know when Summer will actually be here.

So you have to be ready, but at the same time, you are waiting.

And “this generation” alive when Jesus is saying these things will not die until all of the things in verse 5 through 23 have happened (at least begun to happen, the birth pains have begun), so that in the next 40 years Christ’s return will be imminent.

All of these things will be seen in the first century even if they continue for 21 more centuries or 101 more centuries, and they all remind us that Christ’ return is near.

And therefore to be watched for and ready for.

But not certain when. Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Watch out for deceivers (false Christ’s and false prophets, signs and miracles), watch out for distresses (wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, persecutions, tribulations), and watch out for date-setters.

No one knows about that day or hour. Not the angels in heaven, not even the Son of God! But only the Father.

Beware of people who tell you when Christ is going to return.

People did it during the first century, and they’ve done it every century since.

There was a book entitled “88 Reasons Why Christ Will Return in 1988.” I don’t think that happened!

We don’t need a book tilted, “2009 reasons why Christ Will Return in 2009!”

Don’t get caught up in End Times Fever and let someone set a date for the return of Christ that makes you change your behavior.

But also don’t get lost in End Times Indifference and forget that Christ is coming back soon! You don’t know when. So you better be ready. V.33

“Be on guard! [WATCH!] Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'”


Watch out for deceivers, distresses, and date-setters.

But keep watch for the return of Christ.

Do you see how Jesus is not so much concerned to give us answers about events in the future as to give us perspective on how to live in the present?

Keep watch for the return of Christ!

Some delay is expected. But you don’t know when He will return, so you need to keep watch.

What does that mean? “Keep watch?” 6 things.

First, Be Awake.

There is a mini-parable here. Jesus says “It's like a man going away [Whose the man? Jesus]: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back– whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.” That would be a bad thing.

Now, I don’t think that this means that we shouldn’t sleep! That would be a hard one to do!

I think that a least one of the things that “being awake” means is being saved. Being a Christian.

In the New Testament, “sleeping” is often a metaphor for being a nonChristian. But the Christian is spiritually awake.

That’s why Ephesians 5 says, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (v.14).

Be awake.

When Jesus comes a second time, He’s only coming for those who are “awake to Him.” Those who long for Him and love Him and are trusting Him with their lives.

If that doesn’t describe you, you are asleep, and you are in danger.

I invite you to place yourself in Jesus’ hands today. He died on the Cross as the sacrifice for sins, and He is the only way for you to get to the Father. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“Do not let Him find you sleeping.”

Next, Be Busy!

“Keeping watch” is not just “not sleeping,” it’s being busy doing the assignments that the Lord has given you.

In verse 34, the owner of the house gives each servant an assigned task.

What does He want done while he’s gone?

Does He want all of the servants looking out the windows wondering when He’ll get back? No.

He wants them busy doing their assignments.

Preaching the Gospel. When was the last time you shared your faith in view of the return of Christ? I’m praying that someone will get saved this Summer!

Using Their Gifts. What has God given you to build up the body? Use your gift in light of Christ’s near return.

Doing Your Assignment. What has God given for you to do while you are on this Earth? We have many assignments and we are to keep them in light of Christ’s soon return.

You don’t know when He’s coming back, be found busy.

This one goes with last one, Be Investing.

In Matthew’s version of this “Olivet Discourse,” Jesus tells the parable of the talents. A man goes away in that story and leaves his servants in charge of some money.

I’ve been reading that story to prepare for the money series.

What are the servants supposed to do with the money? Bury it? No. Invest it. Put it to work. Like our money, our gifts, and our time. (Time, Talents, and Treasures.)

The owner comes back and wants a return on the investment. And to the extent to which they’ve been putting their time, talents, and treasures to work, they are rewarded.

Keeping Watch means investing in the future.

It means living with an eternal investment mentality.

Jesus calls it “storing up treasures in heaven.”

Here’s how you know if you really believe that Jesus is coming back:

You are investing in the world to come more than you are investing in the world that is now.

We are stewards who will have to given an account.

Be investing.

And then, Be Patient.

It’s not what you expect from a message on the End Times, but that’s a lot of what Jesus is teaching here. He’s surprised us again!

Jesus says that there is going to be some delay (and it’s been 2000 years now). The owner of the house went away and isn’t back yet.

“[W]ars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen but end is still to come.” (V.7)

Keeping watch means waiting. It means being patient for Christ’s return. He is not slow in keeping His promises. He’s just hanging back until the full number of His chosen come in.

So, while we strive and long for the return of the King, we wait patiently for His good timing.

And also, Be Pure.

In Luke’s account of this same teaching, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”

Be pure.

John says, “We know that when [Christ] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

Paul says to Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2:11-13).

Be pure.

Are you living your life the way you would want the Savior to see it when He comes back?

Last week, Heather was away and the house was a pigsty because her husband was in charge.

But I knew that Heather was coming back on Monday.

What do you think I did?

I got that house cleaned for her return.

Be pure.

And last, Be Ready.

“Keeping Watch” basically means living in a state of readiness.

Not too feverishly and definitely not indifferently.

Jesus wants us to be ready for His return.

V.33 “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

V.37 “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Be ready!

Live your life now in light of what will happen then.

Watch for the Return of Christ!


Preach On Brother! Good word! Thank you for sharing your sermons on line.