Mark 13:3-37

Stay Focused

2000, J.W. Carter
Scripture quotes from KJV

There was a lot of speculation recently concerning the impact of the change of the millennium from 1999 to the year 2000. What are some of the concerns that people were expressing? (End of the world, the impact of the millennium bug, predictions of civil unrest and mass suicides.) How much of this type of hype should we listen to?

The millennium and the millennium bug provided a stage from which every lunatic with a new idea received the full attention of a media that is always looking for something to get people’s attention so that they can raise their exposure and their advertising income. The downside is that some people are led to believe some very ludicrous ideas and faced panic when the end of the year came close. The "Heaven's Gate" cult is an excellent example of such errant extremism.  People have been using prophesy of disaster as a means to gain power and attention for many years. Even Jesus clearly taught that this age of grace would come to an end. In the thirteenth chapter of Mark, Jesus addresses this issue to a few of the apostles.

Mark 13:3-4.

3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?

The "these things" that the apostles refer to is Jesus’ prediction that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. Though Jesus referred to the destruction of the Temple facility in his statement, from the context of this and other similar passages, we know that Jesus was speaking in a much broader sense, using the destruction of the temple as a metaphor for the end of the age of grace. Consequently, there are things that He talks about that the apostles will see in their own lifetimes, and other things that have not yet transpired.

Mark 13:5-6.

5And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: 6For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

What is Jesus very first word of advice? (Do not be deceived.) How is it possible to deceive someone? Illusionists like David Copperfield make a living at deceiving others. They are successful because they redirect your focus away from a very simple solution to a problem, leading you to believe that the problem was impossible to begin with.  The deceiver plays on our ignorance, because we are ignorant of the true nature of the problem, and we are ignorant of the solution. The problem is misstated and the presented solution is a lie.

How do we avoid being deceived? When I watch an illusionist I can usually figure out what he did because I once had an illusionist as a friend, and he told me how many of the illusions are done. This removed one area of ignorance. One way to avoid being deceived is to be knowledgeable about the world around you. Second, when David Copperfield takes the stage, I know him for what he is: a very skillful deceiver.  We should be able to recognize a deceiver when we see one.

Consider the doomsday prophets who declared the destruction of the world by the millennium bug. If you wanted to know the truth of the nature of the millennium bug who would you listen to? (Someone who knows about the nature of the bug.) One company had opened up Y2K stores around the country that fed the ignorance of the public by promoting and selling survivalist gear including enough weaponry to start a small war. If you want to know about computers, listen to a computer expert, not to someone trying to sell you an AK-47.

When you listen to the false prophets, you are being played for a fool, just as you are fooled by the likes of extremely skilled tricksters like Mr. David Copperfield.

Mark 13:7-8.

7And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. 8For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

In 1991 Operation Desert Storm fueled many would-be prophets. Books started to appear that predicted that the final battle, the battle of Armageddon was about to take place.

Revelation 16:12-21.  12And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.  17And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. 18And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. 19And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. 20And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.

The battle of Armageddon is not between warring nations, it is the nations uniting in their arrogance against God, and the results of God’s final judgement of wrath upon them. Jesus said "do not be alarmed" when you hear of wars. Such things must happen, nations will rise up against nations through to the end of the age.  As the world becomes more and more ungodly, there will be more and more strife. These are the beginnings of the "birth pangs".

We need to separate historical events from eschatology. If we do not, we will lose our focus and be led away from the truth. There will be a time when God closes the age, but it is He who is sovereign, and it is He who will determine when that time is.

Mark 13:9-11.

9But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. 10And the gospel must first be published among all nations. 11But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

Is Jesus speaking to and about the apostles, or is He talking to and about those future disciples? (Both.) When we take a stand for the Gospel and seek to save those who are lost in this world, there is no real difference between us and those disciples, so we should not be surprised that we could face similar persecutions. Currently, there have been more Christians martyred for their faith in this century than in all previous centuries. Fully 28 million Christians have lost their lives because they were Christians. Of these, 5 million have died in the last 90 years at the hands of extremist Moslems. (Source:  Voice of the Martyrs.)  If one wants to prophesy the final battle based upon the eternal conflict between Isaac and Ishmael (Or Jacob and Esau), there is plenty of fuel to feed the prophesies. Don’t think that persecution of Christians is not taking place in this world. It is the worst for Christians now than ever, and there are several nations in the world where the punishment for Christian faith is death. This was not true as recently as 20 years ago. As Muslims control more of the world’s population, and as the secular humanists control more of Western culture, we will see more and more persecution.

One of the prophesies listed here is true now, and was not during the lives of the apostles, and that is that the gospel has been preached to all nations. There is no place in the world where a television or radio is not capable of presenting the gospel. Governments that try to maintain totalitarian control try to block such signals, but their efforts are mostly in vain.  This openness of communication fueled the demise of Communism without the shedding of blood.  Would anyone have dreamed just a few years ago that this would happen?  It is this same power of communication of the the Gospel that can break down the barriers of sin and reach to the lost people throughout the world.

The obvious question arises, if we face persecution, what will we say? How will we prepare? What is Jesus’ advice here? Do not be concerned: He has promised us that the Holy Spirit will speak for us when the time comes. The basic message here is that we should be at peace and refuse to get swept up in the hype, continually maintaining our focus on God.

If we could see what the days toward the end of the age were to be like, we would understand that we cannot be left unprepared.

Mark 13:12-31.

12Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. 13And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: 15And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: 16And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. 17But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. 19For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. 20And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. 21And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: 22For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. 24But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. 8Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

The "aboninaton that causes desolation" is from Daniel 11:31 that also predicts the destruction of the temple, and specifically states that in its place would be built a desecration to God. The temple was destroyed and desecrated by the Romans. What has been built on the site of the temple? The Dome of the Rock, the most sacred Moslem temple has been built there. Look at the prophesy. Some have argued that Daniel had to be written after the Gospels because of the accuracy of the revelation.

Daniel 11:31-36. 31And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. 32And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. 33And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. 34Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. 35And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed. 36And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

Mark 13:32-37.

32But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Jesus gives us specific instructions on how to prepare for the end of the age. What is it? "Watch." What are some things that we watch on a regular basis? (Television, spectator sports.) Jesus did not tell us to predict, to speculate, to start building fortresses and stockpiling food. We are to be on guard, to be alert.

Certainly, any prophecy that would demand that the end of the age would take place at 12:00 midnight on December 31 is lunacy.  There are some, including Jack VanImpe who are still not satisfied, predicting that Jesus is to come at the end of the year 2000, when the real millennium begins.   Because of changes in the calendar, the 2000th year after the birth of Christ took place in 1997. Also, the formation of the calendar itself is a tool of man. God does not check his plan based on man’s calendar. Certainly any philosophy that limits God in this way is quite sapeocentric (human-centered). However, what would you do if you knew for certain that the end of the age would take place with the next year? How would you prepare? What would you do different?

Jesus instructs us to be prepared as if the end would come at any time. We are to be focused on those things that are eternal, not those things that are temporal. Rather than buying generators (where are you going to get the gasoline to drive them?) we need to minister to a lost world so that we might save just one more.

Some of you have seen the movie, "Schindler’s list." At the very end of the movie we see Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who had just saved the lives of 1100 Jews from certain death. Instead of celebrating the lives he saved, he fell to his knees in despair and guilt over the fact that he could have saved more, had he not been so greedy and selfish in his personal life.

We can take a lesson from Herr Schindler, that we, like him, are being used by God to save the lives of the people around us who face certain death. Instead of concern about the events of the last days, let’s maintain our focus on our purpose, to seek and to save the lost, and to disciple and minister to those who are saved. We do not want to be found lacking when the final trumpet does sound.