This week we tried some more interactive options so we could listen to God’s word together. Our church online video premiered on YouTube and Facebook at 10am on Sunday. People watching the premiere could live chat and see who else is watching.
- Wisdom for our government in this crisis.
- A servant attitude.
- LJ and Maria, serving in South East Asia.
Check out the other songs we sing on Spotify.
In 1996 the Rev. Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate in prayer, this is what he prayed:
Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good” but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute Truth of your Word and called it Pluralism;
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism;
We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle;
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery;
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare;
We have killed our unborn and called it choice;
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable;
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem;
We have abused power and called it politics;
We have coveted our neighbour’s possessions and called it ambition;
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
Search us O God and know our hearts today, cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Rev. Joe prayed that prayer in front of his state’s most powerful politicians and business people, some of whom walked out. That’s a brave man isn’t it? He had the courage to do that because he knows what’s coming, he knows the end that we all face. And when you understand what’s coming you have confidence to stand firm for God right now.
We live in a country that is drowning in its sin and in its panic, but God has a better way, after this sermon I want you to be clear about what’s going to happen in the future so that you can stand firm and live clearly and bravely for God right now, each day.
Before we go any further, there’s something very important you need to know about this passage that’ll help us to understand what’s going on. During this chapter Jesus talks about 2 future events. The first is the destruction of Jerusalem and especially its famous Temple, that event happens in 70AD, about 40 years after Jesus dies. The second future event is Jesus own Second Coming, or Judgment Day, that’s still to come. Both events are times of God’s Judgment and the first event guarantees the second. Let’s read vv.1-2…
3 days after this Jesus will die on a Cross but He’s not panicked, he’s preparing his disciples for the future. And in their future, everything will change, in particular, the Temple, which dominates the life of every Israelite, will be destroyed. I can’t over-estimate how important the Temple is in the life of an Israelite, destroying that would be a bit like closing down the NRL, the Rugby, the AFL and the A-League in Australia, you’d have nothing to do and nothing to worship!
For the Israelites the Temple was where you went to meet God and worship him, He dwelt in the Holy of Holies, you prayed there, you offered the sacrifices for sin there that cleansed your family, you were taught the Word of God there by the Priests, you were strengthened in your faith there. For the Jewish people of the day they believed that the Temple would become the world centre of the Kingdom of God. The Temple area itself was over 12 footy fields in size, it was massive. It dominated the city of Jerusalem and the lives of the Israelites.
And the building itself was absolutely stunning and one of the disciples quite proudly declares to Jesus, “Look, what massive stones, what magnificent buildings.” But Jesus then bursts his bubble, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
That news unsettles the disciples, they know that Jesus only speaks the truth and they’re silent until they walk away and stop on the Mount of Olives that’s opposite the Temple, they then muster up the courage to ask Jesus, “When will these things happen and what will be the sign that they are about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus’ answer is interesting, it goes from verse 5 to 23 it has 3 big warnings that are the major focus (we’ll get to them in a moment) but Jesus begins by telling them what the sign won’t be, look at v. 7, “When you hear of wars and rumours 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.”
Every week I’ll have someone say to me, “Pastor, this is the end times, look there’s wars and famine and earthquakes and pestilence! It’s the end!!!” Jesus says, “No mate, it’s not the end, it’s the beginning of birth pains.”
What he’s saying is that the Kingdom of God is coming, but before Jesus comes back to fully reveal His Kingdom, this earth will be like a woman going through labour pains, the baby will come, Jesus will come but there’ll be lots of pain before then. So when we hear of a Pandemic or a War or a famine just remember, this doesn’t signal the “End”, it’s just a reminder that we’re still in the painful waiting phase.
So these events aren’t signs pointing to the imminent return of Jesus, or in this case, the destruction of Jerusalem. But in verse 14 Jesus does tell us what the sign will be for the end of the Temple in Jerusalem, “When you see the abomination that causes desolation standing where it does not belong – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
This is referring to the desecration of the Temple, so the desecration of the Temple is the sign that the Temple will be destroyed. When will this happen? In verse 30 Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” In the lifetime of the people that Jesus is speaking to the Temple will be destroyed, and that’s exactly what happens.
In 66AD the Jews of Judea led a revolt against the Romans, soon the whole country was inspired to rise up against the Romans and they had some success, until Emperor Nero ordered 20,000 extra soldiers to go and squash the rebellion, it took 4 years but that’s what happened.
On the 30th of August AD 70, after a long siege of Jerusalem, the Romans broke through and massacred all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, according to historians, “blood flowed through the streets like water on a rainy night”, they also killed everyone who tried to defend the temple and before they burnt it to the ground the Roman General Titus brought their military standards into the temple area and offered sacrifices to them there. They then burnt the temple to the ground. Its one of the greatest tragedies in Jewish history. That sacrifice is “the abomination that causes desolation”.
But the key to note is that the sign and then the event happen exactly as Jesus says, when Jesus says something will happen, they’ll happen exactly according to his plan. It’s a foolish person that doesn’t listen to Jesus warning.
That’s the key point to take out of Jesus answer to his disciples’ question. But not only does he tell them about the sign and give them a timeframe, he gives them 3 warnings. The warnings are about the danger their faith would face in their immediate future.
The first warning comes in vv 5-8, the disciples must watch out in case they get deceived by the many who will come in Jesus name, claiming to be him.
The second warning comes iv vv 9-13, they must be on their guard against persecution. In their lifetimes they’ll be hated because they follow Jesus, they’ll stand before governors and kings to explain themselves, but here’s the wonderful thing, God will use that persecution to spread the gospel to all nations. The persecution will lead to incredible gospel opportunities and in the midst of those painful times there’s a promise, they don’t need to worry about what to say, because the Holy Spirit will give them words to say, so it won’t really be them speaking, God himself will give them His words.
And because we have the whole Bible we know that all of these things come true in the book of Acts, time and time again the disciples are hated, persecuted and arrested, they stand before Governors and Kings and the people are blown away by what the disciples say and we all know its because God is speaking through them.
The third warning comes in vv. 14-23 when they must be on their guard when they see “the abomination that causes desolation”, that’s when the Romans destroy Jerusalem, the Temple and massacre almost 1 million Israelites. Many people in our church have lived through the carnage of war, we have people from Syria, Congo, Sudan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq. It’s very easy for your faith in God to get the wobbles when you see that, but God says here, “Be on your guard, and remember, in the chaos I have control, verse 20, “If the Lord had not cut short hose days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.” God won’t allow us to go through things that will wreck our faith, he’ll always protect your faith.
So far, the events Jesus has been talking about – the destruction of the Temple, the persecution of believers, the rise of false Messiahs, and the terrible suffering in Jerusalem – are all events that have already happened.
But after this Jesus turns his attention to an event that hasn’t happened yet, vv.24-26 “But in those days, following that distress,
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 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.
When Jesus says, “following that distress”, he means, “after the temple is destroyed”. This is the 2nd of 3 references in Mark to the second coming of Jesus. It’s interesting, there are 3 predictions of His death and resurrection and 3 of His second coming. Jesus wants us to know that his humiliating death will be matched by his glorious return. And it will happen, Jesus promise that the Temple will be destroyed guarantees that He will return in Glory.
Now that we know the future, how should we live? Jesus gives us 2 parables. In his first parable he says, “If you’ve got a fig tree, you don’t need a calendar!” When its twigs get tender and its leaves come out you know its summer. In verse 29 Jesus says, “when you see these things happening, you know that it is near.” This is referring to the events that happen before the destruction of the Temple, the rise of false Messiahs, the spread of the Gospel, the persecution of believers.
Jesus reminds that generation that he’s talking to that these things will happen within their lifetime, then he confirms it with a promise, verse 31, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Jesus words have the same power and authority as God’s words, when he says something will happen, it will happen! Now as we look back on this event we can say with certainty that this event happened, it’s in the history books! So here’s what we know about Jesus promises, ho promised that he would die and rise again, and he did. He promised that the Temple would be destroyed after that and within the first disciple’s lifetime, and it was. And Jesus has also promised that he will return in Glory. Let’s see what he says abut that, parable 2, vv. 32-37
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 “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. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
This 2nd parable refers to the second coming of Jesus and its meaning is the opposite of the first parable. Unlike the destruction of the Temple there’ll be no warning. And there can be no warning because neither the angels nor Jesus know when it will take place. Only the Father knows this date.
In case you’re wondering what’s going on there this just reminds us that even though Jesus is God, he’s not God the Father, Jesus role is to be the obedient servant-Son who submits to his Father.
The parable itself tells of a wealthy man who goes away for a long time. And because he wants his house to run properly, he gives his people important jobs to do including the task of keeping watch for his return. His people work for him and watch for his return.
What’s the application for us? We live in a world that works for itself and watches out for itself and that’s blind to the future. That’s why Rev Joe Wright warned people to repent and come back to God. He works for God and watches for his return. When you know the future you work towards it.