The End of the World and An Active Purpose (Mark 13)

Here’s how tonight is going to work. Tonight we are going to talk about an event in history that takes place thirty years after the scene we have tonight. And you might be thinking what does that have to do with this text and the end of the world?

well… Everything.

 

So we’re going to give the background of The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome and then we’re going to read Jesus’ words and I do believe we will all leave with a larger understanding of one of the most fear inducing texts that maybe has been taken advantage of.

 

So…let’s talk about The Great Revolt.

 

So the other week we talked about Jesus’s arrival as king and his purging of the temple. This cornerstone of the Jewish life. The dwelling place of God. The place of sacrifice for sins and offerings for blessings. A beautiful monument to the faith that was meant to be this literal meeting place of Heaven and Earth. (Psalm 78:69, Exodus 26:30; 28:1-5)

In Psalms it reads that God built his sanctuary like the “highest heavens, and like the earth, which he has formed forever.

In Exodus we read of the actual instruction for building the tabernacle. God shows Moses a model or a plan. This sparked traditions that Moses was shown the heavenly tabernacle so that he could build it on Earth. This is why every detail was so extravagant and beautiful. Even the priestly garments were modeled after this idea and designed as a way to imitate the heavens. Josephus writes that when looking at their garments it was like an imitation and representation of the universe. To see the high priest was to see a glimpse of heaven. To enter into the temple was to participate in heaven and earth. And so the sacredness of the Temple this meeting place of heaven and earth was the meeting place of God and man on Earth. An idea that Jesus is going to place on himself.

We ready? ….here we go!

 

In the year 66, 33 years after the death and declared resurrection of Christ, the tensions between Rome and the Jewish people were reaching levels that were producing outcry and resistance. To give that background, Rome had taken charge of the system that appointed the High Priest. (Think of it as a government coming in and taking charge of who could be the Catholic Pope). This meant that Rome now had control over all of the Jewish rituals and that their man was the one who represented the Jews before God on all the most sacred occasions.

Enter Caligula who if you know nothing about Caligula just imagine the most entitled and sexual human being that ever walked the earth in charge of an empire. He declared himself God just shortly after the time of Christ and ordered his statue to be set up at every temple in the Roman Empire. (In other words an end to the Roman Peace.) But guess who the one group who refused to do this was?

Caligula threatened to destroy the temple which grows up a group of Jewish resistance. But fortunately for the Jews Caligula had an all but sudden violent death. But his posture towards the Jews radicalized the more moderate Jews into joining opposition (which by the way as you hear this story hear the way in which history has repeated itself today). The belief began as simply as this; who’s to say that another Roman ruler won’t try and do the same thing. Rome has a history of defiling our temple maybe we should rise up and end this.

 

In the year 66 the Jews had their last straw. Florus, the current Roman procurator , stole vast amounts of silver from the Temple. The outraged Jews rose up and wiped out the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. Rome sent in armies and the Jewish people overturned them as well. But these would be their last victories. Over the next several years Rome would continue to weaken the Jews. The Jewish leadership seemingly sat by and did nothing. Seemingly they wanted the Jews to win the revolt and realized too late this would not happen. The Jewish refugees being overtaken by the outside areas fled to the one last protected place, Jerusalem.

 

In Jerusalem the radicals took over, killing anyone not willing to fight for their cause. (Like I said, parallels.) This sparked a civil war within the Jewish people inside the walls of Jerusalem. In one scene the Zealots destroyed the entire supply of dry food that was said to have been able to feed the city for many years. A great starvation began that led to as much casualty as was inflicted by the Romans. And to the city in civil war. Brother against brother. Son against Father, the Roman army approached. In the summer of 70, the Romans entered the walls of Jerusalem and began to kill and destroy and overturn. And to end this fight, a fight that was recorded as killing over one million Jews, Rome destroyed the Temple by setting it aflame. All that stood of the temple was the outer wall. And that still stands today in the shadow of the Dome of the Rock. The Islamic shrine built on top of the Jewish temple.

 

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“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.”

 

Christians were being persecuted in Rome, Stoned, crucified. Paul is killed. Peter is crucified in Rome. Jerusalem was in civil war and the Gospel According to Mark came onto the scene warning of the end of the age.

 

So here’s what I want everyone to do. I’m going to read these prophetic words of Jesus and whenever you hear something that lines up with the history we just learned I want you to raise your hand. So think about the history. And when Jesus mentions something that could be referring to those events raise your hand. The first one is VERY easy.

 

13 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Signs of the Close of the Age

And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The Abomination of Desolation

14 But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. (He’s talking to the disciples about things THEY will see.)

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

 

Let’s start with these words: “This generation will not pass away?” That may be a confusing line because well…that generation has indeed passed away. The world has not ended? At least as far as we know. But notice that it doesn’t say the end of the world, it says the end of the age. And so let’s highlight some of the things you raised your hand for. I underlined them as we went.

 

Ya’ll ready? I think this is going to be fun.

The disciples do not ask when the world will end. They ask when is the temple going to be destroyed. In Matthew it’s written, tell us what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age? Basically how can we be ready for this destruction. He tells them to be warned because many people are going to come claiming to be followers of Jesus and they will successfully lead people astray. Think of many of Paul’s letter’s and the stories from Acts. This happened. Paul was constantly back tracking because groups of people would enter cities behind them and teach the new followers of Christ to keep practicing kosher laws and observance of many rituals. Paul in one letter screams “YOU FOOLISH GALATIANS” You were warned of this and you still fell for it. After Christ the curse over Israel came into being. They turned on themselves. The leadership of the Empire ended the Roman peace. Tensions within the lands of the Jewish people began to rise. Rome against the Jews. Jew against Jew. Civil war. This must take place but the end will not be yet. Nation against nation, Kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes; Matthew’s gospel says of the moment of Christ’s death; The temple curtain was torn is two, the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. There will be famines, these people will starve. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. The birth of the end of this age.

I warn you to be on your guard. You my followers will be delivered over to councils. You my followers will be beaten in synagogues. and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. The first martyr Stephen was brought before the Synagogue of Freedom and the Sanhedrin and in a lengthy speech he blames the Jews for the death of their messiah. And it is this huge dramatic scene here’s what happened: 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[b] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of their killing him. That Saul dude of course would bring in an entirely new age of the faith. Because of course that man will be come to be known as Paul.

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and father his child. The great civil war brought on by the Jewish radical refugees. And you my followers will be hated by all for my name’s sake. The one who endures to the end will be saved.

This Gospel is answering all the big questions. Remember we said week one that’s part of the reason it was written to persecuted Christians in Rome. Why was Jesus killed? Why are his followers suffering? Why is the enemy still in power? How do we make sense of all of this? And the Gospel teaches. In the same way Jesus received glory in his sufferings so will you. The one who endures to the end will be saved.

 

I love this next part: “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be, and then the author notes (Let the reader understand) hahaha! SO! READERS! Let’s see if we understand. The second sermon I gave in this series I LITERALLY cut three pages off of it. And dangit I wish I hadn’t cut one thing out! Because the abomination that causes desolation is often placed on the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanies. Who is a central character in the book of Daniel. Antiochus desecrates the Temple by placing idols to the Greek God Zeus. The last several years of his reign he spent trying to put an end to the Jewish faith. He even entered the Jewish temple and slaughtered an unclean pig spraying it’s blood all over the temple defiling it in its entirety. He killed the genetic line of High Priests and placed his people in charge standing where he ought not be. Bringing on a reign of Greek influence on the Jewish people. This led to a great event known as The Maccabean Revolt which if you aren’t aware of this event it’s what the Jews celebrate every year called Hanukah.

So let’s pause. Take a breath. Are we following because I need the reader to understand. Hahaha.

The words Jesus is referring to in this apocalyptic speech are found in another apocalyptic speech; the one in Daniel. Where we find that dream about the Son of Man coming with the clouds to put an end to the abomination that causes desolation. This language is all rooted in the one who will save the Jewish people from enemy rule. Ending the age of the enemy. Much of this language then “the abomination of desolation” to simplify it is about enemy rule of the temple and the kingdom of Israel. (Which by the way this is the entire idea around the Antichrist. If the Christ was the one who would restore everything back into its right place, then the Antichrist is going to be the one that puts everything out of place. He’d be a figure standing where he ought not be. ) Jesus is pulling forth the familiar language of the past prophecy’s that preceded Roman rule basically saying. Hey remember all of that? Remember that destruction? “Here we go again.”

You will see another nation overtake the temple and Jerusalem. To those who remain flee to the mountains. For in these days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of creation that God created until now and never will be. For these people this will be the worse destruction there has ever been. There will be false messiahs they will try to lead astray even you. But you have been warned so be on guard.

So let’s talk about the end times here. The things that will happen after the destruction of the temple. Wrap up this portion and then talk about what it all means for us today.

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“The Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. As we saw Jesus here is reinterpreting Daniel 7. Speaking of Jesus’ own suffering and justice. Speaking about God’s return to Earthly power. The believers saw the situation as evil forces Revelation names it Satan, Daniel and Jesus name it the abomination of desolation, They saw it as the evil oppressive forces having power and rule over God’s people. Their question is When will God’s power return here. The gathering of the elect here is not about them leaving earth it’s about joining them all together as one. As one body. And as we will find, as a new kind of temple.

The meeting place of Heaven and Earth was the temple in Jerusalem. God is going to send out his angels and gather his elect from the ends of earth to the ends of heaven. That meeting place of heaven and earth, the temple, will pass away. But my words will not pass away.

What Christ is talking about is not the end of the world and the rapture and the apocalypse as we know it. He’s talking about a time where like the prophecies of Daniel the enemy is going to take over and rule this kingdom. But Christ, the LORD will prevail. He will destroy this enemy bringing on the new age.

What is being anticipated in these words and later in the words of Paul is the royal presence of Jesus. Yahweh would arrive to bring justice and peace. See apocalyptic language is meant to serve one purpose. It’s meant to bring light to present circumstances by showing their theological significance. For the Jews, the end was not about the end of space-time universe, but rather the end of times as they have been and the beginning of something new. Christ and Paul taught that the end of their age was near. The end of Roman dominance was near. The royalty of God’s presence is near. Jesus not Caesar, not the emperor will soon be present in royal power. See it’s not about all human beings being sucked up and taken somewhere it’s about Christ’s glory and power here. And that is exactly what Jesus talks about at the end of this chapter.

 

32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Stay awake. Because there are two ways to approach the end times. The common belief is “well it’s all going to hell and so we might as well watch it burn.”

Welp this is a sign of the end times.

This is just how it’s supposed to be. Which is often translated to the idea that God’s best for us is behind us and we are just getting further and further away from him. And so we translate that to a sort of hopelessness that does nothing about our world right now. Well this is the end times so why bother doing anything about it. The Lord is coming back soon so sit and wait!

But what does Jesus teach here? It’s amazing. Hey this situation is like a master who has left his home in the hands of his servants. He let’s them do his work. And asks them be alert for his return.

Here’s how I see that. There’s a humanity that can actually make it work. The best days are NOT behind us. Because our days have a very important purpose. And this purpose excites me to DO, not sit around and watch the house get messy. Jesus gives us an amazing mission.

Prepare the Earth for the master’s return.

Jesus talked about a coming time when God would restore and renew and reconcile and redeem and make things right and he invites US to anticipate that day by doing OUR part to bring heaven to earth. HERE. NOW. TODAY. The masters will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. It’s an existence encouraged by a hopefulness. Don’t spend your days worrying when this will happen I don’t even know when it’s going to happen. All I say to you is this STAY AWAKE. Keep the house in order. Prepare the house for the masters return.

 

So when you ask if we are in the end times I have NO IDEA, nobody does (Not even those billboards) NOT even Jesus knows.

Instead of spending our days worrying and speculating about the end times why don’t we simply prepare the house for our master. Keep it in order. The story we read in the Bible is in fact about this world, this life, this home. The message is about renewing this place. Renewing our home.

So are these the end times?! I DON’T KNOW! But suppose I tell you tomorrow at 5:12pm the world was going to end and I gave you proof of this. What would you do? You’d just sit around watch the news and complain about how bad things are yes?

 

NO!!! You’d get out and prepare this world for the return of our Master. Because if he were coming back tomorrow you might think these things matter. You might think they were real. And there was urgency. You would take risks in talking to people about this truth, You would be more generous to your enemy, you would stand up for the injustices in the world, you would serve one another, you’d take in every single second of the beauty that is this life. You would love to the fullest ability of your heart. Because it would matter. Well friends, it matters! It’s beautiful opportunity. Enjoy this life. Engage in this life. Bring heaven down in this life. Illuminate the kingdom in THIS LIFE. Because that Kingdom reigns.

The awareness of the temple was this; It is the meeting place of the divine and human. It’s what Jesus says of himself, He’s God and man in the flesh. The temple you will destroy and it will be raised again in three days. Jesus is the meeting place of the divine and human. And it is what the Holy Spirit says through Paul about YOU. Your body is the meeting place of heaven and earth and you will do greater things than he. Your body is the meeting place of the divine and human. Now that’s a victory worth talking about. That’s the victory of the presence of God. The God who is WITH US and the God who is IN US. Do something about that! Live that victory!

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So I want to end this with an illustration: This is a picture of the kingdom in Jerusalem. The one that ultimately Rome came in and destroyed. There is the Temple the meeting place of Heaven and Earth. And these are the walls the protected the city. Up here is where Jesus sat telling this story where just days prior he entered in and declared himself the King. He declared Zion, the city of David, (Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David! Jesus declared that now, here, begins the age of the world to come. He then declares that He is going to die and the temple is going to be destroyed and out of this new life will come. And the invitation of his ministry is to be a part of this new life. This life within the kingdom.

But beyond the walls of Jerusalem there existed a valley. Here it is listed as the Valley of Hinnom. Outside of the kingdom walls in this place, the pagans gathered to celebrate their gods, people sacrificed their children. It’s where the waste of the kingdom went to burn. It was a place fixed on all the wrong things of the world. An evil place. In Greek this place is translated as “gehenna.” But in English you’ll find the word “hell.”

Because heaven and hell are about two realities. You can be a part of the new things that Christ is bringing into the world. That hopeful journey of our master’s return. Or you can exist outside of this in a valley of darkness consumed by the enticements of the world outside the kingdom. Our worry is not about the end times. Our worry is preparing the house for the master’s return. And we do not know when this will be. So continue to take care of it. This place we get to call home. Always be invested in the reality that is heaven. Zion. The World to Come. It’s about advancing Heaven to the nations of the world. Beyond the Valley’s of Hinnom and into the Valley’s of Hinnom.

May the kingdom put out the fire’s that are burning.

May the servants be on watch. Alert! Awake!

Living each day with sharing the joy of our hope.

For our Master will return.

What will we do with his home?

What shall we do with this kingdom?

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