God will not return to check our charts; rather, He will return to check the condition of our hearts. Before we call Him to return, we need to make sure that we are rightly related to Him through Jesus Christ. Examine different views of a prophetic calendar, see which view Watermark holds, and hear why trusting Scripture as the ultimate authority supports this position.

Scripture References: Mark 13:4-20

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Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
We are in the middle of a series called _The Last Things You Need to Know: Living Life in Light of the End_ as we go through the gospel of Mark_._ Let me offer to you that all that is going to be said today is going to be said in the context of the last number of weeks. It's always awkward to thrust ourselves right back into a topic when we've been delicately working our way here. Today will be the most specific in terms of the calendar. Let me offer this to you. I will say it again, hopefully, and I've said it before. Christ will not come back and check our charts. He will come and deal with us based on where our hearts are in relationship and in response to him. So all that I say today is in the context of that. However, I want you to see that what is going on, in the end, is not some spectacular events that are unrelated to not just today. Here's the deal. What you're going to find out happens in the book of Revelation that Jesus is speaking about is tying up the Bible. As we work our way through Mark, and we're at what is called the _Olivet Discourse_ and the very last time Christ is speaking to his disciples, he is letting them know about the last things. The Bible is a book that, increasingly, folks in our nation are completely unable to handle well. It is a very difficult and intimidating book. The truth in there is so clear and so relevant that a child could understand it, but it's so deep that you can study it for a lifetime and get a bunch of, "ah-ha's" with each passing week. Yet, most folks don't understand how Genesis is wrapped right through the Bible and how Revelation is only the consummation of what was originally anticipated right from the very beginning. This is God recording his working in the context of human history. What we're about to look at is how God is going to culminate him revealing his glory and his goodness in working with that which is his highest and most glorious creation (humankind) in order to reveal who he is. The Bible can be summarized like this. You have the anticipation of God's ultimate Deliverer, and then you have the manifestation of the Deliverer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Then you have the proclamation of that Deliverer, Jesus Christ, which is basically the book of Acts. Then you have Romans through Jude, which is the explanation of how this Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was anticipated. Then in the book of Revelation you have, what is called, the _consummation_ or the _completion_ of what this Deliverer has done, who most fully reveals who God is so we can most fully know him and rightly relate ourselves to him. That is your Bible. I want to show you why end-times stuff is not just things that we should look at to titillate our insight and fancies and also so that we can especially be lazy knowing he's coming at a said time so we can jerk around until D-Day. That is not the expectation of understating biblical prophecy. In fact, you're going to find out that all throughout the modern day, we have lived with what is called an _expectation of the imminent return of Christ._ There's nothing on God's prophetic calendar that needs to unfold for him to bring the church to a place of judgment. There are a very few number of events that need to happen before Christ himself will appear physically and call the entire world into account. You're going to find out one of the reasons we can be confident that God is going to remove us from this coming day of wrath is because God always begins judgment with his household first. You're going to find out that the _day of the Lord_ is this idea when God is back on the scene. It's God day because you see him working in a very clear, powerful way. There's no mistaking that something otherworldly is going on. That's the _day of the Lord_ in Scripture. It was something the Jews always anticipated because the Jews (God's chosen people to reveal himself) thought that when the day of the Lord would come, judgment would come to all of their enemies. You're going to see this morning that God is going to say to the Jews, "When the day of the Lord comes, it's not going to be an exciting day for you. When I show up to call people into account, the very first people I'm going to call into account are the people I've revealed myself most fully to." So you're going to find out there's this period in history when the Jews have rejected this one who was long anticipated in the Scriptures that God gave them. There's now some real horror that's going on through and in that Jewish community, by and large; as a nation especially. Jesus said there's going to be another nation (group of people) he's going to raise up for a while in order to declare his glory to substitute in for those who have been unfaithful, which is the nation of Israel. God's going to say, "I'm going to put before you somebody else. It's a new nation. A nation not just of physical descendants of Abraham, but people who are true sons of Abraham, which is men and women of faith who believe in the God of Abraham." This will be a group of people made up of Jew and Gentile, barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man, male and female. This group is a group called the _church_, the called out ones, or the ecclesia. God's going to work with them, but guess what God is going to do with us. Exactly what he did with Israel. He's going to hold us into account first before he comes to hold the world into account next. There's the deck. The table is set. I'm going to warn you, if this is the first time you've heard it, the proverbial fire hose is about to be turned on. You can get the tape, and I've given you the handout, but I'm going to walk you through some serious Bible in the next 40 minutes, so buckle down. We're going to start with Mark 13. If you're here today and you don't know anything about God, we're going to show you how this is significant stuff for you. There probably isn't a better place to start with you then to tell you that God is sovereignly enthroned in the heavens and he's accomplishing what he said he would accomplish. If you're here today and you don't even know Old Testament from new, Mark from Matthew, Genesis from Revelation, you're fine. Just listen to the metanarrative, listen to the big story, and then be humbled at the power of God to decree beforehand what will be. In case you're joining us just now, the context of what's going on in Mark 13 is in light of the rejection of the Appointed One, in light of the rejection of the one who has long been anticipated, in light of the coming death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in light of the coming destruction of the temple Jews worship this God in, and in light of the coming devastation on the earth that will precipitate his coming again, the disciples are saying, "When will this happen, and what will be the signs of your coming?" You have to understand again, as I said last time, this is a bunch of Jewish men asking a Jewish Messiah about the future of a Jewish state who through, God has said in the very beginning, all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. That's the context of Mark 13, and you're going to find out how it relates to you. Jesus is unfolding this in Mark 13:5 in response to their question in verse 4, which says, "Tell us when these things will be. What will be the signs of your coming?" Christ starts to unfold, and he says, "Make sure you're not misled. There are going to be wars and famine and earthquakes and persecution." He offers this to these men, and he says, "These things aren't the end. They're just the birth pangs [labor pains]." That's a metaphor God uses throughout his Bible, saying, "There's going to be increasing pain and intensity before the arrival of what you long expect and hope for." In verse 9, he says, "Be on your guard because men are going to try and mislead you and take you different places." Next week we're going to give you some pretty dramatic examples of how easily you can be misled; stuff you don't want to miss because you're going to go, "I sit there, and I'm impressed when I watch John Edward crossing over to the other side in his stuff, and that is simple magician tricks and illustrations." People will mislead you that they have powers and psychic ability, and they do not. Men will claim they are doing some things that should show you that they are from God, and we will clearly show an example and differentiate between what they do and what Christ has done and what is coming. Jesus says that all these things are going to be happening during a certain period of time. He's unfolding a little outline of this specific time that I'm going to show you where it originates in Scripture. When you get to verse 14, he says something significant. He says, "But when you see this one thing that's called the _abomination of desolation_ [as he refers back to a Jewish prophet, Daniel, who uses this phrase], when you see somebody where he should not be, somebody enthroning himself on a place and say, 'Worship me for I am God,' then you run for the hills. You get out of Dodge." What Jesus is going to do from that moment on, in Mark 13, 14, and following, is describe the last three and a half years before he shows back up. That is a major pivot point in something called the _seventieth week of Daniel._ That's a new term for most of you. I'm going to show you how what Jesus is introducing right here has long been expected. Mark 13:14 is a significant moment because Jesus is saying to a Jewish group of people concerned about a Jewish state and God's consummation of his program through those Jewish people, "Listen, Jews. When you get to this point, and you find one you thought could bring you peace that you bought into his lie instead of trusting me, he's going to do okay for you for three and a half years. When he finally reveals his fangs and tells you to worship him, and you finally have your eyes opened, don't try to take him on. You run for the hills." The _abomination of desolation_ is an event where Jesus is describing that somebody will come, and it's the Antichrist, who will sit in Jerusalem in the temple mount area and enthrone himself and try and claim what Jesus Christ himself deserves, which is ultimate authority and ultimate worship. Jesus says, "Don't you try and take him on. You don't mess around with him." Here's the outline of basically what we have at this particular moment. Let me walk you through a few verses first. This is what Jesus says in Mark 13:19. **"For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now…"** This is what I'm telling you. Jesus is saying to these guys, "When this event happens, there's never been anything like it before, and there will never be anything like it again." This is what we talked about a couple of weeks ago. You won't be able to say to your kids, "You're lucky compared to how we had to live," because it's going to get nasty. Here it's called the _time of great distress_ in Jeremiah 30. It says, **"Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob's…"** _Jacob_ is the name God often uses for Israel. In fact, _Israel_ is the name God gave Jacob himself. Jacob was the father of 12 tribes through 12 children who became the leaders of that nation. Jesus is saying, "Jacob, this is your moment of horror." In Revelation 7, it's also called the _great tribulation_. Not a good day. I want to tell you this about the Jews. This is important for the context we're about to get to. Again, they thought when they heard the idea of the day of the Lord, when God would show up, they thought it was a good thing. Right now, my kids are watching TV Land a lot, and they're becoming familiar with one of my childhood heroes: Fonzie. Cooper calls him, "Bonzie." Bonzie is great because they see Potsie and Ralph Malph and Richie getting in trouble all the time. It's always the thugs that got them in that back alley. Sure enough, Fonzie shows up, dissipates the tension, and they walk away. You go, "It's just great to have a friend like Fonz." The Jews had something far better than some guy in a leather jacket. The Jews had the almighty, sovereignly enthroned one of the heavens. They thought, "When Fonz shows up [when God shows up], it's going to be a good for us." But what God is going to tell them here in Amos 5 is this. "Something for you to know, people," Amos said to the Jewish nation thousands of years ago. **"Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph** [and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob] **. Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, 'There is wailing in all the plazas, and in all the streets they say, "Alas! Alas!"'"** Watch this. What he's describing right here is a little opportunity for the Jews to get themselves right with God again. They keep thinking it's going to be a good time when God comes. He's saying, "If you get your heart right with me, it might be a good time. If you continue on the path that you were going, it won't be." I say that because in a moment I'm going to take that out of Jewish context, and I'm going to look at the church. All over this world today, folks are going to say the Lord's Prayer. They're going to go, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." God's going to say to this church that exists today, "You people pray that I'm going to show up, but you and your dead religion, and you and your showing up at a church on Sunday, you don't love good and hate evil. You don't practice justice. You're not faithful at home. You're not faithful at work. Your hearts aren't right with me. You just go to church, and you have the Bible, and you go through this liturgical expression or this contemporary expression of saying you know me. You mouth songs, but your hearts are not engaged with me. This will not be a good day when thy kingdom comes because you'll have to deal with me." God is going to say that to the church. Just like in this context, he's saying it to Israel. He saying, "Don't say it's going to be good when I show up. When I show up, the people who say they know me and just go through religious festivals to prove it, don't know me, and I'm going to deal with them." He says, "It's going to be so bad they're going to have to call farmers to come mourn because there won't be enough professional mourners. There will be death and destruction everywhere. Even in the vineyards, a place where there's traditionally celebration, there is going to be wailing," because he says he will pass through in the midst of you. Let me ask you this. Can you think of another time that little phrase was similarly used to the nation of Israel? When God said, "I'm going to come, and I will pass through Egypt. If you put the mark of the blood of the lamb on your door as an expression of faith in me, I will not pass through and bring death and judgment to you, but I will pass _over_ you because you are rightly related to me by faith." Here he's saying, "I'm going to pass through you. I'm going to come straight through, and like a tornado through a trailer park, you're going to know I've been there. It's a horrible thing." He says, **"Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees…"** Watch this description. **"…from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home** [getting away from the bear] **, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?"** Watch what he says here, because this is so significant and so relevant to you and me. He says, **"I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies."** He says, "I don't care how pretty your churches are. I don't care how long your tradition is. I don't care how beautiful your liturgy is. I don't care how awesome your _Book of Common Prayer_ is, and I don't care how fantastic your worship and music is or how passionate and casually dressed your pastor is. None of that matters to me. What I'm looking for are people who are not just saying they know me but people who have done heart work and who know me for who I am and who humble themselves before me, and who worship me not an hour of the week but with all of their life, acknowledging their blunders to one another, confessing sins to one another, loving one another, and serving one another." He says, **"Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings** [even though you tithe faithfully, give generously, and serve diligently] **, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."** We sing a song that says, "This is the noise we make with our voice and with our hands." God is watching. Not the song we sing and the noise we make when we're singing, but he watches the noise we make with our voice and with our hands. Why? Are you saved based on works? Absolutely not. Jesus says, "You bear fruit in keeping with repentance," and, "Your hands are always informed by your heart." So the noise you make with your life (the way you date, the way you marry, the way you employ and the way you are employed) is the noise you make, which really talks about the condition of your heart before him. When we say, "Come on, Jesus. Tarry not. Bring it on. Get back here. Your kingdom come…" Today is a great day to say, "Before we invite him to come and tromp out the grapes of wrath, we want to make sure this coming King is our friend and this coming King is our Savior and our Lord who we've humbled ourselves before and we've not tried to appease with some dead religiosity or some attendance or some service or some giving." God wants one thing: humility and brokenness before him. Here's a response to that life he has given for you on the cross. "I'll give you all my life in return. Lord, keep teaching me, keep helping me grow, keep helping me respond rightly in light of him." This is the outline, basically, of Mark 13, and it's the outline of the end times." He says, "Don't be diluted by dopes. Don't be diverted by disturbances. Don't be surprised by suffering. Don't be scared about your speech. Don't forget who to fear. Don't bet on the hour. Don't mess around with him. When you see the abomination of desolation, you run for the hills." Who's he saying that to? He's saying that to a group of Jewish men asking a Jewish Messiah about the allusion he makes to a Jewish prophet about the future of a Jewish state. What you have now before you is a series of handouts. On one handout there's a series of definitions. I'm going to tell you why I gave you those. These things are not easy to understand. I'm about to give you some terms and some names that some of us have never heard before. This not something we can be indifferent about because God tells us to be diligent. This is what the Scripture says in 2 Timothy 2:15. **"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."** Just like Israel was given his word, he's given us his Word, the Bible. We have it all over the place in this room. He tells us, "Make sure you spend some time with this. Familiarize yourself with this because this is my love letter to you. This is how I'm revealing my glory through this book, both in what I've done and what I'm going to do. I want you to understand how it works together to reveal who I am." You should know this book and be diligent to understand it. The things which are written in here, and I'm going to have the privilege of walking you through in just a moment, are things that men for centuries have longed to understand and things into which angels have longed to look. Look what Peter says in 1 Peter 1. **"As to this salvation…"** Which is so great that it's available to you, people living today. **"…the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you…"** Through Jesus Christ and the offering of the new covenant. **"…made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow."** I'm going to unpack this for you but watch this. This is so great. **"It was revealed to them…"** In other words, Daniel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah said, "When is this going to happen?" God said to them back then, "This is not for you to know. It's not even for you to understand what I'm talking about. I'm going to use this word I'm giving you right now to declare my greatness and to teach people who will come hundreds and thousands of years from now. You're serving, not yourself, but these others who are going to get your word." These are, it says right there, **"…things into which angels long to look."** I'm offering that to you this morning. This is good stuff. It goes all the way back to Isaiah 61:1-2, for one place. I'm going to take you there. This symbolizes a bunch of prophecies in the Old Testament. This a reference to the one who is long anticipated, Jesus Christ. It says, **"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners…"** That is good news, isn't it? He will send him **"…to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD…"** Watch this. There's a little attachment to that. Not just a favorable year of the Lord, but _also_ this one who is anointed will come, and he will deliver **"…the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…"** Fast forward about a thousand years, and you have a guy named Jesus who shows up. The very first time he preached, he did what all rabbis do who would go to the temple (or place of worship, the synagogue) and they would say, "If there are any rabbis here, would you like to teach?" Jesus offered back home in Nazareth, and he said, "Yep, I'll teach." He stood up, and he asked for the scrolls. He turned to Isaiah 61, and this is the context. This is the very first time Christ speaks. **"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 'THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.'"** But he stopped, didn't he? Then it says, **"And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down…"** Now watch this. This is even more amazing, because not only did he not finish a verse in context, he cut it right there in the middle, and then he said something. **"Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."** Do you know what he said? "Guess what. That long anticipated one is your guest pastor this morning." Can you imagine that? You're glad you went to the synagogue that particular day. You're going to go, "Really?" You're also going to go, "No. That's Joseph and Mary's boy. There are even whispers that he is not legitimate." Jesus is saying, "Listen to me and notice where I finished." This is going to get really good. If you'll look right here at this little deal, I'm going to show you now. I've read through these terms. On one side you'll see "End-Times Terms." There is the _second advent_, which is the return of Christ to earth. Guess what he will do the second time he comes? He will bring the day of the vengeance of our God to comfort all those who mourn at the state of this world in its present rebellion and full of sin. He will come, and he will bring justice, and he will dry the eyes of the oppressed and deliver those who are stuck in a world condemned by and filled with sin. But he also will judge those who have not had a means for their sin themselves to be covered, who've not known they've needed the Lord's favor, who've not themselves been brokenhearted and gone to this Jesus. Jesus came as a lamb to offer his blood that God might pass over them. Then he will come as a lion and he will pass through them, or he will devour them, and you will pass through him. That's the _second coming_ or the _second advent_. The _millennial reign_ is this thousand-year period which we're going to reference in just a minute. You'll find terms like _pre-millennial_ which I'm going to expound upon. I'm going to read this one. "This is the view most naturally supported by a consistent reading of Scripture that there will be a literal millennial reign of Christ on the earth after the second advent and before the final judgment." _Amillennialism_ is the belief that the thousand-year reign of Christ is not spoken of in Revelation 20; it's just symbolic. We also talked about post-millennialism last week, and we have an event called the _rapture_ that I'm going to talk about some more today. That's the name given to the event where true followers of Christ…which is the true believing church, not folks who have festivals and who make noise on Sunday, not folks who've gone through infant baptism or adult baptism, but folks who have their baptism be a genuine outward sign of a genuine inward faith…will be called up to be with the Lord. I tell you that I believe and I will not offer to you in any way that this is a test of whether or not somebody is rightly related to God. God is not going to check our charts. He's going to check our hearts. But as a person who tries to be diligent to show myself approved as a workman who does not need to be shamed and who accurately handles the word of truth, I'm going to tell you the most consistent and responsible way to handle Scripture is to believe when Jesus says he's going to do something that he's going to do it. So you have all these signs. Let me show you a chart of what these might look like in terms of end times. This is a view of amillennialism. You have the cross, and then you have a period of time (we don't know how long it is) where the present age they will say _is_ the millennium. The thousand-year reign of Christ that we're going to see referenced in the Scriptures is not something that's literal; it's just figurative. So they will say there'll be a rapture, possibly, but it's really a non-event because Christ is coming to earth. We might bounce up and meet him halfway here, but we're going to come right back down anyway and just commence to the new heaven and the new earth. That's the amillennialview. Many people who believe in that still believe in the resurrection of the dead, the reality of heaven and hell, the return of Christ, who love Jesus Christ, who rightly know you're saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, and hold the Word of God alone to be authoritative. But as I mentioned before, I think they open up Pandora's box. When they start to make allegory and don't take literally what is clearly something that Christ anticipated, they open the room for others to take it liberally in a whole lot of different directions. Just like they challenge the reality of Christ being here, others can challenge the reality of the resurrection and the reality of heaven and hell. So off we go. We talked about that in more detail last time. _Post-millennialism_ looks like this. The present age and the millennial kingdom lasts about a thousand years. Ultimately the biggest difference here is they believe that our earth will get progressively better, and the gospel will be preached to the whole world, and everybody will repent. It'll get so good here on this earth that basically the new heaven and new earth will just happen as a course of God's kingdom being lived out on earth as the entire world repents and converts. That's a simple, big picture of what post-millennialism means. So they will say, "We have to take the gospel to the earth. Not just because it's God's command to us, but because it's the means through which God will bring about his kingdom." I'm going to offer to you there is no solution to God bringing about his kingdom except that he passes through and deals personally with sin. This brings us to where I want to camp for the rest of the day. That is simply in this view: the _pre-millennial_ or _pre-tribulation_ view, which shows this event called the _rapture_ happening at some point just before the beginning of the tribulation period that Jesus is talking about to the Jewish folks in Mark 13. This is where he will stop working with the church and go back to working with Israel, a distinct and separate community of faith who are primarily physical descendants of Abraham, through which God has always intended for non-physical descendants of Abraham to join them in their faith. I believe there will be some Gentiles who will be a part of that kingdom, or that period of time it's clear the Scriptures allude to during that seven-year period. There will be Jew and Gentile alike that will convert, but specifically, you will see a mass number of conversions within the Jewish state. They will recognize Jesus as the right one to fulfill Isaiah 61. About three and a half years into it, all hell is going to break loose. That's what Jesus calls the _abomination of desolation._ Then it gets pretty doggone ugly until Christ returns. Let me tell you why I think this view is important to hold. We will walk our way through this. This is why a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial view makes the most sense. First of all, all Scripture anticipates a time when God accomplishes his word with his people. You'll find it all through the Bible that God tells the Jews, "I'm going to do with you this one thing. I'm going to put in a land. I'm going to make you great. I'm going to give you a king who will reign forever." It goes back to what is called the _Davidic covenant._ In 2 Samuel 7, you have David being promised, "One day God will come and give you one of your descendants, and he will sit on your throne forever." That is clearly a reference to what will happen in the eternal state, but it was also a promise that Israel will one day get what God promised Abraham they would get, which is the land that he promised to Abraham out of grace. Through one specific descendant of Abraham, who also would now be a son of David, a seed who will lead them, and will bring blessing, not just to them, but to all of the earth. Watch this. It's not just in 2 Samuel, but you're going to find out when Mary was pregnant with sweet, little baby Jesus, the angel Gabriel (the angel most associated with the nation of Israel) said to her, **"Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever…"** There's the forever part again. He said, "He's going to get the throne of his father, David. He will reign."That's what Gabriel told Mary. Has Jesus reigned yet? No. I think he will. Look at Luke 22. Jesus thought he would reign. He says, **"…just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."** Jesus thought there would be a reign that was literal. This is a great little section of Scripture. In Acts 1:6-11 Jesus has now been crucified, dead, and buried. He's appeared to his disciples, and he's just about to go sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven. In this little parentheses called _the church age_, this is what goes on. **"So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, 'Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?'"** That's the exact same question as Mark 13. Jesus doesn't say to them, "No, no, no. You misunderstand. There is no such thing. It's going to happen in a spiritual way now." He says, "You don't worry about when this is going to happen. You let me do my job. You just worry about your job. Do you know what your job is? Your job is to go and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon you, and then you go and be my witnesses. Then I will come back, and I'll take care of it." What they did is what men to this day are still doing, and that is not healthy. In verse 7, Jesus told them, "You go be faithful, and do your job and don't worry about me coming. I'm coming. You're not mistaken about that, and I will restore the kingdom like I told you. You will reign with me like I told you. I will be what David thought would come. I will be what Gabriel promised Mary. Meanwhile, don't you worry about that. Don't you sit there and stare up into the sky. Don't go to prophecy conference after prophecy conference and try and figure out when it's going to happen. Be faithful." **"And as they were gazing intently…"** I'm sure the very first prophecy conference started right then. They started to debate. "Well, when do you think it's going to be?" "I don't know. Are you pre-trib, pan-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-mil, post-mil, or amil? What do you think we should be?"Division probably started right there. They didn't even know the words yet. Seconds after the ascension, an angel showed up and said, "Enough. Quit gazing intently into the sky. This Jesus who's been taken will return in the same way that he left. He'll do his job. You do yours." Jesus didn't say the kingdom isn't coming. He just said, "You let me worry about when the kingdom will get here. You, meanwhile, go and profess that the kingdom is coming." The reason the Scriptures tell us the kingdom has not come yet is because there are still some people who might be here this morning or might be at Texas Stadium in a few days who he wants to know the King before he passes through like a lion. The Scripture says, **"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."** This is key. Paul says in Romans 11, **"For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery…"** What's a mystery? Something not previously revealed. See also: what we talked about in 1 Peter 1 where he said, "Men used to want to understand this. They couldn't understand this." Paul now is going to help them understand this. He says this, **"…so that you will not be wise in your own estimation…"** Understand this. **"…that a partial hardening has happened to Israel…"** Which means that nation is not seeing spiritual things very easily. There are Jewish converts to this day. We call them _completed Jews_ or _Messianic Jews_. There are a number of Jews who know Jesus Christ but a very small percentage because there's a hardening that has happened, a spiritual blindness, that is part of their consequence of rejecting their Messiah. God says in his kingdom program right now; this is the way it is. There's a partial hardening that is going on with the nation of Israel. The rabbinical leaders and their spiritual leaders are going to be men. They're going to do what the Pharisees did back then, which is to say, "You can do anything; just don't take Jesus as your Messiah." There are still some individual Jewish converts. You'll meet one next week here who is a physical descendant of Abraham but by the grace of God has been one the few who is coming to an understanding of truth before the coming day of the Lord. Paul says that there will be a day when all Israel will be saved. When? After the fullness of the Gentiles has come. What's the fullness of the Gentiles? The Gentile period is when you no longer have a Jewish leader in the world, but you have non-Jewish leaders leading the world. Starting with Nebuchadnezzar, making your way back through Cyrus and Darius and other Persians and Medes, to Alexander the Great, to all the caesars of Rome, until you might say to the Gentiles of today. The world power might be based, we would think, today in Washington DC, and in Russia and in China. Those are not traditionally known to be Jewish states. There's going to be a time that there are going to be Gentile leaders until God says, "Okay. We're going to go back to a Jewish leader." This particular Jewish leader will be unique. His name will be Yeshua, see also: Jesus, see also: whose mother was a virgin. God will come back and will accomplish that, but Paul says this. "Don't let anybody tell you that God's not going to do what he said he will do." He says, "Right now, from the standpoint of the gospel, they are enemies per se (for your sake), but from the standpoint of God's choice they're still beloved for the sake of their fathers, but the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, so if God said he'll do it, you can be sure it will be done." This is why the pre-tribulation or pre-millennial view makes the most sense. Next is the promise of God to keep his followers from the wrath that is to come. This gets to what we call the _rapture._ Rapture is first alluded to in 1 Thessalonians 4. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul is writing to a church he had visited (described in Acts 17). When Paul would go and preach, he would preach two things with recklessness. First, it is significant that you know the birth, the betrayal, the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the salvation that it brings you. Secondly, it is significant that you know that this Jesus, who is dead, buried, and resurrected, will return, and he will call all people into account. Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to follow up with them and say, "How are you doing? We were only there for three short weeks." Timothy came back and said, "They're a little disturbed about when Christ is going to return." So Paul wrote them a letter, and in that letter he tells them this. "Don't be upset that somebody has come among you and told you that you've missed the deliverance of God." In verse 10 he says, **"…to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."** He says the same thing in chapter 5, verse 9. **"For God has not destined us** [believers in the church today] **for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…"** In 1 Thessalonians 4 he says this. **"But we do not want you to be uninformed…"** That's why he gives us his Word. **"…brethren, about those who are asleep** [those who have died] **, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.**** For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.** **For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up…"** The Latin word there is _rapturo_. **"…together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."** This is what he says to the church. "Be comforted. God has not left you. The day of the Lord hasn't come. The day of judgment isn't here. You haven't missed anything, because God is going to get you and take you before that hits." I want to throw this out right now. About 12 to 15 years ago, a guy by the name of Edgar Whisenant had a book called _88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988._ Edgar, bless his heart, was doing exactly what the disciples were doing in Acts 1:10. He was gazing intently at the heavens, I think, really trying to rightly understand God's Word, but he consumed himself with when and not what. Over 2 million people seriously got into this book. One of the reasons people have a tendency to be amillennial and post-millennial is because people who are pre-millennial (who talk about a pre-tribulation rapture) have been men like Edgar, who have said they have figured it out. Even though Jesus didn't know, and Jesus told us we wouldn't know, somehow Edgar got in the know. What you need to know is there were a lot of folks who were really hurt. Here's a little story that happened during that time. People sold their houses, gave away their money, and terminated their employment in order to spend all their time getting ready. They even had their pets put to death because they did not want to leave them behind. From the very moment that Christ was here, he told you, "Live like I'm coming back; not in a year, not in a month, but like I'm coming back _today_." Because Christ can come for his church any day, we ought to live _every day_ like he's coming back. So you if you have to sell your house because you think he might be coming back in 1988, you ought to sell your house. Martin Luther was asked one time, "What would you do if you knew Christ was coming tomorrow?" He said, "I'd plant a tree." What's that mean? He's saying, "I wouldn't do anything any different than what I'm doing, because I'm living every day like he's coming tomorrow." That's what you and I ought to do. The next time somebody tells us they know he's coming at a certain time, say, "You know what? Maybe you're right. He's coming sooner or later." The rapture is an event that is described by Paul to the followers of Christ to let them know the stuff that is talked about in Daniel 7 and Daniel 9 that we're going to get to next week when we're together… All that stuff is going to happen after he removes you. Why? Because God has always removed his followers from the wrath that is to come. If you go back and you look at the Word of the Lord, you'll find out whenever judgment was about to hit he removed his people. God has passed through this earth in a number of different ways. He passed through this earth one time with a flood of judgment. What did he do before that judgment came? He raised up and delivered his followers (those who truly knew him in an evil day): Noah, his wife, his three boys, and their wives. Genesis tells us about a time when God pronounced judgment on a place called Sodom and Gomorrah. Before judgment came to Sodom and Gomorrah, what did God do? He removed those who knew him there, even folks who struggled with their flesh. He pulled them out before fire and brimstone fell from heaven. Judgment fell on another land. The land was called _Jericho_. Joshua and Israel were marching as instruments of God to bring judgment to those people. What did God do before Jericho fell? He removed the one person of faith, who, through her faith and belief in the reputation of the God of the Jews, led her entire family to faith. She tied a scarlet thread and hung it outside her window. So when the walls fell, Joshua told the army to go in and destroy utterly everything in that city exceptthe house of Rahab the harlot, who had sheltered herself under that thread of blood which was a sign of her faith in God. God removed Rahab before Jericho fell. To the best of my understanding, he will remove us before Mark 13 hits. Next week I'm going to show you how Mark 13 is a culmination of what is called the _seventieth week of Daniel._ It's the expectation of the book of Revelation and we're about now, having seen that God removes his people, will bring on the day of the Lord. It's going to be a horrible day, as we've alluded to before. It's going to be a day when Jew and Gentile alike, who are here, are going to go through a purifying fire. God will use that to lead some to repentance, especially Jews, to where they will be restored finally when their King comes and delivers them now, not from the oppression of sin (because he's done that) but from the oppression of one who claims to be God who should be worshiped. The first time Jesus was here, there was a guy by the name of Caesar, who said, "Worship me. I am God." The Jews looked for their coming Messiah to deliver them from him. But all that guy was, was a picture of the false one who tells them to worship him (the Enemy, Satan). Jesus is going to say, "I'm going to deliver you now from that one who will now be a caesar of the world and this time will be the Antichrist himself. This time there _will_ bea cleaning of house. You're going to see how it all fits together." This is your Bible. I want you to see there is hope for those who know Jesus. We don't know when, but all I can tell you is it looks like the world events are happening in such a way that what needs to happen in the seventieth week of Daniel (I'm going to explain that term next week) and what needs to happen in Mark 13 (the birth pangs) so that we can get to the coming of the Lord, are aligning now like never before in history. If you know that Christmas is coming, which is the coming of Jesus, then Thanksgiving has to be really close. I don't know when the Lord is going to come to remove his church, but if I can see things moving towards Christmas, I can figure that it's almost time for Thanksgiving, which in the calendar of events is the rapture. Here's the deal. If I'm here in 50 years, guess what I could also say? "But we're closer than ever." Know there is nothing that needs to happen. That was true of Paul's day to Thessalonica, Martin Luther's day in the horrors of the apostate church, and it is true today. You can now look at the world communication and the one-world government, and you can look at the weapons that we have today that bring about the level of destruction, and you can go, "I can really see it now." That is exactly what God always has his people say. Do not mistake his slowness as his inability, unwillingness, and his permanent absence. Today is a day for you to meet Jesus on a favorable day so you do not need to meet him when he passes through. If we can help you do that, you let us know. We'll be back here next week, and we'll tie up Mark 13 prophetically. Let me pray. Father, thank you for these friends and for a mouthful of looking at the Scripture. Seeing how the Bible is one story, how it works together, we see, Lord, that the nation of Israel as a whole is now blind to who you are and what you're doing. We look back, and we wonder how they can be given so much and miss you so completely. Then all of a sudden, in horror, we pause, and we see how much we've been given and how we often miss you so completely. Lord, just like you've delivered your faithful remnant in the past from the judgment that has come, you will deliver your faithful remnant, that is the true church, from the judgment that will come. Our only task this morning is to make sure we're a part of it. The way we do that is by calling more to be a part of it and by living lives that don't make that hard for others to believe. We confess, if we didn't have a Savior, we don't have a chance. We thank you for Jesus who died for imperfect representatives of holiness, like me and like the members of Watermark. We then say, Father, in response to that, may we be more committed to your Word and your way, that we might be more salt and light, that more might get on the ark before the flood of judgment comes. Use us this week. In Christ's name, amen.