Todd uses the Wonders of the World to show how we can become distracted in our obsessions with displays of human achievement from the only One who truly deserves our magnificent obsession. Echoing Jesus' teachings in Mark 13 on signs of the end times, this message offers a clear target for right focus in a constantly distracting world.
False Promises, Prophets, Messiahs and Manipulations vs. the Truth
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 4
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 3
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 2
Prophetic Terms, Timing, Persecutions, and Promises, part 1
One of These Days: What to Expect and What He Expects of Us
Matter Only Matters if the Bible is not a Matter of Fact
Wonders of the World vs. the Wonders of a Magnificent Obsession
The Purpose and Product of Prophecy
That's some stuff right there. You know, even greater than just how awesome and really how wonderful it is to have that kind of giftedness leading us in contemplating those truths is people who live that way. When you see folks who are magnificently obsessed with a life that is ultimately of significance and importance, it makes us fill with awe.
We see people who are magnificently obsessed with small things. This summer, I was in Branson, Missouri, with my family just for a short bit, and we took in one of those little magic shows, and Bart Rockett was up there. Part of his magic show was a little interlude where he just did some juggling.
He did some amazing things as he stood up there and juggled all different types of stuff in ways most of us haven't seen typical jugglers do, and people were kind of applauding like this, and the things he did with increasing difficulty, we applauded with a little bit more. He said, "Hey, you just saw in about four minutes, 10 years of obsession with juggling," and it got a nice smattering of applause.
We watch Olympic athletes do amazing things. We watch other types of athletes doing amazing things. We watch virtuosos in musical ability do some stuff, and it just moves us. What I'm going to make a case for today is that all that stuff, as wonderful as it is and as much as it ought to inspire greatness in us… I mean the Chinese acrobats, it's worth driving to Branson just to see the Chinese acrobats. The things these people can do will blow you away, and they're obsessed with balance and strength and displays of teamwork, and it will make you applaud.
As awesome as those things are, what I'm going to make a case for today is that every single person in this room, while you may not be somebody who will wow a crowd with either feats of agility or strength or athletic greatness, you can be obsessed with something and be successful in something by the power of God's love, which can change you, that everybody would say, "You know what? As awesome as all these other things are, there's one thing that will demand an ovation from the one who created us, and that is an obsession with responding rightly to who he is.
If God, your God, is not worth your undying devotion, your complete surrender and your ultimate attention and focus, then I'm going to make a case that your god is too small. I need to let you know this morning that the God of the Scriptures has no problem telling you he is worth your complete obsession.
Sweet, little Martha Kate McJunkin, a fourth grader in the Plano Independent School District… The first day of class, the teachers ask each of the students to go around and talk about who they are and what they're about. All the students were going around, and it got to Martha Kate. Martha Kate is not an angel by any stretch of the imagination, but she is a little girl in the midst of all the struggles little girls have, issues that specifically are unique to different ones.
Sweet, little Martha Kate, when that went around and it came to her, she really wanted to respond to what she had heard for years here at Watermark, what she had learned that summer at a camp with her friends, what she hears every day from her mommy and daddy about being obsessed in response to Jesus Christ.
This little girl, in the midst of all her peers, the very first day of school… "Tell us something about you." She said, "You know, I could tell you a lot of things about me, but I guess what I really let you know is I'm a Jesus freak." You know, she came home and told her mom that, and her teacher said, "You know what, Martha Kate? There are a lot of things people are freaks about, but if you're going to be a freak about something, I think that's about as good as anything you can be a freak about." Little Martha Kate's classmates talked to her about what she meant by that.
You know, when you're called a Jesus freak, it's typically used as some sort of slanderous statement that you're taking this just a bit too far. To be sure, there are some people who aren't probably wise and discerning in the way they express their fanaticism for Christ without asking you to wear a sandwich board and ring a bell. There's a much better way to show your magnificent obsession.
What I want to make a case for today is, in light of last things, in light of ultimate things, in light of the claims of Scripture and the revelation of God to us about who he is and where we're going and where we are and what this has to do with ultimate things, there is only one thing that really is truly a magnificent, glorious obsession. Now there are many things that distract us, to be sure. Often, there are things which are beyond our ability to comprehend how they got there or how they are pulled off.
All of them are much like the sandcastles that I've built with my kids and before that my father built with me. I'm telling you, we have had some world-class sandcastles in our family on beaches before, where we've spent hours literally working to dig moats and pour buckets and make great things, but in light of the coming tide that is as regular as the rising and the setting of the sun and the pull of the moon, our most magnificent creations are not very lasting, even in time as we see it relatively.
Let's take it away from the sandcastles of the Wagner family, and let's move it to greater things that, through an incredible and magnificent obsession, have become things that are world-renowned. Now what I want to do is just walk you through these little things that, as a matter of historic education for you, are what are called the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Have you ever heard of those? This will help you, if you're ever somebody's phone-a-friend and there are four options, one of which should not be on there, "Which one of these is not an ancient wonder of the world?"
We're going to list all seven of them for you, and I'm going to show you something unique and amazing about all seven of them, actually six of the seven, to be sure. Here we go. Let's just walk through them. The first one is the Temple of Artemis, right there. The Temple of Artemis is basically in what we know as Ephesus, or it's in Turkey. It's not Ephesus anymore, but Artemis was the Greek goddess of hunting and wildlife.
Let me tell you, basically, in the ancient Near Middle East culture, which our Bible is largely a part of, imprinted right there in history where you can test it and verify it… This is not some wonderings of some man underneath a tree in Upstate New York telling you what he thinks some angel of God has revealed to him. This is not some collection of poetry by a gifted and brilliant man like Muhammad who put down his ideas and concepts of life that really cannot be tested other than in just the way we live out our own lives.
This is God anchoring his credibility in history, where you can take his names, you can take his claims, you can take his figures, and you can take his acts, and you can go back and look in history and verify if it was so, as many even now nonbelieving archeologists will not go on a dig in that region of the world without their Bibles because they say it is a treasure to truth.
Many an archeologist has been converted by this book as they go and say, "There's no way anybody could know this. There's no way this truth could be preserved in any one document the way it's been preserved here unless God somehow intended for this book to be preserved, and one of the claims of this book's divinity is the fact that it has been preserved the way it has.
Though it's been outlawed, burned, banned, and people have been killed for translating it into the language of others, this book, more than any other book in the history of humankind, has been preserved, and this book, unmatched in all of books, is anchored in history, both past and future, saying you can know this one's unique because it comes from the unique one, the one who alone deserves your magnificent obsession.
What would happen in the ancient Near Middle East world is individual regions would have a local deity, and they would build a temple for that deity so people could worship there. They would worship the god of that region, and the idea would be that, as good as that god did, they would be wealthy and prosper and then they could have more to sacrifice to that god. It was kind of a circular form of worship.
They'd go to this idea of a god, and they'd worship him, or worship her in this case, and say, "We need you to bring food. We need you to bring the appropriate types of weather patterns so we can plant and harvest crops, so animals can continue to provide here, so we can eat and be strengthened ourselves, so this is a land rich and fertile."
What they would do based on the prosperity at that specific time is they would sacrifice back to that god to ensure greater and more produce that would come, and different regions that had greater produce and greater industry and greater success could do more to make their god look greater.
One of the temples that was rather magnificent is this Temple of Artemis, and it was magnificent by all accounts in ancient Turkey. It was a great marble temple. What happened is, about 200 years after it was finished, there was a guy named Herostratus. Anybody ever heard of Herostratus? Then, he failed because in order to make himself immortal, he decided to do what John Wilkes Booth did or Lee Harvey Oswald did, men who have been in a sense immortalized in our world, in our country.
What'd they do? Something atrocious to make a great name for themselves. This great ancient wonder of the world that, by all accounts was magnificent, 200 years after it was built, a guy by the name of Herostratus burned it to the ground in an attempt to immortalize his name, so this amazing thing that a people of a region were obsessed with doing, that's what you have left of it.
Let me take you to another one, not just the Temple of Artemis. The second one is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This is one you might have picked if I said, "Give me seven of the ancient wonders of the world." The Hanging Gardens of Babylon…fruits, flowers, wildlife, gardens hanging from palace terraces, exotic animals walking around…is Siegfried and Roy's house on steroids. That's what it is.
What's really interesting about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is that there is absolutely no evidence in Babylonian literature that it ever existed. A guy by the name of Nebuchadnezzar is the one who ultimately brought it to its greatest time of prosperity and renown. He built it for a wife or a lover, many believe, who was from Persia and from more exotic regions than Babylon could offer, and she missed her homeland.
In this kind of desert Iraq is where ancient Babylon was, modern-day Iraq which as you can imagine is not filled with a lot of beauty, in order to keep his wife or his lover from homesick, he built this exotic, if you will, almost Caribbean, masterpiece. Now what's interesting, as I said, is there's not much evidence in Babylonian literature, so all we have is poets and historians probably from the time when Alexander the Great and his army was making their way through that region of the world, and they conquered Babylon.
As they went there, they saw the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. They saw the ziggurats and what was remaining of the Tower of Babel and things like that. They saw this, and they went back, and compared to where they were from, they described this magnificent area, so most of what we have of this ancient wonder of the modern world was not written by those who even lived there but really by exaggeration of historians. There's no evidence it ever existed in the way we describe it to be.
Here's the third one, not just the Hanging Gardens of Babylon but the Colossus of Rhodes. Now take a look at that, the Colossus of Rhodes. This is in ancient Greece, and in ancient Greece there were a lot of little different civilizations and little city-states that would often war with each other. There was an island called Rhodes that basically took those three different cities and kind of came together and made one capital on this island.
They called it Rhodes, and there was a little harbor right there you can see, where the ship is sailing into. Now this is almost an impossible rendition of what the Colossus of Rhodes looked like. No scholar believes that was really what it looked like. What we do know, though, is that, at its time it was being built, it didn't probably straddle the harbor like that, but it stood next to one of those little arms that came out. It was 110 feet high, which is about 10 stories.
We're talking here about 200 years before the birth of Christ, a 10-story structure of the Sun God, Helios. This guy, when he fell through an earthquake, it took about 900 camels to take his remains back to some Jew they sold the remains to in Syria. It says that most grown men could not clasp arms with each other around his thumb. That we do have. This was 10 stories high, and the thumb of this great Colossus men could not wrap their arms around.
What's interesting about the Colossus of Rhodes is it was inspiration for something you and I hold very near and dear to ourselves, and that's the Statue of Liberty. The French sculptor, the guy who basically made the gift for us from France, got his inspiration from the Colossus of Rhodes. Lady Liberty has her inspiration here, but as you can tell, we have not much but maybe a sketch and an exaggerated sketch at that of the Colossus of Rhodes.
Here's the fourth one. We'll moved a little more quickly. We have what's called the Pharos of Alexandria or the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, there is a little island called Pharos, and they built a lighthouse there which is really rather amazing. This thing was the height of a 40-story building. Now you think about that. We're talking, about 300 years before the birth of Christ, you have a 40-story building.
What's interesting about the Colossus is, when they built that thing, the way they did it is, every time they wanted to get higher on the Colossus of Rhodes they'd stack more dirt up and around this Colossus until they were done, and then they hauled those buckets of dirt away and left the Colossus there. Pretty amazing.
This thing was 40 stories high when it was built, and through a series of invasions and earthquakes and other things, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which is the last of the wonders to exist, other than the one that still stands today about 400 years after Christ, was ultimately destroyed and gone away with. This ancient wonder of the world was an amazing thing. They would build fires at night, and they would use a mirror during the day in order to let ships know of these double harbors that were there as you sailed into the Port of Alexandria.
The fifth one is the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. That's a mouthful. Basically, this is just where some rich guy who was a vassal king who served the king of Persia lived, and he wanted to have a nice place when he died to bury himself, so there you have the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which basically went away rather quickly.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia: this is a little temple that was in basically Olympia, 150 miles west of Athens, where the Olympics will be in a couple of years. There was a little temple there, and they wanted to build a statue of Zeus to make it great, and it was great by all accounts. Zeus was seated, and his head went all the way up to the ceiling.
He was 40 feet tall when he was seated, and if he could have stood up, he would have blown the roof off it, similar to the Lincoln Memorial, except you have to understand we're talking 2,500 years ago. That's when this was done. This is the sixth of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Now what is interesting about all six of these ancient wonders is there's not a single one of them that's still with us.
Here's the seventh one that we still see and that you can go and visit today, the Pyramids of Egypt. It's not really all the pyramids, it's one specifically. These things are 42 stories high. That's about 481 feet…42 stories high. Let me just tell you some facts about this that blew me away. There are two million blocks of stone in that one pyramid right there.
Each stone weighs more than two tons. If they took the stones that were in that wall, they could build a 10-foot high, one-foot thick wall all around the country of France. It's rather amazing. The Pyramids of Egypt which are thousands of years old still stand today, the last of the existing Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
What is pretty amazing about this is simply this. We make a great to-do about these things, and we don't even have any record, except from poets and historians, that they ever existed, but if you lived during that day, you would go, "These things are magnificent tributes to the greatness of man," and with just the perspective of a couple of thousand years, we go back, and all we have is the best that some sketch artist can do.
Let me walk you through the Seven Wonders of the Modern World really quickly. We don't have pictures of these, but I'll list them off for you. It's kind of fun just to hear what they are. Some of them are going to be more familiar to you than others: the Itaipu Dam, the CN Tower, the Panama Canal, the Channel Tunnel, the North Sea Protection Works. The Golden Gate Bridge is considered one of the wonders of the modern world. Then the Empire State Building, in its day and even today, is considered one of the wonders of the modern world.
Listen, being Americans, if the Empire State Building is one of the wonders of the modern world, what is even more impressive in New York City, than the Empire State Building? You bet, the Twin Towers, which were 110 stories tall. What I want to show you right here is that somebody came up to me last week, and 20 years ago, they visited the World Trade Center, and they picked up their little promotional brochure. Look at what it says in their promotional brochure: "The closet some of us will ever get to heaven."
Incredible. Almost allusions back to the Tower of Babel, where man would build these great monuments to themselves and they would look God in the eye. I don't think that's what they were probably trying to communicate. The irony of what it says now, though, in 2002 is almost chilling.
If the Empire State Building is one of the great wonders of the modern world, how long did it take these two towers to be reduced to nothing? See, I don't have to take you back to some history book that's obscure now, do I? We all saw it happen, and you'll see it happen a thousand times in the next two weeks again and again and again, and here's what I want to ask you. Are you going to learn?
Are you going to put things in context and see them for what they are? Not evil in and of themselves but if that's what you're obsessed with, building yourself great earthly monuments, whether it be through a resume or an architectural design or an athletic feat or physical beauty that you preserve, it is foolishness in light of the one thing you ought to be magnificently obsessed with.
We are in week two of living life in light of the last things, and guess what launches Jesus on his entire treatise about the end times? A conversation just like this. If you have your Bible, turn to Mark 13, and I want to go there with you now, and this is what's going on. It says, "As He was going out of the temple…" The temple of Herod is the fourth temple that had been built for the God of the Scriptures…the fourth.
The first one was called the Tent of Meeting or the tabernacle and was basically a tent in the desert that was glorious because the ark of the covenant dwelt there with God. The second one was Solomon's temple, which was magnificent by, again, all accounts. The only wonder of Solomon's temple is that it's not considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but it was destroyed and broken down in about 600 BC by the one who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Seventy years later, though, guys by the names of Nehemiah and Ezra and Zerubbabel returned from Persia, and they moved the people, and the prophet Haggai spurred the people on to rebuild Solomon's temple. For about 400 years, it stood tall, and then it was destroyed, but the people of Israel were determined to have a temple that worshiped their God.
What they needed to understand and to declare to the world is this wasn't just their local deity. It was and is the God of all the earth, so they built the temple a fourth time, Herod's temple. Let me just give you a little quick insight about something. What's interesting is, that being the fourth temple, the fifth temple in the New Testament is our bodies.
The sixth temple will be the rebuilt temple we'll hear more about as we study these next few weeks about the calendar of end-time events, and that too will be destroyed, even as the fifth temple will be destroyed, until finally we move into the temple that will never be destroyed. What is seven? It is the number of biblical perfection. You have seven temples in the Scripture. The seventh one is the one that the other six anticipate, being right there in the very presence of God, that will never pass away and will never perish, the perfect temple that never fades.
For now, this fourth temple, the temple of Herod was great by everybody's estimation. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, would say that it was plated with gold. Herod, to appease the Jews, built this magnificent temple, rebuilt the one that had been done away with after they returned from their exile, and Herod put plates of gold. It was so brilliant that, when people would look at it during the day, they had to turn away, and it was as if, they said, you were staring at the sun.
Can you imagine being in that region? Right now, when you look at a picture of Jerusalem, it's dark and drab by all estimates, but there's one little thing that always sticks out. It's the gold-colored roof of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest places in all of Islam. If you can take that away and multiply it by 50 or 100 and have an entire temple that was plated with gold on white marble, it would look like a mirror set in the middle of the desert from however far away you could begin to see it. It was a glorious thing.
Peter and James and John are making small talk with Jesus, and they're walking along. They've commented on the weather, and so now they're going to comment on the beauty of the buildings. "As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!'" How awesome is this to walk through Jerusalem and see this.
"And Jesus…" Who has a different perspective on what is ultimately great. "…said to him, 'Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.'" This is what launches us into a discussion of ultimate things. He says, "Look, you guys were impressed by this, but you keep missing the thing I'm trying to get you to be impressed about."
In the life of Christ, we are just days away from his being turned over to Pilate and to the Sanhedrin and to others where he will be mocked, he will be denied justice, and he will be crucified, die, and be buried. Three different times, he told them that the Son of God, the Creator of the heavens and earth would be destroyed, and that didn't get their attention.
Three times already he had told them, "Look, I'm God. You know I'm God because I walk on water. You know I'm God because I raise people from the dead. You know I'm God because the blind can see. You know I'm God because I speak words of truth and power like you have never heard before. You know I'm God because lepers are healed…and I'm going to die." They went, "Okay, man. That confuses us, but let's just keep moving."
In Mark 13, Jesus says this. "Hey, these things you guys think are awesome are going to be gone away," and now they're curious. It didn't bother them when God was going to die. It bothered them when this great temple that was the pinnacle of human achievement was going to be destroyed. Jesus says, "The things you value and which matter to you, the things you think will be an enduring sign of your greatness, are going to go away." They go to him in verse 3, later that night.
"As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 'Tell us, when will these things be…?'""When's the temple going to go down?" "'…and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?' And Jesus began to say to them, 'See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, "I am He!" and will mislead many.
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places…'" Which will ultimately destroy the remaining Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. "'…there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.'" A metaphor that will be carried out our number of weeks ahead.
He says to them, "But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts…" These people who scoff at me and the words that I'm teaching you. "…and you will be flogged in the synagogues…" And you will be handed over. "… [Children will] rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."
What he's making reference to right there is those people who make it right through this time, it doesn't mean those people will be saved salvifically. It means they will be preserved and not delivered to death because he will come and lead them and usher them into a place they long for.
What he's going to do right here is something you have to understand when you interpret biblical prophecy. Jesus is going to talk about something which is called the already but not yet, or it's a pre-fulfilment of ultimately what he's talking about right here. What had happened if you've not been with us these last years…
We've been working through the gospel of Mark, and Jesus revealed himself to the nation of Israel as their Messiah, their hope, the Anointed One of God who was going to deliver them from the bondage of oppression of sin, but they wanted a Messiah who would deliver from them from the bondage of oppression of Rome. Because Jesus was not concerned first and foremost with the political revolution and because he didn't come as a conquering king, they rejected him as religious and political leaders.
Jesus resonated with the hearts of people who were looking for a deliverance from something far greater than Caesar, the habits and hurts and hang-ups that defeated them, the hopelessness which was around them, and Jesus spoke to those, and he talked about the bondage of the dictator of sin that he wanted to lead his people from, and he said, "Caesar is a nothing in light of that which controls your souls, and I'll deal with Caesar, but let's deal with your souls first."
What he said is, "In light of y'all rejecting me, as a nation, you will go into incredible times of persecution," so Israel as a state was headed toward incredible judgment, and part of that judgment involved their land they still held peacefully underneath Rome which would ultimately be raked from right underneath their feet just like it had been several times before when they rejected God and his prophets.
There were a lot of folks who have a hard time with this because they believed that God was going to do something great with them and that greatness them was going to be greatness in the eyes of the world, that they were going to become the world power and that, if you will, the capital of the world would be in Jerusalem and the ruler of the world would be a Jew.
Because that Jew loved God, all the people would then come underneath his headship and leadership. That's what God intended but, not just because of political oppression but because of God's rightly being declared through these loving people. When Jesus said, "All that you hold dear, including my temple that bears my name, isn't going to last…"
I want to give you an application point here, and I'm going to drive some stuff home today before we get into what those birth pangs are going to look like. In the near view, this temple was wiped out by a guy named Titus who was the caesar of the day. After when Jesus and his disciples saw this temple and said it was magnificent, in about 33 AD, it wasn't finished for another 30 years until the icing was put on that cake. Four years later, it was destroyed to where one stone did not stand on top of another, just like he said.
That was a fulfilment of what Christ said, but when you put that in what's called harmony with the other Scriptures that talk about what Christ is going to do, you'll find out it was just in anticipation of the destruction which will ultimately and the deliverance which will ultimately come, and that's what you'll hear more about these next couple of weeks.
You need to hear this today, as we focus on what this means. What impresses us does not easily impress Jesus. Many people will tell you that God will preserve things that are dear to him. For instance, if the Shroud of Turin was the shroud of Jesus Christ, if you knew judgment from God would come, where might you want to go?
"Well, let's go by the Shroud of Turin because surely God will preserve this. He'll let the city be destroyed but not this building that holds the Shroud of Turin or let's go over there to Milan, Italy. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Lord's Supper to be displayed in the commissary for the nuns of his day. Let's stand by that because, surely, as Germany bombs, God will preserve this." "Let's go to Jerusalem. Let's go to the temple mount because God, though destruction will come all around, surely will preserve the temple mount."
Let me just give you a little application point. God is not concerned with relics, shrines, treasures, or temples. This is going to be useful to you. I am firmly convinced that, if we are fortune enough to see the culmination of the last days in our lifetimes… One of the things you're going to hear me say through this series is, "I'm not sure we will."
I can tell you this, "I am sure I'd better live like I will, just like faithful men have done for the last 2,000 years starting with Paul and this Peter who's asking Jesus this question right through Martin Luther and right through Billy Graham and right through Todd Wagner and today and, if the Lord tarries, right through our children." There is nothing in God's eschatological last times' calendar that needs to happen for catastrophic things to happen and him to break on the scene in ways we never thought would happen before.
We ought to live like tomorrow could be the day. This morning, my little girl, Ally, and I were reading through 2 Peter 3, where we're about to go together in just a moment, and Ally, who's struggling right now with some stuff at school, goes, "When's this going to happen?" I told her, "It could happen tomorrow." She goes, "I hope it does. I hope it happens tomorrow." Once I assured her that we would be graciously removed from ultimate judgment, she said, "All right. Let's get it on." I said, "Ally, that's exactly the attitude Christ wants you to live with."
What's going on, though, is that many of us think there's no way God would ever destroy the beauty of this earth, so we think we ought to do everything we can to preserve it, and rightly so. It's wonderful that Siegfried and Roy's house is a marvel. It's wonderful that Robin Leach can take us through the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and we can gawk at the incredible splendor of the things man has created, but God is just not impressed.
He's not impressed if we've found the ark of the covenant. By the way I think there's a reason why we don't have the ark of the covenant. What's the ark of the covenant…for those of you who have lived since the generation of folks who lived and died with Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? The ark of the covenant is the basic structure that holds the two tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai that had the Ten Commandments on them and a few other relics from the day.
The reason God has not preserved those or what is called the autographs of our Scripture, the original documents that Paul wrote, that Moses wrote, that Ezra wrote and others… The reason we don't have those is because we're idiots and we would worship those and not the God who those are about. We would fight over them. We would kill for them, and we would make it like, "Man, if we just had this, we'd be in pretty good straits."
God says, "I don't really care about original autographs. I care about truth. I don't really care about temples. I care about whether you worship me, so quite being impressed with Herod's temple because this temple is full of all types of rebellion. You saw what I did just a few days ago. I went in there and pronounced this thing worthless, and I condemned the temple. I wasn't there to clean it up. I was there to say, 'This thing is done.' Now I'm tell you specifically that, this gold and this white marble you're amazed at, doesn't impress me."
We need to know God is not concerned with relics, and he's not going to save you because you're hiding over there at St. Peter's Cathedral. I don't care if you're sitting on the pope's chair. When it comes apart, it's coming apart. Trust God. We should know we should trust God, not places or superstitions or prophets who tell you what you want to hear.
I'm going to very quickly walk you through this because this is Herod's temple that Jesus is saying this about, but if you take this back to Solomon's temple, there's a prophet called Jeremiah, a prophet called Zephaniah, and these men were telling the contemporaries of their day the exact same thing, and that is that judgment is coming, and you'd better run for the hills and don't hang out here in the temple to try and preserve yourselves. Look at this. This is Jeremiah, chapter 1, verse 15-16.
"Then the Lord said to me [Jeremiah], 'Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. For, behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,' declares the Lord; 'and they will come and they will set each one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls round about and against all the cities of Judah. I will pronounce My judgments on them concerning all their wickedness, whereby they have forsaken Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.'"
What he's saying is, "Judgment is coming to this temple," and it did. Micah in chapter 3, verses 9-12, talks about it. Zephaniah in chapter 1, verses 4-13, talks about it. There were other men during that day who said something completely different, and Jeremiah writes about them.
In Jeremiah chapter 6, we have people who say, "Don't listen to Jeremiah that judgment will come. God will never let his name be defamed by destroying his temple." It says this. "They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially…" This is God talking to Jeremiah against those who say God will preserve them if they just defend the temple. "…Saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace." Then, in chapter 14, verses 13-14:
"But, 'Ah, Lord God!' I said, 'Look, the prophets are telling them, "You will not see the sword nor will you have famine, but I will give you lasting peace in this place."' Then the Lord said to me, 'The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.'"
Here's what I want my friends here to know today. When you hear that God will not come and judge if you will just preserve certain relics or preserve certain superstitions or even certain places you think honor his name, he has told you we are in a fallen world that is spinning more and more anxiously toward evil, and men who will say, "God surely will not let this happen," are not your friends. They are setting you up for the fall.
Let me just read to you from two historians that probably haven't read a lot lately. One guy is a Roman historian. His name is Dio, and this is what he said. There were many people who listened to these false prophets. This is his commentary from his history in the first century AD, "The Jews resisted [Titus] with more ardor than ever…" Titus is the one who was the fulfillment of what Jesus said in Mark 13.
In 70 AD, it says, "The Jews resisted [this coming Caesar] with more ardor than ever, as if it were a kind of windfall…fighting against a foe far outnumbering them, they were not overcome until a part of the Temple [itself] caught fire. Then some impaled themselves voluntarily on the swords of the Romans, others slew each other, others did away with themselves or leaped into the flames. They all believed, especially the last, that it was not a disaster but victory, salvation, and happiness to perish together with the Temple."
Now I want to just make this very clear. There are many Islamic people, many Muslim people, who will gladly die for their beliefs underneath the leadership of their prophets who will tell them that there is no greater devotion to Allah than to die in service for Allah, but God has spoken judgment not just on Muslims. He has spoken judgment on all who reject the one who Herod's temple and Solomon's temple was to anticipate worship and a response of worship from.
What I want you to hear is that God said, "I don't care if you go to a Christian church. I don't care if you're a Jew, my chosen people, worshiping on the mount where I said my name would dwell, if you don't walk with me, I don't want your attendance at church and I don't want your attendance at the temple. What I want is a heart that is broken and contrite, that is poor in spirit, that grieves over its sin, that begs for mercy, and that finds mercy in the one who came and let his temple be sacrificed on a cross for your sins.
Apart from that, don't listen to anybody who will tell you that you will be spared the coming judgment of God. I don't care if you're in St. Peter's Cathedral. I don't care if you're in the Temple Mount. I don't care if you're in the Dome of the Rock. I don't care if you found the tree that Christ was crucified on. There is no escaping that judgment. You must know me, and you must humble yourself before who I am, and that is all that matters."
Now what is going to go on is that, just like then, there will be some people who will tell you, "No, we must defend God's name," but what Jesus is about to tell you in Mark 13 in the next coming weeks harmonized with the book of Revelation and 1 and 2 Thessalonians and the book of Daniel is we're going to see all through the Scriptures that Jesus is saying, "Yes, though they destroyed this temple I now dwell in, the body of Christ, I will return."
The study of prophecy which we said last week is the combination of two Greek words, pro and phemi. Phemi is the Greek word which means to declare, and pro is before (to declare beforehand). God is saying, "I'm going to tell you what's going to go down before it goes down, so you might know that I am God.
It ought to produce in you a worship for me; a magnificent obsession with glorifying me with your life; an appetite for God's Word like you've never had before; an ability to trust God in the midst of all kinds of trials, even when your temples and World Trade Centers fall; and a heart for purity that is unmatched. You ought to be certain about the resurrection of the dead, the recompense through judgment, the reward of the faithful, and the return of Christ."
You'd better make sure you hedge your bets and not be so certain, as we talked all last week, about the specific itinerary, arrival and departure dates of Jesus, when these things will be. He tells us these are the things which will be anticipated, but you'd better not stake your claim on the day because no one knows the day, and if anybody says they know the day, you can be pretty sure it isn't the day.
Sooner or later, somebody's going to say it's the day, and they're going to be right just because, every day, somebody says, "It's today," but you'd better back off telling people to sell their homes and to live radically in light of the fact that on September such-and-such, the rapture is going to happen. You need to know something.
The rapture could happen September such-and-such, and the end-times calendar and the birth pangs and the labor pains which will accentuate until (what happens at the end of many birth pangs?) a Son is born, a Son comes. It could happen at any moment, and we ought to live with increasing purity in light of that, but we ought not be too certain about the itinerary of Christ. We ought not be, as we said last week, too sure of the identity of the Antichrist, but you be sure he will come, and God will come.
Now here's what I wanted to do today. In the midst of all this, in response to all this, we have to make sure that we are people who don't take these facts and have our ears tickled but respond lightly. I want to just throw out a very quick little point. An infatuation with our appearance is as futile and foolish as our infatuation with architecture. Let me say that again. Do you remember what I told you the temple in the New Testament was after the destruction of Herod's temple?
It's this one. Do you not know that your body is a temple of God and the Holy Spirit of God dwells in you? Should we care for our bodies? You bet. Should we eat well? You bet. Should we exercise? You bet. Should be make ourselves great because we have beauty that the world rarely sees? Futile. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."
One of my great concerns for this very pretty congregation is that the more pretty ones of us in here care more about this temple than we do the one God who gave us this temple to glorify him with. We are more obsessed with exercise and clothing and makeup and hairstyles than we are with kindness and joy and peace and grace. That's beauty, and there's not a single man or woman in this room who cannot be magnificently obsessed in a way that God says, "That is unbelievable."
Too many of us spend more time getting a Gucci purse than we do getting a Gucci soul, and God says, "That is not the way the people of God should adorn themselves." Are you pretty? Fine. You don't have to go around and scar your face, but don't be obsessed with it, and don't make yourself great with it, and don't use your beauty for your own acclaim.
One of my favorite jokes, if you will… You know, I grew a child of the 1970s, and I saw Dudley Moore see what I saw on that beach in the Caribbean and Bo Derek running in that little buckskin swimsuit. Enough visuals. We saw that movie 10. I had a guy say this to me one time. He goes, "Wagner, what's this?" He goes, "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five." I go, "What's that?" He goes, "That is Bo Derek getting older." That's exactly right. A lot of folks in this room don't even think of Bo Derek because she's no longer the hottie totty of the day.
It's some chick on the E channel, I've heard, and there'll be a day when she'll go from a ten to a nine to an eight to a seven to a six to a five to a four. To be obsessed with our physical beauty is as vain and futile as being obsessed with architecture that can melt in minutes. You take care of your building, and you use your building to honor and worship God, but you'd better not say, "Look how beautiful I am," because God's going to go, "It isn't going to be beautiful for long."
What I want to do… I was going to take you to 2 Peter, and I'm going to save that, and we're going to do a whole week on that next week. In light of this, we'll push everything back one more week, and we'll talk about what I was going to talk about, but I'll close with this concept and this idea then.
Here's the verse, by the way, that accentuates what I was going to say. First Timothy, chapter 4, verse 8: "For bodily discipline is only of little profit…" He doesn't say it's of no profit. You discipline your bodies. That's a good thing. "…but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."
My point here in the context of what I just said is, simply, we ought to care for our bodies. We ought to eat well, exercise right, and dress in such a way that doesn't cause others to stumble, but we ought not to exercise and eat and dress in such a way that we think it is going to make us ultimately great. It's futile, and it's foolish.
One of the things I do every now and then is I play what's called the game of tens, and I'll play it with you right now. I want you go back in your mind, and I want you to name the last ten Heisman Trophy winners. Can you do it? I want you to think about the last ten Sports IllustratedSwimsuit Issue cover girls. Can you do it? I want you to name the last ten Olympic decathlete champions, the greatest athletes in the world. Can you name the last ten? Of course not.
The last ten Super Bowl MVPs, the last ten Miss Americas, the last ten Oscar winners for Best Actress, the last ten Time magazine's man of the year, the last ten homecoming queens at your alma mater… Why do I put that in there? I have friends who are still in high school and college still sitting here, and to you, that's as big a deal as anything, and you're willing to compromise so much of who you are just on the fat chance you might get to be in the little homecoming queen's court and, God forbid, might even be get to be homecoming queen.
It's amazing the things we did in order to be loved by people who, just ten years out of high school, we don't even know half their names, yet we're willing to compromise our testimony and willing to compromise our calling all because it's a big deal to be homecoming queen. We now look back at our little Podunk alma mater, high school or college, and see how futile and foolish that was. How could we have been so immature to be swallowed up in that?
Well, we've just graduated to bigger homecoming queens, and they're listed there for you. To make yourself think that life is great because you might be one of People magazine's sexiest people alive or one of the great powers of the day, Jesus says, "I'm just not impressed." You discipline yourself for something far greater, for godliness which has benefit not just in the present life but also in the life to come.
Here's what we're going to talk about next week. We're going to spend the whole week looking at this in light of last things. The point is simply this. Matter only ultimately matters if the Bible isn't ultimately a matter of fact. What I'm going to make a case for in a very clear way as we teach you the Scriptures on end times is that the things we think matter are not worth a magnificent obsession, and "matter-terialism" is a sign of a godless culture. Let's pray.
Lord, I'm just telling you, Father. I am so easily impressed with temples, whether they're adorned with clothes or adorned with gold and glass. I am easily impressed by titles, and I am a fool, biblically speaking that those things inform my life. We just say, Father, you grab us to your side on this Mount of Olives as we look back over our world and shake us to attention.
Tell us not to be impressed at the fact that, one day, all that we hold dear and great in this world will melt away and be destroyed but to be impressed that the one who spoke this world into existence loves us despite the corruption that is in our temple, our frame, our souls, and we should be impressed that, in the midst of all this, you entered into our pain.
You let your temple be destroyed, knowing that, with the power of your word, you could speak it whole again to show you are not just the God of this world and not just the Savior of this world but the one whom we should fear and the one whom we should live worshiping and responding rightly to.
Father, we confess that we are impressed by temples, and we confess that "matter-terialism," that materialism, has enslaved many of us, and we look to make ourselves great by the things we own and the titles we accomplish and get and the things people say about us. I pray you would correct us in light of ultimate things.
We look forward to this series, and I pray you would pull us as closely as you did the disciples then. I pray we wouldn't delude ourselves into thinking judgment won't come because that's your point: judgment will come, and you prepare yourself for that day, and you live holy in light of the end. In Christ's name, amen.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 13.