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In this passage, Christ answers the question, "What will happen in the end times?" This message explains many prophetic terms used to describe end times. Knowledge of prophetic terms will give us hope and show us the urgent need to share our Savior with those who do not know Him.
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
Father, thank you for the opportunity we've had already this morning to declare who you are, a God worth worshipping no matter what the circumstance. As we look now at the last things that are going to happen in human history, we see there are going to be some days when it gets far worse than anything we've experienced to this day, and that is humbling.
It can create even fear, but as you've told us, perfect love casts out fear because we know a sovereign one is in control. That doesn't, though, mean there isn't pain, as we lose loved ones, as faithful men and women suffer, as the wicked prosper, as the righteous are persecuted. Would you help us make sense of all that? Would you help us respond the way we should in light of the end? Teach us now and cause us by grace to respond in a way that honors you. In Christ's name, amen.
We are working our way through Mark 13, little by little. It's the time when Christ most specifically responds to the question…What in the world is going to happen in the end? "It looks, Lord, like you're up to something," his Jewish followers said to a Jewish rabbi in view of the destruction of the Jewish temple. "It looks like things aren't going to happen like we Jews thought they were."
Let me capture again with this statement. The nation of Israel, the descendants, physically, of Abraham, are called God's chosen people. The Scriptures give no explanation for why God chose them except for one word. The word is grace, which means he gave them something they did not deserve, which is a relationship with him initiated by his divine grace and goodness and wisdom and love, wherein he drew them to him and decided to bless them as they walked with him.
He even promised them he would send one day a Deliverer, an Anointed One. In Hebrew, you pronounce that Messiah. In Greek, you pronounce it Christ. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus the Anointed One. This Jesus was the one who God said would deliver the people but not just from their political oppressors, because political oppression is never as wearying to the soul as soul oppression, the conviction of the weight of the consequence, especially of rebellion against God, sin, and the wages of it, which is death.
So God sent them the Messiah, and the Scriptures told them what would happen when the Messiah would come. It said he would be afflicted, he would be scorned, he would be rejected by his people, and yet he would be a King. How would this happen, and why? The Scriptures unfold the story. The chosen people would reject the Chosen One who is Mighty God, Isaiah has described him, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father.
They would reject him, and his followers were confused. "Jesus, in light of your rejection, in light of your death, burial, and resurrection and in light of the destruction that is coming upon our land that you just told us about here in Mark chapter 13, when is this all going to work out the way we thought it would work out with you sovereignly entrenched on your throne and us being blessed and prospered by our relationship with you?"
These are Jewish men asking a Jewish Messiah about the future of a Jewish state that from the beginning, God told these Jews that through them, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. How so? Through one of the descendants of Abraham who would be the Anointed One who would provide salvation not just for the Jews but for all who came to know the God of the Jews who alone is God. Now there's your Bible.
The details of how that shakes out are where we are, because these men asked Jesus, "Okay, when are these things going to happen and what will be the signs of their coming?" Remember, he describes the beginning of the birth pangs. What are birth pangs? They're labor pains, and they come with increasing intensity and increasing regularity until finally delivery happens and the son arrives. That's what Jesus is alluding to.
Watch this with me. We're going to wrap up where we were last week. We'll pick it up in Mark 13, verse 4 just to remind you of where we were. We'll read for a bit and stop where we stopped last week, tie up some loose ends, and charge on. "'Tell us, when will these things be, 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; there will also be famines.
These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs [labor pains] . But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel[will be preached to all nations through your persecution].
When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and 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.'"
Let me give you an outline through these first 13 verses we looked at last week and remind you what Jesus did in light of the end times. This is basically what Christ said in view of all his history.
He said he thinks the last things that you need to know are not so much the details about when he will return but the details about what you need to be doing until he returns. Let me say that again, because this is the way God responds to us saying, "Hey, man, when's this going to happen? When are we going get to get it on? When are you going to come make it well with our souls?"
He said simply this, "Look, you don't need to know when I'm going to come back and do my job. You just need to be focused on doing yours." I love the statement a guy made one time. He said, "Listen, it's God's job to exalt the humble, and it's your job to be humble." If you try and do God's job, he will do yours, which is to say if you try and exalt yourself, he'll do your job.
To exalt you is his job. To be humble is your job. If you try to exalt yourself, God's job, he'll do your job, which is to humble you. What I'm saying here is basically the same thing. If we try and focus on when God is going to do his job, we'll be so consumed with God doing his job, which is to come back, that we won't do our job. You have many folks who've gotten so wrapped up in biblical prophecy that they have neglected the response of God in the flesh when he was struck with this question.
He said, "Don't get too excited about mapping this thing all out and being on the planning committee. You focus on being a part of the welcoming committee, and just be ready." There are 17 different imperatives, which is to say commands, where he says, "You busy yourself with this, and you do this. You wait. You be ready. You watch. You be faithful. You communicate truth." This was the outline we went through.
We gave it to you with a series of eight different things. Don't be deluded by dopes, who are the false messiahs and teachers who will tell you, "This is what's going to happen. This is where it's going to be. This is who's going to do it. I'm the guy. Follow me." Don't be diverted by disturbances…wars and earthquakes, natural and human invented. Don't be surprised by suffering. It's going to come.
Don't be scared about your speech, what you should say. He says, "Remember that those who destroy the body are not the ones you should fear. You fear the one who can destroy body and soul and cast that soul into hell for eternity." Don't forget who to fear, he would say. Then he would say don't bet on the hour because nobody knows. What I want to do is wrap up two ideas from last week before we pick up the point that we are not to mess around with him, the Antichrist, which is where he comes in verse 14.
What Jesus is going to say in light of the end…now remember this…he is mostly talking to or specifically talking to this group of chosen people who God has a very specific program for that will bless all of us in this room who are non-physical descendants of Abraham, which is to say Gentiles. God has a plan for the nations, plural, not just the nation, singular. What does Israel the nation have to do with the Bible? What do we non-members and citizens of Israel have to do with end times? I'm going to try and unpack that for you today.
I'm going to show you what Jesus had to say that the nation of Israel should do and what that has to say about us and about, frankly, all of biblical interpretation of this genre called prophecy, and there is some debate. I will express my concern about some options. I will share with you our conviction as a body of believers and why that conviction, to the best of our understanding, makes the most sense.
Then we will settle, ultimately, on this: the one thing we know is that he is God and that he has died for us all. Whether he comes before, middle, or after, we know he'll come, and that we cannot budge on. We talked last week about persecution, and we talked about how in this last hundred years, more individuals, men and women, have died for their faith than in the previous 1,900 years combined. That is hard for us in Dallas, Texas, to believe.
Even right now there are millions of Sudanese who are being persecuted by a radical Islamic regime in a physical way. There are millions of people who are persecuted by political and social leaders who will reject anybody who holds to a Judeo-Christian ethic, and specifically those who claim the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.
We experienced some of that persecution, which in light of those who we talked about last week are having their mouths screwed shut while they're being burned at the stake, separated from their family for 20 years, and watching their children murdered and raped in their very presence before they're put to death, the socio-economic consequences and the political consequences of being convicted about who Jesus is, seem awful small, but they are real.
What I want to show you is one little clip from a Chinese pastor who talks about the persecutions he's facing right now in China. I want you to watch, in the midst of being asked, "How can we pray for you?" what his response is. Then I'll share with you some stories about Vietnamese pastors and others who have been part of the persecuted church and what their prayer for us is. Then we'll figure out what it means that those who endure to the end will be saved. Watch this video about one of our brothers in Christ who's been enduring much persecution.
Male VO: In areas around the world where faith in Christ brings persecution, believers count it all joy when they are tested, not because pain and hardship are realities to look forward to but because God can use even suffering to deepen their reliance on him. Nowhere is this joy more evident than on the face of 76-year-old Chinese pastor Samuel Lamb who has served 22 years in prison for preaching the gospel.
Pastor Lamb: Everything is controlled by God.
Male: Here's a man who's in his 70s who still pastors an incredibly large congregation at tremendous inconvenience to himself personally and has spent a good third to a quarter of his life in prison for doing so but continues to have such joy and enthusiasm for the spreading of the gospel, and it was just a tremendous thing to be able to witness.
Male VO: Pastor Lamb's church has thousands of members who meet at various times throughout the week in his modest three-story house. They fill the floors and the hallways, the stairs, and every extra inch of space to worship together and hear Pastor Lamb teach from the Word of God. Before Pastor Lamb was taken to prison in 1958, his church consisted of 400 people. After his release 20 years later, his church had grown to 900 members.
Pastor Lamb: Persecution is good. More persecution, more growing. That's the history of the church.
Male VO: Pastor Lamb has asked the Western church to pray for the church in China.
Pastor Lamb: Pray for new converts. Pray for more strength to stand firm because persecution still is in the air.
[End of Video]
Notice what he asked for. Here's a guy you see has been separated from his family for 20 years and was beaten in jail. This guy, right now, we talked about space problems. He's got a three-story flat where his church meets. Thousands of folks a week cram into his apartment at different times in corridors and different levels where the magnification of his voice is sent down. Here's a guy who said, "Listen, persecution is good. The history of the church shows that persecution causes the gospel to go out."
Why is that? That's because it's exactly what Jesus said would happen. The gospel is going to be preached. Part of the way the gospel is going to be preached is I'm not going to let you, starting with the initial church in Jerusalem, just to stay there because the gospel will start right there with that small band of disciples and the about 120 followers of Christ.
Then as the persecution would come amongst those people from the Roman government and the religious leaders of the Jews who rejected Christ, they would be dispersed. They would leave Jerusalem to the other regions of Judea and then to Samaria, which is a little bit north. Then to the uttermost regions of the earth. God used persecution to drive the gospel out. God uses persecution to further people's conviction that what folks are willing to die for is true.
Sociologists will tell us that it is true that some people will die for a lie. They will die for a lie they believe to be true, but they will tell us that nobody will die for a lie they know is a lie. They're willing to back out at that moment. By the way, Charles Colson, who was legal counsel to President Nixon, kind of his hatchet man, and we know now most famously for his involvement with inmates.
When he served time for the Watergate debacle, Colson wrote a book when he came to know Christ, and the book was called Loving God. In that book, he has a chapter that talks about how there were only four or five men in the entire world who knew the truth about Watergate. He said, "We, all we had to do was, the four or five of us, keep our story together and keep ourselves consistent and perpetrate the lie, and we could hold onto the pinnacle of power." He said, "There was so much insecurity in the midst of us that we couldn't do that."
He said, "Now reverse that. Here you have 11 men, 12 once Matthias is appointed to replace Judas. Those men aren't holding on to a story in order to maintain power. They're holding onto a story that's going to guarantee their execution and death." He said, "Not one of them caved."
One of Colson's most convincing arguments for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is he's saying, "There's no way all these men and the myriads of others around them who saw the risen Lord would have died without a single one of them recanting because men don't do that." He said, "The reason they didn't back off was because they had seen the risen Lord and they knew there was nothing these men who would kill them could do that would ultimately affect their relationship with God."
They say what Paul said, "For me to die is gain. So kill me if you will. I'll just go to be with my Lord, and he will return me to a place of hope just the way his Son, our Messiah, was the firstfruits," in other words, the first one to come from the grave.
I had a sweet young lady actually from South Africa who worships with us come up to me after the service last week. She came up to me, and she was visibly shaken a little bit because we talked a lot about the persecutions that are going on around the world. She looked at me, and she said, "What must I do? I mean, what should I do? Please tell me." Because I had made the observation that if God expects us to be faithful even in the midst of persecution, what do you think he expects us to do in a time of peace?
She said, "Tell me what to do, and I'll do it," because she was moved the way all of us ought to be moved towards faithfulness. Here's, basically, what I shared with her. I said, "Listen, don't punish yourself that you're not being persecuted at this particular moment. Or don't feel guilty," this is the way I said it. "Don't feel guilty that you're not the one suffering or facing persecution but do feel obligated to take advantage of your freedom to be as bold and faithful as possible." That's the idea.
When you heard Pastor Lamb be asked, "What in the world should we do to pray for you?" He said, "Don't pray the persecution stops. Pray that our faithfulness will continue." Vietnamese pastors have said the same thing: "Persecution is gripping our people and showing them that what they know to be true, the Spirit of God holds and sustains them. Others see the way we're willing to live in the midst of much suffering."
They go, "These men must know something true. There must be something supernatural that is allowing them to hold to the faith through the mist of this." Adoniram Judson was the very first American missionary to be sent back overseas. With the Pilgrims and all the coming of the Puritan people and faith being brought to this country first to the Native American people and spreading with other immigrants who came here.
The very first one to go back was a man who rejected the faith over here and pursued atheism for a while, but God drew him back. This man went to Burma as an American missionary, the very first known American missionary to go back to another part of the world. He was beaten, and his hands were mutilated. He was released from prison, and he stood before the king of Burma. The king of Burma listened to him, and he said, "King, I'm asking you for permission to go and speak to your people and tell them about the love of Jesus Christ."
The King looked at this man and said, "I would let a thousand men go and share Christ with my people, but not you. Because my people are not so foolish as to listen to your stories, but they're also not so foolish as to ignore your hands." Which is his way of saying, "Adoniram, you can send whomever you want, but you're not going to go because my people will see your hands and they'll wonder why you, a man living in comfort in the West, would come over here and suffer persecution of mutilation just to take something to them. They will know it's true if they see you."
See, God uses persecution and our ability to persevere through that. Some of us… Can I tell you guys something? This seems almost like a mockery to have to mention it in light of some of the stuff I talked about last week and with Adoniram Judson I just mentioned today. Some of us can't even handle the loss of a potential dating opportunity because of our faith.
If you would look at that attractive person not just physically but emotionally, that you really go, "Wow, they're a wonderful, seem to be a nice individual." The Scriptures make it very clear that we're not to try and pursue a relationship and be yoked with somebody who hasn't yet understood what the beginning of wisdom is, which is the knowledge and fear of God and a right response to him.
There are individuals in our body who wrestle hugely with the simple suffering of, "The folks who I have an opportunity to date and pursue a relationship with are now limited because I'm gonna hold to this conviction." We don't even believe our faith enough to know God will take care of us if we don't go ahead and try and maybe date this person.
So that person begins to date you, and they go, "Whatever is significant, it must not be Jesus and his relationship with his followers because you and I both know you should not be pursuing me in the way you are. So whatever your ultimate standard of truth and ethic is, it must not be the Scriptures. Your King must not be Jesus, and he must not be worth following, or you wouldn't be pursuing me."
If they're intellectually honest, they won't say that to you. Because most folks aren't, they want to keep dating you. If they were intellectually honest, they'd lose all respect for your faith when you think a dating relationship with them and the potential of it is more attractive than a sustaining proclamation and trust in Jesus Christ.
Here's one of the things that is absolutely true. Mark 13:13 says, "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."I want to make this very clear. Perseverance is the sign. It is not the source of salvation. What's going on in Mark chapter 13, verse 13? If it's the only verse we had in the Scripture that talked about where salvation came from and what made us individuals who are rightly related to God, it would look like…
"Wow. If you don't make it to the end, ramping up the entire time, becoming bolder and bolder in your faith and never wavering, then we've got a reason to question whether or not you ever knew Christ at all. And how you live your life is, ultimately, what ensures your salvation." If that's the only verse we had in our Bible, it would be possible for us to think that, but as I've mentioned before, and especially when dealing with topics like this, you don't want to ever interpret the clear in light of the unclear. You want to interpret the unclear in light of the clear.
Let me show you some clear verses that make it very obvious that persevering is the sign of our salvation; it's not the source of it. Let me say this. Next week during the baptism, there's not going to be a single person in this room who will be saved because they get baptized. But getting baptized is the very first sign you've been saved.
A person who says, "I will not stand before my friends, and I will not stand before my community, and I will not stand before others that I invite and say, 'Count me with Jesus,'" as a sign of obedience, makes me question their faith, very simply. It just does. Getting baptized does not make God love you any more. It is just the first step of you telling the world, "I love him more than I ever understood that I should or could."
Persevering in that act of obedience does not bring about salvation, but it's the sign not the source of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9, a very familiar verse, makes it very clear. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works…" Or your persevering in the midst of persecution. "…so that no one may boast."
I'm going to read you through Romans 8, and I want you to look at this little section of Scripture. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Which is to say, "Blessed be your name." Which is to say, "It is well with my soul." Though the fig tree does not blossom, though the vine doesn't produce any fruit.
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified."
Notice how it's stated in the past tense. In God's sovereign decree, when you are one of his children, not only does he call you to come into relationship with him, but in his sovereignty, he declares where you will end up. It has nothing to do, if this is true, with how you do between that calling and that justification and your ultimate moment into glory.
This is what the Scriptures anticipate. Having been predestined, called, and justified you will be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. Ultimately, he will bring you to that place where you will be like him. Lest anybody be concerned, he says this: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?** Who will bring a charge against God's elect?"** In other words, who's going to stand and accuse us that we are not faithful enough to be brought into the very presence of holiness?
I talked about that one Filipino pastor who's been a missionary over to Saudi Arabia. When he thought his life was being offered up, all he did is he just prayed out, "God, if this is my moment of truth then let me die as a faithful man, but I ask that you make Lucifer himself carry my body to the gates of heaven and you rebuke him to his face." Satan, whose name means accuser, among other things, will accuse everyone of us.
"How can you believe Wagner will go to heaven? You should see his life. You should see the things that go on the dark recesses of his heart. You should see his attitudes of pride. You should see his arrogance. You should see his failures. You should see his inconsistency. You should see his weakness in the spiritual disciplines. God, how can you call him your man, a man after your own heart? How can you call him holy?"
The answer is going to be, "Hey, Accuser. It has nothing to do with Todd Wagner's life, which by the grace of God is being consistently conformed into a more glorious life. It has, ultimately, to do with Todd Wagner's absolute awareness of his poverty and brokenness and rebellion and need before me, and his dependence upon my provision, Jesus Christ. When I look at Todd, I see that he is atoned for." The word simply means he is covered. "I see the perfection of my Son and not the imperfection of his striving for me."
"Who will bring a charge against God's elect?" Is what Paul writes. "Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." **Now watch this."Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?**
Just as it is written, 'FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced…" Now watch this. "…that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Here's what I'm going to tell you this morning. The expectation of the Scriptures is that those of us who have a genuine faith with Jesus Christ who are indwelt by his Spirit will be given the grace to endure in light of every circumstance and that we will be increasingly glorious and useful to the proclamation of who he is and what he's done until our death. But if we have come to a genuine faith and we err in a moment, or we balk, the question is not, "How do we perform?" The question is, "Who did we trust?"
I want to balance that with the expectation that Jesus says, "You who persevere to the end will be saved." In context, what's really going on in Mark 13 is he's saying, "Those of you who do endure to the end who don't cave, who do not back down, those of you who aren't martyred and who are still alive when the Son of Man comes in his glory, you will be ushered with me into what is called the wedding feast of the lamb.
Or you will be ushered into what is called the millennial reign of Christ. Or you will be ushered into a time of peace and prosperity where you'll be shown not to be a fool but to be first among all who are wise." That's the context of Mark 13. The application for you and me is that, though, we want to continue to persevere to the end. I want to throw this out as a very somber warning. It is not having a said faith that causes you to persevere. It is having a saving faith.
It is not the profession of Jesus Christ that makes us his children. It is the possession of his Spirit, which happens when you in true humility and brokenness turn to him and don't just agree with facts about his person, facts about his activity, but you make a faith decision. I've shared this illustration in some places before, and it's appropriate that I do it again right now to make it very clear.
There are lots of folks, if I ask in this room, "Do you believe this stool exists?" who would say, "Absolutely." I would say, "Do you think that stool could hold you up? If you sat on it?" You would say, "Certainly." If I turned to you personally and said, "Is that still holding you up?" You would have to say at this moment, what? "No, it's not." Why not? Because you're sitting on, trusting in something else.
Everybody in this room acknowledges this stool is worthy of your weight, and it could hold you up, but you're not resting in because you're resting in something else. Some of you, the power of your own legs standing in the back. Others of you, resting in the chair you're sitting in. If this stool is representative of Jesus Christ, having a saving faith is not believing that stool is sufficient and not trusting it could hold you if you sat on it. That is a said faith.
A saving faith is when you get up off what you're trusting in, and you move forward, and you personally say, "I will rest in this and in nothing else." "There is room," Jesus says, "for all to come to rest here. Come all you who are weary of finding rest and other places through your own works, and your own striving and I will give you shâbath. I will give you rest." A saving faith is the moment when you decide that he is your King, that he died for you and there's no other provision except him, and you make that transaction of faith.
You say, "No matter what happens in this world, it will be well with my soul. Because this rock is secure and on that rock, I stand." If you've done that, the Scripture says the first thing you want to do is tell others where you sit in relationship to him. You identify yourself with him through baptism and then through an increasing life of faithfulness. You persevere until the end. You surround yourself with the community of faith who will spur you on to love and good deeds.
Now, Mark 13:14. I'm going to tell you this is where it gets a little sobering. What Jesus, I believe, has been doing to point… Let me take you right back to the context of a Jewish Messiah being asked by Jewish people about the ultimate destruction of a Jewish kingdom, and he reflects now back on a Jewish prophet's words to a Jewish people about the culmination of this Jewish nation.
That is significant because, ultimately, what Christ has been doing right here is describing, I believe, specifically, not just the 2,000 years that have passed between his ascension to heaven and his future arrival on earth. He's describing the last seven years exactly prior to his coming. I'm going to give you some Scripture, and there are hundreds of them, but I'm going to give you the context of a couple of major ones, and I'm going to show you how your Bible works together and tells one story.
We've worked our way down through our outline of Mark chapter 13, and we've just gotten through don't bet on the hour. In other words, don't get too fixated on when he's going to come. Now we're about to come to verse 14 where we see don't mess around with him. Let me read this for you.
In Mark chapter 13, verse 14, he says, "But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION…" I'm going to show you what that is in a moment."…standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that it may not happen in the winter."
Why? Because that would make running to the country that much harder when you leave your home and you go out to the wilderness where you're going to trust that God will miraculously provide for you. Pray it isn't too chilly.
"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, and never will [be again] . " In fact, it's going to be so bad. "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days." Let me tell you what I just read.
There's going to be a time, and it's going to get so bad, as I mentioned just a few short weeks ago, that stuff like the World Trade Center is going to look like a hiccup. There's going to be a time when, I believe, the Holocaust of the Jews is going to not even make the top five. That's six million folks who are descendants physically of Abraham who were God's chosen people who were exterminated by a Nazi madman, and I'm going to tell you that won't register.
As I said before, that's almost blasphemous in terms of political correctness to say that today. But when God talks to his people, the Jews, he's going to say in the last days, that won't even show up. Our friend at channel 8, Valerie Williams, and others who worship here put together a little clip of just some of the things that have happened in the last days, months, years here, and I want you to watch this. I'm going to tell you some of this video is a little bit powerful.
We don't mean to bother you. Just close your eyes. There's a little speaking at the beginning, and the rest is just images. How many folks… I quit watching the news. I don't even watch it anymore because it's so discouraging. All it is, is bad news. Anne Murray wrote a song about that, "We sure could use a little good news today." I'm going to tell you, this news isn't even the bad news. Watch this.
President George W. Bush: For the sake of freedom and peace, if the United Nations will not deal with Saddam Hussein the United States and our friends will.
Male: A huge explosion. Now raining debris on all of us. We'd better get out of the way.
Female: I'm thinking I look like a monster. That's what I was thinking. I can't believe I did that to my beautiful 4-year-old little girl.
Sen. Peter Fitzgerald: I'd say you were a carnival barker except that wouldn't be fair to carnival barkers. A carnie will at least tell you up front that he's running a shell game.
Female: Applied health authorities say that the nation's blood supply is safe. That despite word that an organ donor who received a transfusion may have transmitted West Nile to poor transplant recipients.
Male: The Parker county man has died after being stung several hundred times by bees. Authorities say the bees covered him from the waist up. He died at his home on Monday.
Female: He tells us how weapons with biological warheads were targeted at US cities with smallpox, Ebola, anthrax.
Male: It's a powdered, brownish material, and then it goes into the air very easily.
Bishop Wilton Gregory: From this day forward, no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the Catholic Church in the United States. We bishops apologize to anyone harmed by one of our priests and for our tragically slow response in recognizing the horror of sexual abuse.
Male: You got one two, three, four, five, six fires burning.
[End of Video]
What I want to share with you is it's my humble opinion that those don't even really count as birth pangs. They're not even the birth pangs. In the context of what Jesus is talking about right here, it's specifically a seven-year period where most of this is going to be pulled together. Most of the birth pangs will happen in the first three and a half years of that seven-year period.
Then in verse 14 of Mark chapter 13, he says, "Now when this event happens," which he calls the abomination of desolation. "That's when," he says, "it gets ugly." Now that's ugly. I was thinking about this, this week. All of us have a tendency the older we get to kind of do the old, "Well, when I was a young man." Here I am 40. We all joke about our old man who tells us he walked to school uphill and home uphill in the snow both ways and how awful it was.
Some of y'all know Monty Python has had some role in my life at some point. They did a skit at the Hollywood Bowl called "We Were So Poor," and it has just four men who are up there on that stage. Those four men are drinking some brandy. They go, "Man, can you believe we're here? There was a time when we couldn't have afforded the price of a cup of brandy," and someone said, "Or a cup of tea." Then the next guy says, "A cup of cold tea."
The other guy says, "Without milk or sugar." The other guy says, "Or tea for that matter." The other guy says, "Well, we would have been happy to have in a filthy cup." The other guy said, "We never used to have a cup. We used to have it in rolled up newspaper." The other guy said, "Well, the best we could manage is to stick some cloth and suck on the cloth out of the tea."
They go on and say, "But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor. My dad used to say money doesn't buy you happiness, and he was right. In fact, I remember I used to live in a tiny old house with a great big hole in the roof." The other guy said, "House? You were lucky to have a house. We used to live in one room, all hundred and twenty-six of us with no furniture. Half the floor was missing. We were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling through the hole."
The other guy says, "You were lucky to have a room. We used to have to live in a corridor." The other guy says, "Oh, we used to dream of living in a corridor. We'd have been at a palace if it was a corridor. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We'd get woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us. That was our house." The other guy says, "When I say house, it was only a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarp, but it was a house to us."
The other guy says, "We got evicted from our hole in the ground. We had to go live in a lake." The other guy says, "Well, you were lucky to live in a lake. There were a hundred and sixty of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road." The other guy said, "Cardboard box? You had a cardboard box? You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank.
We used to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down at the mill for 14 hours a day week in and week out. When we'd get home, our dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt." "Luxury," the other guy said. "We used to have to get up out of the lake at three o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for two pence a month, come home and dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle if we were lucky."
"Well, you think that's tough," said the other guy. "We used to have to get up out of our shoebox at twelve o'clock at night, lick the road clean with our tongues. We had a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked 24 hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our dad would slice us in two with a bread knife."
Finally, the last guy says, "I had to get up in the morning at 10 o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed. I'd eat a lump of coal poison to work 29 hours a day down at the mill and pay the mill owner for permission to come to work. And when we got home, our dad would kill us and dance about on our grave singing "Halleluiah." But you try and tell that to young people today, and no one will believe you." They all would go, "Aye, aye," and drink their brandy.
I wanted to bring some levity to this moment, but I also want to tell you something. You know what? You'll never be able to say that to your kids and your grandkids. Because you're lucky, and I'm lucky. I'll tell you; this world is going to continue to spin into darker and darker ways, and the birth pangs will get more intense. Especially as God moves through his prophetic calendar, I'm telling you.
This does not mean that while the church is here, we should lose our passion for being a light. That's what was there at the end and flickering and being salt and preserving the society. Let me explain to you now some prophetic terms that are significant that will explain why our task is so important and why it's going to get worse. Let me walk you through a few little prophetic terms.
I'm going to start with this idea of what's called thesecond advent, which is to say the second coming. Advent, you guys know, when most of us grew up in a home we had Advent wreaths. Advent, it comes from two Latin words ad, which means basically to, and venti, which means to come. So to come. When you celebrate an Advent wreath, you're celebrating the coming of the Messiah, and you light candles anticipating the coming of that day.
The second advent is the second coming of this one who we celebrate having come 2,000 years ago. The second advent is the return of Christ, literally, to earth. It is a movement from heaven to earth. The most frequent mistake of people who are studying the end times is they confuse the second advent with this thing I'm going to talk to you about in a moment called the rapture, which is not a movement from heaven to earth. It is a movement from earth to heaven and explains why things are going to get worse.
The second term you need to know is what's called the millennial reign. It is a thousand-year period where Christ rules on David's throne in Jerusalem. Where Jesus himself, literally, in his glorified, resurrected body will sit in Jerusalem, and as king of Israel, as David was, will reign forever. For a thousand years there, and then the earth will be judged, and the new heavens and new earth will come, and he'll reign, literally, forever. That is your Scriptures.
Here come some other terms that are also very important: first, pre-millennialism. Pre-millennialism is a term that basically is the belief that there will be a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth just like Revelation says, after the second coming, just like Revelation says there will be, and before the final judgment, just like Revelation says there will be, and the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth, just like Revelation says there will be, where the redeemed will live forever.
This is the view that God will do what he said he will do. It's the view that we live now prior to that thousand years. This is the view of the leadership of this church. There are other views I'm going to share with you. I'm going to tell you why I have a problem with these, and I'm going to tell you I think there are genuine believers in Jesus Christ who for the last 1,700 to 1,800 years have believed these other views, and I believe they have opened up Pandora's box.
Here's the primary view. We have many friends in this community hold to this. It is what is called amillennialism. If you have an asexual creature, you have a non-sexual creature. If you have an amillennial being, you have a person who does not believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ. They believe the thousand-year reign of Christ spoken of in Revelation 20 is symbolic and not literally to be fulfilled.
They will not compromise on the deity of Christ. Most of these folks will not compromise on the future judgment of the wicked and the righteous. They will not compromise on the resurrection of the dead, and most of these folks will not compromise on a literal heaven and a literal hell, but what they have done is opened Pandora's box. I'm going to tell you I believe this is the beginning of all liberalism in the church.
Because once you start to go to a place that the Scriptures say this is going to happen and you go, "It's just symbolic. It's not really going to happen," while people of a certain discipline may draw the line and not go beyond that, once you start to establish that it's just up to a group of men in a room who can go, "Well this is literal, and this is not…" Let me throw this out, because when folks ask me, "Do you take your Bible literally?" that's like asking you, "Do you still beat your wife?" There's no way to answer that with a "yes" or "no" answer and win.
So when someone asks me, "Do you read your Bible and take it literally?" My answer is, "I take it correctly," which is to say when there are metaphors, I understand them to be a metaphor. When there is allegory or there is parable, I interpret as a parable. When there is poetry, I take it as poetry. But where it is narrative, I take it for what it should be.
Revelation is a very difficult book to understand, but where it's possible to interpret it literally, I think we ought, first and foremost. I think what some men have done is they look… It started, frankly, the first 150 to 200 years of the church, nobody believed this. Nobody. Then some folks who have been assigned as heretics, and other views of the faith, who were core in some beliefs, but who got out there, and a few others, began to compromise on the literal thousand-year reign of Christ.
They didn't know what to do with it, so they said it's just allegorical. Then a guy who was very influential who wrote much that was good by the name of Augustine of Hippo, a bishop from Northern Africa who was absolutely dead right on in his salvation understanding of who Christ was and how we are drawn into a relationship with him. Augustine basically popularized this amillennial view, and it carried all the way through until much of the Protestant Reformation adopted this view.
There are folks who will tell you that to be Reformed is to be amillennial. That is not correct. To be Reformed is to believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and belief in Christ alone and the Word alone as authoritative. That is Reformed. A Dispensational understanding of a Reformed view is the idea that Israel and the church are distinct and unique, and God will do, literally, what he said he would do with Israel.
I believe when you begin to say God will not literally do for Israel what he said he would do for Israel, you are opening up all liberalism in the church, because you start to say, "This Bible can be understood where I say it should be understood that way," and apart from that you just kind of pick and choose. Most of my close friends who hold this view don't budge on essentials, but they have opened the door.
Just because they draw the line here, why can't the next person step over here and go, "Well, I think heaven is an allegory. I think the resurrection is an allegory," and so on. That's the amillennial view. The post-millennial view is simply this. It believes the second coming will occur after a golden millennial period in which the gospel has been taken and presumably accepted by the entire world.
The way you create a straw man with this view is you say these are people who believe the church will be so effective in its work that Jesus will look from heaven to go, "Man, things are so good down there. Let's go join them." That's the basic straw man you set up to describe them. It's the idea that a golden millennial, and typically they don't think it's a literal thousand-year reign. They think it's the church being effective in the world taking the gospel to the whole nations.
Things will get progressively better, and then Christ will come, and this will become the new heavens and the new earth as the world converts. Let me throw out a few more for you. The next one is the rapture. This is the name given to the event where true followers of Christ, which is to say the true believing church as I've described it, are caught up.
It comes from 1 Thessalonians 4 where the word "caught up" is used in what's called the Latin translation, the LXX. The word in Latin for caught up is rapturo, and we have brought that word across to say rapture. That the church will be caught up to be with Christ in the air. This is a movement from earth to heaven. That's the rapture. It is not the second coming. It precedes the second coming by a little more than seven and some-odd years.
Next, you have this tribulation period. It's a seven-year period immediately following the rapture, preceding the second coming of Christ. It's also called the time of Jacob's distress, and you can find it described in Mark chapter 13, verse 14 and following. Pre-tribulationism is the understanding and the belief that the rapture occurs prior to the seven-year tribulation that precedes the return of Christ to the earth.
Mid-tribulationism, which is also called the pre-wrath position, is the belief that the rapture of the church will happen halfway through the seven-year tribulation period that precedes the millennial reign of Christ. Post-tribulationism is the idea that the rapture occurs at the end of the seven years just before he comes. That we basically go up bounce up and come right back down with him.
Now, let me just tell you something, okay? Any pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, pre-mil, you know… Somebody said one time, and we kind of laugh about it, "I'm just pan-trib." In other words, I believe it's all going to pan out on the end. Okay? Let me say this to you. Part of me wants to get off the planning committee and on the welcoming committee. That's the part of me that should rule my life.
I want to be ready. I want to be watching. I want to be persevering. I want to be declaring the goodness of Jesus Christ and working to be a restraining influence in this world as the Spirit of God dwells in me. But I do have a hard time with folks who are going to start to compromise on some basic issues, and specifically, as Paul said in Romans 11, that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.
To say God will not do with Israel what he said he would do with Israel is to put in jeopardy our entire faith. Amillennialism and post-millennialism are not an option, in my opinion. This idea of a blessed hope, I think, and the understanding of how the Antichrist can come on the scene and what is called the seventieth week of Daniel and how the time of Jacob's distress and the abomination of desolation takes place are best explained by an event called the rapture, which is described in 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 3, and many other places.
Here's basically what I believe will happen. We'll look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 together, and I want you to watch this with me. I take that back. You know what? Because of our hour, what I will do is pick up right here. I'm going to come back next time having defined these terms, and I will explain to you a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial view.
Where the rapture fits in, why we should not budge on it, and why, in the midst of not budging on it, we should love men who have other views and call them to Christ and work with them to preserve the integrity the Scriptures, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, the necessity of Jesus Christ, and the fact that when God is done with his church and when God reconvenes his work with Israel, look out.
In the midst of this, folks, I want to tell you this one thing, and we'll close. What this is all about, and what we'll focus on this again in two weeks is understanding why we, as his blessed people, have hope, and why, in the midst of much travail, we prevail. And why we are serious about declaring the necessity of Jesus so others might miss the hell and the fury that is to come not just on this earth but in the eternity that the God who is sovereign over this earth ensures. He is all you need, and it's him that we focus on. Let's pray.
Father, we want to be humble in our ability to understand your Word. It is difficult. As Peter himself wrote, "Paul has written many things much of which is difficult to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort." You've told us to be diligent, to study the Word and to divide it correctly that we might show herself to be a workman approved who doesn't need to be ashamed.
There are many people in this room who have said they've known you for a long time who are hearing terms today for the first time and who are hearing about the persons and places of Scripture that we will begin now to dive into in detail for the first time. We would have to say we are not workmen who have been diligent and we've, therefore, let others rush onto the scene and tell us things, and we believe the loudest voice.
I pray you'd protect this body from me and from other loud voices, that they would be as the Bereans and study the Scriptures to see if these things were so. The one thing we know, Lord, is you will do your job, and we must do ours. So we come, whatever our understanding is, humbly before you, humble before your Word and our honoring it and the authority that has in our life.
We humble ourselves before your sovereign plan and are thankful we can be a part of restraining evil now and proclaiming your sovereign control over history. In the midst of this, the one thing we can never compromise on is the necessity, sufficiency, efficacy, and centrality of Jesus Christ. I pray this church becomes famous for declaring one thing. That is that he, Jesus Christ, is all people need.
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.