One day a group of old-timers were at the local coffee shop. They were sitting around discussing a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing. After a while the conversation took a serious turn. One spoke up and asked everyone, “What would you do if your doctor said you only had 1 month to live?” The group responded with things like spending time with family, friends, traveling plans, reconciling a few past relationships. One lady, Margaret, had been sitting quietly in the corner. Brother Jack spoke up and asked Margaret the question – “What would you do if your doctor said you only had 1 month to live?” And Margaret responded, “I’d get a second opinion.”
When it comes to discussing ‘End Times’ there are no shortage of opinions as to when it will happen and what will occur. There have been end time predictions literally for centuries. And unfortunately, much of this topic has made for sensationalist entertainment rather than what the Bible actually states. Therefore, if we want to know the truth about the end times we need to get a second opinion and look into the Scriptures.
EXAMINE Mark 13 Gospel: End Times
Jesus’ disciples were still unsure of where Jesus was taking them. They knew they were going to Jerusalem but their perspectives of Jesus as Messiah were being challenged. This chapter opens with Jesus exiting the temple, carrying no small significance. Every move Jesus makes teaches the disciples. On His way to the cross the temple would be left in the past, as Jesus would become the new temple and the once and for all sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 8-10).
The disciples ask further questions about the end times and Mark shares a long discourse of Jesus’ teaching on the subject. Through understanding this text one can discern if they are hearing biblical truth or sensationalist teaching on the end times. Even more, you can apply Jesus’ teachings of living for His kingdom’s mission rather than other religious or worldly goals.
End Times: Kingdom Movement or Cultic Fad?
1) The End Times lead us to focus on people over places (13:1-2).
The setting for Jesus’ end times teaching is him leaving the temple. This is the temple that was build by Herod and known as one of the great Roman architectural wonders. It was built with huge white stones, and according to scholars, which some were thirty seven feet long, twelve feet high and eighteen feet deep. Herod had the temple built as a monument to his power and also in an attempt to gain the support of the Jews. It obviously had impressed the disciples. Yet, Jesus was showing them that the gospel is not limited to a place (Jerusalem) but intended for all peoples.
Jesus teaches this same idea when he speaks with a Samaritan woman.
“the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:21-23; (cf. also Revelation 21:22)
And at his ascension; notice the connection between moving from one place, focusing on spreading the gospel to all peoples and Jesus’ end times return.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. And when he said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:8-11
2) The End Times lead us to focus on proclamation over panic (13:3-20).
Jesus lists several events that will happen before his coming. False Messiah’s, doctrinal deception, war, earthquakes, famine… all are the beginning of birth pains. He goes on to say that Christians will be persecuted and must stand firm in order to proclaim the gospel to all nations.
Most discussion regarding end time events emphasize this panic perspective. Again, it makes for good media as well as relieves Christians from responsibility to endure long-term suffering with the courage to proclaim the gospel.
The Apostle Peter told believers:
“but in your hearts honor Christ as Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect… The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 3:15, 4:7-10)
ð Jesus warns the disciples to be on guard five times (vv.5, 9, 23, 33, 37). Believers needed to be aware of deception coming from panic circumstances and seek to display and declare the gospel of God in all of life’s circumstances.
- When Christians suffer, it is not a time to doubt and stop trusting God. It is a time to seek him, learn from him and worship for his faithfulness and eternal goodness.
ð Our society is filled with uncertainty (economy, war, international affairs, personal relationships, etc.). Are these causing you panic or are you taking advantage of opportunities to speak to those looking for hope and certainty that only God can give?
- Regardless of any uncertainty you face, there is hope because Jesus will return.
3) The End Times lead us to focus on Jesus and His purposes over end time personalities? (13:21-31)
Jesus reminds the disciples of others who would claim to be the Messiah. They cannot be trusted because there is only One who was the Truth, and was resurrected. Likewise, there will only be One who will return with great power and glory to gather his elect from the four winds (all corners of the earth).
Our world is filled with people claiming to ‘deliver and rescue’ our world. Some are in government, some in medicine, and many others in religion. However form of help these may give to people, they are still in need of rescue from sin and judgment. The purpose of Jesus is to gather his people. All throughout history it has been God’s plan to form a people for Himself.
Deuteronomy 7:6-9 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations”
Revelation 21:3b-4 “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In addition to Jesus’ purpose is those who reject Him they will experience judgment.
Revelation 21:6-8 “And he said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
ð We must keep our focus on Jesus. When we see, live, breathe and die Jesus then we are in sync with his purposes of bringing together as many others we can into the Kingdom and snatching them away from satan.
- Focus on Jesus by reading & studying His word
- Focus on Jesus by being with His people
- Focus on Jesus by imitating his life
4) The End Times lead us tofocus on urgency over complacency (13:32-37).
Jesus says he doesn’t know the day or hour of his return. However, this is not an allowance for complacency but for urgency. Since we do not know the time we do not have the privilege of relaxation. Jesus calls his people to stay awake and alert. We are to be like watchmen guarding a house or city from intruders.
A watchman was to be vigilant. God called the prophet Ezekiel to be such:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicket, ‘You shall surely die’, and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:17-19
ð What would you do if you had 1 month to live?
The Reformer, Martin Luther was asked this question. His response was that he would plant a tree and pay his debts. Luther was expressing that regardless if Jesus returns in a month or a millennia, he would live out his faith the same everyday with the intention of influencing those in next generations.
ð Knowing the end times will happen, what trees are you planting? What will be your legacy?
- ROOTED – purpose of series
- Mark 13 (and the entire Gospel) reminds us that Jesus wants our lives to be defined by the gospel so that we display and declare it to others in light of eternity.
 Josephus, Antiquities 15.11.3