Dishman Baptist Church
- Praise To The Lord The Almighty (Praise Be The Lord The Almighty Hallelujah)
- My Heart Is Filled
- Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing
- Good morning and welcome again to Dishman Baptist Church. Please open your Bibles with me back to Mark 13, Mark 13. It is a pleasure to be with you this morning as we worship our glorious and majestic Lord together. If you’re new we’re thankful that you are here and hope that you will take a moment to fill out one of the contact cards in the seat back in front of you. It is our desire to connect with you on a personal level but we also live in a day and age where digital communication is becoming ever more important and that card allows us to collect your information so that we can share information about happenings at the church and events we have coming up. Our main focus here, if this is your first time here, is that Christ would be formed in you and that we would help present you before Him one day mature. One of the primary ways that we seek to accomplish that is through the teaching of His Word.Right now we’re in the middle of one of the most challenging portions of Scripture as Jesus is answering His disciple’s question as to when the destruction of the temple will take place. Last week we looked at the first portion of this passage - verses 3-13 - and saw just how ambiguous the description of events that pointed to these events would be. We recognized that really the descriptions of events that Christ offered could be said of any period in history and thus fixing the moment that He spoke of is impossible.Some of you are aware that I spent a few years in the Navy before becoming a pastor. One of the most dangerous conditions at sea is that of fog and the limitations that it presents to visibility. One of the dangers is that you can often hear things and while they may seem concrete they are often distorted and misinterpreted and so a clear picture of the environment cannot truly be ascertained. To combat this we would station extra watches and be very vigilant to try and determine what was true and what might be false to our ears. And that’s really what Christ exhorted His disciples to in the passages we looked at last week giving them two warning to watch out and to be on your guard - to be vigilant. And then He also gave them the charge to be busy about preaching the Gospel.But sometimes when you’re in a fog bank something emerges from the fog, often suddenly, and there is no mistaking what you are seeing. Notice very quickly the shift in language from verse 7 to the first verse we’re going to be looking at today, verse 14. When you hear - often indistinct and difficult to interpret. Those of you who are married, or have a colleague at work or have any friends may understand how difficult it is to interpret what is being said sometimes. But notice the shift in Christ’s language - He starts off verse 14 “when you see”. It is very difficult to misinterpret what we can see with our own eyes. Christ is now going to provide His disciples with a more definitive answer to their question - even if it raises more questions for us. Let’s read through the text and then see what conclusions we can draw from these important words of Christ here.“When you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be” (let the reader understand), “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. A man on the housetop must not come down or go in to get anything out of his house, and a man in the field must not go back to get his coat. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! “Pray it won’t happen in winter. For those will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of creation until now and never will be again. If the Lord had not cut those days short, no one would be saved. But he cut those days short for the sake of the elect, whom he chose. “Then if anyone tells you, ‘See, here is the Messiah! See, there!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect. And you must watch! I have told you everything in advance. “But in those days, after that tribulation: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. He will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.Regarding this text there are two prevailing points of view regarding what Jesus is saying here. In order for us to understand or come to any sort of understanding ourselves we need to wrestle a bit through these differing points of view. There are those who say that in answering His disciples questions the only focus Jesus has is the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman armies. There are some compelling points to this argument which we will look at in just a moment.The second point of view is that Jesus, while using the destruction of the Temple as an example, is really referring to the much bigger and comprehensive event that is yet to take place at the end of the age. That the destruction of the Temple would serve as a microcosmic example of what a much later event would entail. And there is evidence that this could also be the case.Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones posited a third thought that, rather than an either or proposition, what Christ is teaching here is a both/and. That there are some statements that Christ makes here that are specifically related to the events of 70 A.D. and there are some that are specific to the coming tribulation period. My point of view as I have read and studied this passage in preparation for this morning is that this passage is certainly a both/and proposition and yet the text still presents many challenges to even that point of view.So although there is a moment of clarity at the beginning (meaning that there is a definitive marker that can be watched for) we must admit that we are immediately plunged back into the fog of determining how to understand and interpret not only this passage but the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke as well. We may think we can get close, we may think we can get a good idea but really in the end what we need to determine are the concrete principles that are applicable to all people at all times and accept that we may not know everything.Now before we get too deeply in to all of this it is imperative that we recognize that opinions on this subject vary and it is a subject that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does not address. That document speaking of last things says this “God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.” So there is room for disagreement on this and to still share fellowship with one another.When asked about this topic I generally say, a little tongue in cheek, that I’m a pan-tribulationist…meaning that it will all pan out however it does in the end. I fervently hope for the sake of all believers that the rapture is pretribulation but there seem to be some indications in our text this morning that it could be at some point later. Let’s look at the different points of view and then I’ll tell you why I think that and draw some applications for each of us this morning.Jesus starts off by saying when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be. Now stop there. The abomination of desolation is a term that comes out of the prophecies of Daniel in Daniel 9, 11 and 12. Daniel 9:27 tells of one, the anti-christ or the man of lawlessness as Paul terms him in his second letter to the Thessalonians, who will make a covenant with many (the nation fo Israel) but will break that covenant and stop sacrifices and offerings. And the abomination of desolation will be put on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator. One instance of this taking place was in 168 B.C. when Antiochus IV erected an altar to Zeus on the altar in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar forcing the priests at the time to eat it. But Christ’s reference to it happening again means that that event, while serving as a picture of what would happen, is not the fulfillment of the Daniel 9 passage.A point that we need to understand - just as Mark tells his readers to understand - is a point of grammar that our translation misses a bit. In fact most modern translations miss this point. The reason is that in the Greek the term abomination is a neutral term but the words that Mark writes are “standing where he” meaning that what was actually read was when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he does not belong - our modern translations, in an effort to agree with the grammar, translate the he into the neutral term “it”. It is an important point that should catch our ears and would certainly have caught the ears of the original readers as Mark says “let the reader understand.”There are a few events surrounding the 70 A.D. destruction of the Temple that could be interpreted as the abomination of desolation. The first took place in 67-68 A.D. when zealots took over the temple and installed their own counterfeit priest who offered sacrifices on the altar. In this case the priest himself would have been the abomination of desolation.Another possibility is that he could have been Titus, the Roman general in charge of the forces investing and decimating Jerusalem. He forcefully entered into the Temple complex and his soldiers raised Roman banners over the Temple (which the Jews would have identified as idolatrous) and proclaimed him emperor.The challenge for both of these, and really this term and the understanding of the term is an important key to unlocking the meaning of the whole text, is that neither of them fill the role of the previous description by Daniel. While the events surrounding the zealot’s takeover of the Temple mount does provide the opportunity for the Jewish populace to flee Jerusalem before the Roman army destroyed the Temple and city, there would have been no sense of urgency such as Christ encourages in the verses that follow - don’t take time to do anything…flee.And if the events surrounding Titus’ conquering of the city were the abomination then it would have been too late to flee as the encirclement of Jerusalem would have already happened and there would have been no place to run.Another challenge to these events fulfilling this prophecy is that the Jewish historian Josephus, in chronicling the flight of refugees out of Jerusalem, says that their destination was the city of Pella in the trans-Jordan region which, rather than being the mountains that Christ tells them to flee to, sat 3000 feet below Jerusalem. Another challenge to this admonition pointing to the destruction of Jerusalem is Christ’s statement “pray that it wont happen in winter”. While this may just be an idle statement - Christ was not often given to these - the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus took place in spring and summer of 70.But there are points that do support the idea that Jesus had the destruction of the Temple in mind. Referring to the man on the housetop is a reference to the flat-topped roofs of Palestinian houses. Also the very mention of Judea says that it was this specific location that He had in mind - throughout the book of Mark geographical locations have always pointed to the very area that Mark was writing about. Even the admonition to pray that it doesn’t happen in winter - the southern hemisphere’s winter months are opposite to our own and as Creator of the world Jesus would still have possessed that divine knowledge. Thin as those may be it does point to Christ having a specific area and a specific moment in mind.The evidence that the events of 70 A.D. were just another fuzzy picture of a much later event are more convincing. Even with the weakness exhibited by both Phanni, the priest elevated by the zealots, and Titus representing the abomination of desolation, there are statements by Jesus that point to a later event. As difficult and hard as the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem were - Josephus reports that there were instances of famine, cannibalism and slaughter during the Roman siege of Jerusalem - I think we can say that in more modern times the events surrounding the 20th Century’s Holocaust were worse and that the terms “the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning to creation until now and never will be again” has yet to be fulfilled. That is a scary statement - that there is a day coming when something worse than the Holocaust will happen, not even could happen, but will happen.I’ve already mentioned the challenges of the people fleeing to the city of Pella below Jerusalem rather than the mountains. Jesus makes the statement that if the Lord had not cut those days short - another enigmatic and difficult statement. Again I think this is a poor word choice by the translators. The NASB and the ESV both translate this as “cut the days short” but in either case the days are those that have been inaugurated by the abomination of desolation standing in the place he should not be ushering in this time of tribulation.Another point that supports this indicating something more than just 70 A.D. is the statement that false messiahs and false prophets will arise. Throughout history - just as we looked at last week - false ministers of Christ have arisen. The most convincing points for me are the verses that follow - and you must watch? I have told you everything in advance and that after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, the moon will not shed its light, stars will fall from the sky and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Jesus seems to be telling the disciples of events that they are going to be present to observe and not in the sense of “hey watch these things happen from the sideline or from the safety of Heaven” but more of you are going to be present for these things. Even the statement that these days are cut short for the sake of the elect - in most of scripture that is a term used for the church and those who would believe in Christ. I don’t think, or I don’t see any evidence to suggest that this is only for a portion of the elect (although I admit that it will only be for the portion of the elect alive at the time these events take place) so maybe that’s a bit of a thin example.Well - that’s our introduction.So what does this mean for us? I’m sure it is all completely clear now and all of you have a great idea of what to watch for and how to prepare. But that is not the point - the point that we take away from this text this morning is this - we need to be prepared because the days will be awful, and the danger will be perilous but also rest because the redemption will be sure.The Days Will Be AwfulJesus warns that these days are going to be awful and they are going to be swift - when the abomination of desolation makes himself known the retribution, even if it starts in Judea, will be swift. We need to be prepared - and I’m not talking prepared in some sort of “Red Dawn” driving a 4x4 up into the mountains and living as guerilla warriors kind of prepared. Although there is a bit of that here as Jesus says not even to go get a spare coat, don’t even take time to grab your “go” bag - a bag that we used to keep in Japan when we were stationed there that had all of our families valuable information in it so in case we ever had to evacuate quickly we had it all - just get out. He says woe to those who are pregnant and nursing then - there are stories of women who in trying to keep their babies quiet inadvertently suffocated them while hiding from the nazis.The challenge to travel if it happens in winter is something that is not lost on us here. In Israel winter brings rains which swell the wadis and rivers and make travel more difficult.I already mentioned this but the Holocaust of World War 2 stands as the example of what unjust and difficult suffering can be like - and yet here it is promised that those days of tribulation will be like nothing that has ever been seen. The physical and mental anguish unleashed on the Jewish people and the church (if we’re still here) will be unbearable. And we know that suffering will come. It has been promised. We’re not surprised by that. I think what we have a hard time wrapping our minds around, despite books like the Left Behind series, is just how awful things will get and that we might even be here for it. Yet the physical and mental perils will only be a part of those days.The Days Will Be PerilousJesus said “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.” The true peril of these days will be who to follow. Christ says that there will be false prophets and false messiahs in abundance and the temptation to follow them will be great - they will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray even the elect. Oh - I forgot something - if possible.What a beautiful two word statement from Christ - if possible. Meaning that it is not possible for a true believer to be misled - any more than it was possible for Christ to sin when tempted in the desert, it is not possible for a true believer in Christ, for one who is elected, chosen by Him to be led astray. But it makes it even more incumbent on us to ensure that we are in the faith, too, as Peter writes, make our calling and election sure. We need to be secure in our faith in Him and to know that, if we have confessed our sins and put our faith in Him then we are secure in His hands.Jesus says that it is for our sake that those days will be cut short - that even as awful and perilous as those days will be that God is still in control and still sovereignly directing them. Which leads to my final point.The Redemption Will Be SureNo matter when it happens - whether it is before the tribulation starts or at some point after - Christ is going to return. He promises it here in verse 26 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. He will send out angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”No matter how bad those days may be for us - He will be coming to get us. And whether we are called from the corners of Heaven or the ends of the earth we will meet Him in the sky.Christian do you rest in that truth today? This was a hard week if you follow the news. There was little to draw any positives from but that’s not where we put our hope. We are citizens of a higher Kingdom.Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4 “For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”ConclusionWhat does all of this mean? It means that no man knows the day or the hour of His return. Matthew, in his Gospel’s rendition of these words of Christ, orders this passage before the passage where one will be taken and the other left - but does that mean that the rapture will happen after these events? Honestly I don’t know. So what are we to do? I think we train for the worst and hope for the best. We train ourselves in Godly living and determine within our own hearts and minds that we will remain faithful when all others fall away - and then rely on Him to keep us there. That is not something that we can accomplish on our own - look at Peter. Even Paul, when he stood before the emperor says in 2 Timothy 4 “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it…the Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.”The other thing we do is we prepare our families and - most importantly - our children for the possibility that suffering may come to them, that tribulation may come to them during their lifetimes. The world is not getting better. And no - the abomination of desolation has not happened yet…even if the left thinks that it is the presence of rioters in the capitol and the right thinks that it is Mike Pence certifying the election - it has not happened yet. But the times are not getting better and I don’t think we will see them improve…Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians that the man of lawlessness must come and that some restraining factor must be removed. Whether that is the church or the Holy Spirit’s influence - once that influence is removed he will be revealed and all of these things must happen. All in God’s timing though - and we can do two things…prepare ourselves and our families and preach the Gospel to a world that needs to hear it until we are no longer able.
- God My Rock
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