Summary: Jesus gives us key strategies to survive the coming end days.
Those must have been frightening words to hear from their Lord. It’s Jesus’ warning of the coming storm that would return over and over and over again until he returned. Wars have NEVER ceased, persecution has continued, rebellion is still going on.
Much of what Jesus told his disciples would take place in a matter of fifty years. There was a rebellion of the Jews against the Romans and so in 70 AD, Jerusalem was besieged by Titus. They surrounded the city and those inside suffered terrible famine. Jewish historian Josephus was an eyewitness to those times and wrote that parents were stealing food from children, brothers from sisters, neighbors from each other. Those who didn’t die from hunger tried to desert to the Romans only to be arrested, beaten, and crucified. Finally, the Romans were able to destroy the walls of the city and rampage the temple. Not a single stone of the original temple stood after their destruction. It was a horrible horrible time!
And yet, what happened in 70 AD is only a foretaste of the end times. Many times in history we have seen similar atrocities – in Nazi Germany, in Cambodia, Russia, China, and on and on. Jesus said in verse 8: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” Did you hear that? The BEGINNING. We might be complaining now, but things are not going to get better.
Now my purpose this morning in preaching from this text is not to look for the signs of the end times. We could certainly do that and look at many passages to guide us but I simply don’t believe that would be edifying for us this morning. What we need to hear is how to SURVIVE during these end days. What should we do? How can we make it? How can we keep from despairing and living in fear? We must turn to the Words of Jesus!
Winter is coming in Minnesota and you know what that means. Bitter cold – maybe twenty below zero. Possibly lots of snow, drifts, shorter days and longer nights. Many of us take road trips during Christmas to see family and friends and we are warned to be prepared when out on the roads. Pack a blanket, a shovel, a candle, flashlight, extra food, etc. We prepare a survival kit so that if we get caught in a blizzard, we can be safe.
Well, the Lord is telling his people here in the Gospel that a blizzard is coming and we better pack a survival kit or we will be in big trouble! We may not survive! Jesus gives us four elements of that survival kit in Mark 13. What are they? [show a literal survival kit prepared with large label. Inside are the elements of each point. The box is opened and each is revealed at the right moment.]
First of all, BINOCULARS – so that you watch what is going on. Verse 5: “Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many.’” Verse 9: “You must be on your guard.” Verse 22-23: “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect-- if that were possible. So be on your guard;” Again in verse 33: “Be on guard – keep awake!”
The exact same word is used in all these verses – it’s from the word “to see.” (blepete) We must keep our eyes open and see what’s going on around us. Don’t ignore the facts and all that is being said and done around us. The easiest thing to do is to get comfortable and sleep our spiritual lives away resting in all our accomplishments when we should be resting in the completed work of Christ.
Why must we be on the alert? Because if not, we can be deceived and led astray. There are many false teachers who even perform miracles to prove their godliness and if we’re not alert, we will fall for it.
What does it practically mean to be alert? To not sleep through sermons? To watch the news every night and take notes? To read magazines and publications about corruption in the church? These are all good things but the most important way that we stay alert and on the watch is by being people who read and study and are drenched with the Word of God. The Scripture must be our standard for reality, for truth, for what is right and wrong. The moment that we are drawn to a new book, a new teaching, a new movement that departs from scripture is the moment our alert system is down.