Summary: As we approach the time of the end, Jesus calls us to be aware of the signs and be alert to His coming.
To start a discussion on core values, a youth pastor in Saskatchewan, Canada, asked his youth group: “What would you do if your doctor told you that you had only 24 hours to live?” The students talked about being with friends and family, and the discussion seemed headed in the right direction. But then, Jason, a 13-year-old student said “I'd get a second opinion.” (Donna Spratt, Melfort, Saskatchewan, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader)
I like Jason’s answer the best, because distressing news always warrants a second opinion or another perspective. It helps us handle the situation wisely.
My friends, we are hearing a lot of distressing news these days, and many people are content just to pay attention to the news commentators and simply get a human perspective on things. As a result they are stressed, distressed, and often deceived.
But there is a second opinion available to the believer in Christ. It’s a divine perspective on world events that helps us not only survive, but thrive, in these dangerous times.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 13, Mark 13, where Jesus, in one of his farewell addresses to his disciples, gives them (and us) a divine perspective on the difficult days that are ahead, especially as we near the end of this age.
Mark 13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (ESV)
Now, this temple was built with huge, white boulders (taller than I am and nearly 10-12 feet wide). They were polished smooth and generously decorated with gold (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews 15.11.3-7). Herod was building this as a lasting monument to himself while trying to win the hearts of the Jewish people. So this temple was massive, covering about 1/6 of the old city of Jerusalem. If anything spoke of permanence, Herod’s magnificent temple in Jerusalem did, and it greatly impressed Jesus’ disciples.
Mark 13:2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (ESV)
Such a thing was inconceivable in the Jewish mind unless it was the end of the world as we know it. So…
Mark 13:3-4 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (ESV)
These disciples were really asking Jesus about when the end of the world (as we know it) would come and the signs preceding that end.
Now, the Bible in other places describes the end of the age as a 7-year tribulation period when terrible things will happen all over the world (Daniel 9:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 6-19). There will be huge, natural disasters, war and starvation everywhere, and a tyrant ruling the world before the end comes.
So the disciples ask Jesus 2 questions about these end times: When will it happen, and what are the signs. Well, Jesus answers those questions in reverse order. 1st, He talks about the signs of the end and warns us to…
To watch for the signs. To pay attention to the signals that mark the end of the age.
Mark 13:5-6 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. (ESV)
We’re to watch so we’re not deceived, and we’re to watch so we’re not distressed either.
Mark 13:7-8 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. (ESV)
Jesus says watch for the signs of the beginning of the end. Just like a woman about to give birth, there will be some tremors or contractions to start with. False Christ’s will appear. Wars will increase and so will earthquakes and famines.
It seems like every month we hear about a major earthquake or two around the world. Actually, the USGS expects about 18 major earthquakes a year (i.e., those that measure 7.0 or greater on the Richter scale). The world is certainly at war with the fear of a terrorist attack around every corner, and people are starving even right here in the United States of America. Even so, there are a lot of politicians who claim to have the answer. Like “mini messiah’s” they promise to change things for the better and save the world.