Summary: living our lives too far in the future can lead us to neglect life in the now.
Is it just me, or have you also noticed a preoccupation lately with the Biblical Prophesy and Armageddon? Some say it’s because we feel so unsettled during times of war that we can’t resist the temptation to speculate about the end of the age. But I believe that’s been true of Christians for 2,000 years.
The Apostles themselves believed that they were living in the End Times –which explains their delay in writing the Gospels. Each generation since then has wondered if theirs was the one.
When World War I broke out, a Christian leader named C. I. Scofield speculated that it was the start of Armageddon. The same was said during World War II. Even today many view Adolf Hitler as a prototype of the coming Anti-Christ.
During the first Gulf War, it seemed like a meeting had been called, and ministers jointly decided that it was a great time to preach about the End Times. Frankly, I don’t see that it’s changed much even now.
Identifying the “antichrist” seems like a preoccupation of ours for as long as I can remember. Do you remember how Henry Kissinger’s name, if applied to a certain formula, would render the numbers 666? And since the beginning of the nuclear age, speculations have grown exponentially.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think it’s good for Christians to look forward to the second coming. Jesus Christ did promise to return, and times of crisis, especially wars and disasters, remind us of his promise. On the other hand, living our lives too far in the future can lead us to neglect life in the now. Let’s face it, • obsessive living is rarely healthy.
Mark says that, on his way to the Temple, Jesus cursed a fig tree because it failed to produce any figs. I’ve heard it argued that, when Jesus cursed the barren fig tree, he was symbolically judging the Jewish temple. The barren tree was a symbol of the Jewish Temple. Just as the fig tree had leaves but no fruit, so too the temple was impressive looking, but it wasn’t producing the fruit of the Spirit in Israel.
Once Jesus arrived at the Temple, he caused a huge scene by overturning the tables of the money changers and caused the sacrifices to stop for a time. But was He actually cleansing the Temple, or was He judging it? The Temple had, after all, become what God never intended. Therefore, was Jesus preparing the Jews to see himself as the new hope for forgiveness?
After driving them out of the Temple, the religious leaders confronted Jesus and demanded to know the source of His claim to authority. This led to a series of debates, and in each debate Jesus prevailed over the leaders. One was the debate over whether Jews should pay Roman taxes, and another was the debate over which of God’s commandments was the greatest. With each humiliation, the resolve of those leaders to kill Jesus only increased.
It’s worth noting that the common thread in these events from chapter 11 on has been the Temple. In chapter 13 of Mark, Jesus continues talking about the impending doom of the Jewish temple. In fact, I almost titled today’s message “Jesus Christ and the Temple of Doom”, but that did seem a bit much. So instead, I’m going to look at how we can live in the now – as in “Now Living.”
Mark 13:1-13 is the beginning of the longest teaching block in all Mark’s gospel, which should tell us that Mark considers it important. The immediate question is, “What is Jesus talking about here?”
It seems like Jesus starts this sermon talking about one thing – the Temple – and ends it talking about something entirely different – the End of the Age. Because of the proximity of these passages, many readers get confused.
One common argument is that the whole sermon is about the Jewish Revolt and the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The anticipation of this event appears to be where Jesus is going with this, but consider the words of Mark.
Mark says that, as the debates were finished, they left the temple. Then Jesus and his closest disciples went to the Mount of Olives. So was this one continuous conversation?
Remember the temple was massive, possibly the largest and most elaborate religious temple in the entire ancient world at this time. Jesus’ disciples are awestruck by the sight. That led Jesus to predict the temple’s destruction and to say that “not one stone will be left on another.”
In 70 AD, the Roman general Titus and his army totally leveled the temple. The Roman soldiers were led to believe that gold was hidden in the temple. So the soldiers literally tore it apart stone-by-stone looking for the treasure. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that the temple burned for months, until nothing was left but a pile of rubble. So it makes sense that Jesus must’ve been talking about the events of 70 AD. Christian author R. C. Sproul believed that this whole sermon is, therefore, about that future event.