Summary: Exposition of Mark 13:5-23 regarding Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about the coming tribulation and the last days.
Text: Mark 13:5-23, Title: Signs of the Times, Date/Place: 1/11/09, PM
A. Opening illustration: A priest and a rabbi from local parishes were standing by the side of the road holding up signs. The rabbi’s read, "The End is Near!" The priest, on the other side of the road, held up a sign which read, "Turn before it’s too late!" They planned to hold up their signs to each passing car. "Get a job." The first driver yelled. The second, immediately behind the first, yelled, "Leave us alone you religious freaks"! Shortly, from around the curve, they heard screeching tires and a splash followed by more screeching tires and another splash. The rabbi looked over at his companion and said, "Do you think we should try a different sign"? The other man responded, "Perhaps, ’Bridge Out’ might be better"?
B. Background to passage: do a review slide with variants of premillenialism and a brief timeline of the tribulation period and the rapture. In these verses Jesus begins to answer their questions about the end of the age with signs of cosmic upheaval. The paragraph that begins in verse 24 is the beginnings of the dealings with the coming of the Son of Man after the tribulation (Rev 19), so these verses tonight deal with the tribulation itself.
C. Main thought: To show Jesus’ answer to the signs of the end of the age, related to the tribulation.
A. The Beginning of Sorrows (v. 5-8)
1. As we spoke of last week the bible speaks of a time called the great tribulation. It is a seven year period divided in half in which God will bring about the end of the age. And here in v. 5 Jesus starts to describe what he calls “the beginnings of sorrows,” which is the start of this seven year period. The middle point of this period occurs in v. 14, more on that in a minute. But Jesus here gives five signs that would signal the beginning of the tribulation. Note that none of them is the rapture of the church. Paul has a similar argument giving signs that must precede Christ’s coming for the church. Jesus says that there will be 1) false Christs, deceivers, and religious leaders that come in His name; 2) political turmoil resulting in war and rumors of wars; 3) nations and kingdoms will take up sides against one another; 4) natural disastrous phenomenon such as earthquakes will increase; 5) and famines will be frequent as well. The Matthew text also speaks of pestilences and disease. Then He reminds them, the end is not yet, these are only the beginning of the end.
3. Illustration: (Issue: July 1, 2002) “The Bible & the Apocalypse! Why more Americans are reading and talking about THE END OF THE WORLD!” Nancy Gibbs authored the article entitled: Apocalypse Now. “What do you watch for, when you are watching the news?…For many years the Church and Bible scholars have used the word “Apocalypse” and even said we live in such an age…The article continues by pointing out that even the pre-Christian is thinking about the future. Recent polls suggest that 35% of Americans say they are paying closer attention to news events and how they relate to the coming of the world since the terrorist attacks of September 11th. 17% of Americans believe the end of the world will happen in their lifetime. Father Divine, David Koresh, David Applewhite, Jim Jones, Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church who all actually claim to be Jesus Christ. One Christian leader claims that since 1900, over 1,100 people have claimed to be Christ. Historians all agree that the 20th century was unparalleled in the scale of its human misery created by other humans. No period has witnessed the escalation of wars as has the 20th Century. The Red Cross has estimated that over 100 million people have been killed, The World Almanac tells us that there were only 21 earthquakes of major strength between the years 1000 and 1800. But between 1800 and 1900 there were 18 major earthquakes. In the next 50 years, between 1900 and 1950, there were 33 major quakes, and between 1950 and 1991 there were 93 major earthquakes
4. These signs given are fairly generic, and probably not intentioned to allow us to be very specific. For surely at many points in Christian history these things have been active in the world simultaneously. So does that mean that we are not in the “last days?” No, it is clear from biblical revelation that we are in the last days, as many of the OT and NT writers said explicitly that. And so the point is exactly what Jesus said, these are the beginnings, remember, I have told you beforehand. Jesus does seem to imply that the church would see and be present during this time. Therefore we must be prepared to endure suffering that will come to our world; not as the wrath of God upon us, but as a test of faith and a testimony to the world.