Summary: This sermon motivates, encourages, and challenges God's people to prepare for the second coming of Christ.
A man by the name Harold Camping who was the president of the Family Radio Christian network claimed that the rapture and judgment day would take place on May 21, 2011. Further, he stated that the world would end five months later on October 21, 2011. His supporters claimed that more than 200 million (20 crores) people would be raptured on May 21, 2011. Some of his supporters believed Camping’s prophecy and used all their life savings to publicize the prophecy. His organization spent more than 700 crore rupees for an information campaign, which includes advertising through billboards.
As it is evident, his false prophecy failed as no one was raptured on May 21, 2011. Then, Camping said that May 21 had been a “spiritual” day of judgment and he went on to say that the physical rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the destruction of the entire universe. Obviously, that didn’t happen as well. In fact, 5 days before his so-called prophecy would be fulfilled, on October 16, 2011, Camping admitted that he didn’t know when the end would come. In March 2012, he acknowledged that his attempt to set the date for Christ’s coming was “sinful.”
In human history, several people set the dates for Christ’s coming. But all those prophecies and predictions turned out to be false. In today’s text, Jesus says that instead of focusing on the date of his coming, we must focus on our spiritual lives so that we can be ready when he comes back. Would you take God’s Word and turn your Bibles with me to Matrk13:28-37?
I have entitled today’s sermon as: “Stay Awake!”
In the passage that we read today, we see that Jesus tells his disciples to stay awake as the destruction of the temple is imminent and the exact time of his coming is unknown.
1. The Lesson from the Fig Tree (Mark 13:28-31).
Scholars believe that Mark 13:28-31 refers to the fall of Jerusalem as mentioned in Mark 13:5-13 because of the use of the phrase, “these things.” If you remember, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple in Mark 13:1-2.
In Mark 13:4, his disciples ask: “Tell us, when will these things be?” Jesus says that the sufferings at the fall of Jerusalem are just the beginning: “These are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Mark 13:8). Since Jesus again speaks of “these things,” scholars believe that Jesus is referring to the destruction of the temple rather than the end of the age which he spoke about in Mark 13:14-27. Mark 13:24-27 talks about the end itself; whereas, Mark 13:29-30 talk about the signs of the end.
a. Jesus teaches a lesson from the fig tree (Mark 13:28-29).
The fig tree loses its leaves in winter and just before summer, the branch grows tender with buds. When Jesus spoke these words before the Passover, the branches were tender and the leaves were sprouting.
“These things” in verse 29 refers to the beginning of the birth pains mentioned in Mark 13:8, the events mentioned in Mark 13:5-13. The fig tree teaches that the destruction of the temple is at hand. In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus cursed the fig tree, which symbolized the destruction of the temple. Jesus’ contemporaries would witness the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
b. Jesus promises that his words will be fulfilled (Mark 13:30-31).
Some think that Jesus was mistaken when he said that “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:30). They say that Jesus never came back during his generation and thus his prophecy failed. However, as mentioned earlier, here Jesus is referring to the destruction of the temple and not to his second coming. In the Bible, a generation is about 40 years. Jesus spoke these words around 30 AD and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, eventually fulfilling his prophecy that his generation will not pass away without seeing the fulfillment of his words.
Verse 31 points back to Mark 13:24-25: 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken." In verse 31, Jesus claims what God alone can claim.
Psalm 102:25-27: 25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
Isaiah 40:7-8: 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.