Posts Tagged 'future'

Things To Come

untitled(3)

Jesus made several trips to Jerusalem during His ministry on Earth, but Mark records just one, and Mark 11 and 12 describe our Lord’s actions and teachings in Jerusalem and around the Temple. The Jerusalem we read about in these two chapters of Mark is a dark and dangerous city. Jerusalem had become a hotbed of hostility and unbelief. Like the prophets before Him, Jesus experienced the constant hostility of the city’s religious and political leaders.

Throughout Mark 11 and 12 we witness what happens to a community, Jerusalem in this case, when it fails to fully realize its calling to follow the Word and the will of God. There is a breakdown in society and culture and especially of religion. This is shown in Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, which had been turned into “den of robbers” by the religious elite. Most preachers and Bible students like to talk about the righteous anger of Jesus when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers, but Mark wants his readers to understand Jesus didn’t do these things because He was angry. It was a form of judgment. He had previously cursed an unproductive fig tree (Israel) and would tell a parable about the destruction of the tenants of a vineyard who were also unproductive (Israel). These three incidents show that God takes seriously the moral and spiritual conduct of a nation, and they set up Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13.

A change of scene, same teaching Mark 13:1 – 4

As he was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, what beautiful buildings these are! Look at the decorated stonework on the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look! For not one stone will be left upon another, except as ruins.” (Mark 13:1, 2 TLB)

As Jesus and His disciples left the Temple grounds, the disciples couldn’t help but comment on the greatness of the architecture. You and I have no concept of how beautiful Herod’s Temple was. Apparently it was truly a magnificent structure that literally took the breath away. That makes Jesus’ statement all the more startling. On that beautiful day, how could the apostles imagine a day when that great Temple, not even finished yet, would lay in ruins? How would it even be possible to topple the massive stones used in the Temple’s construction?

What Jesus said was startling, but it shouldn’t have been surprising. The prophets had already written about the very thing Jesus was talking to His disciples about this day.

It is because of you that Jerusalem will be plowed like a field and become a heap of rubble; the mountaintop where the Temple stands will be overgrown with brush. (Micah 3:13 TLB)

But Mark, far from writing like an ignorant fisherman, wrote like a theologian. He made it very clear that the coming destruction would be a direct judgment of God. George Beasley-Murray in his work, Jesus and the Last Days, wrote:

Mark’s setting of the prophecy at this point inevitably confirms the impression that the ruin of the Temple is the divinely ordained judgment upon Israel for its rejection of the Word of God brought by Jesus.

The judgment of God upon His people as predicted by Jesus was absolute. Josephus, our go-to Jewish historian wrote about the destruction of Israel and the Temple by Titus in 70 AD:

Caesar ordered the whole city and the Temple to be razed to the ground…the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited.

Make no mistake: Caesar was angry with the Jews. But he was only a tool in the hands of God as He executed His judgment upon His people.

Don’t be misled; remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop he sows! (Galatians 6:7 TLB)

The disciples asked Jesus two questions that are the key to understanding Mark 13 and our future.

And as he sat on the slopes of the Mount of Olives across the valley from Jerusalem, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got alone with him and asked him, “Just when is all this going to happen to the Temple? Will there be some warning ahead of time?” (Mark 13:3, 4 TLB)

Two streams, one destiny

Mark 13, along with Matthew 24, are difficult for modern Bible readers to understand. There is a lot of Jewish apocalyptic language used that would have been easily understood by the disciples that we miss. And there are really two levels of prophecy in Mark 13: prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (fulfilled in 70 AD) and prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ (not yet fulfilled). These are interwoven, spoken in the same breath. Some were fulfilled in 70 AD, some will be fulfilled in our future, and others had a partial fulfillment in 70 AD but will be fully fulfilled at the Second Coming.

Let’s look at the disciple’s questions.

Will there be some warning ahead of time?

Naturally the disciples wanted to know about signs. Lots of Jews wanted to know about signs. Previously the Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus and He refused. But the disciples asked for signs and our Lord answered their request.

The signs Jesus gives He treats like one, long continuous sign from His time, through our time, into the Tribulation, and ending when He returns. There will be:

False teachers, vs. 5, 6.

These will be people supposedly preaching the truth, but they will be preaching lies; they will be preaching their own brand of theology that has little or nothing to do with the Bible.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible wrath of God is upon all those who do them. Don’t even associate with such people. (Ephesians 5:6, 7 TLB)

There have always been false teachers, by the way. They aren’t an invention of a liberal church in America. Although you could say liberal evangelicals have perfected the art of false teaching. False teachers were the bane of Paul’s existence and were the main reason why he wrote some of his letters. These false teachers claimed to be messengers from God but were really anything but. Their purpose was to lead gullible and ignorant believers astray.  That’s the purpose of all false teachers, of all time.

Wars and rumors of wars, vs. 7

And wars will break out near and far, but this is not the signal of the end-time. (TLB)

Again, just like false teachers have always been around, there have always been wars going on all over the earth. In point of fact, peace is the exception, not the norm in most places. Wars actually serve a very useful function: they bear testimony to the fact that Prince of Peace has not yet established His kingdom on earth. There was plenty destruction and violence leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, yet during the years just prior to the return of Christ, conditions on earth will have degenerated drastically, as sinful man casts off all restraints and the Lord allows him to do so.

Natural disasters, vs. 8

...there will be earthquakes in many lands, and famines.

When we read in Revelation about the strange events taking place on earth during the Tribulation, it’s easy to understand why there will be an increase in things like earthquake and famines.

Hatred for His sake, vs. 9 – 13

You will be dragged before the courts, and beaten in the synagogues, and accused before governors and kings of being my followers. This is your opportunity to tell them the Good News. (Mark 13:9 TLB)

We know this happened in the early chapters of Acts, and in various parts of the world Christians have been “dragged before the courts” since the book of Acts. It’s hard to believe that Christians are being sued and fined outrageous amounts on account of their faith in America, but this “soft tyranny” against believers is becoming all-too common in this land of the not-so-free-anymore.

Natural affection perverted, vs. 12

Brothers will betray each other to death, fathers will betray their own children, and children will betray their parents to be killed.

This must surely be the most heartbreaking sign of all. Not only will Christians face hostile courts, councils, synagogues, politicians, beatings, and other persecution, they will also experience hostility from their own families.

Don’t trust anyone, not your best friend—not even your wife! For the son despises his father; the daughter defies her mother; the bride curses her mother-in-law. Yes, a man’s enemies will be found in his own home. (Micah 6:5, 6 TLB)

How is this even possible? Matthew gives us the answer:

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… (Matthew 24:10 NIV)

Deceitful workers of wonders, vs. 22

For there will be many false Messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children.

False teachers are one thing, but false teachers that seem to be able to work supernatural wonders are something else. Demon possessed preachers and religious leaders, claiming to do the work of Christ, will cause even believers to fall away from the true faith.

Changes in the material universe, vs. 24

After the tribulation ends, then the sun will grow dim and the moon will not shine, and the stars will fall—the heavens will convulse.

These verses have traditionally been regarded a description of what will happen in the sky just prior to the glorious appearing of the Messiah. Bible scholars are divided as to how literally to take this verse and verses like it. One thing is certain, though, the coming into our world of the Messiah and His kingdom will be a cataclysmic event.

When is all this going to happen?

Contextually, the disciples were wondering when the Temple was going to be destroyed. Jesus, in He giving His answer, answers that question but then proceeds to talk about His Second Coming.

Nobody knows for sure, vs. 32

However, no one, not even the angels in heaven, nor I myself, knows the day or hour when these things will happen; only the Father knows.

As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of Christ be. The fact of the coming flood was preached by Noah for two hundred years as he built his ark, but nobody, not even Noah, knew when the time would come to shut the door.

The fact of Jesus’ Second Coming cannot be denied. The Old Testament prophets saw it, Jesus talked about it, and the New Testament predicts it. It will happen; He will come again.

The Gospel will be preached, vs. 10

And the Good News must first be made known in every nation before the end-time finally comes.

This is a sign but also a condition to be fulfilled. When the last person on earth has heard the Gospel, the time will have come to Jesus to come back.

The abomination of desolation will be set up, vs. 14

When you see the horrible thing standing in the Temple—reader, pay attention!—flee, if you can, to the Judean hills.

This prediction is found in Daniel 9 and was previously fulfilled in Jewish history, but it will happen one more time just prior to the Second Coming.

Jesus’ advice

Our Lord had given His disciples a lot to think about. And we have a lot to think about, too. Jesus is coming again. We don’t know when it will happen. But one thing is certain: we are to be ready. There is no room for apathy, indifference, or unbelief in the Church regarding this. Jesus’ advice to His disciples is His advice to us, today.

First, we are to trust Him.

Take care! I have warned you! (Mark 13:23 TLB)

Indeed He has. There are no surprises. Jesus has warned us that things will get worse and worse in our world before He returns. We shouldn’t be shocked or surprised when we see Christians persecuted anywhere in the world, even here in America. But we need to trust Him.

Second, we need to be watchful. Three times in verses 33 – 37 He urged His followers to be watchful; to keep their eyes open; to be alert. Jesus hasn’t left us in the dark. He has told us everything we need to know. Our job now is to be wise; to be spiritually wide awake.

Third, we are to pray.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:33 AV)

The one who is watching and paying attention to the signs will also be an intercessor. Don’t become discouraged or disheartened about the state of our country or of the world. Pray! Watch and pray! Faith in His coming should lead to a better, more spiritual life.

Paul, who knew the Lord could come at any time, gave the best piece of advice:

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good. Ephesians 5:15, 16 TLB)

The Futility of Fear, 1

C2976585-1400178209201015large

Don’t Fear the Future

Isaiah 41:13 

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’  (NKJV) 

Fear is a big problem today.  America, once “home of the brave,” has become “home of the fearful.”  We fear everything these days.  We’re afraid of living; we’re afraid of dying.  We’re afraid of warm weather; we’re afraid of cold weather. We’re afraid of driving our cars; we’re afraid of riding our bikes.  We’re afraid of eating too much; we’re afraid of eating too little.  Honestly, we have become a nation in desperate need to getting a grip!

The Bible has a lot to say about fear and the need to “fear not.”  It’s important for Christians to understand that the opposite of fear is faith.  We are called to have faith, not fear.  Fear not only robs us of joy and the anticipation of all that life has to offer, it’s also a sin; it shows that in spite of what we may say, when the rubber hits the road, we just don’t trust the Lord.

Let’s take a look at our very first “fear not” and discover that as far as the future is concerned, God’s got it all under control.

The setting 

Our “fear not” occurs in verse 13, but verse 13 doesn’t occur in a vacuum.  We need to establish the context—what was going on that necessitated God telling His people not to fear.

In chapter 41, God’s attention is on the idolatrous nations surrounding Israel.

“Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength!  Let them come near, then let them speak; let us come near together for judgment.”  (Isaiah 41:1  NKJV)

That’s quite a contrast with the last verse of chapter 40:

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31  NKJV) 

The promise of renewed strength was for the people of God, and the nations surrounding them were warned to leave His people alone; to let them rest and get strong once again.  It’s helpful to remember that this prophecy has to do primarily with the deliverance of Israel from Babylon.  Even though this whole address was to the nations, the message was really intended for Israel to hear.  God wanted to encourage His discouraged people; they needed to know that He had not abandoned them and that He would renew their strength.  The gods of all those heathen nations were impotent.

A human deliverer, 2—4 

“Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet?  Who gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?  Who gave them as the dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow?  Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet?  Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?  ‘I, the Lord, am the first; and with the last I am He.’ ” (NKJV)

The Lord, the Righteous Judge in the courtroom of the universe, directs the attention of all these heathen nations (and the attention of Israel) to Himself, as the great Sovereign of this world and the Author of its history.

The identity of this “one from the east” is unknown.  Some have thought God is referring to Abraham, but that seems unlikely.  More likely, God is actually referring to Cyrus, one whom God would raise up to fulfill His purpose for His people.  Here we see the absolute sovereignty of God in action.  Cyrus would be God’s instrument of deliverance.  God would choose His deliverer.  Cyrus was the right man at the right time and it was by God’s design.  He may not have been the man the Jews would have chosen, but he was born for this purpose:  to deliver God’s people from their Babylonian captivity.

Verse 4 is a statement of God’s sovereignty over history.  From the beginning of time, God is the One behind the ebb and flow of the history of the nations of our world.  Earthly kings, prime ministers, and presidents only think they are in control.  It is really God calling the shots.

What is true of the world is true of your life.  If God can keep this world on course, do you think He’s incapable of managing the comparatively puny affairs of your life?

The arrogance of man, verses 5—7 

The coastlands saw it and feared, the ends of the earth were afraid; they drew near and came.  Everyone helped his neighbor, and said to his brother, “Be of good courage!”  So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; he who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for the soldering”; then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.

All these nations were aware of Cyrus; they could see his armies on the move.  The “coastlands” were afraid of him.  All these nations were coming together in fear and turning to their idols for strength.  Perhaps they were making a new idol to deal with Cyrus.  In their superstition, they met together—all the scientists and political leaders and religious leaders and came to a consensus, honestly thinking they could stop God from accomplishing His will for His people.  And in a deft touch of irony, the idol had to be nailed together so as not to fall over.  The twilight of the gods had come!  In an atmosphere of panic, these arrogant, thoughtless nations discovered Dutch courage.  They had deluded themselves into thinking another god—or more gods—could save them.  But that kind of thinking is just plain vanity.

Indeed they are all worthless; their works are nothing; their molded images are wind and confusion.  (Isaiah 41:29  NKJV) 

Hope for the future, grounded in the past, verses 8—10 

“But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham my friend.  You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”  (NKJV)

During Cyrus’ day, the Jews were living and many were prospering in Babylon.  It wasn’t home, but many had built lives and were doing well.  But now, Cyrus’ Babylon is being threatened by outside forces.  In time, Cyrus would fall, as all political leaders do.  The fear the surrounding nations felt for Cyrus was creeping through Babylon.  The exiles, far from home for decades, were now facing the possibility that they would lose their homes in Babylon.  Fear and uncertainty were on the rise.  God reassured them that their future was in His hand, and He did this by pointing to the past.

In spite of its present exile, the election of Israel through Abraham guaranteed that Israel would prevail no matter what was happening or would happen.  God chose Israel for a purpose and that purpose had nothing to do with being lost forever in exile!  God chose Israel and set Israel apart from all the nations on earth to serve Him, and that’s why they would have a future.

Recall the words of the old song:

He didn’t bring us this far to leave us
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown
He didn’t build His home in us to move away
He didn’t lift us up to let us down. 
 
There are some promises in a letter
Written a long, long time ago
They’re not getting older, they’re getting better
Because He still wants us to know.
 
I read those promises in His letter
And now I claim them for my own
Filling my heart and making life better
And I just wanted you to know. 

As Christians, we are not Israel.  Their future is not ours.  But, like Israel, we have been called and set apart and God has a purpose for each one of us.  Our future is assured because, like Israel, we have a job to do and a purpose to fulfill.  God didn’t save us to just let us struggle in fear.  God didn’t call us to Himself then hide, like He’s playing some kind of game on us!

God is not afar off.  Someone put it like this:

No distant God have we,
Who loves afar to be!
Made flesh for me,
He cannot rest until He rests in me! 

Seven mercies and blessings of God’s Hand 

God holds us close; His grasp on us is firm.  What does that mean?

  • Salvation, Psalm 18:16 

He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.  (NKJV)

When we read that verse we think about Peter, sinking in the water.  He called out to Jesus to save him and our Lord reached down and grabbed his hand.  It doesn’t matter what those “many waters” in your life may be, God can and He promises to reach down and pull you up out of them.

  • Security, John 10:28 

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  (NKJV)

Nothing can pull us away from Him!  He holds us in a vice-like grip.  He loves us that much—this is what eternal security means.

  • Friendship, Isaiah 41:13 

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

The “right hand” of friendship.  Can you imagine God as your friend?  You can stop imagining it, because He is!  God is your friend and He won’t let you go.  He’s the One you can depend on for all eternity.

  • Confidence, Hebrews 13:5, 6 

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  (NKJV 

What can a mere man do to a child of God?  Now that’s confidence!  And, unfortunately, this is what is missing in so many Christian lives.  So many of us live in fear because our confidence isn’t in the right person!  It must be in God.  Imagine what we could accomplish for Him if we weren’t afraid of offending somebody, or of what so-and-so would say, or of not having the right words.  The Lord is your helper.  You either believe that or you don’t, and if you do, then you’ll live fearlessly.

  • Assistance, Isaiah 41:14 

I will help you,” says the Lord.  (NKJV)

God’s hand is extended to help.  How can we think of failing in His work if He is helping us?

  • Strength, Genesis 49:24 

…the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob… (AV)

Imagine unlimited strength at your disposal!  It’s there; it’s inside of you.  God’s presence in you guarantees that you will have the strength to get His job done.

Conclusion 

God’s people were scattered throughout a godless empire; they were making the best of it, many of them, but it wasn’t home.  Many of these folks felt as though God had abandoned them; that He had forsaken them—or worse, forgotten them.  This may be you.  Maybe your “rough patch” has turned into way of life.  Maybe good times are a dim memory.  Worst of all, maybe you’re riddled with fear—fear of the future; fear of the past.  God wants you set free from those fears.  Fear is a word that should not be a part of any believer’s vocabulary!

 


Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 296,338 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 281 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket