Friday, August 1, 2008

Mark Chapter 13

Everyone wants the inside information on future events. We have reached the point in society where sometimes the hype and build up to an event supersedes the event itself. Anyone who paid attention to ESPN just before the last Super Bowl witnessed this. One would think an event like Jesus’s return, which is now almost 2000 years (and counting) in the making would be built up more, but it is not. We see an intimate portrait of what the disciples themselves were told of the event before Jesus’s death in Mark 13 today. It is certainly not a pretty picture.

5Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. – Mark 13:5-8

We have certainly seen signs of this not only across the centuries since Jesus went to the Cross, but in increasing numbers in more recent times. I once saw a scientific survey stating that the number and amplitude of strong earthquakes have greatly risen in the past two centuries. We have recorded history of earthquakes thanks to the various civilizations that have existed in the last 2,000 years. Their history is spotty, but even taking that into account the number of quakes has risen.

Famines were also more prevalent back in the day, but more dangerous now. In Jesus’ time, the world population was much smaller than it is now. With almost 6.5 billion people on the planet a famine can be much more devastating. Just in my lifetime there have been devastating famines in several parts of Africa, North Korea, and now Syria. Are these definite signs of the end times? Maybe yes, and maybe no. We see in the following verses that this is just window setting, as things get worse.

9"You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13All men will hate you
because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. – Mark 13:9-13

This is very encouraging because even though we will face oppression at the time of the end, the Holy Spirit is promised not to leave us. In this country, those who believe in Christ are often met with general ambivalence. We are not put to death for our beliefs and are free to practice them even if we are put in a bad light. Still, being put in a bad light could just be steps down the road of that coming oppression. We must always remember that God is in control. The end has already been written, and we win.

32"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35"Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!' “ – Mark 13:32-37

This final event in human history will be the greatest vindication the world has ever know. People have lived and died for centuries waiting for this event, and we are given no promise that it will occur in our lifetime, even though some signs are already there. Still, we must be faithful and ready.


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