Mark 13-14, Psalm 102
I'm currently reading a Christian fiction book while on vacation titled, "On the Mountain of the Lord" co-written by Pastor Ray Bentley (there is a short review and blurb by our pastor, Lloyd Pulley in the book). The main character, Jack, has a vision where an angel, Eliyahu, tells him, "Everyone can see the handwriting on the wall. The whole world knows things do not continue as they were before. Though they may not admit it, everyone knows history is racing toward some sort of climax, but they need it explained. They need to be warned. Everyone can see the writing, but only those like the prophet Daniel who seek to understand the divine plan will be able to interpret the words." There will always be scoffers who wave a dismissive hand when discussing end times, as we read in 2 Peter 3:3-4, "knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." We read in Mark 13:8, "...These are the beginning of sorrows." This is also rendered the beginning of birth pangs. As an obstetrician who has witnessed tens of thousands of labors, this is vivid description. Labor is a process which steadily accelerates and intensifies as we get closer to the actual delivery of the baby. Likewise, the second coming of Jesus will be at the conclusion of events which continually escalate and point us to that event.
At the conclusion of this sermon by Jesus, we read in Mark 13:32-33, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is." So we are not to predict or guess the actual date and time to satisfy our curiosity, but we are all cautioned to take heed as the birth pangs are intensifying. So are things intensifying? Jesus warned in Mark 13:5-6, to beware of false prophets. There have always been false prophets, but at this time when Biblical illiteracy is at an all time high and with movements outside the church, such as the New Age/Spiritual movement where people are trying to achieve their own God-like state, and from within the church where the Word of God is being relegated to a lower position than the views of society and man, the time is ripe and people are easy pickings for false teaching. When they talk of wars in 13:7, though there have always been wars and conflicts, the sheer numbers have dramatically risen in the past decade, with 60-85 million dying from World War 2 alone. Due to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, one scientist when asked what exact weapons will be used in World War 3, answered he was not sure, but in World War 4, the only weapon that would be used is rocks, since nothing else will be left. Concerning natural disasters, though they have always existed they are intensifying in quantity and quality. In 1976, a geological survey team discovered changes in the tectonic plates resulting in a greater frequency of earthquakes:in 1973: 4539; in 2000: 19,131; in 2010: 23,040; in 2013: 89,622. Hurricanes, Tsunamis, etc have all been intensifying. Mark 13:9-13 goes on to describe worsening Christian persecution. Though we read stories of those being burned at the stake in centuries past, realize of the estimated 70 million Christians martyred over the last 2000 years, 65% occurred in the past century.
In Mark 13, end times are divided into 13:5-13, the period just before the tribulation, 13:14-18, the middle of the tribulation, and 13:19-27, the end of the tribulation. We need only take heed of verses 5-13. As believers, we will not be around to witness the other events. Though some adhere to different end time (eschatological) views, I believe in a Rapture prior to the Tribulation. We read in Revelation 3:10, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." There are many other passages to support the Rapture before the Tribulation including 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. So with this view, there is nothing to fear, for those of us in Christ will be with Jesus in heaven, while God's wrath is poured out on the earth as depicted more fully in the book of Revelation. But even if my end time view is wrong and we find ourselves in the Tribulation, we are not to fear, for the purpose of Revelation was to assure the readers that God wins in the end, and those who put their hope and trust in Him, likewise win, if not on earth, then in eternity. So let us all take heed as this day gets ever closer and warn those around us to take seriously the signs.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: