Before The Great Tribulation

Mark-13-Before-The-Great-Tribulation-Part-2
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Before The Great Tribulation – Part 2 (Mark 13:5-13)
Sunday, March 17th, 2024
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 13:1-13

And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows. But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. 10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations. 11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. 12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. 13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Prayer

Father, we thank you for the promise and comfort of the Scriptures, and that through them we have hope. We ask now that you would enlighten the eyes of our understanding, give us ears to hear, and make us watchful, so that at all times we would be ready to die and see you face to face. We pray this all in Christ’s name, Amen.

Introduction

The title of my sermon this morning is Before The Great Tribulation (Part 2), and last time in Part 1 we introduced some new vocabulary.

  • We said that eschatology is the doctrine of last things, or the study of how the Christian story ends, and it this topic of eschatology that we are treating as we work through Mark 13.
  • We then said that there are two different positions on whether or not a particular event or prophecy has been fulfilled. A futurist believes that the prophecy/event will be fulfilled in our future. And the preterist believes the prophecy/event was fulfilled in our past, typically in the 1st century.
  • And we said that all of us are both futurists and preterists depending on which event or passage of Scripture we are talking about. For example, we are all futurists on the final resurrection and final judgment. We confess as an article of faith that Christ will return bodily just as he ascended (Acts 1:11). At the same time, we are all preterists on the death and resurrection of Christ.
  • One of the major places of contention amongst Christians is whether you are a futurist or a preterist with regards to the Olivet Discourse, which is recorded in three different places: Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 21. And in case you missed last week’s sermon, my position and the one I will be arguing for throughout these sermons is that all of Mark 13 was fulfilled in the 1st century. And so as we work through this chapter verse-by-verse, I will be explaining how exactly that preterist interpretation does justice to everything that Jesus says here.
  • So for those of you who may have missed Part 1 or for those who just need a refresher, let me briefly summarize what Mark 13 is all about.

Overview of Mark 13

Mark 13 is the longest monologue from Jesus in this gospel, andthis speech comes right after his showdown with all the highest authorities in Jerusalem. In that showdown of chapters 11-12, Jesus condemns the scribes, elders, chief priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees as wolves who devour widows’ houses, who teach false doctrine, and who are full of hypocrisy. Jesus is the stone that the Jewish builders rejected, and yet He is going to become the cornerstone for a new temple, a new people, a new Jerusalem that shall last forever.

  • And so Jesus like the prophets of old (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.), uses both his words and actions to foretell a coming judgment. First, Jesus physically departs the temple just like the glory of God departed Solomon’s temple in Ezekiel’s day. And upon his departure he says in verse 2, “there shall not be left one stone upon another [in the temple], that shall not be thrown down.”
  • Then in verse 3 it says, “he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple.” And from this symbolic throne of judgment, from this holy of holies, Jesus answers a question from his disciples which is, “when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
  • And then the rest of Mark 13 is Jesus’ answer to that question.
    • Notice, the question is not, “When is the end of human history and the final judgment?”
    • The question is not, “When is the rapture and the bodily return of Jesus Christ?”
    • The question the disciples are asking is, “When is one stone not going to left upon another? When is the temple going to be destroyed, and what sign shall precede its destruction?” We could also restate the disciples’ question in different terms because in essence they are asking, “When is the kingdom of God going to arrive?”
      • Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God. He says in Luke 17 that the kingdom of God is inside of you, it is spiritual and invisible. And yet he also speaks of a day when this invisible kingdom shall be manifest, revealed, and in the prophets this is spoken of as the “coming of the Son of Man to receive dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him, his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
      • So the disciples know that the end of the temple also means the beginning of Christ’s everlasting kingdom. The coming of the Son of Man to the Ancient of Days is also when “the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27),
      • And it this transfer of power from the Old Jerusalem to the New Jerusalem that Jesus is foretelling on the Mount of Olives. That is what the destruction of the temple in AD 70 is all about. It’s not just about physical stones being demolished, it is about the spiritual-political government of the world being transferred from the Roman Beast and Jewish Harlot, to Christ and the saints in Him. This is what the coming of the Son of Man with power and glory is referring to, and it is what Revelation 1-20 describes in great detail.
  • So that is the broad overview of what Jesus is addressing in Mark 13. It is not the end of our world; it is the end of their old covenant world, which was a system of spiritual government that God describes and reveals in the book of Daniel (and if you are interested in understanding this more, come to the next Mid-Week service where I’ll be teaching on this).
  • So Jesus describes all of these cataclysmic events in Mark 13:5-29, and then in verse 30 is where he gives a timeframe for when all these things will be fulfilled. He says, “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.”
    • From the disciples’ perspective, all these events will take place within roughly 20-40 years. From our perspective, we know it was a full 40 years until the temple was finally burned to the ground. So they are given that timeframe of one generation, and then Jesus adds in verse 32, “but of that day and hour” of his coming to destroy Jerusalem, “knoweth no man.” So he gives them the order of events, and the broad time range of 40 years, but he refuses to give the exact day or hour of his coming. And therefore, the recurring exhortation in Jesus’ speech is “Take heed,” “Watch,” “Stay Awake,” “Be alert.” Because 40 years is plenty of time to forget, and lose heart, and fall away.
    • And so for all of the interesting details in this prophecy and how it all plays out, what is most essential is that the disciples are prepared and primed to keep the faith, to proclaim the faith, to pass on the faith, and persevere in faith through the greatest tribulation that there ever was or shall be. The Olivet Discourse is given to bolster the apostles and prepare them to suffer and die for the name.
  • With that as the setup, let us now expound verses 5-13.

Outline of Verses 5-13

There are five exhortations Jesus gives his disciples. Remember all of these apply in the first instance to the twelve, and only by analogy to us living today.

  • In verse 5 he says, “Take heed lest any man deceive you,” because false Christs are going to come.
  • In verse 7 he says, “Be ye not troubled,” because of wars and rumors of wars.”
  • In verse 9 he says, “Take heed to yourselves” because you will be beaten and brought before rulers to testify.
  • In verse 11 he says, “take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak,” because the Holy Ghost will speak through you.
  • And then in verse 13 he gives an implicit exhortation saying, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

So let us consider this first exhortation in verse 5-6.

Verses 5-6

Exhortation #1 – “Take Heed Lest Any Man Deceive You”

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

  • It is the constant and recurring scheme of the devil, that whatever good thing God does or creates, the devil comes up with an alluring counterfeit. The devil is a copycat. The devil is not original. The devil is a liar and a bootlegger, and he always offers something that looks good on the outside, but actually kills you. The packaging of sin is always nice, but once you open it and eat it, you’re dead. This was the temptation in the Garden, and he still runs the same plays today. The world falls for it every time, and sometimes even Christians can become ensnared.
  • And so Jesus begins with this exhortation to be on guard against false teachers, against deceivers, antichrists, who come in his name. There will not just be a few of these deceivers, but “many.”
    • How will you know who is a false teacher and who is true teacher?
    • Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 give guidelines for testing the spirits, if you want to look those up.
    • Jesus says in Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
    • So the apostles themselves are to be good trees, true teachers, who bear good fruit that confirms the truth of their doctrine. False teachers on the other hand will try to appear righteous, but righteous living can only be faked for so long. Eventually you will see the rotten fruit and corruption of their lives, and that will be the giveaway that they are agents of the devil.
    • This was obviously fulfilled in the 1st century, and we have countless examples of it in the New Testament itself. Almost every single letter that the apostles wrote deals with this problem of false teachers, deceivers, Judaizers, etc.
      • Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.”
      • When Jesus sends letters to the pastors of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, what is the recurring theme? Throw out and do not tolerate false teachers.
        • It says in Revelation 2:2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”
        • Jesus encourages the church of Ephesus for doing exactly what he tells his disciples to do here in Mark 13, “take heed lest any man deceive you.”
  • Summary: So deception will come, many false Christs, false apostles, false teachers, and you will know them by their fruits. So that’s exhortation #1, “take heed lest any man deceive you.”

Verses 7-8

Exhortation #2 – “Be Ye Not Troubled”

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

  • So here Jesus is warning about the temptation to despair at all that is going wrong in the world. These are the people who read the news and are full of anxiety. They hear about wars, and earthquakes, and famines, and troubles, and it puts fear into their hearts.If that is you, Jesus says, “do not be troubled.”
  • And in response, the disciples might have asked, “why?” Shouldn’t we be troubled at all this trouble in the world? Jesus anticipates that question and gives a surprising response, it is essentially, “don’t be troubled, these things must happen and it’s going to get even worse.”
    • He says, “these are the beginnings of sorrows,” and “the end shall not be yet.”
    • In other words, these cosmic distresses are just the beginnings of the birth pains, but they are necessary birth pains for the actual delivery/birth of the new creation. So be ye not troubled, this is just Christ reigning from heaven and shaking the earth so that what cannot be shaken shall remain.
  • What allows the disciples and us to not be troubled, is that Jesus Christ holds the world in his hands. He holds you in his hands. Jesus Christ is in the control center of the universe, and not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His good pleasure. And Jesus says, “you are far more valuable than sparrows.” He says in Luke 12:32, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
  • So for these disciples, all these troubles, wars, famines, earthquakes, etc. were just God in heaven, getting out the wrapping paper to give them the kingdom. The time is not yet, and so be not troubled. This is what must take place before The Great Tribulation (which I take as beginning around 62 AD).
  • The book of Acts (which covers events from 30 AD-59 AD) records instances of almost all of these kinds of events. And Jesus is describing roughly the same time period that is covered by the first four seals and horsemen in Revelation 6:1-8 (30 AD-61 AD).
    • To give just a few examples, Acts 16:26 says, “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.”
    • Of famine, Acts 11:28 says, “Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world (οἰκουμένη), which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.” This would have happened in 46 AD.
    • Of persecution it says right after this in Acts 12:1-3, “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.”
      • James the Apostle was the first of the Twelve to be martyred, and history records that in 62 AD, James the Just (brother of Jesus) was thrown down from the top of the Temple and then beaten to death in the temple court.
      • The earliest church historians Hegessipus and Eusebius mark this martyrdom of James the Just in 62 AD as the divine reason for the Roman siege against Jerusalem.
        • Eusebius writes, “So extraordinary a man was James, so esteemed by all for righteousness that even the more intelligent of the Jews thought that this was why the siege of Jerusalem immediately followed his martyrdom. Indeed, Josephus did not hesitate to write, ‘These things happened to the Jews as retribution for James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus who was called Christ, for the Jews killed him despite his great righteousness.’”
  • So again, we have in the New Testament itself, and from other 1st century sources that these sorrows were common and frequent in the years from Christ’s Ascension in 30 AD leading up to the Great Tribulation around 62 AD. And the exhortation to the apostles and the faithful in the midst of these sorrows was, “be ye not troubled…the end is not yet.”

Verses 9-11

Exhortations #3 & #4 – “Take Heed To Yourselves” and “Don’t Plan Your Testimony Ahead of Time”

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. 10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations. 11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

  • If we read through the book of Acts, again we see that this was all fulfilled immediately after Christ’s ascension.
    • In Acts 4, Peter and John are arrested for preaching in the temple, and after they are released it says in verse 31, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
    • In Acts 5, the apostles are put on trial again for preaching. Acts 5:29 says, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’”
    • In Acts 6, Stephen is accused of blasphemy and martyred by the Jews after his spirit-filled testimony.
    • As soon as Paul’s ministry gets under way, the rest of Acts is essentially the story of Paul preaching, getting arrested, and bearing witness in the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts ends in 59 AD with Paul in Rome on house arrest, waiting to bear witness before Nero Caesar.
    • So we see again, Jesus is not false prophet, all these things took place just like he said they would within one generation.
  • Now one verse that has sometimes stumbled people into a futurist reading of Mark 13 is verse 10 which says, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” And they think that because the Great Commission has not yet been fulfilled, these events must still be off in our future. How do we solve this apparent contradiction? A few points of clarification are in order:
    • 1. First of all, this phrase “all nations” (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη) does not refer to absolutely ever single nation on earth, and we know this because this exact Greek phrasing is used in the LXX of 1 Chronicles 14:17 to speak of King David’s fame. It says, “the fame of David went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη).” See also 1 Kings 4:34. So unless you think that the fear of David came upon absolutely every single nation on earth in his day, there is no reason for it to mean that when it is used in Mark 13:10.
      • What “all nations” refers to is all the nations in the Roman Hellenistic Empire.This is confirmed by how Matthew records this same idea in his gospel. Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
        • The word for “world” here is not cosmos, it is the Greek work οἰκουμένη, which is a technical term for the Roman Empire. When Paul says the gospel is to the Jew first and then to the Greek (Rom. 1:16), the Greeks are those nations within the Roman οἰκουμένη.
        • We know this because at Christ’s nativity, it says in Luke 2:1 that, “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered,” the “all the world” there is this same οἰκουμένη that Jesus is referring to when he says, “all nations.”
        • Notice also that Jesus does not say all nations will be baptized and fully discipled within one generation, he says that the gospel will be published (κηρύσσω), made known/announced/heralded in all the nations of the Roman οἰκουμένη. And Matthew says that this preaching of the kingdom among all the nations in the Roman world is going to be a witness/testimony (μαρτύριον) to them, and then the end of Jerusalem and the Roman Oikumene will come.
        • It is God’s habit and regular pattern to give warnings and signs and witnesses/testimony prior to raining down his judgments on a place.He did this with Sodom and Gomorrah, he did it in Noah’s day by the building of the Ark, and so the gospel is a testimony like the Ark is a testimony, a flood is coming!
    • 2. A second reason to believe verse 10 was fulfilled in the 1st century is because the New Testament itself says explicitly that the gospel went out to the whole world, it was published in all nations, within the lifetime of the apostles.
      • In 57 AD, Paul says in Romans 15, “from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” And then he says at the very end of Romans, in Romans 16:26, that the mystery of the gospel is “now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.”
      • In 60 AD, when he wrote Colossians 1:7 he says, “the word of the truth of the gospel…has come to you, as it has also in all the world (κόσμος).” And then again in verse 23 he says, “You were reconciled…if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
      • When the book of Acts ends in 59 AD, Paul tells the Jews in Acts 28:28, “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” In other words, Paul has fulfilled what Isaiah prophesied about his apostolic ministry. He says in Acts 13:47, For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
      • So according to the Apostle Paul, by 59 AD, the gospel had been published throughout the entire Greco-Roman oikumene, to all the nations, and as Matthew’s version has it, this would be a legal witness to them that Christ’s kingdom had come and his glorious enthronement as Son of Man would soon take place.
  • So this is what verse 10 is referring to, “the gospel must first be announced among all the nations in the Roman Empire.” This is different than what we call “The Great Commission,” which is the baptizing, teaching, and discipling of all the nations on planet earth. This work is still ongoing and shall indeed be completed before Christ’s bodily return. But that is not what is in view here in Mark 13 or Matthew 24.

Conclusion

Let us close with the fifth and final exhortation Jesus gives in verse 12-13:

12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. 13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

  • Paul says in 2 Timothy 2, “that in the last days (referring to the last days of the old covenant age) perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God…”
  • Jesus and Paul are both describing what living through the great tribulation is going to be like. What we call the natural bonds of affection, between parents and children, brothers and sisters, a mother and her baby, those bonds are going to be broken because of people’s hatred for Christ and his followers. And it is the breaking of these most intimate bonds that if left unchecked, would destroy the whole world. This is why Jesus says a few verses later in verse 20, “And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.”
  • This is why it is so important to have God as your Father, and Christ as your elder brother, and the Holy Spirit who indwells the church as your Mother. Because without these spiritual bonds, without this threefold cord of the Holy Trinity, all of us would fall away. Apart from the grace of God, none of us would be able to endure unto the end.
  • So if you would become and remain a Christian, you must take these words of Jesus to heart. You must remember that you follow a Jesus who said this, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
  • So count the cost, and know that God is of infinite value. Friendship with God is more to be prized than the best and closest relationships we have on earth. And when the days get hard, when relationships are strained because of your religion, remember the promise of Christ, that he who endures unto the end shall be saved.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.
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