Remember Lot’s Wife (Mark 13:13-24)

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Remember Lot’s Wife
Sunday, April 14th, 2024
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 13:14-23

14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: 15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: 16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. 17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. 19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. 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. 21 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: 22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

Prayer

Father, we thank you for these words of warning and comfort and assurance from the Lord Jesus. We thank you also for the Holy Spirit, who helps us to test the spirits, to know which are from God and which are from the world. We ask for the gift of spiritual discernment as we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and forces of darkness in high places. We ask for Your Help in Christ’s name, Amen.

Introduction

The title of my sermon this morning is “Remember Lot’s Wife.” These words come from the mouth of the Lord Jesus in a passage that is parallel to Mark 13, and which Luke records in his gospel in Luke 17:31-32. There we read, “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife.”

  • Jesus likens the coming tribulation and destruction of Jerusalem as a time similar to two previous historical events.
    • The first is Noah’s flood. He says in Luke 17:26-27, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.”
      • So just as life seemed to go on “business as usual” for those who rejected Noah’s preaching (the Ark was his sermon), so also shall it be in the days leading up to the coming of the Son of Man, when the building of the church is God’s sermon.
      • And whereas in Noah’s day it was water that drowned and cleansed the old world, in 70 AD it will be the Roman armies who shall act as God’s flood and fire to burn down the temple and baptize the cosmos which it represented. Jesus says, “as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.”
    • The second event that Jesus likens the destruction of Jerusalem to, is God raining fire down upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
      • Jesus says in Luke 17:28-30, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”
      • In both of these instances, you have a persecution and rejection of righteous Noah and righteous Lot (2 Peter 2:7).
      • In both instances there are messengers and warnings that a flood of judgment is coming, and yet because the inhabitants of those places refused to repent, they are blinded to the obvious signs that their world is coming to an end. And therefore, for the ungodly, life seems to just go on as it always has, until all of a sudden, the Son of Man comes like a thief in the night, and there they are, caught unawares and without excuse before the judgment seat of God.
  • This is the state of every single person who does not know and is not told when he shall die. Any day could be judgment day. And so although Jesus is speaking here of a particular judgment upon a particular people at a particular time namely 70 AD, the principles here are universal. Because when is judgment day for you? It is the day you die. As it says in Hebrews 9, “it is appointed unto men once to die, and then comes judgment.”
  • Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12 that describes the person who does not recognize that death can come any day.
    • In Luke 12:16-21 it says, Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
  • What was the sin of Lot’s wife? Why does Jesus want his disciples to remember her as they endure the greatest tribulation in world history?
    • The sin of Lot’s wife was the same as the rich fool. Neither were rich toward God. Both loved this present world which is passing away more than the world that is to come.
    • Lot’s wife was in the very process of being delivered from destruction and yet she chose to look back with longing at Sodom and Gomorrah. She was sad and unwilling to flee to the mountain of God. Therefore, Jesus says after “Remember Lot’s wife.” Remember the pillar of salt that she became. “For whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
    • That is the lesson Jesus is teaching his disciples (and wants to teach us) throughout the Olivet Discourse. No man knows the day or hour in which judgment shall come. We all know we will die, and we might even know that it will be within the next 40 years more or less, but the day and hour is hidden from us. And therefore, we are always to be watchful, always to be prayerful, and are always to be ready to die should the good Lord require our soul of us this very night.
      • As Moses says in Psalm 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
    • You can either be Noah in the ark, willing die to this world so that you might enter the new creation. Or you can cling to Sodom and Gomorrah like Lot’s wife did and lose your life trying to preserve it. Jesus tells his disciples all these things in advance so that they can be prepared and ready for judgment. And so also should we.
  • Now last Sunday we spent a good hour on the question, “What is the abomination of desolation?” And if you missed that, you ought to go back and listen to that sermon because I will not repeat all of it here. But in that sermon, we said there are few different candidates for what the abomination of desolation might have been.
    • It might have been the Jewish priests’ rejection of all sacrifices and tribute for the Gentiles, according to Josephus this took place in 66 AD, and this is what kicked of the Jewish-Roman War.
    • Or, it might have been the completion of the temple and its decoration in 64 AD, along with Nero’s persecution of Christians for the fire in Rome.
    • Or, it might have been the murder of the apostles, specifically of James the Just who was bishop in Jerusalem, and was martyred in the temple court by the priests in 62 AD.
    • Whatever the case, Jesus says in verse 14, “when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains…”
    • So the abomination that maketh desolate is a public sign that the end of Jerusalem and the end of that age is approaching. And therefore, Jesus gives instructions to those who recognize this sign, and it is to those instructions that we shall now attend.

Outline of the Text

  • In verses 14-18, Jesus exhorts us with diverse metaphors to forsake our lives in this in world and to look with hope to the next.
  • In verses 19-20, Jesus identifies these years as the great tribulation but promises that God will cut those days short for the sake of His elect.
  • And then in verses 21-23, Jesus warns them of false Christs and false prophets who will try to deceive them.
  • So starting in verse 14, the first exhortation Jesus gives is, “let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains…”

Verse 14

14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:

  • Now Jerusalem itself was situated on a mountain and was sometimes called the holy mountain (Is. 66:20). We have also seen that Jesus is presently saying all of these words and pronouncing this judgment as he sits upon a different mountain, the Mount of Olives. And so it is interesting that Jesus does not specify which mountain or mountains the inhabitants of Judaea ought to flee to, but rather he gives them this general exhortation to flee to the mountains.
    • This is likely because “fleeing to the mountains” is symbolic/emblematic for what God’s people usually do to escape from wrath and evildoers.
      • In Genesis 19, where does Lot escape to? To the mountains of Zoar.
      • In Genesis 31, where does Jacob escape to as he flees from Laban? To the mountains of Gilead.
      • In Exodus, where does Moses flee to and then later the whole nation of Israel? To Mount Sinai.
      • In Joshua 2, where does Rahab tell the spies to hide so they can escape from the men of Jericho? To the mountains (Josh. 2:16, 22).
      • In 1 Kings 19, when Jezebel is hunting Elijah, where does Elijah flee to? To Horeb, to the mountain of God.
      • Now think about this for a moment, can a mountain hide you from the wrath of God? Can a mountain protect you from the God who formed and created mountains? Of course not.
      • So when the righteous flee to the mountains, what are they actually fleeing to? What reality do the mountains signify? They signify the One who is the highest of all high places. They signify God who is our rock and refuge and strength and our hiding place in the storm.
      • It says in Psalm 125 which we often sing, “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, Which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So the Lord is round about his people From henceforth even for ever.”
      • Or, as we love to sing in Psalm 121, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
    • So when Jesus says “flee to the mountains,” what is he saying? He is saying flee to God. Flee to the one who is the lover of your soul and who promises that though you walk through the fiery furnace, not one hair of your head shall perish. Though they kill and crucify your body, do not fear them, trust the one who has the power to kill or preserve your soul.
    • Remember, all of the disciples are going to suffer and die for Christ’s sake. And so Jesus is not telling them here how to avoid tribulation and martyrdom, he is telling them and all who hear these words, how to endure tribulation and die well.
    • When you like Christ are surrounded by bulls of Bashan. Or when you like Lot are surrounded by murderous sodomites. Orwhen you like Jerusalem are surrounded by armies. Where can you go?Flee in your soul to the mountains. Lift your eyes to the hills and run to God. Run by faith to Mount Zion and there you shall find the Peace the surpasses understanding. In God you shall find grace to endure the very worst that this world, your flesh, and the devil may bring.
  • In verses 15-18 Jesus gives essentially the same exhortation but under different metaphors.

Verses 15-18

15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: 16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. 17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.

  • So while all these sayings can be taken in their literal physical sense, there are some intentional oddities that Jesus gives to draw our minds to the spiritual sense.
  • For example, in verse 15, if you are on the top of your house, how do you escape without going back down into the house? Is Jesus encouraging people to literally jump off their roofs? I doubt it. I think it is far more likely that Jesus is using the house and the housetop as it is often used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the place of prayer (the housetop) and the things pertaining to the body (the house).
    • For example, Psalm 102 is titled, “a prayer of the afflicted” and in verse 7 the psalmist says, “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.”
    • We see in Acts 10:9 it says, “Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour.”
    • We read in Isaiah 2 and Micah 4, a prophecy of God’s kingdom arriving and it says, “But in the last days it shall come to pass, That the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, And it shall be exalted above the hills; And people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, And to the house of the God of Jacob…”
    • So remember God’s House, which is the temple, is itself a symbolic holy mountain, and so when Peter goes to pray upon the housetop, he is spiritually in prayer ascending to God’s holy mountain. Obviously, we are not any closer to heaven because we pray from our rooftops, it is that the highest part of our being, our housetop, (namely our soul/mind/spirit/heart) is elevated above earthly things, the body, the house, and therefore Jesus says, “let him that is on the housetop [in prayer and communion with God] not go down into the house [seeking bodily things], neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house.” This is the same as what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
    • So Jesus is saying in parable form what Paul says explicitly in Colossians 3, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above [on the housetop], where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth [in the house]. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
  • This same principle applies also when Jesus says, “And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.” Paul puts it this way in the very next verses, “put off the old man with his deeds; And put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:9-10).
    • If you are in the field laboring for Christ who is the Lord of the Harvest, don’t go back like Lot’s wife did for the garments of the old creation. You are a new creation, and God has a new garment, namely the resurrection, waiting for you!
  • Next in verse 17 Jesus says, “But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” To what does this refer?
    • Well, there is nothing wrong with taking these words literally because everyone knows it is pregnant and nursing women and their babies who are the most naturally vulnerable when attempting to travel. But I think the reason Jesus mentions pregnant and nursing mothers is because they are a picture of what the church and more specifically pastors are going to be like during this time.
    • In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul identifies himself as a nursing mother. He says, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”
    • In Galatians 4:19, he says “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”
    • Likewise, he says in Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
    • So Paul sees himself as pregnant with new believers, and as a nursing mother giving milk to new Christians. And it is during the great tribulation when those baby Christians are going to be most vulnerable to deception and falling away. Their powers of discernment have not been trained yet, and so it is going to be hard work to minister to them at the same time that false Christs and false prophets and persecution tempts them to fall away, to go back and grab their garments, and to leave the housetop of prayer.
    • Remember Jesus said that the troubles leading up to the great tribulation are just “the beginnings of the birth pains.” But now as judgment day approaches for the old creation, those labors pains are heating up, and so Jesus says woe to those actual women who are pregnant and nursing in those days, woe also to those pastors and newborn Christians who are caught in the crossfire, and woe to the whole church and old creation, as she must die in order to give birth to the new.
  • The last of these exhortations in this section is verse 18, where Jesus says, “And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.”
    • Again, this can refer to the literal season of winter, but also to the metaphorical winter which is coming upon the earth. In Matthew 24:12 Jesus says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
    • So the tribulation of these days will be severe and traveling to church, traveling anywhere, is going to be made even more difficult for Christians by both literal winter and the spiritual winter of lawlessness. And therefore, Jesus warns and promises in verses 19-20…

Verses 19-20

19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. 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.

  • God knows the limits of his elect. It says in 1 Corinthians 11:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
  • Where is the way of escape? Jesus is telling us here. It is only in God, upon the housetop, in the mountains, where you soul can flee and find rest, even as great tribulation surrounds you.
  • So the apostles and the 1st century church went through this great tribulation Christianity survived! God upheld their faith! According to Revelation 7, there was an innumerable multitude of Christians, “from all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues [who] stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” And it says Revelation 7:13-14, “One of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
  • God knows your limits. God knows the exact temperature at which your faith will be purified and at which your faith will fail. And even if your faith wavers for a moment, remember what Jesus said to Peter before his crucifixion, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
  • Peter’s faith stumbled. He denied Christ three times in a row. He feared for his life. But God is merciful and as it says of Him in Isaiah 42:3, “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench.”
  • So you can trust the Lord Jesus, you can trust your Heavenly Father to carry you when you are weak and strengthen you in times of trouble. For He is the God who cuts the days of tribulation short for the sake of His elect. He is the God who promises that those who die in tribulation, shall be clothed in white, and crowned with glory, and granted entrance in the heavenly bliss of His eternal kingdom.
  • May this same God who preserved His church in the 1st century through great tribulation, give us the same faith to persevere and hold fast in hope to His promise of eternal life.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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