Watch for the Coming of the Lord

(Mark 13:32-36)

This is probably the most important lesson of all of the prophecies of the Lord’s return that he gave to us. Right throughout these few scriptures he hammers home the message to watch for his return. Watch for the signs and know that he is on the way soon.

watch-for-the-coming-of-the-lordOne thing we need to take heed of is the when the Lord tells us to do something, we should do it. He provides this same insight in the parable about the wise and foolish builders in Luke 6:46-49. The wise man dug deep and laid his foundation upon the rock. But the foolish man just built on the ground without a foundation. Then when the floods and storms came and the floods broke against the two houses, the wise man’s house withstood the flood for it had been well built. But the foolish man’s house collapsed, fell and was destroyed and the ruin of that house was great.

The one distinction the Lord makes between these two builders is that the wise man came to the Lord AND listened to his words AND did them. He acted upon what was heard. He was solidly grounded in the word of truth and the application of that word in his life.

But the foolish man by contrast also came to the Lord and heard his words, but he did not apply them in his life. He did not grow strong through the application of the word in his life and so when he was tested, he fell.

We must certainly hear the words of the Lord, but we must also apply his teachings in our life. Thus when he tells us to watch for his coming and to note the signs of his imminent return, the we must keep an eye out for those signs.

Look at what is going on in the world around you and I today. Earthquakes, tsunamis, wars and rumours of wars, famines, insurrections and so on. All of these are some of the signs that the end is coming soon. These are what Jesus calls the birth-pangs. They are like a pregnant woman who is just entering labour and getting the first few birth pangs. As time rolls on the pangs will become more pronounced and severe until the final event occurs: a baby is born in one case and Jesus returns in the other.

Watch, he said and watch we must. Learn what the prophecies of his coming are and keep an eye out for the completing of them. There are still many things to happen, but I believe they signs are commencing now and we will see them progress in the coming years.

As he also said in this section, no man knows the day and hour of the Lord’s return, but in the signs there are trigger events that can give us a clue to when this will occur. I covered one of the key ones in my last post. When that will occur I do not know, but if we do not watch for the events leading up to his return, we too will be caught out, for he will come like a thief in the night. Thus we must watch.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Kati Garner)

Learn the Lesson of the Fig Tree

(Mark 13:24-31)

Jesus continues describing the signs of the end in this section and specifically those leading up to his second coming. He tells us that the sun will be darkened and the moon will lose it’s light. The stars will fall from the heavens and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

fig-treeSome people fear that he is describing the outcome of a global nuclear war, which blackens the sky and prevents the light of the sun and moon coming through. Add this to the scripture in Mark 13:20 where he says that if the Lord had not shortened these last days then no human being would be saved. Whether this is a true reading of these signs I do not know. In my own opinion I think they are wrong. I say this because other scriptures do not suggest the widespread panic and destruction a nuclear event might cause. For example, Jesus said that things would be quite normal, like they were just before He flooded the earth when only Noah and his family survived. Look at Matthew 24:37-42 below:

37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man.
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,
39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.
40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left.
41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

In my opinion there is some other cause of the shutting out the light of sun and moon and this I believe is of spiritual origin not men. But I may be wrong. Like all prophecy and future events we need to keep an open mind and watch. That is the Lord’s recommendation too. Understand these things will happen and watch so you see the signs when they occur.

And in this section of Mark 13 he reminds us of the need to be alert. He tells us of the lesson of the fig tree. When spring is just around the corner, the branches of the fig tree become tender in readiness to bud and shoot new growth. This is a sign that spring is close.

In the same way when we see these signs we know that he is returning very soon. In the next section we will see that the key to all of these things is knowing that they will occur and to watch for them.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Chris Shaheen)

Signs of the End

(Mark 13:14-23)

In this section of scripture Jesus discusses some specifics about the times of the end. He is telling his disciples what will be some of the signs of the times at the time of the end and gives his people strong warnings about what will happen and what they should do.

running-out-of-timeWithin the many prophecies of the end times there are certain events that must take place before the end. Each of these can be triggers for others and there is a sequence to be followed. Some of these will give us information as to the start and end of certain prophecies and events.

In this section he begins by saying, “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Verse 14) Now I do not believe he is speaking figuratively here but I believe Jesus is saying literally to “flee to the mountains.” Go to higher ground, especially if you are in Judea and Jerusalem.

This is a strong warning. And in the next few verses he strengthens it by saying, “…let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days!” (Verses 15-17) It will be so critical and urgent that people flee that they need to go immediately. There will not be time to pack your things, sell the house, collect stuff together or whatever. He is saying to get out quickly and don’t waste any time about it.

But why is this so desperate a plea? The trigger event is back in that first line, “…when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be…” He is referring here to the prophecy of Daniel. There is a ruler yet to come who is universally known as the man of sin. He is evil and will rule the world. Amongst other things he will do is to magnify himself and claim to be a god and he will sit in the temple as if he is god. The temple is yet to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and it will happen in due course, and once it is built the temple worship rites will be re-set up including the fire of the continual burnt offering. This is all yet to come and is prophesied in a number of places.

But this man of sin at some point will remove the continual burnt offering from the rebuilt temple. He will take it away and that event will mark the beginning of the very last days. The prophet Daniel says there will be a period of 1,290 days from the time that the continual burnt offering is removed and the desolating sacrilege is set up (Daniel 12:11). This is the same event that Jesus is talking about in Mark 13.

After the desolating sacrilege has been set up, the angel speaking to Daniel continues on saying, “Blessed is he who waits and comes to the 1,335 days.” (Daniel 12:12) Why are these people blessed in this great time of evil? I believe it is because that will be the appointed time for the second coming of the Lord. This wondrous and blessed event will take place 45 days after the desolating sacrilege is set up.

Now coming back to why Jesus said in Mark 13 for the people to flee to the mountains, this too comes from prophecy. From what we see above there will be a period of 45 days after the desolating sacrilege is set up and Jesus warned the people to flee to the hills in Judea when they saw that abomination in the holy place, which is in the temple. They will have 45 days to get out of Judea and get into the mountains, to higher ground.

Angels of the Lord told the disciples that, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet…” (Acts 1:11-12) Now if this is true he must return back to the mount called Olivet or the Mount of Olives.

The reason Jesus warns the people to flee to the mountains is found in the prophecies in Zechariah 14. It says, “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward.” (Zechariah 14:4) The prophet further adds, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea…” (Zechariah 14:8)

So what we will see when the Lord returns is that there will be an almighty earthquake in Judea that will split Jerusalem through the mount of Olives, and Jerusalem will effectively become a seaport with waters running between the sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea.

This is why he tells the people to flee to higher ground in those 45 days after the desolating sacrilege is set up. To escape the splitting of the earth and the devastation that will occur in the region at that instant when the Lord returns. There will be great tribulation and suffering at that time and the Lord will destroy those who have come against him, so he tells his people to head for the hills to escape the wrath that is coming on the evil of this world.

There is much that can be said about these prophecies and what I have said here only scratches the surface of them. More will be covered in due course as we get into other prophetic writings further down the track in this series of studies.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Crystal Jensen)

Call for Endurance

(Mark 13:9-13)

In this section of scripture Jesus talks about the need for endurance at the time of the end. There are tough times ahead for those who come to Christ, but the reward is worth the effort.

call-for-enduranceConsider the photo on this page. This runner was exhausted at the end of his race, and unfortunately for him, he lost. But any sportsman who wants to compete and improve knows that they must get over it and get back into it. The very best sports people do not see loss as an end, but as a step on the journey towards winning.

As Christians we are seeking a better life. We are looking to win a better prize than competitors in a game or sports event. The apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which I quote below.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air;
27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Like a finely tuned athlete we too must “pommel our body and subdue it” in a spiritual sense. We are to grow in Christ and part of that is to bear the fruits of the spirit. One of those fruits is self-control, which we must learn to exercise as we grow. We are fortunate that in Christ he gives us his Holy Spirit so that we can be guided and learn how to exercise self-control in all things.

Then too as Jesus said in the scripture in Mark, when we come up against opposition, especially in the persecutions of the last days, we do not need to answer back to any of the accusations that may be put against us, for the holy spirit will answer and provide us the words to say at the right time.

Jesus said to take heed to yourselves. Prepare to the extent that you can and make sure you pommel your body and subdue it as Paul said. Like athletes, we are in training, for the kingdom of God. And like athletes if we do not compete according to the rules, how can we be crowned victorious? Our purpose is to win this victory and be able to enter into God’s eternal kingdom. Let us focus on how we shall achieve that and not on the issues, problems and worries of this life. For this life is temporary and a better one awaits if we are patient and endure to the end.

Sure, its a tough call, but the prize is worth it. Look to Jesus, learn his ways and find the path that leads to life. When you are grounded and established in the truth, nothing will be able to take you out of the loving hands of God and our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Michal Zacharzewski SXC)

Take Heed That No One Leads You Astray

(Mark 13:3-8)

When the disciples ask Jesus about the signs of the end and his second coming, Jesus commenced his discussion with these words, “Take heed that no-one leads you astray.” (Verse 5) This warning was not for the disciples at that time as much as it is for us in this time and this age. We are in the final days of this world as we know it and the time of Jesus’ return approaches.

listen-take-heedHow do we know these are the last days? Jesus said that in the last days leading up to his return, “…And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.”

Never at any other time in history have we seen such upheaval in the world as today. There are wars, skirmishes, battles. There are earthquakes and famines. Today it was reported that one of the major aid agencies are seeking donations to support eleven million people in Africa because the drought there has wiped out food crops. Earthquakes are at the most prolific in history and each time there are tsunami warnings.

But the Lord said these are just the beginning of the birth pangs that are leading up to his return. These are signs that the time is at hand. But more important was the initial statement he made, take heed that no-one leads you astray.

There have recently been people predicting the end of the earth, and others predicting the return of the Lord. But no man knows the time or day that these things will occur. To listen to such nonsense is foolishness as it is clear these people have no knowledge of the scriptures. Will it be possible at any time to predict the Lord’s return? Yes I believe there are timing indicators that suggest it will be possible to have some inkling, but not the exact day and hour as some claim.

It is evident that there are set periods established in Daniel and Revelation that suggest a countdown period may be possible, but there is still much to occur before that can begin to happen. For example, one of those triggers relates to the removal of the continual burnt offering from the temple. But first the temple must be re-built and then the man of sin has to assume authority and take his seat in the temple. There are many other things that need to happen before the Lord returns, so we must pay attention to the word and not be led astray.

Jesus is telling us to beware. There were false teachers in his day and the days of the disciples, and there are false teachers today. Unless someone can back up their claims from the word of truth, anything they are promoting in the name of the Lord should be treated with caution. Focus on seeking God’s kingdom first and in anything that comes up like these things above, seek his insight through prayer. Your eternal life depends on following Jesus, not following a man who takes Jesus’ rightful place as the leader of the church.

He tells us to beware of those who will “lead” you astray. Follow Jesus as he is the true “leader” of the church. He is the true shepherd of the sheep and He leads them in and out and they follow him. So beware of imitators and imitations, they are not of God.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Dave Kennard)

Signs Attending the Death of Jesus

(Matthew 27:51-54)

 

When Jesus yielded up his spirit there were signs attending his death. The most significant of these was the curtain in the temple that separates the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom.

 

This was no ordinary curtain. It separated the Ark of the Covenant from the people. It was quite a thick and heavy curtain and stood twenty cubits tall (thirty feet or a little over nine metres). No man would have the strength or the capability to tear this curtain in two, especially beginning from the top.

 

This curtain was also a symbolic barrier. Only the high priest could enter behind it, and then only once each year on the day of Atonement to offer sacrifices for sin, first for himself and then for the people. This showed that there was a barrier between man and God, and that barrier was sin. No man could enter into the presence of God because of sin. All men sinned and fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Only the high priest could approach God once a year in the Holy of Holies and only after offering the sacrifices for sin for himself and the people.

 

But at the death of Jesus all this was changed. The veil that stood between man and God in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Symbolically this shows that at the death of Jesus it became possible for all men to come into the presence of God since there no longer existed a barrier. The way was open to all people through the death of Christ. He took not the blood of goats and bulls as a sin offering, but his own blood as the perfect sacrifice. And not for forgiveness of sin, but to take away the sins of man and set man free from sin and law so that men could come into the presence of God.

 

That is why these signs occurred at his death. They indicated there was a new way forward and a new way for man to stand righteous before God.

 

Other signs were the great earthquake that shook the earth and the saint that were resurrected from the tombs and went into the holy city. We should note that these saints were not resurrected until after the resurrection of Jesus. This was to show that Jesus is the resurrection and the life as he had stated. (John 11:25)

 

The earthquake that shook the earth at his death was nothing compared to how the New Covenant would shake the world from that time forward. We are still feeling the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus shaking the world today.

 

Is it any wonder then that the Centurion and those standing with him said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” (Verse 54)

No One Knows the Day and Hour

(Matthew 24:36-44)

No one knows the day and hour of Jesus’ return except the Father. He has set the time of his return and when that will be has not been given for us to know.

There have been many people over the years that have claimed to know the date of the second coming. Some have announced it publicly and then fallen into disrepute as the day they claimed came and went uneventfully. They clearly did not listen to the word of God. They cannot have possibly understood it if they read it for as we see here, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Verse 36)

Now if Jesus himself does not know the day and hour of his own return, what man can claim to have such knowledge? Consider these other scriptures too.

1 Thessalonians 5:2 – “For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” 
Matthew 25:13 – “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Acts 1:6-7 – “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

All of these scriptures give clear indication that the coming of the Lord will be at a time set by God and no man has been made privy to that date or time. To claim such knowledge is to ignore the words of Jesus and of God. Any man that makes such a claim is acting foolishly and you would have to question that truth of anything else they may preach.

However, it is possible that we shall know when the Lord will return, for it is not his desire that his people be kept in the dark. I am not suggesting that I know when this will occur, but the Lord has shown that when the time approaches we will be able to calculate it quite accurately.

In the prophecies of Daniel he has established a “countdown” period. It will commence from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away and the desolating sacrilege is set up in the holy place. In Daniel 12:11 the prophet was told that from the time the continual burnt offering is taken away and the abomination referred to as the desolating sacrilege is set up there would be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. I believe these are actual days, as we know them and not prophetic days. Daniel also went on to say, “Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty five days.” (Daniel 12:12) Why would people be blessed for waiting this further forty-five days? This will be a time of unparalleled tribulation and distress, the like of which has never been seen before. The greatest blessing that could come out of such a period of tribulation is the return of Christ. I believe that is the blessing to which the prophet refers.

So we do not know the day or hour now, but when we see these signs taking place we shall be able to identify the timing of the second coming of the Lord. Even then we will not know the hour and we may not exactly know the day. But we may be able to calculate within a few days of the correct time.

I say this purely from speculation, as I don’t know the answer to this matter. The reason for my speculation is that the removal of the continual burnt offering will be a big issue for the Jews. The continual burnt offering is pivotal to the Old Covenant and to Judaism. For the man of sin who will do this thing I expect it will not be publicly announced but will be done in secret. There will not in my opinion be a great song and dance announcing to the world, “Hey look at this one and all. We have taken away the continual burnt offering!” No, instead I would expect this to be done slyly and with cunning and it will be hidden from the world. We may not know exactly when it occurs but just find out one day that it has gone.

As I say, this is all speculation and I may be wrong. We shall have to wait and see. Before any of this can happen there are many other signs to come, the most important of which is the rebuilding of the temple. The continual burnt offering cannot be taken away if it is not first set up. And it cannot be set up until the temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem. This will happen in due course and then we will see all these things spoken by the Lord and his prophets come to pass.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

(Matthew 24:32-35)

The whole of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 are concerned with times of the end and the signs preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ. This small section of scripture here though is the key to these prophecies. It is the point at which the lessons in these chapters pivot. The preceding sections speak of the signs of Jesus’ return and the following sections teach us about being prepared and ready for his return. We need to learn the lesson of the fig tree. If we do this we will not be surprised and will be ready at his return.

The fig tree like many plants goes through stages and cycles as the seasons change. The fig tree is a deciduous fruit tree. It loses its leaves during winter and becomes dormant during those colder months. By watching the fig tree Jesus shows that you can know when the seasons are about to change. At the end of the winter months as the fig tree comes out of its dormancy, its branch becomes tender and it puts forth leaves. This occurs as the seasons move from winter to spring and you can know that summer is approaching.

Likewise Jesus tells us that when we see all of the signs he showed in the earlier sections of this chapter we can know that his return will be soon.

He does not keep his people in the dark. He wants us to know what is going on so that we are not surprised like the rest of the world. He does not want us to suffer fear or anguish through lack of knowledge. Elsewhere he has shown these things saying, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) We are called to follow Jesus and to obey his commands. If we do this we are his friends, and if we are his friends he will show us all that we need to know. This includes understanding the times of the end.

Needless to say there are a few things we do not know and have not been given to understand. But all of the things that are required for us to have salvation and to be prepared for the kingdom of God are given to us. In relation to the second coming, we may not know the day or the hour of his return, but that does not mean we will not know the week, month and year.

We saw in the previous sections that a time period was established. The countdown to his return will commence when the continual burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up in the holy place. When we see these things take place we will be able to calculate the timing of his return and be ready. They will be days of distress and require endurance. But they will also be like those darkest hours before the dawn. Initially it will be a great spiritual darkness, but those days will be followed by unspeakable joy upon the return of Jesus Christ. At least, it will be a time of joy for those who are his and who are patiently awaiting his return.

So let us take the lesson of the fig tree to heart. Watch carefully the unfolding of the signs of the times. Continue to learn and grow in the truth of the gospel. And be prepared and ready for him at his coming. The time is growing short and every day brings his return and our salvation closer to reality.

The Second Coming of the Lord

(Matthew 24:29-31)

At the very end of these days those left on the earth will witness the second coming of the Lord. There will be signs in the sun and the moon for they will both be darkened and will not give their light upon the earth. This is sometimes attributed to pollution or the outcome of the release of clouds of smoke from a great war in the last days. Whether that is true or not, I do not know. I do not necessarily believe those things to be so, but without alternatives you cannot discount anything. This will be a “wait and see” proposal for me.

When the Lord does return, the peoples of the earth will then know the truth of the Lord and of God. There will be the sign of the Son of God appear in the heavens as he approaches. Nobody knows what that will be, but it will be evident to all. The peoples of the earth will mourn and cry for they will know they are in the wrong. They will know that there will be no opportunity to turn from their evil at this point…time will have run out.

But for those who do follow Jesus and have taken his teachings to heart, this will be a time of rejoicing. This will be the time of what is commonly known as the Rapture. Jesus says that he will send out his angels into the whole earth to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (verse 31). This is described further in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first;
17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

This is a time for rejoicing for those in the Lord. The end of evil on this world is at hand. The time of Judgement is soon to come and the reward for seeking and living according to the truth of the gospel is soon to be ours. Jesus has come again to rule and reign over this earth and to drive out all forms of sin. This is in preparation for the ultimate reward still to come, which is the establishment of the New Jerusalem and the beginning of the eternal age when God the Father makes his home with men.