Posted on October 29, 2014
#77: Preparing For the End of Time
December 21, 2012—the end of the Great Cycle in the Mayan calendar—was to be the end of the world. So was May 21, 2011. And Christmas eve, 1955. And March of 1843. And a host of other dates that have come and gone. Since the beginning of time mankind has yearned to know about the end of time.
Sharing the curiosity, centuries of Bible students have studied and debated and argued themselves into end-times camps of premilleniallism, dispensationalism, amilleniallism, postmilleniallism, and variations of each. (Despite a common fascination, most believers these days have no idea what those terms mean or which camp they belong in—only whether or not they liked the “Left Behind” books! If you have strong, defined views you can support with scripture, you’re in a shrinking minority.)
One of the most studied—and misinterpreted—sections of scripture about the world’s end is the one we’ll look at in today’s post. Get your Bible and let’s dig in.
Read Mark 13:3-31. Look in Matthew 24:3-35 and Luke 21:7-36 to find parallel accounts.
The disciples had been mulling over Jesus’ prophecy about the temple’s destruction (Mk. 13:1-2). Later that evening, when Jesus led them up the Mount of Olives to a place overlooking the temple, four of them grabbed the opportunity to quiz Him further. “Tell us,” they prodded, “when will these things be—and what sign when all things are about to be completed?”
The Twelve had felt tensions for a long while, but especially since entering Jerusalem the previous Sunday. Jesus Himself was restless and on guard. Their gut instinct was that the revolution—inaugurating Jesus’ coming kingdom—could commence at any moment. (This was a common feeling; see Luke 19:11b. They had no concept of the church age that was still to come, or what Jesus’ “kingdom” was really to be.) Jesus’ prediction in verse two had them thinking that this Passover, with throngs of Jews gathered in Jerusalem, would be the time. In effect, they were asking, “How will we know when it’s all kicking off? Give us the signal!”
Peter, Andrew, James and John thought they were asking about a single event. Jesus’ answer spanned two events—the destruction of Jerusalem (to occur in 70 A.D.), and the end of all things (for which we still wait).
The debate comes over which of Jesus’ predictions in chapter 13 applies to the first event, and which to the second. Generally speaking, Mark 13:5-23, 30 is thought to refer to Jerusalem’s demise. Mark 13:24-27 (and then on down in 32-37) refers to Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the world. Verses 28-29 and 31 are teachings about recognizing prophecy as it unfolds.
Though part of this chapter deals with events that happened many centuries ago, the whole passage has value for us today. The cautions about Jerusalem’s fall are relevant for Christians everywhere who face persecution, and the teachings about Christ’s return spur us to be continually faithful and prepared.
Through this passage, Jesus gave several commands challenging us in these last days.
• “Watch out that no one deceives you.” (vs. 5) We need to know the Word and be wise. Ignorance equals vulnerability. Are we scripturally equipped against deception?
• “Do not be alarmed.” (v. 7) Fearful Christians don’t bring honor to God. We don’t have to freak out about every rumor or prediction, seeing threats around every corner. We just need to live trusting, confident lives—developing a demeanor of faith. Then we can face whatever comes with assurance and expectancy. Paul reflected this kind of fearlessness when he wrote, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil. 1:20)
• “Do not worry beforehand. . .” (vs.11) Luke’s account says, “Make up your mind not to worry beforehand. . .” We need a conscious choice, a mental discipline to not worry about how the future will unfold. If worry is an issue for you, pray for peace. Then strengthen yourself by memorizing scriptures like Psalm 23, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27, John 16:33, and Philippians 4:6-8.
• “Be on your guard. Be alert!” (vs. 9, 23, 33) This command is repeated three times, showing how important Jesus considered it to be. Peter urged the early Christians, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet. 1:13) Are we alert, living in a state of watchfulness, prepared for action? Are we looking forward at all times to meeting Him joyfully?
Jude, the Lord’s half-brother, offered the perfect advice for us. “You, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21)
The next time you hear a predicted date for the world’s end, relax and remember: our job is not to figure out when Jesus will return, our job is to be ready whenever He returns.
Thanks for reading today’s post in our series Knowing Jesus, a study of the gospel of Mark. Be sure to watch for future posts in this series each Wednesday morning. (Past posts are available in the archives.) You’re welcome at any time to subscribe to this Bible study blog by simply entering your email address at right. Your email address will never be sold, traded, or used for any other purpose.
© Diane McLoud 2014