ISRAEL (WHO WAS ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH FOR CHRIST’S FIRST COMING) HAD BETTER BE ON THE ALERT FOR CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
7 REASONS TO BE ON ALERT IN ANTICIPATION OF THE END TIMES
Everybody understands the principle of accountability. We grow up in school facing many days of accountability. I might be caught unprepared by a surprise quiz . . . but when it comes to the Final Exam in a class, I can’t imagine not being prepared. We enter the work force and understand that we carry out our responsibilities under the constant evaluation of our supervisor. There may be scheduled Performance Reviews but there certainly is ongoing accountability. We aren’t left alone to simply do as we please.
Yet when it comes to living our life, the world would have us to believe that we are only accountable to ourselves. “Do what pleases you.” Of course Christians know better. We understand that as James puts it, the judge is standing at the door and can return at any moment. A good way to evaluate my present behavior is to keep in mind how Jesus would evaluate what I am watching on TV; what I am scanning on the internet; what I am reading; what I am thinking right now; what I am saying to others; what I am doing right now.
But as we anticipate the return of Christ, it is not just from the perspective of future accountability but also from the comfort that we derive in our ultimate deliverance from this evil age. We face tribulation and suffering of many varieties; but as God gives us the grace to persevere we anticipate the joy and victory of our ultimate glorification.
As Jesus prepares to depart this world, He wants His closest disciples to live in anticipation of His return. So he takes the occasion of a simple question regarding the coming destruction of the temple to telescope together both the near term historical events that will happen surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the eschatological ultimate events of the end times.
7 REASONS TO BE ON ALERT IN ANTICIPATION OF THE END TIMES
I. (:1-2) DESTRUCTION — BE ON ALERT BECAUSE JUDGMENT IS COMING
II. (:3-8) DECEPTION AND DISCORD — BE ON ALERT SO YOU AREN’T DECEIVED REGARDING THE TIMING AND THE SIGNS OF THE END TIMES
III. (:9-13) DANGER — BE ON ALERT BUT NOT ANXIOUS IN LIGHT OF THE COMING DANGER IN THE END TIMES
* * * * * * * * * * *
IV. (:14-20) D-DAY — ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION FOLLOWED BY GREAT TRIBULATION — BE ON ALERT BECAUSE THE GREAT TRIBULATION WILL REQUIRE URGENT FLIGHT
A. (:14-18) Trigger Event = Abomination of Desolation
1. (:14a) Ugly Event = Key Sign = Abomination of Desolation in the Temple
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand),”
OT Background: Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:9-11
Requires a temple to exist in Jerusalem during the Tribulation Period; rebuilding of the temple is a key last days event (Matt 24:15 “in the holy place”)
MacArthur: This first referred to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria, in the second century B.C. when he sacrificed a pig on the temple altar. That event was similar in character to what Jesus refers to here, i.e., the Antichrist’s ultimate desecration when he sets up an image of himself in the temple during the tribulation . . .
This isn’t going to happen until this is written down in Scripture and read. Therefore this is for a future generation of readers, not for those who are listening on the Mount of Olives, but for future readers of the New Testament.
Some would like to refer this to Titus’ siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD
– Did not trigger an unparalleled time of devastation or the cosmic signs spoken of here
Look at parallels to 2 Thess. 2:3-4
Edwards: Both texts depict a blasphemous Antichrist who will do a scandalous deed that will trigger the return of the Lord. Both texts also warn disciples against mistaken eschatological assumptions, especially against being deceived by signs and wonders.
Abomination: object of disgust; something loathsome and detestable
Discussion of Imminent return: obviously significant things must happen before the Second Coming … that is an argument for pre-trib Rapture – allows you to hold to an imminent return = could happen at any moment
2. (:14b-16) Urgent Flight
a. (:14b) Summary – Head for the Hills
“then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
b. (:15-16) No Hesitation
1) (:15) Those on Housetops
“And let him who is on the housetop not go down, or enter in, to get anything out of his house;”
housetop reached by an outside staircase
2) (:16) Those in the Field
“and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak.”
3. (:17-18) Unremitting Circumstances – Especially Difficult and Extreme
a. (:17) Pregnant and Nursing Women
“But woe to those who are with child
and to those who nurse babes in those days!”
b. (:18) Extreme Weather
“But pray that it may not happen in the winter.”
in that season the ravines and gorges are swollen and impossible to cross
c. Matt 24:20 adds – not on a Sabbath – would put you in a quandary – stay at home and worship or take flight?? You would be conflicted; can’t allow for any hesitation in your decision making; must flee immediately
B. (:19-20) Tribulation Period Intensity
1. (:19) Unparalleled in Devastation
“For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created, until now, and never shall.”
Think of any long, sustained period of intense suffering and death – this will surpass it
[What about Noah’s Flood?]
Have to work your way through the Book of Revelation to see the scope of devastation prophecied
MacArthur: The best way to understand the characteristics of that period is to follow three sequences in the book of Revelation. Stay with me, now. There are seven seals (chap. 6), not animals, seals of a scroll, scrolls being sealed; there are seven trumpets (chap. 8-9) and there are seven bowls. Those constitute judgments. And they unfold sequentially, almost telescopically. You have the seven seals and out of the seventh seal come the seven trumpets, out of the seventh trumpet come the seven bowls. The seven seals stretch over the whole period. The seven trumpets cover the middle point and beyond. And the seven bowls are all the rapid fire at the end. So these are the disastrous judgments that come, condensed in these images.
Just look briefly at Rev. Chap. 16 for the 7 bowls – as things intensify at the end of this period
2. (:20) Unendurable in Duration
“And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect whom He chose, He shortened the days.”
Constable: God will not shorten the Tribulation to a period less than the seven years He has already announced (Dan. 9:26-27). He has already chosen to shorten it to a period of seven years. If He did not limit the Tribulation to this relatively brief duration, no one would survive. God’s special love for believers led Him to shorten His judgment on the world then to only seven years.
V. (:21-27) DECEPTION – IN THE FORM OF FALSE MESSIAHS AND FALSE PROPHETS VS. TRUE COSMIC SIGNS – CULMINATING IN THE GLORIOUS RETURN OF CHRIST —
BE ON ALERT BECAUSE YOU MUST DISTINGUISH THE FALSE FROM THE TRUE
A. (:21-23) False Christs and False Prophets With Deceptive Signs and Wonders
1. (:21) False Christs
“And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him;”
Edwards: The language and motifs of vv. 21-22 recall vv. 5-8. But the purpose has now changed, for the earlier warnings referred to messianic pretenders at the fall of Jerusalem as a sign that the end was not yet, whereas here the appearance of false Christs and prophets is a sign that the end is at hand.
2. (:22) False Prophets with Deceptive Signs and Wonders
“for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.”
Hiebert: Signs denotes things, whether frequent or rare, which have significance as pointing to something outside and beyond themselves; they are fingerposts to a higher reality. Wonders views these signs with reference to the astonishment that they produce; they are startling, amazement-evoking portents.
3. (:23) Be on Alert
“But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”.
Alistair Begg: Repetition of concept: “I am telling you these things now so that afterwards you will get it;” look at this theme in gospel of John – 13:19; 14:25; 16:1; 16:33
Some of those “Aha” moments of full understanding will only happen in eternity;
B. (:24-25) True Cosmic Signs
“But in those days, after that tribulation,”
a. Condition of Sun
“the sun will be darkened,”,
b. Condition of Moon
“and the moon will not give its light,”
c. Condition of Stars
“and the stars will be falling from heaven,”
Constable: The Book of Revelation gives further information about the celestial phenomena that will happen then (Rev. 6—18; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10). However, the Old Testament prophets also predicted these things (Isa. 13:10; 24:23; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15; Amos 8:9). If we take the wars, earthquakes, and famines of verses 7-8 literally, and I think we should, we should probably understand these phenomena literally too.
“and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.”
Hiebert: in contrast to the preceding three statements dealing with inanimate objects, the reference is to personal powers or hosts in the heavens. Then the most likely reference is to the mighty shaking effect that these events will have on the kingdom of Satan and his hosts.
C. (:26-27) Glorious Return of the Son of Man to be United with His Elect
1. (:26) Manifest Return
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds
with great power and glory.”
Taken from vision of Dan. 7:13-14 “And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming”
Clouds symbolize presence and glory of God
2. (:27) Mission of Regathering of Elect
“And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven.”
Hiebert: people alive in all parts of the world . . . the reference is to the believers who have come through the great tribulation. . . they are the distinctly Jewish believers of that period, those who have been won to faith in Christ as Messiah during the Tribulation.
Constable: [?? – alternate view] Evidently Jesus will bring all the elect together. This implies the resurrection of Old Testament saints (Dan. 12:2) and Tribulation saints who have died (Rev. 6:9-11). Probably Christians, saints of the Church Age who have gone to heaven at the Rapture or death, will return with Him (1 Thess. 4:17). Saints living on the earth when Jesus returns will also assemble to Him (cf. Matt. 25). Jesus pictured all believers converging to Him at His Second Coming—whether alive or dead, on earth or in heaven. He will become the universal center of attention, and then He will begin reigning. Unbelievers will not experience resurrection until the end of Jesus’ millennial reign (Rev. 20:7-15).
VI. (:28-31) DISCERNMENT OF THE TIMES — BE ON THE ALERT BECAUSE YOU MUST RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS – PARABLE OF FIG TREE – CERTAINTY OF FULFILLMENT
A. (:28-29) Signs that the Second Coming is Close
1. (:28) Parable of Fig Tree
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.”
Edwards: This section returns to the subject of the fall of Jerusalem of vv. 5-13, as signified by “these things” of vv. 29-30, which refer back to the same terminology earlier. In v. 2 Jesus announced the destruction of “all these great buildings.” The disciples ask, “When these things will happen?” (v.4), and Jesus says of the woes at the fall of Jerusalem, “These are the beginning of birth pains” (v. 8). “These things” in the present section resumes the same terminology, alerting us that Mark is referring of the fall of Jerusalem and not to the end of the world in the previous section (vv. 14-27). “These things” in vv. 29-30 can scarcely refer to the eschatological events of vv. 24-27, which are not signs of the end, but rather the end.
2. (:29) Application Lesson
“Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
B. (:30-31) Certainty End Time Events Will Take Place
1. (:30) Promise Given
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things take place.”
MacArthur: It means that whatever generation sees these things happening will see Christ come. What else could it mean? “I say to you, this generation, the you who see these things happening, will not pass away until all these things take place.” A generation they say is 40 years and there’s a lot less than that when you see this stuff begin to happen in the time of Tribulation, you know it will be ending soon. The generation that’s alive then will see the end.
Constable: Jesus probably meant that the fulfillment of “all these things” (v. 4b) would begin in the generation of His present disciples, but complete fulfillment would not come until later. A second view is that Jesus was referring to the specific generation in the future who would observe the signs He just spoke about. A third view is that Jesus meant His contemporaries were those who would see all these things coming to pass. A fourth view is that by “generation,” Jesus meant the entire Jewish race. “All” those things began during that generation, if one interprets “all those things” to be the signs as a whole (vv. 9-25). The Greek word genetai, translated “take place” (NASB) or “have happened” (NIV), means “have come into existence”—and permits this interpretation. One could therefore translate this Greek verb: “have begun to come into existence.”
2. (:31) Promise Reiterated and Reinforced
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
VII. (:32-37) DOORKEEPER PARABLE — BE ON THE ALERT IN LIGHT OF THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE PRECISE TIMING OF YOUR DAY OF ACCOUNTABILITY
A. (:32) Uncertainty of Precise Timing
“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven,
nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
Derek Thomas: Now if Jesus in His human nature does not know the date of the Second Coming, do you think it’s remotely possible that you and I can know it? Do you think it’s remotely possible that Harold Camping could have been right when he suggested that it was going to be 1994?
B. (:33) Application: Be on Alert
“Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.”
C. (:34-36) Parable of Doorkeeper
1. (:34) Instructions to Stay Alert
“It is like a man, away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.”
Edwards: Living faithfully in the present, being attentive to the signs, and being ready at any hour for the return of the master is not one job among others; it is the doorkeeper’s only job. . . The End is unknown and will come suddenly: live in constant readiness.
2. (:35-36) Exhortation to Be on the Alert
“Therefore, be on the alert– for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrowing, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.”
Constable: Evening, midnight, rooster crowing, and dawn were the names that the Romans gave the four watches of the night. The porter had to remain watchful (Gr. gregore) at night, when the Light of the World was absent from His estate. The opposite of watchfulness is insensibility, lethargy, and inactivity—pictured here as sleep (cf. Rom. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:1-11).
D. (:37) Application Repeated and Reinforced: Be on Alert
“And what I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”