Sunday, January 30, 2011

Be On Guard! - Mark 13:31-37

Be On Guard! - Mark 13:31-37
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 30, 2011 AM

Before becoming a Christian I studied various other religions, from the esoteric to mainline faith practices. Each one left something to be desired. Hinduism was too foreign and based mainly on mythology and magic. Islam and Mormonism sounded the same, were hard-lined, strict, and full of inconsistencies. Buddhism and the new age were just revamped versions of self-help methodologies. And Scientology, like est (Erhard Seminars Training), or Eckankar were just plain weird. Then I was challenged to read the Bible and I could not believe what I had missed. I learned Jesus shared with his disciples, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15 NIV) I came to realize that I had almost lowered my guard and allowed myself to be influenced by false teaching. We would do well to be on guard.

In this section of Mark’s gospel we find Jesus finishing up his answer to the disciples. He ends it by telling them to be on guard. In doing so, Jesus reminds them of several things that can help strengthen us as well. Let’s find out what Jesus teaches about us to be on guard…

READ: Mark 13:31-37

Whenever I buy something I usually check on its warranty and the reason is simple: Few things last in this world. It can be expensive to fix or replace most things we buy. We have to constantly guard ourselves against the false claims of charlatans. It is therefore wonderful to learn that…

I. Jesus’ words remain no matter what occurs! (v. 31)

1. The only permanent truth is God’s Word! If you notice that Jesus began this section by telling his disciples, “I tell you the truth.” (v. 30) He wanted his followers to rest assured in the fact that he understood their fear of what was going to happen. Their whole world would change. Jerusalem would be reduced to rubble and Israel itself would disappear as a nation. Many of the population would be killed, taken into slavery, or dispersed throughout the Roman world. Some would be sent as far as Britannia, Germania, and Gallia or France. The Roman dispersion of the Jews was far greater in extent than even the ones caused in the past by the Babylonians or Assyrians. The Bible reminds us that, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19 NIV) What God says he will do, he does. In fact, Isaiah tells us in succinct terms that while everything else fails, decays, or falls apart – God’s word remains: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8 NIV) In fact, while humans can be very fickle in their faith, God is not especially concerning his word! Paul refers to God's faithfulness when he asks, “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? (Romans 3:3 NIV) Of course the answer is, “No!” God’s faithfulness is established in himself just as his word is as well! While Jerusalem would fall and Israel be taken off into captivity, Jesus reminds his followers of the truth of God in the everlasting permanence of his words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” The Messiah had come and had taught them everything they needed to know. It was a truth they could bank on and be secure in no matter what else happened. When Jesus spoke, it was the truth and his words remain no matter what occurs!

EXAMPLE: What do the monuments of the Egyptian pyramids, Peruvian Machu Picchu, or Cambodia’s Angkor Wat have in common? They are all magnificent man made ruins! When we see these vast temples, structures, or monuments we are reminded that the things of man do not last. In fact, even the things of nature do not last. I find it fascinating that so many people get excited about nature, thinking that it should remain static. It does not nor should it. It would not be natural if it did. Things change, either by decay, age, natural or man made causes. Nothing remains the same, only Jesus’ words remain no matter what occurs!

There are literally hundreds of books, dozens of TV shows and movies all trying to depict when Jesus will return. “A Thief in the Night,” was one of the very first poorly made films and now we have the cheesy Left Behind movies or The Omega Code and Vanished, which was dubbed “the worst end time movie ever.” Then there is the parade of TBN preachers, History Channel specials, or Seventh Day Adventist Revelation seminars. You could watch, discuss, or do your own biblical charts and the fact remains that…

II. No one knows when Jesus will return! (Vv. 32-33)

1. Each day brings us one day closer! Jesus knew that mankind is curious and as soon as he departed this earth and ascended to the throne room of heaven, people would begin to speculate concerning his promised return. And sure enough, they did and they still do. We find that with a few short weeks following Jesus' resurrection, while he is ministering to his disciples “over a period of forty days” he “spoke about the kingdom of God,” incredulously they ask him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus bluntly answers them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:6-7) Later on, during his ministry, Paul faced false teachers trying to teach that Jesus had already returned and he rebukes them by writing, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 NIV) Just as a thief does not announce when he is going to rob you, God is not going to give us a date of Jesus’ return either. Paul did not want them to be “ignorant” about Jesus ultimate return and their own resurrection. This is why Jesus warned his disciples that day by telling them, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We are not to speculate concerning the day of Jesus’ return, because we simply do not know when it will happen. Plus, it leads to unnecessary involvement in that which is unimportant. We need only to live daily for Christ and wait expectantly for his return. Jesus dramatically warned them, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37-39 NIV) No one knows when Jesus will return!

EXAMPLE: I mean seriously, knowing the sinful condition of humanity what would a lot of folks do if they knew the exact day and hour of Jesus’ return? They would live like “huckleberries” and then perhaps decide right before his return to make a pronouncement of faith. Certainly it would do them no good, but they would make this world a living hell until it happened. You know what I mean. Many people would become even more hedonistic than they already are, more vengeful, and despicable. For crying out loud, look at what occurred in New Orleans when Katrina hit! There was looting, rape, and robbery. During riots and even recent earthquakes there are those dregs of society that use any excuse to pillage their fellow man. God in his wisdom does not want us to know and frankly, I am glad no one knows when Jesus will return.

While I may disagree with those who claim they know the day and hour of Jesus’ return, I do agree that more Christians need to be made aware of the fact that it could be at any time. Too few believers even concern themselves with the fact that Jesus is going to return and when he does, the final judgment will occur. And that mere truth should cause us all great pause because there will be those who will not want nor desire what occurs afterwards. This is why Jesus says…

III. His followers are to keep watch! (Vv. 34-37)

1. A watchman stays awake! Jesus had taught his disciples to “be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.” He goes on to state, “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:38-40 NIV) In fact, so quickly would it happen it would be like when “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” The terminology is literally they would be “snatched up” as if taken by an invader! They were therefore reminded to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:40-42 NIV) Jesus related to them something they understood. He tells them, “It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.” Being the watchman would have been a high honor because it involved trust. Jesus entrusted his followers to “keep watch” as well “because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.” And, “If he comes suddenly,” you certainly did not want him to “find you sleeping.” (Mark 13:34-36 NIV) Too many Christians are asleep. They seek for the stupor of self-induced worship, and are not ready for their Master’s return. I am again reminded that when Jesus returns it is not going to be all flowers and kittens. Isaiah cries out, “See, the day of the LORD is coming --a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger-- to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.” (Isaiah 13:9 NIV) and Zephaniah laments, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3 NIV) This is why Jesus warns them, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Therefore, I believe we want to be very careful when we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” because as his disciples we are entrusted with keeping watch and some of us have fallen asleep. We are reminded that his followers are to keep watch!

EXAMPLE: There is an old story that teaches that the Great Wall of China was only breached after one watchman was bribed by the Mongolian hordes. No one knows for sure if this is true or not, but it makes sense. Like the old adage that states, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” so is any fortress as strong as the watchmen who guard its gates. Even today, if you are found sleeping on guard duty in the military it is considered dereliction of duty. You can suffer a court-martial or even death for falling asleep at your post. Can you imagine then what it will be like when Jesus returns and he discovers so many of his followers asleep spiritually? We are warned over and over to keep watch.

Today in Mark we learned three things about how to be on guard: 1) Jesus’ words remain no matter what occurs, 2) No one knows when Jesus will return, and 3) His followers are to keep watch! Now, which one do you need to work on?
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Sign of the Times! - Mark 13:21-30

The Sign of the Times! - Mark 13:21-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 23, 2011 AM

We have a tendency to think that what happens to us personally should affect everyone else. And while some of the decisions we make can affect a whole lot of folks, compared to the rest of the city you live in, the State you occupy, or where you reside nationally – what you do affects relatively few folks. That is, until you do something so stupid that you garner the media’s attention and gain 15 minutes of fame. However, the Christian is supposed to impact those around them in a good way. Believers are commanded to make a difference in the lives of those they come in contact with. Sadly, too few do. Far too many of us have come to think that it is simply the sign of the times.

The sign of the times can be good or bad depending upon what it depicts or exposes. It can be good if it shows discoveries that benefit society. They can be bad if they are the result of society going haywire. Too many people watch for the sign of the times without really doing anything about what they are observing. The Five Man Electric Band made famous the lyrics, “Sign Sign everywhere a sign, blocking out the scenery breaking my mind! Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” Jesus related to his disciples that they were to “read the signs” so-to-speak and understand what was going to happen. Let’s discover what Jesus meant by the sign of the times…

READ: Mark 13:21-30

After Jesus returned to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, those he left behind would need to be aware of approaching danger. Danger so great, that they would need to watch for the sign of the times. Jesus knew that during times of great national stress or worldwide crisis, there are those who try to use the ensuing chaos to further their own agenda. Jesus therefore warns the disciples to watch for…

I. The sign of false Messiahs and prophets! (Vv. 21-23)

1. “Make no mistake, the temple will stand again upon the Temple Mount!” – John Hagee. If it does, it will be paganism pure and simple because Jesus is the final sacrifice. In this section of Mark several ideas are put forth by theologians: 1) Some say Jesus is referencing his death and the aftermath that would occur, 2) some say Jesus is referencing the destruction of Jerusalem, the chaos that did indeed happened, and finally some think 3) that Jesus was only referring to his ultimate return. Jesus may have been referencing all three. However, his main focus is on events that will transpire shortly during the destruction of the temple. Jesus told them “everything ahead of time” because he wanted them to be on their “guard” against “false Christs and false prophets.” These perverts of the gospel would “appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible.” In fact many would evidently be fooled, so if anyone said to them, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “Look, there he is!” they were not to “believe it.” We know about several false teachers who claimed Messiahship and were killed by the Romans during the rebellion that occurred before Jerusalem fell. Gamaliel, Paul’s mentor, mentions a Theudas who claimed “to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.” (Acts 5:36-37 NIV) Eusebius, an early 2nd century church leader and historian recorded the words of Justin describing a Simon in one of the earliest defenses of Christianity that “after the ascension of our Lord… Simon… performed many magic rites… was considered a god, in your imperial city Rome and was honored by you with a statue as a god… with the superscription in Latin, Simoni Deo Sancto, which is, To Simon the Holy God.” He goes on to tell how early Samaritans and others worshiped him “as the Supreme God.” Josephus, the First Century historian, related that there were so many impostors preying on the gullibility of the people that under the procuratorship of Felix, “many of them were apprehended and killed every day.” He writes that “They seduced great numbers of the people still expecting the Messiah…” and the false prophets that Jesus had “cautioned his disciples about.”

EXAMPLE: There are always those who claim to either know the thoughts of God or who think they speak for God. Charles King began as a newscaster in New York. One evening after running out of news, leaving fifteen minutes of dead airtime, he decided to tell viewers what would happen the next day. He filled the void with a myriad of entertaining adlibs. Everyone enjoyed it so much he was given a small segment each night following the newscasts so he could make a few impromptu and eccentric predictions. It was all done as a lighthearted joke until one night he accidentally predicted a local politician’s death. The public was astounded and the newscaster Charles King became the “Amazing Criswell.” He left the news gig and became one of the most celebrated psychics of his day, even appearing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. None of the rest of his prophecies ever came true, but it did not stop him from making them and people believing him. Marcion of Sinope, Joseph Smith, Edgar Cayce, Charles Taze Russell, Ellen G. White, Mary Baker Eddy, David Koresh, Bo and Peep, Tim LaHaye, Dave Hunt or a Constance Cumbey have either made end time predictions or thought they were God’s spokesman. And they have all been proven false prophets! These kinds of people existed in Jesus’ day as well and used the times they lived in to gain acceptance and popularity. The sign of false messiahs and prophets is still with us.

How can we be sure when Jesus will return? The truth is we cannot be sure. However we are to watch and be ready for his return at any time. When would the temple be destroyed? What would occur and what about the Messiah? The inquiring minds of the disciples wanted to know. Jesus tells his followers to watch for…

II. The heavenly sign of God’s power! (Vv. 24-27)

1. “The signs strongly indicate that the end of the world will be begin no later than 1988!” – Hal Lindsey. The signs of the times mentioned by Jesus in Mark are often seen as the end of the world, but he did not mean them to be taken that way. Again we find Jesus using terminology that his listeners would immediately understand. In fact most teaching by the early church concerning these verses saw Jesus as referring to the nation of Israel, its leadership, and its subjugation. Using the same kind of language the author of Judges describes the conflicts of the confederacy of Canaanite city-states under Jabin of Hazor by stating, “From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera.” (Judges 5:20 NIV) Joseph’s family becomes angered at him after he relates to them his dream of his parents and brothers all bowing down to him, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” (Genesis 37:9-11) Later, the Book of Revelation uses the same kind imagery to relate the nation Israel and the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” (Revelation 12:1-2 NIV) So when Jesus tells his disciples, “But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’”(Mark 13:24-25 NIV) he is echoing Isaiah’s words concerning God’s judgment of Israel by the Assyrians, “The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10 NIV) and Joel, “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:30-31 NIV), by the Babylonians. Israel’s destruction by the Romans would be just a cataclysmic to the Jews of Jesus’ day. In relating, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” Jesus is reminding them of the promise of God to bring all nations under the banner of his chosen One. (Daniel 7:13-14) Jesus was reminding them of the heavenly sign of God’s power!

EXAMPLE: How sad that so many people put so much emphasis on the awful things that might happen before Jesus returns, rather than focusing on the steadfastness of the Lord. The words of Hebrews remind us that “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” (Hebrews 12:28-29) Jesus was not consumed about what may or may not happen several thousands of years later but rather in what was going to occur with a few short decades following his ascension. Amos’ warning should remind us that we should not long for the day when God judges this world, “Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.” (Amos 5:18 NIV) Paul reminds us that our salvation in Christ is an “incomparably great power for us who believe.” He continues by stating, “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:19-21 NIV) The day of the Lord would be the heavenly sign of God’s power.

We would all like to know when something awful was about to occur in our lives. Some say that if you watch animals their actions can sense if an earthquake is going to happen. But what actions tell us exactly and are there ones that tell us where it will happen? Sadly, just as we cannot look to animals to tell us when something is going to happen or where, we cannot depend on people and their plethora of predictions and charts either concerning Jesus' return. Curiously Jesus states that we need to watch for…

III. The sign of “the fig tree”! (Vv. 28-30)

1. “From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981!” – Chuck Smith. The disciples’ first question (Mark 13:4) was, “When will these things happen?” Jesus tells them, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.” Interestingly, in the parallel passage of Luke he said, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees.” So he is not referring to Israel here as he did in cursing the fig tree earlier (Mark 11:14) It would have been natural for Jesus to use the analogy of the fig tree since they were meeting together on the Mt. of Olives where there were dozens of trees growing! Before Jesus entered the temple area, drove out the moneychangers, and after he is rebuked by the Pharisees in the crowd as he was entering Jerusalem, he states that, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.” (Luke 19:42-44 NIV) And here as they sit in the garden he looks up and tells his followers that the sign when these things would occur. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree,” he tells them, “As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.” And just as trees give off new leaves in the spring, “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Jesus also gives the timing. He states, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” When would all of what he had just told them would occur? Within the generation of the disciples. In fact, Jesus emphatically reminds them, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” It was going to happen and it would happen soon. They were warned, they were given his answer, and it was all he could do at the time. If they remained alert and aware of the sign of “the fig tree” they would see it happen soon.

EXAMPLE: According to the ancient philosopher Aristotle, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Aristotle based his conclusion on the observation that nature requires every space to be filled with something, even if that something is colorless, odorless air. This insight can be applied to our theology as well, especially where end time predictions are concerned. Far too many have hitched their millennial wagon to a faulty set of manmade precepts instead of the Word of God. And the space has been filled with nothing of consequence. We would do well in reminding ourselves of how Jesus finishes his answer to the disciples. (We will go deeper into what he meant next week.) Jesus looks at them and succinctly tells them a wonderful spiritual truth that we all need to hitch our theological horses to, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Jesus’ words, his teachings stand the test of time and outlive any end time prognosticators. He will return when God sends him again. Believers need to be ready and watch for the sign of “the fig tree.”

In today’s passage we discovered the sign of the times. Jesus tells us about several: 1) The sign of false Messiahs and prophets! 2) The heavenly sign of God’s power! And, 3) the sign of “the fig tree”!
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Coming Crisis! - Mark 13:14-20

The Coming Crisis! - Mark 13:14-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 16, 2011AM

We can be taught things over and over so many times that we begin to think what we are being taught is absolutely true, whether it is or not. Here are several examples: In Rome a thumbs up signal meant let a defeated gladiator live, but a thumb down signal meant kill him. In reality a thumbs up meant kill the loser, however, if the thumb was concealed in a fist, it meant let the loser live. We also think, because of Hollywood movies like Spartacus, that slaves manned the oars of Roman galleys, yet most were free men who were sailors trained to row and then fight. Rowing was considered a skilled task. Can things we come to think of as true yet are false infect our Christian thinking as well? The answer is “Yes.”

Here in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus continuing to answer his disciple’s question about when the temple would be destroyed. His response and what it meant has been so analyzed that what we may think of as true may not be. Much of what is taught today comes from the unusual teachings of a man named John Darby, who never studied theology, and was a member of the Plymouth Brethren. What he taught was originally made popular by William Miller of the Seventh Day Adventists, Joseph Smith of the LDS, and later by Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Baptist and other orthodox Christian churches of the era flatly condemned them. Much later, following WWII, his teachings would be popularized and taught at Dallas Theological Seminary, Bob Jones University, and by the authors Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. So, where does that leave us concerning the coming crisis Jesus described? Let’s find out shall we?

READ: Mark 13:14-20

Paul would remind the early church leadership to, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV) He warned them so that they could withstand false teaching and persecution. Jesus was trying to warn his disciples as well. We find him telling them that...

I. During the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples should be ready! (Vv. 14-16)

1. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44 NIV) If you saw floodwaters headed your way, what would you do? Would you simply stand there and watch them overwhelm you? Most people would get their family to safety as fast as they could, leaving everything else behind. The “floodwaters” Jesus warned his disciples about, he described as “the abomination that causes desolation.” Jesus was not referring to an Antichrist to come. Rather, he was deliberately using familiar jargon. It is a term found in the Book of Daniel with meanings such as to “devastate,” “make desolate,” “make a desert,” or “to scandalize,” with other derivatives meaning “to lay waste, horror, devastation, or distress.” It was used to describe an attitude of appalling horror due to barbaric criminal acts of deliberate idolatry and never personally referred to an individual. Daniel’s prophecy came true when in 167 BC a Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the Jewish temple. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple. This event was so unthinkable to Hebraic thought that it was known as the abomination of desolation. There are those who now want to count days, weeks, or speculate any number of things in order to find a specific individual that fits their ideal of the Antichrist. It comes from them pulling sections of the Book of Revelation into the mix. However, Jesus never meant for that to occur. He simply used terminology his listeners would immediately know and understand as a prophetic warning. What Daniel had spoken of was about to happen again, only it would be far worse. So much so that Jesus warned, “Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.” Instead of staying in Jerusalem, when his disciples saw the “signs” of the Roman army marching toward them, during the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples were to be ready to get out of Dodge! If they did not, they would be killed, taken as slaves or prisoners.

EXAMPLE: Much of what is taught concerning the abomination that causes desolation was never taught before the 1840s and was not seen as credible theology until after WWII. WWI was called the Great War or the War to End All Wars. Many were therefore disillusioned when WWII occurred and longed for biblical answers. Cults had been teaching millenarian doctrines and it was seen as unorthodox by most Christian churches and denominations. But armed with a myriad of charts, graphs, and all the counting of numbers, dates, and hidden implications -- it all seemed to bring meaning to those who were disillusioned by war. It slowly gained some acceptance within Pentecostal and independent-style Christian churches. Since the 1840s there have been many false dates set for Jesus’ return, many named as the Antichrist – a term given to a supposed satanic ruler which is never mentioned in the Bible – and all kinds of various scenarios given as biblical truth. Recently, Harold Camping of Family Radio is predicting the end of the world for May 21, 2011, but Camping first predicted that doomsday would be on September 6, 1994. Camping 89, is basing his prediction, like other false teachers have, on a convoluted mathematical system to interpret supposed prophecies hidden within the Bible from the time that Israel became a nation in 1948. Unfortunately, the recent reports of massive numbers of dead birds and dead fish showing up around the globe are only helping to intensify the end of the world fear mongering. However, implicit in Jesus’ teaching is the fact that his followers, no matter what generation, are to be ready. And, here in Mark’s gospel we find him teaching them that during the coming crisis the disciples should be ready! Are you?

Antiochus Epiphanes, meaning “Manifested of God” ruled the Seleucid Empire. He banished the Jewish high priest Jason and sold the position. While fighting in Egypt, rumor spread he had been killed. Jason gathered 1,000 soldiers, attacked Jerusalem, and the false High Priest, Menelaus fled. Enraged, Antiochus attacked Jerusalem and restored Menelaus. The book of 2 Maccabees relates what occurred, “Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery.” (2 Maccabees 5:12-14) He then deliberately defiled the temple. The Romans would do far worse. Jesus tells his listeners that…

II. During the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples should be aware! (Vv. 17-18)

1. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (1 Thessalonians 5:6 NIV) Jesus sternly reminds them that if a woman is pregnant or that it occurs during the winter, it would be especially rough. Why? A society that is unconcerned for their unborn will not last long. We live in a day and age where we slaughter the unborn by the millions. However, historically, most enlightened cultures protected their children, including the unborn. The Hebrews placed a high priority on life and especially their children because they were seen as a person’s heritage and God also commanded them to. The Psalmist would declare, “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” (Psalms 127:3 NIV) And he would later write, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalms 139:13-16 NIV) Therefore, pregnant women were highly regarded and seen as the most vulnerable. Childbirth during Jesus’ day was seen as dangerous and if it took place while the expectant mother was fleeing for her life, the worst time it could happen would be during the depths of winter! This is why Jesus sternly warns them, “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter!” It is easy for us to forget that Jesus was trying to help his followers understand what would occur after his death, burial and resurrection, and what would occur when the temple was destroyed. Yet we find him deeply concerned. He also did not want his followers to foolishly stay behind because of nationalistic loyalty or keep their family in harm’s way by doing so. The early church needed to survive in order to spread the good news. They needed to be aware of what was happening. In fact, the early church understood Jesus’ words and fled Jerusalem to places like Petra, Egypt, and Asia Minor when the Romans attacked. Jesus knew that during the coming crisis his disciples should be aware!

EXAMPLE: I am incredulous that so many "Christians" today are so troubled by the latest end time prediction. Instead of worrying about who has been named the recent Antichrist by some slick-haired prognosticator, we should concern ourselves with whom we have not shared the gospel. We should spend less time watching the History or Discovery Channels, TBN, or devoting ourselves to reading the latest prophetic paperback. No matter how good the parsing of the Greek is, no one knows when Jesus will return. Each and every day brings us one day closer to his return. I am reminded of the startling words Jesus left his disciples when he told them, “It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:43-48 NIV) Jesus knew that during the coming crisis his disciples should be aware! Are you?

I have seen good Christian folk so consumed by what might happen during the “Tribulation,” that they neglect what is happening now! Believers are not to be concerned about what will happen, when it will happen, and who is going to bring it about. It is all in God’s timing and perfect plan. If we know Jesus we never need to fear what man can do to us. However, Jesus knew the trepidation of people. He knew they would be frightened. And in knowing that this would occur and he reminds them that…

III. During the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples would be safe in him! (Vv. 19-20)

1. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. (Psalms 27:5 NIV) We now have a fuller understanding of why Jesus warns them: “because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now -- and never to be equaled again.” Again, in our thinking we often equate this with something so horrible that only verses out of Revelation fit. However, this is simply not true. For Jerusalem to be utterly destroyed and the temple hauled off, in Jesus' disciple's minds and in their thinking, it never would be equaled. I earlier described how Jesus was speaking some 200 years after the abomination of desolation described by Daniel. Jesus was therefore prophesying how another abomination of desolation would occur to the Jewish temple. We have discovered that in fact it did indeed happen. For some odd reason folks think that Jesus had to be referring to what is predicted in the Book of Revelations concerning the bowls of divine wrath. Just as we should not mix our metaphors, we should be very careful to not mingle our prophecies either. However, I do believe Revelation does describe for us the destruction of Rome and Jerusalem as well and the culmination of all things. Yet, we should not place too strong an emphasis on trying to discern what we were never meant to in the first place. Instead we should focus on what we definitely know. Far too often we forget the promise of Revelation: “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7 NIV) It echoes Jesus’ promise to his followers, “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.” Notice that he shortens the time of trial for those he had elected, those he has chosen. He had chosen each and every one of his listeners, just as he chooses us now. He called them and they decided to follow him, just as all do who place their faith and trust in Christ today. Jesus always eases the trials of his saints. He wanted his listeners to take heart and know that during the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples would be safe in him!

EXAMPLE: The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts what happened. Jewish Zealots beat, killed and threw out the ruling Priesthood, installed one of their own choosing, who was not even a Levite. Had him proclaim that God had declared they would eventually be victorious. Of course they were not because the Roman general Titus soon surrounded Jerusalem and besieged it for seven years. By the end, inhabitants were eating the dead and their children. The city was completely razed, so much so that even the trees around the area were uprooted. It was described as looking as if it had never been a city of habitation. Over 1,100,000 Jews were killed and another 97,000 taken into slavery by Rome when the dust had settled. It was noted that the soldiers had to climb over heaps of dead bodies in order to continue their carnage. Everything that was not destroyed was hauled off back to Rome. Many of the Temple’s stones were used to build the Roman Coliseum. The treasures of the temple were taken back and melted down in Rome and used to pay the salaries of the soldiers who destroyed it. And yet we know for a fact that the Christians of Jerusalem and the surrounding area stayed safe because they heeded the warning they learned about from Jesus and his disciples. It is just as true today as it was then. We can rest assured that during any coming crisis, Jesus’ disciples will be kept safe in him!

During the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples should be ready! During the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples should be aware! During the coming crisis Jesus’ disciples will be safe in him!
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Trials of a Disciple - Mark 13:11-13

The Trials of a Disciple - Mark 13:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 09, 2011 AM

Americans are often accused of living sheltered lives. From the cradle to the grave we are encouraged not to personally think about the long-term effect of our actions, to immediately blame our lives on society, or to be completely dependent upon others to bail us out. We live in fractured relationships thinking that by getting rid of old-fashioned social stigmas we will experience true love. We do not plan for the future believing that the government should take care of us and death is something to be avoided at all cost and not talked about.

This is true to a certain extent where Christians are concerned as well. We have swallowed the lie that there should not be any consequences for our ungodly actions. That our faith practice is dependent upon how we feel, that as long as we think good thoughts about Jesus, God will love and honor our superficial compliance and one-day, by-and-by, welcome us home. However, here in Mark’s gospel, Jesus teaches his followers that his disciples will face trails they never thought possible. This is saying a lot since life during that day was often seen as short and cheap. Jesus relates that there would be trials for his disciples. Let’s begin to discover what Jesus taught and why as we look at the trials of a disciple…

READ: Mark 13:11-13

After just telling them that “the gospel must first be preached to all nations,” Jesus again reminds his listeners of the consequences of following him. Jesus is still answering their question of when the temple would be destroyed and what “signs” would occur. Verse 10 is therefore kind of an apex in Jesus’ theological discourse. We have to remind ourselves that Jesus is not answering questions concerning when he would eventually return, but rather telling them what would occur before the temple’s destruction.

(It is sad that I have to do this, but because of what has often passed as orthodox theology concerning this passage and its sister passages from Luke and Matthew, I feel we must be more informed. Westerners need to have things fall into neat little packages, as I explained last week. However, Eastern thought does not work that way and can become confusing for us Westerners if we do not understand this. Much of what is taught today is simply not true concerning this passage. Why would I say this? One must always look at Scripture in the context of when it was written, to whom it was written, and as to why it was written. Not for hidden messages, seeking after clues, or trying to decipher certain dates. Hebrew writers were never bothered or encumbered with getting numbers exactly right, dates in chronological order, or in using another writer’s descriptive vivid terms to convey their own prophecies. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they freely used all of the above. Therefore whether Jesus uses words from Daniel, or Ezekiel borrows descriptions from others, as does John, Joel, and Peter, it did not matter to them. And their use may not have anything to do with another writer’s vision at all. The terminology is simply borrowed for the impact it would have on the listener, to make us sit up and take notice.)

Therefore, Jesus continues by telling his followers that the temple would be destroyed and that…

I. The disciple will be hated by the world! (v. 13)

1. If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18 NIV) We cannot imagine what early Christians had to endure because of their faith. They lived in a completely paganistic society that had no Christian influence at all. The closest we can come to this kind of ungodly influence would be those believers who nowadays live in predominantly Muslim or Hindu countries. Many of these nations that are under these influences used to have very large Christian populations, but within the last decades they have dwindled because of severe persecution. Often, Christians have to submit or flee. Here in the United States the most believers face is having their faith seen as awkward or embarrassing. And usually, this describes how we feel, not those around us. We live where we all want to be loved and accepted. Secular America touts tolerance and multiculturalism, but allows hatred toward anything that hints at morality and decency. The authors at LifeWay write, "Increasingly, believers who take bold stands for the Lord face bitter opposition from a rival culture that considers itself morally superior, intellectually justified, and socially advanced. We may not want to admit it, but our current dominant culture despises the things of Christ." Over 30 years ago I wrote a warning about the homosexual movement in America. It would be taught as “normal” and redefine marriage. To think otherwise would be seen as hatred and intolerant. What I predicted has occurred. However, the Christian’s problem is not with an abnormal lifestyle or with an immoral nation, it is found in the hatred sinful folks have when boldly confronted with the light of the gospel. Sadly, fewer and fewer folks are not finding any fault with what the church nowadays preaches as the gospel. Notice Jesus does not mince any words with his followers. He bluntly tells them, “All men will hate you because of me.” The “all men” that Jesus spoke of, can include those who claim Christ but who are embarrassed by the gospel they claim to love. The world likes the gospel when it speaks of Jesus’ love but vilifies it when it reminds them that he is the only way, the only truth, and the only life and that no one comes to God but through him, (John 14:6) or if it exposes their sin. Notice Jesus adds “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” He is not teaching you can lose your salvation, rather he is telling them what will occur after his death and the temple’s destruction. He is reminding them that the disciple will be hated by the world and they would need to “endure” until he either returned or they died.

EXAMPLE: Christianity is more than a means for us to feel good about ourselves. Instead of going into the world, too many churches do whatever it takes to get the world through its doors! Jesus warned that “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is,” he continued, “you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19 NIV) We have mistakenly forgotten that although Jesus sends us into the world, we are not to be part of the world. (John 17:16, 18) Why then do so many Christians try so hard to gain the acceptance of the ungodly world instead of giving it the light of the gospel? Every time Christians have abdicated their responsibilities to be a light in a sin-darkened world and welcomed the world’s influence, the world has suffered. It suffered during the rise of Catholicism, the serfdom of the Middle Age, after the teaching that “God is dead,” and during the rise of socialism through Nazism and Communism. It was only after the church has repented of its sin, discovered reformation, was reawakened, and returned to the gospel has it experienced growth. Today’s church has little impact on society because its vision has been obscured by its love of the world. When the disciple is not hated by the world, there is something drastically wrong.

You may think, “Pastor Lee that is pretty harsh! Aren’t we supposed to loving and kind?” I never said the believer should not be, but far too often we equate sharing the gospel as just being “nice” to others. Christians can lie to the world by being so “nice” that they nicely watch those around them die eternally separated from God, by never actually sharing the good news. The truth is that if you are sharing the gospel, you will not always be liked. The gospel costs. So much so that Jesus also warned that…

II. The disciple will be betrayed by their own family! (v. 12)

1. Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. (Luke 12:51 NIV) It is bad enough when folks dislike you because of what you believe, but when your own family turns against you it can be devastating. We often find that those who claim God’s love, disowning any family member who accepts Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses become deaf, blind, and mute to family members who come to Christ. Literally family members can become anathema, abhorrent to their own kin because of Jesus. We find within the pages of the early church whole families torn apart because of one member’s faith in Christ. Nowadays we find drastic religious intolerance in Islam whenever anyone within a family turns to Christ. In most Islamic nations, to even carry a Bible or New Testament can result in imprisonment or death. According to Islamic law, any Muslim who leaves Islam loses custody of their children. The children are then placed with Muslim relatives where they are forced to embrace Islam again or die. Islam is the only world religion which demands that people who leave it should be killed. Very few Christians in America have experienced such extremes in their conversion of Christ. Often, we have completely forgotten that the cost involved in following Jesus can demand a high price. This was a very real hazard during the time of the early church. Jesus tells them, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” Jesus knew that his disciples would be betrayed by their own families because of their faith in him. He wanted them to be prepared for the persecution to come. This is why he told them that the disciple will be betrayed by their own family!

EXAMPLE: Last November, a 17-year-old Muslim girl in Somalia who converted to Christianity was shot to death in an apparent “honor killing.” Nurta Mohamed Farah, who had fled her village to live with relatives after her parents tortured her for leaving Islam, died on November 25, 2010. Area sources said they strongly suspected that the two unidentified men who shot her in the chest and head with a pistol were relatives or acting on their behest. “Reports reached the relatives in that Nurta had converted to Christianity,” one source said. “The suspicion that her family is responsible is a solid one. The sister was killed in as well and the place where the incident took place is about 200 meters from where the sister was staying with relatives.” Relatives buried Farah, sources said. Her parents had severely beaten her for leaving Islam and regularly shackled her to a tree at their home. She had been confined to her home in the Gedo region in southern Somalia since May 10, when her family found out that she had embraced Christianity. Jesus knew this was what his followers faced as well. He knew that the disciple will be betrayed by their own family.

Many of us are frustrated when some of close friend or relative teases us or acts differently around us since our conversion to Christ. However, folks, that isn’t persecution nor is it betrayal. Jesus meant the believer would be actually persecuted or killed because of their faith. Yet, he also gave his followers hope even during these times of distress. He tells them that…

III. The disciple will have the Holy Spirit’s power and presence! (v. 11)

1. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV) The Holy Spirit is not some force, personal power source, or spiritual energizer. He is a person and part of the triune Godhead. He is given as the believer's seal as our assurance we are in Christ forever no matter what occurs to us! He is our partner in prayer and guide in life, our comfort and encourager. Notice that the job of the Holy Spirit would be so much more for those who would face persecution. Jesus knew that his disciples were going to face a very real threat. It would be a time of terror and great anguish for them personally. Not only would Israel cease to exist, the temple that the Hebrews saw as a wonder of God would be rubble! We can only compare it to our Nation’s capitol being utterly destroyed. Add to this that the person, whom they had followed for three and half years would be betrayed, illegally tried, convicted, and put to a horrendous death. He would not be there personally for them to go to and find comfort or understanding during dark times. If they were arrested for their faith how should they respond and how would they know what to say? So, Jesus begins this short section by reminding them that, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11 NIV) The followers of Christ need not fear what to say when they are confronted for their faith; God would be there with them in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God with us as his children! We never need worry about what will happen to us, we need not be frightened by dark times, nor do we need to be afraid to speak the truth of God – he has provided his presence to us! Jesus promised that the disciple will have the Holy Spirit’s power and presence!

EXAMPLE: An African proverb states, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.” That concept can be helpful as we walk with God knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit guides us. We can pray, seek God’s face, and ask him for direction in our life. The Holy Spirit is not like some Jiminy Cricket who is a kind of conscience telling us what is right or wrong. Yes, he can and does work with our conscience but his advice is always in line with God’s word and what we know about God. Any question is not too big or hard for the Holy Spirit, we are just often more afraid or unwilling to wait for his guidance. No matter what happens, God never leaves us as orphans nor does he forsake his children. Jesus said that the disciple will have the Holy Spirit’s power and presence always.

The disciple will be hated by the world! The disciple will be betrayed by their own family! The disciple will have the Holy Spirit’s power and presence!
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The World Will Continue! - Mark 13:7-10

The World Will Continue! - Mark 13:7-10
by Pastor Lee Hemen
January 2, 2011 AM

I will never forget when my father died. It was right after New Year's Eve in 1968. He had gotten up to get a drink of water and smoke a cigarette. He was dragging his oxygen tank behind him when his heart gave way. My brother Ed and I were the first ones to find him. We heard him sigh and fall in the hallway of our little house. As Ed tried vainly to revive him I phoned for an ambulance. We now know there was nothing we could have done. His heart muscles were so weak, he died instantly. It has impacted my entire life. I can still smell the mixture of cigarette smoke and the Aqua Velva aftershave he always wore. Even at my age of 57 I still miss him and think of him often, but life goes on.

What would you do if the one person you depended upon the most in life was suddenly taken from you? As I have shared, some of us have already had to face such a prospect and it is not an easy thing to go through in life. Now imagine if you will that you followed someone for three and a half years, came to realize he was the answer to your nation's and perhaps the entire world's problems and he is summarily arrested, illegally convicted of crimes he was not guilty of, and then killed? What makes it worse is the fact he was truly a kind and righteous person. All of this was about to occur and Jesus knew it. He knew his disciples would be shaken to their very core and perhaps their faith would not withstand what was about to happen. Jesus wanted more than anything to let them know ahead of time that the world will continue. Let's discover what Jesus shared with his disciples so that we too can be prepared when our world is shaken.

READ: Mark 13:7-10

As Americans we want everything including our theology placed in simple boxes so that we can open one right after another and not have to think too hard. However, when we study the Bible we realize that it simply does not work that way. And this is no more evident than in the verses in Mark we will be looking at for the next several weeks. No matter what you have watched on TV, heard in the past, or read from some hyped up book concerning the latest theory on the End Times, we have to look at what the Scripture actually says and why. This is why Jesus tells his followers that...

I. The world will continue and bad things will happen to good people! (Vv. 7-8)

1. “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30 NIV) Jesus continues his discourse to his disciples’ questions concerning when the temple would be destroyed by reminding them that when they heard “of wars and rumors of wars” they were not to be “alarmed.” Wars and battles were commonplace in that day and age and they were not to be frightened by them. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote: “The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time.” (The Histories, 1:2). “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Jesus tells them. The believer is not to become caught up in speculation concerning when the Lord would eventually return. There are far greater things believers are to concern themselves with. In fact, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.” Notice Jesus does not say "more wars, more famines, more earthquakes." I find it humorous when folks begin to panic over every earthquake that occurs thinking that there are more now than ever before. This is simply not true. According to the USGS there are no more major earthquakes than before, we simply have more recording stations - 350 in 1931 and now we have over 4,000! In fact, Jesus tells his listeners, “These are the beginning of birth pains.” Jesus meant that these things would continue and were not “signs” of the temple’s destruction or of his own return, only the same pains and sorrows sinful humanity has always gone through. The end of the temple would come, and as harsh and terrible as that would be, as his disciples they were to concern themselves with other things first. Historians of the time note that “There were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae, Campania, Rome, and Judea.” The city of Pompeii was also damaged by an earthquake in 63 A.D. We know that starvation was predicted by a prophet “named Agabus, [who] stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)” (Acts 11:28) Jerusalem was finally destroyed after wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines had happened. Jesus let his followers know that the world will continue and bad things will happen to good people!

EXAMPLE: We can take comfort that folks like Vice President Al Gore and his dire global weather predictions are based more on sensationalism than on actual science. Michael Oppenheimer, of Princeton University, had to admit he erroneously wrote that by “1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots.” He wrote that the “Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers.” Dr. Paul Ehrlich, the infamous author of “The Population Bomb” and a professor at Stanford University, is another alarmist who was completely wrong in his writing on populations, our ability to feed them, and what would occur. He wrote, “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people” and predicted that “England will not exist in the year 2000.” His answer was to advocate mandatory population control. Christian authors are no better in their dire predictions. Hal Lindsey has continually speculated on Christ’s return. Tim LaHaye has predicted who the antichrist would be, what nations would be part of a global spiritual conspiracy, seven years of pestilence, and when the end would come. He has set dates and been completely wrong. Jesus knew this would occur. He told his disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV) Jesus knew that the world will continue and bad things will happen to good people!

The world will not be suddenly frozen by severe weather conditions caused by global warming. Which, I find as humorous because I see it as more of a made up excuse for the actual cooling the earth is now experiencing. For anyone to think that the world’s weather is static is contrary to what we actually know about climate change. The world has been a lot warmer and a lot colder, and no matter what we try to do about it, it is going to happen. I have kind of the same view of when Jesus will return. He said he would and he said no one knew when it would occur, people just needed to be ready. Jerusalem would fall, the temple would be destroyed, and Israel would cease to be a nation. This is why Jesus states that…

II. The World will continue but believers need to be on guard and ready to witness! (Vv. 9-10)

1. “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.” (Ezekiel 33:6 NIV) Least they forget Jesus immediately tells his disciples, “You must be on your guard.” They had to be aware of what was going on around them otherwise they could lose focus as to what their lives were now about. Sadly, much of the church today has done just that. We have lost our focus in understanding that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not to give us a better worship. The sin-darkened world hangs by a thread and far too many believers are more concerned about how they feel than their neighbors dying in their sin. As the hymn reminds us, “Millions grope in darkness, waiting for thy word,” yet few Christians ever share their faith. Perhaps this is why we love to sing "Silent Night" during this time of year? We are starkly reminded, however, of what these early believers faced after the death, burial, and resurrection of their Lord. Jesus bluntly tells them of their future, “You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” Few of us have faced such a prospect for our daily lives, but this would be the disciple's lives from that moment on. Jesus is warning them that they would be wrongfully retaliated against. They would be willingly handed over by those who would hate them for what they dared to believe. They would be beaten with 39 strokes, in the synagogues they would be called heretics, and judged by civil authorities. All of them would be horribly martyred, which by the way means “witness unto death,” except for one of them and he would be constantly hounded and persecuted. Why would Jesus be so blunt with them? He tells them that it is because “the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” That was their duty as believers and it is the duty of every Christian since. We are to be his witnesses in this world until either we are taken in death or he returns. In fact, every single gospel and the Book of Acts, reminds us that Christians are to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) Jesus warned that the world will continue but believers needed to be on guard and ready to witness!

EXAMPLE: We live in a day and age whereby much of Christianity is asleep at the wheel. We are caught up in a self-induced spiritual stupor. Christianity revolves around us modern-day Pharisees whereby our worship means more to us than the unwashed masses. We are dead to the world while on guard duty. We yawn at the fact that the world is becoming enslaved by a fanatical fantasy where five times a day billions bow their foreheads to a paganist shrine devoted to perverted rendition of God. We slumber thinking people have a personal right to be deceived. To pray to manmade idols, dead people, spirits, or gain a self-induced state of euphoria hoping that they can forget who they are. When Jesus turned his face toward the cross, he was wide-awake knowing what he would endure paled in comparison to the eternal death people will suffer without knowing him. And still Christians snooze. We have willingly sated ourselves into a politically correct state of embarrassment. We would rather be found asleep on guard duty and allow the world to spend eternity in agony. This is why Jesus warned that the world will continue but believers need to be on guard and ready to witness!

The world will continue and bad things will happen to good people! The world will continue but believers need to be on guard and ready to witness!
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.