The Signs of His Second Coming
Text: Mark 13
Proposition: The point of watching for the return of Christ is that it would purify, embolden, and ready us for this day and for the Day of the Lord.
Introduction: It was Wednesday, Jesus had been coming to Jerusalem throughout the Passover week and as they left the Temple the disciples make a simple comment about the grandeur of it. Brilliant white limestone overlaid with gold plating, ornate in every detail and the Temple’s scope was mind staggering. The building stones were 30 to 40 feet long, 10 feet high and 10 feet thick. It was awe inspiring, so Jesus’ response must have taken their breath away, He told them it would be torn down, destroyed. In stunned silence they try to imagine such utter destruction not just of a building but of the center of Israel’s spiritual identity. Ironically that was the very problem, Israel had again made religion equal to God. Nothing further is said until they reach the Mount of Olives where they stop for a rest. Four disciples approach Him and begin to ask about this startling prophecy. Turn with me to Mark 13.
I. The Destruction of the Temple Points To the Birth of the Church.
The Temple had been the center of Jewish life for over 1000 years. Built by King Solomon in 964 BC, it was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar 587 BC. It was then rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah in about 70 years later 516 BC and then in about 19 BC King Herod began to remodel it. For the next 80 years the rebuilding of it went on to such a scope that Jesus’ disciples were in awe of its grandeur. The Temple was completed in about 63 AD and just 7 years later it was utterly destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans and remains so some 2000 years later. That was the prophecy Jesus had just made. This destruction of the Temple that seemed so impossible was even more puzzling, for Jesus had proclaimed that He was the Messiah. Wouldn’t the Messiah ensure the preservation of the Temple? So the disciples say to Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” The answer that Jesus gives is profound. It overlooks the greatest event in mankind’s history, the cross of Christ, and it looks to a time when Christ shall return to the earth a second time. We know that it was about 33AD when Jesus was crucified. Jesus could have said that the answer to the disciple’s question of when would the Temple be destroyed is that it will happen in 70 AD, 37 years from that Wednesday when they sat on the Mount of Olives. Yet that is not at all how He answers them. He encourages them with bad news… when many come claiming to be the Christ, don’t be deceived. When you hear of wars and rumors, don’t be troubled. There’ll be earthquakes, famines and troubles. These are just the beginnings of sorrows. You will be interrogated, beaten, brought before rulers and kings. Watch out for your selves to be a testimony to them. According to David B. Barrett in his book Today’s Martyrs, some 165,000 Christians died for their faith in the year 2000.
Jesus says that the church will take the gospel to all nations and for that, many will be arrested. Don’t worry about what to say, the Holy Spirit will give you what to say. Your faith will cause you heartache as family members will reject each other because of it and even have family members put to death. But you… endure. What these verses point to are the removal of Christ from the face of the earth, what we call the ascension of Jesus. They point to the persecution of the church, the disintegration of cultures and nations as the church brings the gospel of hope and peace into a dark place. They point to the presence of the Holy Spirit that both comforts and enables the church. They point to the time from the cross to this present day.
II. The Destruction of the Temple Points to the Attempts of the Anti-Christ.
Jesus now begins to talk about a time yet future for us. Look at verse 14, “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’, spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing where it ought not (let the reader understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” The abomination that causes or brings desolation is something that will desecrate or pollute the Temple to such a degree that people will make the temple a desolate place. They will avoid it because of how it has been ruined and desecrated. Some think this refers to a time when a Greek King called Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple in the times between the Old Testament and the New Testament by spilling pigs blood on the altar. But Jesus is referring to a time yet future, Antiochus Epiphanes had done his desecration over 100 years earlier. This is a reference to the coming Anti-Christ, the one presents himself as problem solver to the world, the one who wins the confidence of Israel, the one whom the world will look to as a great political and spiritual leader. He gains great favor and power. Then three and a half years later, in the Temple, he presents himself to the to the world, as god. Paul refers to this in 2 Thessalonians 2. What this means is that the Temple must somehow be rebuilt in order for the abomination of desolation to “stand where it ought not”. The Anti-Christ is a human being that is empowered and directed by Satan and in a very real sense seeks to replace Christ. The effect on the world will be an effort of gaining absolute control to the point that worship of the Anti-Christ will be compulsory. For the Jews and Christians and many others, this will be time of great persecution. You see that described in verses 15 to 19. Jesus refers to this as, “tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation.” Jesus reference to the book of Daniel describes not only the Anti-Christ but the seven years called the Tribulation Period. It is a time yet future that I believe will take place right after the church is taken from the earth and caught up to Christ in heaven. Jesus describes the end of the Tribulation period, the end of the Anti-Christs failed attempt at global dominion and universal worship as a time marked with all kinds of signs. Verses 24,25, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” The tribulation period is so severe that if God had not caused it to end when it did no one would have survived it.
III. The Destruction of the Temple Calls Us to Watch and Be Ready.
The signs of the sun being darkened and the stars of heaven falling immediately precede the second coming of Christ to the earth. Look at verse 26, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” At His coming the Anti-Christ is defeated, his forces destroyed and Satan imprisoned. At His coming the angels gather together the elect, those who stood firm in their faith and brings them before Christ. The entire world will see His power and glory. Then Jesus says this to His disciples that Wednesday that they sat on brow of the Mount of Olives, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”
For the Christian we look for the sign of the rebuilding of Temple that tells us soon the Anti-Christ will assert himself. Yet the Temple itself is not good news for it proclaims the necessity of blood sacrifices, it denies the sufficiency of Christ as the Lamb whose blood was shed to take away the sin of the world. Jesus body and blood are the place where we have forgiveness of sin. He is our eternal, once for all sacrifice for our sin. It’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up again. (Jn 2:19) In Christ we meet with the Father, standing righteous in the covering of His righteousness. Our bodies are the place where the Holy Spirit now resides making each believer a temple where God communes with us. Jesus said, “It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.” The house has been left to us, we are the temple in Christ. His authority has been left to us, all authority in heaven and on earth. His work has been left to us, the work of faith by grace. And now He commands us …Watch.