I’m glad you’re here this morning because we’re going to be in Mark chapter 13. We’re talking about apocalyptic literature today, so this is like the pee your pants, frighten the life out of you Sunday, so welcome visitors. If you’re here for the first time we’re happy you’re here. So we don’t frighten the younger generations we’ll dismiss 10 and 11 year olds for their class.
I’m going to invite you to turn to Mark chapter 13 while you get there. I’m going to give you a a quick plug about the upcoming women’s retreat. March or March, October 13th men’s retreats in March, October 13th to the 15th a women’s retreat coming up. Ladies, if you would like to register the place to do that is online, I would encourage you to be a part of that and invite you, have friends, family that you think might want to go and join you in it.
Mark chapter 13, the end is near. I want you to know that’s actually the last thing I have in mind in talking about this section today, I want to present Mark 13 without really taking a hard stance on any theological camp, only because I want to help us in our ability to interpret passages of scripture like that. I’ll tell you where I’ve been trained and what I’ve learned from in this, but that’s not my end goal in all of this. I really want us to help us to study God’s word and be encouraged to be faithful to the Lord and pursue him with our lives.
That’s the goal today and in Mark chapter 13 if I give us a backdrop to where we are together, especially if this is your first time with us in this series, we’ve been going through this series all summer long, going chapter by chapter, a chapter each week on the gospel of Mark, looking at the Genius of Jesus, desiring to know Christ as he wants to make himself known in our lives.
Jesus became flesh, dwelt among us. The intimacy of who he was was made known in our lives so that we could draw near to him and worship him in truth. And so God created us for relationship. Jesus made that way for us to experience reconciliation and relationship with the Lord by dying for us on the cross. And God created you primarily for that relationship in him. God didn’t create you based on what you do. God created you because of who you are in relational connection to him. The primary purpose of your life is founded in relationship with the Lord. And that’s what we want you to discover this morning is deepen that relationship with God and enjoy that journey with him. That purpose for which he has created you.
Over the last couple of chapters of Mark, what we’ve seen together is the disciples in Mark chapter 10, Jesus started pronouncing that his death was coming. The disciples saw the political landscape change around Jesus. People wanted to kill him. The political leaders, religious leaders were starting to turn against Christ. And Jesus journeys into Jerusalem and this is going to lead to his crucifixion.
It tells us in chapter 10 as he’s going into Jerusalem, the disciples won’t walk beside them. They’re behind him. Go ahead Jesus. We’re just going to see if everything is all right and we’re just going to hang back here while you make it into there. They see Jesus not only going to Jerusalem, but he does on the back of a donkey to the praise of the crowds singing Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Then Jesus goes into the temple as if to present himself as the Passover lamb who’s come for the sacrifice. At the same time when the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed in Israel during that celebration time, which was an ultimate picture of Jesus, who was that sacrificial lamb for all of our sins.
As Jesus presented himself there it tells us that Jesus a little later encounters the religious leaders in chapter 12 of Mark and the religious leaders, the big people in society, the ones everyone looked up to, the people with authority and power. They come to Jesus and they ask questions and they’re trying to trap Jesus. Trying to get people to deter from following after Christ and to make Jesus look foolish.
Jesus handles himself masterfully showing the genius of who he is as God in the flesh. And the disciples are all excited now. They came in timid into Jerusalem. They see the celebration of the crowds. They see the way Jesus handles himself in front of the leaders where they can’t even come against him. And they’re just taking in the moment of this Passover week, all the people gathering around, people just praising Jesus’ name. And it’s in this passage, they start to reveal some of the celebration thoughts in their minds. In their head they’re thinking the Messiah has come. He’s going to set up his physical kingdom and Israel is finally going to dominate over Rome. We’re going to rule and we’re standing with Jesus as we rule.
In fact, the disciples are even arguing during this period who’s going to be greater in his kingdom. Is it me, is it you? I’m vice president. You can be secretary of state. No way! And they’re going back and forth over this, thinking about the kingdom. In fact, when Jesus came in, Matthew 4:17, his pronouncement was the kingdom of God is at hand. When he send out his disciples in Matthew chapter 10 he tells them, preach, the kingdom of God is at hand. It is the demonstration, the declaration, this kingdom, this invitation, to the people to join Jesus has invited us him.
What Jesus is ultimately is bringing is Shalom. Just peace. God’s created you for relationship and he’s made himself so intimately known, becoming flesh, born in a manger about to give his life for you. The Bible tells us in Romans 8 all of creation groans. This idea of Shalom, it’s peace in your relationship with God for all of eternity. It’s peace in this world that is under the curse of sin. Jesus comes to restore that.
The disciples are excited and they have these preconceived ideas of what the kingdom is to look like and Jesus is about the flip that upside down on them. But he just reminds him of one simple truth throughout all of this. He does what every great leader does.
Every great leader begins with the end in mind. Where are we going? How do we get there? Jesus in this story is sort of peeling back the picture of what awaits the future so that we can see the victory in him. When we talk about prophetic apocalyptic literature, that’s the ultimate goal in it. That in all that’s represented in that type of literature, it’s intended to bring us into worship of the one true God and to see his followers of Jesus. In the end, we are victorious in him.
Regardless of what happens from this day forward, if your hope remains fixed on that picture, that’s what ultimately wins. In fact, in Mark 13:31 Jesus said this, heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away until all is fulfilled. In life when things are difficult, the motivation for us to keep stepping forward is this thought of hope. Can I make it? What do I have to look forward to? What’s going to endure? I can see all of this crumbling around me. Where is that thing that will endure?
Jesus, as a leader is reminding his disciples in this moment that it rests in him. So as he peels back the curtain you see throughout scripture history, all followers of Jesus that are leading in those moments, they tend to ask those questions. In fact, when God called Moses in Exodus 5, Moses goes before Pharaoh like God called him. And he tells Pharaoh, let my people go. And Pharaoh makes it more difficult on the Israelites. He makes their work more complicated. And because of that, they turn against Moses.
Moses comes before God and he’s like, what are you doing? I don’t understand. You called me to represent you in this world and it’s not easy. And then in chapter six the Lord in Exodus sort of pulls this picture back in verse five he says, I have remembered my covenant. In chapter six verse six I am the Lord. I will bring you out from under the burdens. I will deliver you from bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for my people and I will be your God and you shall know that I am the Lord your God. I will bring you to the land which I swore.
God, where are we going? So Mark 13:1, the disciples with all the commotion around Jesus, Jesus is going out of the temple. One of the disciples said to him, Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings. Unbelievable, right? And then Jesus says this, Jesus said to him, Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.
If you are thinking, Jesus bringing his kingdom, Jesus going to conquer, we’re with Jesus. I’m vice president, he’s president. And all of a sudden he’s talking about your best buildings being torn down. You’re gonna be like, say what? What is he talking about? I’m following you because I’m making my room in that place. That’s my palace. You’re talking about tearing it down. How does that work?
So Jesus in saying this shocking statement, he sits down on the Mount of Olives with his disciples this passage of scripture is more broadly spoken about in Matthew 24, 25. Mark 13 is more of a condensed version of it, but this is called the Olivet discourse. The reason it’s called the Olivet discourse is because Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives and he talks for a while. If you’ve got one of the Bibles that are in red letters, when Jesus says things, you’ll see most of chapter 13 there are a lot of red letters. So Jesus is giving this discourse. I’m going to start referring to all my conversations as discourses. That sounds intelligent, doesn’t it? I’m talking, no, I discourse.
Jesus gives an Olivet discourse looking over the office of the temple and Peter and James and John and Andrew are questioning him privately. They asked these two questions, tell us when these things will be and what will be the sign when all of these things are going to be fulfilled? Jesus, when’s this temple going down and what’s this end going to look like? And so Jesus, at this point, peels back the apocalyptic picture. He goes eschatological apocalyptic on everyone and he peels back the picture to say, listen, there’s things that are going to happen, but I’m using this as an opportunity to encourage you to remain true to the hope that will endure beyond all these things.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but it’s my words that will endure. It’s when you get to verse four of this chapter, chapter 13 that in the realm of Christianity, Christians go everywhere with this. When you talk about apocalyptic eschatological views, I mean there’s predator ism, parcel predators and pre-trip, mid trip, post-trip pre-wrath, no trib, all-mil, pre-mil, post-mil, and some of you are like, what are you talking about? It sounds like a foreign language you are talking. I mean all of that has to do with people’s predictions on when Jesus is going to come back. A lot of in a seven year time period.
People when they talk about this get so tooth and nail over it, they’re like, if you don’t agree with me, you will die. It is like the hills to die on. I want you to know, when it comes to theology, I think there are certain hills to make big deals about. There are certain Hills to die on: the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of scripture, the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith. Those are pillars of Christianity.
When it comes to eschatological, when I studied, I studied under pre-trib pre-mil theological ways of thinking. But when I come to that form of eschatology, I just want you to know I’m not dying for it. I’m not going to lay my life down for this. There is no way.
I look at when I look at the first coming of Jesus, people didn’t even get his first coming right. I’m not going to be so arrogant to be like, I got his second coming exactly predicted. Everyone listen to this: but rather in knowing what scriptures ultimate focus is and sharing this to you. That’s where I want to highlight. And I want to give us some thoughts in how to approach this type of scripture. As Jesus goes eschatological apocalyptic.
Eschatology deals with the end times. It deals with final matters of death and judgment. The future state, the destination of your soul and all of mankind. Eschatology. Apocalyptic, it’s a Greek word, it means revelation. Apocalyptic literature is a type of eschatology where they take symbolisms and imagery to predict disasters and destruction that lay in the future.
But as Jesus shares this apocalyptic eschatological thought, the overriding thought in all of it is the hope of his people as it rests in Jesus because he is the one that will overcome all things. He is victorious. But when it comes to the details of this, people go bonkers over some of the things that are discussed. They look at apocalyptic literature as the primary purpose is to create charts and specific details. I want you to know this morning, I’m not going to give the prediction that Jesus is going to return January 23rd, 2018. That’s not the primary means of apocalyptic literature.
Even Tim LaHaye who wrote the series Left Behind. I was visiting Bible college universities,15 years ago or more ago And I remember I was walking on the campus with seminary professors and they are just now commemorating this building of which Tim LaHaye donated $1 million to this Bible college for the building of this facility.
And as they’re cutting the ribbons there, one of the remarks as this is going on where someone says, he wrote all these, all these books, but he himself even says that this view that he carries within these books is not even a reason to divide over as Christians. Warren Wiersbe, who is a pre-trib, pre-mil, comes out of that camp. Pre-trib means Jesus raptures the church before seven year tribulation, Jesus returns before his thousand year millennial reign.
Warren Wiersbe, says this in his commentary on the gospel of Mark in this chapter. He says, “I agree with that theology, but I do not make an a test of orthodoxy or spirituality.”
You know, when it comes to this literary genre, eschatological apocalyptic, I think there are certain approaches we take to this passage, to this sort of genre that is unhealthy. Some things this morning I think I should encourage you in, as you read through the Bible and discover truth and want to walk with Jesus in your own relationship to him and encourage the body of Christ to do the same.
Apocalyptic literature, as I said is a genre or a type of literature and therefore, because of its categorization, there are certain interpretive rules that help you best understand what’s being communicated in those passages of scripture. When it comes to apocalyptic literature, it doesn’t have to be written in sequence. It could be recapitulation, it could bounce around with ideas.
Apocalyptic literature when it comes to that, it’s more difficult for us in our culture today to conceive of what it’s discussing. Because it’s not as genre you read. Like you don’t go to Barnes and Noble and you’re like, where’s your apocalyptic section? I’m really looking forward to reading some literature. People don’t write that way anymore. And so for us to understand that style of writing, we’ve got to learn some of the rules for interpretation of what’s taking place there.
A lot of apocalyptic literature, the way it’s written is metaphorically to mean something more literally. One of the things I’ve seen people do when they come to books like Revelation or apocalyptic sections like Mark chapter 13 they’ll get in discussions. And because someone doesn’t agree with their view, there’ll be like, well I just take it literal. So that makes me, you know, my interpretation trumped over your interpretation. It’s worth taking a step back and just saying, you know in Revelation 17 it talks about the whore streaking across the air on the back of the beast. Like is that something that you really think in life you’re going to walk outside and be like, oh there it is. Are you looking forward to seeing that sight? You literally take that literal, right? No.
Apocalyptic literature carries a metaphorical idea, symbols and imagery to point to something literal. It’s written in a way to disguise a message. In fact, John was exiled to the Island of Patmos. Some people believe he writes Revelation while exiled on the island of Patmos, and the only way he could have gotten that book off the Island is to disguise the message. And to disguise it in such a way that those familiar with scripture would know the images he’s using. Because a lot of Revelation draws its image from Old Testament pictures.
So if you really want to understand apocalyptic literature in scripture, you need to understand the pictures of the Old Testament as it relates to the new, and even some of the culture in the first century. But the ultimate goal in all of it is to bring us hope before the Lord and worship of him. You see that in Revelation chapter four and five all the way to the end of the book, where again, Jesus is saying in chapter 21, my people are with me. I dwell among them. There’s no more pain and no more suffering. The first is gone.
The drive of it is a place for your hope to rest in tribulation. Because the Bible tells us if you’re a follower of Jesus, you should expect persecution and tribulation because of your faith. True followers of Jesus walk as aliens in this world, which means your view contradicts the systems of this world. And because of that, you can be ostracize, persecuted, isolated, face tribulation.
But there is something that remains with hope for you. That’s what Jesus is saying to his disciples. They asked this question and Jesus knows the world’s about to be rocked, but Jesus wants them to know heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will endure. If there’s something that you cling too, it’s the hope that Christ brings.
So when you want to understand apocalyptic literature, this is one of the most important things I can say to you in reading passages like this in the Bible, don’t jump to make application. In fact, I think it’s might be even better this morning if we tried to not make application at all because of the abuse that’s done of portions of scripture like this.
The reason I say that is because of this. The Bible was first written, and especially these passages in the New Testament, to an audience in the first century before it was written to you in the 21st century. What I mean is when you want to understand scripture, you’ve got to understand before the here and now what it meant there and then. God is not just writing verses to them where they get a whole book of the Bible, like what does this mean? I don’t know. This must be for the 21st century people. It’s direct application to their lives as well.
So in order to make proper application, we’ve got to first understand what it means to our lives. Let me just give you a few examples and some of the things that I’ve seen even abused when it comes to the passage of the Bible. If you start off in Revelation, the the book says it’s written to the seven churches. Why those churches? You read the names of the seven churches, the seven churches that are listed aren’t even necessarily the most popular books in the New Testament. You’ve got books directly written to churches. And yet you read in Revelation and some of these churches aren’t on that list. Why those seven churches? And why seven? Why would he pick seven?
Well, imageries and symbols matter in apocalyptic literature and seven is a number of completeness. Perhaps in talking about seven churches, he’s showing the totality of God’s people represented in seven local communities. Or it could be the ages of the churches playing out within the seven but it’s a number of completeness. Maybe those seven churches best represent how churches will interact throughout history.
Or how about this: When you get to Revelation chapter four and five, it talks about the worship. It says there’s is this door and John opens it and he looks inside and there’s this picture of worship in heaven. And the beauty of it and how it erupts and how glorious and powerful it is. And it talks about this lion. This lion in scripture is a picture of Jesus. And then it gets to chapter five and John’s on his face crying. Because there’s one that needs to be worthy to open the seals and all of a sudden they said there is this one who is worthy. But when John turns around, he doesn’t see the lion. Instead he sees a lamb who was slain but yet standing.
The imagery is a picture of Jesus who comes conquering and he was slaughtered and he lives forevermore. And that’s the theme of Revelation in worship of who Christ is. You got throughout the chapter and even gets more detailed. In chapter four in that worship, it describes the 24 elders. Who are the 24 elders? I’ve heard some people try to describe it. Well, there’s 12 tribes in the Old Testament and there’s 12 apostles in the New Testament. And to show Old and the New Testament they got 24. 12 plus 12 equals 24, which I guess is okay.
But when you study during the life of John, you understand, in order to run the temple it took 24 priests. The picture in Revelation chapter four and five, it’s the temple of God, the place where the Lord dwells sitting on his throne and the priest or the elders gathered around that throne and worship before God. You think about the pictures that plays itself out in the New Testament, that Jesus, he tells us that in the Old Testament build the temple, God desires to tabernacle with us.
In the New Testament Jesus comes and it says, Jesus dwelt or tabernacled with us. And then it goes on to tell us now, after the vail was ripped and the temple destroyed, that God’s presence now dwells in you. You are the temple of God. And now you see the 24 elders gathered around the ultimate throne of the Lord as a representation of God’s people in praise to him. Beautiful imagery.
Or what about this one? This is the one where we can all fist fight over, but what about the mark of the beast? Chapter 14, the mark of the beast, you know, six, six, six. You get a little computer chip and now the devil owns your soul forever, right? Is that what it means? Well, if you start to make application without interpretation, I guess you could take it that far.
But remember a text of scripture you’ve got to answer first what it meant there and then before the here now. I can promise you John and the readers were not like, now we’re just waiting for the 20th century to come around so they can invent these computers for these chips. So we know we’re good for at least, I don’t know, 20 centuries. It’s not what they’re thinking at all.
When it comes to the mark of the beast, the author’s drawing on a picture of imagery again. In the Old Testament, God’s people wore these things called phylacteries. They were worn on their wrists and on their forehead. Contained in these phylacteries was the word of God and it showed them as segregated to the Lord. A people, holy separated for the Lord’s purposes indicated by the phylacteries which they wore on their wrist and their head.
And if you think about that picture, and as it relates to the mark of the beast, described being on the wrist and the forehead, it’s not talking about computer chips. They have no idea what computer chips even are in the first century. And to make that sort of application is to grossly push scripture well beyond what’s being painted there.
But what he’s saying is that they belong to the beast. I guess maybe this morning I could tell you don’t take computer chips, but I’m kidding. But what he’s really saying is don’t belong to the beast. They have indication in their alliance that they belong there by the marks that are there representing their ownership of him. You belonged to Jesus. Indication of Israel by the phylacteries and which they were on their hands and on their forehead.
So when you go read this type of literature, far better, far better to answer what it means to them there and then before here and now. Because that keeps us from misrepresenting all sorts of passages of the Bible.
Let me give you one more example. How many of you, be honest, how many of you looked at the sun when the eclipses came without glasses on? Who did it? There’s like four of you. We’ll start our own club after church. New connection group forming here. I knew this was gonna happen, I was just waiting for it to come across one of my social media feeds, but man, it did. I come across it and it’s like the end of the world because of this solar eclipse taking place.
Because people come to passages like Mark 13:24-25. Let me read it to you. In those days after the tribulation, the sun will be dark and the moon will not give its light and the stars will be falling from heaven. The powers that are in the heavens will be shaken and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds. And some will take that verse and be like, an eclipse is happening, the end of the world is upon us.
Which I’m going to say when it comes to that way of thinking, I just find a profound amount of arrogance in that. Let me just tell you why. It’s not that I hate people that take that stand, I just think there’s very bad hermeneutics applied to scripture. Because, Revelation wasn’t even written with America in mind. When you go to the passage and you try to be like whatever the president is, the current time as the antichrist or maybe the queen of England or whatever, like those, those aren’t even in the minds of the people during the time this passage was written.
When you look at these ideas of these eclipses, trying to predict that the end of the world is coming. If America may not be in mind when this apocalyptic literature is written and an eclipse is happening over American soil, it’s like how arrogant do you have to be to think like this is the sign of the end of the world when the scripture was written around on the other side of the world. And yet we’re, the indicator that the end of the world is coming in.
Was like, God, America is the greatest and the rest of them set beneath us. Since we know we are the best people, obviously the sign of the end times is happening on American soil. That’s poor interpretation of scripture. But let me give you an idea of what I think is happening here in Mark 13:24.
So he talks about this, after that tribulation, the sun will be dark and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall and be falling from heaven. And the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken and then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
When you study Jewish pictures of the celestials, Jews had a few words that are important. They had layers to their idea of heaven. And I’m not saying there are three heavens, but I’m saying is they have layers to the atmosphere. Paul talks about the third heavens in 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 12. So in the Jewish mind, when they look to the skies, they saw the place the birds flew, that was the first heaven. The clouds, where the clouds dwelt, that was the second heaven.
But where the sun, the moon, the stars hung, that was God’s dwelling place. That was where his celestial glory was made known. The presence of God exists here. And so when they talked about the celestial, they would look towards the heavens. And so when he’s talking about it in this passage of scripture, they would often refer to this as the place where the power of God is being made know.
In fact, there is another word popular in scripture, it’s called Elohim. Elohim could mean God or it could generically mean just ruler. In fact, judges that rule here in the United States and Lehi, whatever the name of the judges here in this area, he could be referred to as an Elohim, a ruler.
So they would look to the heavens and they would see the powers and authorities of everything that you could refer to that as the Elohim’s, but they worshiped one God. That’s all Israel acknowledged. There were monotheistic, there was only one God that ever existed, ever would be.
If you read in this section, this passage of scripture, it says in verse 22 it warns you, it says, false Christ and false prophets will arise and will show signs and wonders in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. So he’s saying people are teaching about a different Jesus, and then there’s false prophets coming up and they’re even provoking signs and wonders. And he says in order to lead astray, if possible, even the elect, but take heed. Behold I have told you everything in advance.
So Jesus is saying people are going to talk about Jesus, they’re going to use the name Jesus and it’s not Jesus. They’re even going to look deceptive in the way they do it. And it’s not Jesus. But then you get this picture in verse 24 where everything is shaking and then you see in verse 26 but the son of man is victorious. Not saying this picture for us is imagery of all other authority and power in this world, falling down to the one King of Kings and Lord of Lords who will rule. While everyone else may play the game, there’s one who endures.
Next time there’s an eclipse over the United States of America, you don’t have to go to the grocery store. It’s not telling us that the end of days is near. But that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So it’s important when you read apocalyptic literature to understand that there and then before you get to the here and now. It’s better to study this stuff. Let me just give you a few.
One is to make exact predictions. I told you the ultimate goal is worshiping Christ. It’s not about predicting the exact date of end times. In fact, when it comes to prophecy, Daniel who wrote the book of Daniel, apocalyptic literature, he says this at the end of chapter 12. As for me, I heard, but could not understand. They all talking about in chapter 12 of Revelation, that prophetic statement, he did not understand what was happening. I don’t think that was the case in everything Daniel spoke, but I think it was Daniel’s raising his concern over that last statement he’s giving in Revelation 12.
In 1 Peter 1:10, as to salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries. I think that’s important. It’s written to us for a reason. And so the prophets of the Old Testament are making careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the spirit of Christ within them was indicating. As he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. And in verse 12, it was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you.
So it’s not saying and as they were looking in these inquiries, they predicted every detail of the future and created a picture perfect chart of which you can buy at your local Christian bookstore. That’s not what this is saying, but it’s saying if they could began to recognize as this was unfolding, they were seeing that what they were talking about was still laying out in the future.
Prophecy sort of gives this idea that they can see the mountain tops, they can’t see the valley. And one of the things that when I moved to Utah, one of the things that I loved, I made the drive from East coast to West coast a handful of times. One of the things I love to do, well I didn’t love the middle part so much. I’m sorry if you’re from the middle, but I got bored. I didn’t want to fall asleep and crash, but it got boring from about Indiana to a Colorado.
Sorely disappointed in Colorado. My whole life I grew up thinking Colorado was nothing but mountains and then you get there and you, then you realize that John Denver was full of stuff. But you see it when you get to Denver. Finally you start to see the mountains and this is the cool game I got to play. How far do you think that is?
I don’t know. That’s so big. And that would guess like 20 miles? You drive and you are way off, it’s like 70 miles. You come over the next mountain, you see the next mountain range. How far do you think that is? And it’s like 50 miles. Whoa, blows you away how far you can see that. That’s sort of the idea of prophecy in scripture. They’re making these prophetic statements and they could see the peaks of the mountain tops.
Just by the way, I’m not against middle America. I know a lot of great people from middle America, I just don’t want to drive through it. So you see this beautiful mountain tops, but you can’t really see the valleys. And that’s what they’re saying in 1 Peter. But in the end of Revelation, this is what it said, verse 22 and behold, I’m coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book. So it’s written for a purpose and that purpose is for you. The ultimate goal is to find your victory in Jesus and to hold to him.
I think one of the second reasons that’s bad to look at this type of apocalyptic literatures is for the purpose of just escaping tribulation. I told you I was taught pre-tribulational pre-millennial way of thinking when it comes to scripture. I think at this point I can show every view and why people hold to those views. But pre-tribulation and pre-millennials, what my background is.
Pre-trib, meaning you think Jesus returns before the seven year tribulation. But one of the things that, to be honest that I’ve never liked about this idea about that word pre-trip it sort of carries the thought that I’m too good to go through adversity. Jesus is coming before hard things happen, so don’t worry about it. I find that title kind of a shameful title because when I think about some other brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, I know that faith costs them. And they are going through tribulation.
Their faith is real because they’ve counted the cost and they still choose to follow Jesus. In America it’s somewhat easy. You follow Jesus because people just follow Jesus and it’s kind of cool and then you can halfheartedly look like you follow Jesus and never really truly be a follower of Christ.
Pre-tribulational theology kind of alienates people that are going through tribulation and hardship. In fact, if I’m being honest to you, when you study church history, I don’t have time to go through this, but in verse 14, it starts talking about the abomination of desolation. The antichrist.
When you read early church fathers, the early church fathers thought that they would see the antichrist. And in fact, it’s throughout their early church writings, the Didache that was written in the first century, at the same time the Bible is written.
The Didache was a manual that taught churches how they were to function and some of the practices that they were to partake of. It actually at one point and talked about how to baptize somebody if you’re in the desert and there is no water. It’s a book written in the first century during the same time as the Bible.
Chapter 16, it talks about being there for the antichrist. Shepherd of Hermes, the second vision. Irenaeus, 29.1, in his book called Against Heresies. And again, same book in 33.4 and 35.1. Tertullian his prescription against heresies. Number four and Churchill in his book on the resurrection of the flesh. Hyppolite his third century, writes commentary on Daniel expecting to see the antichrist. Cyprian is first epistle, third century, epistle, fifth chapter 55 verse seven it talks about not being afraid of the persecution of the antichrist. These guys expected to endure it.
In fact it was Tertullian that said this, he said to his persecutors, we multiply whenever we are mown down by you. The blood of Christians is seed. One of the things that Tertullian recognizes when the church was persecuted because their faith was rooted in Jesus, their ability to stand for Christ in the midst of persecution only fueled the flame for people to want to pursue Christ because of the encouragement they saw in the life of these individuals. They didn’t believe when they died, their life was ending. So they stuck with Christ in the midst of tribulation because of the hope they had in Jesus.
That’s the point of apocalyptic literature. So Jesus says this, be on your guard. Don’t let this surprise you. If you love him, you are going to come to a place in life when you’re demonstrating that where you’re going to have to choose between someone who makes you try to love them more or Jesus. You don’t follow Jesus because it’s easy. He follow Jesus because it’s true.
When you study church history, you see for the first three centuries, for the first 250 years starting with Nero Domination, Diocletian, for the first 250 years, 125 of those, Christians are martyred. And the 125 were they weren’t martyred you lived in fear anyway because you would be ostracized from your society and martyrdom them could break out at any moment.
So Jesus says this, don’t let this catch you off guard. When it comes to your Christian faith. This is just kind of the gut check: is your hope really deeper than your circumstance. And then he goes on and he says in verse six and and Jesus began to say to them, see to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in my name saying I am he. And they will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened. Those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places. There will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of the birth pains.
Jesus is saying, people are going to pop up. They’re going to say there Jesus. They’re going to talk about a Jesus that isn’t the biblical Jesus. Stay true to Jesus. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away. I’m not going to get through this whole text, but it’s funny in both services I had all this laid out and I had to cut it short. But let me say this, one of the two places of the Bible that give me hope and that I rest my life and I want God to just remind me of Matthew 28 and Matthew 16.
Matthew 28 comes after the Olivet discourse when Jesus talks about the end of days. But he says this, Matthew 28:19-20, he gives the church a call, go into the world, make disciples of all nations, baptizing the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And then he says this, lo, I’m with you always, to the end of the age. Jesus promises to his disciples who he knows are going to face tribulation. He promises his presence with them always. I’m with you.
And Jesus also made this statement in Matthew 16:18 and I tell you, you are Peter, on this rock I will build my church and the Gates of hell shall not prevail against it. We’ve talked a little bit about this passage already because we went through it in Mark together. But I just wanted to remind you of this because this is what brings us to a culminating point in apocalyptic literature.
Your idea of church becomes significant to who you see yourself as in Jesus. The early church, when they would meet, they would meet together for these things they would refer to as love feast. That’s the way John refers to it in 1 John, their gatherings were called love feasts. They would partake of a meal together. They would sing together, they would read scripture together, they would talk theology together. They would take communion, they would depart, and they would meet in homes.
Sometimes they would find within a community, there might be a designated room, but they didn’t really have any buildings. So they would meet together as a group in this belief in Jesus and what he called them to in this world. That God would be with them always, and to go in this world and make disciples and the gates of hell was not going to prevail. It was this movement. What brought them together wasn’t the facility. It was this movement of people going forward in Christ.
In fact, when when one of their colleagues was martyred, when a follower of Jesus was martyred, they would take their communion celebration and rather than necessarily have it in a commonplace that would move it outside to wherever that person was martyred, and they would partake in communion together over the grave of that martyr. Because the promise of the communion is that we will drink it new together in the kingdom with our Heavenly Father. And they would celebrate.
When Constantine became a believer, he was the ruler in the early 4th century, Constantine became a Christian, he legalized Christianity. When Constantine legalized Christianity it became a popular thing and it brought people into the church. And with it came some pagan ideas.
One of the things they brought with it, I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m indifferent to this. I think God can use anything, but one of the things they brought were building. Seeing in their pagan places of worship they had buildings and so they thought the church needs buildings. It needs a place where they can, as this movement grows, a place for them to gather. They call these buildings basilicas. When the church moved from these basilicas, it was in Latin. These basilicas, as the church moved to the Gothic cultures, it became curches. As it moved to the German cultures, it was a curch. Which you translate today as church.
So when you read your Bible most of the time in scripture, it’s a word for word translation. We choose the NASB as our text of scripture because it’s the most wooden translation in the Greek and Hebrew. It’s literally word for word translation, but sometimes in our language we have a difficult time picking a word that would come into a an English word from Greek to English, and so they have to create an idea within our culture of what that word is. It’s not necessarily a a word for word translation, it’s just more of an I idea that’s carried in.
One of those ideas is church. In the Greek text it was ecclesia. It wasn’t about buildings, it was about movements. These gathering places, these love feasts. Yet starting in the time of Constantine, they started to erect these buildings. Now for for hundreds of years in Christianity, it became this idea of building, building, building. So by the time you get to the 14th, 15th century, when they translated into English, they use this word church, not as a direct translation, but as a substitute for ecclesia.
So when you think about church, the question that you asked this morning is, why in the world are you here? Why do you come? Can I tell you the worst reasons? Because you have to. You’re part of a movement. Jesus didn’t build his church to gather in a building and just think about the building. Jesus built his church to rally around the movement which he created within himself. The cross becomes a means to the end of which the church preaches in this world,
Regardless of the circumstances that we endure, there is a hope that outlasts all of it, which makes what you do here important, because what you do here and you’re worshiping, encouraging the body of Christ fuels the fire of the movement of what we do beyond these walls. It’s not about a building. It’s about what God desires to do in his people.
But regardless of what happens, whatever eschatological chart you want to make and predictions and how certain you think you are in those things. The ultimate thing, the ultimate thing that we should rest in: heaven and earth pass away, but Jesus’ word will endure. Run for that movement.