A disaster of biblical proportions. The destruction of a city.
Fires breaking out. Destruction of property. Violence on the rise. People making a shelter out of what was once a symbolic building for the city. What started as their safe haven now becoming a place of death. Others flee the destruction only to be lost on the way. It sounds like New Orleans, but it is Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
A war began in Jerusalem in the year 66. Eliezar Ben-Hanaiah, led an assault on the Jewish garrison in Jerusalem. He suspended worship in the Temple. Other resistance movement began in the Northern regions led by other Jewish generals. Many of these claimed to be the Messiah. Civil war broke out among the Jews. Some joined the Zealots and the resistance. And those who did not were executed as traitors included Jewish followers of Christ who refused to fight. Titus Flavius led the final assault and siege of Jerusalem. Zealots under Eleazar ben-Simon held the Temple, Sicarii led by Simon ben-Giora held the upper city. By the summer of 70 the Romans had breached the walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city.
Forty years before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus warned his disciples that it would happen. Mark writes down the words of Jesus in the late 60s less than five years before the destruction during the events of the Jewish War with Rome. It was a time of high anxiety and fear.
That generation of Christians needed to hear the definitive word of Jesus about the end of days and Gods will. So do we.
Jesus warning is not meant to give Christians or Jews a secret script for future events. In fact it is quite the opposite. Jesus is warning his disciples in the 30s, the 60s, and on into the 21st century not to get distracted by speculations about the end of days.
Jesus indicates that there will be three kinds of events that are what he calls birth pangs:
None of these are signs of the end. Jesus warning is not to watch out for these things and predict them. Rather his warning is not to be distracted from their mission by such reports. (13:23 I have given you a warning so you wont be surprised, so dont think I want you busy trying to foretell the future. These things will happen, but WHEN they happen isnt important. That is on a need-to-know basis. When certain details of information are on a need to know basis and you dont know, what does that tell you? It tells you that you do not need to know!
Above all else, the gospel must be preached.
To say that these are not reliable signs to predict the end of the age does not mean that there will not be difficult days ahead. Quite the opposite we will face difficult days: Families will turn against one another. Situations will be so desperate that people will be at each others throats. Christians will be persecuted and taken before authorities for believing. (Christians in America often ask, When is this going to happen? It is already happening and has already happened around the world. Jesuss teaching isnt validated only when it takes place in the USA). Jesus says to all of us Watch Out! These things will happen. But endure through it. Stick to your mission and make it your priority to announce the gospel. (Not to the exclusion of good works, rather as the purpose for good works).
Disasters of Biblical Proportions
Jesus admits that there will be some disasters of biblical proportions. There will be some Category 5 abominations of desolation. Sometimes you will have to run for the hills. Whether the wave of destruction is a Roman army or a force named Katrina, there is nothing to do but run. But some cannot run. These will be particularly difficult times especially for the weak, the poor, those who cannot simply pack and leave. It will be so sad for pregnant mothers and their newborn children.
These will be moments when it seems that the world is ending. Worlds do end. The people who fled Jerusalem watched the world they knew come to an end. They lost the house of God. For many people fleeing the Gulf Coast, the world they knew has come to an end. When planes fell out of the sky four years ago, the world we knew ended.
It is during these times that we need to know this:
What we do not need to know is the exact date, time and place, of the return. There seems to be a real hang-up in the history of the world and even the church of being fixated on prediction. Why get obsessed over knowing something that Jesus says even he doesnt know. If anyone does figure it out I would say the first thing to do is get in touch with Jesus and clue him in. And then perhaps you will let him clue you in! Well he has clued us in. And he has told us what to do. He tells us to watch watch out for rumor, false info, and hysterical anxiety. And then also to watch as in keep our watch.
Even as we witness the destruction of a city, we see the creation of a city on the outskirts of our own. Fort Chaffee has received over 9,000 evacuees. We need to do our duty and serve them in the name of Christ. Lets be on watch. There is much frustration in our nation right now because people do not know what they need to know. We can get frustrated thinking we need to know more but in truth we know all we need to know. We know our mission. Our mission remains the same ...
We are needed to be the church, to be Christians, to share the good news.
We are needed to do whatever we do in the name of Christ. Let doctors, nurses, ministers, van drivers, bankers, teachers, listeners, counselors, food servers, bed makers, all serve in the name of Christ.
Watch Out vs. Keep Your Watch (Do Your Duty) [explain the difference between the two Greek terms for watch in this chapter: blepete and gregoreite.] Be the church! Watch out so you will not be distracted and keep your watch do your duty.
The end of this age and the return of the Son of Man is like this . . . a householder takes off on a trip and puts all of his servants on guard and instructs them to keep their daily duties. He promises to return but doesnt tell them exactly when. Now what should they do between his leaving and his return. Exactly what he told them to do. What if they get distracted trying to find out when the boss is coming back? They will ignore their duty and leave their post.
I saw this at Fort Chaffee on Friday. They set up an EOC and had MPs and other soldiers ready to register the evacuees. I asked one of them, When are they going to get here? He said We have been told in the next 15 minutes. That fit with what I had heard at the briefing. But 15 minutes became 30 minutes. 30 minutes became 60 and the time stretched on. I left and went home I wasnt any help anyway and when I tuned into the news at 10 the buses still hadnt arrived. And I thought of the MP. He would be doing the same thing at 10 pm that he was at 5 pm. For him the arrival was always just 15 minutes away. He kept his watch and did his duty.
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