The Future Is Now

Pastor Jon Enter

Worship Theme: The Future Is Now

First Lesson: Philippians 3:17-4:1 (NIV)
Gospel : Mark 13:1-13 (NIV)

Music:

  • Remember Your Love
  • CW 853: I’m but a stranger here
  • CW 397: My song is love unknown
  • CW 704: Let us ever walk with Jesus

Message Notes & Growth Group Questions

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Message: c

Pastor Jon Enter

Over the years, some people have made shockingly bad predictions that did not come true. In fact, their inability to understand what was coming in the future made them miss amazing opportunities. The president of Michigan Savings Bank refused to invest in the Ford Motor Company because, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty fad.” That prediction failed; when was the last time you traveled to work on a horse down the I-94 expressway? A film executive who was casting the lead role in the 1964 movie The Best Man rejected Ronald Reagan for the leading role because, “Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.” That prediction failed as Ronald Reagan not only became president became one of the most popular and balanced presidents in our nation’s history. In 1962, the Decca Recording Company declined signing the Beatles because, “We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.” That prediction failed as millions of screaming fans still scream for the Beatles’ music to this day. These predictions failed.

Jesus made a prediction, really a prophecy, at the beginning of our text that didn’t fail; it came true—as all of God’s prophecies always do. As Jesus was leaving the Temple in Jerusalem, one of His disciples remarked, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1)

The magnificent buildings with such massive stones this disciple was marveling at was Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. It’s called Herod’s Temple because Herod the Great rebuilt it. Herod was a ruthless, paranoid leader who killed anyone who might possibly challenge his throne. In order to win the favor of his people and high officials, he created massive building projects throughout Israel. He built a brand new city called Caesarea Maritima naming it after Caesar Augustus in order to earn his favor. He built Masada, a multilevel fortress on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Dead Sea. And most famously, he rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. The original Temple built by King Solomon (King David’s son) was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BC. Seventy years later, a second Temple was built on the same site but it fell into the hands of several invading forces over the years and was in need of repair. Although Herod rebuilt the Temple along the same dimensions as Solomon’s Temple, he massively expanded the area around the Temple as construction took 80 years to complete. Herod wanted it to be magnificent; Herod wanted it to be a marvel of all marvels so his name would continue to be remembered. It truly was an amazing sight but Jesus prophesized it wouldn’t remain. “‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ Jesus replied. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’” (Mark 13:2)

“Not one stone on another?” You might wonder. “Well, what about the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem? Those stones are still standing.” You may be confused by this prophecy of Jesus after seeing images of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where Jewish people pray facing the wall of the old Temple site and slip pieces of paper with their prayers into the cracks between the massive stones. That Wailing Wall is part of the expanded foundation; it wasn’t part of any of the buildings. Jesus prophesied that not one stone of the buildings would remain on top of another and in 70AD Jerusalem was ransacked by the Romans after the Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire. Jerusalem was decimated and the Temple was flattened. The gold, silver, Temple furnishings along with all its other riches were carried off to Rome and used to fund the construction of the Roman Colosseum. This prophecy of Jesus came true—they always do! But Jesus was not done making prophecies in our text for us today.

After they left the Temple, Jesus took His disciples outside of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. This lovely garden area sits atop a tall bluff overlooking Jerusalem. From their high vantage point, Jesus and the four disciples sitting with Him had a clear view of the Temple. Peter, Andrew, James and John then asked Jesus, “‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the End of the Age?’” (Mark 13:4)

It’s interesting to note these four men were the first four disciples called by Jesus (Mark 1:16-20) and they were disciples of John the Baptist who predicted the End of all things (Matthew 3:12). Since Herod’s Temple was so massively and magnificently built and since some of the building stones were reported by the historian Josephus to be 40 feet long, 12 feet wide and 8 feet tall, people thought these buildings would stand until the End of Time. So when Jesus said the buildings of the Temple would be torn apart, they thought the Temple’s destruction would happen when the End of the world happened. That’s why they asked Jesus about the signs that would take place before Jesus returned to mark the End of Time. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples the destruction of the Temple would be separate from the End of Time. Jesus simply answered their question in Mark 13 giving them the signs that would happen before the End.

What are those signs? Jesus prophesied, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in My Name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.” (Mark 13:5-6) This prophecy of the End of Time has been fulfilled many times over. Here are three recent examples. November 18, 1978, Jim Jones—who had convinced 909 people he was Jesus—lead them to commit suicide by drinking cool-aid mixed with cyanide. April 19, 1993, David Koresh—who had convinced a large following he was Jesus—lead them into a 51-day standoff with authorities after which 76 were found dead. The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy is obvious.

Jesus prophesied, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the End is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Mark 13:7-8) The people that God once created as perfect have now fought two world wars and the third world war is one red button push away, one assassination away, one annexed country away from breaking out. There are currently 30+ counties and 100+ separatist militia groups actively fighting wars right now. (WarsInTheWorld.com) The fulfillment of this prophecy is obvious.

Jesus prophesied, “There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” (Mark 13:8) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one in eight people are suffering from chronic undernourishment. From 1998-2004 during the Second Congo War there was a power struggle and subsequent famine and roughly 3.8 million people died from malnourishment in 22 African countries. Few know this sad truth. (WorldHunger.org) On Tuesday when this part of the sermon was written there were 36 earthquakes across the world in one day. (Earthquake.USGS.gov) The fulfillment of this prophecy is obvious.

Jesus prophesied, “The gospel must first be preached to all nations.” (Mark 13:10) Since the advent of the airplane, computers and email the ease to spread the message of Christ to the remotest corners of the world has been made possible. The fulfillment of this prophecy seems to be upon us.

But there is one left. There is one last prophecy Jesus gave that we know did happen at one time but doesn’t really seem to be happening much today—at least it isn’t a real concern of ours. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me.” (Mark 13:12-13) We know the persecution of Christians was inhumanely barbaric under the oppressive persecutions of the Roman Emperor Nero where Christians were fed to wild animals before the cheers of thousands of spectators in the Roman Colosseum, as they were doused with a flammable substance, placed on poles and lit on fire while they were alive to serve as street lights. We know those atrocities happened in the past. But not really now, right? We sit in our comfy, padded seats inside our comfy climate controlled churches and enjoy a comfy convenient Christianity. That’s happening here. It’s different around the world.

In the past fifty years, 300,000 Christians in North Korea have vanished without a trace. In Egypt, Christians are frequently arrested, tortured, and imprisoned just for converting. In early 2005, for example, Gaseer Mohamed Mahmoud, a Christian convert, was tortured for refusing to renounce Christ. His toenails were pulled out and he was kept in a water-filled room, beaten, whipped and confined to a mental hospital. Only pressure from the international community saved his life. He was released and is now in hiding.

In Saudi Arabia, their Education textbooks for elementary and secondary school children demonize Christians and Jews. The reports of harassment, surveillance, arrest and torture of Christians in Saudi Arabia are too numerous to record.

In Indonesia, three Catholic high school girls were captured on their way to school and beheaded, a Christian market bombed and the president of the country is refusing to overturn a controversial death sentence looming over the heads of three Christian men.

Voice of the Martyrs, where these statistics were found, is a worldwide organization offering support to persecuted Christians. They report that extremist groups in Indonesia are responsible for the deaths of 8,000 people and the destruction of 600 churches since 1996. This is in addition to the bloody twenty-five-year occupation of the small Christian country of East Timor that ended in 1999 and that left one-third of the Timorese population (200,000, the majority of whom are Christians) dead. An estimated 100,000 are still being held as political prisoners.

The persecution of Christians is on the rise and all signs point to it coming here, to our soil, to our cities, to our neighborhoods, to our churches. This is the prophecy of Jesus. “Everyone will hate you because of Me.” (Mark 13:12-13)

There are two things to take away from this sermon:

Be Prepared – The end of the world could come at any time. All the signs of the End of the world are upon us. Jesus tells us He will come at a time when we least expect Him. So we are to be prepared having our hearts aligned with Jesus, our lives in line with His grace and our trust firmly in His forgiveness. You are prepared! You have faith. “Oh, pastor! I don’t think I have that much faith to face persecution. You do! It’s not the strength of your personal faith that matters; it’s the strength of your personal Savior that matters. At the name of Jesus EVERY knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. When I was with you in church two weeks ago, I had a repetitive phrase is my sermon and throughout the service. God wins; he always does. That was true then. That is true now. That is true always. Be prepared and you are. Jesus loves you. Jesus has forgiven you. Jesus strengthens you for whatever is next.

Secondly, Be Prepared – It’s only going to get worse. The persecution of Christians is only going to get worse. Our comfy convenient Christianity is not going to last. Christian believers like us who love God’s Word, Christian believers like us who love and believe God’s gospel (which is offensive to some because it proclaims that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only way to heaven), Christian believers like us who love and follow God’s laws (which calls sin what it is…sin), Christian believers like us who love God and the principles of faith given by God are being targeted and will increasingly be targeted as this world grows more and more hostile to Jesus and His Word.

That is why Jesus speaks these words of comfort and peace. “But the one who stands firm to the End will be saved.” The words of this prophecy of Jesus are not words of gloom, they are words of glory. These words were spoken by Jesus as He overlooked the Temple where He was going to fulfill the Law of the Lord perfectly in our place. These words were spoken by Jesus as He overlooked Calvary where He lovingly paid for your sins and mine completely and fully for all time. These words were spoken by Jesus as He overlooked His disciples and over all of us knowing our weakness, knowing that He would have to fill our hearts so we would stand firm. “Now it is God who makes us stand firm…guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22) You are filled full of Christ who holds you firm in your faith and will never let you go! Amen.