Jesus Tells About The Future (Day 56)

Read Mark 13:1-23
   About 15 years before Jesus was born, Herod the Great began to remodel and rebuild the Temple, which had stood for nearly 500 years since the days of Ezra (Ezra 6). Herod made the Temple one of the most beautiful buildings in Jerusalem, not to honor God, but to appease the Jews whom he ruled. The magnificent building project was not completely finished until 64 A.D. Jesus’ prophecy that not one stone would be left on another was fulfilled in 70 A.D., when the Romans completely destroyed the Temple and the entire city of Jerusalem. 
   The Mount of Olives rises above Jerusalem to the east. From its slopes a person can look down into the city of Jerusalem and see the Temple. Zechariah 14 predicts that the Messiah will stand on this very mountain when He returns to set up His eternal kingdom. 
   What are the signs of the end times? There have been people in every generation since Christ’s resurrection claiming to know exactly when Jesus would return. No one has ever been right yet, however, because Christ will return on God’s timetable, not ours. Jesus predicted that before His return, many believers will be misled by false teachers claiming to have revelations from God. 
   According to Scripture, one clear sign of Christ’s return will be His unmistakable appearance in the clouds, which will be seen by all people (Revelation 1). In other words, you do not have to wonder whether a certain person is the Messiah or whether these are the end times. When Jesus returns, you will know beyond a doubt, because it will be evident to all true believers. Beware of groups who claim special knowledge of Christ’s return because no one knows when that time will be. Be cautious about saying “This is it” but be bold in your total commitment to have your heart and life ready for Christ’s return. 
   As the early church began to grow, most of the disciples experienced the kind of persecution Jesus was talking about. Since the time of Christ, Christians have been persecuted in their own lands and on foreign mission fields. Though you may be safe from persecution now, your vision of God’s kingdom must not be limited by what happens only to you. A glance at a newspaper will reveal that many Christians in other parts of the world daily face hardships and persecution. Persecutions are an opportunity for Christians to witness for Christ to those opposed to Him. God’s desire is that the Good News be proclaimed to everyone in spite of persecution. 
   In verse 11, Jesus did not imply that studying the Bible and gaining knowledge is useless or wrong. Before and after His resurrection Jesus Himself taught His disciples what to say and how to say it. But Jesus was teaching the kind of attitude we should have when we must take a stand for the Good News. We don’t have to be fearful or defensive about our faith because the Holy Spirit will be present to give us the right words to say. 
   To believe in Jesus and endure to the end will take perseverance because our faith will be challenged and opposed. Severe trials will sift true Christians from fair weather believers. Enduring to the end does not earn salvation for us but marks us as already saved. The assurance of our salvation will keep us strong in times of persecution.
   The abomination of desolation refers to the desecration of the Temple by God’s enemies. This happened repeatedly in Israel’s history: in 597 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar looted the Temple and took Judean captives to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36); In 168 B.C. when Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificed a pig to Zeus on the sacred Temple altar (Daniel 9 and 11); in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus placed an idol on the sight of the burned out Temple after the destruction of Jerusalem. Just a few years after Jesus gave this warning, in 38 A.D., the emperor Caligula made plans to put his own statue in the Temple, but he died before it could be carried out. 
   Is it possible for Christians to be deceived? Yes. So convincing will be the arguments and proofs from deceivers in the end times that it will be difficult not to fall away from Christ. If we are prepared, Jesus says, we can remain faithful. But if we are not prepared, we will turn away. To penetrate the disguises of false teachers we can ask: 1) Have their predictions come true, or do they have to revise them to fit what’s already happened? 2) Does any teaching utilize a small section of the Bible to the neglect of the whole? 3) Does the teaching contradict what the Bible says about God or Jesus? 4) Are the practices meant to glorify the teacher or Christ? 5) Do the teachings promote hostility toward other Christians?