Trusting Till the End

Posted: July 14, 2014 in Mark

Mark 13:14-23, “Trusting Till the End"

Introduction:
Whenever people discuss the end times, things can have a tendency of getting extreme.  On the one hand are those who dismiss things completely, under the idea that nothing really matters.  On the other hand, there are those wearing the sandwich boards, or setting dates, or seeing nothing BUT the end times.

With all that in mind, the Bible does have much to say about the end times, what is often known as the last days.  Jesus actually has quite a bit to say on the matter, and at times uses pretty extreme language and descriptions.  Yet what we DON’T see from Jesus is a bunch of wild-eyed panic, or any other kind of fear.  Jesus communicates the urgency and horror of the hour, but He does so under the calm knowledge that everything is proceeding according to the plan of God.  There would be trials in that day, but those trials would not be unplanned chaos.  God is fully in control, even in the worst of the Great Tribulation, and He could be trusted the entire time.

Remember that the disciples had asked Jesus about the coming days.  Upon leaving Jerusalem (for the last time, officially), the disciples were marveling over the stones in the temple – a true wonder of human achievement, and surely a testimony that Jerusalem would stand forever.  Jesus responded with a stark prophecy that not one stone would be left upon another…all would be cast down.  The disciples were left in shock, and as they rested upon the Mount of Olives, four of the disciples (Peter, James, John, and Andrew) asked Jesus privately about what He had said.  When would these things take place, and what would be the sign?  Ultimately, they were asking about the sign of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age, but what was foremost on their mind was the destruction of their beloved city and temple. 

As Jesus answered, He gave detailed teaching on the period sometimes known in the OT as the "Day of Jacob’s trouble," or known in the NT as the Great Tribulation.  It would not begin immediately.  There would be many trials in the days, years, and centuries ahead.  There would be wars, disasters, persecution, hatred, and deception.  It would be terrible, but it would not the end.  All of those things (as awful as they might be) would just be the beginnings of the end…there would be more to come.  There was yet the Great Tribulation itself, and Jesus wanted the people who would eventually face that day to be prepared for it.  He gave plenty of warning – not so that people would panic, but so that they could trust God in the midst of it.  God was not caught off-guard; neither should His people.

God CAN be trusted even in the worst of days.  We look forward to far BETTER days ahead: the days in which we’ll be looking into the eyes of our Savior!

Mark 13:14–23
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.

  1. "When you see…"  The apostles had asked Jesus for a sign; He gives them one.  This is not a sign regarding the destruction of the temple (which is what they had originally asked), but rather a sign regarding the fulfillment of all things and the end of the age (which was the 2nd part of the question, recorded more fully in Matthew).  Q: How can we know this is for the end of the age & not the destruction of the temple in 70AD?  After all, at that time Jerusalem was destroyed exactly as Jesus prophesied in 13:2.  If that came true, how can we be certain that this was not the sign for it?  A: Because this hasn’t yet happened.  The one event in Jewish history that closest reflects this prophecy had already taken place decades prior to Jesus’ ministry.  It was in 167BC that Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by building an altar to Zeus and sacrificing a pig there.  Both the disciples listening to Jesus and the original readers of Mark would have been very familiar with that history.  Because Jesus was using the future tense, He could NOT have been referring to that event.  Likewise, the one event that is a possibility afterward doesn’t really fit the prophecy at all, and it took place after the temple was already destroyed (when the Romans committed abominations on the location of where the temple once sat).  Nothing in the history that has taken place after Jesus uttered these words fits what He said would happen.  Attempts to shoehorn historical events to fit this are obviously forced, and there’s no need to do so.  When God fulfills prophecy, it is (1) obvious, and (2) accurate.  For instance, no one would likely have guessed how Psalm 22 would have provided a first-hand account of the crucifixion of the Messiah (if for no other reason, because crucifixion had not yet been invented at the time David penned the words!), but in retrospect (and especially after Jesus referenced it upon the cross), there can be no doubt of the obvious and accurate connections the prophecy had to the reality that followed.  God needs no help from humans in prophecy fulfillment as we try to make up our explanations; He’s perfectly capable of doing it on His own!
  2. Notice this is a sign.  This is something that the witnesses will be able to "see."  This is not some spiritualized event – not something to be imagined – not a metaphor, etc.  This will be a literal event that people will be able to witness with their own eyes.  Although it hasn’t happened yet (!), this will one day play out in real life.  (God is real, and He works within reality!)
  3. What is the actual sign?  "The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet."  Obviously this is a bit of a mystery, but Jesus ensures that we know the clues are going to be fully shown in the pages of Scripture.  After all, we’re told that the reader is to "understand" this.  Not everyone would hear Jesus’ words and immediately comprehend what He taught; some research and understanding was in order.  Yet it could be understood…the reader would just need to take the time that was necessary.  (This is true on any number of things in the Bible!  Just take the time…)
  4. So let’s go to Daniel.  This particular sign is mentioned by the prophet Daniel in 3 places: (1) Daniel 9:26-27, (2) Daniel 11:31, (3) Daniel 12:11.  The mention in Daniel 12 is the briefest, and it is closely related to Daniel 9 in that it details a bit of the timeline that is brought up with the earlier prophecy.  That leaves us with two primary mentions.  What does Daniel write about the abomination of desolation?
    1. Prophecy #1: Daniel 11:30-31, "(30) For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. “So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. (31) And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation." []  The prophecy here is of a king from the north who hates the Jewish people.  He will defile the sanctuary fortress, remove the daily sacrifices, and set up the abomination that brings desolation.
    2. Prophecy #2: Daniel 9:26-27, “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate. []  Here, there is a people of the prince (said to be yet to come) that will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  This prince will confirm a covenant (agreement/treaty) of some sort for 7 years ("one week").  Midway through, he breaks the covenant, ends the daily sacrifices, and commits abominations that bring desolation.
    3. There is much that is similar between them, but there is also some items that are different.  Daniel 11 is about a known northern king; Daniel 9 is about an unnamed ruler.  Daniel 11 shows the king raging against the covenant; Daniel 9 shows the ruler making a covenant, then breaking it.  How to resolve the differences?  There is one name ("abomination of desolation"), but two prophecies.  Daniel 11 is an event clear cut within what would be eventually seen in Jewish history that serves to prefigure Daniel 9.  The events of Daniel 11 can be traced specifically through history.  In fact, the entire chapter (up until vs. 36) reads like a history book of the competition between the Seleucid and Ptolemy empires as they fought for land and prominence in the Middle East.  The two empires had arisen out of the break up of the Alexandrian empire (Greek), and the prophecy that was given in Daniel 11 is extraordinarily specific and accurate.  (It’s SO accurate, that critics claim that Daniel 11 must have been written after the events had taken place, and then later added into the prophetic book of Daniel.  However, it wasn’t.  Evidence shows that it was all written long prior to the events playing out in history.)  That’s all Daniel 11.  Yet Daniel 9:27 is nowhere to be found.  It is left unfulfilled in history.  Up to the point that the Messiah is prophesied to be "cut off" in 9:26, and the temple and sanctuary destroyed, the rest of the events are unfulfilled.  What’s the conclusion?  This is a prophecy of the future.
    4. This is what Jesus referred to.  He could point people to Daniel’s prophecy about the abomination of desolation, looking at one prophecy that was historically fulfilled, and then use that same prophecy as an example of what to look for still to come in the future.  THAT is the sign.  Not something that had already happened; but something that was definitely going to happen.  That’s what they were be on the lookout for.
      1. It hasn’t happened yet, but it WILL happen.  This is the sign that Jesus gave.  We can look around us and know we are living in the last days.  After almost 2000 years, Israel is once again a nation.  The church is in the throes of seeing many people depart from the faith, giving heed to lying spirits and doctrines (1 Tim 4:1), being lovers of money, blasphemers, and more (2 Tim 3:1-4).  We are near the end, but we can know we are not yet AT the end.  How so?  Because the sign that Jesus gave has not yet taken place.  There is still time…but not much.
      2. If you’re waiting until the end, you’re going to be waiting until it’s too late.  The time to make the decision to follow Jesus is not tomorrow; it’s today.  None of us know how much time we have left to breathe; much less how much time is left until the end of the age.  We’re not guaranteed anything except the fact that it is appointed to men once to die, and then to face the judgment of God.  We need not lose heart in this day (which is one reason Jesus gave the sign), but neither do we want to take the time we’ve been given for granted!  If you need to respond to The Lord Jesus in faith, then today is your opportunity.
    5. So that’s all the sign.  What is supposed to be the response?  What was it that Jesus said to the future generation that will one day witness the ultimate "abomination of desolation"?  Run.  Run for the hills!  They need to get out of Jerusalem, and get out quick! … Although the abomination of desolation did not occur with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, the Christians living there took Jesus’ words to heart.  It wasn’t THE event, but the principles certainly applied.  Historians note that when the Romans came in, Christians fled to Pella, a mountainous region outside Israel on the other side of the Jordan River.
    6. This is serious business!  And serious action was to be taken.  Notice something: although Jesus tells them to run, He does not tell them to fear.  They could flee the trouble and still have utmost confidence in God at the same time.  Jesus as the Son of God is telling them all these things in advance, telling them how to prepare for that day.  God is not be taken by surprise during the Great Tribulation; it is His plan.  God is sovereign over it all.  Even during the days when it will appear as if Satan is running rampant upon the earth, Satan can only go as far as his leash will let him, and God is the one that holds the leash!  God has full authority over all things at all times, even during the worst days that the world will ever see in its history.  Thus the people could be prepared and flee, but they could also trust God as they do.
      1. The times that are most important to trust God by faith are often the times when it seems like faith is least likely.  The times when the world would say to turn away from God are the times it is most important to reaffirm our faith.  When the diagnosis of cancer comes, many people would get cynical & give up.  Christians are to trust.  When a child dies, many people get bitter.  Christians need to hang on to Jesus in faith.  When the world falls apart, that’s when it’s most important to hold to the God who holds all things together.  Trust God in your trial.  It may seem as if He is absent, but He most certainly is not.  He has a plan, and He is in control.
    7. The whole idea is that there is an urgency here.  There isn’t a moment to lose.  That’s what Jesus goes on to describe in vss. 15-16…

15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. 16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

  1. To the man at home, Jesus tells him to leave everything behind.  Don’t go back in the house – don’t run back from the field to get dressed.  Just go!  The person who is on the roof likely had an outdoor staircase or ladder.  They were to use that & not dilly-dally by going back inside.  The urgency is such that they were to jump of the roof, if necessary.  The field worker may have taken off his outer cloak and worked shirtless.  Jesus tells him to leave it all behind.  Nothing was worth looking back for, they just needed to go.
  2. It’d be difficult to communicate the urgency any clearer.  Aside from two angels coming & leading people out by the hand (as God did with Lot), there wasn’t much more Jesus could say.  Why the urgency?  Because of the desolation that would come.  The act of abomination that brings desolation will be when Antichrist (the prince of the people yet to come) will demand to be worshipped as God in a rebuilt Jerusalem temple, and his false prophet will erect a statue/idol there (an abomination) that seems to come to life (Rev 13:14-15).  This will be 3.5 years into the time known as the Great Tribulation (Dan 12:11).  According to prophecy, there will be much that will have happened up to that point which demonstrates the wrath of God (Rev 6:16), but the world will not have seen anything yet!  The worst of God’s judgments will be about to fall (the desolations), and people won’t want to be in the middle of Israel when it does.
  3. By the way – if Jesus is teaching this to the disciples, does that mean that we as the Church need to be watching for this?  Is this something that we will endure?  No.  This is the day of God’s wrath, and the Bible is clear that we as the Church are not appointed to wrath (1 Ths 5:9).  Just as God took Noah upon the ark prior to the flood – just as God took Lot prior to the destruction of Sodom – so will God take His Church prior to the Day of His wrath.  This is the blessed hope of the Rapture.
    1. This is something that ought to bring comfort to the Church.  1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, " (15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." []  What a glorious thought!  Should The Lord give us the privilege, one day we will be caught up together with our Lord Jesus in the blink of an eye.  One moment we will be here; the next we will be with our Lord in the air.  He promised to prepare a place for us and receive us to Himself (Jn 14:3); if we live until the day, this will be the method by which He takes us.  (Even if we don’t physically live until that day, our bodies will physically rise…those who precede others in death will actually see Jesus first!)
  4. Q: If the Church won’t go through all of the events of the Tribulation, why does Jesus spend so much time teaching about it?  Two reasons: (1) We need to know what the actual sign is, so that we won’t panic over everything else.  As Jesus began the Olivet Discourse, He spoke about various trials that will take place all over the world, but none of it is actually the end.  If anything, those trials are just the beginning of the beginning of the birth pangs, from which the Great Tribulation will come.  We don’t need to panic over any of these initial trials, because we haven’t seen the abomination of desolation (and we won’t).  (2) We as the Church won’t be here, but others will.  We’re not the only people in the eyes of God.  The Bible indicates that multitudes of people will come to faith in Christ during the days of the Great Tribulation.  Both Jews and Gentiles will be saved.  144,000 of those Jews will be sealed by God specifically to survive and endure those days. (Rev 7:4-8)  Jesus does not leave that future generation without instruction.  He speaks directly to THAT generation, so that they would know what to do with the time comes.
  5. Our God is a merciful God!  He loves ALL of His people through all of the centuries.  You & I were just as much on Jesus’ mind when He went to the cross as were the people standing right in front of Him.  So were the Jewish and Gentile believers of the Great Tribulation (some who likely have yet to be born!).  From before the foundation of the world, Jesus looked over the timeline of history and loved us all, and knew us all.  He made the decision to act in our behalf before we were even in existence.  THAT is the grand love of God!

17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 And pray that your flight may not be in winter.

  1. Jesus doesn’t only speak to men, but also to women.  He specifically warns pregnant and nursing mothers.  The kind of urgent refugee-style flight described by Jesus is hard enough.  How much more when pregnant or carrying a baby?  The reference to winter seems to be a woe concerning the storm season in Israel.  Imagine needing to run for your life, baby in arm, and needed to cross flooded areas on foot.  It would be trial on top of trial – incredibly difficult.  Yet it would need to be done.  Jesus does not promise this person ease; He promises the opposite!  But there was no way around it.  If they were present on that day, they would have to forge through the trial.  The only escape would be on foot, and even that wasn’t guaranteed.
    1. Again, you won’t want to waste your opportunity!  Anyone watching Noah build the ark could have received his message, repented unto God, and joined him when the storms began.  But they didn’t…and it was too late.
  2. Although Jesus does promise us (as the Church) an escape from the Great Tribulation, He still doesn’t promise us a life of ease.  We may not go through THAT tribulation, but we will go through SOME tribulation.  Of that, we have the certain promise of God.  On the night prior to His arrest, Jesus told the disciples that in the world they (and we) would have tribulation, but to be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world (Jn 16:33).  We may have trials and tribulation, but we have something infinitely greater: the promise and presence of God!
    1. Even for those who come to faith during the Great Tribulation, this fact remains: they still have faith in The Lord Jesus.  They still belong to Him.  As terrible as the trials will be they face, they have the promise of looking into the eyes of their infinitely greater God and Savior.  Knowing the rest that awaits them in Jesus will be much help in getting them through that day.  (As it is with us, with our own trials today.)
  3. There’s no doubting that those days WILL be terrible.  See vs. 19…

19 For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.

  1. Jesus gives two descriptions as to how bad things will be.  The first is here in vs. 19: the Great Tribulation will be unequaled in history.  It will stand apart from every other deception, disaster, plague, genocide, and everything else.  It will be so bad that it will completely stand apart in the history of the world.
  2. This is one reason that we can know that the events prophesied by Jesus did not find their ultimate fulfillment in 70AD with the Roman destruction of the temple.  No doubt it was awful, and there were many parallels.  But as bad as 70AD was, it was a blip on history.  It did not equal the Holocaust, or the Soviet pogroms, or the even the bubonic plague in terms of sheer numbers of death.  It certainly doesn’t equal the horrors of the tortures among the Nazi concentration camps, or within Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge (Cambodia).  Even among events specifically mentioned in the Bible in past history, the Romans of 70AD don’t even register on the same scale as the flood of Noah (which is the only possible parallel in history, and the reason Jesus makes the comparison in Mt 24:37-39).  To try to make the events of 70AD fit all of this prophecy (with nothing looking beyond) is to make Jesus’ teaching on this meaningless.  Jesus said that there has been nothing like it, and there would be nothing like it…period.  We cannot interpret everything else Jesus says as literal (such as running out of town, or looking for the sign of the abomination of desolation), and then randomly decide that Jesus is now exaggerating and using hyperbole.  He said nothing would equal it in Creation, and that means nothing will.

20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

  1. This is the second description of the terribleness of the tribulation.  How bad will it be?  It has the potential to kill every human being in existence.  As bad as the Holocaust was, the only Jews that were in danger were the ones in reach of the Nazis.  Around the world, many Jews survived…and even there, some Jews survived.  But the Great Tribulation will affect more than one nation of people – it will be worldwide.  If nuclear war broke out, there would be survivors around the world (though perhaps not in certain countries).  Yet left unchecked, the Great Tribulation would kill everyone.  Just in the description of the very beginning of the Great Tribulation as the initial seals are being opened in heaven, power is given to one being to kill off a fourth of the earth (Rev 6:8).  Out of 6 billion people on the planet today, that is 1.5 billion people dead…and that’s only at the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
  2. Why?  Why will those days be so awful?  Because those days will see the outpouring of the wrath of God.  God is an all-consuming fire (Heb 12:9) – who can possibly stand against Him in the day of His wrath? (Rev 6:17)  When God moves in His wrath, there is no hope of escape.  No hope, save one: Jesus Christ.  Jesus went to the cross and rose from the grave precisely to save us from the wrath of God.  Jesus bore God’s wrath for you & me.  He stood in our place, and took what we deserved so that we could find refuge from the wrath of God & be saved.  No doubt we deserve the wrath of God, but we don’t have to experience it.  We can find grace at the cross.
  3. In fact, it’s because of God’s grace that not everyone will die during the Great Tribulation.  The potential is there for ultimate consuming genocide, but it will not happen. God will "shorten" (cut off) the days.  Why?  Jesus tells us: "for the elect’s sake."  Who are the elect?  The people God "chose."  Remember that during the Great Tribulation, people will be getting saved.  Although many will continue their rebellion against God until the very end, others will come to faith.  God chose to extend His mercy and grace to them, just as God chose to do it with us.
    1. Q: Did we choose God, or did God choose us?  Yes…both.  We cannot say for certain how it all works together in the infinite counsels of God, but the Bible tells us that both are true.  God chose us from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), and yet we are called to personally and individually choose to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16, Acts 16:31).  Beware of getting too caught up in the debate or confusion…instead, be caught up in the wonder of it all!  Christian, you have been chosen by God for salvation!  That is an amazing thing!
  4. Finally, those days will be filled with deception.  See vss. 21-22…

21 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

  1. Jesus had already warned of deception.  The beginning of the birth pangs will have deceivers claiming to be Christ (13:5-6).  Apparently, it won’t slow down as the Great Tribulation proceeds.  It only gets ramped up as more "false christs and false prophets" appear. (Literally "pseudo-christs and pseudo-prophets.")  People will be looking to them, and become lost in the delusion.  The deceivers will even try to convince Christians that Jesus has already come.  The instruction from (the real) Jesus: don’t be fooled.  It doesn’t matter how many people believe the false christs and false prophets.  It doesn’t matter how many people think they are real.  It doesn’t matter what kind of miracles seem to take place.  Those people aren’t Jesus.  Those people do not speak for Jesus.  When Jesus comes, all the world will know it, and it most definitely will not be a secret.
  2. Q: Will false prophets actually perform "signs and wonders"?  Apparently, so.  They may be liars, but they have power of some sort, or at least seem to have power.  Although this seems unusual, there is Biblical precedent for this: the Hebrew exodus from Egypt.  When Moses first confronted Pharaoh, there was an initial showdown between the powers commanded by Pharaoh, and the powers of God.  Moses’ rod could turn to a serpent, and so did the rods of Pharaoh’s magicians.  Moses stretched out his rod, and the waters turned to blood, and Pharaoh’s magicians seemed to do something similar. (Exo 7)  To be sure, God demonstrated Himself to be supreme over Pharaoh, with Moses’ snake eating the others, and the vastness of the plagues that followed.  But whether through some sort of visual illusion, or demonic empowerment, Pharaoh’s magicians were able to show at least some power.  Apparently something similar will take place during the Great Tribulation.  The book of Revelation speaks of Antichrist (the Beast) receiving a mortal wound from which he is healed, and Antichrist’s false prophet causing a statue to seemingly come to life. (Rev 13:3, 15)  The power they demonstrate will seem convincing, and many people will fall into deception.
  3. Jesus warns the future generation not to be deceived.  That’s for the people who come to faith during the years of the Great Tribulation.  But what about us?  The same principle applies.  Don’t be fooled!  There will be many who arise and attempt to deceive Christians.  There will be many who claim that Jesus has already come (such as some cults claim about a secret coming, of which they are the only ones that know anything about, or the Mormons who claim that Jesus made a special appearance to the Native Americans).  There will be many people (either insane or evil) who actually claim to BE the Messiah (such as Jim Jones, David Koresh, and others).  There will even be false prophets who seem to perform all kinds of signs and wonders, even among Christians.  They will say gold flakes fell from the ceiling, or that they can reach inside a person’s body to pull out tumors, etc.  Don’t believe them!  Just because someone shares a "testimony" does not mean that the testimony is true.  Just because someone makes a claim does not mean that the claim is accurate.  We need to remember that we are engaged in a spiritual war, and our enemy WANTS to deceive Christians.  He wants to keep people blinded, preventing from ever coming to Christ, and he definitely wants born-again Christians to be as deceived as possible.  This is why Jesus warns us.  Jesus wants to protect us from deception.  This is one of the reasons we have been given the Bible.  The more we know the truth of the Scripture, the better off we will be when confronted with the lies of the enemy.
    1. Sometimes people can be so caught up in their excitement to see Jesus that they lose all discernment.  They want to believe every report that comes their way, and place the Bible in a secondary status.  Beware!  That’s the first step to a long road of disillusion and deception.  Most definitely we are to look for Jesus’ coming (specifically the rapture), but be sure you are looking for Jesus, and not signs, wonders, and other stories.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with real miracles, and we can praise God for them, but true miracles will always point to the true God.  They will not lead people away from God in deception.
  4. Q: Jesus said "if possible" – if the elect cannot be deceived, why do they need to be warned?  Deception is not something to take for granted.  Actually, Jesus never says that believers can never be deceived about anything; His whole context is that they will not be ultimately deceived away from the faith into believing that the false christs are real.  Otherwise, Christians are deceived every day, even if they haven’t lost their salvation.  They’ve strayed from the clear teaching of the Bible, and gotten off track, though God has never let go of them as one of His own.  This is His mercy, but it is something that should not be tested.  To use an analogy, the Bible tells us that God knows the number of our days, so we can conclude that we will die on the precise day God has known.  Yet it would still be the height of foolishness to stand in the middle of the highway, trusting that God will force every car to veer out of the way, all the while saying, "This isn’t my day to die!"  After all, it just might BE your day!  We’re not to take the mercies of God for granted.  Likewise here, regarding deception.  The believers of the Great Tribulation have the promises of Jesus to hold to, even in the midst of all the deception that will be taking place around them.  Yet they are not to take those promises for granted.  They need to be aware of the deception, and not go off entertaining it.
    1. Ever find yourself entertaining deception?  People get fascinated with the occult and demonic.  Or they start playing around with their pet sins of the past.  Or they do "research" into certain temptations, thinking that they themselves would never be tempted.  Take care!  Can a man take a fire to his bosom and not be burned?  (Pro 6:27)  We don’t want to play around with the things that deceive; we want to stay far away from them.

23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

  1. Jesus gave the warning; now they needed to pay attention.  They were to look for the sign – respond with urgency – beware the trials – beware the deception…now they were to act. Don’t let it go in one ear and out the other…act upon the things that Jesus taught.
  2. That’s not just true regarding the Great Tribulation.  Jesus has taught us all these things in His word.  Now we need to take them to heart.  "Take heed" of the things that our Lord has said.  Don’t let it go in one ear & out the other.  We need to respond.  We need to obey.

Conclusion:
Those days aren’t going to be easy, but thankfully God did not leave His people unprepared.  The disciples had asked about a sign regarding the destruction of the temple, but Jesus looked a bit further ahead in regards to their other question about the end of the age.  Jesus certainly gave His disciples instruction on what to do when the Romans came, but there was something far worse in the future – something that would affect the entire world.  What did Jesus teach about the end?

  1. The sign of the end: the abomination of desolation.
  2. The urgency of the end: there wasn’t a moment to lose.
  3. The horrors of the end: there would be nothing like it in history.
  4. The deception of the end: there would be false christs, false prophets, false signs.

The lesson of the end?  Trust God.  Hold fast to Jesus.  It would be incredibly tough…Jesus doesn’t sugar coat a thing.  But God is in control the entire time.  His elect cannot be ultimately deceived.  Humanity will not be ultimately destroyed.  It will be a day of wrath, but it will also demonstrate a day of mercy.  God is fully in control the entire time, and His love for His people will be amply shown even during the worst days that take place in the history of the world.  Believers are to trust the plan of God, heed Jesus’ words and warnings, and hold on to their Savior for dear life.

That’s true regardless of the age in which we live.  We are not in the Great Tribulation, but we are in days of great trial.  Within our own nation, our culture faces upheaval, and lies of the enemy surround us.  In other nations, Christians are jailed for their faith while antichristian governments run rampant.  Is it a time for panic?  No.  It is a time for faith.  Be mindful of the days – be aware of what’s going on.  The Tribulation believers would need to be mindful of the sign, and run when necessary.  We need to be mindful of our world, and be ready to act.  Heed the days, but more than that, heed your Savior.  Hold fast to Jesus in faith, not because life is easy, but because life is hard.

Jesus did not leave the Tribulation believers without a word of hope, and He does not leave us without His presence and promise.  As believers, we have the actual presence of God the Holy Spirit within us, and we have the promise of being with Jesus forever.  Do you believe it?  Then hold firm!

Some of you are going through trials today that seem utterly overwhelming.  You may have walked through the door of this building to worship, but it was an effort just to get out of bed.  Some of you are witnessing a loved one go through unimaginable troubles.  Some of you face decisions about an uncertain future – some face confusion and possible deception.  There is no lack of the need to trust Jesus among us.  Trust Him!  His plan is being worked out in our lives, and we are safely in the grip of His grace.  Reaffirm  your trust in Him today.

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