(2006) NEW YEAR MESSAGE by Dr. John Jun
“THE GOSPEL MUST FIRST BE PREACHED TO ALL NATIONS”
Key Verse: 13:10 ‘And the gospel must first be preached to all nations ”
Mark chapter 13 is the last lecture of Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem. It is about the end of the age. Through this passage, we want to learn the Christian viewpoint of God’s history. Today we want to learn two things. First, signs of the end of the age (1-13), second, Jesus’glorious second coming (14-37). Through this passage we want to see our present world in view of God’s history. And what should be our hope in this difficult situation? I pray that we may learn what we must do first in this difficult time.
I. Signs of the end of the age (1-13)
In verses 1-2, Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple. After cleansing the temple and rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (12:35-37), Jesus was ready to leave the temple. One of the disciples was surprised and said to Jesus, “Look, teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”Outwardly the temple was quite admirable. King Herod built the temple to win the favor of Jewish people spending much money. It took 46 years to build the temple. At the entrance there were enormous pillars 40 feet high. The foundation stone was made of a beautiful greenish white marble stone from Africa, 37 feet long,18 feet wide and 12 feet high. From a distance it looked like the color of the greenish white ocean. The façade of the temple was covered with gold. When it was reflected by the sunset, it looked like a huge piece of gold. The country men from Galilee must have lost their minds at the sight of the beautiful and gorgeous temple. Seeing the gorgeous temple and the priests wearing long robes, the disciples must have envied them.
What did Jesus say to the disciples? Look at verse 2. “‘Do you see all these great buildings?’replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’”Jesus predicted that such a solid and magnificent building would be completely destroyed. At that time the temple was the center of the Jewish faith and community. Therefore they not only honored the temple, but made it an idol. When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, the first thing they did was to rebuild the temple. To them the temple was the symbol of Jewish pride as God’s chosen people.
Then how was Jesus’view of the temple different from that of the disciples? The disciples lost their minds at its outward beauty and magnificence. But Jesus saw the temple in light of God’s word. He saw the temple as corrupted, secularized and degenerated into a den of robbers (11:15-17). He saw that the temple would be destroyed by God’s judgment. Jesus not only saw the present but also the future. He saw the temple became the hotbed of corruption, and the coming destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.
In verses 3-13, Jesus talks about the signs of the end of the age. Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple. Look at verses 3,4. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’”At that time the Jews believed that when the temple was destroyed, the end of the age would come. The disciples were shocked by Jesus’prediction of the destruction of the temple and the coming of the end of the age. They were not ready yet for the end of the age.
What did Jesus say about the signs of the end of the age?
First, false messiahs will deceive many (5,6). Look at verses 5-6. “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’and will deceive many.”When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army, many false messiahs appeared and deceived the people. Whenever there are troubles and distress in the society, many false messiahs appear and deceive believers. With the extreme mysticism and utopian ideas, they claim that they are the only savior of the world who can solve the difficult problems of the times. At that time many false messiahs like Docedeus, Bar Jesus, Judas the Galilean and Simon appeared. Nowadays in America, Mormons, Bahais, Jehovah’s Witness and the New Age Movement are very strong false messiahs.
In our practical life, we are challenged by the false messiah, Mammonism. Mammonism is one of the false messiahs that tempts and destroys human beings. Of course materials are necessary to survive. But money cannot be the ultimate purpose of our life. Money is not the purpose but just the means of our life. As the modern society gradually becomes more mechanical and loses humanity, many people are sinking into the swamp of Mammonism. Many modern people believe that money can buy everything. The problem is that the yeast of Mammonism is even spreading among ourselves.
These days, modern people are tempted by idols of science and technology. As the highly scientific technology has gradually advanced, many people are captured by the illusion of establishing an earthly paradise of technical welfare society. Dr Hwang Woo Suck in Korea had a vision to heal all the handicaps and crippled people through stem cell research. But the Korean church opposed his stem cell research because his research challenged the scope of God’s creation. We are living in the world full of idols of Information technology. We should also know that far advanced nuclear technology can be beneficial, but also it can give great harm to the environment. Likewise genetic engineering and computer engineering can be false messiahs.
Second, wars and rumors of wars (7,8). Look at verse 7. “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”Wars are the sign of the end of the age: the American Civil War, World World I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Faulkland War, Iran-Iraq War, Gulf War, War between Israel and the PLO, Afghanistan War, Iraq War, etc. They say the incidence of wars in the last two centuries was more frequent than before. When we hear the rumors of these wars we do not need to be afraid. Since we know that the end of the age is near, we should be spiritually alert and prepared.
Third, earthquakes and famines. Look at verse 8b. “There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”Natural disasters have been steadily increasing until now. These days about 300 live volcanoes are burning around the world. About 4-5 years ago, there was a volcano explosion on the island, Montes Seras in the Caribbean and 75 % of the city was destroyed. Southwestern America is an earthquake region, especially California. How horrible it would be if an earthquake happened where there is an atomic power plant! They say only knowledgeable geologists have this kind of fear. On December 26th 2004 hundreds of thousands of people died in the Indian Ocean Tsunami. In the summer 2005, New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina and was submerged under water. Over 1300 people died and over a million lost their houses. In the fall 2005 there was a severe earthquake in Pakistan and 70,000 people died and hundreds of thousands lost their homes. Although Chicago is far from the earthquake region, we do not feel safe because the earthquake region is gradually spreading and becomes more frequent. Even though we live in a scientifically advanced world, the problem of famine is very serious. One third of the world population suffers from famine. About 30,000 people die of hunger every hour. About 3 million people died of famine in North Korea. The world in which we live seems to be safe now, but we don’t know when it would be hit by a great disaster like the capsized Titanic. Under the earth there is a burning fire of volcanoes and in heaven there will be a burning fire of God’s judgment.
Fourth, persecution of believers. (9, 11-13) Look at verse 9. “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.”Jesus said the believers would be persecuted by political power. At that time Israel was under Roman rule. Roman politicians thought their philosophy, wisdom and power based on Hellenism was enough to rule the whole world. But as the gospel gradually conquered Judea and Rome, they were alarmed by Christianity, which opposed the Roman world view and its rule. So they used their political power and oppressed Christians, making their gatherings illegal. Christians were also flogged in Jewish synagogues. They were rejected by their own people. The religious establishment collaborated with the political power and condemned and persecuted gospel workers. How often we are persecuted in our working place when we live by gospel faith! Sometimes we are ridiculed and persecuted by parents, and isolated by family members because of our faith in Jesus (11,12). Sometimes we are beaten up or cast out of the house because of our gospel faith. Whenever we are persecuted without reason, we often ask, “Is God really living?”
What did Jesus say was the reason for this suffering? Verse 9c says, “as witnesses to them”. Jesus wants us to witness for the gospel even in the midst of suffering. We are holy pilgrims traveling toward heaven as in the book “Pilgrim’s Progress”. It is a great mistake if we think our journey will always be joyful and peaceful without any problems. In the Bible there are many paradoxical and contradictory verses. We should know that these paradoxical verses are not contradictory, but harmonious. For example, real joy comes from pain and suffering. Real peace comes from constant spiritual struggle. Those who endure to the end will receive their reward in heaven and participate in God’s joy. Why then should we not be afraid in times of persecution? Because these persecutions are the signs of the end of the age. In verse 8c suffering from persecution is described as birth pains. A pregnant mother is not afraid of labor pains because she has hope for her precious baby to be born. This baby is compared to Jesus’glorious second coming and the restoration of the whole world. We are not afraid of persecution because God protects his precious children. In the midst of persecution we do not need to despair because this is just labor pains for Jesus’second coming.
Fifth, love grows cold (12). Look at verse 12. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”A family is the most important community of love. Therefore we are diligently praying for house churches. As the end of the age is near, there will be a breakdown of families. Brother betrays brother, and sends him to prison and death. Children betray parents and send them to prison and death. These days we see many broken families; fathers throw away children; children treat parents as strangers. This is another sign of the end of the age, when love grows cold. Matthew 24:12 says at the end of age there is an increase of wickedness and the love of most will grow cold. The moral standard of America is the Bible and the Ten Commandments. But gradually people in America do not care about moral standards. They openly claim secular humanism. They gradually believe extreme relativism and situation ethics. Millions of people irresponsibly live with high credit card debt. In America, they replaced the words, “Merry Christmas”with “Happy Holidays”. Gradually people want to erase the phrase, “In God we trust”from money.
Sixth, the gospel must first be preached (10). Look at verse 10. “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”Jesus said the gospel must first be preached to all nations before the end of the age. Matthew 24:14 says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”This means we should preach the gospel to all nations more than anything else. Our society is full of problems; rampant false messiahs, wars, disasters, noisy campuses, illegal activities, love growing cold. In this situation what should we do first?
Look at verse 10 again. “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”In the midst of rumors of wars and natural disasters, we should be faithful to 1:1 Bible study and raising disciples. Even in this troubled, unstable world, we should send out missionaries to all nations. We must study hard and get good grades. We must preach the gospel through 1:1 and raise America to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We have many tasks to do personally and nationally. Personally, students should study hard, get scholarships and good jobs. Graduates must overcome job problems and family problems. Nationally, America should be prosperous, overcoming economic stagnation and grow to be the best democratic country. We should pray to end the Iraq War soon and help Middle Eastern countries to establish democracy. But what did Jesus say to do more importantly than all these things? Look at verse 10 again. “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”Here Jesus used the word “must”. The first thing we must do is to preach the gospel to all nations. Therefore we must diligently teach the Bible 1:1 and raise Bible teachers who preach the gospel to all nations. In this world there are still 16,000 tribes who have never heard the gospel. To preach the gospel to them, many mission organizations and churches around the world are praying. Verse 10 suggests that the mainstream of world history is God’s salvation work. We also serve the most important world salvation work of God. Let us continue to do our best for God’s world salvation work and make our nation a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
II. The glorious second coming of Jesus (14-37)
In verses 14-23, Jesus talks about the great distress right before Jesus’second coming.
Verses 14-16 record the wisdom how to escape from great distress. In verse 14, “the abomination that causes desolation’refers to a foreign idol, standing in the holy temple. They say the king of Syria, Antiochus erected a Jupiter sculpture on the altar of the Jerusalem temple. Daniel prophesied (Dan 11:31) that the holy temple would be desecrated by a foreign army. What God hates most is that his holy temple is desecrated by an idol. This prophecy was fulfilled as it was prophesied. Our body is the temple of God (1Co 3:16). Our heart should not be desecrated by idols of materialism and pleasure-seeking. Jesus told those who are in Judea to flee to the mountains. He told those who are on the roof or in the field to flee.
In verses 17-19 Jesus told them how dreadful would be the great distress. The days of distress will be unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. It will be more dreadful for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Jesus told them to pray that this will not take place in winter.
Verses 20-23 tell us what our attitude should be at the time of great distress. After talking about great distress, Jesus said the Lord had cut short those days for the sake of the elect (20). At the end of the age many false Christs and false prophets will perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect. So he warned us to be on guard. We should discern everything based on the word of God, because Jesus said, “I have told you everything ahead of time”(23).
Verses 24-27 tell us about Jesus’second coming. Right after the great distress, there will be Jesus’glorious second coming. The stage of Jesus’second coming is not peripheral like the destruction of Jerusalem, but it will happen on the center stage of the whole universe.
Then how would Jesus come again?
First, there will be great distress when Jesus comes again (24,25). Look at verses 24,25. “But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’”When Jesus comes again, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Here we can be sure that there will be great distress in the natural world when Jesus comes again. Nature will not last forever, and the sun and moon cannot be the object of our worship. The sun and moon, which the nature worshipers worshiped, will lose its glorious light. Then they will lose the object of their worship. Grandiose nature is nothing but God’s creation.
Second, Jesus will come in clouds with great power and glory (26). Look at verse 26. “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming with great power and glory.”Jesus’second coming is contrasted with his first coming. When he first came, most people did not know of his birth. Jesus was born in such a humble way in a manger of a stable. Jesus was rejected by many people. He was ridiculed and a man of suffering. But when he comes again, he will be triumphant with great power and glory. Everyone will bow their knees before him and confess that Jesus is the Son of God and the Judge. Jesus will come again in the sight of all men and gather his elect (27). Therefore this day will be the glorious day for all the saints and the blessed day to be with Jesus forever.
Our hope is neither to get good grades, nor good jobs with 6-figure incomes. Our hope is neither to be successful in this world, nor to get a PhD. These things are like grass and flowers that wither and fall (1Pe 1:24). Our hope is neither to win the war on terrorism, nor to establish the best democratic country. Then what should be our ultimate hope? Our ultimate hope is Jesus’second coming. Our hope is the complete restoration of the whole world and to participate in his glory. Then our body will be redeemed (Rom 8:23). We will never get old and always keep our youth and enjoy good health like young men and participate in the glory of God forever (Rom 8:18).
In verses 28-37, Jesus talks about how to prepare for the end of the age. Through the parable of the fig tree, Jesus teaches that as the summer is near when the leaves come out, the end is near when these things are happening. Already there have been many signs of the end of the age in this world, and we are living right before the great distress.
Then how should we live to prepare for Jesus’second coming? Firstly, we should be alert (32,33). Look at verse 33. “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come”. This means we should be alert spiritually. In order to be ready to meet Jesus anytime, we should be spiritually alert and maintain that spirit. Are you spiritually relaxed? Have you become insensitive and lazy gradually? We should avoid worldly friends who tempt us to forget about Jesus’second coming. God says, “So, then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled”(1Th 5:6).
Secondly, we should carry out our mission faithfully (34-37). We should carry out our God-given task faithfully. Once our breath ends, there is nothing but God’s judgment. It is a great mistake to try to do the work of God after we died. Therefore we should use the rest of our life not to please our bodies, but to carry out our God-given mission faithfully according to God’s will.
In conclusion, Jesus talked about the signs of the end of the age and the great distress. Jesus also talked about his glorious second coming. Through this passage we learned about the Christian viewpoint of history. The time in which we live now is right before the great distress. We will see more and more signs of the end of the age in this troubled world. In this situation what should we do first? We must first preach the gospel to all nations. We must teach the Bible 1:1 and raise disciples of Jesus on our campuses. We must hold firmly to the hope of Jesus’coming in clouds with great power and glory.
Let’s read verse 10, “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”(10)