“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” – Mark 13:24-37ESV
In our interconnected world, news from across the ocean is before our eyes within moments. A natural disaster in South Asia can be captured on a smart phone and accessible online the minute it happens. While this instant access certainly allows for a plethora of cute cat videos and videos of incredible feats of human ability, it also means we are inundated with immediate notifications of everything going wrong in our world, so much so it feels like our society is tearing apart at the seams.
In the last year, we have faced accounts of husbands murdering their families before completing suicide, people shot to death at concerts or as they worshipped on a Sunday morning, teenagers murdering one another in school or with their words online, dictators in North Korea threatening nuclear war, men in authority using their power to abuse women, children trafficked into sexual slavery, and at every turn… political stances polarizing our nation, dividing us along lines of hate so entrenched they offer no chance for thoughtful, loving hands to join across party lines.
Focused on this world, our fixated eyes tell us to despair. In fact, I learned at the Future of the Church Summit this year the human brain cannot distinguish between threats across the world or right in your community. It’s no wonder our daily lives are filled with anxiety, depression, anger, pain, confusion, grief, and fear. The world looks like it is crashing down around us.
Leading up to Mark 13:24-37, Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem, explaining to His disciples what the signs of the end of time will be. He tells them there will be:
- wars and rumors of war,
- people claiming to be God,
- persecution of Christians,
- families betraying one another to death,
- false prophets who perform miracles,
- and stranger natural phenomenon.
As you read this list, it’s tempting to believe Jesus’ return must be imminent. Yet Jesus clearly states in verse 32, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In fact, a cursory perusal of history will tell you all these signs have been tearing our world apart since Jesus ascended into Heaven before the disciples’ wondering eyes. Shortly after His ascension, Emperor Nero of Rome would be impaling Christians and burning them alive. Ethnic cleansing and widespread wars were a staple of the ancient world. Forty years after Jesus’ ascension, Mount Vesuvius would bury Pompeii, becoming one of the worst volcanic eruptions in European history. It would not be the last. World history is speckled with people who have claimed to speak for God or be Him, only to be proven liars. World hunger has been a known issue for centuries.
Why was Jesus so specific and yet so unclear?
Perhaps because He wanted our eyes fixed, not on the despair of this world, but on His face. The promises of verses 26 & 27 were what He really wanted us to remember: “and then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
Our world is a mess. It has been since Adam and Eve, duped by Satan, bit deep into the fruit of sin and in so doing shrouded our world in death. It will be until this promise is fulfilled.
But this promise will be fulfilled.
In an act of eternal compassion, Jesus ensured we knew He would be back, promising in verse 31, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” This broken world will never be the final story. We don’t need to worry about how He will resolve all the pain we see… because the hands which created the universe, the same hands which bore the nails at Mount Calvary, offer us a place to rest, no matter what comes.
- What issues in our world trouble you the most right now?
- What fears do you have for the future?
- Read Psalm 139:1-16. How does this passage offer you comfort in the midst of your fear?
- Challenge for the week: write a prayer to God about your fears on an index card or sticky note. Try to make it 100% genuine. Don’t try to pretty it up but be honest with the God who already knows you inside and out. Put the note someplace you will see it every day and talk to God about it daily.