Scripture Reading: Mark 13 - 14 …
Before Jesus went to the cross … before He died and rose again, He told the disciples what was going to happen: not only what was going to happen in Jerusalem in the next few days, but what was going to happen much later, when He returned to earth. Timing is everything, and God sees the end from the beginning. What happens today is connected to what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. We live one day at a time, but in God's sight one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. God sees everything and knows everything and knows how it all fits together. That is a great comfort for those who know Him and who trust Him.
Jesus reveals to His disciples that there will be some general signs that this world will not always continue as it was at that time and as it is today. Some will come who want to deceive (13:5). There will be wars and rumors of wars (13:7). There will be earthquakes and famines (13:8). All these, Jesus says, are "the beginning of birth pains" (13:8). These things have been happening at an increasingly frequent pace since the time of Christ.
But then Jesus gives them more specific signs of His return. I realize that there are some who say that Jesus could return at any moment, but according to Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21 and many other passages of Scripture, there are things that must happen BEFORE He comes to gather His elect, His chosen ones. He says here, as Matthew quotes Him in Matthew 24:14, that "the Gospel must FIRST be preached to all nations" (13:10). It appears that this is being fulfilled in our present day for the first time in history. It has been said that there were more martyrs for the sake of the Gospel in the past century than in all the rest of the centuries since Jesus ascended into heaven combined. Jesus says, "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (13:13).
Then He speaks about "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of by the prophet Daniel (9:27). At this time there will be a time of distress unequaled at any time before that or at any time after it. The coming of Jesus in the clouds will cut those days short (13:19-27). Many today teach that the Great Tribulation will take place AFTER the rapture, but the order Jesus gives us here and in Matthew 24 is different. He says, "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' (Isaiah 13:10 and other passages). At THAT time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens" (13:24-27).
It is important for you to understand these things so that you will not be deceived when the Antichrist is revealed and he performs signs and wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9-12). Jesus will not return until these things are fulfilled. So He tells His disciples, then and now, to "keep watch" (13:35). We don't know the day or the hour, but we WILL, we MUST know the time, and be watching and working until He comes.
As Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples He told them that He would "not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God" (14:25). He was referring to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb described in Revelation 19. As Jesus went to Gethsemane, He was looking at what lay ahead at the cross, yet He was looking farther ahead, too. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to persevere by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:2-3).
When speaking to people who are going through struggles, the best thing you can tell them to do is to keep their eyes (or in some cases, to GET their eyes) on Jesus!! Like Peter when Jesus called him to get out of the boat and to walk on the water, we hear the roar of the wind and take our eyes off of Jesus to look at the waves rolling around us and we begin to sink. Jesus went to the cross willingly. He said to His disciples in the garden, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (14:38). We who know and love Jesus WANT to be strong, but when we try to live for Jesus by our own strength we end up looking at the trials and struggles and lose heart. We need to keep our eyes on JESUS! HE is able!!
When the high priest asked Him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus answered, "I AM! And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (14:62). Hear Jesus' own testimony and believe in His Name and you will be saved! Whatever trials, whatever persecution, whatever burdens you are called to bear in this life in this world, you can know that you are SAFE in His arms and that He IS with you. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."
The signs of His coming are all around us. Whether it is in your lifetime or mine, the end WILL come. But through faith in Jesus, the end is the beginning, because He IS "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 22:13). When it does end, where will you be standing? I pray that you have placed your trust, your hope, your faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that you have found LIFE in His name. Then you can know that the Father is willing and ready to welcome you HOME, where you will reign with Jesus … forever! Oh, happy day!!
"Heavenly Father, knowing You and drawing near to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, is the greatest privilege, the greatest blessing anyone can receive from Your hand. Thank You, Father, for loving me, for sending Jesus to give His life as a ransom for me, for filling me with Your Spirit and moving me to trust in Your Son, and for the promise of eternal life with You when He returns. Give me strength to endure, to stand firm, to watch and to pray until I see You face-to-face. In Jesus' name, Amen"