Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Devotional: Kingdom Living in an Evil Age, Mark 13:1-23

Mark 13.1-25 outline

As Jesus and the disciples left the temple area, after Jesus had symbolically pronounced judgment on it and the system it represented and defended his authority to do so, he instructed them explicitly about what these signs meant. The old order has passed away and the temple is about to be completely destroyed. When the disciples asked about the signs of the end they were expecting that the destruction of the temple and the end of the age would be simultaneous events. But Jesus corrected this idea by letting them know that there would be an unspecified length of time between the two events in which nations will rise, fight and fall. It will be a time of persecution for Jesus’ followers, but even that persecution will lead to witness, even in the strongholds of worldly power and oppression, Jesus’ followers will follow the same path that Jesus took through the cross to glory. God’s kingdom will grow in the midst of the evil age and, in the end, just as it seems evil will win, the Son of Man will return, defeat evil, gather his people and bring in the age of peace and righteousness, In the meantime what are God’s people supposed to do?

Twice Jesus tells his disciples that they are supposed to “watch.” (13:5, 9) so that no one leads them astray. False prophets will come who will interpret the events of the age as a sign of the swift return of Jesus giving people false hope. There have been false teachers through the last 2000 years who claimed to know the dates of Jesus’ return but all have been shown to be false. False prophets also look at the normal events of the age, earthquakes, wars etc., as harbingers of the apocalypse, but again these are to be expected and endured. Instead of obsessing over dates and times, the church needs to focus on its mission of discipling the nations. This is how to be ready for the 2nd coming which will happen suddenly, without precipitating events or signs.

Secondly, Jesus tells his disciples to anticipate trouble, persecution and suffering. In their generation they will experience persecution at the hand of their own families and friends, oppression from the ruling authorities and the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. This all took place within 40 years of Jesus’ resurrection. The early church faced persecution and death at the hands of their own Jewish relatives and from the Roman authorities. Jesus said that this would be the opportunity for supernatural witness and history shows that his prediction was accurate. Persecutors like Paul were turned into witnesses and whole nations turned to Christ. This is the pattern for the age. Our response to persecution and suffering becomes the “seed” that grows the church.

Jesus calls us to watch for those who come, even with signs and wonders, to give us false hopes and bind us with fear because of world events. Instead we are to live our lives in community with other believers as islands of love, hope and kingdom purpose in the chaotic sea of a world apart from God.  We can do this because God has already won the battle and has given us his Spirit to speak and act through us.. Even the world’s opposition will accomplish God’s purposes and we can be sure of victory and reward in the end. Watch and be faithful!

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