Aug 18, 2013
Mark 13:28-37

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Recap of the last few weeks....

Jesus is teaching a sermon known as the “Olivet Discourse” that has revolved itself around a singular question asked by the disciples, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus starts His sermon explaining the “Beginning of Sorrows.”

  • A great deceiver will rise to power.... the ultimate Antichrist.
  • Though peace has been promised a great war will follow.
  • From this war would come “inflation, famines, and pestilences.”

  • Note: The first 3.5 years of this 7 year period of Tribulation will be fierce.

Jesus then explains what “sign” triggers the beginning of the end.

  • At the 3.5 year mark the Antichrist will enter the Temple and commit what Daniel describes prophetically as the “Abomination of Desolation.”
  • A mass exodus from Judea will immediately ensue.
  • An even greater period of Tribulation will follow.

  • Note: This one event will trigger the full wrath of God.

Jesus says that “after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”

Everything during this 7 years will build to one final crescendo before Jesus returns to  destroy the armies of the Antichrist, restore a broken planet, bind Satan in the bottomless pit, and establish His reign over the earth for 1000 years.

[Mark 13:28-31] “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

1st thing we should note: Jesus is transitioning His sermon to its final conclusion.

“Now” - Greek conjunction “de” - “but, moreover, nevertheless, yet, then.”

Luke 21:28-29 helps with this transition, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. Then He spoke to them a parable....”

Jesus has finished His lesson on the Tribulational period - the “end of the age.”

He’s described His future “2nd coming” whereby He establishes His Kingdom. 

Now, as with any good sermon, Jesus is going to conclude with an additional benediction that contains a specific exhortation and application for the disciples.

2nd thing we should note: The context for His application begins with the fig tree.

The OT presented the Fig Tree as a picture for the Nation of Israel.

Judges 9:10-11, “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Should I cease my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to sway over trees?”

Hosea 9:10, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw you fathers as the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season.”

Jesus reinforced this typological picture in Mark 11 when, in cursing the Fig Tree, He condemned the religious hypocrisy of Israel.

Israel had been advertising spiritual fruit it didn’t posses! She presented an outward image of holiness, but lacked true substance! So Jesus cursed her!

The result of this curse can be seen in Israel’s destruction during the 1st century.

Because Israel’s ultimate refusal manifested itself in their rejection of Jesus, God would use the Roman invasion in 70 AD to enact His divine retribution.

Israel ceased to be and God turned His attention to the church. God’s involvement with the Jewish people gave way to the “time of the Gentiles.”

And yet, from this prophecy, Jesus seems to present the reemergence of Israel as being a main indicator everything He’s previously discussed would soon take place.  

Look again at verse 28, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!” 

It would appear from this passage Jesus is telling the disciples that when they see Israel blossom again onto the world scene it would serve as a sign this Tribulational period would soon follow.

Ezekiel 37 - The reemergence of the Jewish people. 

Zechariah 8, Isaiah 51 - The worldwide return of the Jews to their homeland.

Note: The rebirth of Israel is not only important for its historical significance, but it also indicates the soon transitioning of the prophetic timeline off the church and back to the Hebrew people.

For 1,878 years, beginning with the Roman invasion in 70 AD, the Jews existed in isolated communities through the Middle East and most of Europe. One can say the Fig Tree lay in complete dormancy.

And yet, on November 2, 1917 the roots of this tree began to take in nutrient when UK’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour issued an important declaration permitting the formation of a Jewish state. 

The “Balfour Declaration” stated, “His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” 

Sadly, because of mounting political opposition before and directly following WW2 the British reneged on this promise by drastically restricting the number of Jews they’d allow to immigrate to Palestine. 

Following WW2 and the revelation of the Nazi’s Holocaust of the Jews coupled with large United States support, in 1947, the United Nations proposed the establishment of Arab and Jewish states in Palestine.

On May 14, 1948 two important events aligned perfectly: (1) England lifted their naval blockades effectively ending their mandated restriction of Jewish immigrants. (2) The United Nations proclaimed a newly formed State of Israel.

One day later on May 15 the newly established State of Israel was immediately invaded by the surrounding Arab countries launching the year long “War of Independence.” 

The budding tree could have been cut down, but she survived.

In July 1949, Israel signed an “Armistice Agreement” with Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon ending the war. This lead to the formation of the First Knesset and Israel being admitted to the UN as the 59th member. 

Note: Though the Fig Tree was budding, the capital city of Jerusalem was divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule as part of the Armistice.

In 1967, Israel was attacked again by the Arabs in what was called the “Six-Day War.” Israel not only survived, but gained territory resulting in the reunifying of Jerusalem under total Israeli control.

This history and the dating is important as we’ll see in a few minutes.

Though most Pre-Tribulationalists and Pre-Millennialists agree with the significance of Jesus’ prediction of Israel’s reemergence from the ashes of history, the biggest hangup people have with this passage and the single contributing factor to so much confusion is what Jesus says next. 

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Over the last 60 years many well-intentioned pastors and scholars (many of which are in the Calvary Chapel movement) have seen this verse as validation that the “generation” that sees the reformation of Israel will be alive to see the Tribulation.

Since the formation of Israel is a fact of history occurring in 1948, many good Bible expositors have erred by making unnecessary predictions. 

Let me explain how this ends up happening:

  • They interpret “generation” as being a “collective age group of people.” 
  • Since Israel became a nation in 1948, they believe that “generation” will be alive to see the End Times scenario unfold. 
  • The big question then becomes how many years does the Bible define as a “generation.” If you can figure out the number of years, then you can extrapolate this out to pinpoint Jesus’ 2nd Coming. 

  • Since the Rapture of the Church will occur at least seven years before the 2nd Coming, they believe you can also pinpoint this date as well.

Example: In the 70’s many concluded a “generation” consisted of 40 years.

1948 + 40 years lead many to believe Jesus would return in 1988. 

This caused many from the pulpit to declare the Rapture would happen in 1981.

In 1978, Calvary Chapel’s founding Pastor Chuck Smith wrote a book “End Times” in which he predicted the the Rapture would happen in 1981. 

(Popular American evangelist and Christian author Hal Lindsey also made this prediction in his book “The Late Great Planet Earth.”)

In 1980, Pastor Chuck reiterated these convictions in a manuscript titled "Future Survival." He said, “I am convinced the Lord will come for His Church before the end of 1981" identifying that he "could be wrong but it was a deep conviction in his heart, and all his plans were predicated upon that belief." 

Note: Not everything you read on the internet is correct.

Following this embarrassment some within Calvary Chapel presented an interesting solution: 1967 + 40 years = Jesus returns in 2007 (Rapture in 2000).

There are two problems with this approach: 

1. There is no consistent Biblical definition of a “generation.”

It was a 38 year generation of Israelites roaming the wilderness. 

Genesis 15 defines a generation as 100 years.

2. The word used by Jesus doesn’t mean a “collective age group of people.”

“Generation” Greek word “genea” can be understood as a “race or people.” 

David Guzik commenting on this passage said, “This may be a promise that the Jewish race will not perish before history comes to a conclusion.”

Sadly, the act of setting a definitive date for the Rapture (dates that have obviously been proven false) have had several negative consequences.

1. It’s caused many Christians to dismiss all Pre-Tribulationalists as being looney-tune, date setting, dooms-day preppers more interested in leaving planet earth than reaching a fallen planet with the Gospel.... escapists! 

2. It causes the world to paint Christians who believes in a literal, pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church as being intellectually, non-rational people.

Example: Harold Camping’s 2011 prediction was all over the news.

3. The cumulative effects of the first two points have caused many pastors to shy away from the teaching of eschatology from the pulpit all together. 

4. It’s tarred the public image of many solid, Godly, wonderful Bible teachers. 

As Pastor Chuck has admitted since the embarrassments of the early 80’s, he should have kept to the faithful expositional teaching of the Bible and stayed away from the prediction making business.

Tragically, this one mistake is used by critics of Calvary Chapel to diminish the movement and attack a man who’s ministry should be admired and celebrated. 

In a sermon on the Olivet Discourse Mark Driscoll a popular author, church-planter, and pastor of Mars Hill provided this exhortation to his congregation, “Are you overly concerned with the details of Jesus’ return? There was a great outpouring and movement of the Holy Spirit in the ‘60s and ‘70s, called the Jesus Movement. It was amazing.... It was a miracle of God. A whole generation just seemed to get captured with the love of Jesus. En masse, hippies and drug addicts and people who were sexually wayward met Jesus and there was a radical number of salvations. And a huge number of young people became Christians.

Nonetheless, what happened with the Jesus Movement, is I believe it got off track and off course. People started to get really fascinated with the rapture and the end times and the Second Coming and all of these things. All of a sudden, there was a love for Jesus, but there was more of a fascination around dates and times and events and circumstances. And all of a sudden, leaders began making predictions about when Jesus will return and the signs accompanying his coming. They were taking the Bible and taking the nightly news and combining them together. And it led to a short-sightedness. Some key leaders, even some who love Jesus and are brothers in Christ, started predicting the end of the world and sending their followers into a frenzy. None of that’s helpful.

Are you overly interested, concerned, consumed with the details of his return? Are you reading too many books about the end of the world and neglecting the needs of the world? Are you trying to predict things when Jesus says elsewhere, “No one knows the hour nor the day”? Are you overly concerned? Some of you are overly concerned and obsessed with the details and have very strong opinions about things that have not yet happened; that’s going too far.”

Though I understand Mark’s exhortation and criticism (and in some ways I agree with the mistakes of the previous generation of church leaders who fell prey to prediction making), I completely disagree with his core premise that we shouldn’t be deeply concerned with the Rapture. 

The reality of Scripture is that the immanency of the future Rapture of the Church and the End Times scenario that follows is so foundational that it is the principle doctrine of the NT found in 1 out of every 10 verses. 

Not only this.... but Jesus Himself exhorted us to watch and pray for His coming!

And why is this the case? Because these concepts (if approached in an appropriate and balanced way) provide the appropriate motivation for the church to be active and engaged in the world around us - not neglectful as Mark proposes.

[Mark 13:32] “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” 

Q: What “day” is Jesus referring too?

A: There seems to be 3 subtle clues:

1. It’s a “day” no one can predict.

According to Daniel’s prophecies, 7 years of Tribulation begin with the signing of a false peace. This means we can extrapolate out 7 years to pinpoint Christ’s exact return and 3.5 years to pinpoint the Abomination of Desolation.

This eliminates the 2nd Coming and the Abomination as being this “day.”

2. It’s a “day” whereby Jesus promises escape from judgment.

Luke 21:34-36, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

One can reason this eliminates the beginning of the Tribulational period as well.

1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:10, “And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead - who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

3. It’s a “day” Jesus exhorts His disciples to be prepared for.

Jesus’ entire sermon has been addressing God’s future dealings with Israel, but according to Luke in this instance Jesus distinctly personalizes His exhortation to “watch and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things” specifically to His disciples.

[Mark 13:33-37] “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. (Matthew tells us the conditions will be similar to what it was in the day of Noah.) This day will be like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

I am convinced the only “day” that fits Jesus’ description and remains consistent with the rest of Scripture is the “Rapture of the church” - a “day” no one can predict - a “day” whereby Jesus promises escape from judgment - and a “day” the disciples should be actively prepared and watching for!

Let’s tie it all together: Though no man knows when Jesus will call the church to Himself and it’s a silly exercise to make predictions, it does seem the reemergence of the Nation of Israel should serve as a radical and critical indicator that the time is soon arriving. 

Jesus says when the Fig Tree blooms, these things are at the door!

He then exhorts the disciples to be ready for the Master’s return.

With this in mind, let’s consider the point of His parable in light of the Rapture. 

While Jesus is away He has “given authority to His servants” with the specific commission to faithfully fulfill “each his work.” 

1. Before leaving Jesus “gave authority to His servants” - Jesus (the Master of the house) has commissioned (or authorized / deputized) you to reach the world with the Gospel; and He’s equipped you with the Holy Spirit for power to do so!

2. He also gave “to each his work” - Each servant has his work to do. 

The motivation to be a good steward: He’s returning soon!

Anticipating and preparing for His soon return should make us faithful servants.

The Rapture should have a purifying effect in your life!

The Rapture should provide a sense of urgency to be about your calling!