It's Not The End Of The World Yet
November 15, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
What Wonderful Buildings!
1. The words of Jesus that I read to you today are the ones that he gave when he was sitting on the Mount of Olives facing the temple. Why did Jesus say these things to his disciples? As we start let's take a quick look at the flow so far in this narrative.
2. Shortly before this, Jesus had been on the temple grounds with his disciples. At that time one of the disciples had said, "Teacher, please look! What splendid stones! What wonderful buildings they are!," (verse one). [The temple] truly was a magnificent [set of] buildings. The temple, where repairs and additions had been launched by Herod in the year 20 B.C.E., was so [magnificent] that construction work was still going on even in the time of Jesus several decades later. We're told that Herod had a thousand vehicles made to carry the stones used for the construction of the temple, and he had appropriated ten thousand choice and highly skilled craftsmen. Since it was so [awesome] of [a set] buildings like that, it is no wonder the disciples, who did not always live in Jerusalem, spoke out in amazement as they saw it anew [each time it changed].
3. However, as Jesus hears the comments of his disciples, he says, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one single stone here in this place will remain on another without collapsing," (verse two). Translated literally, it sounds a bit dull, but in effect, it means that it will be completely destroyed to the degree that not one stone on top of another will remain.
4. Having heard this the disciples probably thought, "That's dumb!" Because it looks more like it is headed for completion and when it's finally done it will even look like it will be around for an eternity. But the Lord said it was destined to be completely destroyed. And the Lord was right. Shortly after The Gospel According To Mark was written, in 70 C.E. (A.D.), the temple of Herod, in which they had taken pride for its dignified appearance, would be utterly destroyed by the Roman army. It was just as Jesus had said.
5. But when the disciples had heard this at that time, they did not think in the slightest that such a thing could ever actually happen. They also felt that if something like that did happen, then it would have to be the end of the world. Therefore, assuming for argument's sake that an all-concluding event such as the temple being destroyed might happen, the disciples asked the question, "What kind of signs will there be, as omens for this?" Signs will appear at the end of the world; for, the Jews had [always] believed that.
6. They said, "Please tell us! When will it happen? And what kind of signs will there be when all of this is coming to pass?," (verse four). At that time, with his eyes fixed in a gaze at the temple from the Mount of Olives, Jesus began to speak [a message] to them. It is the words from Jesus that I read to you today.
Be Careful Not To Be Deceived By Man
7. The disciples asked the question, "What kind of signs will there be?" But the first answer Jesus gave them was "Be careful that you are not deceived by man!"
8. In the eyes of the disciples it did not look like the temple of Herod would fall. But, we know, as a matter of fact, that there are times that what looks indestructible is destroyed in the blink of an eye. It was just buildings. Likewise, there are times national organizations, which have boasted of their absolute authority, fall apart. Even great enterprise level companies, which do not look like they [could] ever fall, fall apart. Even societal organizations, who think they are absolutely safe, fall apart. We know that these kinds of things have, in fact, happened.
9. Or, it is possible that homes fall apart. Husband and wife relations fall apart. Some marry never thinking from the beginning that they will break apart. They never suppose they could break apart. Or, relationships between trusting friends fall apart. There are instances where relations between persons who have put their confidence in one another like that do fall apart. Or, we can make the same case in regard to a single person. There are times when even though it may seem like a self-confidence that is unshakeable by great setbacks it can tragically fall apart. It is possible that the health which we have had absolute confidence in could one day all of a sudden fall apart. What the Lord had said, "Not one single stone here in this place will remain on another without collapsing," will become apparent in reality in various forms. What we have put our confidence in, what seemed so certain can fall apart to that same degree.
10. But, in moments like those, we must call to mind the words of the Lord when he said, "Be careful that you are not deceived by man!" When things that are highly unlikely to fall apart do fall apart, false messiahs will appear at that time in various forms. It is just as the Lord had said, "A great number of people giving my name to themselves will appear." They will come beckoning, saying, "Come to me. I have salvation." Or, like the Lord says, they will deceive [people], saying, "I am the One." To say "I am the One" is a Jewish expression, it means "I am God." In this way spurious gods will make their way near. Ungodly persons with godly faces will come on to [people]. Ungodly persons will appear and say, "Let me save you!," and it will be possible for them to pull even people, who are supposedly trusting in God, away from God. And when something has fallen apart, people are ripe and ready to mindlessly fall for [anything]. So, Jesus says, "Be careful that you are not deceived by man!" In order not to be deceived by man, we must first of all turn to God himself.
11. In addition, Jesus says, "Even if you hear the uproar of war or the rumors of war, you must not panic." That's right. The main thing we are to do is "not panic." What should we do so that we do "not panic?" What should we think? Jesus says, "It is not the end of the world yet," (verse seven). Even if the biggest of all things has happened, even if you have experienced something like everything from under your feet crumbling apart, we must tell ourselves right at that moment, "It is not the end of the world yet." And in fact, it is not the end of the world.
12. In referring to "the end of the world" it means the time when God will end it all. Until God brings the end, in a certain sense, it is not "the end." Even though it has looked like the end, it is still in process along the way. Jesus used the term "birth pangs." "People will rise up against people and nation against nation, there will be earthquakes all over the place, famines will happen. These are the beginning of the birth pangs," (verse eight).
13. I have not had the experience of "birth pangs," but I know that it hurts a whole heck of a lot. Yet, no matter how much it hurts, it is not "the end." It is somewhere in the middle. There is more ahead. There is joy ahead of the pain. There is the great joy of the birth of a life. And if we take it the next step, Jesus called it [just] "the beginning of the birth pangs." Since it is "the beginning" it means that gradually the pain will increase. Since the pain is to increase, we may normally think of it as "heading into a bad direction." But, when it comes to birth pangs, we can't say that. When a pregnant woman's labor pains get worse, she doesn't lose hope and say, "Oh my, my situation in life is getting worse and worse." -- Because she knows that the greater the pain gets, the closer the birth of the new life is to getting here. Because she knows that the moment of great joy is getting closer by the second. That's the birth pangs. Jesus is saying it is the same as that.
The Gospel Must Be Proclaimed
14. Thus, no matter when it might come, even though something has fallen apart, we must not forget what Jesus said. We are not to let ourselves be deceived by man. We are not to panic. "The world is not over yet." Therefore, everything is but in process somewhere, along the way. Even if, right now, we are in the midst of suffering, we should realize that it is the birth pangs that will lead to great joy.
15. Through this we must hold ourselves together. We must be careful in regard to ourselves because it is not simply for ourselves. It is for this world. It is for some other person. We have a duty that we ought to perform for the salvation of some other person [as well besides ourselves].
16. With the disciples right in front of him at the time, Jesus said this about them. "Be careful in regard to your own selves! You will be handed over to regional courts and beaten in synagogues. Also, you will be made to stand before governors and kings for my name, and will testify of [me]. But, first and foremost, the gospel must be proclaimed to every nation," (verses nine and ten). He says that there may be confusion in society, there may be earthquakes, famine may come, and worse they may be placed under persecution, but the disciples have something they are supposed to do. They are not to have instances of being deceived and being in panic. Even in times like that, there is something they must indeed do. It is that they are to proclaim the gospel. The Lord told them, "First, the gospel must be proclaimed to every nation."
17. We can say the same thing even in this time today where we see the certainties in which we have put our trust crumble apart one after the other. It is certainly a world where we are hard pressed not to think of this as "the end of the world." But, even though we're in a world where people hear nothing but bad news, indeed, precisely because we're in that kind of world, we must make known the good news -- "the gospel." It is precisely because it is a world that has no hope that we must declare the hope, that God loves this world so much that he gave his only son for it. God loves us that much. This God who loves us forgives our sins and will surely save us. God is preparing great joy filled with life on the other side of the birth pangs. We know this and so filled with hope we must announce the gospel. The Lord says, "First, the gospel must be proclaimed to all peoples."
18. The Lord also added, "When you are handed over and taken away, you must not be loaded down with anxiety over what you will say. At those times you should understand what you will be given to tell [them]. In fact, the one who will speak is not you, but the Holy Spirit," (verse eleven). God does speak. God does work through human beings.
19. God will use us in this way. Even though things happen in this world, even though things happen in our lives, God is able to use us and do his will. Therefore, [we] must not be deceived by man. We must not panic. "The world is not over yet." Everything is en route. We must not forget that what we are seeing now is the birth pangs. Also, to go even further with this, even if we never encounter persecution like the disciples, we may have forced upon us unjust suffering by man. But, we must not be defeated. The good news must be told to this world that is filled with bad news. God is using us to that end even in this day and age now.