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Entries in Revelation (8)

Tuesday
Jul052016

The Coming Day of the Lord 2

Isaiah 24:7-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on July 3, 2016.

Tomorrow we will be celebrating The Declaration of Independence by the United States of America.  In that document we appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”  Rectitude means the straightness or righteousness of our intentions.  Today, it does not seem that many in our government are concerned about the Supreme Judge of the world.  Our passage today reminds us why it was so important to do so back then and why we should be doing it now.  God is not just potentially the judge of the world, but He has appointed a day in which all the nations of the earth will be brought into judgment before Him, at the end of this age.  Whether in the Church or in our government, we need leaders who have such a fear of God that they feel compelled to make their case before the God of heaven.  We need leaders who will make their case in conformity with the Word of God (straight intentions) rather than in defiance of it.  My cry this morning is for Christians to not fail in their duty to conform their intentions to the straightness of God’s Word.  We must be about our Father’s business because the devastating day of Judgment that we will continue to read about today.

The Joys of the Harvest Will End

In verses 1-6 the prophet lets us in on the vision he has had of God judging the whole earth.  There he referred to the “withering” of the earth.  In verse 7 we see that this withering is a reference to drought conditions that bring an end to the joyful harvests.  The drought will also have an impact on their celebratory drinking of wine.  Of course a global drought would affect all crops, wine was the staple of their celebrations and where their hearts truly lay.  Thus the judgment upon the crops is more of a judgment upon their joyful celebrations.  God will bring them to an end.  He will do so because all of their jubilations are done without regard for Him and His ways.  They only give thought to earthly matters and ignore His warning of judgment.  Thus Isaiah mentions that the new wine fails.  There is not enough grapes that survive the drought in order to make new wine, and in fact the vines themselves are failing as well.  Thus the future of their wine is in jeopardy also.  The “merry-hearted” that are mentioned are the partiers and revelers.  They will groan because the drink is diminished, but also because there is nothing to take joy in; everything is being destroyed on the earth.  All of their labor is coming to nothing and being destroyed.

Thus verse 8 speaks to the festivals of the merry-hearted.  All mirth, noise of jubilations, and anything of the sort will come to an end and cease.  Man was not created to fixate his life on amassing material commodities, while ignoring their Maker.  Rather we were created to enjoy the material things before God while giving Him praise.  Our rejoicing should be in Him more than it is in the material gifts that He provides.

In verse 9 we see that what wine is consumed will be done in bitterness rather than in joy.  Like Naomi complaining that God had dealt bitterly with her, so they will lack anything over which to be joyful.  They may still have stores of wine to drink, but they will bring them no joy.

The City of Confusion is Destroyed

In verse 10 we have this phrase, “the city of confusion.”  It could be a description of any of the capitol cities that God had warned in Isaiah 13-23.  It could be a generic label for all the Cities of Man that are raised up and ignore God.  These will all be brought to destruction.  They have been a place of confusion in that they have rejected the ordinances of God and His proper order.  They have led and taught men to do the same within their streets.  So God will bring them into Judgment and cause them to be confusion.  The word that is translated confusion is the same word that is translated “formless” in Genesis 1:2.  It is as if God will “uncreate” them so to speak.  They will be so destroyed that nothing can live their without a new act of creation by God.  I say this because both Isaiah and the book of Revelation point to a new heavens and a new earth.  It is also possible that Isaiah is also hinting at what Revelation calls “Mystery Babylon.”  There it is the great city that rules over all the kings of the earth.  Thus it is the head city of confusion.  The destruction of Mystery Babylon is part of the emphasis of God’s judgment.

Thus Isaiah sees that the city will be broken and all the doors shut up.  Instead of open doors and partiers in the streets, the city is broken and no one is out and about.  The devastation that the Lord will bring leaves the city unable to function.  The rubble of the destruction both blocks the doors and is probably used as a barricade for protection by the few inhabitants that are left.

Verse 11 points to the cry for wine in the streets.  Sadly the cry is not in repentance towards God and asking for mercy.  The inhabitants of the earth are so fixated on material things that, even when God takes the material away, repentance cannot be found.  This is in contrast to the righteous.  They cry out for God even in the midst of plenty because they know it can all be gone tomorrow.  But the wicked ignore or spite God in plenty or in lack.  We must not let our eyes be blinded and our hearts be hardened by the spirit of this world.  Let the Spirit of god soften it today that we might raise up a righteous cry before God, rather than one of greed and selfishness.  Let us raise up a cry of repentance and desire for Him.

Verse 12 then reminds us that the vision has not happened yet, “When it shall be thus…”  When it does happen there will be little of any good left over.  The imagery of the earth being reaped is thus connected to judgment.  Interestingly in the book of Revelation we are shown two different reapings of the earth.  One harvest is that of the righteous who are pictured as grain gathered into the barn.  Though the grain may be treaded down, it will only break off the hard chaff and what is good will be left behind and spared by God.  The other harvest is that of the wicked.  They are pictured as clusters of grapes that are tossed into the pit and treaded underfoot in judgment.  The grapes will not survive.  Thus their lust for wine becomes a kind of prophecy pointing towards the poetic justice of their end.  They lust for wine so much that God has appointed a day when they will be caught up in the “wine making” process.

A Song of Praise to God is Raised up

In verse 14 there is a shift in the vision.  The “they” that will lift up their voice and sing for the majesty of the Lord does not fit with the city of confusion and the people of the earth who long for wine.  So why are they praising?  Though it is not made explicit, the context demands that they praise Him for bringing Judgment.  Clearly the singers are from all over the earth due to the phrases used of them.  “From the sea” is often connected with the West and refers to the Mediterranean Sea.  “In the dawning light” is connected with the East where the sun rises.  The “coastlands” was a reference to the faraway places that had to be sailed to.  Lastly we have “the ends of the earth.”  All of these phrases emphasize that the singers are not from any one place.  In the midst of those who are to be judged are a group of people that have not cried for wine.  Rather they have praised the God of heaven.

In the vision it is as if the song of praise is replacing the sons of mirth that the earth dwellers have been singing.  As the songs of ignorance are silenced the song of praise is raised up.  This becomes the first sign in the vision that, though the earth be destroyed; it is so that all things may be set back in order.  Just as the sons of God sang at the first creation so the new sons of God will sing at the New Creation.  Thus history comes back full circle upon itself.

Yet, the day of joy that Isaiah glimpses in the future is overshadowed by the judgment that must first happen.  Isaiah is so overwhelmed with the heaviness of the judgment that he cries out that he is ruined.  Thus he sees that for now the treacherous will continue in their treachery.  They will only grow worse until the final judgment.  This is reminiscent of Revelation 22:11,12, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.  And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.”  The wickedness of this world will have its payday from the Lord.  It will grow worse and worse until the day in which the Lord tramples out the vintage of the grapes of wrath.  Until then, it is our job as followers of Jesus Christ to be His last offer of peace to those who are blinded to the plight of this world.  May God help us to boldly lift up a song of praise to him before all who are around us, so that they might see Him and be saved!

 

Coming Day II Audio

Tuesday
Oct272015

Jesus Reveals The Future- Part IV

Luke 21:20-24.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 25, 2015.

We continue this section where Jesus reveals to his disciples what the future held for them and the world.  The disciples wanted to know the timing and the sign that would point to the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the age, and the coming back of Jesus.  The answer Jesus gives them starts by pointing out what things would be like before the end of the age and the coming back of Jesus.  In Luke they are called “the things that must come to pass first.”  In Matthew and Mark they are called “the beginning of sorrows.”  So here is the list of sorrows that would be happening throughout the time leading up to the 2nd coming of Jesus.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

  1. False Christs will come.
  2. Wars and Turmoil will come.
  3. Great Earthquakes will come.
  4. Famines and Pestilences will come.
  5. Fearful Sights and Great Heavenly Signs will come.
  6. Persecution and Martyrdom of Christians will come.

It is at this point that Jesus has finished this list and now turns to give revelation regarding the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Will Be Desolated

When we read verses 20-24 the message is clear, Jerusalem will be completely destroyed.  The word that is translated “desolation” literally means to be made into a wilderness, without inhabitant and barren.  If you have looked into the history of Jerusalem then you will know that there were long periods of time that Jerusalem was a wasteland.  In fact many explorers through the centuries have commented in awe that the devastated place they were looking at was a “land flowing with milk and honey” at one time.

Jesus gives them a sign by which they can know the desolation is near and they should leave.  That sign is when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.  I will point out that the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record this desolation but do not point out the armies as the sign.  Instead they point to something called the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Holy Place.  We will come back to this later.  However, it is important to note that it is clear there is far more discussion than is recorded here.  The different Gospels are focusing on many of the same parts and yet also on some that are different.  In each case the person who sees either of these things are told to flee or they will be caught up in the destruction.  Much like Lot and his wife we should not want to watch the judgments of God being poured out and neither does God want His people to be caught up in the judgment.  Around the year AD 66 the Roman legions began to encircle Jerusalem and eventually destroyed in AD 70.  It is common knowledge that Christians of that day understood what God was doing and had either been forced from the area because of persecution, or left as they saw the destruction coming.  One historian from the 4th century AD refers to a city called Pella on the eastern side of the Jordan River as a popular place they fled to.

Verse 22 calls this the days of vengeance so that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  Thus the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the people to the nations were prophesied in the Old Testament.  Moses reveals it in Deuteronomy 29:23, the prophet Micah does so in Micah 3, Jeremiah 26:9 and also Zechariah 14.  One thing we see here is the grace and mercy of God.  Though He has already warned of judgment for 1500 years, He first sends His Son, Jesus, to offer him up as a sacrifice for sins and then gives the nation 40 years to repent and be saved.  It is due to the hardness of their own hearts that the people perish under the judgment of God.  In one place it is referred to as “wrath upon this people.”  So AD 70 clearly was a watershed moment as the wrath of God is poured out upon the unbelieving portion of Israel, destroying its capitol, and scattering the people to the nations.  Yet, there is a problem.  If all things that are written are to be fulfilled we need to deal with Zechariah 14.  When you read this chapter about the destruction of Jerusalem it is striking how different it is from what happened in AD 70.  Two major things stick out.  In Zech. 14 the Messiah comes after half the city is destroyed and fights for them.  His feet touch the Mt. of Olives and split it in half.  He strikes the armies of the people with a plague where their flesh dissolves while they are standing.  Now some people try to make this figurative language and explain that anyone who stands against Jesus will see their whole life fall apart (i.e. dissolve) as they go to the grave in destruction.  Yet, this doesn’t pass the smell test.  Even when prophecies have figurative or symbolic meanings, they is still a literal fulfillment of the prophecy.  Is Jesus talking about more than one desolation?  We will come back to this.

In verse 24, Jesus clearly reveals the people being deported out of the land into the nations of the world.  They will cease to be a nation.  They would lose their homeland and be dispersed to the winds.  This is basically what has happened from the end of the first century until 1948.  Yes, some Jews have lived in that area off and on throughout the centuries, but, as a people, they have generally not had a homeland to call their own.

This brings us to the phrase that Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled.  The word until should jump out to you.  This condition of Israel being homeless and scattered would be the case until the times of the Gentiles reached their completion.  Of course we are not told how much time that would be.  The word trample has the sense of doing what you want.  Think about how the temple was a series of restrictions.  There was a wide area that anyone could be in.  But at some point a boundary showed where no Gentiles could pass.  Then there was a boundary where no female Israelite could pass, then an area where only the priests could go, until you reached the Holies of Holies where only one man could go only once a year. Though we may think of this as bad and exclusionary, It would be a misunderstanding to do so. The Gentiles would be trampling all such holy distinctions without thought for the God of Israel.  Thus trample is a sense of control and domination.  Also, note that the word is “times.”  This denotes a history of dominations by more than one nation over the years.  Of course, this has been the history of the area.  It was initially under the control of the Romans (including the Byzantine era), then the Muslims, then times of Europeans in control.  In 1948 the people of Israel were able to reestablish as a nation.  So does this mean the times of the Gentiles are over?  Some have pointed out that Jerusalem wasn’t under Jewish control until 1967 after the Six Day War.  However, upon taking the city, the defense minister, Moshe Dayan, relinquished control of the temple mount to the Jordanian forces.  Thus there is still a part of Jerusalem being trampled by Gentiles.  So the last 2,000 years has been a time where God has given control of the temple mount to Gentiles.

This leads me to my last point.  I believe that when you look at these predictions in Luke, Matthew and Mark, there is more than one destruction talked about.  Thus another destruction is still yet future.  Let me lay out a couple of reasons why I say this.  Israel does have political control of Jerusalem, yet they are still hard of heart and blind towards Jesus.  Yes, some Jews are becoming Christians.  But the majority are still in unbelief.

One reason I believe another destruction is being talked about is because AD 70 did not have an abomination that causes desolation.  Again this is the term found in Matthew 24.  In Matthew it says this, “When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand)…”  Here Jesus tells us that Daniel spoke about this abomination of desolation and Matthew makes sure that the reader doesn’t miss what he just said.  Now there are three places in Daniel where he refers to this.  Daniel 9:27 says that after the messiah is executed then the city will be destroyed.  After that one will enforce a covenant that he breaks later and on the wing of abominations will be one who makes desolate.  The main point is that Daniel says this abomination will happen after messiah is executed and after the city has been destroyed.  In Daniel 11:31 another abomination is mentioned.  This chapter follows the history of the battles between the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria so closely that some scholars reject that it was written by Daniel.  They say it had to be written after the fact.  Thus the abomination of desolation in this chapter fits perfectly with a Syrian King named Antiochus Epiphanes.  In fact in the book of 1 Maccabees it refers to the abomination of desolation as two things.  An idol of Zeus was erected in the Holy place and the altar had pigs sacrificed to false gods on it.  Thus it appears that this abomination of desolation is not the same as chapter 9.  The last place is in Daniel 12 and is mentioning the timing of the event.  It states that from the stopping of the sacrifices until the setting up of the abomination of desolation will be 1,290 days.  This does not fit with what happened during the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.  So Jesus is pointing us back to Daniel 9, and yet Daniel 11 becomes an event that helps us to know what the whole thing would look like.  It is an event of pagan worship that occurs in the temple compound.  This simply did not happen in AD 70.

On top of this the AD 70 destruction does not fit Zechariah 14 as I mentioned earlier.  In fact it ends with the nations of the world coming to Jerusalem to worship the King and being punished if they don’t.  Yes, you can spiritualize all of these things and even be somewhat correct.  But prophecy of this sort is always literally fulfilled also.  When you study Zechariah 12 and Romans 11 you come to the distinct realization that there is going to be a time when the hard hearts of Israel will be softened and the blind eyes will be opened.  Israel will look upon the one whom they have pierced and mourn for him.  A spirit of repentance will be poured out upon them.  This will be an amazing time for them, but at the same time the wrath of God will be poured out on the nations of this world.

Let me end this passage by reminding us that the God of heaven has an issue with the nations of the world.  He is going to bring us into the valley of Judgment.  Are you ready for such a judgment?  The only way you can be ready is to put your faith in Jesus and follow Him.  Anything else is simply a path that leads to destruction.  Believe in him today.

Tuesday
Oct202015

Jesus Reveals the Future III

Luke 21:12-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 18, 2015.

This weekend I attended a conference put on by the Voice of the Martyrs.  It may seem intentional that we are going to talk about persecution and martyrdom today.  But in actuality it wasn’t.  We heard from speakers who had suffered persecution in many different places throughout the world.  However, they each encouraged us that God was using this persecution and turmoil to open doors to the gospel.  Muslims and communists are coming to Jesus among many other people.

One person from Syria said that there were places that would have been impossible to go into and preach the gospel before the civil war that is embroiling that nation started.  But now they are able to preach and see people turn to Christ in the midst of all the pain and suffering.  He then said that the Syrian Christians have quit praying for God to stop the war and have begun praying that God would glorify Himself through them in the midst of whatever they have to go through.  Is it possible that we pray for God to remove thing that we could glorify Him in the midst of them?  It is, very much so.

As we hear the Word today, may God strengthen our hearts for the battle that has already begun in our own land.  Is it dark and bleak?  Of course, but this is when the tactics of the enemy are the weakest and people are the most desperate.  A young man from Iran whose father was martyred for preaching Jesus to muslims, said that the greatest “evangelists” of Iran have been the Ayatollahs and presidents who have persecuted Christians.  Their totalitarian and brutal reign has turned people off of Islam and on to Jesus.

Last week we read how Jesus prophesied a time of sorrows that would lead up to the end of the age.  It would be filled with deception and fear in the form of: False Christs, Wars and Turmoil, Great Earthquakes, Famines and Pestilence, Fearful Sights, and Great Heavenly Signs.  Thus the disciples of Jesus would have to learn how to navigate terrifying times without being terrified and deception without being deceived.  Believers would have to face these sorrows.  However, our Hope is for something beyond national pride, social cohesion, and physical safety.  We overcome the sorrows of this world in order to receive the prize of the inheritance Jesus has held in reserve for us.  Today verse 12 shows us another aspect of this time of sorrows.

Persecution and Martyrdom will come

Even before all the other things previously listed, Jesus says that persecution would begin.  Of course we know that the Church was birthed in the midst of persecution.  Jesus himself was persecuted and martyred because He spoke the Truth.  When his disciples began to call the nation to repentance for this, they immediately suffered persecution.  Persecution has been a hallmark of those who belong to Christ; even to the point of being persecuted by people claiming to be Christians.  2 Timothy 3:12 says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  It doesn’t say at what level and in what style, but persecuted nonetheless.  In some places it is a brutal, harsh form that forces submission.  In other places it is a soft, inviting form that seduces one into submission.  Either way, to follow Jesus is to be hated by this world.

Jesus tells us that they will “lay their hands one you.”  This is a Hebrew phrase that means to take somebody physically captive, whether for jail, or a momentary beating.  It can be proper authorities or it may be a mob.  The intent is to pursue and take hold of someone in order to stop what they are doing.  This is the definition of persecution.  This world employs a variety of techniques in which it pursues Christians with the intent to squelch what they do.  Some would be brought before religious judges (synagogues) and other put into prisons by the civil magistrates.  They would even stand before kings and rulers for the sake of Jesus.  These descriptions make it clear that Jesus is talking about more than just what would happen in Israel.  It is a description of the kinds of persecution they would encounter throughout the world.  Notice that Jesus highlights that all of this will be happening because of our connection to Him.  In John 15:18-19 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  We are not to take such persecutions personal.  It is not really about you.  It is about the Lord that you are serving.  Thus we need to see our sufferings in this respect as a badge of honor because we suffer for Jesus.

Jesus has shown us what the world would do and why it would do it.  But in verse 13 he turns and tells us what God’s purpose is in allowing it to happen.  It will be an occasion for testimony.  The term translated occasion was often used of disembarking a ship when one has reached the destination.  Thus it came to be also used of the end or purpose to which one was heading.  Jesus is basically saying that though the ship be a ship of suffering and persecution, it is not headed to destruction.  Rather it is bringing us to a place where God will give us a platform one which we can testify about Jesus and the salvation that he is offering.  Thus Jesus then commands us not to meditate on what we will say at that time.  This does not mean we don’t read the Scriptures and meditate on God’s grace and the future judgment.  Rather, it teaches us to rely more upon the Holy Spirit than on our own wisdom and ability.  Jesus promises to fill the mouth of those who are persecuted for his sake with wisdom and words that the world can’t stand against.  It will be you testifying, but in another way it won’t.  The Holy Spirit will anoint you with the power of God.  He will testify through you, not as a robot, but as a willing servant.  Yes, the world will take its stand against you and resist you.  But they will not stand in the end.  No matter what they say and do (even to the point of killing believers), God will not support them.  Short of repentance, they will fall and be taken away in judgment.

It is bad enough to have enemies, but it gets worse.  Jesus tells us that we will be betrayed even by loved ones.  This is a general prophecy and thus we must see that it is not an automatic fact that our family will betray us.  However, in times of deception it will be a common pattern.  Those who are of the natural family are not always faithful to the end.  Thus the Church of Jesus becomes critical.  We are a spiritual family that is to stand together even in the midst of great persecution.  Yet, even this spiritual family has people in it who will betray us, like Judas.  Such are the sufferings of this time of sorrow that we are in.

Jesus then says that some will be put to death.  What we see here is that all will endure persecution, but not all at the same level.  Some will escape capture while others are put in prison.  Some will be released from prison while others are killed.  It is not ours to know exactly what God’s path is for us.  But, it is ours to be faithful to Christ and our fellow Christians in the midst of such difficult times.  We are not called to instigate persecution and martyrdom.  It is not our goal.  Our goal is to testify to a lost world of its sin and God’s love in Jesus.  Persecution and martyrdom are a byproduct of the clash of two kingdoms.  This is why Jesus tells us that we will be hated by all nations (this includes the USA).  This world is seduced by the wisdom of Satan and thus hates those who embrace the wisdom of Jesus.

Jesus then says that not a hair of your head will be lost.  How can he say this when he just said that some would be put to death?  There is a Hebrew phrase that we find in Scripture that has the sense of complete safety.  In 1 Samuel 14:45, when Jonathan was in danger of being killed by his father, King Saul, the people state, “not a hair of his head will fall to the ground.”  Of course we are losing hair all the time.  But the implication is that they will protect Jonathan even to the point of not even losing a hair.  We see it again in Acts 27:34.  Paul is on a ship that is about to be destroyed on the rocks during a great storm.  The soldiers are going to kill all the prisoners so as to lose none of them.  Paul then tells the soldiers not to kill the guys because, “not a hair will fall from you.”  Everyone would survive and make it to the mainland.  The soldiers would not be held responsible for losing anyone.  Notice that Jesus has changed the phrase from hair falling to the ground to hair being lost.  Thus even if the “hair does fall to the ground,” what would it mean that it isn’t lost?  I believe that the implication here is that the same God who has numbered the hairs on their head, will also take note of everything they have lost in his name.  Their sacrifice will not be lost because God will take note of it and holds for them a reward that none can steal.  Persecution is not a loss for the believer, but rather a gain.

Jesus ends with the command for believers to take possession of their soul through enduring faith.  Fear and doubts constantly assail the person going through persecution.  Like a ship on the sea, we are tossed this way and that.  Only a strong faith in Jesus will help us to weather such things without losing our souls.  Perseverance or endurance, by definition, cannot only last for a while.  It must be to the end of the trial and to the end of our life.  May we not lose our souls in this day, but rather remain under the difficulties of this time while serving our Lord.  Let us fight the good fight of faith and live a witness and testimony before the world regardless of what our flesh may fear.  This is what our Lord calls us to be.

Jesus Reveals Future III audio

Friday
Oct092015

Jesus Reveals The Future

Luke 21:5-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 4, 2015.

Today we begin looking at a passage that is often called the Olivet Discourse because it takes place on the Mt. of Olives, east of Jerusalem.  It is famous because Jesus prophesizes the destruction of Jerusalem and His Second Coming with a lot of details.  Since prophecy is speaking on behalf of God to men, it is not always prediction of things in the future.  However, in this passage we have a mother-lode of predictions about the future.  Now when I use the word prediction, I do not use it as it is used in our society today.  Fortune tellers, hedge-fund managers, politicians, or even scientists do their best to make predictions about the future.  However, it is important for us to recognize that it is the hallmark of God that He alone can accurately foretell the future.  God is not merely making a guess based upon his great knowledge.  Instead, all of space-time is His creation, and as such, it is all before Him at once.  Thus He sees the past, present, and future all at the same time.  Jesus predicted in that he spoke about events that would be before they happened.  He predicted his death, burial, and resurrection.  Here he adds to this his prediction that Jerusalem would be destroyed.  Such prophecies are intended to help us to know that He really was the Son of God.

The Temple Will Be Destroyed

It is important to recognize that Matthew and Mark both wrote down some of the discussions that occurred on the Mt. of Olives.  When Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are compared you come to realized that they each recorded some of the same things and yet did not give everything that was said.  It is in Matthew and Mark that we are told where this discussion takes place.  As they are leaving the temple, one of the disciples comments on the amazing beauty of the buildings at the temple.  Thus this does not seem to be a public declaration of the coming devastation.

The response of Jesus makes one thing clear: we often admire things that God does not.  The First Century AD Temple is not listed as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  However, it was often noted to be an object of wonder for those who saw it for the first time.  Thus it would be no surprise for the disciples who were mostly from Galilee to be impressed with the temple.  The disciples couldn’t help but be impressed.  Yet, they were only seeing the surface and they were only seeing with the eyes of flesh.  It was the existence of the first temple that caused the Israelites before the Babylonian Exile to scoff at the notion that God would destroy Jerusalem.  It had become a kind of “lucky rabbit’s foot” to them.  They felt it was too important to God and too precious to destroy.  God is not enamored with things like we are.  He is not impressed with large stones, beautiful bronze, and Gold.  It is all easily replaced for Him.  Beauty often gets in the way of the purposes of God.  Thus the Temple and its sacrifices had become an ugly thing to God; a continual reminder that they fall short of covering the sins of men.

Jesus had mentioned a destruction of Jerusalem earlier that week as he approached Jerusalem in the “Triumphal Entry.”  Luke 19:41-44 says, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”  The following days only emphasized the rejection of Jesus as God’s offer of peace to Israel.  Thus Jesus reminds them that the temple is doomed to be torn completely apart; not one stone will be left on another.  Of course this was done by the Roman legions in 70 AD.

In Matthew and Mark we learn that Jesus and his disciples go on to the Mt. of Olives which is across the Kidron Valley from the Temple.  Mark tells us that it was Peter, James, John, and Andrew who come to Jesus and quiz him further about his prediction of destruction.

They Question Jesus About The Future

Many of us would like to know the future.  In June of this year (2015) a woman claimed that Jesus spoke to her about major catastrophes coming to America, including economic collapse, rioting, famine, war, natural disasters, and martial law.  She said that trouble would begin in September of 2015.  Of course that month has come and gone.  Though many people suspect these things are on the horizon, she clearly was not talking with Jesus.  Yes, she may be whacky.  But all of us have a desire to hear about the future from Jesus.  What would you ask Jesus if he were here today?  Knowing the future is not all it is cracked up to be.  God tends to give us revelations that focus on the big picture with few details.  It leaves much to question.  What we find is that God gives us enough to encourage our faith, but not enough to relieve us of having to have faith.  There are just enough details so that we can confirm events as they happen or at least after the fact.  But not so much that it reads as a screen play.

Thus their first question is this: When will these things be?  The first question is exactly the same in each of the 3 gospels that record this event.  Though some time has transpired, Luke clearly ties this discussion to the earlier statement of Jerusalem’s destruction.  Thus “these things” is pointing back to the prediction of the temple’s destruction.  We should also bear in mind that some other discussions have most likely occurred as well.  Luke does not give the full context, but most likely, neither do Matthew and Mark.  So when will the temple be destroyed?  We will come back to this question.

The second question in Luke appears to ask about a sign that would warn them of the coming destruction of the temple.  However when we compare this to Matthew we find that the second question is a about more than the destruction of the temple.  So either Luke is simplifying the question, or he is only writing about that part.  We will talk more about this as we look at the answers Jesus gave (as Luke records).  Here is the second question in each gospel.

Luke 21:7, “what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”

Mark 13:4, “what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”

Matthew 24:3, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Clearly they all agree that the second question sought a sign that they could look for.  But here we can see that they are thinking about more than the destruction of Jerusalem.  They are also thinking about the Coming of Jesus and the End of the Age.  Jesus had told them before that he would be leaving them for a while and then coming back.  So it makes sense they would wonder about this.  Also, the end of the age from the Jewish mindset simply meant the end of their current state of affairs; i.e. under the rule of the Gentile powers.  They looked forward to a Messianic Age in which the Gentile powers would be judged and the Messiah would rule over Israel and the world.

As Jesus came closer and closer to the cross, he revealed more and more regarding the coming Kingdom.  In fact, he taught that it would come in two phases.  Phase one is seen in Luke 17:20-37.  Here Jesus explains that it would not be a visible kingdom with borders, capitals, and armies.  In fact, Jesus as its king would actually be ruling by the Spirit from Heaven in the hearts of his followers.  This invisible phase would be obvious to those who were born again.  Phase 2, is the awaited revelation of the Son of Man.  We call this the Second Coming.  It refers to a time when Jesus will return visibly and physically to the earth as King of Kings in order to judge the nations and take up political rule.  A visible Kingdom will be set up at that time.  This was not all clear to the disciples.  Thus they most likely thought they were asking one simple question and that all of these things would be happening at the same time.  The Temple would be destroyed by the Gentiles, Christ would return and destroy the Gentile powers (thus ending the age of their dominion), and set up the Messianic Kingdom.  Of course now we know that they did not correctly understand.  So though Luke’s question seems to only focus on the Temple’s destruction, it is clear that the context includes more to this.

So, is the answer that Jesus gives only about 70 AD?  Some approach this passage as if it can only be about 70 AD.  To them the prophecies of Jesus were fulfilled in the past.  Others see all or part of this prophecy as pointing to things that are still future.  I won’t get into the terminology regarding these views, but suffice it to say, every prophecy that is given in the Bible begs the questions: What is this talking about, and did it happen already?  The answers to those questions generally put people into two camps: those who believe it has been fulfilled and those who think it has not (Past vs. Future).  In the next several weeks we are going to walk through this passage and talk about prophetic things.  In order to do so well, we need to look at two issues in the area of biblical prophecy.

Conflation in Prophecy

Any study of prophecy in the Old Testament that pointed to the coming of the Messiah, will show that the first coming and the second coming of Jesus are often put together in the same passage without a clear distinction made between them.  Thus they are conflated.  Let’s look at an example in Isaiah 9:6-7.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.”

Here we are told that a child will be born who will bear some amazing titles and who shall sit upon the throne of David with an increasing kingdom of justice and judgment forever.  It is clearly a messianic prophecy that points to the birth of Jesus.  Yet, there is no concept of a gap between his birth and his reigning forever on the throne of David.  Some deal with this by taking the wording as symbolic.  Christ would not literally sit on the throne of David, but he would symbolically rule in David’s place.  The problem with this is that passages in the New Testament call for a visible, physical return of Christ to a literal throne (especially Acts 1:11).  Thus it was not important for Old Testament believers to know all the details.  But rather, it was enough for them to know the purpose of God regardless of how it played out.  It should not be surprising to us that the Lord of prophecy who inspired the prophets in the Old Testament would prophesy similarly in the New Testament.  We should expect that some of the things Jesus reveals will not flow seamlessly.

Near and Far Fulfillment

This Isaiah passage brings up another issue.  Often things predicted by the prophets pointed to something that was going on in their day, but also at a later time.  It is sometimes called a double fulfillment of a prophecy, but this is misleading.  In Isaiah chapters 7-9 clearly portray Isaiah as telling King Ahaz that a son will be born and before that son can understand the difference between good and evil, the King of Syria (who had allied with the Northern Tribes to attack Jerusalem) would be gone.  The threat Ahaz feared would be neutralized.  Chapter 8 actually describes this child being born to the wife of Isaiah.  Within a matter of years the King of Assyria overwhelms the King of Syria and the threat is no more.  Yet, as you read the prophecies and fulfillments in Isaiah 7-9, you see much that doesn’t quite fit the events of those days.  Something else is being conflated with the child of Isaiah’s day.  The amazing titles were not used of Isaiah’s son.  In fact he is not called Immanuel, but rather Maher-Shalal-Chash-Baz, which means quick to the spoil and quick to the prey.  It would be easy to say that Isaiah “missed” on his prophecy.  But the truth is he is talking about something that is bigger than the things of his day.  The son of that day becomes a type or symbol of an even greater son who will be Immanuel, God with us.  Thus the prophecy has a fulfillment that is near in time and yet an even greater fulfillment that is far away in time.  Thus we will see some of these same elements in the Mt. of Olives Discussion.

Final Thoughts

God is more concerned that we understand Him and His overall purposes rather than every detail of prophecy.  In fact, the details that are given are not so that we can have everything figured out before it happens.  But rather, so that we can have our faith confirmed during events, or even after them.  They are meant to lock into place like a puzzle piece that didn’t seem to make sense until it was put in place.  This gives us the amazing joy of seeing God’s Word confirmed and our Faith encouraged.  Put your trust in the only One who knows what tomorrow holds, and that is Jesus.

Jesus Reveals Future Audio