Mark 13:24–37 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
“Stay awake… lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
You have maybe seen commercials for the National Geographic show Doomsday Preppers. Individuals across the country are stockpiling seeds, food, ammunition, and potable water; they are building shelters, learning self-defense, and preparing their bodies to face what could be the “end of the world as we know it.”
Different individuals are preparing for various contingencies: earthquake, nuclear warhead, chemical attack, asteroid, electromagnetic pulse. The commercial for Doomsday Preppers ends with an individual asking, “Am I nuts, or are you?”
My answer to that question would be, “Yes.”
“Stay awake.” The whole chapter of Mk. 13 is Jesus’ answer to two questions. The first question is when will the Temple will be destroyed and the second is when will the end of the age be. In the mind of a Jew in Jesus day, the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world were the same event. One-thousand-nine-hundred-forty-two years later, hopefully, we know better. Jesus did not come back, the world did not end, when the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. The majority of Jesus’ answer in Mk. 13 deals with when the Temple was destroyed—that is how Jesus can say, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” in v. 30.
And Jesus gives us a clue throughout Mk. 13 when He is speaking about the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and when He is speaking about the end of the world. It’s all about the difference between when Jesus says, “In those days,” all the way up until v. 32 when He says, “But concerning that day.”
Yes, even v. 24-27 are speaking about Jesus’ days before that “generation passed away.”
When Jesus says, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,” He is speaking about His death. At the hour of Jesus’ death, there was darkness covering the whole land (Mk. 15:33). As He died, the curtain in the temple which had sun, moon, and stars upon it was torn in two; “the powers in the heavens [were] shaken.”
V. 26 ”And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” is a quote from our OT text (Dan. 7:13,look at it). You will notice that the Son of Man’s “coming” is not a descent to earth, but an ascent to the Ancient of Days. Fits in pretty well with what Jesus said before He ascended into heaven. Mt. 28:18–20 ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Since then, Jesus has sent (“apostled”) His angels—lit. His ‘messengers’—to all the corners of the earth to proclaim the Gospel and to gather His elect. On the day of Pentecost, there were “men from every nation under heaven” (Act. 2:5), and the message continues to go out today.
Until about 150 years ago, this is how the Church interpreted this passage. Today, there are so many people trying to pin the tail on the antichrist and predict the precise date when Christ will return that they’ve completely forgotten what Jesus said about His return in v. 32, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
“Stay awake.” I don’t think Jesus will be very pleased with the Harold Camping’s (the May 21st/October 21st guy) of this world when He returns and finds them trying to figure out the precise day when He will return. I don’t think they will be too impressed either when Jesus foils their life’s work.
Jesus does speak about the End of the Age; He speaks about His return. Jesus speaks about judgment and doom.
The End of the World, Judgment Day, is coming, and in a very real sense, it has already come. Jn. 12:31–32 31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.”
This world has been judged and condemned; it is just waiting its sentencing.
The cross stands through all of history as the time and place where the world was judged. As Christians, we look at the cross and see deliverance; we see hope; we see where Christ forgave our sins. But the cross is a place of judgment and execution. The cross is an instrument of doom. Had Jesus come in our time, we would probably be wearing necklaces with an electric chair hanging from them instead of a cross.
For the life of a believer, Judgment Day is every day. You experienced it once in your baptism when Christ condemned, killed, and buried your sinful nature in His tomb (Ro. 6). In that same baptism, you were also connected with Christ’s resurrection. Your life, believer, is a life of daily judgment—drowning to death and sin, but rising to life in the new creation. Daily you are moved from conviction of sin to faith, from condemnation to forgiveness, from death to life.
For the believer, every day is Judgment Day until that final day, when Christ returns and will be revealed. Then the party begins. “Stay awake.”
Yes, the party begins when Christ returns. Too often, Christians, we look at the Return of Christ as Doomsday. But, when Christ returns, the party begins, and you don’t want to miss it. “Stay awake.”
Christ isn’t coming like your Great Aunt Maggie who is going to make sure you are wearing the itchy wool sweater she made you and is two sizes too small.
Christ is coming like your favorite Uncle Chuck. The Uncle Who is going to take you outside to play football, or go sledding or fishing. He is going to play cards with you, make you the best hot ham and cheese, and tell you stories that make you laugh so hard your guts hurt.
“Stay awake.” The party is coming, and you don’t want to miss it. Neither do your friends and family, so tell them about Christ your favorite crazy Uncle Who is so fun they won’t believe it until they meet Him.
“Stay awake.” Believer wait with patience. Wait with hope. Wait with faith. Amen.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until that Great, Awesome Day. Amen.