Be Alert, Not Alarmed – Part 2
So, before we jump back into Mark 13, I have three updates I want to give you. First, we have been and continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan — for their safety, for their churches to multiply against all odds, the underground churches. The elders also wanted you to know that last month we were able to send a substantial gift to Samaritan’s Purse to aid with the evacuation and also provide emergency supplies and a relief team who delivered material assistance and medical care to evacuees. We thank God for your faithful, sacrificial giving that doesn’t just overflow into meeting the needs here, but in this community and around the world.
Let me say a word about this. Because about a year and a half ago, when COVID first began, and no one knew what was going on, we stopped passing plates as a part of our health measures. And we’ve not started up again. Many people, like our family, had already been giving online. Many others use the boxes in the lobby. But I want to float something out to you, and I don’t have an answer. So, our elders are praying through this currently. We invite you to pray through this. As many Christians do their finances differently today — because of online options — than they used to, and pay their bills and give and everything online. How does that affect the way we think about giving as worship? When giving is a part of the service, and a plate goes by, you can feel it, see it, like I’m giving. When money is invisibly moving from one account to another account, it can it can feel less worshipful. Does it have to be that way? That’s the question I want to float out to you. Would you pray about that? What does it look like today? Now, that may mean, okay, we want to pass the plates again. It may mean we find creative ways to … I know when I get the notice that the gift has gone, I just am cleaning out my inbox, and I just delete it. But what would worship look like if that was an opportunity to worship God specifically for his provision and the opportunity to pass that on? So, I don’t have an answer right now. I’m just throwing that out to you to pray about individually and us as a church. What does that look like? Because when you’re in that situation, you can say, well, we just need to go do what we used to do. That may be true. But it also may be an opportunity to say, hey, what are some creative ways we can worship God with a new way of giving that might still be very intentional, worshipful. Pray about that.
Secondly, when we finished our politics series this past summer, we mentioned we would have some follow-up. This week there are going to be some book recommendations on our website. Also, we are beginning Lead classes again. Now, for some of you who have been around for a while, you know we used to have what we called the LEAD program. It was our leadership training program — Head, Heart, Hands. It was a holistic program that God used in amazing ways. And as part of that, we had classes, three or four classes a year that were open to everyone, specifically designed for these leaders in training. We’ve ended that program. We didn’t really end it, we spread it out. Now our leadership is done in various ministry departments. We have an elder preparation training, worship training, counseling training, ALIVE youth ministry training, we have college summer internships. All our various ministries have different ways of reproducing leaders for the future, and that is working amazingly well. But one of the things we noticed we miss are those larger classes where we come together, we bring in someone, or one of our pastors might teach, or elders. But we focus in on a subject for Friday night, Saturday morning. We miss that. So, we are going to start up Lead classes that will complement these various leadership training programs.
Let me tell you just a bit about that. They’ll be for the most part $30 a person. But that includes really good food, which is one of the highlights, yes. Materials — notes and things — and a really gifted speaker/teacher, a lot of highly interactive teaching context. So, let me give you a sampling of what’s coming up. Our second class is going to be next March. Dr. Andy Nasseli from Bethlehem Seminary is going to be teaching how God changes us, sanctification. Next August, we’re teaming up with our counseling department to bring in Dr. Ed Welch, who will be teaching on depression, which is a huge important subject, especially at this time.
Our very first class is going to be Dr. Bruce Ashford, who will be teaching Christianity & Politics. So, this will be one of the ways in which we’re following through from our series on politics. But the benefit of this, it will be highly interactive. We’ll have Q&A after each session. So, you have an opportunity to push back, get input, get specific answers and application.
Dr. Ashford lives in North Carolina, has written several books on culture and politics. I know I’ve been teaching a class on culture nearby for five years, and I’ve used one of his books as a textbook. He has a unique gift to take big ideas and bring them down and make them really simple, accessible, practical. His passion is to help Christians live out their faith in the public square. He is currently a Fellow in public theology at Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics at Cambridge. So, you won’t want to miss this class. It’s going to be a Friday, most of the class is Friday night, Saturday intensive and should be very encouraging.
Third update. I mentioned about a little over a month ago that when my wife had surgery, they removed the tumor, diagnosed leiomyosarcoma, and that she would have a scan in about five or six weeks. Well, that scan was this past week. We heard the results, and good news. They did not find any cancer beyond what was removed from the tumor. So, praise God. I want to thank you all because I know we say this all the time as Christians, but it really is true. You can tell when people are praying for you. It is freaky. And we felt very carried along and very grateful and believe God has miraculously worked in her. And we give him all the glory. We’re also very aware, like the oncologist made it clear, you’re not out of the woods. We don’t know, we don’t see anything, but you’re going to have regular checks. And so, we continue to pray. But it’s not a bad place to be.
We were talking, the two of us, like it’s a weird thing when you realize you have something that can number your days and then you realize, wait, my days are already numbered. They may be a smaller number than I thought, but that’s a healthy thing to look at the brevity of life. When we were sitting in the oncologist’s waiting room in the Cancer Institute on Wednesday, I peeked over at her phone — we were on our phones, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And she was reading Psalm 131, and I was reading Psalm 131. So, let’s look at the first part of that.
“Oh, Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Specifically, that statement captured my heart, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. Now that doesn’t mean that Christians aren’t curious or Christians don’t ask hard questions. That doesn’t mean we shut down our brains. It doesn’t mean that at all. But it does mean that when God puts you in a place of waiting — and it was interesting reading that literally in a waiting room, to hear news that could go one direction or another direction. And even more so — and I know many of you are in this place or have been in this place in the weeks and months leading up — all the time there is for our fertile imaginations to run wild with scenarios, for us to grab the pen and begin to write out our future story, whether for good or bad, in ways that are way beyond what we know or have information about.
So, what the psalmist is saying there is not don’t be curious, you can’t know anything, don’t investigate. No, but know your limits. There are things that you do not know. How do you do with that? Do you have a tranquility in the midst of uncertainty when God puts you in the waiting room, and you could get really bad news, you could get really good news? Psalm 112 says that you don’t have to be afraid of bad news when you don’t occupy yourself with things too great, too marvelous for yourself. That is not … I know some of us can think, well, that’s just Buddhist fatalism. You’re just emptying your mind. No, it’s actually transferring your trust. That’s why the Psalm ends, “Hope in God.” Transferring your trust from yourself and your ability to figure out life and to know the future, and putting it directly in the one who really actually does. It’s ultimately mental sanity. It is true sanity. It is insanity to think that we can figure out things that we do not have the information to completely figure them out. That’s one of the definitions of insanity. “Don’t occupy yourself with things too great, too marvelous.”
So, back in Mark 13 — we’re going to come back to that — but back in March 13. Two weeks ago, we heard the warning from Jesus, “Beware of the scribes.” And at the end of chapter 12, Jesus warned against the “false self” represented by the scribes and invited us to look on the true self represented by the widow. And we talked about how we tend to move toward managing our image, like the scribes, being all about appearance and how Jesus held up the widow who just simply gave Jesus everything — It’s all yours, God. Here it is, what little I have, it’s all yours — and doesn’t worry about the future or her image. We wrestle with the challenge of being “scri-dow,” part scribe, part widow. I get so caught up in what people think of me, but I don’t want to be. I want to be like the widow, to be free and to give Jesus everything.
Then last week, we picked up on that same warning, because Jesus in chapter 13, notice verse 5, “see” is the same verb, beware. “See that no one leads you astray.” 13:9, “But be on your guard,” same verb. 13:23, “Be on your guard,” beware. 13:33, “Be on your guard.” So, this theme continues. Be like Harry Markopolos, the forensic accountant who repeatedly tried to expose Bernie Madoff in the Ponzi scheme scandal we talked about last week. Be cautious like Harry. And yet we also talked about how Harry was so cautious that he became cynical. You can’t actually have relationships with people if you don’t have any trust.
So, what does it mean to be cautious and yet calm, to be alert, but not alarmed? Because Jesus in the middle of these calls to be alert, to be on guard, he says things like verse 7, “Do not be alarmed,” or verse 11, “Do not be anxious.” Be alert but not alarmed. Live aware. Christians don’t put their head in the sand. You’re not characterized by avoidance or escapism. We are called to be alert. But we are not trying to run from the harsh realities of life, looking at lambs and listening to whale sounds all day. No, we’re honest, and we’re aware of what is actually happening in the capabilities of evil, but we are not alarmed.
And this is especially striking considering the context of Mark 13, which is a context of judgment. Jesus, loving Jesus is issuing a prophecy about judgment. And I mentioned last week that Mark 13 is one of the most difficult chapters to interpret. And I want to explain why, because it raises the question, is Jesus warning us of events that are near or far? For example, some godly Christians believe all of Mark 13 is fulfilled within the 1st century. It’s known as preterism. And then biblical versions of that partial preterism believe that all of Mark 13 is fulfilled in the 1st century, but that Jesus is still coming again. That’s one view. However, and by the way, there are statements that make it sound like that. Look at verse 30.
“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Seems to be pretty straightforward. But yet, right in the middle of that, there are statements that do not sound like 1st century statements. Look at verse 26.
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
That doesn’t sound symbolic. And if you look at the many parallel accounts that include parables that imply a long period of waiting, it raises up this disparity. Are these events fulfilled in the near, or are they fulfilled in the far? This disparity has led skeptics like Bertrand Russell, for example, to hold up these examples as examples of Jesus being a false prophet, I mentioned a few weeks ago, Russell (he’s an atheist) in his book, Why I Am Not a Christian, he questioned the morality of Jesus in the cursing of the fig tree. But just a few pages before that, in his book, he referred to statements like these in Mark and said this.
“There are a lot of places where it is quite clear that he (Jesus) believed that his second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living.”
And so, he was implying, and it didn’t happen; therefore, he is a false prophet. It’s not true. So, is Jesus talking about near events or far events? And I know Christians differ on the answer, but I believe the text makes clear that he is referring to both near and far. And I want to show you one way of understanding this, what I would call the alternating format of near and far in Mark 13. So, we’ve got to get technical for just a few minutes. Hang in there. Let’s break down the chapter, and then we’ll walk through some of the details.
1-13, near. He’s referring to the destruction of the temple, and he uses a demonstrative pronoun, “tauta” in Greek, these things. And the “these things” are flowing from the question that the disciples asked regarding the destruction of the temple that Jesus prophesied, (verse 4) when will these things happen? So, he’s talking about very specific things — when will the temple, the stones be cast down, thrown down? Verse 2, 4, 8, “tauta,” near.
And then verses 14-27, he moves to far. You’re going to notice an overlap, we’ll see in a minute. But moving toward far, tribulation and 2nd coming. And he switches from “tauta” to “ekeinos,” those days. Verse 17, 19 and verse 24 twice. Those days. And as Edwards points out, “those days” is a stereotype for the eschaton in the prophets. If we had an hour or so, we could walk through the prophets, Old Testament prophets, talking about “those days.” And they’re talking about something specific.
And then verses 28-31, he moves back to near, the destruction of the temple and the invasion of Jerusalem. “These things.” He switches back to “tauta,” 29, 30 and 30 twice in verse 30. All “these things” take place in singular “this” generation. And then in verses 32-37, he switches back to far, watchfulness and 2nd coming. That day is “ekeinos” just in the singular. He’s describing that day, the day of the Lord.
So, that raises a huge question if we just think plainly. Why alternate? This seems terribly confusing. It’s no wonder Christians and non-Christians are baffled by this chapter. Why not just say, hey, let’s talk about the near things, and then let’s talk about the far things? Well, first of all, we’ve noticed throughout our study of Mark, Mark loves to do this kind of thing, these literary devices. We’ve called it the Markan sandwich — that’s not original with me — the Markan sandwich. We’ve seen multiple times where he takes one event, splits it, and put something in between — the burger part — in between one event, in order to interpret them interdependently.
We’re actually going to see another Markan sandwich next Sunday when we turn to chapter 14. The beginning of chapter 14 is a Markan sandwich. He could have easily just covered one bit of material and then cover something else, but he loves to integrate the two so that there is an interactive interpretation. I believe this isn’t a sandwich here, but there’s something like that going on here. He is wanting us to interactively apply, interpret the near and the far, the near judgment of Jerusalem is a preview of the far judgment of the world. And the far judgment of the world is the consummation of the near judgment of Jerusalem. The two are interactively, interdependently interpreted.
Let me give you — I know this is maybe unhelpful, but this is how my brain works. It’s scanning for other examples. Let me give you one that hit me, Proverbs repeatedly warns parents to discipline their children, and then it gives reasons. One of the reasons, Proverbs 23:13-14.
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”
What does that mean? Atone for your kid’s sin by spanking? Is that what that means? No. But what that means, appropriate, measured, age appropriate, loving discipline will create a sore butt, but it will lovingly warn that child that he is not the center of the universe. And that micro judgment becomes a preview of a macro judgment. If a kid grows up thinking he or she is the center of the universe, one day they’re going to stand before God, who is the center of the universe, and they’re going to receive a wakeup call that will cost them everything. So, Proverbs is saying, love your kid enough now to prepare them for then. Does that make sense? It’s a preview, a micro judgment of a macro judgment.
And something like that is happening in March 13. There is this. Well, let’s walk through it. Mark 13 is really saying, if God would judge Jerusalem — the city, he loves, his people, his own people — if God would judge Jerusalem, do you think he will hesitate to judge Washington? Or Beijing? Or London? Or Rome? We’ve been given a preview of future judgments. Don’t be a fool. This judgment of Jerusalem is one of the most specific fulfillments of prophecy in all of the Bible. Jesus says this is going to happen, and it happened exactly as he said. And if we are wise, we will say, whoa. If he would do that in the short term, what to us seems near, then we would be wise to heed his warnings of the far judgment.
So, let’s walk through these, number one, the destruction of the temple, 1-13 in the near. Now last week we walked through the details, and you notice I applied the message to us, not just to the 1st century. Why? Because, again, it’s that preview. If you read through 1-13, it is just as relevant for us today. Even though the judgment is different, the warnings are very similar. They’re preparing us. But let’s pick up in verse 14, number 2, with tribulation and 2nd coming. And this is where he’s moving — there’s overlap you’re going to see — but he’s moving from near to far. Verse 14 describes an abomination of desolation.
What in the world? Or who in the world is that? Many suggestions have been offered. Ancient suggestions, and it gets a little more exciting when you read the modern suggestions. But way back, Antiochus Epiphanes, who sacrificed a pig on the altar in 168 B.C., is suggested to have been the prefigurement of the abomination of desolation. He actually became, that event became the catalyst for the Maccabean Revolt, where the Jews rose up.
Another suggestion was Emperor Caligula, who tried to erect a statue of himself in the temple somewhere around A.D. 40. So, this would have been shortly after Jesus rose and was ascended. He actually ended up being unsuccessful in doing that and then was assassinated shortly after that. So, he’s not a good example.
Titus was the general who ultimately — there were many generals, but he was the one who ended up destroying Jerusalem in 70 A.D. And the descriptions Jesus makes as to what this is going to be like and the actual descriptions historians have made as to what it was like are remarkably the same. The Roman destruction of the temple and Jerusalem mirror much of this passage. They surrounded the city. They built up ramps. They burned the temple. They crucified thousands of Jews. Josephus, the Jewish historian turned Roman, estimated around a million Jews were killed. It’s probably an exaggeration, but still a horrific number. Many starved to death during the siege. And according to Eusebius, many Christians heeded Jesus’ warning and fled the city. Verse 14 – if you’re in Judea, flee. If you’re on a roof, verse 15, flee. Don’t even go down the stairs. Verse 16 – if you’re in a field, flee. If you’re pregnant or nursing, verse 17, alas. That’s a lot of comfort. Verse 18, pray it doesn’t happen in winter. And all of this fits very nicely with the invasion of Jerusalem around 70 A.D.
But there is much more here that goes way beyond that. For example, notice the extreme language, verse 19. He switches the demonstrative pronoun.
“For in those days, there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now and never will be.”
It is hard to put that verse just in A.D. 70. Or notice universal language, verse 20.
“And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved.”
Seems like he should have said no Jews in Jerusalem would be saved if he was just talking about Jerusalem. But maybe he’s shifting from near to far.
“But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.”
Or notice the repeated warnings, verses 21-22.
“And then if anyone says you ‘Look, here is the Christ! Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”
Now, he had just said back in verses 5-6, don’t believe people who come along, pretend to be me. Why is he saying it again? Well, he is no longer referring to these days; he’s talking about those days. Much bigger. Now, there are similarities in other passages that seem to mirror this same far view. For example, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.
“Now concerning the coming [and he uses one article, watch for two nouns] the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together with him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed either by spirit or spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way.”
Now stop for a second. You notice how Paul is issuing the same warnings to all believers. Be alert but not alarmed. Don’t be deceived, but don’t be alarmed.
“For that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed.”
Now notice how much this sounds like the abomination of desolation.
“The man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Now Titus did not do that in the temple. He burned the temple. Paul here in Thessalonians goes on to describe a restraining, which implies a long period of time, and then he says, verse 8,
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
So, Paul is referring to those days, not these things. Back in Mark 13, we pick up in verse 24,
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
Now, obviously, he’s talking here about cosmic chaos going all the way back to the creation of the universe when the universe was without form and void, like a universe collapsing in on itself. This idea of stars falling … Stars in the ancient world represented heavenly powers. And so, these heavenly powers are being brought down as the universe implodes. Verse 26,
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 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 the heaven.”
Why clouds? Have you ever wondered that? Why is Jesus coming with clouds? I always think it should be a perfectly blue day. Clouds in the Old Testament symbolized the presence of God. Do you remember the tabernacle? Wherever the tabernacle went, there was a cloud hovering above, symbolizing the presence of God. Do you remember in 1 Kings 8 when Solomon dedicated the temple, and a cloud of God’s presence came in that temple so strong that the priest could not stand and minister? Well, one day Jesus is coming in clouds representing the manifestation of the presence and glory and power of God so that no one will be able to stand. Not just priests serving in a micro temple. We’re talking the temple of the universe, the manifest presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ coming in clouds. The presence of God, coming among us. And I believe this is that future promise Jesus was making. Number 2, tribulation and 2nd coming.
Number 3, destruction of the temple. This is verses 28-31, near. So, verses 28-31, he’s moving back from far to near. Just as the fig leaves mean summer is near, so also when you see these things, and he’s going back to the “these things.” These stones, this temple. You know, he is near switches from “ekeinos” to “tauta.” This generation — the singular version of that — will not pass away until all these things take place. He’s referring to Jesus’ judgment of Jerusalem. And this judgment of a world, Jerusalem, is a preview of the judgment of the world.
Number 4. Watchfulness and 2nd coming. And this is where he switches back to far, verse 32 to “ekeinos,” those days. Or here he’s using the singular “that day,” he’s referring to a specific day, the day of the Lord. And there are two big ideas here. And if we miss everything else, if a lot of this was very technical, and you’re like, what in the world? Try to capture these two big ideas. Because at the end, Jesus makes his message super clear — even if we don’t understand all the details — super clear.
Watchfulness, number 1. And notice the staccato of warnings, verse 33 – be on guard, 33 – keep awake, verse 34 – stay awake, verse 35 – stay awake, verse 37 – stay awake. What does he want us to do? I think he wants to stay awake. And he uses three different Greek words communicating, be discerning, be alert, be vigilant. And then he tells a little parable, verse 34, the parable of a doorkeeper. A doorkeeper doesn’t need to be super skilled. He doesn’t need to be able to juggle a soccer ball or climb up milk cartons or spell backwards. A doorkeeper needs to do one thing well. Stay awake! That’s it. You’re just supposed to be alert. You can’t fall asleep and do your job.
But notice embedded right in this call to be alert is the second big idea here at the end, and that is ignorance. Ignorance. Verse 32, “No one knows.” And this is the only time in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus calls himself — he’s called by others, the Son of God — here, he calls himself the Son and then mentions the Father. So, he’s the Son of God, yet on earth, willingly ignorant of the day. “No one knows.” Verse 33, “You do not know.” Verse 35, “You do not know.”
So what is he saying? Vigilance is not primarily about intelligence, but dependence. Vigilance is not primarily about intelligence — if I could just learn more — but dependence. “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” And I think this is one of our biggest challenges when it comes to eschatology and then the way we live it out. We know many things. God has revealed many things to us. We learn many things with the brains and the eyes and the ears he’s given us. We know a lot. We don’t know a lot. We don’t know many things.
So, what Jesus is saying is, can you be alert — stay awake, spiritually, stay awake. Don’t go to sleep, don’t check out, don’t become passive, don’t just float along with your culture or your cravings. Stay alert. But also, don’t be alarmed, and don’t think you’re going to have all the answers. And I think one of the reasons we have a hard time staying alert is we are assuming, for me to be alert, I need to reach a certain level of understanding.
Let’s practice this right now. Mark 13 is a great place to practice whether we believe this. We’ve flown through in two messages ginormous chapter, a big chapter. And we’ve moved quickly through it. And I’ve probably raised more questions in your mind than I’ve answered. I’m good at it. It’s my gift just to stir it up. So, there are probably … If you have any curiosity at all, there are many questions flying through your mind like, God, what about? And why not? And what if? And why couldn’t you have made it more clear?
And so, we have an opportunity to not occupy ourselves with things too great and too marvelous. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to read more, learn more. My craving for understanding is insatiable. But right now, where we are, can we say, Lord, I don’t understand everything in Mark 13, but there are a few things you made super clear. So, I’m going to lock in on those. I’m going to run with those and trust you in your time and in your way, you’re going to reveal more.
Can you do that? Because there are massive truths that Jesus made super clear in Mark 13. Let me just randomly give you a few. Judgment is coming. We will stand before God. He is a holy God, and he holds all men, women accountable. Jesus is coming — the Lord of all history — to make everything broken and lacking whole and right. And he has taken on the judgment. While he’s speaking these words to his disciples, he has moved into Jerusalem in order to die and be buried and rise from the dead for our sins so that we will be ready for judgment. Not exposed, not ashamed, but free and clean and right in the presence of a holy God because of faith in Jesus. We know that. We know that everything sinful and broken will be made right.
So, what does that do for us? Can we act on, live out what we do know and trust him for what we don’t? Edwards summarizes this well. Listen to this.
“The mischief caused by caused by the misuse of eschatology, not least in contemporary America, has resulted in a virtual eclipse of eschatology in the life of the church. This unfortunate set of circumstances — both its abuse and its subsequent neglect — has weakened the church rather than strengthened it.”
Pause for a second. Let me explain that. That is such a big point. When we try to make Jesus’ words say more than they said, and we end up with these sophisticated prognostications about who everyone is in biblical prophecy, way beyond what Jesus made clear. Over time, when that happens, for those of us who have been living for many decades, and we see this come and go. And after a while we’re like, whatever. Prophecy, “schmophecy.” Who knows and who cares? And the next televangelist is going to declare with just as much certainty something that’s never going to happen. And so we check out. And eschatology leaves the practical day-to-day life of the church. And what Edwards is arguing is that is as horrific as its abuse. The abuse is horrific, because you end up being dogmatic about things that you shouldn’t be dogmatic about. You’re saying more than you should be able, you can say from Scripture. But the opposite extreme is just as horrific. Why?
“If we [he goes on], if we dispense with eschatology, then the purpose and destiny of history falls into the hands of humanity alone. No one, I think, Christian or not, take solace in that prospect. Unless human history, in all its greatness and potential as well as its propensity to evil and destructiveness, can be redeemed, human life is a futile and sordid endeavor. The longing that things ought not to be as they are, and cannot be allowed to remain as they are, is essentially an eschatological longing. The grand finale of the gospel preached by Jesus is that there is a sure hope for the future. It is grounded not in history or logic or intuition, but in the Word of Jesus, in the asseveration [the emphatic assertion] that in those days humanity will no longer usurp history but relinquish it to its Lord and Maker, who will return in glory and justice to condemn evil and suffering and gather his own to himself.”
Now, that’s a mouthful. But even if we simply believe that last part, that that’s what Jesus is doing now, can you imagine how that changes the way we look at this world? And the way we respond?
Let’s pray for that. Jesus, thank you for speaking such clear words of the near judgment of Jerusalem, as horrific as it was. It came true. Your word is true. And you are graciously giving us a warning. That we are not exempt from judgment. And I pray that each one in here would heed that warning. If my sin has not been judged in Jesus on the cross, and by faith, I’ve claimed his provision as my own, then I will stand in judgment in the presence of a holy God who could, with a look, melt me into a puddle. So, Lord, please use this morning not to scare us to Jesus, but to sober us, to wake us up so we are awake spiritually, Lord. Bring life to us. Help us not to be mesmerized and hypnotized by this world system so that we just fall asleep and float along. God, we can’t wait for that grand finale. We have a sure hope of the future. And it is based not on the latest news reports or who’s in the White House, but on the Word of Jesus. And Lord, let us live in a way, in justice and mercy, that previews the ultimate judgment where everything will be made right. We thank you. Teach us what it means to be alert but not alarmed. And we pray this for your glory.