The Bible is literally seeped with prophecy from cover to cover. This means that we need to have at least a basic understanding of why God speaks to us prophetically. There is one passage in scripture that towers above all others and speaks to that very issue, and it is what many refer to as the Olivet Discourse. A message, a sermon Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives in the last week of His life. Matthew records it great detail over two chapters in Matthew 24 and 25 and Mark records the main details that were read for us in Mark Chapter 13
The passage begins with the disciples asking Jesus a couple of questions. As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’ Jesus responds to their observation and says,; Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.’ Some bible commentators will tell you that Jesus is prophesying about the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem. An event that was fulfilled exactly as He describes around 40 years later in 70AD. Peter, James, John and Andrew then ask Him, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled? I should point out that in Matthews account, they actually ask, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? So, they asked three questions
- When will these things happen?
- What is the sign that they are about to happen.
- What is the sign of your second coming. (Matt 24:3)
They are asking about something that will be fulfilled in the future, whilst at the same time asking, what is the sign of His second coming. When you Look at the accounts across all three Gospels is that His reply may well be talking about the up and coming destruction of Jerusalem less than 40 years later. However, He is also prophesying about the end of the age. This is a common pattern in the bible concerning prophecy, in that there is a near fulfilment and a far-off fulfilment usually in relation to the end of the ages. At one level He is talking about The Siege of Jerusalem which ended on 30 August 70 AD with the burning and destruction of its Temple but He is also talking about the end of the age and the signs of His Second Coming.
Before we look at His answer I need to say a couple of things. He is going to describe a defined period of time. I know that it is a demarcated period of time because later in verse 8 he talks about a beginning and in verse 13 he talks about an end. This section describes a period of time that Has a beginning and an end. This defined period of time in the future He describes as, “a time of Tribulation He then goes on to explain how in the future things will get even more dramatic on a worldwide scale. (Mark 13:14) There is a reference made to something called “the abomination that causes desolation” previously mentioned in Daniel chapter 9. He is now telling them the sign of His second coming is this thing called the abomination that causes desolation, standing where He does not belong. The big question I suspect that is now rattling around in your head is what is the abomination of desolation? This refers to something that had already happened once before in Jerusalem 190 years earlier during in what was called the Maccabean revolt. Back then a man called Antiochus Epiphanes conquered Jerusalem and set up an idol right in the centre of the Holy of Holies. That fact was known to every Jew of Jesus day, as the great and terrible day when the abomination that caused desolation took place. Watch out He says, for that is going to happen again and it is going to happen again just before He comes back a second time.
Having looked at the beginning, and the middle, the text now looks to the end. (Mark 13: 24-27) The end of all of this is that what we call the second coming of Jesus Christ. The text has covered a lot of ground but in the end the bible teaches that Jesus will come back again. In laying all this out Jesus also reminds them that during times of trouble; do not be deceived, do not be disturbed, be discerning and also, endure to the end. Because at the end, Hallelujah, the Lord come back.
Although this all appears to be highly prophetic in nature, we must not forget how practical everything He has said is. This passage is just packed with guidelines and practical advice. The important point is God does not give us prophecy to satisfy our curiosity. God always has a practical purpose in giving us His prophetic Word. It is not meant to send you off cowering in Holy huddles, it meant to equip you to deal with everyday situations you may encounter as a Christian. So, what is the practical value to us here today in Lytham St Annes.
The lesson Jesus say we need to learn is the lesson of the fig tree: Jesus is saying, if you see the beginning of these things be encouraged because my kingdom is coming. Learn the lesson of the seasons, because winter will pass, spring and summer are coming although we may not know the exact day or the hour, however we can know the times and the seasons. Look around can you see the leaves appearing on the fig tree and take heed. If you live in under the safe knowledge that God will intervene, you can then endure what life throws at you. If you recognise the consummation of all things is ever before you, then you can always be ready. God wants us to understand prophecy, but he wants us to understand prophecy in order that, we remain ready. That’s why no-one knows the day or the hour, because if we did we would not remain ready.
Are you ready? Are you ready for his coming back. If Jesus were to come and call you home tomorrow. If you knew for sure that you were going to die tonight at midnight, what would you do between now and then. This passage tells us perhaps we should be doing those things now. Have you got any unfinished business with the Lord, then finish it today. Have you any sin you need to deal with, deal with it today. Is there anybody you need to tell them that you love them. Don’t wait until your funeral it’s too late and don’t wait until their funeral they can’t hear you. Maybe there are some things in your life you need to re-evaluate in light of the fact you don’t know when He will return or call you home.
There is a story of a tourist who was travelling along the shore of Lake Como in Italy. When he reached the castle at the head of the lake, a friendly gardener opened the gate and offered to show him the grounds that he kept in perfect condition. The tourist asked when the owner of the castle had last been there. The old gardener answered 12 years ago. Does he ever write to you and tell you he is coming. No, replied the gardener. Who then comes here, the old man replied, I am almost always alone, once in a while a tourist comes and I show them round. But you keep the garden in such beautiful condition is that because you always think the owner might come tomorrow. No, he replied, he might come today, Sir, today, maybe today.
Ever so, come Lord Jesus.
Topics: The Life and Teaching of Jesus