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70. "Now is my soul troubled"
70. "Now is my soul troubled"
Ministry III (Sermon to Multitude, Sermons in parables, Woe to scribes , Talents etc)

71. The temple doomed

Matthew 24, 1-31: Mark 13, 1-27: Luke 21, 5-28. A.D. 30. Age 33. Jerusalem. Mt. of Olives.
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The temple doomed…….AS Jesus went out from the temple, his disciples came for to show him the buildings of the temple. One saith, Master, see what buildings are here! Some spake of the temple how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts. Jesus answering said,

 Seest thou these great buildings? See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

¶As Jesus sat upon the mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter and James, John and Andrew asked him privately, What sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Jesus answering them began to say,

Take heed lest any man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many; and the time draweth near; go ye not therefore after them.

Take heed that ye be not deceived but when ye shall hear commotions, and wars, and

rumors of wars, see that ye be not troubled; be not terrified. Such things must needs be: for all these things must first come to pass; but the end shall not be yet (is not by and by).

Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and troubles, and pestilences, and great earthquakes, in divers places; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. All these things are the beginnings of sorrows.

¶But take heed to yourselves: for before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you; delivering you up to councils, and into prisons, to be afflicted: and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony against them. Then shall they kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

But the gospel must first be published among all nations. And when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

And then shall many be offended,  and shall betray one another. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.

But there shall not a hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.

And many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

¶When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, where it ought not (let him that readeth understand): and when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh; then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains: and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. And let him that is on the housetop not come down into the house, neither enter therein, to take anything out of his house; and let him which is in the field not return back for to take his clothes.

For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon the people. And pray ye that your flight be not in winter, neither on the sabbath day: for in those days shall be great affliction, tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the creation which God created, unto this time; no, nor ever in the world shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, those days shall be shortened.

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe it not: for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, to seduce; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive even the very elect.

But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

¶But immediately, in those days after that tribulation, there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars: the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall; and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken: and upon the earth [shall be] distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and waves roaring: men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

And then shall he send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven; from one end of heaven to another.

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

Scripture:  Matthew 24:1-14

Meditation 1 of 2: 

 

Do you recognize God’s action and signs in the world today? Jesus foretold many signs of God’s action and judgment. To the great consternation of the Jews, Jesus prophesied the destruction of their temple at Jerusalem. The Jewish people took great pride in their temple, a marvel of the ancient world. The foretelling of this destruction was a dire judgment in itself. They sought Jesus for a sign that would indicate when this would occur. Jesus admonished them to not seek signs but rather to seek God’s kingdom. There will be plenty of signs – such as  wars, famines, diseases, tidal waves and earthquakes – pointing to God’s ultimate judgment.

Jesus’ prophecy is a two-edged sword, because it points not only to God’s judgment, but also to his saving action and mercy. Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and the dire consequences for all who would reject him and his saving message. While the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple was determined (it was razed by the Romans in 70 A.D.), there remained for its inhabitants a narrow open door leading to deliverance. Jesus says: “I am the door; whoever enters by me will be saved” (John 10:9).  Jesus willingly set his face toward Jerusalem, knowing that he would meet betrayal, rejection, and death on a cross. His death on the cross, however, brought about victory and salvation, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but for all – both Jew and gentile – who would accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Is your life securely submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ?

If the gospel message is good news, then why do so many oppose it with hostility and even violence? Jesus warns his followers that they will be confronted with persecution, wickedness, false teaching, and temptation. The real enemy of the gospel is Satan who uses fear and hatred to provoke hostility in others towards those who follow Christ. And what is Jesus’ response to this hostility and opposition?  Love and truth. Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred. God’s love purifies our hearts and minds of all that would divide and tear people apart.

The truth is also essential for overcoming evil and tribulation in the world. Satan deceives and sin blinds the heart and mind. Only God’s truth can free us from error and spiritual blindness. This gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation. That is why Jesus tells his disciples to proclaim the gospel throughout the whole world, even in the midst of opposition and persecution.

You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake 
Jesus tells his disciples that if they “endure to the end” they will be saved – they will see God’s salvation and inherit eternal life and happiness with God. Endurance is more than human effort and perseverance. It is a supernational gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to bear up under trials, temptations, and persecution.  Endurance is strengthened with hope – the supernatural assurance that we will see God face to face and inherit all the promises he has made. Jesus is our supreme model and hero who endured the cross for our sake (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus willingly shed his blood for our sake and for our salvation and he calls us to love and to die to ourselves in like manner.

The word “martyr” in Greek means “witness”.  The Book of Revelations says that “Jesus was the faithful witness …who freed us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). Tertullian, a second century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die by the hands of their persecutors, exclaimed: “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the church. The third century bishop, Cyprian said: “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.” True martyrs live and die as witnesses of the gospel.  They overcome their enemies through persevering hope and courage, sacrificial love and forebearance, kindness and compassion.

St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered – and they multiplied!”  Why is this the case?  The Christian martyrs witnessed to the truth, joy, and freedom of the gospel, by their life, their testimony, and by the shedding of their own blood. Today unfortunately we witness many extremists and misguided individuals who will sacrifice their lives, and kill others in the process, out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice. From a Christian point of view, they are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love and forgiveness, truth and righteousness.

True martyrs pray for their persecutors and love their enemies. In their suffering and in their death they witness the truth of the gospel – that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Jesus died on the cross for Jews and Greeks, Christians and Muslims, agnostics and atheists. Satan seeks to destroy our faith through the fear of death and he incites others to persecute Christians for their faith in Christ. Martyrs who shed their blood for Jesus Christ win great victory, not only for themselves, but for the whole people of God. The martyrs overcome Satan by enduring death through their faith in Christ who died and rose for us. And through their witness many others recognize the victory of the cross and believe in the gospel. The martyrs witness to the truth – the truth of Jesus Christ and his power to overcome sin and fear, hatred and prejudice, and even death itself.  What gives courage and confidence to the martyrs is the firm hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life and happiness with God.

God may call some of us to be martyrs for our faith. But for most of us, our call is to be ‘dry’ martyrs who bear testimony to the joy and power of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord.  What most attracts others to the truth and power of the gospel?  When they see Christians loving their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our adversaries. God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any trial and to answer any challenge to our faith.  Are you eager to bear witness to the joy and freedom of the gospel?

“Lord,  by your cross you have redeemed the world.  Fill me with joy and confidence and make me a bold witness of your saving truth that others may know the joy and freedom of the gospel.” 

Scripture:  Matthew 24:15-35

Meditation 2 of 2: 

Do you take God’s judgments lightly or seriously? When Jesus warned his disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem and its holy Temple, he quoted from the prophet Daniel who prophesied the desecration of the holy place in Jerusalem as “an abomination that makes desolate” (Daniel 12:11).  This came to pass around 170 BC when the king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, determined to wipe out the religion of Israel. He captured Jerusalem and set up an altar to Zeus in the temple court and sacrificed swine’s flesh on the altar. He also turned the priests’ room and temple chambers into public brothels. Jesus now prophesies that the holy place would be desecrated again. This time the destruction would be far worse for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. This time there would be no deliverance, no restoration nor purification. Jesus’ advice was very practical – flee before the destruction comes!

When the Romans decided to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD, they first cut off all food supplies to the walled city and allowed no one to escape. They then waited for its inhabitants to starve to death before they entered the city and destroyed it and leveled it to the ground. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, over a million inhabitants died. Josepheus described in detail the seige and famine. “The famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just going to die looked upon those who were gone to their rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence, also, and a kind of deadly night had seized upon the city. ..And every one of them died with their eyes fixed upon the Temple.” (Josephesus, War of the Jews, 5.12.3)

While Daniel prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem because of the stubborn pride and rebellion of its inhabitants, he also foretold that God would send his Anointed One, the Son of Man who would come on the clouds of heaven to bring God’s reign on the earth (see Daniel 7:13-15). Daniel’s vision describes a royal investiture of a human king before God’s throne. This king, whose authority comes from God, is given world-wide rulership and power which lasts forever. Many Jews in Jesus’ time expected the Messiah King to come at any moment. Jesus warns his disciples that many false Christ’s (the Greek form of the word for ‘Messiah’) and false prophets would lead people astray. The Jews were looking for the right sign to show them who the true Messiah would be. Jesus pointed to himself as the definitive sign of God’s imminent kingdom.

Jesus illustrated his point with two parables or word pictures – how lightning strikes the earth and sky and how eagles search out their prey. When lightning appears in the darkened sky,  its powerful surge of  flashing energy and light and its piercing noise strike awe and terror. You don’t need a special sign to make it visible or to show where it is striking. It manifests itself quite clearly.  In like manner, when “the son of Man comes” it will be as clear as the lightning in the heavens. Jesus quoted a familiar proverb to his audience: “Where the body is, there the eagles (or vultures) will be gathered together.” Eagles, like vultures, are attracted to carrion – dead or dying prey. The Book of Job describes the eagle spying out its prey from afar (Job 39:29).  What’s the point of this analogy? If we are not spiritually alive in Christ, then the Day of Judgement will catch us unprepared to meet the Lord when he comes to separate the “sheep from the goats”) and the “wheat from the weeds”).

Jesus used the image of a fig tree to teach his disciples an important lesson about reading the “signs of the times”.  The fig tree was a common and important source of food for the Jews. It bore fruit twice a year, in the autumn and in the early spring. The Talmud said that the first fruit came the day after Passover. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came he would usher in the kingdom of God at Passover time. The signs of spring are evident for all who can see. Just so are the signs of God’s kingdom and his coming in judgment.  The “budding” of God’s kingdom begins first in the hearts of those who are receptive to God’s word. Those who trust in God’s word will bear the fruits of his kingdom. And what are the fruits of that kingdom?  The kingdom of God ..is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

We do not know when the Lord will return again.  But the Lord does give us signs, not only to “wake us up” as a warning, but also to “rouse our spirits” to be ever ready and eager to see his kingdom come in all its power and glory.  The “Day of the Lord” will strike terror in those who reject the kingdom of God, but it will be a day of joy and rejoicing for those who long to see the Lord face-to-face. The Lord wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for his coming. He surely comes to us each day and knocks on the doors of our hearts. And he will surely come again to establish his kingdom in all its fulness.  Do you read the “signs of the times” with God’s perspective and do you pray with joyful confidence for God’s kingdom to come in all its fulness?

“Lord, fill me with gratitude for the gift of redemption and increase my hope and longing for your return again in glory. May that day bring joy to my heart rather than sorrow. Help me to serve you faithfully and to make the best use of my time now in the light of your coming again.” 

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