5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Mark 13
Since childhood, this passage has haunted me as did all of chapter 13. There is something encouraging and terrifying about it. I don’t know why it has stuck out at me like a sore thumb throughout the years but I distinctly remember reading this at a young age and being deeply affected. I grew up when the Frank Peretti novels and Left Behind series were popular. I would peak around corners in my home scared of my own shadow. I was completely convinced that Jesus would return by the time I graduated high school. And when high school came and went, I just knew in my heart he would return before I had children. I have watched the news; wars come and go, evil rise to power, right become wrong and wrong become right and men evangelize truth and lies. I long for His return. This one passage has affected me probably more than any other from God’s word. I have been watching and waiting for the signs. But not even Jesus knows when he will return to take home his elect.
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.[a] For you do not know when the time will come. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13
Though I did not grow up learning that works were required for eternal life, I did strive greatly in my heart hoping that my good deeds would make be better, more presentable. I think that’s what was terrifying about the passage. Jesus will return unexpectedly. There will be wars. There will be suffering. We may have to stand up for what we believe and be harmed in the process. It is happening, all over the world. The sprouts are on the fig tree but we have no idea when the leaves will blossom. It could be tomorrow or in a thousand years. My encouragement comes from knowing no matter how bad this world gets, it’s only temporary. I will be called up with Jesus one day. He has warned us so we can look on with great expectation and without fear. We know he will strengthen us during trials and the Holy Spirit will place the words in our mouth at the right time. I am encouraged to know that the Earth will not pass away until God’s plan has been fulfilled. He is in control and not one of the elect will be snatched from his hand, not one of the elect will miss the boat.
This passage now gives me confidence, not in my own works and good deeds but in Christ’s work on the cross and his triumphant return. I will continue to watch and wait, longing for my permeant home and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with whomever God grants me the opportunity. I will stay awake, testing what the preachers preach and teach my children three children the truth of God’s word.
Dear Lord, thank you for your warning. Though we do not know the details of Christ’s return, you have shared with us what to expect in your word. Help us to test and approve according to your word. Holy Spirit help us discern the truth from lies. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.