The Beginning of the End (Mark 13:14–23)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Doug Van Meter - 10 May 2020

The Beginning of the End (Mark 13:14–23)

With the turmoil that many in the early church were facing, they needed the encouragement that history was moving under the hand of the King. They needed an understanding of the times. The Olivet Discourse would equip them for this very thing. Though we live centuries from the events prophesied in this sermon, the truths contained in it help us in our own times of turmoil to rest in the truth that history is under the control of King Jesus.

Scripture References: Mark 13:14-23

From Series: "Mark Exposition"

An exposition of the Gospel of Mark by Doug Van Meter.

Download Audio     Read Online     Download PDF     Download Homework

Powered by Series Engine

I want to preface our study with an important pastoral observation: This study matters. In these days of crisis, our study of the Olivet Discourse matters. Some may be tempted to think that more topical studies on issues of fear, anxiety, trust, and the like would be more suitable. I understand that. I addressed some of these matters in the early days of our national lockdown.

But we have returned to the book of Mark because all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for all we face in life. This includes COVID-19 and worldwide economic recession, or worse.

The exposition of Scripture, done properly, points us to the Lord of history. This was Mark’s purpose as he wrote to Christians struggling under Roman oppression. They needed the encouragement that the cost was worth the cross and that a crown awaited those who persevered. They needed the assurance that suffering at the hand of a king (Nero) was not in vain because their King had indeed brought his kingdom with him. As Lane comments, “A connection between the fall of Jerusalem and the arrival of the kingdom of God was … apparent to Jesus’ disciples, and certainly to Mark’s audience who lived in close proximity to the momentous events here predicted.” The King had come. He reigned and Mark’s readers needed to live in light of that truth. So do we.

Understanding the Times

With the turmoil that many in the early faced, the recipients of this gospel needed the encouragement that history was moving under the hand of the King (Psalm 97:1). They needed an understanding of the times (see 1 Chronicles 12:32). The Olivet Discourse would equip them for this very thing. It prophesied the very situation they had been facing (vv. 1–13). It prophesied those things that were to occur soon (vv. 14–23). It encouraged them about the reign of King Jesus (vv. 24–27). It exhorted them to be alert (vv. 28–37).

As stated previously, this chapter though prophesy in the days in which Jesus spoke it, is now history. All of it has come to pass (though part of it is still being fulfilled, v. 27). But, like the rest of biblical history, what was written before was written for our benefit (1 Corinthians 10:6–11; Romans 15:4).

The Olivet Discourse is as relevant and as valuable to the church of our day as are the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Nehemiah. However, for some reason, it seems that many in the church assume that if a prophecy in the New Testament was not written to us, it is irrelevant. We do not treat the Old Testament that way, so why do we do so with the New Testament?

Consider a New Testament prophecy that all Christians agree has already been fulfilled: the famine predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:27–30. We are told clearly that this prophecy came to pass in the days of Emperor Claudius (v. 28). Is this relevant to us? Of course! A major lesson from this account is how Christians are to care for one another in a time of great need. In fact, this prophetic account is increasingly relevant for us today.

So is the Olivet Discourse. As multitudes throughout church history have recognised, though it was fulfilled in the first century, this prophecy remains deeply relevant for us. As we will see in our next study, Jesus staked his integrity on it coming to pass (vv. 30–31).

But further—and this is my primary burden in this study—these words, uttered and fulfilled so long ago, are of great significance to you and me. They inform us how to persevere in the midst of difficulties. They inform us what to expect as a new normal once we begin to follow Jesus. It teaches us to take the words of Jesus seriously.

We live in a world that wants to hijack grace with false christs and false gospels. We live in a cosmos that is hopeful of grace (Romans 8:14ff). We live in a world that is hostile to grace: in the church (see v. 9a), in godless governments (see v. 9b), sometimes in our own families (see v. 12), and within the wider culture (v. 13). But, fundamentally, the discourse points us to God’s faithfulness and therefore our ability to productively persevere (vv. 10–11, 13b). One by-product of this perseverance is the ability to resist false expectations.

Unfortunately, because many have not properly interpreted this text, many wrong expectations continue to pervade the ecclesiological landscape. This needs to stop. As we saw previously, a major protection against such erroneous interpretations and unhelpful speculations is to read this passage with the ears of its original audience: the disciples (at least a representative group of them) and the first-century Christian church that initially received this Gospel.

This cannot be stressed too often nor too much: The words of this discourse, and this Gospel, were not spoken or written to or me. It was however spoken and written for you and me.

Review

A spokesman for the disciples (I suspect it was Judas) was overly impressed with the grandeur of the temple. As yet, neither he nor the rest of the disciples, had ears to hear or eyes to see. The proof is that they failed to grasp the real ugliness of the temple: that is, the vile sham of religion that was taking place there; the rank hypocrisy of the religious leaders and of so many who practiced their vain rituals. Most missed the point. They missed the one to whom the temple and its worship pointed, even though he was right there.

Jesus proclaimed a prophetic condemnation: The temple would be destroyed, deconstructed down to its foundation stones. In the words of Matthew’s Gospel, their house would be left “desolate” (Matthew 23:38).

The disciples, no doubt shocked, asked Jesus a twofold question—an expected question in fact: “When will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (v. 4). We must commend them for believing his words. They believed that the end was coming.

The word translated “accomplished” speaks of something being completed, entirely. The root word for “end” occurs in vv. 7, 13. What “end” did they have in mind? The end of one age and the beginning of another age; the end of one era followed by the beginning of another era. Jesus was speaking about both the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning! He was speaking of the end of the old covenant era and the complete beginning of the new covenant era.

The new covenant era began with the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ (at his baptism) and was inaugurated with his blood when he shed it in death on the cross. This was foretold when he instituted the Lord’s Supper. But this was the early stages of the beginning.

As mentioned, Jesus would need to die, be buried, and rise from the dead. He would need to spend forty days further instructing his disciples. He would need to ascend to the right hand of the Father, where he would receive his kingdom.

But something else had to also take place before the full transition took place from the old covenant to the new covenant era: The temple would need to be destroyed, putting to end once for all the Levitical priesthood and its sacrificial system. By removing the old, the new fully replaced it. This, of course, was the burden of the writer to the Hebrews (see 8:13).

A Word about Judaism

This is not an anti-Semitic sentiment. It is a sentiment about the old covenant religion, which ended de jurewhen Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and which then ended de facto when the temple was destroyed. In other words, old covenant worship (“religion,” if you must) was only possible where there was a temple and a priesthood, with its sacrificial system. With the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, there could be no old covenant worship (“religion”). Hence, since that event, Judaism proper has ceased to exist.

All attempts to rebuild the temple for nearly two thousand years have failed. What God has decreed, remains so.

To summarise, what the disciples understood from Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple was that their world was coming to a cataclysmic end. It was the end of the world as they knew it. It was the end of one world in the world and the beginning of another world in this world. The beginning of the end heralded the end of the beginning. Jesus explained this from v. 5 onwards.

Birth Pains

In vv. 5–13, Jesus told them to expect certain “birth pains” before the cataclysmic beginning of the end (v. 8). He warned them to be on their guard during this time lest they panic and be led astray. We will return to this in a moment, but first it will be helpful to understand how the disciples most likely would have interpreted the phrase, “These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” As Geoffrey Grogan explains, this is a reference to the Jewish concept of

“the birth pains of the Messiah.” This phrase referred to a period of trial and tribulation which they believed would precede the coming of the Messiah. The Old Testament uses this metaphor, quite extensively, usually in a context of judgment, in passages like Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 6:24, Hosea 13:13 and Micah 4:9-10, so that it really became a technical term with particular connotations for the Jews.

Two Thousand Years

Many today argue that, when we hear of false teachings, wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, famines, etc., these are birth pains before the second coming of Jesus. In a limited sense, that may be helpful (see, for example, Romans 8:18–25 where geographic and personal groanings occur). But this is not the primary thought here. To read into these verses the second coming of Jesus (which the Bible does teach) is not what the disciples were hearing. It is certainly not what they were thinking. A biblical understanding of these “birth pains” would do two things for the disciples.

First, it would encourage them that a better day was coming (see John 16:19–22). Second, it would keep them from panicking and following cunningly devised eschatologies. This would become a serious problem in the days of the early church, as it is for some in churches today. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to correct their failure to pay heed to the teaching of Jesus in this very Olivet Discourse (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 5:1–11).

In vv. 14–23 we read of the sign that Jesus gave that would indicate that the end was near. The sign pointed to the beginning of the end.

The Abomination that makes Desolate

With verse 14 there is a clear change of subject, and even an intensifying of the subject as Mark uses the adversative “but.” “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (v. 14).

Jesus told them that, after the time of birth pains (he did not specify how long the world will be in “labour”), they could expect something that would signal the beginning of the end. When this happened, they would know that the end was near at hand, that it was soon, and that they would need to respond accordingly. Failure to act would prove perilous.

What was Jesus talking about? What was “the abomination of desolation”?

The phrase occurs three times in the Old Testament—each in the book of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). It appears in the New Testament here and in Matthew 24:15. Luke does not use the exact phrase, but his parallel accounts refers to the same event (21:20). Of course, Jesus’ hearers had only the Old Testament, so when they heard him use the phrase, they would have immediately have thought of Daniel.

One commentator has helpfully observed that at least three considerations are important when determining what Jesus meant by this phrase. First, it must be in some way recognisable in terms of its meaning in Daniel. (Note that all three Daniel references share the same theme: desecration of the temple sanctuary and the cessation of the regular burnt offering.) Second, it must reference an event sufficiently recognisable to provide a clear prompt to those living in Judea that it was time for urgent flight. Third, it must be at a time shortly before the Roman advance and siege, while escape was still possible but close enough to make it necessary to act immediately.

So, what—or who—was the abomination of desolation?

Again, whatever—or whoever—it refers to, it referred to something—or someone—in their time: “When yousee.” They would see this abomination. Mark expected his first-century “reader” to “understand.” Mark’s Gospel was disseminated sometime in the 60s, before the destruction of the temple. He expected his readers to clearly understand what the abomination was because they would be affected by it.

It is interesting to note that Mark understood that those receiving his Gospel were a part of the “generation” to which Jesus referred (v. 30). This explains his appeal for them to pay attention. Some have suggested that this cryptic line was because Mark’s Gospel would most likely be viewed as subversive by both Jewish leaders and Roman officials. Since Nero was ruler at the time, this made the threat all the more real.

Of course, readers ever since have also been able to understand, with the advantage of history. Unfortunately, without no textual warrant, many Christians have misread this as something that will happen in their day, or in some future day. It is incredible to read commentators who make assumptions that this has to do with our future. Let me state it again: There is not a single textual hint or indication that any of this is about an abomination of desolation in either our present or our future. Listen to what the text does say! It was about the beginning of an end, which is nearly two thousand years in our past.

So, again, what—are who—was the abomination of desolation?

The term could be translated “the abomination that makes desolate.” Whatever the abomination was, Jesus was teaching that it would cause or lead to great desolation. The only desolation he had mentioned so far in the text is the desolation of the temple—their temple, not some exegetically fancied temple of the future.

An abomination in the Old Testament usually had reference to something detestable that desecrated or profaned worship (Leviticus 7:18; Deuteronomy 7:25; 17:1; 27:15). At this point, the ESV unfortunately interprets (rather than translates) the abomination as a “he” rather than an “it.” Other translations get it right here. The clearest evidence of this is Luke’s parallel account.

Listen to Luke’s language: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near” (21:20). The “desolation” in Luke’s language would be caused by “armies” surrounding Jerusalem. Since this would happen in the first century, and since it would result in the desolation of “the holy place” (Matthew 24:15), the only possible candidate is the Roman armies that surrounded Jerusalem in 70 AD. The warning, then, was to Christians in Jerusalem. When they saw Roman armies surrounding the city, threatening the desolation of the holy place (the temple, possibly including the city itself), it was the sign for them to flee.

Early historians like Josephus, Eusebius, and Tacitus, describe what happened prior to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem itself. The Roman army besieged the city of Jerusalem in early 70 AD. General Titus, who had overall authority for the siege, initially planned to spare the temple but, in April of that year, wild-eyed and apparently demonised Jewish Zealots took control of the temple and vowed to defend it and the city to the death. They allowed criminals into the most holy place to offer sacrifices, usurping both the Law and the priests. In addition to much lewd behaviour, which, even in our day, we would not want to mention publicly, they anointed as high priest a professional clown named Phanni. Talk about an abomination! They set fire to one of the courtyards to keep the Romans at bay. They also murdered Jews they deemed traitors. These actions provoked Titus to enter the city and the temple and put to death these Zealots. Josephus records,

For there was an ancient saying of inspired men that the city would be taken and the sanctuary burned to the ground by right of war, when it should be visited by sedition and native hands should be the first to defile God’s sacred precinct. This saying the Zealots did not disbelieve; yet they lent themselves as instruments of its accomplishment.

Once in the city, and in the temple, the Roman garrison set their standards in the temple and performed sacrifices to them, thus abominating the temple and the city further.

Personally, taking into account Luke’s language, I think that the surrounding of the city by the Roman army is what the early Christians perceived to be the abomination of desolation “standing where [it] ought not to be.” You might wonder how the Christians could possibly escape during a Roman siege, as Jesus here admonished. The history is fascinating. Bray sheds some light:

It is a remarkable but historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, retired when they first marched against the city, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans occupied the temple, thus giving every believing Jew the opportunity to obey the Lord’s instruction to flee the city. Josephus the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time, after a siege had begun.

The third century historian Eusebius writes,

Furthermore, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a town in Peraea called Pella. To Pella those who believed in Christ migrated from Jerusalem; and as if holy men had utterly abandoned the royal metropolis of the Jews and the entire Jewish land, the judgement of God at last overtook them for their abominable crimes against Christ and his apostles, completely blotting out that wicked generation from among men.

What was the “oracle” that Eusebius mentioned? I suspect it was the Olivet Discourse.

The Exhortation to Flee

In vv. 15–18, we read of Jesus’ exhortation to the disciples to flee at first sight of the abomination of desolation:

Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter.

(Mark 13:15–18)

Having noted the historical fulfilment of this, we should note Jesus’ warnings about their need to leave in haste. Again, this passage has been misunderstood by many in, particularly, the last two hundred years. Though some may acknowledge that this occurred in the first century, they maintain—without zero textual support—that we should expect a dual fulfilment. They insert a secret rapture of the church and exhort people to not be “left behind.” A couple of authors made good money writing novels about this. But they were wrong.

The picture here is not of a rapture but of a running to escape. There are times when Christians should flee. This was one of them.

Jesus said that, when this abomination took place, Christians should rush from their flat-roofed home to the streets and head to the mountains without bothering to collect their belongings. Workers in the field, who might have discarded their outer cloak in the Middle Eastern sun, should not run back to collect the cloak before fleeing. It was better to be cold and alive than wrapped in a cloak and dead. Pregnant and nursing mothers would find great difficulty in escaping, but they could if they were determined to obey (see Luke 23:26–31). They should also “pray that it may not happen in winter,” a phrase that makes little sense in our day, but which made great sense in the first century.

The problem with winter was not the drop in temperature. Middle Eastern winters are quite mild. The challenge was a far more dangerous one for a first century escapee. During winter rivers and streams in that part of the world swell from the rains. This would make fleeing on foot—the common mode of travel in that day—more difficult. Of course, with our advanced forms of travel, rising rivers are hardly a challenge to cross. But they would be a great challenge to first-century Christians.

The Great Tribulation

Jesus emphasised the need to pay attention to his warning, and the need to flee when they saw “the abomination of desolation standing where [it] ought not to be.” The reason is that unprecedented trouble would follow: “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” (v. 19).

This description is one reason that many conclude Jesus must be describing something other than the destruction of Jerusalem. But rather than bringing our system to bear upon the text, and rather than using our suppositions about the measure of what constitutes the greatest of tribulations, we should submit ourselves to the words of Jesus. Clearly, he has not changed themes. He began to speak to the disciples about what they should expect and they are still only in view. Only a “gnostic” could see something other than what Jesus was describing. To suggest that there is a “dual prophecy,” in the absence of clear textual evidence, is to violate all rules of interpretation. To be frank, it is to set oneself above the Scripture, not under it.

The reason people struggle with this language is primarily because they do not appreciate how central Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were to God’s creation. When we ignore the biblical storyline, we are bound to write our own story.

To properly understand this text, consider these verses from Isaiah:

I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall his bread be lacking. I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of hosts is his name. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”

(Isaiah 51:12–16)

God says that, when he formed Israel as a nation, he was “establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth.” Under the new covenant, God formed a new heaven and new earth. We call this the church.

If you consider the covenantal blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, it is clear that, when God brings judgement upon his people, the significance is unparalleled. It is little wonder that decreation language is used when talking of God judging his people, whom he established as the creation of heaven and earth. Once we see the biblical theme of God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule, we will have little difficulty seeing the decreation of Israel in 70 AD as the greatest tribulation to ever happen on earth—yet, or ever (see Mark 12:1–12 with Matthew 21:42–43). What other event could possibly be as significant as God decreating his very own, covenant people?

Saving the Elect and the Perseverance of the Saints

Jesus now brings this portion of the discourse to an end:

And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “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. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

(Mark 13:20–23)

Josephus informs us that 1.1 million Jews were killed by the Roman army in Jerusalem and multitudes were taken captive. Jesus told the disciples that this could have been worse, but for the mercy of God. He points to the merciful action of God in “shortening those days” (v. 20).

What does this mean? It means that God would do his work of judgement quickly and efficiently. God would “abridge” or “curtail” the length of the siege and the subsequent period of destruction. One reason he did so was “for the sake of the elect, whom he chose.”

That phrase seems redundant but Jesus never wasted a word. He was emphasising—and Christians should take comfort from this truth—that those who belong to God do so because he personally selected them. If you are of the elect, it is because you were selected. That is grace upon grace!

The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people. They were his “elect nation” (see Deuteronomy 7:7; Isaiah 42:1; 45:4; Malachi 1:2–3). But, as Paul explains, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Romans 9:6). Though the nation was elected for a special purpose (stewarding Messiah, the true Israel [see Genesis 12:1–3]), nevertheless not everyone in the nation was elected and chosen for salvation. The proof is that the majority of the Jews in Jerusalem are being condemned by God, and we know that he will never forsake those who belong to him (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 13:5–6; etc.).

True Israel

The elect that Jesus was referring to were those who were true Jews; that is, those who believed the promises of God (Romans 2:28–29). I am not sure how this registered with the disciples. If perchance they were of the view that all Jews were of the elect, then this would have surprised them. Or perhaps, they heard this as, “Judgement is coming, but for the sake of Israel, God’s elect, he will cut short those days so that all Jews are not killed.” Regardless, this is a promise of God’s intervention.

God’s Word as a Means of Perseverance

Verses 21–23 highlight that, while the elect were safe, they were in danger. This is always the case in a fallen world. Though they were safe (v. 20), they were in danger of heeding false teachers. So Jesus warned them.

Jesus’ concern was the dangerous multiplication of false messiahs and false prophets who, “if possible” would “lead astray” God’s “elect.” In the context of the sermon, it seems that the closer they got to judgement day, the more falsehoods will multiply. But, of course, if one followed such falsehoods, they would find themselves trapped and among the dead or enslaved.

There are historical accounts of such false messiahs and false prophets around the time of the siege of Jerusalem, who told people not to flee but to stay and fight, promising that God would give them victory over the Romans. Those who heeded paid a heavy price.

When Paul wrote to Timothy about “times of difficulty” in the “last days” this is precisely what he was talking about. He mentions those who would turn away from the truth by giving attention and devotion to teachings that itch their ears (2 Timothy 3:1, 5–9; 4:3–4). And what was Paul’s counsel? To continue in the word (3:13–17) and to preach the word (4:1–2, 5). It should be noted that Paul wrote these words around 64 AD. He expected things to get worse in those last days, not in ours.

Peter had the same message, also writing perhaps in the early 60s (see 2 Peter 2:1–3).

John warned about the same thing when he wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). And when was this happening? John tells us: In what he called his times—“the last hour” (1 John 2:18).

What I want us to see is not merely the time frame of these texts, but also the significant fact that the way the elect would persevere, the way they would not be deceived was by adherence to God’s word. Paul taught this. Peter taught this. John taught this. Jude taught this (Jude 3–4). And, here, Jesus taught this.

Watch!

This section closes with a repetitive theme in the discourse: that of watchfulness. After these words of warning about deception in the last days, Jesus said, “But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” In other words, “You have no excuse for being deceived, you have my word.”

Jesus was equipping the disciples to handle the onslaught of false christs and false prophets through this sermon. If they clung to his infallible word (vv. 30–31) they would persevere to the end and be saved (v. 13).

Brother, sister, the same principle applies to you and me. Pay heed to God’s word and you will not be deceived. The crazy conspiracy theories abounding these days are leading to panic and ungodly responses. Prosperity clowns promise protection from the coronavirus while doomsayers and naysayers foster unbelief rather than trust in our sovereign God.

Eschatology matters. How you understand such passages like these matters. Getting a grip on the big picture of the Bible matters. Knowing the times matters. Be like the offspring of Issachar: Have a biblical understanding of the times so that you can help the Israel of God to know what to do.

What Should We Expect?

I hope it is now more clear that Jesus was telling the disciples what they should expect in their lifetime. The Christians to whom Mark was writing were in the midst of what Jesus had spoken about many years before. Mark, as it were, was being a faithful shepherd feeding them truth that they now needed to apply.

As they proclaimed the gospel (v. 10), they could expect opposition, but they could also expect progress (see Colossians 1:6; 23; Acts 1:8). They could expect that the time was drawing near when the end would finally come. In fact, when the original readers received this book, they were near the beginning of the end—a glorious end, which would usher in the new covenant; a new heaven and new earth called the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), which is referred to as the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15; Acts 20:28).

Those days are behind us. Better days are before us as we continue to disciple the nations. I don’t know what God is up to with this virus, but we can be sure that it has something to do with his elect. He is humbling us. He is sifting us. He is reviving us. He is strengthening us. He is reminding us that he is our God, our refuge and our redeemer.

It is our privileged responsibility to make that known to the nations.

We are to tell the nations that God has sent his Son to seek and to save the lost. In that mission, God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was rejected by his own. They crucified him. But he rose from the dead, just as he said he would.

But he also came again later, in that same generation, to judge the nation, destroying what had become a false and abominable—because Christless—religion. As horrific as that judgement was, it was a means towards the ultimate end of the chief Shepherd bringing in all of his chosen sheep.

Are you one of them? How can you know? Quite simply, do you hear his voice, and will you follow him (John 10:27)? If you are not a Christian, you should learn from this passage to take the words of Jesus Christ seriously (John 3:3, 36; 14:6; Matthew 11:28–30). In other words, you should obey him as he tells you to repent and believe on him.

If you will respond to his voice, repent and come after him, he will save you, and he will keep you. For Jesus said of those who follow him, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” And why is that? Because “I and the Father are one” (John 10:28–30). That, my friend, is the ultimate end of the matter.

AMEN