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The Sign

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
January 29, 2023 6:00 pm

The Sign

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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January 29, 2023 6:00 pm

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You have your Bibles with you today. Turn with me, if you would, to Mark chapter 13, and we're going to look this morning at verses 14 through 18. When you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be, let the reader understand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who's on the house top not go down, nor enter his house to take anything out.

Let the one who's in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas, for women who are pregnant, for those who are nursing infants in those days, pray that it may not happen in winter. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we pray for fast recoveries for Eugene Oldham and Chris Williams. Thank you that Chris is here today.

Praise you for the success of those surgeries. Pray for Jeremy Carriker and Jim Belk and Kitty Clay. Help them continue to heal. Pray for Nicole Loce suffering with vertigo.

Tom and Pat Huntley are suffering with COVID. Just pray for their healing. Heavenly Father, almost 2,000 years ago, your disciples were admiring the temple in Jerusalem, and you shocked them by telling them that every stone would be knocked down from that temple. You called that action the abomination of desolation. You were warning them of a horrible judgment that was coming on Israel.

That judgment came exactly as you prophesied, and that judgment was the result of Israel's rejection of you as their Messiah. Later on in this glorious sermon, you gave us a promise of your glorious second coming. Lord, we long for that day, but help us to long correctly. May we prepare for your coming by obediently serving you. Help us to worship in spirit and in truth. Help us to evangelize as if we knew you were returning tomorrow. Help us to walk holy before our family, our loved ones, and our friends. May this message sober us with the reality of judgment and wow us with the power of your grace. We love you, Lord. We thank you for loving us, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. We continue our study today of the Olivet Discourse. Jesus and the disciples had been in the temple in Jerusalem. They had left the temple. They had gone out the gate of Jerusalem, and they had headed to the Mount of Olives.

They climbed up to the top of the Mount of Olives and sat up under a tree. They looked out, and there was a perfect view of the temple. They looked at that temple. The gold on the top of the temple on the roof was shining.

There were stones that were like white beach sand. And when the sun came, the reflection would almost blind you. It was a powerful reflection. And then all of a sudden the disciples began to wax eloquent about the temple itself. And they began to share about the temple, saying, oh just look at it. This is the place that we worship God. This is the place where we kill the animals for sacrifice.

This is the place that's so glorious, that's so beautiful. Jesus was not impressed with their praise. And Jesus said to them, listen, that temple is coming down. Not one stone will be left upon another. Some of those stones were as large as railroad boxcars. Some of those stones weighed over a hundred tons. They were huge stones. And Jesus said to them, they're coming down.

Not one stone will be left upon another. Now I'm really glad that we have three accounts of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew chapter 24, Mark 13, Luke chapter 21. And we need all of them because Matthew's gospel tells us some things that we don't see in Mark and Luke. And Luke's gospel tells us some things that we don't see in Matthew and Mark.

And so we need all three in order that we might have the total picture. We are told that after Jesus said this about the temple, that John and Peter and James and Andrew came to Jesus. And they had a question for Jesus, and we see that in verse 4. It says this, tell us when will these things be and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?

And Jesus goes to great lengths in telling them what the sign is not. He said there'll be wars and rumors of wars. There'll be kingdoms against kingdoms, nations against nations. There will be famines and earthquakes and pestilence. There will be false prophets that will arise. There will be catastrophes and cosmic signs in the sky. He said when you see these things, the time is not yet.

In other words, these things are not the signs to look for. These things are going to happen in every generation. And yet how many preachers do you hear today? How many so-called prophecy experts do you hear today that do exactly what Jesus is telling us not to do?

You've heard it. Russia sends missiles to Iran, and all of a sudden everybody's saying that means Jesus is coming back this week. The president of North Korea threatens to nuke America, and all of a sudden Jesus is supposed to be here in just a few days. Iran tells Israel if they are going to drive them into the Mediterranean Sea and destroy them completely, everybody thinks Jesus is coming back the next day. And then a tsunami plows its way into Japan, and that means Jesus is coming back today.

Folks, that kind of stuff sells books, and it lines the pockets of preachers who run fast and loose with the Word of God. But it's the exact opposite of what Jesus is telling us to believe. Jesus tells the disciples that there will be a sign to look for, and that sign will signal when Jerusalem is going to fall and when that temple will be destroyed. As we look at the passage today, please understand that in this particular passage Jesus is not referring to the second coming of Christ. He is answering the question of the disciples, and that question was when is the temple going to be destroyed? Now the passage that we're looking at in Mark's gospel here says it a little differently in Luke's gospel.

I want to read that to you. Luke 21 20. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. In Mark 13 14a it says this, but when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be, let the reader understand. Now Jesus actually said both of those things, but Luke's recording some of it, Matthew's recording some of it, Mark's recording some of it. Why does Luke tell us what Matthew and Mark don't? Luke tells us some things because he is writing to Gentiles who are not familiar with the prophet Daniel. They would not understand what an abomination of desolation is.

So Luke has to be much more explanatory. When you see Jerusalem, Jesus says, surrounded by enemy armies, then you know the abomination of desolation has come, and you know you need to be watching carefully. Matthew is writing to Jews, and they are very familiar with the prophet Daniel.

And they know about an abomination that has already taken place in their history. In 175 BC there was a Syrian Seleucid king, Greek king, who was ruling over Israel at that particular time. And this man was a man named Antiochus Epiphanes. The word Epiphanes means the manifest of God.

That's what he wanted everybody to think of him. Antiochus, the manifest of God. But the people who were under his rule called him something else.

They called him Antiochus Epiphanes, which means Antiochus the madman. Now this wicked king did an unspeakable thing, so vile and so ugly that it is referred to as the abomination of desolation. He walked over to the temple with a pig in his arms. A pig was considered just totally filthy and unclean. The Jews didn't want to touch a pig. They certainly didn't want to eat a pig. But Antiochus knew that.

He knew how they hated the unfilthy animals. So for several years on the Day of Atonement, he had been watching what the high priest would do. And he saw the high priest, that they would walk into the temple with a basin of goat's blood in their hand.

And that this was the most important day on the calendar of the Jewish people. So Antiochus wanted to make a mockery of the Jews and a mockery of their God. So he carried a pig into the temple. He walked over to the veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies and he ripped the veil with a sword, six inch thick veil, and then he took that pig into the holy of holies. He slit the pig's throat and then splattered the pig's blood all over the holy of holies. Then he forced the priest to worship him as if he were a god. And the priest who would not do it, he killed them by taking pig fat and stuffing it down their throat. Then he set up an image of Zeus in the temple of the Lord and was trying to force people to worship Zeus. The Jews rebelled against him and he killed 40,000 of them. That act of deliberate defilement was prophesied by Daniel around 480 BC and was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes on December the 25th, 168 BC.

And I think it's very interesting for us to see that. We need to understand exactly what happened there. But three years later, he reigned for exactly three more years. On that same date, December 25th, 165 BC, there was a Jewish zealot whose name was Judas Maccabeus. And Judas Maccabeus went to the temple and waited for Antiochus to come in. And Antiochus was going to come in. He was going to worship this false god Zeus. When Judas Maccabeus saw him going in, he reached over, took a small sledgehammer, stuck it up under his toga, and waited. And as soon as he got down on his knees to pray, to worship this false god, Judas Maccabeus took the sledgehammer from under his toga, and he bludgeoned Antiochus to death, killed him.

Let me ask you something. How important an event was that? You ever heard of Hanukkah? Hanukkah. Well, we celebrate Christmas in December. The Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah. And Hanukkah was an eight-day celebration of the destruction of Antiochus' epiphanies by Judas Maccabeus.

For the last 2,200 years, that particular celebration has been very, very important to the Jewish people. So Jesus said the sign to look for would not be wars and rumors of wars. It would not be false prophets or famines or pestilences.

It would not be cosmic signs in the sky. But he said what to look for would be the abomination of desolation. There were two sieges of Jerusalem. The first took place in 66 A.D., and it took place by a Roman general whose name was Cestius Gallus. Then that was the one that Jesus was telling the Christians to watch for.

So when that comes, he said, you be ready. The second siege took place in 70 A.D., and the general that led that particular siege was Titus of Rome. Titus marched his army around the city with the purpose of starving the people out. After six months, almost all the Jewish people had starved. Some of them had gotten into cannibalism and were eating human flesh to stay alive. But many of the Jewish people at that point in time decided just to commit suicide rather than just die or be under submission to the Romans.

There were numerous suicides. That reminds me a great deal, something that took place a few years later, and it took place at Masada. Masada was a mountain, a huge mountain that went straight up.

If you look at it from a distance, it looked like a big tree trunk. And so 980 Jewish men, women, boys, and girls climbed up to the top of Mount Masada, and they brought food, they brought seeds to plant, they brought water, and they got ready. They were not going to leave. They were going to live there. And the Romans said, we can't live with this.

We're going to go get them. And so they would try to go up, but the Jews would roll down stones on them and kill the Roman army. So finally, General Silva came up with an idea. He said, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to get the Jewish labor to build a sand ramp all the way up to the top of the mountain.

They won't roll stones down and kill their own people. And they were right. It took two years, two complete years to build that sand ramp. And then the Roman army, when it was finished, climbed all the way up to the top. They stepped over onto the top of Mount Masada.

They looked, and what they saw was a shock. 980 Jews had committed suicide. They died, committed suicide, rather than be under submission to Rome. Today in Israel, when a soldier is being inducted into the Israeli military, the last step is this. They go up to Mount Masada.

They go up to Mount Masada, and the story of what happened at Masada is retold to them, and then they all shout out, in unison, there will never be another Masada. Many of the Jews in Jerusalem, just like Masada, took their lives in 70 AD rather than be in submission to the Romans. By the time the Romans finished their slaughter and completely destroyed the temple, 1.1 million Jews had been killed.

Now I want you to pay close attention. I'm going to share with you Philip Ryken's synopsis of the destruction of Jerusalem. If we ask why all this happened, the answer is that it was God's judgment against Jerusalem's sin. Jesus indicated this by the words that he used to describe the city's destruction. These are the days of vengeance, he said, to fulfill all that is written. There will be wrath against the people.

This is the vocabulary of divine judgment. Vengeance is the unique prerogative of Almighty God, who alone has the right to judge people for their sins. Wrath is his holy hatred of sin. With his subtle determination to punish it, the fall of Jerusalem was an act of God's justice that fulfilled the ancient law of Moses. If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God, or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes, then cursed shall you be in the city. What had Jerusalem done to deserve such a disaster?

Jesus preached against many of the city's prevailing sins in the gospel, but the city's most grievous sin was to reject the Christ by killing him on the cross. In Jeremiah chapter 51 verse 20, God spoke something about Babylon. Babylon had come into Jerusalem, destroyed the city.

They had leveled the temple, the first temple that was built there, and God said about Babylon, Babylon, you are my battle axe. You are my hammer. You are my weapon of war. You will divide kingdoms. You will destroy nations.

I will use you as my battle axe. People, I want you to know in 70 AD, God could have said the same thing about Rome. It was not just Rome that brought judgment against Israel.

It was God who brought judgment and used Rome as his battle axe. God was saying to Israel, don't kill another lamb. Jesus is our lamb. Don't ever again use the activities of the priest because Jesus is our high priest. Don't ever again rebuild the temple because the temple is now the people of God, the people of Jesus, the people of Jesus, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That is the temple of God. Jesus is saying here, don't hold on to the types and the pictures and the symbols because you have the reality and the reality is Jesus Christ.

When Israel was judged, when the destruction of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem came, this was the statement that was being made and that is this, Jesus Christ is Lord. People scoffed at that, about the possibility that the temple could come down. Let me tell you in 70 AD, they quit scoffing. You ever heard anybody scoff about the second coming of Christ? They laugh about the possibility of Jesus coming back. I tell you what, they're scoffing now that the time is coming when Christ is going to return and it's going to be real.

Peter professed that in 2 Peter chapter 2 and he said this, people are saying, where's the promise of his coming? People have been talking about that since creation and they have continued just like they were from creation. Peter used the worldwide flood in Noah's day to destroy that theory.

He said, no, things have not always been the same and continued on like they were. There was a worldwide flood and God destroyed the world and things were not the same. Then he went on to say that everything's not going to stay the same on this earth either. Listen to what he said, 2 Peter 3 verses 5 through 7, for they deliberately overlooked this fact that the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God and that by means of these, the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. Listen to this, but the same word, by the same word, the heavens and the earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.

I have a lot of politicians today worried about global warming. They better get worried about what God's going to do when Jesus comes back, for this world is going to be engulfed in flames. It's going to be completely changed and he is going to recreate this earth to a perfect earth without sin and that day is coming.

That day is coming. Don't take the destruction of Jerusalem lightly. Folks, it is a warning to us that we need to be ready for the second coming of Christ. All right, next thing I want us to see is a way of escape for the Christians, Mark 14b through 18. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Let the one who's on the housetop not go down, nor enter into 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, for those who are nursing infants in those days, pray that it may not happen in winter. Then over in Matthew 24, 18 through 20, the companion passage, let the one who's 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 your flight may not be in winter. Three years before Titus's attack on Jerusalem in 70 AD, there was another siege of Jerusalem. It was done by a guy named Cystius Gallus and he got the Roman army, encircled the entire city, and besieged that city. That's what Jesus had told the Christians to wait for. Now when the unbelieving Jews saw that happen, they got scared. And they ran into the inside of the city for protection.

But the Christians knew better, that this was their time to get out. And they were told if you're on the rooftop, stay there. And people that were out working in the fields, they didn't go back home. They immediately went to the rooftop. People were coming into the city this way. What they did was they used the rooftops as a highway. The roofs were flat. They were close together. And they used that as a road.

And they got up on top and they ran to the gate of the city to get out. Jesus said, I pray that you might not be pregnant if you're a lady at that time, or that you might not have a small infant because it's going to be tough. He said, pray that it might not be winter. Why not?

Well, it might be snow and ice on the top of the roof. He said, pray that it would not be on the Sabbath day. And what did that matter? Well, they closed the gates on the Sabbath day and they locked them. They prayed. And that didn't happen in that time.

And it was a very glorious thing. They got to the gate and something very strange happened. Nobody knows why, but Cestius Gallus told his people, his troops, to retreat.

And they pulled back for a short period of time. And when they did, the Christians ran out of that gate. They left. They headed east. They went all the way down to the Jordan River. They crossed over the Jordan River and they went to a place called Pella, or what's called today modern day Petra. Every Christian in Jerusalem escaped. And then immediately after they got gone, Cestius Gallus told his people, his army, to come back together. And the siege was tight.

Every single Christian was released. Now Petra is a natural phenomenon. I've had the privilege of going there back in the late 1970s. And it is an amazing place. It's a red rock city. And there's only one entrance into that city.

It's called the Sikh. And it's so small that you can't drive a car down into it. We rode donkeys right down through that. You look, there's a mountain on this side, a mountain on this side. You look up, look like the sky was about that much sky. But you go down through that Sikh and you get to a place and it just opens up.

There's a mountain in the center of it and then there's a circle all the way around it and there's mountains on the outside of that circle. The only entrance or exit to that Sikh, I mean to that city, is the Sikh, is that small little entrance. Now it's very interesting. If you go back to the book of Job, you read about a group of people called the Sabians. The Sabians were people that were thieves and robbers, highway robbers, very, very wicked people. But they used this place, Petra, they used it as a place to go and hide out. They knew they could go in there and they could, they could block up the Sikh and nobody could get in there.

And they were safe. They use it as their hideaway. Now once you get in and you look at everything, you can see caves that are built all around the walls of the Sikh.

It is absolutely amazing. The Christians went down into that place, closed up the Sikh. They stayed there for three and a half years. Every single Christian got out. The unbelieving Jews were back in Israel.

And how many died? 1.1 million Jews. Sam Storms has written a wonderful book that I would suggest that you read called Kingdom Come. He did a beautiful job in explaining the Olivet Discourse. And he used Josephus, great Jewish historian, as one of his sources. Josephus lived during the time of Jesus and several decades after that.

But I want you to listen to what Sam said. People not only sold their homes but their children as well to obtain food. People regularly ate from the public sewers, cattle and pigeon dung, leather shields, hay, clothing, and things that scavenger dogs would not dare touch. Unbelievable forms of torture were inflicted on those suspected of hiding food.

In desperation, some left the city at night to hunt for food but were captured by the Romans. Thousands were crucified in plain sight of the city walls, often at a rate of 500 per day. So many were killed in this manner that room was warning for the crosses and crosses warning for the bodies. Josephus tells of one woman who killed her son, roasted his body, ate half of him, hid the remaining half.

When the smell drew others desperate for food, she offered to share his body, inciting horror among the multitudes. The wall of the city was finally breached. The temple was set aflame. Josephus reports the activity of numerous false prophets who misled the people and contributed to their demise, again in fulfillment of the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, 23 through 26. When the Romans finally penetrated the heart of the city, the slaughter continued until the soldiers grew weary of killing. Almost a hundred thousand Jewish survivors were sold into slavery.

Others were consigned to die in the gladiatorial exhibitions or selected to be paraded in Titus's triumphal procession through the streets of Rome. According to Josephus, more than 1.1 million people died during the siege of the city. He also describes how Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple and it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dig it to the foundation, there was nothing left to make those that came after believe it had ever been inhabited.

Wow. I want to close with a comment that Luke made. Luke said in Luke 21, 24, they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the time the Gentiles are fulfilled. Jesus in this verse is prophesying what's called the diaspora. The diaspora is the dispersion of the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth.

We still see that today, don't we? There's a Jew in almost every country of the world. Did you realize that only one out of every five Jews lives in Israel today?

The rest of them live around the world. Three out of every five Jews actually live in America today. Even today, the vast majority of Jews still reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

There are some messianic Jews, I praise God for that, but the vast majority of these Jews are secular and totally reject Christ as their Messiah. Folks, Israel needs to understand that their biggest enemy is not Syria, is not Lebanon, is not Saudi Arabia, is not Iran, it is not Iraq. Their greatest enemy is God and until they get under the shed precious blood of Jesus Christ, then they're in trouble.

They're in terrible trouble. Israel needs reconciliation with a holy God and the only way that reconciliation can come is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, this passage should startle and frighten the unbeliever. It should sober and challenge the true child of God. Lord, may we be awed at the exactness of your prophecies. May we be reminded that you are God and you are truth and all that you prophesy will happen exactly as you say. May that truth encourage, convict, and challenge us. For it's in the precious name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-29 12:18:11 / 2023-01-29 12:28:58 / 11

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