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Mark 13: An Introduction

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 5, 2020 3:00 am

Mark 13: An Introduction

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 5, 2020 3:00 am

In Mark 13, Jesus gives an alarming and confusing description of the end of the world as we know it. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg takes a closer look at the context of Jesus’ warning and its implications for our lives.


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The in our verse by verse study through Mark's gospel come to chapter 13 where Jesus offers a vivid description of mysterious things to come for some Bible teachers. The imagery in this passage has caused unintentional confusion. So rather than venture into Mark 13 without context today on Truth for Life. Alister Beck gives us a helpful introduction, while the final letter that we have of Paul that is reckoned to be his final letter that we have in any case is second Timothy and it is in second Timothy that he is announcing the fact of his departure, and so he is entrusting some of his responsibility to this young pastor and teacher and I see Gibson guidelines for ministry. He gives them certain words of warning set words that are cautionary words and then words that are more directive aim for God's approval by being the kind of person who when he works with the Scriptures, has no need to be ashamed because Timothy I want you to be rightly dividing the word of truth, cutting a straight line through the text not being deviates or not being someone who is delighted by notions of intrigue and so on. But studying to make sure that you have no reason for shame. And finally you stand before God in the way in which you handled the text of Scripture. Note that is timeless instruction. It is instruction not only for Timothy as a young pastor in the first century, but it is instruction for every pastor teacher in every century.

It is always relevant in every part of the Bible is particularly relevant I would suggest to you when you come to a chapter such as the one that is now before us.

Mark chapter 13, because these verses are difficult and because their interpretation throughout all of time has been the occasion of all kinds of debate, and if you have been around Christian circles for any time and you know that to be the case. Leon Morris says that the reason for this kind of controversial debate is because quotes there are some puzzling exegetical problems that is masterful understatement. I would suggest that there are not just some puzzling exegetical problems, but it is an exegetical minefield. In other words it once you just open the door into 13 years like you and up to your knees in a in a quagmire and you find yourself trying to extricate yourself as quickly and as carefully as you possibly can. And the reason for the exegetical problems is on account of the find that we find ourselves trying to discern what Jesus how much of what Jesus says has to do specifically with the issue of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and how much of what Jesus has to say has to do with the end of the age with the end of time with the prospect of his return.

And as you read through 13 and I trust that you will continue to read it and and study it on your own, you realize that there is a sense in which these two perspectives are telescoped or they are conflated and that's what makes it hard to reckon with.

And that's the challenge that is before us.

What we going to do this morning is think for a moment or two about alignment about how do you line up to the text of Scripture. How do you stand up to the text of Scripture so that you do not simply read into the text of Scripture your own preconceptions so that you do not simply look into this and find reflected your convictions that are dear to you over a long period of time. In other words, so that we actually study the Bible and we sit underneath the instruction of the Bible rather than the we bring our understanding that an precedent upon the text but at his very core.

There are certain simplicities that allow us to proceed with clarity and perhaps the most basic of all is one that I think we have come to share together over time and that is that we routinely say to one another as we turn to the Scriptures, especially if there is perplexity, difficulty in the text we remind ourselves of this core notion, which is, you should all be over say this immediately to me the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things okay the next to the river to read as elders together is is the latest book by Christopher Ash and it is about hearing the spirit of God through the word of God and in this book he identifies what he refers to as to equal and opposite dangers in terms of interpreting the Bible.

He gathers his thoughts under two words. One word is anarchy and the other word is tyranny. Anarchy tyranny and so he says when you go to the local Bible study, you will often encounter what he refers to as interpretive chaos. All right, the blind leading the blind note. Ash then goes on to say when that is present in the congregation the way that most people respond to it in the poop. It is whether to what he refers to as interpretive dogmatism so that anarchy is then replaced by tyranny and a congregation can move very quickly from anarchy to tyranny. Anarchy is too unsettling.

I don't really know what anything means. While just go on Sunday and the guru can tell, is all what it means.

So then all of a sudden we cease to think all we do is wait until we are told what this passage means I don't misunderstand this, of course, God is given as pastors and teachers were supposed to do the hard work and so on.

But remember what I just said there's 15 different interpretations of Mark chapter 13. Do you think I'm going to be so pompous as to tell you that I am the guy that is understood Mark chapter 13. No one ever has before. And nobody ever will again. I think you know me well enough to say one I wouldn't say that into if I said it showed up baloney anyway you slice it, it's baloney. No question about so you have chaos, replace with dogmatism.

Dogmatism reads like this. There is only one correct meaning of Mark chapter 13 and I haven't. That's very unsettling so you will find that your gravitating to either the interpretive chaos camp or the interpretive dogmatism. Both camps are dangerous and should be avoided, particularly interpretive tyranny from the pulpit. Be careful when you hear people from the pulpit or on the radio on the TV and the their tyranny arrives at the at the party dressed up and end addressed up in the courts authority of the text. I believe in the authority of the text course we do. But actually what is often being said is I believe in the authority of my view of the text. There's a big difference because you see God's word is infallible, but no individual is an infallible interpreter of God's word together God's word is infallible. It's true in every dimension, but no individual is an infallible interpreter of God's word. Now we see through a glass darkly. One day we will see face-to-face. It is inevitable and it is that conviction which needs to be part of our thinking when we come to a text like Mark 13 the end of all things. Verse 24 soon as you get to her like a verse 24.

The people come out come out of the come out of the bunkers. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling for all the people I love this stuff. Let me get started on this as it is quite fantastic really and and and apparently not nobody pays it. Nobody pays any attention at that point when there when they're having one of those flights of fancy to verse 32 concerning that day or that hour no one knows, no one knows how hard is that to understand. No one knows.

Don't waste my time. Please with your big fat book. No one knows the Angels don't know Jesus didn't know if you didn't know why in the world doing you know cut out the nonsense okay and yet for the life of my lifetime I've been on the receiving end. I get to be buried under a vast mound of material that is seeking to disprove what Jesus says absolutely.

Clearly there in verse 32 at the time of Christ's first advent. There were all kinds of views concerning how it would take place because you have all the prophetic words all the shadowy lines from the Old Testament are running forward. They have asked for the king but no king has really fulfilled what they look for in a king, and so they look for this one who will sit on David's throne forever and ever going to be like when the kingdom comes the time these profits and they've spoken well of God, but it seems that there is more to be said is that it will look for the profit is the car. The police have offered sacrifice yet still legal bag day after day after day, when will there be this ultimate sacrifice was it so you have those threads in other threads like them said in shadowy motion running all the way through and there were a variety of views about how it would actually work itself out. Surely those people who were anticipating the arrival of the cane would never have gone to look for him in a manger scene in Bethlehem. And so what happened was it to the event of the incarnation to clarify all the bits and pieces of the jigsaw if you like all of the shadowy lines that are forming up suddenly makes sense only in the reality of the event. Only in the historic event. Now people are able to look back and say well that's when the prophet meant to me asking a question.

Why do you think it would be any different in terms of the second coming of Jesus Christ. It's going to take the reality of the event to allow us to understand all of the shadowy jigsaw bits and pieces that are represented, even in Mark 13 alone one day when Christ returns. There surely will be somebody there who is just finishing a cup of coffee explaining their view of the end of time, dogmatically saying and it cannot possibly happen until seven weeks from Tuesday and then this is a what was that all that was Jesus. He just came back. Now he can come back each because look, I just was exactly locate he's here right yet.

That's why the creeds are so good. We resend the apostles Creed this morning. It's it's the basics doesn't it doesn't delve into the minute show things he says you know Christ was born, Christ died, Christ was raised, Christ ascended Christ will return. In other words, it focuses on the things that are undeniably clear what is this you see that helps us helps us not only come to terms with. You know the gospel of Mark and the challenges here, but it also helps us to articulate a Christian view of the world because you seek one Mark chapter 13 is saying, in part, is this the God who initiated timing because before there was time before there was anything that was God.

So the God who initiated time and was broken into time in the person of Jesus is the one who controls the end of time in the transformation of all that is now into all that will be.

That's what it said. Why does that matter.

What matters because it says to men and women.

The Christian conviction is not simply some view of Jesus living in my heart.

But the Christian conviction is transformative in relationship to the way we view the totality of human existence. It struck me this week when I was finishing up a book that I bought for my life so that I can read it myself and if any of you read Alexander McCall Smith. He was a professor of medical Lord Henry University writes all these books and his most recent book is sunshine on Scotland Street and in sunshine on Scotland St., Angus one the key characters is getting married and as he stands before the one conducting the ceremony, he is struck by the solemnity of the language that is used using ancient language in relationship to the marriage ceremony, and he is struck by phrases like in the age of our innocence in the age of our innocence, which is a reference in the wedding ceremony to Adam and Eve in the garden in the age of our innocence and struck by the fact that this is taking place before God as well as before this congregation, and as he stands there. He reflects on this and he is and he says to himself. There was a time when we really did think that humanity had a future and that our tiny human lives are tiny human concerns meant something and that we were not just the brief tenants of an insignificant planet in a great and incomprehensible emptiness to say, we can look back to a time before the umbilical cord was cut between reality tying history and meaning but that time is all gone now. Now we know ourselves simply to be putting in our time on an insignificant planet dealing with a great and incomprehensible emptiness to realizing her friends and neighbors. They may not articulated in that way, but unless they have come up with a view of the world that addresses that issue. That's exactly what they're dealing with.

When you see them on 77 N. tomorrow heading for downtown and you see them again heading south out of downtown and you meet them in the hallway and you see them going through the routine deals you've got to realize this unless they have come to an understanding of how they were made, who made them why they were made. This God is the God who saves them, then that's exactly what they're dealing with just an insignificant planet living with a vast and incomprehensible emptiness in Mark chapter 13 says no.

The significance of the temple falling down has has significance not simply in A.D. 70, it has an ongoing significance. The question of the rise and fall of empires has significance not because it is a random collocation of atoms. The unfolding drama without meaning, but because God is sovereign over history.

Do you know God is issue view seen a great danger is that you get into a chapter like Mark chapter 13 and it's instantly becomes innocent of full-scale eschatological argument. Nothing. Nothing to be less helpful to say these things. Number one.

The whole purpose of God in giving us his word is that we might have an intelligible message.

Not that we would deal with and incomprehensible mystery. We cannot unpack that. But we won't.

In other words, he is given as his word for the sake of clarity, not to introduce us to confusion. Secondly, the purpose of his word is practical and not theoretical tellers. When will these things be.

What will be the sign when all these things are about to accomplish. And Jesus began to say say to them, see the know and lead you astray is an interesting answer it and immediately say all good. I'm glad you asked that question, let me get under the business of an seasonal lead you astray, and all the way through.

Be on your guard. Don't believe it. Stay away. Thirdly, we also need to understand what is obscure in light of what is clear and what is partial in view of what is complete is very easy for us to see in the Bible.

What we want to see some of us read the Bible as if were looking into a mirror simply reinforces our preconceptions we only look into the Bible read Mark 13, and we say there's no way that I'm going to really pay much attention to this because I know what Mark 13 means. Some was actually read the Bible as if were looking at a piece of a piece of art and in the Cleveland art gallery. I am not good in art galleries are not good museums or tall. I go through them in about seven minutes, so I am a Philistine. I recognize that entirely. I confess to it, but I can't for the life of me I think I see most of the stuff I stood beside these people who stand in front of those paintings and I marvel at what they come up with scale complexity: structure like excuse me I've ever seen this picture coming to see what is painting for ghetto blaster for the moment he sees his see my painter this is something read their Bibles, and I seems way they're going to go through Mark 13 the digger part pars every sentence and ended it in the don't even know why Mark 13's in the Bible because they read the Bible as if the reviewing art in an art gallery, the winnowing the Bible as if the Bible is a window to is that opens up the good of the subject matter of the Bible, which is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, so that when you read Mark chapter 13 you say this part of the Bible is related to every other part of the Bible which is about the fight that God has spoken in a way brings clarity and no confusion. Therefore, when we approach the Bible we must do so first of all, cautiously, cautiously, when I feel my drivers test are not here in America is much too easy here, but when I failed it as a 17-year-old boy in England I I know why I feel that because it was written down on a sheet that was given to me afterwards and and this is what is said on the sheet proceeding from a junction without due care and attention. Okay, so that's what I done.

I have proceeded from a junction without due care and attention and he said you failed your test. We can have you doing that because you be a danger to yourself and the danger to everybody else. Okay another point you proceed cautiously, cautiously, from chapter 12 into chapter 13. Do not proceed from the junction without due care and attention course troubled yourself and everybody was around. Secondly, do so diligently diligently. If all you want to do in terms of Bible is this open up a page and stick your finger in and find a blessing thought. Then tough, but if you want actually get the terms of the Bible you need to be diligent that's why the Marines were such an example, and I'm 17 and were more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica looks as because they examine the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so. In other words, Paul the apostle Paul is preaching from the Old Testament so we better go back and check that it seems to me to be a good word.

And finally, we need to proceed humbly.

I just came across a new little book written by some that I never heard of before.

I was reading it this week is called a little book for new theologians and in this book, Capek says we cannot fathom how all things work together. Every time we believe our accounts are exhaustive. We inevitably discover just how much we do not know or all that we have misunderstood. So with all that said, having lined up to chapter 13.

We will go forward your listing to Truth for Life with Alister bag. We hope that today's summary of Mark chapter 13 offers a helpful foundation for ongoing studies in this chapter at Truth for Life.

It's our tradition to say thank you for your financial partnership. By providing resources and materials designed to enrich your life. Today we want to make available to you a wonderful book written by the late theologian John Stott.

It's a short book that ties in naturally with our study of Mark's gospel because this book focuses on the way Jesus inspired his disciples to follow him. The book is called the disciple and in it John Stott helps us find to how we hear from God, reminding us that God is still speaking and actively communicating through his word to those who follow him. And, among other things, he helps us understand what the Bible says about finding God's will in our life and ministry. Ask for your copy of the disciple. When you give a donation to support the ministry of Truth for Life. You can do that on our mobile app or by calling this number 888-588-7884 can also give and request the book online at in Mark 13, we read about a puzzling conversation between Jesus and one of his disciples regarding the Temple in Jerusalem tomorrow. Alister helps us understand the context of this question and how it helps us to prepare for a coming kingdom sure to join us Friday Bob Lapine. This daily program features the Bible teaching of Alister bag and it's furnished by truth for the wording is prolific

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