Tag Archives: apocalypse

The END Came and Went

Yesterday I wrote on the END OF THE WORLD as expressed in Mark 13. In the chapter Jesus taught his disciples regarding the signs of a new world being birthed. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:30).

Like most apocalyptic literature, Mark 13 is written in highly descriptive language that evokes strong emotions, but is often difficult to interpret precisely. The chapter is more like a beautiful mosaic of pictures than a precise timeline of events. Parts of the chapter seem to refer to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Roman legions in 70 AD (v 2, 4-11, 14-23). Other sections may refer to the persecutions the church faced in its early years. Readers can be challenged to see how it applies to our current life.

Praying at Gethsemane by Artist He Qi

Yet the reader is given a key verse in v. 35. “Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

The four hours of the watch (evening, midnight, cockcrow and dawn) are significant because they become the outline of Mark’s next two chapters: the story of Jesus’ betrayal, prayer,  arrest and trial.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:17).

Jesus said to Peter, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30).

At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept (Mark 14:72).

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate (Mark 15:1).

The disciples were unable to stay awake in the garden when Jesus prayed (Mark 14:41). They all scattered. Still Jesus remained faithful.  His words from Mark 13 came true. Jesus’ passion became the birth pangs of a new creation. The world as we knew it ended with Jesus’ crucifixion and a new world dawned with his resurrection.

Paul captures this new age in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” The end of the world is not simple some future event for which we wait. The “end” started with Jesus’ death and the “new” has begun with his resurrection. We live in a new age with Jesus!

Lord Jesus, let my life end and begin again with you.

End of the World?

The end of the world evokes strong emotions. Current books and movies play on the theme that the culture/world/civilization that we know is ending and a new one is replacing it, usually more horrific than our current culture/world/civilization. The roots of the transformation are in our current society and will bear fruit in the coming years. The fear of global nuclear war spurred such writings from 1950s through the 1990s. The book and movie Hunger Games is a contemporary expression of such apocalypses and their aftermath.

Mark 13 is also an expression of apocalyptic literature. Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Jesus would be arrested and executed by the Roman officials in a few days. Jesus warned the disciples of coming tribulation and devastation. The magnificent temple that was central to Jewish worship would be destroyed in less than forty years by the Roman Empire. The early Christians would face frequent persecution for their faith. These trials might cause the new church to despair, yet Jesus said, “This is but the beginning of the birth pangs” (Mark 13:8).

Birth pangs, though painful in the moment, result in the beginning of a new life. Jesus was teaching his disciples to persevere, to stay hopeful, in spite of the troubles they face. He then goes on to say that to speculate on the exact day or time of this new birth is wasteful use of time. “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son of Man, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). Instead he says to be engaged in our daily tasks with a watchful heart, that God is near. “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on watch” (Mark 13:34). God has given us each tasks to do in this world, to love our neighbor in word and deed. We do not abandon those tasks to run and hide on some mountain because we fear the “world” is ending. Rather we continue to serve God and God’s world, knowing that someday the master will return and put things right for all people.

Tomorrow I will explore how the “world” has already ended for Christians (Mark 13:35-36).

Lord Jesus, help me not to slip into despair, but to be faithful in my service.