Today’s Reading: Mark 13
It seems that in Jesus’ ministry, when something significant was going to happen, He took with Him the same three guys: Peter, James, and John. It is as if their names roll off your tongue. Those names just sound right together.
Those three men saw and heard things the other nine close disciples missed out on. When Jesus went to the Mount of Transfiguration, for instance, He took with Him Peter, James, and John. When He went into a room to raise a little girl from the dead, He went in with Peter, James, and John. In the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus hit His agony moment and moved from the twelve, He asked those three to move with Him.
And then something crazy happened . . . someone broke through the clique: “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately” (Mark 13:3, emphasis added).
Somehow Andrew broke through and got entrance into the private club. It may be late but he made it. And the four of them—Peter, James, John, and . . . Andrew—all asked Jesus privately about the end times. The four received an eschatology lesson. Move aside Jack Van Impe and Tim LaHaye! And in giving them this lesson, He taught us as well.
Marty Duren gave five good pitfalls to avoid when talking about the coming of Jesus:
1. Making every news item a sign of the end times.
2. Playing “Name the Antichrist:” in the 1970s and ’80s, this was huge. People claimed Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, the pope, even some secret guy in the Middle East were being raised up as the Antichrist.
3. Neglecting the original audience. This is important; some of the things Jesus said was for the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and not for “you” and the twenty-first century.
4. Setting dates for the coming of Jesus. As C. S. Lewis said, “Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments.”
5. Overemphasizing an American role: people have gone so far as to say that “eagle’s wings” in the Bible is the American mascot. Please. God sees every nation as a drop in the bucket (see Isaiah 40:15-17).
So how do we deal with Bible prophecy like this Olivet discourse that Jesus gave in a private discussion not to three men but to four? We need to hear about the end times and the rapture and the judgment to come, but we must do it the right way. It was so important, Mark dedicated this whole chapter to their private conversation. The book of Daniel, the book of Revelation, and the Olivet discourses from Mark 13 are important but should be approached carefully.
If you want to understand the second coming and interpret things correctly, then be a student of the first coming. We see how God thinks when He sent His Son the first time. Read the Old Testament prophecies and images and see how this worked in the first coming. God is consistent. There are more than three hundred prophesies of times and places and events when Jesus came the first time. Learn the way God predicts the future. If you are not a student of the first coming, you will embellish Bible verses for the second coming.
And finally, I like what Charles H. Spurgeon said, which we can apply to contemplating end times. It is really what the four disciples did in their conversation with Jesus. Spurgeon said that prayer is the best way to open up the Scriptures.
Brethren in the ministry, you who are teachers in the Sunday school and all of you who are learners in the college of Christ Jesus, I pray you remember that prayer is your best means of study—like Daniel you shall understand the dream and the interpretation when you have sought God. And like John you shall see the seven seals of the precious Truth of God unloosed after you have wept much. “Yes, if you cry after knowledge and lift up your voice for understanding: if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hid treasures: then shall you understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov 2:3-6)
Stones are not broken except by an earnest use of the hammer. And the stone-breaker usually goes down on his knees. Use the hammer of diligence and let the knees of prayer be exercised, too, and there is not a stony doctrine in Revelation which is useful for you to understand which will not fly into shivers under the exercise of prayer and faith. Martin Luther said it best, “To have prayed well is to have studied well.” You may force your way through anything with the leverage of prayers.
You want to know about end times? Study the first coming and the Scriptures and pray, seeking God’s wisdom.