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Showing posts from December, 2020

THIS Generation

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The generation contemporary with Jesus witnessed the events that he predicted that culminated in the destruction of the Temple  –  Mark 13:28-31 .  Next, Jesus provided the chronological key - the disciples would know the time of the Temple’s demise when they saw all “ these things ” coming to pass, and before “ this generation ” reached its inevitable end. That was his definitive answer to the question, “ when will these things come to pass ?” – within one generation - [ Hourglass Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash ].

Fruitless Temple

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The cursing of the barren fig tree symbolized the coming destruction of the Temple and the fruitlessness of Israel  -  Mark 11:12-26 .  The  Gospel of Mark  divides the story of the barren fig tree into two sections, placing the “cleansing” of the Temple between them, and thus, the two events are inextricably linked.  The  fruitlessness  of the fig tree and its subsequent cursing highlighted the spiritual state and destiny of the Temple, and Christ’s actions foreshadowed its destruction [ Lone Tree - Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash ].

Coming on the Clouds

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The whole earth will observe the “Son of Man” arriving on the clouds to gather his “elect” to himself  – Mark 13:21-27 .  The ‘Olivet Discourse’ now takes us beyond the destruction of the Temple to the return of the “ Son of Man ” to gather his saints. How much time will pass between the demise of the Temple and Christ’s arrival in glory is not provided, but during the interim, the church must beware of deceivers that disseminate false information about his coming - [ Clouds Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash ].

Knowing Times and Seasons

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Instead of calculating times and seasons, followers of Jesus must always be prepared for his sudden arrival  -  Acts 1:6-8 .  Did Jesus task his followers with knowing end-time chronologies, the “ times and seasons ”? Are believers able to decipher key “signs” by which they can decipher the time of Christ’s return? For that matter, did Jesus and the apostles leave us with a comprehensive list and timeline of end-time events whereby we can calculate the arrival of the end of the age - [ Eclipse - Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash ]?

Repeated Warnings

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On Olivet, Jesus reiterated key information that is necessary for his followers to avoid being misled by deceivers .  Christ’s final block of teaching is commonly called his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ a series of instructions given to the disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before his arrest, trial, and execution. In it, three warnings are repeated that disciples must heed to avoid deceit and disaster, warnings about deceivers, the timing of his return, and the need for constant vigilance - [ Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash ].

Good News for All Nations

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The Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus is a message of hope and joy for men and women in every nation .  After his resurrection, Jesus declared, “ All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me, therefore, go and make disciples of all nations !” As the Lord over all things , he dispatched his disciples to proclaim his sovereignty and the good news of salvation to men and women in every nation, whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, male or female - [ World Globe photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash ].

Sign of the End

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Jesus declared, definitively, that the “end” will not come until “this gospel of the kingdom of God is proclaimed to all nations.”   When we discuss the future coming of Jesus, quite naturally we ask what “signs” will precede it. Wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, and the like? Spectacular cosmic events in the heavens? The rise of unprecedented evil and chaos? Fortunately, Jesus provided us with a most definitive answer -  The completion of the church’s mission . - [ Globe Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash ].

Abomination of Desolation

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When disciples see the “abomination of desolation standing where it ought not,” they must flee Jerusalem without delay  –  Matthew 24:15-22 .  According to Jesus, the “ abomination of desolation ” will appear in the city of Jerusalem. It will be a local event, not global. Likewise, His admonition for his disciples to flee was applicable only to Jerusalem and the immediate vicinity. Disciples remaining in the city must flee to the hills to escape the calamity portended by the appearance of the “ abomination of desolation ” - [ Castle Ruins Italy - Photo by Lauren Sproule on Unsplash ].

Deceivers and Rumors

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The Discourse opens with warnings about coming deceivers who propagate false expectations about the end, along with future opposition  –  Mark 13:5-13 .  Jesus began his Olivet Discourse with an ominous warning about coming deceivers, men who will claim his authority and spread rumors about calamities, thereby “ deceiving many .” This warning is repeated at pivotal points in the discourse. For example, prior to the coming of the Son of Man, “ many false prophets will arise and deceive many ,” including the employment of signs and wonders - [ Wolves - Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash ].

Geographic Scope of the Discourse

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The Olivet Discourse presents two key events linked to two different geographic contexts, one regional, and the other global .  In his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus described several key events that would occur in the future, especially the destruction of the Temple and the “ coming of the Son of Man .” In doing so, he provided geographic details related to each of these two events that alternated between the local and the universal, depending on which event he was describing - [ Photo by George Kourounis on Unsplash ].

In the Temple

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Jesus gave his final discourse following his final departure from the Jerusalem Temple  –  Mark 12:41-13:4 .  The ‘Olivet Discourse’ is the last recorded block of Christ’s teachings given on the Mount of Olives following a series of confrontations between him and the Temple authorities, and his final departure from the Temple itself. And his conflicts with the religious leaders set the stage for his trial and execution at the hands of the Roman governor - [ Western Wall - Photo by  Laura Siegal  on  Unsplash ].

Desolate Temple

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When he left the Temple for the last time, Jesus pronounced its coming desolation to his opponents .  Before his final departure from the Temple, Jesus fielded challenges from the “ scribes and Pharisees ,” the main Jewish sects of his time. These amounted to confrontations that helped set the stage for his arrest and trial and his execution at the hands of the Romans. As he left the building for the final time, he pronounced its impending judgment - [ Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash ].

His Triumphal Arrival

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At the end of his journey, quite naturally, the destination of Jesus was the Temple in Jerusalem  –  Mark 11:1-11 .  The next several stories prepare the reader for his final days, the so-called ‘Passion Week.’ A full third of the  Gospel of Mark  concerns the events of that week and culminate in his death and resurrection. All that has preceded his arrival in the city has been moving inexorably forward to his arrest, trial, and execution in Jerusalem - [ Photo by  Toa Heftiba  on  Unsplash ].

Blind Bar-Timaeus Saved

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Jesus restored the sight of a blind beggar while he was “on the way” to his death in the city of Jerusalem  -  Mark 10:46-52 .  This is the last recorded healing miracle in Mark’s account. And here, Jesus is called the “ Nazarene .” Previously, he was only so identified when he exorcised demons, thereby delivering someone from demonic oppression. And in the  Gospel of Mark , the name “ Nazarene ” frames his first and last healing miracles - [ Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash ].

Greatness in the Kingdom

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His disciples are called to live lives of self-sacrificial service to others, just as Jesus gave his life a ransom for many  –  Mark 10:35-45 .  Having predicted his trial and execution, Jesus observed the disciples jockeying for position in the coming kingdom. He had taught them that citizenship in his kingdom meant a  life of self-sacrificial service to others . But as he approached Jerusalem, even his closest followers had a very different idea of what it meant to “rule” in his realm - [ Great Mountain - Photo by Daniel Bynum on Unsplash ].

His Impending Death

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Jesus explained that he was “on the way” to Jerusalem where he would be arrested, tried, and executed per the plan of God  –  Mark 10:32-34 .  Once again,  Mark  stresses that Jesus is “ on the way ” as he continues his journey to Jerusalem and his inevitable death. This same theme occurs several times in  Mark , beginning with John the Baptist who “ prepared the way before the Lord .” Jesus was the  suffering servant of Yahweh  who was on the road from the wilderness to Golgotha - [ Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash ].

Persecution, Suffering, Discipleship

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To follow Jesus means self-denial and a willingness to suffer, and for disciples, persecution is the highest honor  –  Matthew 5:10-12 .  For his disciples, retaliation and violence are  NOT  appropriate reactions when persecution occurs. Rather than respond-in-kind, they must meet threats with humility, mercy, and especially love. That is what it means to “ deny yourself ” and “ take up his cross .” Praying for one’s “ enemies ” is contrary to the “ wisdom of this age ,” but it epitomizes the paradigm of  Christ crucified  - [ Photo by Frans Ruiter on Unsplash ].

Fulfillment - Law and Prophets

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In Jesus, “all the promises of God are Yea and Amen,” and the “Law and Prophets” find their fulfillment  -  Matthew 5:17-21 .  Fulfillment  and  Kingdom  are prominent themes in Matthew’s gospel. With the arrival of the Messiah, the season of fulfillment began, and all things anticipated in the “ Law and Prophets ” were coming to fruition. But what were the implications for the Mosaic Law? Fortunately, Jesus provided us with a direct answer to that question - [ Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash ].

Young Rich Man

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To follow Jesus is to surrender one’s entire life to him, and to walk wherever he leads with no questions asked  –  Mark 10:17-31 .  One day, a young rich man approached Jesus to ask what he should do to inherit everlasting life. Here, the reader is confronted with the cost of discipleship. In the version in  Matthew , the man is labeled “ young .” In  Luke , he is a “ ruler ,” presumably, of the local synagogue. And his haste to ask this question points to his sincerity - [ Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash ].

Questions About Divorce

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Opponents questioned Jesus about divorce to trap him, but he used the issue to teach the higher ways of the Kingdom  –  Mark 10:1-16 .  In  Mark  and  Matthew , Jesus was confronted by religious opponents about the issue of divorce, but this was done to trap him with his own words. They did not intend to solicit an all-encompassing ruling on divorce from him. In  Mark , the incident is another in a series of confrontations between Jesus and the religious establishment associated with the Temple - [ Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash ].

Faithful and Saltless Disciples

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Faithful disciples will receive great rewards, but those who harm their weaker brethren run the risk of being cast into Gehenna  –  Mark 9:38-40 .  The next story begins with John complaining because someone who was not from among Christ’s inner circle was casting out demons in his name. But his complaint was rich in irony since just a few verses earlier the disciples found themselves unable to exorcise demons because of their unbelief - [ Salt - Photo by  Timo Volz  on  Unsplash ].

True and Greater Temple

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Jesus is the Greater and Final Temple foreshadowed by the ancient Tabernacle and the later Temple in Jerusalem .  Jesus is the true sanctuary that was foreshadowed in the ancient religious structures and worship rituals of Israel. He is the dwelling place of God’s presence and glory, and the true and final mediator between heaven and earth. Christ is the temple “ made-without-hands ” that was destroyed by evil men but restored when his Father raised him from among the dead - [ Photo by  Manuel Rheinschmidt  on Unsplash ].

True Worship

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To the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed that the presence of God no longer is limited to specific locations or structures  –  John 4:20-24 . To a Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed the proper form and location for the worship of the Father. With the advent of the Messiah, concepts about holy space and holy time no longer applied, and the arrival of the “ Son of Man ” rendered the historical debate over the location of the Temple moot. From now on, worship must be performed in  truth  and  in spirit  - [ Photo by  Pablo Heimplatz  on Unsplash ].

Final Sanctuary

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Jesus is the True and Final Sanctuary in which the glory of Yahweh now dwells, the substance foreshadowed by the ancient Temple  –  John 2:13-22 .  In the second chapter of  John , we find the disciples discovered that Jesus is the  True and Final Temple of God . The era of God “dwelling” in portable tents and stone buildings in Jerusalem or anywhere else had come to an end. God does not dwell in structures “ made-by-hand ,” nor can His presence be contained within physical or geographic boundaries - [ Photo by  Denisse Leon  on Unsplash ].

True House of God

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Jesus is the true and only way of access to the Father, the Greater Bethel, and the house of God  –  John 1:47-50 .  John presents Jesus as the  True House of God  and the open way of access to the presence of Yahweh. He is the Greater and True  Bethel , the “ house of God ,” and from now on, heaven is open to all men, and angels are “ ascending and descending ” on the “ Son of Man .” What Jacob saw in an ancient long has become a concrete reality in Jesus of Nazareth - [ Photo by  Mario Dobelmann  on Unsplash ].