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Jesus Is Coming Again - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 13:24-27


Good evening. Welcome to Sunday evening online. So glad that you can join me again as we consider God’s Word together. You know, we have been studying on Sunday mornings how the return of Christ and the realities that await us at the end of redemptive history, how those things frame up our lives—how they actually motivate us in our battle against the flesh and our pursuit of true holiness and sanctification. And so, I thought it would be helpful, even as I reflected on the importance of that in my own life as I have worked through that passage with you and thinking about the emphasis the apostle Paul put on it—I thought it would helpful and appropriate for us to really consider the realities of Christ’s return as well as our eternal home on Sunday evenings together this month. I don’t think we reflect enough on these things, and we have been reminded of that, I just want to spend some time myself and I want us to spend some time thinking and considering these things together. So, over the next several weeks, we are going to be considering two messages that I had preached, actually a number of years ago as part of our series “Hold Fast” and I’m encouraged to go through them with you again. They are just as timely and helpful for us today as they were when I preached them a number of years ago. So, I hope you will benefit from it. I know I am looking forward to it. Let’s open our time together in prayer.

Our Father, we are quick to acknowledge to you that we live locked in time. That we live as the products of our era as those who are content to live within the years You have given us here. And yet, Father, we know that we were not made for this. We know that we were made for eternity. Our souls are restless here. We know we are sojourners. And yet, Father, we don’t think enough about these things. I pray that tonight and in the coming weeks as we consider the return of our Lord, as we consider our eternal home, Lord, lift our eyes. Help us to set our affections on things above. Help us to in a fresh way recognize what awaits us. May that motivate us for lives of service and holiness here. Lord, use Your truth in all our lives we pray. In Jesus name, amen. Well, let’s turn to God’s Word together. This morning we return to our summer series “Hold Fast: The Forgotten Truths Which We Must Always Remember.” Today we come to one of those truths that is at the bedrock of the Christian faith: the Gospel of Jesus Christ ends with a grand finale called “The Second Coming.” The Second Coming is one of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to the Second Coming. The Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and all of the major confessions of the Christian church speak of the Second Coming. The early church fathers, even at that early stage in the life of the church, understood and affirmed the reality of the Second Coming. For example, the Didache, which is the earliest Christian document outside of the New Testament, dates to the first century, says this, “The Lord shall come and all His Saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of Heaven.” Justin Martyr writing in the second century, said, “Hereto how He was to ascend into Heaven according to prophecy and how He should come again out of Heaven with glory.” Irenaeus writing in the second century was even more specific. He said, “When this antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months and sit in the Temple in Jerusalem. And then the Lord will come from Heaven in the clouds in the glory of the Father sending this man and those who follow him into the Lake of Fire.” This has been what Christianity has always taught and, of course, Christianity still tacitly acknowledges the reality of the Second Coming. But frankly, if you examine the sermons of today’s contemporary church, if you look at the books that are published, if you listen to the prayers that are prayed, you will find that the church has largely forgotten in a day-to-day way the reality of the Second Coming. But beloved, you and I who want to cling to the foundations of the faith once for all delivered to the Saints, we must hold fast to this practically forgotten truth Jesus will return.

Now when we talk about Jesus’ coming, there is first of all, His First Advent. That’s when He came in Bethlehem and became fully human as He continued to retain His deity; He became one of us. That’s the First Advent. The Second Advent points to the second return and the Second Advent unfolds theologically in two related but distinct events. The first event in the Second Advent is the rapture. That’s what you and I are waiting for: when Christ comes for the saints and takes us back to heaven with Him, just before the judgments are unleashed on this planet in the Great Tribulation. And then comes the second part of the Second Advent, there’s the Rapture and then there’s the Second Coming. Again, related but distinct events.

So, what are the differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming? Let me just briefly give you a comparison. In the Rapture there is no hint of judgment. In the passages that describe the Rapture, there is no hint of judgment, there’s no warning signs that precede it. On the other hand, when you look at the Second Coming, there is an emphasis on judgment and there are dramatic signs that precede it. When you look at the passages on the Rapture, you will find that the focus is on the Rapture of living believers and includes the resurrection of dead believers. When you look at the Second Coming, that’s not true. When you look at the Rapture, you find in timing, it is before the Tribulation. Christ comes in the air, not all the way to the earth, for His saints, to take the saints to heaven. When you look at the Second Coming passages, you find that it happens after the Tribulation. Christ returns not just in the air, but all the way to the earth, He puts His feet on the Mount of Olives. He comes with His saints, already with Him in heaven, He comes back to earth to defeat His enemies and to establish His kingdom. Two related but distinctive events: one before the Tribulation; one after. We wait for the Rapture. Those living during the period of the Tribulation will await the Second Coming.

But today I want us to examine the second aspect of the Second Advent: The Revelation of Jesus Christ in His Second Coming because that is the culmination of human history. Jesus explains it for us in Mark chapter 13 in the text that we read together this morning. Now Mark 13 is commonly called the “Olivet Discourse” because of where Jesus preached it. He was sitting on the Mount of Olives looking back across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount. He had just come from there, and as He sat on the Mount of Olives looking across the city of Jerusalem, His disciples asked Him several questions and this sermon is in essence a response to those questions. Now, when I taught through the Gospel of Mark, I preached eight sermons on this chapter, so we are not going to cover anything like that in detail this morning. If you want more detail, you can go back and listen to those messages. Let me just give you an overview of the first two sections of this sermon, just so you get the flow of the context. First of all, in verses 5 to 13, you have what Jesus calls the “beginning of birth pangs.” These verses cover the time from Christ’s Ascension in the first century all the way through the church age to the mid-point of the future Tribulation period, at the middle of that seven-year period at three-and-a-half years through the Tribulation. So, understand then, that the events that are described in chapter 13 verses 5 through 13, occur throughout the church age and they will occur during the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation but with much greater intensity and frequency. Think of it like this: these things are happening now, but they are like the Braxton Hicks contractions that a woman who is pregnant experiences. They are not the real birth pangs; they are sort of false alarms. But you get to the three-and-a-half years that begin the Tribulation period and these things will be the beginning of birth pangs. They will come in much greater frequency and intensity. What are they? Well, Jesus said there would be false christs, prophets, predictions of His coming. There will be war, natural disasters. There will be intense persecution of God’s people and the gospel will be preached around the globe. Again, you can see how those things are happening now in sort of Braxton Hicks contractions, but they are coming one day in the beginning of the Tribulation with real birth pangs.

Now the second section of Jesus’ sermon here about the future is in verse 14 through 23 and it’s the Great Tribulation. Not just the seven-year period of the Tribulation but the Great Tribulation which covers from the midpoint of that seven years, at three-and-a-half years through the final three-and-a-half years until the Second Coming. This is the Great Tribulation when things really intensify. Now this is initiated according to Jesus by an event called “The Abomination of Desolation.” We learn from both the Old Testament from Daniel’s prophecy as well as from the apostle Paul in Thessalonians that what will happen is that the Anti-Christ, a political figure, a dominating political figure who will be raised at that time, will set up an image of himself in a rebuilt temple in the city of Jerusalem and demand worship of himself. That is the Abomination of Desolation and that marks the beginning of this second three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation. That entire period of time will be marked by the persecution of Israel. It is described by Jesus as a time of unparalleled tribulation. He says there is nothing ever happened like this. It will be shortened for the sake of the elect. But it will be a time that will be filled with spiritual deception. That is the second three-and-a-half-years of the seven-year Tribulation.

This morning, however, I don’t want to look at either of those sections of Jesus’ sermon, I want us to turn our attention briefly to the third section of the Olivet Discourse which is the Second Coming in verses 24 to 27 that we read just a few moments ago. I am not going to reread it, but I do want you to notice in verse 24 how it begins with the little word “but.” That marks a crucial transition. It’s a transition between the appearance of all the false messiahs that Jesus has just predicted and the future appearance of the true Messiah. Jesus is essentially saying, “Listen, don’t be confused the fact there will be lots of false messiah sightings doesn’t mean that the real Messiah isn’t coming.” And so, He talks about the Second Coming.

Now He begins by laying out for us the timing of the Second Coming. Now if you are biblically literate, you know that Jesus was very clear that no one knows the exact time of His return. In Matthew 24 verse 36, He said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven.” The angels don’t know when the Second Coming is coming, and He says, “Nor the Son.” Likely, that is a reference to the fact that while He was on the earth Jesus voluntarily limited the exercise of His divine attributes, including His omniscience, and so, while He was here, He Himself didn’t know the timing of the Second Coming, “But the Father alone.” So, no one knows the exact timing of the Second Coming. But Jesus does give us a general time frame. Look at verse 24: “But in those days, after that tribulation.” In other words, in the general time period following the end of the Seven Year Tribulation that He has just described in verses 14 to 23. But Matthew tells us that Jesus made it even clearer because Matthew quotes Jesus as saying that day, in Matthew 24:29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.” So, the Second Coming then immediately follows the Seven Year Tribulation period. That’s the timing of the Second Coming.

Now, Jesus next identifies the signs surrounding the Second Coming. It is interesting because, again, Matthew quotes something Jesus said that day that Mark doesn’t. In Matthew 24, verse 27, Jesus described His Second Coming like this: “As the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Just like at night you can’t miss a lightning strike, no one will miss this. It may even be a reference, the way He describes it, to horizontal lightning. The other night, my family and I went to dinner over in Dallas and we were riding back as the storm was in the distance and we saw one of those horizontal lightning strikes. And I was reminded of the fact that I read at one point that the longest horizontal lightning strike ever recorded in human history was here in Dallas. And they think it measured 180 miles in length. But the bottom line is, when lightning occurs in the middle of the darkness, you see it; you don’t miss it. And that is Jesus’ point: it will be visible to everyone.

Now how will God accomplish that? Well, He will do so through a series of cosmic signs. Again, Luke gives us some further insight into what Jesus said that day. Luke 21:25 and 26: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Jesus says, “Not a single person on this planet will miss these signs.” And the terror of these signs will create an epidemic of heart attacks around this globe. These signs will come at the end of the Tribulation and immediately precede the Second Coming. Now look at verses 24 to 26 and you will see that much of what Jesus says in these verses, it consists of quotations from the Old Testament. Whenever you see capital letters, all capitals, in our New Testament, that is the translator’s way of telling you these are quotations taken from the Old Testament. So as was His habit, Jesus is here basing His teaching on the Old Testament. He’s grounding our hope in the prophetic word. Jesus’ teaching is not in conflict with the Hebrew Old Testament, but rather it is the perfect explanation of it.

Now, notice in verses 24 and 25, Jesus explains that immediately preceding His coming there will be clear signs, catastrophic cosmic disturbances. The first of these disturbances is in verse 24: “The sun will be darkened.” “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened.” Jesus may be quoting here from several different Old Testament texts because there are several that contain this wording: maybe from Isaiah 12, Isaiah 13, Isaiah 34, Ezekiel 32, Joel 2, Joel 3; you can see there are a number of places in the Old Testament where this wording occurs. Regardless, Jesus is speaking about a real event that will occur in the future. Now, when He says that “the sun will be darkened,” He may mean that the light of the star that we know as the sun will itself be diminished or extinguished, (that is certainly possible, He’s God, He can do that if He chooses) or He may mean that from the vantage point of earth it will appear as though the sun has been darkened. Regardless, either way, it is a miraculous event brought about by God Himself. The reason I say it may appear as though the sun has been darkened is because there is a remarkable similarity between what Jesus describes here and the Sixth Seal recorded in Revelation. You remember, the book of Revelation is a story of what will happen in the future as God brings judgment into this world during the Tribulation period. And that judgment is described in a series of judgments as Jesus takes the scroll in Revelation 5 which is the title deed to the earth, and it’s sealed with the Seven Seals and as He breaks each of those seals to open the title deed to the earth more judgment reins down on the world. In the Sixth Seal, there comes a catastrophic earthquake. This is Revelation 6:12: “When He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair.” There will be a great earthquake, John tells us, surpassing all so far, and the sun will become black like sackcloth. Now again, God could simply diminish the intensity of the sun, but it may be that in response to the earthquake, and as a result of the earthquake, there are volcanic eruptions that follow that earthquake, and the ash and soot rise in the atmosphere, and block man’s view of the sun making it appear black as sackcloth.

That leads to a second cosmic disturbance. Not only is the sun going to be darkened the moon will be darkened as well. Again, whether the sun itself is diminished in intensity or whether something obscures our view of it, obviously since the moon reflects the sun’s light, the moon too will be affected by this, verse 24: “And the moon will not give its light.” Again, in Revelation chapter 6, verse 12: as a result of that great earthquake and the resulting volcanic eruptions and the ash and soot, it says that “the whole moon became like blood”—darkened, where you cannot see it in its full light and intensity.

Here in Mark 13, Jesus adds a third cosmic disturbance and that is that the stars will fall, verse 25, “And the stars will be falling from heaven.” Now, understand that in Greek the word translated “stars” is a generic word that refers to all bodies in what we would call space. It can refer to actual stars as we know them, like our sun. It also refers to meteors and even comets, the word is used that way. And so, you have to keep that in mind when you see it here. In Greek, the description is very graphic here. The tense of the Greek verb pictures a duration of time as humanity watches star after star fall. When you take that Greek word into light, there are two possibilities for what our Lord means here when He says that the stars will be falling. It may be that the actual stars like our sun will somehow leave their rotation and veer off into space, appearing to people here on this planet as falling. That is possible. Another option though, and I think the more likely is that it describes meteors that will shower the earth. I say that is more likely because it is more similar to what Revelation describes. Revelation seems to hint that there will be a relentless series of meteors that will impact the earth’s atmosphere and surface. In the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments described in Revelation there are some specific meteor impacts with earth that are described. Let me give you some examples. For example, back in that Sixth Seal in Revelation chapter 6, verse 13, we learn that the stars fall. Again, that word is a generic word, likely here referring to meteors. So, there is a meteor storm that causes a massive worldwide chain of earthquakes. Those earthquakes will be followed by volcanic eruptions from which ash and soot will obscure the sun and the moon, and as a result, Revelation 6:14 says, “The sky was split apart.” Likely that is a reference to earth’s atmosphere being radically damaged. And Revelation 6:14 says, “every mountain and island were moved”—in other words, as a result of the impact of those meteors and the earthquakes that result, the Teutonic plates of this planet will shift radically and dramatically. That is the Sixth Seal.

Later, as judgment unfolds, in the Second Trumpet Judgment, recorded in Revelation chapter 8, verses 8 and 9, another meteor ignites in the earth’s atmosphere and upon impact with the earth’s surface, creates a huge tidal wave in earth’s oceans. It kills a third of the living creatures in the oceans and it destroys a third of the world’s ships swamping those at sea, inundating those in harbors around the world. And that same judgment describes that the world’s oceans will become blood. Could be literal blood or it could refer to a red tide, an event that is caused by the death of millions of tiny organisms. You can google and see a picture of small red tide events on this planet but this one will be massive because it will result from a meteor’s collision with our earth’s ocean.

In the Third Trumpet Judgment recorded in Revelation chapter 8, verses 10 and 11, John speaks of a great star possibly another meteor or maybe a comet enters the earth’s atmosphere, shatters into pieces, falls to earth and poisons a third of the earth’s fresh water supply. Now I think you understand that ninety-seven percent of the water on this planet is saline—it’s in the oceans of our world. Only three percent of the water on the planet is fresh water. It’s interesting because that fresh water supply is isolated in some major pockets, for example: twenty-one percent of that three percent fresh water on the planet is in our Great Lakes. But regardless, with this meteor described in Revelation 8, thirty-three percent of the world’s fresh water will be poisoned. So, Jesus says, “Listen, stars, or probably better, meteors will be falling from heaven. Lord willing, we will pick up there again next week as we continue to look at the amazing truths surrounding the return of our Lord. My prayer is that these truths will become more precious to each of us as we think about or reflect on the reality that He is coming again.

Let’s pray together as we finish our time. Father, I pray that You would seal these wonderful truths to our hearts. Lord, make it real to us that our Lord is going to return. That we are going to see Him. We thank you that He will return for us who are His Bride and Lord, that we will then return with Him in the Second Coming even these amazing verses that we are looking at from Mark’s Gospel. I pray that You would help us to grasp them and most of all, Father, to live in the light of them. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen


Ryan and Elna Mitchell Missions Update

Jonathan Anderson

Jesus Is Coming Again - Part 1

Tom Pennington Mark 13:24-27

Jesus Is Coming Again - Part 2

Tom Pennington Mark 13:24-27

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