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Prepared to Wait

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is closing His End-Times teaching with His disciples.  These are His concluding statements.  They’re important for us to hear and understand.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.”
Mark 13:32-34

He starts by saying that the exact day and hour will be a mystery.  Even Christ, when He took on our humanity, did not retain that knowledge of when that day would be.  Of course, now in His glorified state, Jesus knows when He will return.

His first command to the disciples and us is to watch.  The word literally means to be sleepless.  I don’t believe that the Lord means physical sleep in this verse.  It’s our spiritual eyes that we must keep open.

Too many of God’s people seem to be blind to what’s happening in the spirit.  They go to church for an hour or two a week and expect that this will provide them with everything they need to know.  I wish that were true.

We need intimacy with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.  That’s the only way to remain spiritually alert and vigilant in these Last Days.

 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Mark 13:35-37

Jesus is explaining to us a little bit of His time frame here.  Even though He never tells us exactly when He’ll return, He gives us some hints to help us be ready.  He doesn’t want us to be taken by surprise.

Jesus tells us the most important hint as we wait for His return.  He says that He will come when you don’t expect it.  Please be careful when reading the words of Jesus here.  Many miss the whole point of what He says.

Notice that it will not be a surprise because He comes before you expect Him.  What’s going to throw people off is that He’ll arrive later than they thought it would be.  That’s what He’s emphasizing in this verse.  The Lord said that it could be as late as midnight, the early hours of the morning, or even dawn.

What if I said to you, “Can I come over to your house tonight?”?

“Sure,” you reply and you wait for me to show up.  7 o’clock, 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock go by.  At that point, you’ll probably shut the porch light off.  At 10 o’clock you might be in bed.  At 11 o’clock you’ll definitely be in bed.  If I then bang on your door at 3 o’clock in the morning, I’m sure you wouldn’t even get out of bed to answer the door, even though I told you I was coming.

That’s what Jesus is saying.  He’s telling us that He’s coming later than we think.  There will be a time when people think that Jesus should be here by now, but He’s not.  We could call that “prophetic midnight”.

If you’re one of the people who believe that He’s going to be here at this prophetic midnight, you might be disappointed.  We’ve got to be careful.  Most of Christianity is expecting Him to come before certain prophetic events occur.  Jesus said, “I’m going to come later than you think.”

As a matter of fact, what you’re going to find, is that whenever Christ warns us about being ready, He always qualifies it by saying that He’ll come later than we’re expecting.  Jesus said that if the servant knew when the owner was coming he’d be ready.  We need to be spiritually awake and alert no matter what the future holds.

Question: What do you do to remain spiritually alert?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Fig Tree

I’m continuing to look at the Gospel of Mark.  In this section, Jesus is teaching His disciples about His Second Coming.  It seems that what Jesus taught is different than what many are teaching in our generation.

As He brings this teaching to a close, the Lord begins to summarize for His followers.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Mark 13:28-31

Before He finishes this section of His teaching, Jesus emphasizes the certainty of His words.  It will take place as He said.  We will see it approaching just as we see the changes of the seasons.  If we are believers who are prepared to meet Christ, then this day will not take us unawares.

Let me add a note here.  Some teachers use this section to fix a date for the return.  They reason that the budding fig tree is when Israel became a nation again in 1948 or perhaps when the United Nations recognized them in 1965.  This line of thinking continues as they explain that a generation is 40-50 years.  That would have made the year of the return 1988, 1998, 2005, or 2015!

Jesus said that we wouldn’t know the day or the hour.  In reality, the word generation in the above verse could also be translated race.  Jesus could have merely been saying that, as a sign to prove the truth of His statement, the Jews would never be totally exterminated.  Considering the persecutions and the atrocities that have been committed against them, this is a miracle in itself.

The Lord then seals the certainty of what He says.  He contrasts the Word that He speaks to the natural heavens and the earth.

The earth and the sky that we see now are only temporary.  There will come a day when they’re changed by the Lord.

Right now, because of sin, everything is subject to decay – which, in terms of Physics, is the Third Law of Thermodynamics.  When Christ returns, He will make all things new – with no more decay.  I’m looking forward to that day with great anticipation.

His Word, however, will never change.  It is forever settled in Heaven.  I can put my trust in Christ, knowing that He will always bring about His revealed plan to completion.  That’s true whether we’re talking about world events or my personal life.

So, as we continue living in these last days before Christ’s return, let’s focus our hearts and minds on Him.  That’s how we’ll receive the strength and wisdom needed to be victorious until the end of this age.

Maranatha!  Even so, come quickly, Lord!

Question: How are you preparing yourself for the Lord’s return?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Return of Christ, Word of God

 

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Jesus Teaches the Day of the Lord

I’ve been posting about the end-times from Jesus’ perspective.  It’s the section of Scripture found in Mark, chapter 13.

Jesus has just finished telling His disciples how to prepare for future events.  He’s warned them in general of the things they need to watch out for.  He also told them about the destruction of Jerusalem.

At this point in His teaching, the Lord is going to explain the connection between His coming and the end of the age.

“But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’”
Mark 13:24-25

Jesus prefaces this section by telling the disciples that these things will happen in the days following the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem.  Please realize that this is from God’s perspective.

2,000 years is “just following” to an eternal being.  Remember, He warned His disciples that they would not see the events connected with His return (Luke 17:22).

The Lord is making reference to Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4.  He describes a sign dealing with the sun, moon, and stars.  Notice how the prophet Isaiah describes it.

See, the day of the LORD is coming – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger — to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.  The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.  The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.
Isaiah 13:9-10

This sign is described throughout both the Old and New Testaments as the “Day of the Lord”.  Whenever the Day of the Lord is prophesied, the same word pictures are always used.  In both the Old and New Testaments, we’re told that the sun and moon would be darkened, as the heavens themselves are shaken.

Notice that this sign is described in such a way as to make it reliable no matter which side of the earth you’re living on.  If your location is in the daytime, you’ll see the sun darken. If it’s night, you’ll see the moon and the stars affected.

The important thing is that we know what to look for.  It’s the sign of the Day of the Lord.  We need to understand its place in the order of end-time events.

In my next post, we’ll see exactly where Christ placed this day in His timeline.  The way I look at it, if His teaching is different than mine, then I’m the one who needs to change my thinking.

Question: Where does the Day of the Lord fit into your last-days’ timeline?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Return of Christ

 

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False Christs

In my last post, we started looking at Jesus’ warning about the fall of Jerusalem.  The disciples knew what was coming and could prepare accordingly.  But there was one more aspect of this that they needed to know.

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect — if that were possible.  So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”
Mark 13:21-23

The Lord also warned His disciples about false Messiahs.  During times of great crisis, there are always those who want to rise to power.  They convince the masses that they have the solution to all the problems.  I find it amazing that the real Author of peace and life was rejected, while society will accept anyone else who promotes himself as the hero of the day.

Jesus reminds the disciples that no matter how wonderful this messiah sounds, they will not live to see the return of Christ, so there’s no question that this person is false.  Their signs and miracles would be so convincing that the apostles themselves would be fooled – if Jesus had not told them ahead of time that they would not see His return.

What many Christians never hear is that this second fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy has already occurred.  Even though the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Jews still regarded this site as holy.  Around 132 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian decided that Judea needed to be Romanized.  He put many policies into effect that were intolerable to the Jews.

He made it illegal for Jews to enter Jerusalem except for one day a year.  He banned the rite of circumcision.  He made it a crime to practice or teach the Jewish religion.  The most detestable change of all, however, was that he established a pagan temple to the god Jupiter on the former Temple site.

At this point in history, two men came onto the scene in Israel.  One was named Akiba Ben Joseph and the other was Simon Bar Kokba.  Bar Kokba was a Jewish leader who incited the people into violent rebellion against these hateful policies of Rome.  Today, he would be labeled a terrorist.

Akiba Ben Joseph was a rabbi who was imprisoned for teaching and practicing the Jewish religion.  When he saw what Bar Kokba was doing, he proclaimed this leader as the long-awaited messiah, giving him the title “son of the star”.

Akiba taught that Bar Kokba was sent by God to restore Israel and to reign in righteousness over the entire world.  With Akiba’s support, Bar Kokba was able to raise a huge army of Jews who were willing to fight the Romans.

The Romans in Caesarea eventually killed Akiba.  Bar Kokba then attacked the Romans.  He defeated them and captured Jerusalem and over 50 towns and villages.  When the emperor Hadrian sent an army to stop this rebellion, Bar Kokba defeated them as well.  Things were looking good for Israel.  Unfortunately, trying to be a messiah without the power of God can prove fatal.

In 135 AD Hadrian was at the end of his patience.  He sent his best general, Julius Severus.  It was a long campaign, but eventually, the Jewish army was annihilated at the town of Bethar, near Jerusalem, in August of that same year.  It’s interesting to see the result of this false messiah in the light of what Jesus said would happen.

The Temple had been destroyed in 70 AD, 65 years earlier, but the city of Jerusalem was still intact.  But, when Hadrian polluted the Temple grounds (the abomination that causes desolation), a false messiah rose up to deceive many and bring about the final destruction of Jerusalem.

On the day of Bar Kokba’s defeat, over 500,000 Jews were killed.  Thousands of Jewish women and children were sold into slavery.  Others were forced to leave Israel and settle throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.

This was the final dispersal of the Jews spoken of by Christ when He said that they would be taken as prisoners to all nations.  It turned out just like Jesus said.  From that point on, the Gentiles held Jerusalem for almost 2,000 years.

It’s important for us to see, as believers, that this part of Jesus’ teaching has already been fulfilled.  The prophecy of the book of Daniel ended up pointing to two different events.  Some say it will happen again.

They teach that the Jews will rebuild the Temple, and in the last days, we will see this take place.  Those who teach this are only speculating.  There’s nothing in Scripture that directly supports this.  Only time will tell how it will all turn out.

What we shouldn’t do is get caught up debating what the end-times will look like.  The important thing is to be preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We need to be working to bring in the end-time harvest, knowing that the Lord’s return is imminent.

Question: How are you preparing to reach the lost in these Last Days?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2018 in Return of Christ, Revival

 

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The Name is the Target

We’re continuing in the Gospel of Mark.  We’ve been looking at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  The Lord begins explaining to them how the world will turn against them.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.  Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Mark 13:12-13

What a commentary on life in the end-times.  There will be a total breakdown of the family.  In most of history, the family bond was sacred.  The members of a family would do whatever it took to keep each other safe.

Here we see the exact opposite.  Family members turning on one another.  Even to the point of seeing them put to death.

It’s unfortunate that we’re beginning to see the decay of the family taking place right now.  Relatively few families ever eat meals together.  Many times, when they are together, each one is on their devices, lost in their own world of virtual friends.

But it’s the Lord’s last statement that we really need to take to heart.  The first part of that sentence literally reads; all will hate you because of My Name.

The name of Jesus Christ is becoming more and more hated throughout society.  You can talk about anything else, but not the Lord.

We need to come to the realization that it’s not us that the hatred is aimed at.  It’s the name of Jesus that’s the target.  We just happen to be the bearers of that precious name.

There’s a reason why this is the case.  The ruler of this present age hates that name.  He knows that his time is short and that soon the King will come to take His rightful place.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

This is the reason that society hates that name.  They may not know why this is so.  There’s just an underlying move to do away with its impact on the lives of individuals.  This even includes using this name as a swear word to try and water down its power.

The good news is that the name of Jesus Christ will never be defeated.  It is the name that’s above all other names.  For us, it’s all that we need.

The second part of Jesus statement to His disciples was for us to stand firm to the end.  That’s the result of staying true to the name of Jesus.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10

The same name that’s so hated in society is our greatest victory.  If we will hold fast to that name, we’ll have the power we need to stand strong in the faith.

I don’t have to fear what’s ahead.  The future may be uncertain, but I know the One who has already been there.  If I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then I have nothing to fear, and everything to gain.

Question: How has the name of Jesus changed your life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2018 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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Our Last Days Witness

We’re continuing our study of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is now preparing His disciples for the events that are coming in the future.

“You must be on your guard.  You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.  On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Mark 13:9-10

The first command that the Lord gives in this passage is that we open our eyes and watch ourselves.  When it comes to being prepared for the Last Days, it’s our own responsibility.  I’m not responsible for anybody else’s walk.  I need to make sure that I’m on the right path.

How do I need to prepare?  That’s the important question.  Jesus talks about three different areas that will require us to be willing to show our witness for Christ.

The first is councils and synagogues; or specifically, organized religion.  It seems that whenever you decide to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, there will be a point when “religion” will disagree with you.  So you must be prepared for them to take action against you.

That’s because most major denominations have a set of rules that they’ve put in place to maintain order.  In most cases, that’s not a bad thing.  I’m currently a part of a large denomination that’s very encouraging.

But that’s not always the case.  There are sometimes when you have to choose between following God and serving your denomination.  That will require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The next area deals with those who influence society – governors, and kings.  I believe that this also includes leaders of industry.  That’s because in many cases, those with huge resources have influence over those in government.

We’re told that we’ll be made to stand before them.  This is God’s doing so that we can be a witness to them.  Again, this will require the wisdom of God to be active in us.

That phrase is interesting in the original Greek.  It implies that our witness will be a wind that blows in a different direction than they want to go.  Some leaders will receive our testimony and be saved while others will reject both it and us.

The final area He talks about is the nations.  Jesus tells us that the Good News of Christ must be proclaimed among all nations.  The word for nations in that verse really means people groups.  There are some countries where many tribes are represented in them.  These groups of people must all be reached with the message of Christ.

But that brings us back to our big question.  How can I possibly prepare for such a complex assignment?

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
Mark 13:11

The literal Greek of this verse says when you are led or surrendered.  I believe that the Lord’s telling us that our place of testimony may be either voluntary or involuntary.  But no matter which we find ourselves in, the preparation is the same.

We need to have an intimate knowledge of how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  How can I receive the word to speak, if I’ve never taken the time to hear Him in the past?  The time is now to develop listening spiritual ears.

I believe that this is the next thing on God’s agenda for His church in these Last Days.  He wants us to take the time to learn to hear from the Spirit in His presence.

Question: How did the ability to hear from the Spirit affect evangelism in the early church?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Birth Pains Ahead

I’m continuing to look at Jesus’ discussion of the Last Days with His disciples.  He’s giving them a general outline of future events.

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Mark 13:7

The Lord warns us that peace will not occur in this age.  Wars and rumors of wars will be going on around the world.  In Luke 21:9, the Lord is recorded as adding revolutions, or literally unrest to the list.

As Christians, we’re not to be alarmed.  That word alarmed in the above verse means to cry out in fright.  We should not be afraid or surprised at these events.

The Lord doesn’t give us the illusion of a world getting better and better.  Instead, He shows us the reality of what living on this earth will be like.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8

The Lord goes on to list more signs that He calls birth pangs.  He mentions famines.  This is a lack of food usually caused by greed.  In many places around the world, people starve while ships full of food are docked in the harbor and cannot be unloaded because the repressive government won’t allow it.

The number of earthquakes has been rising steadily over the last hundred years.  They cause a lot of devastation.   Many times they’re accompanied by volcanic eruptions or tsunamis.  It seems like every week we hear of new disasters.

When I was a child, we heard of natural disasters happening very infrequently.  Now it seems like every day we’re hearing about a new “worst”.  They are always reporting the worst flood, worst tornado outbreak, worst drought, or other such calamities in the news.

Jesus calls all these things the beginnings of birth pangs.  I believe the Lord is referring to the time at the end of this age where He will begin to make a distinction between the church and the world.

We’re told in the Word what our attitude should be.  We’re expecting our Lord to appear.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
1 Peter 3:14

The Lord doesn’t warn us of these events so that we’ll fear the future.  As we see these things happening, our faith in the Lord and in His Word should grow.  It should give us a greater urgency for winning souls into His kingdom.  We must let this knowledge transform us into the end-time church Christ will be looking for when He returns.

Question: How should believers keep from fearing the future?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2018 in Encouragement, Return of Christ

 

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