The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 21 : The Gospel According to MARK

[Chapter 13] (Mark 13:1-27) Let Us Realize in What Kind of Age We Are Now Living In

(Mark 13:1-27)
“Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.’ Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?’ And Jesus, answering them, began to say: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter. For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it. For false Christ’s and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.’”
 
 
What Kind of Age Is This Present Age?
 
We just read Mark 13:1-17 for today’s Scripture reading. Here the Lord is explaining how this world would fall in the end times, what would happen to those who have received the remission of their sins at the end of the world, and what we should watch out for when this time arrives. Let us then examine the Word of God step by step, and then reach a detailed understanding of the truth about what the Lord is telling us.
When Jesus left the Temple of Jerusalem, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” This passage implies that the disciples of Jesus had so much pride in the outside appearance of the Temple of Jerusalem that they were doubtful the Temple would fall in the end times. This is quite understandable, as the Temple of Jerusalem, built by King Herod to placate the people of Israel, was indeed a massive building. The palaces that we see nowadays are rather small when compared to the Temple of Jerusalem; built with gigantic marble stones, it was a towering structure. So it was natural for the disciples to feel quite proud of the Temple. But when the disciple’s spoke about this Temple with a great deal of pride, Jesus answered them, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”
 
 
What Did Jesus Say Would Fall?
 
How would we have reacted if we were at this scene with the disciples and heard the Lord saying that the Temple would fall? We would have asked in astonishment, “Are You saying that this Temple would fall?” But the Lord was not just speaking of the Temple. Rather, what He was saying is that one day He would destroy the whole world and everything on this earth. Being too busy with our present lives, we sometimes may not take the Lord’s Word seriously, thinking that there is too much of a time gap for His Word to have much relevance to us. But think about it more carefully. When our Lord spoke to the disciples, He was actually speaking to us explaining what would happen to this world, even though we are born nearly 2,000 years later since then.
With the changing of time, what is usually accepted as common sense also changes according to the prevailing wind, but the Words of the Lord never changes, for He is actually God. When the Lord said that the Temple of Jerusalem would collapse completely with no stone left on another, He knew that this world would also be destroyed. And He left His teachings on record so that we would know what would happen in the end times, how we should conduct ourselves in those days, and what kind of faith we should have when this happens. Although I am sure that you know it all, this passage once again reminds us that the Lord is indeed God.
After Jesus said, “Not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” He sat on the Mount of Olive looking across from the Temple. Then some of His disciples namely, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him quietly, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?” What the Lord told them was too profound for these disciples to comprehend. They could not comprehend just how this gorgeous and huge Temple of Jerusalem could be completely destroyed even if the whole of Israel were invaded by some foreign country, unless something more extreme were to happen. So they asked Jesus quietly when such things would happen.
When you get a terrible shock, words don’t come by so easily. You are too astonished to react loudly, and so you speak slowly and quietly, trying to grasp for words. This is particularly true when it comes to something that’s dear to you. Like this, the disciples were so astonished that they asked Jesus quietly, and He said to them, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:6-8).
All the disciples of Jesus had asked Him was when and how the Temple of Jerusalem would fall, but Jesus spoke of this event with the fall of the world. Of course, Herod’s Temple was completely destroyed exactly as the Lord had said. After Jesus’ death on the Cross, in 70AD, a Roman general named Titus led his army into the Temple and destroyed it completely. Not only did he leave no stone on top of another, but he also massacred a countless number of people and sold the rest into slavery. The Temple was completely demolished to its very foundations. That’s why even now it’s still hard to ascertain the exact site of the Temple of Jerusalem. Archeologists can only estimate its rough location, and even this is anyone’s guess. Until extensive excavation is done to find solid evidence, no one can be sure of the exact location of the Temple.
But our Lord was not just speaking of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. Along with this He also taught us about the last day of this earth. Since the Lord is God Himself, He wanted to let us know what would happen in the end times. He wanted to tell His children and His people about the end times. If you were to consider what the Lord said here in today’s Scripture passage in a literal sense, then it will bring no benefit to you. We need to have a clear understanding of the truth the Lord is trying to tell us, and through this truth we need to find out just how we ought to conduct ourselves in the present time and in the future. In other words, from the Word of God we must know the trials that are awaiting us in the future, and how we should conduct ourselves and what kind of faith we should have to confront these trials.
 
 
The Lord Spoke in Detail about the Coming Days of Tribulations
 
The Lord said, “There will be wars and rumors of wars, and many deceivers will rise. Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes everywhere. These are the beginnings of sorrows. As written in the Book of Revelation, among the seven ages, the fourth age of the pale horse will soon come. The time is coming when the Antichrist will emerge and the slaughter of the human race will occur. But these are just the beginnings of the end, not the end itself.”
The Lord also addressed the real problems that we will have to confront, and this is found in Mark 13:9-10: “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”
And He continued, “When the gospel is preached everywhere and the end times have arrived, God’s servants will face tribulations. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against their parents and deliver them to death. You will be hated by everyone for My name’s sake. But when they arrest you and prosecute you in a religious court or kill you, do not worry about what you will say. Speak whatever is given to you. The Holy Spirit will make you speak the words that He wants you to speak. So do not worry about what you will say at that time, nor prepare for it. It is not you who will speak at that time, but the Holy Spirit in you.”
Lately we have seen many signs of the end times all around the world, the beginnings of sorrows that the Lord spoke of. We tend to take disasters lightly as they occur routinely every year and we have seen and heard such news from the global media, but now their magnitude is getting worse and worse. The Lord said that when sorrows begin, there will be many earthquakes, famines, and deceivers. Put simply, the age of suffering is coming. Even now, many parts of Africa are suffering from a severe famine that has continued on for five long years. Unlike in the past, when considerable assistance was provided, nowadays help is hard to come by as other nations are also facing economic difficulties. Scientists also tell us that the arctic icecap is disappearing at a rapid pace and it may disappear in about five years time. This will bring about rapid global changes in the climate and extreme weather disasters.
That’s not all. Just as the Lord had said, nations are rising against nations and countries against countries. There have been many instances of ethnic cleansing, where people have been persecuted and killed just because they are from a different ethnicity. The economic situation is getting increasingly more difficult. It’s very hard to make a living nowadays. More and more people are forced into informal labor markets with marginal compensation and hardly any protection of labor rights. Although these things were expected, now that we are actually facing them, the reality looks even gloomier.
The United States, once called the perpetual hegemony of the world, is reeling under massive fiscal and trade deficits. As the US economy struggles, so do other nations face similar economic difficulties. Of course China has been posting huge trade surpluses as a newly emerging power, but it is also facing many problems due to its rapid economic growth. I heard in the news that the air pollution in Beijing is so bad that they can hardly see the building right in front of them. I saw a similar problem when I visited Taiwan a while ago. The people there were all wearing masks even though it was summer. So I thought many of them had respiratory problems, but that was not the case. I was told that if the people there breathed normally without wearing a mask for just half a day, grime would build up in their nostrils and attach to their skin. The pollution is so bad that their nostrils would ooze out pitch black grime, and I had a hard time trying to wash my face clean when I visited there. That’s just how bad the air was.
The Lord said that when such things happen, it is the beginning of sorrow, but not the end itself yet. He is explaining to us step by step that although this world will be destroyed, it will face a series of fixed stages in turn. Therefore, rather than single-mindedly focusing on the coming destruction of the world, you and I should learn what Jesus Christ who is God is teaching us one by one, just as His disciples listened to Him attentively in today’s Scripture passage. Setting aside what will happen in the end times, you ought to learn from the Lord’s teachings how to deal with your business, manage your job, and plan your present life.
Who would teach you such important lessons of life? And who would teach you how this age is changing? Most people cannot look beyond ten years. Of course, some farsighted people may be able to look into a hundred or even a thousand years. An example of this would be Leonardo da Vinci, a fascinating scientist, inventor and artist.
However, only the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of this world knows exactly what will happen in the future. Therefore, we should listen closely to His Word not only in our lives of faith, but also in managing our everyday lives. The Lord’s Word is always beneficial. It is absolutely valuable. If you have His Word, then you will never be shaken even if the world is in a crisis. Think about it. Just how many companies are buckling and going bankrupt in this world? Among them, those that prepared beforehand for the rainy days will survive, but those that were too self-complacent to make this preparation and instead wasted their resources will have to give up everything.
Even when it comes to secular affairs, one is ruined unless he is prepared for what lies ahead. The same is true for your life of faith as well. Unless you set your mind firmly on the Lord through His Word, your faith will crumble helplessly. You will ultimately stumble and fall off the cliff to your regret. Moreover, you will not be able to climb back up the cliff even if you tried, as there will be no one to help you. Knowing very well that such things would happen, our Lord left today’s Scripture passage to us. So it’s absolutely indispensable for all of us to reaffirm our faith through this passage.
  
 
In Today’s Scripture Passage, What Did Our Lord Say Must Happen First Prior to Such Disasters?
 
The Lord said that the gospel must be preached first to every nation and to the ends of the earth. This means that the last day will come when the Lord’s gospel is preached to everyone. I think this gospel has been preached to the adults sufficiently. It’s the children that worry me. Of course, the parents who have received the remission of sins should teach the Lord’s gospel to their children, but what’s important is that they ought to educate their children and preach the gospel to them at their level of understanding. A long time ago, we distributed to adolescents a book titled, Is It the End? No, It Is Now the Beginning, and this book is very beneficial to the children living in this age and time. Because the temptations they face are actually far greater than their resolve, it’s useless for them to hear from their pastors telling them to live virtuously, not to lie, and not to commit sin. Rather, what they need is the realization that their sins have disappeared thanks to the Lord. Without this realization, it’s useless to listen to ethical and moralistic sermons. So the children also need gospel books that are fitting to their level of comprehension. I plan to publish such gospel books for not only the children in Korea but also all over the world, so that they may all be ready for the end times. I ask you all to pray for this ministry and support it.
Let’s return to today’s Scripture passage. The Lord said that although there would arise many deceivers, famines, and earthquakes in the end times, these are just the beginnings of sorrows. He then explained what kinds of sorrows would come: “‘So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not’ (let the reader understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter. For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days” (Mark 13:14-20).
Jesus then continued on to say in verses 24-27: “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”
What phenomenon can we expect to see when sorrows begin and the end times arrive? What will happen specifically when the time of destruction comes? First of all, the Lord said, “‘So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not’ (let the reader understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.’” When we turn to 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, we see the Apostle Paul also speaking of a similar issue—that is, the man of sin or the son of perdition will sit in the Temple of God, claiming to be God.
What does this passage really mean? Many people speculate that it refers to Hitler, Napoleon, or some current world leader. Others say that it refers to the Pope, arguing that the Pope will turn into this abomination when the end times arrive. Like this, there are many conjectures that are little more than speculations, but there is one clear thing: When the Lord said here that those who are in Judea shall flee to the mountains when the abomination of desolation stands where it ought not stand, “the abomination of desolation” refers to the Antichrist—that is, someone standing against Christ—and this is someone who is related to the Jews. In my opinion, the Antichrist that the Lord spoke of will probably rise from the leaders of Israel. It may be someone who, though claiming to believe in God at first, will ignore this God and blaspheme Him once he assumes power, and enact his own law to slaughter everyone who believes in God. And this man will not only have absolute power over Israel, but his power will reach all across the world. That’s because such ironclad power is indispensable for the Antichrist to exert his control over everyone throughout the world. The Lord said in today’s Scripture passage, “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house” (Mark 13:14-15). This passage implies that the Antichrist possesses extremely brutal power that’s invincible.
Our Lord then said that when the end times arrive with the appearance of the Antichrist, woe would fall on those who are pregnant and those who are nursing babies. The Lord Jesus said, “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.”
What will follow the tribulation then? Let’s turn to verses 24-25: “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Take a look at this passage. It says that the stars of heaven will fall. What will happen when the stars fall from the sky and collide with this planet?
In the past, people used to take it nonchalantly when asked, “How will this planet earth disappear?” They used to just say, “To this day, the planet earth has never been destroyed, not even once. Sure, there were some changes, but it never disappeared.” But now we know very well that when an asteroid fell on the planet earth ages ago, the impact kicked up so much dust and particles into the atmosphere that the sun was blocked out. And we know from scientific discovery and evidence that the ice age followed as a result, leading to the extinction of many species. If a large asteroid falls on this planet earth, the whole globe will be devastated and everything on the earth will be scorched. If this were told to people in the past, they would have dismissed it as nonsense, but in this present age of advanced scientific knowledge, it is quite a convincing hypothesis.
The Lord was speaking of this very thing when he said, “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” This literally means that the universe of God’s creation will be shaken and the stars will fall and collide with one another. The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. Like this, the Lord said that He will destroy this planet earth with fire. He also said that the tribulation would be so severe that unless the Lord shortened those days, no flesh would be saved. This means that for the sake of His chosen people, the Lord would allow such tribulations to happen for only three and a half years, just as it’s written in the Book of Revelation.
Jesus Christ, who is the true God, is telling us all these things because He knows everything that will happen at the end of this world. Our souls can survive through these tribulations if we accept this Word of the Lord by faith and prepare ourselves by faith. In contrast, if we don’t accept it by faith, thinking, “This is just God’s Word on what will happen in the end times. It has nothing to do with us at the present time,” then it would be akin to losing something priceless. We should not live in this tough world by ourselves. We should be led by the Lord. Through the Lord’s Word, we must reaffirm our faith and live by it. Rather than listening to anyone else and being deceived by them, we must stand before the true God one to one, learn His Word, and follow this Truth. The Word of God is the Truth itself. All of us must learn and believe in the Lord’s Word with our hearts, and we must all abide in this Word unwaveringly. Because the Word of God sees through the past, the present, and even the future, we will benefit from it greatly if we accept it by faith. It’s then that we become the people of perfect faith, able to bring our lives, which last no more than 70 to 80 years at the most, to a fulfilling closure and stand upright before God.
 
 
Some Scientists Say That the Last Age Will Be Marked by a Meltdown
 
Some people say that the planet earth will be frozen to destruction, and this opinion is not necessarily wrong either. In fact, when the sun is darkened and the moon loses its light, the whole world will be darkened and temperatures will plummet freezing everything. So even plants will not survive, and the human race, unable to find food, will also perish in its entirety.
But our Lord clearly said that He would judge the world with fire. Just as the Lord said, “The stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken,” when the stars fall and everything on this earth explodes including volcanoes and nuclear weapons, this planet will be completely scorched and destroyed. And our Lord said that He will come at the end of such events. He said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”
Right now we are reading the Gospel of Mark, but I would like to take a moment to explain a few things about the Four Gospels. The writers of the Four Gospels are Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. All of them followed Jesus in His days, but they each had a different viewpoint in seeing the events related to Jesus. Among them, it seems to me that Luke was more detailed oriented. That’s because he saw in detail the fragile nature of mankind, and he emphasized the fact that Jesus helped such weak human beings. In other words, the Gospel of Luke speaks of Jesus as the compassionate and kind God who understood and sympathized with human weaknesses, rather than emphasizing the fact that He came as the Savior and blotted out mankind’s sins. Luke may be offended if he hears this, but that’s the truth.
In contrast, Mark sees Jesus as a faithful worker. The Gospel of Mark depicts Jesus as the Servant sent by God the Father, working transcendently and silently in obedience to the Father’s will. Perhaps that’s why Biblical scholars argue that the Gospel of Mark is most likely to be the original among the Four Gospels. Another reason for the originality of the Gospel of Mark is that it is written clearly and in simple terms.
The Gospel of Matthew, on the other hand, emphasizes Jesus as the King of kings. It sees Jesus as the absolute King of this world. If Jesus were sitting before us, each of us would have also seen Him from a different angle. We would have looked at Him and expressed Him according to each of our view points and characters. That’s why when people are asked to explain the same event, each has a different interpretation.
Mark wrote the Word spoken by Jesus Christ exactly as it was, without adding or subtracting anything. When the disciples asked Jesus, “What do You think of this Temple?” He said to them unambiguously, “The Temple will be demolished completely and will disappear,” and Mark wrote down what He said as it was.
When one is recording something, it’s quite easy for him to include his own thoughts and add his own values without even realizing it. So even when the same event is recorded by more than one person, each person has a different record. This is akin to two women preparing the same meal with the same ingredients. Although they may both be preparing the same dish, since each has her own way to cook, each dish will also taste a bit different. Likewise, each of the Four Gospels was written with a different tone, and in today’s Scripture passage, Mark is explaining to us what will happen in the end times one after another, so that we may understand it easily.
Like this, through the Four Gospels we can come across diverse viewpoints on the Lord and the events surrounding Him. We can see four different portraits of Jesus through the Four Gospels, which were written according to each of the four writers’ viewpoints. However, what is clear is that all these four writers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and all their writings were inspired by Him. In fact, we can learn about the Lord in even greater detail if we compare these four writers’ records closely. That’s because all their writings are the Word of God.
Let’s return to today’s Scripture passage. The Lord said that when these signs appear one after another to indicate the impending destruction of this world, there will emerge a tyrant, the Antichrist. Once this happens, the world will face extreme difficulties, both environmentally and economically, and the believers will face extreme persecution. The Antichrist will massacre people, and at the same time the sun will be darkened, the moon will no longer give its light, and the stars in the sky will fall. Who did the Lord say will come at this time? The Lord said that He will return and gather His elect from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of Heaven. He will then destroy this world and establish the Millennial Kingdom by renewing the heavens and the earth. The present heavens and the earth will not exist anymore.
Do you now understand this? We must reaffirm our faith in our hearts. We must remember with all our hearts what the Lord said about the destruction of this world and its time. Today’s Scripture passage is not about some distance event. The Lord said that now is the beginning of sorrow. I keep repeating myself here, but countless disasters are breaking out all across the world. Just recently, a full week of heavy rain in the Philippines led to a massive flood, and I saw on TV how the flood had left a huge swath of land covered in sediment. The sediment came from a landslide triggered by the torrential rain, burying everything on its path in mud. So much mud flowed from the mountains that it wiped out an entire town. I heard that no less than 1,800 people were buried under this landslide, and with nearly as many people missing with no hope of recovery, the total number of victims ran upwards of 3,000.
Moreover, scientists warn that as the polar icecaps melt due to global warming, the sea level will rise higher and higher. Venice, a city in Italy, is by the seaside and its streets are submerged when the tide comes in. So when the water comes up to the knee like this, the people in that city can’t do anything but wait until the water recedes. Perhaps that’s why the buildings there are lined with salt deposits. There are so many disasters breaking out nowadays that when we hear of them, they don’t make that much of an impression anymore. It has become not so uncommon for tens of thousands of people to perish in an earthquake in some distant land. The magnitude of such disasters is getting increasingly more severe. This means that the age of sorrows has begun.
At this point in time, you should focus your mind on the fact that the age of sorrows has now begun, and that you are now living in such an age of sorrows, rather than being preoccupied with anything else. The end is not here yet. Before we stand in the middle of the age of sorrows, the gospel must be preached to every nation, and the Antichrist must also appear to lay the world to ruins. For us to prepare for the coming end there is nothing else to do than to know how we are living now, and where we will find ourselves when the age of sorrows begins and troubles arise. We must realize this today. In other words, we must realize in what age we are living and where we find ourselves.
I am preaching the Word to you now, but through the Lord’s parable in today’s Scripture passage, I myself am also realizing that now is the time when sorrows begin in full-scale. I am not just asking you to believe like this, but I also believe that this present age is nearing the end. And I also have every confidence that as long as you and I have a clear understanding of this present age, we should take care of our other problems easily. Of course, recognizing the reality of this age doesn’t mean that the consequences would be different from what the Lord said, but we can at least know what awaits us and prepare ourselves for them beforehand. If you fail to grasp the age you are living in, you will end up stumbling and abandoning your faith. I hope and pray that this never happens to any of you. Not realizing the times we are living in will only result in useless endeavors. Will any of us benefit if we allow this to happen? No, it would be to our own detriment.
Although I am serving and preaching the Lord’s gospel of the water and the Spirit together with you, it is in fact my sincerest desire for the Lord to return as soon as possible. In my mind I think to myself, “Disasters keep breaking out and the world is becoming an increasingly harsh place to live in. What should I do then? The Lord said that He would return when the gospel is preached to the entire world. Then I should preach the gospel to everyone in the world. Even though I have nothing but shortcomings, I must preach the gospel until the end.” Through the Lord’s Word I have come to realize beforehand what will happen in the future and think about how I should prepare myself. I ask you to also examine your heart. The Lord has saved you and me through the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit, but has this Truth really come into your heart to become one with you? See for yourself if the gospel Truth is indeed completely planted deep in your heart, as a man and a woman become one body in marriage. Examine also if you really believe in the Lord, and if you have really received the remission of sins. You must always see yourself in the present. The Lord said that a tree is known by its fruit. If you can’t live by faith nor follow the Lord even as you claim to have received the remission of your sins, then you have a serious problem.
Lack of faith is not the only problem. Even if you have faith, whether this faith is perfect or imperfect is much more important. When those without faith see the faith of their predecessors in the Church and listen to the Lord’s Word attentively, they are compelled to follow the Lord as the Holy Spirit gives faith into their hearts. It’s actually such people who accept the guidance of the Church in obedience.
In contrast, those who struggle to follow the Church are those who, though they claim to have faith, actually have an imperfect faith. Despite believing in the Lord, such people are too confident of themselves, and it’s these very people that decide and act on their own, unable to completely unite themselves with Jesus. Such people are also found around us, boasting of their temporal gifts and living by relying on their own talents despite claiming to believe in the Lord. Even such gifts are God-given, and in reality, their talents do not amount to much, but they are still deluded into regarding themselves too highly.
God nurtures everyone who comes into the Church to develop his talents. I am one of such people. God decides where you can be used most appropriately, and He actually nurtures your skills to be used as His instrument in this world. However, some people no longer obey the Church when their skills are gradually developed to reach a certain point. When these people think that they have become quite an expert, they begin to resent the Church ordering them around.
Of course, this is not a problem if they repent from their arrogance and turn around. But given the nature of the human heart, this is rarely what happens. Instead, their resentment keeps building up until they begin to think, “I am so gifted, but all my talents are rotting away uselessly in this Church.” As such thoughts ultimately turn their hearts to arrogance, they consequently feel that abiding in God’s Church is detrimental to them, and they conclude that they do not belong to the Church. In this way, they end up departing from the Lord.
For us to have the perfect faith and completely prepare ourselves for the end times that the Lord spoke of, the first step to take is to ask ourselves, “Have I really received the remission of my sins from God?” If you think, “I am so frustrated and angry that I just cannot continue on with my life of faith anymore,” then you must take a closer inspection of yourself to see if you have really received the remission of your sins or not. Rather than examining what’s visible, look deep inside your heart. If you have received the remission of sins, then the rest is taken care of. When it comes to believing in and following the Lord, what matters is whether you have really received the remission of your sins or not; any other remaining issues are just temporary, and so you can easily address them with little effort.
Now that the cold winter has passed and the spring has sprung, don’t we all feel good? We are happy that spring is finally here. But when the summer arrives in a short while, we will be complaining about the heat. Everything else but the Word of God is a transient phenomenon, and therefore it is bound to change in time. Regardless of the season, the only important issue is whether or not you and I truthfully believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and whether or not we have really become one body with God. If we have indeed become one body with God by faith, then the rest is not a problem. That’s because the Lord will take care of everything else for us, embracing us and beatifying us, and giving us even more wonderful blessings.
As I’ve already said, whenever I preach a sermon, I am not just speaking to you, but to myself as well. A preacher does not end just by giving a sermon. Instead, while preaching, the preacher meditates on the Word of God and once again plants his heart’s faith firmly on this Word.
I am sure that this is true for you as well. Through today’s Scripture passage, I ask you once again to reaffirm your faith in the Lord and to follow Him until the very end. This is the precious Word that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you at this very hour, to the Church and to all the saints living in this present age. Let me then close by giving all thanks to God for blessing me to preach this Word.