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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The Son of Man will come with great power and glory
Text:Mark 13:24-37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2012
Added:2012-07-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 95
Hymn 11:9
Psalm 21:1,5,6,7
Hymn 70
Hymn 67

Readings:  Isaiah 13, Matthew 25:1-13
Text:  Mark 13:24-37
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

If you ever get a chance to head out west, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Rocky Mountains.  And if you do, perhaps you’ll approach them via the Trans-Canada highway coming through the Calgary area.  If it’s a clear day, you can get a beautiful view of the Rockies from Calgary.  It’s in the foothills and the mountains are not that far off.  As you look out at the Rockies from the Calgary area, all you see is one range of peaks.  It’s impossible to judge which ones are further away and which ones are closer by.  It’s only as you get closer that you start to realize that the Rockies are a wide range and some of the mountains are quite far apart.  But from a distance, say from Calgary, all you see is the one range. 

Well, this is much like what we see with a lot of biblical prophecy.  Many times the prophets are describing events and from a distance all we see is one “range” so to speak.  But as the events described come into view, we start to see perspective.  We start to see that some events in these prophecies are closer by and others are further off.  We call this prophetic perspective and it’s often been compared to seeing a mountain range from a distance.  As you get closer in and take a closer look, you see some mountains are near and others are far.  As you get closer in to a prophetic passage, you start to see that some events are near the time of the prophet and others are further off. 

This is what’s happening in the prophetic section of Mark 13 too.  Jesus had been with his disciples at the temple.  One of them drew attention to the glory of this building, its huge stones and magnificent beauty – “a mountain of marble covered in gold,” as one observer put it.  Christ told his disciples that it was all going to come crashing down.  That led to the question asked on the Mount of Olives:  when?  And when Christ answered that question, he talked about the great judgment to come on the Jewish people in 70 A.D.  The Romans would sack Jerusalem and raze the temple.  There would be devastation never seen before.  But Christ speaks here in this chapter like an Old Testament prophet and he combines that great judgment with the last judgment.  Those events become intertwined in the Olivet Discourse.  Up to verse 23, he was primarily speaking of the judgment to come upon the Jews.  There were elements of the last judgment in there too, but it was mostly focussed on events that would take place in the near future.  Starting in verse 24, Christ’s focus shifts.  Now he begins speaking mostly about events in the more distant future.  If you want to use the analogy of mountains, these are the mountains further off.  Here Christ begins speaking of the Day of the Lord at the end of the age.  He’s speaking of his return.  And so I proclaim to you God’s Word from Mark 13: 

The Son of Man will come with great power and glory

We’ll consider:

1.      Why he comes

2.      When he comes

3.      How his disciples prepare for his coming

So how do we know that Christ is speaking about something different beginning in verse 24?  There are a couple of clues.  One is the word “but.”  That little word introduces a different focus here.  The other important clue is what we read in verses 26 and 27 about the coming of the Son of Man.  He will come in such a way that all people will see him.  He is going to come and gather his elect from the four winds.  These events didn’t happen in 70 A.D.  They haven’t yet happened since.  These are events that still lay in the future.  Recognizing that gives us the proper perspective as we launch into verse 24. 

Some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, there would be other signs.  What happened at Jerusalem was just a local judgment.  It was the judgment of God upon the Jews for their unbelief and rebellion.  Not only had they put Christ on the cross, but afterwards when the apostles came with the gospel, they rejected it.  Most of the Jewish people refused to repent from their sins and believe in Christ.  That’s why the covenant judgment came in 70 A.D.  It was a local judgment on one people.  But now Christ starts speaking about a broader judgment, a judgment that will come upon all nations.

That universal judgment is signified by what happens in the heavens.  In the Old Testament, in passages like what we read from Isaiah 13, universal judgment is related to what happens with the sun and the moon and the stars.  In the Old Testament, when things are happening in the sky, it’s a sign that God is about to judge the nations.   He’s about to judge the whole earth.  And Christ is simply echoing that Old Testament prophetic language here in Mark 13.  He says a time is coming when there will be an upheaval of the natural order and when that happens, universal judgment is about to begin. 

Christ says that at that time the Son of Man will come.  This isn’t the first time that he’s spoken of himself as the Son of Man.  When he uses that expression he’s referring back to Daniel’s prophecy.  In Daniel 7, the prophet sees “one like a Son of Man.”  This figure is given “authority, glory, and sovereign power.”  He is a ruler and his kingdom will never be destroyed.  Jesus says that he is the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.  He will come on the clouds with great power and glory.  What he’s saying is that he will come with the authority to judge and the strength to execute the judgment – and for all this he will be praised into eternity by his people and angels.

That day will be the day that justice is executed.  Yes, it’s true that God’s justice is carried out already before that day.  In this world already, many times the wicked do get what’s coming to them.  Proverbs says that the way of the wicked is hard.  It’s referring to life on this earth.  Some time ago CBC had a documentary on a famous Mafia family from Montreal.  They’ve made millions from criminal activities.  But they’ve paid the price.  Almost all the leaders of this family have been gunned down and died violent deaths.  If you want to die the same way, get involved in drugs.  All you have to do is develop a drug addiction, start racking up drug debts, and before long you could find yourself dead or close to dead.  Yes, in this world already, justice is being carried out.  People are beginning to reap what they sow.  And when they die without Christ, they experience God’s wrath in hell the moment they die.  So what’s the difference between that and what we read about here?  What’s the significance of the last judgment?

For one thing, that last judgment will be a public affair.  The entire world sees the Son of Man coming with power to judge and they see him carrying out the judgment.  The result of that will be the vindication of God’s justice.  God will make his justice public for the entire world to see and this will be for his glory.  Those without Christ will receive what they have coming to them in front of every person who’s ever lived. 

For another thing, that last judgment will be carried out on both body and soul.  It’s not mentioned in our text, but the resurrection of the body is something that comes with Christ’s return.  When people die, their bodies are usually buried.  Their souls go either to heaven or to hell.  But at the last day, the bodies of all people will be resurrected.  Those who did not believe in Christ will also receive their bodies back, but not to be glorified.  They will receive their bodies back so that they can receive God’s wrath not only spiritually in their souls, but also physically in their bodies – for eternity. 

So Christ’s return is for the purpose of judgment.  But it is also for the purpose of salvation for the elect.  We find that in verse 27.  Christ says that he will send his angels out to gather the elect – his chosen ones.  He’ll bring them in from all over the place.  For what purpose?  To publicly announce their vindication.  To make it clear to the whole world that these ones are his, that they belong to him.  At that day, he’ll own them all before the world.  He’ll say that these are the ones he lived for, that he died for, that he rose for, that he interceded for.  These are the elect, his chosen ones whom he loved and redeemed.

What a comfort it is to read these words!  Our Lord Jesus holds out hope for us here.  He tells us that we can be sure that a great day is coming for us.  As we cling to him in faith, we can be confident that our day of vindication is coming.  That Day of the Lord isn’t a day of worry and anxiety for us.  If we’re resting and trusting in Christ, we don’t have to be afraid of that day.  Christ will come for us.  He will say, “This one is mine.  This one was a sinner, but I lived a perfect life in her place.  I died for all her sins and I paid the price.  This one is righteous and an heir to eternal life.”  Yes, it’s true that you get to experience the beginning of eternal joy here in this life already.  Yes, it’s also true that when you die, you enter into eternal life.  But there is something greater coming on that great Day of the Lord.  Believers receive their bodies back so that they can experience eternal life in the new heavens and earth in the fullness of what it means to be human.  Both body and soul will be reunited for an eternity of living in God’s presence.  You see, we will not live forever as disembodied souls.  There is a physical existence waiting for us.  That’s an existence already enjoyed not only by our Lord Jesus, but also by saints such as Enoch and Elijah.  We will have glorified bodies.  There’ll be no grief, no pain, no suffering, no sickness, no depression, no hurts.  With the return of Christ, we really have something great to look forward to!  Brothers and sisters, believe again the gospel hope held out to us here.

So, why is the Son of Man coming?  For judgment and salvation.  Now what about the timing of his coming?  When can we expect him? 

Dozens of times throughout history people have made predictions of Christ’s return.  You have heard before about Harold Camping, the radio personality who used to be Christian Reformed.  He set several dates for Christ’s return.  Years ago there was Hal Lindsey.  He also predicted Christ’s return.  And the list goes on and on.  The temptation is too strong to resist for some.  For some reason, they just feel compelled to go ahead and do it despite what Scripture says.  This is actually a sure fire litmus test.  As soon as someone begins predicting a date for Christ’s return, you know they’re on the wrong track.  They might still be right on some things, but when it comes to eschatology, the doctrine of the last things, you know they’re out in left field when they start speaking about Christ coming back at this time or that time.  Even if they say things like, “This is the decade that we can count on seeing Christ come back,” you know they’re not to be trusted.  Christ could come back that decade, but he warned against setting dates.  Christians ought not to do it.  It’s a simple matter of following the word of our Master. 

Even the kids here among us can get this.  Young brothers and sisters, you’re five or six or seven years old, maybe eight.  You can get this.  This is not hard.  If someone asks you, “When is Jesus coming back?”  the answer is simple:  “We don’t know.”  I hope your mom or dad will ask you when you get home from church.  “When is Jesus coming back?”  And you’ll say, “We don’t know.”  Because that’s exactly what Jesus says here in the Bible in Mark 13.

He says that no one knows about that day or hour.  Jesus says that even he doesn’t know.  Only God the Father has the time.  He says you don’t know and you can’t know when the Son of Man will return.  If someone says they know, then they know more than Jesus himself.  How is that possible?  How can a human being know more than the Son of God?  Are they greater than Jesus?  Of course not.

Yet Christ does say that there will always be signs of his approaching return.  He says that again with the lesson of the fig tree.  Fig trees are found in the Mediterranean.  During fall, fig trees lose their leaves and they spend the winter bare.  When things start warming up again in the spring, the sap starts flowing through the tree and it makes the twigs a bit squishy.  Before long, the leaves start poking out and then people know that summer is close at hand.  You could compare it to maple trees.  When the maple sap starts running, you know that you’re getting into spring and summer’s not that far off.  Similarly, there are always signs that Christ is returning with judgment and salvation.  We think back to what he mentioned earlier in Mark 13.  Wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution.  All these things remind us that we’re always to be ready for the return of Christ.  In the big picture of world history, his return is near, right at the door.  It’s imminent and we have to always live in that realization. 

Everything is going to happen just like Jesus said it would.  He said that his words would not pass away – you can count on all of this happening exactly like he said it would.  Now with verse 30, there is a little bit of a question.  Jesus says that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”  There are varying interpretations of these words, even among Reformed interpreters.  What does he mean by “this generation”?  Some say that he is referring to the disciples and their contemporaries.  But that runs into a problem with the fact that he speaks of his return to judge the living and the dead.  That didn’t happen during the lifetime of the disciples.  It still hasn’t happened.  So either Jesus was wrong or we have to look for another interpretation.  The best way to understand that is that the Greek word for “generation” there can also mean race or people or ethnicity.  What Jesus is saying then is that the Jews as a people are going to survive the judgment at 70 A.D., and they’ll still be around for his last judgment.  In his mercy, God will still give them more opportunities to repent and believe the gospel.  The judgment of 70 A.D. on Jerusalem and the temple was just a foretaste of the judgment to come.  God is not finished with the Jews quite yet.  He will only be entirely finished with them when the end of the age comes.  Until then, they can still turn to Christ.  Christians still have a calling and responsibility to bring the gospel to the Jews – to call them to repentance and faith in the Messiah.  There is still time for them.   

So when it comes to the timing of Christ’s return, the answer is simple:  no one knows but God the Father.  Now we want to consider how Christ’s disciples prepare for his return.

Look at what he says in verse 33:  “Be on guard!  Be alert!”  Look at what he says in verse 35:  “Keep watch!”  And in case you missed it, he says again in verse 37, “Watch!” 

He gives a comparison to drive the point home.  There’s a man who owns a house.  He’s a bit wealthy, so he has servants.  He puts them in charge while he’s gone.  They’re supposed to take care of things.  What motivates them is the knowledge that their master could return at any moment.  They keep busy with the master’s business, because they want to please him and they want him to find them doing what they were called to do.  Jesus speaks of him coming back at certain times:  evening, midnight, the crowing of the rooster, the dawn.  What all those times have in common is that they were considered night.  Night is the time when people are most likely to be sleeping.  Night is the time the virgins were sleeping in the parable in Matthew 25.  When the bridegroom came, it was at midnight.  Here in Mark 13, Jesus says too that night time is the time you don’t count on it.  When the master comes, you don’t want him to find you asleep on the job.  You want to please him and meet his expectations.  So Christ says:  “Be watchful!  Be on guard!  Be alert!”

Okay, but what does that look like in concrete terms?  To answer that, we have to go elsewhere in the Bible.  There’s what Paul says in Romans 13.  He says it’s time for us to wake up from our slumber, because our deliverance is near.  In other words, the Day of the Lord is approaching.  We have to live in the light of that.  Paul makes it quite concrete.  We have to live as people of the light.  There are things that don’t fit with our identity in Christ.   Paul specifically mentions orgies and drunkenness.  Sexual immorality doesn’t belong with people who are expecting and looking for the coming of Christ.  Obviously the reverse holds true.  As Christians look for the coming of Jesus, they are sober and chaste.  But there’s more in Romans 13.  Paul says, “not in debauchery....”  What is debauchery?  The dictionary says that it’s “excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol and drugs.”  But of course as Christians, we understand it differently.  There’s no level of acceptable indulgence in recreational drugs.  For instance, you can’t just use a little bit of marijuana and think it’s okay for you as a Christian.  It’s not.  There’s no level of acceptable indulgence in extra-marital sexual relations.  With alcohol it is different because Scripture says so.  The Bible forbids drunkenness, but it doesn’t forbid the moderate enjoyment of alcohol.  Debauchery means going crazy and overboard.  It means being worldly and thinking that you have no accountability to anyone for what you think or do.  As Christians we strive for something different:  clothing ourselves with Christ.  As we look for his coming, we evaluate our conduct by looking to him.  We ask ourselves the question:  am I reflecting my union with Christ?  Do I show my gratitude and love for Christ with my lifestyle?  When he comes, is he going to recognize my lifestyle as that of someone who believes in him?  Paul summarizes what he’s saying there in Romans 13 by saying, “Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature...”  As we look for the coming of Christ, our minds have to be oriented to Christ.  We have to turn our minds away from sinful desires and turn them to Christ.  Loved ones, that’s how Scripture teaches us to be on guard, to be alert, to be watchful for the coming of our Master.

Brothers and sisters, Christ is coming to judge the living and the dead.  We don’t know when, but we do know that he will.  And he has taught us how to be prepared.  He wants us looking to him in faith and then living out of him, following his Word.  As we do that, we can eagerly look forward to his return.  It will be a great day for him, a day of glory, and a great day for us.  It will be a day when we will give him joyful praise and a day when all our hopes will be realized.  Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

O God in heaven, our Father,

You alone know the timing of that great day of our Lord Jesus.  You alone know when the day will dawn and the night will be over.  We pray that the day would come quickly.  We pray for your justice to revealed and we pray for our own deliverance.  Father, as we wait, please help us with your Spirit to wait as we ought.  Help us to always be watchful and ready.  Please give us more grace so that we are always clothed with Christ.  Father, we want that day to find us unafraid and joyful at the sight of our Saviour coming with the clouds.                   

 

                         




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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