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HORRORS ON THE HORIZON
Intro: For some time now, we have been following Jesus through the events of His life, as they are recorded in the Gospel of Mark. We have spent the last four months following Jesus through the last week of His life. He is on His way to the cross to give His life as a ransom for sin. He is on His way to die for the ungodly.
As He makes His way to Calvary, Jesus takes some time to share some much needed truths with His disciples. He wants them to some of the events that will occur as the end of time approaches.
We have been looking at Mark chapter 13, which records The Olivet Discourse. In this sermon, Jesus speaks to the nation of Israel and gives them some very clear warnings of the events that will take place during the last days. We have already listened as Jesus gave them details about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem; about the increase in wars and natural disasters; and about an increase in the persecution of those who are followers of Jesus.
In the verses before us today, Jesus pushes the calendar even farther into the future. In these verses, He takes us all the way to the middle of the Tribulation Period. Jesus wants His people, living in all ages, to know that some tragic events are on the horizon, both for the followers of Christ and for the nation of Israel.
I want to take these words of Christ and preach about Horrors On The Horizon. I want to show you the warnings Jesus gives His people about the events of that time known as The Great Tribulation. I want you to see that there is A Warning Of A Sign; A Warning Of Sorrows; and A Warning Of Seduction. Let’s consider these warnings together today.
I. v. 14-18 A WARNING OF A SIGN
· As I said in the introduction, we are going to be looking at some events that will occur during The Great Tribulation. The Tribulation is a seven year period of time that will occur after the Rapture of the Church.
The Tribulation is also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble, Jer. 30:7. It is a time when God will pour out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world. It is also a time when God will prepare a remnant of believing Jews to enter into the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
There are two basic reasons for the Tribulation.
1. To Punish The Gentile Nations - Rom. 1:18; 2 Thes. 2:12-13; Rev. 19:15. For many thousands of years men have spurned the call of God to repentance and salvation. During the Tribulation Period, God will visit wicked humanity with the fruits of their sin: divine judgment!
2. To Purge The People Of Israel - Eze. 20:37-38; Zech. 13:8-9; Mal. 3:3. The Nation of Israel is guilty of rejecting the Messiah and of having a part in His death. However, God will use the terrors of the Tribulation to prepare Israel for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus returns to the earth in power and glory, He will be met by a believing remnant of the Jewish people.
· The entire Tribulation period will last seven years. This is made clear in Dan. 9:24-27, in Daniels prophecy of the 70 weeks. These 70 weeks refers to weeks of years. The Jewish calendar was comprised of weeks containing seven days. It was also comprised of seven year periods. Each seventh year was a Sabbatical Year. So, Daniel saw 70 weeks of years, 490 years.
69 of those weeks have been literally fulfilled. The years began to be counted when the command to rebuild a destroyed Jerusalem was given by the Persian king Artaxerxes in 445 BC, Ezra 1:1-4. 69 weeks, or 483 years later, the Messiah was “cut off by being nailed to a cross, Dan. 9:26. That leaves one week, or seven years that have yet to be fulfilled.
That last week of 7 years will be fulfilled during the Tribulation Period. That is the focus of the Lord’s prophecy in these verses.
· The first three and one-half years of the Tribulation will be a time of relative peace and prosperity on the earth. The church will be gone and will be with the Lord in Heaven, 1 Thes. 4:13-17; Rev. 4:1. God will raise up an army of 144,000 saved Jewish evangelists who will take the Gospel to all the nations of the world, Rev. 7:1-12. These men will be persecuted by the world’s governments, but they will be supernaturally protected and vast multitudes of people will be saved, Rev. 7:13-17. More could be said about those first three and one-half years of Tribulation, but the emphasis in this text is on the last three and one-half years.
· Jesus gives His men a sign that stands as a warning that severe trouble is at hand. Jesus warns them about “the abomination of desolation. The literal rendering of that phrase could be the abomination that makes desolate, or defiles. He is referring to an event that will defile a holy place. It is my understanding that Jesus is referring to an event that will take place in a future Temple that has yet to be built in Jerusalem.
· Daniel refers to this event in Dan. 11:31. Like many prophecies in the Bible, this one seems to have a dual fulfillment. That is, it was partially fulfilled in history and it will be completely fulfilled in the future.
In 167 BC the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanies attempted to force the Jews the adopt Greek culture. He would not permit them to circumcise their male children, or offer the Levitical sacrifices. He forced them to offer swine to God. On one occasion, Antiochus entered the Temple in Jerusalem and offered a pig on the altar. He also erected a statue of the Greek god Zeus in the Holy of Holies, and he opened a brothel in the Temple chambers. He so defiled the Temple that the Jews abandoned it until a successful rebellion defeated Antiochus and his successors.
Later, in 40 AD, the insane Emperor Caligula, who thought he was a god, almost succeeded in erecting a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple. Then in 68 AD Jewish Zealots took control of the Temple and desecrated it by allowing robbers into the Holy of Holies and by committing murders in the Temple itself. In 70 AD, Titus the Roman general entered the Holy of Holies and removed many sacred items to be used in his victory procession.
· The ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will occur in the future. The Antichrist will make a seven-year treaty with Israel. He will break this treaty after three and one-half years, Dan. 9:27. At that time, the Antichrist will enter the Temple in Jerusalem and declare himself to be god, 2 Thes. 2:1-4. He will demand to be worshipped and will destroy those who refuse. At that same time, the False Prophet, who will dominate world religion during the Tribulation, will erect an image of the Antichrist in the Holy of Holies, Dan. 12:11; Rev. 13:11-15.
· When the Jews see this sign, it will alert them that they are flee for their lives. When the Zealots took possession of the Temple in 67-68 AD, Christians living in Jerusalem saw it as a fulfillment of this very prophecy. They fled the city and escaped the brutal crackdown of Rome that led to the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
When this sign appears, those living in Jerusalem are to leave immediately. They are not to worry about possessions of personal property. A person who is on top of his house should take the outside stairs and flee. He should not bother to go into the house to retrieve anything. A man in the field should not even take to time to go to the end of the row to retrieve his garment. To delay in that day will prove deadly.
This flight will be especially hard for pregnant women and for women with small children. Their escape will be compounded if these events take place during the winter months. In fact, they are commanded to pray that it will not occur during the hard, cold winters in Palestine.
· While this prophecy is complex and difficult to understand, we need to try and grasp its importance to us. While it was given to the nation of Israel, there is a word from the Lord in it for us also.
The lesson we can glean is this: this world, as we know it will end some day. The Lord Jesus will return for His people as He said, John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11. When He comes, he is coming only for those who have been saved by the grace of God, 1 Thes. 4:16-18. Everyone else will be left behind to face the horrors of the Tribulation Period. Don’t wait around for “the abomination of desolation. Receive Jesus and be saved so that you can leave when He comes in the Rapture. If you are left behind, and see the sign Jesus speaks of here, it will mean that you are lost and headed to Hell. The time to be saved is now!
I think there is also the idea that we should pray for the Jews. We are commanded to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Psa. 122:6. We should pray that God will open their eyes and let them see the horrors that are about to be unleashed on them and on this world.
I. A Warning Of A Sign
II. v. 19-20 A WARNING
· Jesus tells His disciples that the Tribulation Period will be a time marked by severe “afflictions. This word means troubles. Jesus also tells us that the Tribulation will be a time of unprecedented sorrow and horror.
· In this one verse, the Lord Jesus condenses one of the most horrible times in human experience into a few words. I would like to spend a few minutes looking at this time in a little detail.
There will be two sets of intense judgments that will take place during the latter half of the Tribulation. These judgments are known respectively as the Trumpet Judgments and the Vial Judgments. Let’s take a moment to look at these terrible events.
Ψ The Trumpet Judgments
1. The First Trumpet - Rev. 8:7 - 1/3 of the green vegetation on the face of the earth is destroyed.
2. The Second Trumpet - Rev. 8:8-9 - 1/3 of the oceans become blood and 1/3 of the life in the sea is destroyed. 1/3 of the world’s shipping is also destroyed.
3. The Third Trumpet - Rev. 8:10-11 - Perhaps this refers to a meteor that falls into the water supplies and pollute 1/3 of the freshwater of the world. This poison the water and many more people perish in this plague.
4. The Fourth Trumpet - Rev. 8:12 - Some event takes place in the heavens and the sun’s light is diminished by one-third. Also, one-third of the light of the other heavenly bodies is destroyed.
(Ill. Before the Fifth Trumpet sounds, an angel flies through Heaven and pronounces three “woes upon the earth. The reason? Things are about to take a turn for the worse, Rev. 8:13.)
5. The Fifth Trumpet - Rev. 9:1-12 - The earth is invaded by an army of demons from the pits of Hell. The demons have the power to torment men for 5 months. They won’t kill men, but the pain will be so intense that men will want to die, but they will be unable to achieve death! Even attempts at suicide will fail!
6. The Sixth Trumpet - Rev. 9:13-21 - A demonic invasion of an army that numbers 200,000,000. The results of this invasion will be that 1/3 of the human population will be destroyed.
Note: when this event is coupled with the 4th Seal, it means that over ½ the population of earth has been killed. But, what is the reaction of humanity? Rev. 9:20-21, they remain unrepentant!
(Ill. Notice that before these 6 judgments are poured out on the earth, there is a time of silence in Heaven, Rev. 8:1. It appears that what is about to happen is so severe that calls for a time of silence and of mourning. All of God’s judgment is performed out of holiness and not a desire to make men suffer! God does not like to destroy the wicked. But, His righteousness demands it!)
7. The Seventh Trumpet - Rev. 11:15-19 - This trumpet announces the soon return of the Lord Jesus. It also introduces the seven Vial or Bowl Judgments.
Ψ The Vial Judgments
1. The First Vial - Rev. 16:2 - Some kind of vile cancerous sore in poured out on mankind.
2. The Second Vial - Rev. 16:3 - The waters of the sea are turned to blood and every creature in the sea dies.
3. The Third Vial - Rev. 16:4-7 - The fresh waters of the earth are turned to blood.
4. The Fourth Vial - Rev. 16:8-9 - The sun’s heat is intensified and men’s bodies are burned by the heat of the sun. Yet, with all these torments, they do not repent!
5. The Fifth Vial - Rev. 16:10 - This plague brings darkness and intense pain to the inhabitant of the earth. Again so intense that they gnaw their tongues in their pain, yet they still refuse to repent.
6. The Sixth Vial - Rev. 16:12-14 - The Euphrates River is dried up preparing a pathway for the nations of the earth to descend upon Israel for the final conflict.
7. The Seventh Vial - Rev. 16:17-21 - This vial brings with it a terrible cataclysm in the earth. There is an earthquake of such magnitude that the islands of the sea sink and all the mountains of the earth fall down flat. On top of this, all the major cities of the earth will be destroyed! Then, hailstones fall from the heavens that weigh in at around 125 pounds each.
· Ill. These are but a portion of the events that will take place during the Tribulation. It will be a time of unspeakable horrors and trials.
During the Tribulation, over one-half of the world’s population will die from starvation, disease and war. Wrath from Heaven and demons from Hell will assault the inhabitants of earth. It will be a time of unimaginable horror, suffering, pain and death!
However, no one in this room should ever have to worry about this. If you are saved, you will not be here. If you are not saved, you can be! The Lord Jesus will receive you, forgive your sins and allow you to join Him in His Heaven when you leave this world.
· Verse 20 tells us that if God were to permit the horrors of the Tribulation to continue unabated, no humans would survive. Therefore, God shortens those days for “the elect’s sake. Who is He talking about?
There are three groups that can said to be the Lord’s elect, or His chosen. In this day, the church of Jesus Christ is made up of those whom God has elected and chosen for Himself, Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:3-10. All of the church is gone by this time. This is not who He is talking about. The 144,000 Jewish evangelists are another group of “chosen people, Rev. 7:1-8. But, they too have been taken to Heaven by this time. The group the Lord has in mind here is the numberless multitudes that are converted during the Tribulation through the preaching of the 144,000, Rev. 7:9. This multitude will be made up of people from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. Jews and Gentiles will all come to Jesus for salvation in those days. Many will pay for their faith with their lives, but a remnant will be spared. It is for their sakes, God will shorten the days of Tribulation so that they might survive to welcome Jesus when He comes and enter His Millennial Kingdom.
· My friends, the Tribulation Period is a future reality. We have merely scratched the surface concerning the events that will take place during those terrible days. Suffice it to say, you do not want to be here when they come!
Those days are not very far away. In fact, the signs are all around that teach us that those days are near. If you want to miss them, you must be in a faith relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You must be “born again. Are you?
I. A Warning Of A Sign
II. A Warning Of Sorrows
III. v. 21-23 A WARNING
· Jesus gives His men a final warning concerning the end of time. He warns them that many false Christ’s will present themselves and attempt to lead the elect astray.
The deception will be so strong that even the elect would be deceived, if that were a possibility. When the bottom falls out of this world, and people are terrified by the things going on around them, they will be easy prey for false Messiahs. They will be looking for hope wherever they can find it, and some will be led astray by false promises of salvation.
· Jesus is telling us that these things will increase as the end approaches. In fact, during the Tribulation, the False Prophet will create and image of the Antichrist and place it in the Temple in Jerusalem. He will cause the statue to come to life. Many people will be deceived by this miracle and will worship the Antichrist and bow to his image, Rev. 13:11-18. That time period will be one of great spiritual deception and turmoil. Many will be led to their damnation because they refused the truth, 2 Thes. 2:11; 1 Tim. 4:1.
· The sad truth is, many in our own day are being led astray by false prophets and false teachers. The cults are flourishing, while Bible believing churches seem to be dying. The Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other cult groups are preaching their doctrines and being accepted by multitudes. They are gaining acceptance because they preach a message of acceptance and offer people false hope. People are told that they can earn God’s favor by being good people and by doing works. While their message makes people feel good about themselves, there is no truth to it.
Man cannot do good, nor can he be good, because he is a totally depraved sinner headed to an eternity in Hell! Man is not good, and he cannot possibly do good. This is the clear teaching of the Word of God, Rom. 3:10-23; Rom. 5:12; Gal. 3:22. If a person is to be saved and miss Hell, they must repent of their sins and believe the Gospel.
· What is the Gospel?
Ψ Jesus “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4:25.
Ψ For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures, 1 Cor. 15:3-4.
Ψ That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Rom. 10:9-10.
· I challenge you to believe the Gospel in this the day of grace. If you are not saved and you enter the Tribulation Period, you will believe the lies of the devil. You will fall for the false gods of that age, if you survive long enough to believe in them. Either way, if you refuse Jesus, you will spend eternity in Hell.
Conc: Some terrible days are coming to this world. I praise the Lord that the church, the Bride of Christ, will not be here for those days. I praise the Lord that He is coming for His people and delivering us from the wrath to come, Rom. 5:9.
But, I know that some who hear are no ready for the Lord to come. There are some here today who have never been Saved. Friend, you are lost and you are headed to Hell. You need to come to Jesus and receive Him while there is still time to do so. You need to be sure that you will go in the Rapture should Jesus come before you die and that you will go to Heaven if you should die before He comes. If you are lost, you can be saved today.
If you are saved, you ought to praise the Lord for that fact. You should also do everything in your power to help others to come to Jesus. This world needs witnesses of the saving power of Almighty God to go and tell those trapped in sin what Jesus can do for them.
If the Lord has spoken to your heart on any level, this altar is open for business! You come as He leads.