SET-2 Season of Elijah-Cross-Moses
MOSES FOURTH SUNDAY
HE WHO ENDURES TO THE END WILL BE SAVED
While Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate his last Passover, he foretold the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its Temple. Though he did not specify the time of these happenings, the collapse of Jerusalem and its Temple happened in 70 AD, forty years after his prediction. Four of the apostles were curious to know the time and the signs when they were to happen. So, they enquired about these when they were with Jesus on the Mount of Olives. Jesus warned them not to be deceived by false prophets and frightened by wars, earthquakes, and famines that will happen before the fall of Jerusalem and prior to his second coming. Then Jesus told the apostles about the upcoming persecution when the opponents and even family members might hand them over to the religious and civil authorities for trial, punishment, and death. Since they would face such a crisis on behalf of Jesus’ name, he promised the support of the Holy Spirit. Jesus encouraged them to persevere to the end for their salvation and eternal reward.
BIBLE TEXT: MARK 13:3-13
The Signs of the End
(Mk 13:3-13) As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, (4) “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?”(5) Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one deceives you. (6) Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many. (7) When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. (8) Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains.
The Coming Persecution
(Mk 13:9) “Watch out for yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them. (10) But the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (11) When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the holy Spirit. (12) Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. (13) You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.
While Jesus was in Jerusalem for his last celebration of Passover, he rode on a colt from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The pilgrims welcomed him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mk 11:9) The next day, he cursed a fig tree because it produced no fruit (Mk 11:12-14) like the non-fruitful Jews of the time. Jesus then expelled the merchants from the temple area (Mk 11:15-17). Hearing that, the chief priests and the Scribes plotted to kill Jesus (Mk 11:18). The next day, the chief priests, the Scribes, and the elders questioned the authority of Jesus with regard to his actions in the Temple (Mk 11:27-33). Jesus taught the parable of the tenants in which he summarized salvation history (Mk 12:1-11). When the Pharisees and the Herodians attempted to ensnare him by raising a question on paying taxes to the emperor, he tactfully answered: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mk 12:13-17). After various discussions and teachings, Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple (Mk 13:1-2).
The Signs of the End
As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately (Mk 13:3).
As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives
Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives for private instruction, prayer, and rest. As a Rabbi, Jesus sat to instruct his disciples. The traditional teaching position of the rabbis was sitting. “He sat and taught” is a common phrase in Rabbinic literature.
As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area
The Mount of Olives is a hill east of Jerusalem and opposite the Temple. That mount allowed a magnificent view of the Temple area across the Kidron Valley. Jesus wept over the Temple, days before, while viewing the beauty of it and reflecting on its future destruction.
The Mount of Olives had different sections, as given in the Bible. Bethphage, Bethany, and Gethsemane are parts of this mountain. Bethphage means “the house of figs” because people cultivated figs there. Similarly, Bethany means “the house of dates”, and Gethsemane stands for “the oil-press”. Jesus used to go there, especially to the Garden of Gethsemane on this mountain, for prayer.
The following Biblical events happened on the Mount of Olives:
1. The olive trees on this mountain produced oil for the Temple and for the anointing of Israel’s kings and priests. Hence, it had another name, the Mount of Anointment.
2. When King David faced a power threat from his son Absalom, “David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. All those who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went” (2 Sam 15:30).
3. Towards the end of Solomon’s reign, he built temples for idols at the Mount of Olives and worshipped false gods. That displeased God (1 Kgs 11:6-9).
4. Jesus’ solemn journey on a colt to the Temple started from the Mount of Olives when the pilgrims welcomed him acclaiming “Hosanna” (Lk 19:28-40).
5. Jesus explained to the disciples the signs of the end while “he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area” (Mk 13:3).
6. Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.
7. Judas betrayed Jesus, and the soldiers arrested him here.
8. Jesus ascended to heaven on this mountain (Acts 1:11-12).
9. The second coming of Christ will happen here (Acts 1:11). Zechariah prophesied the coming of the Lord at the end times: “On that day God’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the east” (Zech 14:4).
10. At Jesus’ return in glory, “The Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain will move to the north and half of it to the south… Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all his holy ones with him” (Zech 14:4-5).
Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately
Peter, James, and John were the inner circle of Jesus. They had the privilege of being with Jesus on special occasions when the other apostles missed such events.
1. When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter, “He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James” (Mk 5:37; Lk 8:51).
2. Jesus allowed only Peter, James, and John to experience his transfiguration on a mountain (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2; Lk 9:28).
3. When Jesus prayed at Gethsemane before his passion, “He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress” (Mt 26:37).
Jesus did not include Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, and a former disciple of John the Baptist in the above situations. However, he was with the other three when they privately discussed the destruction of the Temple. This is the only situation recorded in the Bible when these four were together with Jesus.
Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately
The four apostles, comprising two brothers each, approached Jesus privately, seeking clarification on the Temple’s destruction. They were seriously concerned because that was the only Temple of the Jews where to offer sacrifices to God. That sacred building which was under construction for 46 years was a prestigious one (Jn 2:20). The prediction of its destruction was painful for them.
(4) “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?”
The four apostles were curious to know the details of what Jesus had mentioned before. The question they asked according to Matthew is: “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt 24:3) So, they wished to know the time of the events and warning signs of Christ’s second coming along with the end of this age that would lead to the establishment a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1).
(5) Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one deceives you.”
Here, Jesus did not give a direct answer to the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, though it happened in 70 A.D. God allowed the Jews forty years for repentance. The first sign before the fall of Jerusalem and later before the second coming of Christ will be the emergence of misguiding leaders. Deception has caused people’s deviation from God, starting from the original sin of the first parents. Throughout history, there have been false teachers and prophets who misguided the people from God.
1. Satan deceived Eve into disobeying God and thus the first parents and all their progeny lost Paradise.
2. The story of the Golden Calf is another deviation from God under the misguidance of Aaron (Ex 32:1-6). When people noticed the long delay of Moses on Mount Sinai, they asked Aaron to make a god for them. Instead of asking people to wait, he made a golden calf and built an altar for its worship.
3. Satan approached Jesus after his forty days of fasting to misguide him from accomplishing his goal. The devil tempted Jesus even to worship him to gain “all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence” (Mt 4:8-9). However, Satan could not divert Jesus from his mission in the world.
4. When Jesus predicted his passion, death, and resurrection to the apostles at Caesarea Philippi, Satan discouraged Jesus from going through it through Peter. Jesus replied, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mt 16:22-23).
5. Jesus called the Scribes and the Pharisees ‘blind guides’ (Mt 23:16). He addressed them in vehement words: “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of Heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entry to those trying to enter. Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves” (Mt 23:13-15). Jesus said about the Pharisees: “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit” (Mt 15:14).
6. Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus, resulting in the arrest of Jesus and followed by the suicide of Judas, was under the influence of Satan (Jn 13:27).
Hence, Satan will tempt people to commit sin and will make use of people, even the chosen ones of Jesus, to misguide others to commit sin and to deviate from God. Jesus warned his followers during the sermon on the mountain: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15). On another occasion, Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Mt 18:6-7)
When false preachers emerged with wrong teachings, Paul wrote, “But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!” (Gal 1:7-8) Paul warned the Ephesians, “Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:6-9).
Peter cautioned about false teachers in the ancient Church. “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep” (2 Pet 2:1-3).
(6) Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many.
Jesus specifies here who will deceive the faithful at the end times. People will come in the name of Jesus the Messiah as having returned or as one coming in his name to lead them. They will pretend to be spokespersons of God and convince people to act contrary to the divine teachings, like the serpent misguiding Eve. Jesus specified it by saying, “If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah! Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect” (Mk 13:21-22). Following such people will be dangerous because they will lead to destruction.
When the false prophets misguided the Israelites, God told Jeremiah, “These prophets utter lies in my name, … I did not send them; I gave them no command, nor did I speak to them. They prophesy to you lying visions, foolish divination, deceptions from their own imagination” (Jer 14:14). While the Israelites were in Babylonian exile, God spoke to Jeremiah: “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not be deceived by the prophets and diviners who are among you; do not listen to those among you who dream dreams, for they prophesy lies to you in my name; I did not send them—oracle of the LORD” (Jer 29:8-9).
When the Sanhedrin questioned the apostles, Gamaliel, a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, and teacher of the law reminded about two false prophets, “Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered” (Acts 5:36-37).
When Philip preached in Samaria, Simon the magician “astounded the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, paid attention to him, saying, ‘This man is the Power of God’ that is called ‘Great’” (Acts 8:9-10). Though he deceived many, he underwent a conversion later and received baptism along with other Samaritans (Acts 8:12-13).
Because of people’s alarm on the return of Jesus, Paul wrote: “We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit,’ or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god do you not recall that while I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thes 2:1-5).
(7) When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end.
When you hear of wars and reports of wars
When tensions develop, or the chance of war becomes visible, rumours of war might break out. Any hint of war was enough to make the people break out into a state of terror. Because of the ongoing tension between the Jewish extremists and the Roman empire, there was always a chance for war. Jesus warned this beforehand so his followers should trust in the Lord and continue their mission of spreading the gospel elsewhere.
When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed
Israel had always been under threat of war from the neighbouring nations. Whenever Israel was faithful to God, they won the battle even with a small army. Hence, they trusted God rather than their power. “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, These my enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; Though war be waged against me, even then do I trust” (Ps 27:1-3).
The early Christians had persecutions from the Jews. However, they did not fight back. God’s providential care was with them:
1. The high priest along with the Sanhedrin, “laid hands upon the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out” (Acts 5:18-19). The apostles continued preaching in the temple area (Acts 5:21).
2. After beheading the Apostle James, the brother of John, Herod Agrippa 1 imprisoned Peter. “Prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf” (Acts 12:5). The angel of the Lord rescued Peter, who had double chains and was sleeping between two soldiers (Acts 12:3-12).
3. The death of Herod Agrippa, who martyred James and imprisoned Peter, was because of divine intervention. “At once the angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not ascribe the honour to God, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God continued to spread and grow” (Acts 12:23-24).
4. Jesus converted Saul (Paul) who persecuted the Church into a fervent apostle of the Church (Acts 9:1-20).
5. When Paul and Silas were in prison at Philippi, God freed them by an earthquake (Acts 16:25-36).
6. After years of severe persecution of Christians by the Roman emperors, God converted Constantine in 312 A.D. That ended the centuries-long persecution of the Church, and it flourished in the Roman empire.
Since Jesus is the head of the Church, it will be safe until the second coming of Christ in glory. God will protect the Christians as long as they are faithful to him and patient for the providential care of God.
When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen
The sins of people lead to conflicts and war. It started with Cain slaying his brother Abel. The chosen people like Israel and Christians also face persecution or war as a test of their fidelity to God or as a punishment for their sins. God had decreed the fall of Jerusalem and its Temple because of the rejection of the Messiah. The return of Jesus in his glory as judge of the universe is also a God-designed plan to separate the faithful from the sinful generation and to reward faithful Christians. So, the destruction of Jerusalem and the tribulation of the end times must take place.
but it will not yet be the end
The world will not end with the fall of Jerusalem. It has to continue until the return of Jesus from heaven. Humans do not know the duration between the destruction of Jerusalem and the final tribulation, along with the return of Jesus. When Jesus described both one after another, the disciples doubted both would happen in a sequence. So, Jesus clarified that they are separate events to happen in the future with a gap in time that the Father decides.
(8) Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labour pains.
Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom
Throughout history, there have been conflicts among individuals, groups, families, tribes, nations, and kingdoms. There is a difference between nation and kingdom. A nation is a stable community with a common trait, like language, territory, culture, ethnicity, or identity. Israel became an organized nation when they left Egypt (Ex 19:6). A kingdom is a political nation with a monarch. The nation of Israel became a kingdom when Saul took charge as the first king. Prior to that, their leaders were patriarchs and judges. After Solomon, Israel was divided into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judaea with separate kings. A kingdom shall comprise one or more nations and a nation can be under different kingdoms.
Through Isaiah, God spoke of future internal conflict in Egypt that would cause their destruction. “I will stir up Egypt against Egypt: brother will war against brother, neighbour against neighbour, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. The courage of the Egyptians shall ebb away within them and I will bring their counsel to naught” (Jer 19:2-3).
When a nation rises against nation or kingdom against kingdom, there will be immense loss on both sides. Restructuring of kingdoms and a shift of superpowers are also possible. After this prophecy of Jesus, the Jews rebelled against Rome, resulting in a significant loss for the Jews, especially their city and the Temple. We see such transitions of empires, kingdoms, and monarchs in world history. Before the coming of Christ, such wars and changes will happen in the world. It will end with the return of Christ when he will establish his perfect kingdom.
There will be earthquakes from place to place
Earthquakes are intense shaking of earth’s surface because of movements in earth’s outermost layer. It happens when the earth’s two blocks slip past one another. There can be foreshocks, main shock, and aftershocks, one after another. Severe earthquakes can cause damage to buildings and injure people.
Palestine is an earthquake prone area and earthquakes shaped the Holy Land with valleys, mountains, lakes, and seas. The primary cause is the African Rift that runs through the Red Sea, Dead Sea, and the Jordan River valley. Some events in salvation history are associated with the earthquakes in this area that happened according to the divine plan on time. Scholars attribute the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the landslides from the mountains to form a temporary dam across the River Jordan for the Israelites to reach Jericho, and the fall of Jericho’s strong city walls to earthquakes that happened according to the divine plan.
The Bible mentions earthquakes that had significant roles to play in salvation history. The earthquakes in the Bible are associated with divine communication, deliverance, or judgement:
1. When God communicated with Moses, “Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. The blast of the shofar grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God was answering him with thunder” (Ex 19:18-19).
2. When Korah and his faction rebelled against Moses, “the ground beneath them split open, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families and all of Korah’s people with all their possessions” (Num 16:31-32).
3. God saved Israel during their fight with the Philistines by means of an earthquake (1 Sam 14:15).
4. When Elijah was at Mount Horeb, the Lord appeared to him. “There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire–but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound” (1 Kgs 19:11-12). Hence fierce signs of nature, including earthquake, can be a sign of God’s appearance.
5. When Jesus died on the cross, “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Mt 27:51-52).
6. At the resurrection of Jesus, another earthquake or an aftershock happened. “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it” (Mt 28:2).
7. When the Christian community in Jerusalem prayed on the day of Pentecost for fear of the Jewish leaders, “The place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
8. God used an earthquake to release Paul and Silas from jail in Philippi. “About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose” (Acts 16:25-26). That event led to the conversion of the jailer and his family.
According to the prophesies of the Old and the New Testaments, the second coming of Christ as judge of the world will also have dreadful signs, including earthquakes. Isaiah described the appearance of God in the future: “You shall be visited by the LORD of hosts, with thunder, earthquake, and great noise, whirlwind, storm, and the flame of consuming fire” (Isa 29:6).
Zechariah prophesied an earthquake like a past one that would reshape the earth. “The Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain will move to the north and half of it to the south. You will flee by the valley between the mountains, for the valley between the mountains will reach to Azal. Thus you will flee as you fled because of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all his holy ones with him” (Zech 14:4-5).
John’s Revelation gives details of the “Messiah’s earthquake” that will affect the whole earth. “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. A loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done.’ Then there were lightning flashes, rumblings, and peals of thunder, and a great earthquake. It was such a violent earthquake that there has never been one like it since the human race began on earth. The great city was split into three parts, and the gentile cities fell. But God remembered great Babylon, giving it the cup filled with the wine of his fury and wrath. Every island fled, and mountains disappeared. Large hailstones like huge weights came down from the sky on people, and they blasphemed God for the plague of hail because this plague was so severe” (Rev 16:17-21).
there will be famines
Famine is the extreme scarcity of food, causing starvation, acute malnutrition, disease, and even death. Jesus predicted famine at the end of times. Besides war and earthquakes, other factors like draught, flood, climate changes, natural disasters, plagues, and epidemics can cause famine.
During the Biblical times, the Israelites did not consider nature independent of God’s knowledge. Moses told his people, “The LORD will open up for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give your land rain in due season and to bless all the works of your hands. You will lend to many nations but borrow from none” (Deut 28:12). Hence, rain and good harvest are blessings from God when people keep up a good relationship with Him.
If famine happens, it is a punishment for sinful lives and a warning to resume loyalty to God. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple includes this: “When the heavens are closed, so that there is no rain, because they have sinned against you, but they pray towards this place and praise your name, and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, listen in heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel (for you teach them the good way in which they should walk). Give rain to this land of yours which you have given to your people as their heritage” (1 Kgs 8:35-36).
Famine caused Bible characters to relocate according to the divine plan:
1. Abram temporarily moved from Canaan to Egypt because of the famine. “There was famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, since the famine in the land was severe” (Gen 12:10).
2. Isaac had to go to Philistia. “There was a famine in the land, distinct from the earlier one that had occurred in the days of Abraham, and Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar” (Gen 26:1).
3. Jacob and his entire family moved from Canaan to Egypt “because the famine has been severe in the land of Canaan” (Gen 47:4).
4. During the time of the judges, a famine caused Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons to move from Bethlehem to Moab (Ruth 1:1-2). Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi, became the great-grandmother of David.
According to the Old Testament concept, famine can happen as part of a divine plan. Seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of famine in Egypt was God’s arrangement to make Joseph the prime minister of Egypt and to save Jacob’s family from poverty. That helped them to settle in the fertile land of Goshen. When the Israelites had to live in the desert for 40 years, God fed them with manna and quail to save them from starvation (Ex 16:11-13). God also provided them with water through miracles. That showed the providential care of God for his people, though they had sinned against him. “In David’s time there was a famine for three years, year after year. David sought the presence of the LORD, who said: There is bloodguilt on Saul and his family because he put the Gibeonites to death” (2 Sam 21:1). Here, famine was a punishment from God. One of the three options God gave to David for his sin was famine for three years (1 Chr 21:12). In the parable of the Prodigal Son, “a severe famine struck” the country where the younger son moved and spent his money (Lk 15:14). That made him consider returning to his father with repentance. In the first century A.D., Prophet Agabus predicted a severe famine all over the world under Claudius. Hence, the Christian community in Antioch sent relief to Judaea through the presbyters in care of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:27-30).
The Old Testament prophets predicted severe famine at the end of time. Amos had the vision of a famine “Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). “On that day, beautiful young women and young men shall faint from thirst” (Amos 8:13). The idol worshippers “shall fall, never to rise again” (Amos 8:14). Before the fall of the first Temple, Ezekiel prophesied starvation as part of God’s punishment for the sins of Israel (Ezek 5:16-17; 15:7). Jesus also predicted famine before the fall of the Temple and before the end of the world.
These are the beginnings of the labour pains
The Bible presents labour pain as part of punishment to Eve for the first sin. The Lord said to Eve, “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen 3:16). Jesus compared this to the frightening signs before the fall of Jerusalem and before the second coming of Christ. The unexpected start of labour pains and the joy after giving birth are the points of comparison.
During the last supper discourse, Jesus said, “When a woman is in labour, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (Jn 16:21-22). Similarly, the righteous will find everlasting joy after the frightening signs of the end times.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians on how to look at the return of Jesus. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labour pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober” (1 Thess 5:2-6). The start time of labour contractions is unpredictable. Likewise, the second coming of Christ is something we expect but can happen unexpectedly.
With the final earthquake and other signs, a global scale change will happen with severe topographic and geologic changes, creating a new heaven and new earth with no sea. A new Jerusalem will come down from heaven (Rev 21:1-2). “God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rev 21:3-4).
Fearful signs happened at the destruction of Jerusalem. Similar and more intense signs will happen at the second coming of Christ. That also will be a time for separation of the believers from sinners. Even if wars, earthquakes, and famine happen, people who rely on God can be at peace because He is their refuge. Along with Psalms, they can sing: “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea, Though its waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging” (Ps 46:2-4).
There is hope and relief for the faithful. Through Joel, God said, “I will set signs in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; the sun will darken, the moon turn bloodred, before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day. Then everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD will escape harm. For on Mount Zion there will be a remnant, as the LORD has said, And in Jerusalem survivors whom the LORD will summon” (Joel 3:3-5). “Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness, The LORD roars from Zion, and from Jerusalem raises his voice, The heavens and the earth quake, but the LORD will be a shelter for his people, a fortress for the people of Israel” (Joel 4:15-16).
The Coming Persecution
“Watch out for yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them” (Mk 13:9).
After predicting the frightening signs prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the second coming of Christ, Jesus instructed his disciples the persecution that they would face so they should not get disappointed in their vocation and mission when those things happen.
Watch out for yourselves
Jesus emphasized the adverse situations ahead of the disciples. Jesus told them, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18). He continued, “‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me” (Jn 15:20-21). Such words of warning and assurance gave the disciples the moral strength to face challenges and persecution in their ministry without complaint. This is also an instruction not to expose themselves to unnecessary danger so they can continue the mission in other welcoming areas. So, Jesus said, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another” (Mt 10:23).
They will hand you over to the courts
The courts implied here are the religious councils or courts of the Jews. They can be the Sanhedrin with seventy-one members, the great Sanhedrin of twenty-three, or the lesser Sanhedrin of three members in small villages. The Jews who disagree with the teachings of the disciples will refer them to the religious authorities for trial and punishment. They will expose the disciples as misleading preachers and present false witnesses as they did for Jesus. After the ascension of Jesus, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem questioned Peter and John (Acts 4:5-7; 5:27). Paul also faced trial before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (Acts 23:1).
You will be beaten in synagogues
The Greek word synagogue means “a place of assembly”. During biblical times, it was a place of scripture study, preaching, prayer, meeting place of the local Jewish community, school, court, and charity. Jesus also used to preach there and heal the sick. The local council or court used whipping and beating as punishment for the guilty in the synagogue. Since the disciples preached the gospel, the Jews found them guilty of false teachings and punished them. Paul shared how he used to beat the Christians before his conversion. “Many times, in synagogue after synagogue, I punished them in an attempt to force them to blaspheme; I was so enraged against them that I pursued them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:11; 22:19). Paul shared the beatings he received: “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods” (2 Cor 11:24-25).
You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me
Since the Roman emperors forbid Christianity, the disciples of Jesus were sentenced and punished before the civil authorities. Often the Jews brought them before the local civil authorities. Paul appeared for trial before Governor Felix (Acts 24:1-10), Governor Porcius Festus (Acts 25:-7), King Agrippa (Acts 25:23), and Emperor Nero. Jesus acknowledged his disciples that they were suffering on behalf of him because their punishment was based on their preaching of his gospel.
as a witness before them
Jesus said, “you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans” (Mt 10:18). The clarification of disciples during their trial and their boldness to suffer for Jesus and his gospel were extraordinary witnesses for the court officials and gentiles who engaged in the questioning. When the Sanhedrin interrogated Peter and John, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them” (Acts 4:8). When the Jews brought Stephen before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:12), he boldly preached to them (Acts 7:1-53). An earthquake freed Paul and Silas while they were in prison in Philippi. Paul could convert the jailor and his family (Acts 16:25-34).
(10) But the gospel must first be preached to all nations
According to the Bible, nations in the world originated from the clans of Noah’s three sons after the deluge (Gen 10:32). They settled in the valley of Shinar (Gen 11:2) and built “a city and a tower with its top in the sky” (Gen 11:4). Since their goal was to make a name for themselves and to prevent scattering all over the earth, God confused their language and dispersed them all over the earth (Gen 11:5-9). Based on the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, given in Genesis 10, the early Christians count the languages and nations as 70 or 72.
Since God created all people in His image and likeness, all are children of God. Though humanity lost its sonship because of the fall of its first parents, Jesus restored it by offering himself as a ransom for them. Though he saved all people through his passion, death, and resurrection, that message has to reach to people of all nations all over the world for their reception of salvation through faith in Jesus and baptism. So, after his resurrection, Jesus designated his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20). God is waiting for that to happen for the second coming of Christ to judge the nations. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Mt 24:14). The apostles and other disciples preached the gospel all over the Roman Empire, including all the known continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Thomas went even farther to Asian countries.
(11) When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit.
When they lead you away and hand you over
The opponents of Christianity, including the Jews, pagans, and civil authorities, will lead the followers of Jesus to synagogues, councils, courts, magistrates, governors, or kings for trial. They will hand them over to the jail keepers or executors for punishment.
Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour
The disciples who would face trial will represent Jesus and suffer because of their loyalty to him. So, the Holy Spirit will inspire them with an appropriate response to each question.
God had given similar assurances to his representatives in the Old Testament. When God called Moses to approach Pharoah for the liberation of His chosen people, the Israelites, Moses responded, “But I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex 4:10). God replied, “I will assist you in speaking and teach you what you are to say” (Ex 4:12). Towards the end of David’s life, he said, “The spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue” (2 Sam 23:2). When God selected Jeremiah as His prophet, Jeremiah replied, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” (Jer 1:6) God’s response was: “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7-8).
Jesus assured his disciples that, like the prophets of the past, they will have the guidance and providence of God. Thus, we see Peter, Stephen, Paul, and others defending themselves well with the teachings of Jesus, referring to the Old Testament scriptures. When the Sanhedrin questioned Peter and John, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them” (Acts 4:8). “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13). “Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke” (Acts 6:9-10).
For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit
Jesus affirmed that his speech was not his own and promised similar divine support to his disciples. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works” (Jn 14:10). Jesus promised his apostles, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you” (Jn 14:15-17). “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name— he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26).
After the tongues as of fire rested on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:3). Paul wrote, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms” (1 Cor 2:12-13). That was the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy. “It shall come to pass that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even upon your male and female servants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit” (Joel 3:1-2; Acts 2:17-18).
(12) Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
Jesus predicted family conflicts based on differences in faith because members of one family can be split as Christians and Jews. That will end up in one’s own family members betraying the believer for trial, torture, imprisonment, and martyrdom. In this context, Jesus taught, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). Love of God and faithfulness to the gospel have priority over family relations. Jesus also experienced this. John recorded: “his brothers did not believe in him” (Jn 7:5).
(13) You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.
You will be hated by all because of my name
Because of the firm faith in Jesus, the disciple might face hatred from parents, siblings, spouse, or children. This was prevalent during the early centuries when the Jews were fervent in their faith and persecution of Christians by the Jews and Romans was quite severe. Jesus consoled his disciples ahead of time, saying, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15:18-19). Jesus gives the reason for hatred and persecution from others: “They will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me” (Jn 15:21). Lack of proper understanding of God and the one He sent is the reason for hatred from the family.
But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved
Hatred, betrayal, and persecution are worth enduring for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:11-12; Lk 6:22-23). Though we attain salvation through baptism, we need persistence of faith and endurance amid persecution for our salvation and eternal bliss in heaven.
1. God allowed the destruction of His Temple twice because of the chosen people’s sins. Worship in the Temple without obedience to God was displeasing to Him. Let us examine whether we are in the state of sacramental grace to offer worship in church. If not, let us make use of the opportunity to reconcile with God and one another.
2. Though Jesus warned of the destruction of the Temple, the Jews did not take it seriously because of their unbelief in Jesus. Jesus warns us against the destruction of our life after death and at his second coming if we do not persevere in our loyalty to him. Are we serious about it or are we ignoring it as the Jews did in the past?
3. God allowed forty years after the prediction of Jesus to destroy the Temple by Roman soldiers. He extends our lives, giving us the opportunity to reconcile with God and to continue his mission. Let us make each day spiritually fruitful.
4. Jesus warned the disciples that they should not let false teachers deceive them into turning away from the true Church. Satan, who deceived Eve and Cain, continues his mischievous mission to divert people from God. Let us not be victims of such influence, even if it comes through someone we love.
5. While warning us to turn away from sin and be cautious not to fall into it, Jesus promised eternal reward for those who obey him.
6. We have to trust in the inspirations of the Holy Spirit within us when we confront difficulties because of our faith and loyalty to the Church. Let the Spirit of God guide us, and not the evil spirit.
7. God likes to have love and unity in the family. However, forsaking God for the family’s sake is not tolerable to God. Even if family and friends hate us, let us be faithful to God, who is our permanent refuge.