PREACH THE GOSPEL IN THIS WORLD
Key Verse: 13:10
“And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
In the previous passage Jesus regarded a poor widow’s offering as more valuable than the large amounts offered by many rich people, because she offered it with her heart. Today, Jesus teaches us about the signs of the end of the age. There will be deceptions, famines, persecutions, terrors, wars, and tribulations-- these are the signs of the end of the age. But in the middle of all these catastrophic events our first priority is to preach the gospel in this world. Today, we confront many world problems that we never experienced before. Can we conclude that we may see the end of the world in our generation? We don’t know yet. I pray that God may bless us to endure many hardships in these end times to preach the gospel to all campuses and to devote ourselves to the Bible study and prayer.
PART I. THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PAINS (1-8)
Look at verse 1. “As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look,
Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’” As we know, the disciples were the country boys and they were fascinated by the size and beauty of the temple. So one disciple exclaimed, “Look, Teacher, What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” The disciples were amazed to look at the beauty of the massive stones of the temple buildings. The temple was the center of the Jewish religious life because God told them to worship him at the Temple in Jerusalem. The first Temple was built by King Solomon and the Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbbabel and the Babylonian exiles. (1 Kings 6-8, Ezra 3) This is the third Temple built by King Herod. King Herod wanted to appease the Jews by building this Temple. It took 83 years to complete the construction. People said, “You have not seen anything beautiful if you have not seen Herod’s Temple.” Therefore, the disciples thought that the Temple would last forever. They were overwhelmed by the outward appearance of the Temple.
In the previous chapter Jesus did not look at the amount of money offered by the worshipers, he looked at the heart. He was most impressed with a widow’s tiny offering, because she had offered all that she had, by faith, even though it was small. So to, when Jesus looks at the temple, or at church buildings today, he is not impressed by the external look, or stained glass windows, but by the faith of the members.
The disciple’s minds were occupied by their worldly human dreams for the glittering things of this world. Their hearts had already been impressed by the elegant and pompous high priests’ garment. Though they were following Jesus, a poor country preacher, they were dreaming of better future life in Jesus’ new earthly Messianic Kingdom. Nothing is wrong with their dream. But it was unrealistic and very earth-bound. Their view of the history was based on their worldly hope in this world. So some of them shouted, “Look! Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” Indeed, the temple buildings were magnificent, representing the culture and civilization of the day. When I saw the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial for the first time, I was impressed by the size and beauty of the buildings. So, I said many wows. But now they look just like any other building to me.
Look at verse 2. Jesus answered them, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” This was a prediction of the imminent doom of Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. In 70 A.D. the original temple was gone. In A.D. 70 Jerusalem fell to the besieging army of Roman General Titus. He desecrated the temple and demolished it completely until not one stone was left on another, in order to take out the plated gold in between the stones. Jesus’ prophesy concerning the temple building was also an allegory of the earth and civilization. Our modern civilization boasts about the global village connected by the fast speed Internet. The whole world watched as hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and as the Twin Towers collapsed via live television broadcasts. Nobody imagined that the tall magnificent Twin Towers would be collapsed so quickly. We were sad when we saw the empty Manhattan sky lines without the WTC. But as Jesus said, nothing is permanent in this world. We can see the rise and fall of the human civilization throughout world history.
What was the disciples’ response? Look at verses 3-4. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to be fulfilled?’” Three top disciples plus Andrew were curious about the signs of the end of the age. They were thinking about the end of the world when Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple. These two questions related to the timing and signs of the end of the age are the most vexing questions of all people throughout all generations. We are also interested to know when the end of the world will come and what will be the signs so that we may prepare for that day in advance. I heard that one man thought that the end of the world would come at the year 2000 and so he quit his job, sold everything and moved to a farm to prepare for the end-- but the end of the world did not come. He was wrong. What are the some signs of the end of the age according to Jesus?
Look at verses 5 and 6. “Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.’” The first sign will be deceptions by false prophets. The surprising thing is that they come in Jesus’ name and deceive many people. So St. Paul said that this world is a place of deceiving and of being deceived (2Ti 3:13). The main characteristic of the false messiahs is that they claim that they are the messiah. Jehovah Witness claims that only limited number of people (144,000 Rev. 7:4) will be saved and we have to be their members to be saved. But Jesus warned us by saying, “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Look at verses 21-23. “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect –if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” Jesus was right. Christian history proves that there were so many false prophets who deceived so many people. They manipulated people’s fear to lead them astray. They even have power to perform miracles and do witchcraft to deceive the elect. But eventually all of them failed because they were not the Messiah and could not save people. For example, Jim Jones led his followers to death in Guyana and David Koresh led his followers to death in Waco, Texas. They were proved to be the false prophets. When S. David Brogi was looking for a place to study the Bible, God led him to UBF to study the word of God. When the Jehovah Witness members knocked his door to invite him, he knew that they were false shepherds in sheepskins and was able to say “no” to their invitation.
Look at verse 7-8. ‘When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of the birth pains.” The second sign will be wars and rumors of war. In verse 7 Jesus talks about wars and rumors of wars and, indeed, we are alarmed by the wars and rumors of wars. America grieved over the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. America experienced many terrible wars starting from American Revolutionary War to the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Gulf War, and the war on terrorism which has no boundaries. By nature, war produces unbearable human miseries. It produces casualties, orphans, widows, and refugees. People thought that the end of the world had come when they fought the major wars like WWI and WWII, but the end has not yet come. In verse 8 Jesus talks about the war between nations and kingdoms. When we observe carefully Osama Bin Laden’s declaration of war against America, it is war between Christianity and Islam. He wants to deter the rise of Christianity in the Muslim countries. But the problem is that the West does not have power to evangelize the Muslim world because they have lost the vitality of the Christian faith. Our prayer topic to make America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation is very important to revitalize our faith in God Almighty and evangelize the whole world before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ our Lord. The third sign will be natural disasters like earthquakes and famines. We hear many bad news about the earthquakes and famines all over the world. A few days ago there was a volcano eruption in Goma, Congo and the part of the city was destroyed by the lava. Jesus tells that such things will happen continuously. But the disciples should not be deceived by the natural phenomena of the world. Instead, they must think this is nothing but the birth pains of the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some people live in fear of nuclear war, global warming, killer viruses and even rocks falling from the sky. When they hear of wars, they are terrified, because they have no hope beyond this world; if this world ends, so does their hope. But Jesus tells us not to be alarmed. This is because the end of the world is not the end, but these are only birth pains.
The birth pain is uncomfortable, but it is a necessary part of having a beautiful little baby. As the pain increases, the mother knows that the birth of the baby is near. Then parents like M. James Park wait in eager expectation, wondering what the baby will look like- will he resembled the mother or the father? As the pain intensifies, so the joy will be great after they hear the cry of the newborn baby. As we know, birth pains are very painful. In reality, men do not know what birth pains are like. But all mothers know that birth pains are very difficult. They are a matter of life and death. But men can know by standing at the side of their wives who are groaning and sweating like a fountain. They can figure out what birth pains are like. The meaning of birth pains is “just beginning.” Already 2,001 years have passed away since our Lord Jesus Christ came to this world. But the troubles of this world are nothing but birth pains. We are living in a troubled world. People’s love grows cold. Therefore, we should not live in a fantasy world. We should not be deceived by easy-going temptations. We don’t know which stages of the birth pains we are in. But we should not be frightened by the wars and rumors of wars in the world. They are all necessary processes to prepare the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus. They are all preludes of a new heaven and a new earth. After the pain intensifies like mass murders, there will be a new heaven and a new earth. (Rev. 21:1-2) As the birth pains precede the birth, so the troubles precede the end of the age. God has a great plan for each of us in the middle of many unprecedented disasters. God is sovereign in all human history. It is God who rules the world. Everything that has a beginning will have an ending. There will be a beginning of year 2002 and an probably an end of year 2002. There will be a beginning of a vacation and an end of that vacation. The Bible begins with the word “In the beginning” (Gen.1:1) and ends with “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22: 20) Here we need a proper view of world history and its culture as God’s people. Many historians think that the history repeats itself. But we have to see the world history from the Bible’s perspective. History is like a horizontal line. It began from God and will return to God. The focal point of the history is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. History has been heading to that direction since the fall of Adam. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ was convinced that his followers might be deceived by false prophets. So in verses 5-6, Jesus said to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.”
PART II. AND THE GOSPEL MUST FIRST BE PREACHED (9-13)
When we preach the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, at first we think people will like it and treat us nicely. But that is a rosy idea. Look at verse 9. “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” Jesus told them that they would be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of Jesus they would stand before governors and kings. In another words, they will receive intensive persecutions. Acts 1:8b says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Here the word “witness” symbolizes “martyrdom.” Jesus said in verse 9a, “You must be on your guard.” Jesus did not express his human sympathy for his people, but he told them to prepare themselves to defeat their persecution by faith. In addition, through much persecution, they have to witness Jesus to the anti-Christians by standing firm in the faith. At that time, Christians were usually summoned to the authorities and were asked if they would defy the name of Jesus or claim his name. If they defied his name they were free to go. If anyone claimed his name, he became a martyr. When Bishop Polycarp was asked to deny Jesus’ name for his life, he said, “Jesus my Lord never denied me so how could I deny him.” He was happy to die for the name of Jesus. In the early church, persecutions broke out and many Bible teachers were scattered throughout the world. At that time persecutions became a time of opportunity to witness before the kings and governors.
Apostle Paul had once persecuted Christians at his own expense. But on the way to Damascus he was arrested by the love of Jesus and became God’s instrument to witness the gospel of Jesus. Later, he was arrested in Jerusalem on account of Jesus and was handed over to Roman governors and to King Agrippa. When on trial, he did not use his defense time to save himself, but to testify the gospel of Jesus to the kings and governors. Later, he preached to his jailer while he was in prison. He taught the word of God to the prison guards in Rome and then later the Roman soldiers carried the gospel of Jesus when they were transferred to another location. In this way the early Christians turned the time of suffering to a time of opportunity. Persecutions refine our faith like a pure gold. Persecutions make us grow from baby Christians to mature Christians. When Apostle Peter was persecuted, he began to have a living hope in Jesus’ kingdom instead of having a dead hope in this sinful world. (1 Peter 1:3-4) When Apostle John was in the exile on the island of Patmos, he received the revelation from Jesus. (Rev. 1:9-10) Easy-going life corrupts God’s people but hardships refine God’s people to become witnesses of Jesus. In spite of many hardships, S. Tinuke became a witness of Jesus to Amy Hart. In spite of many trials, M. Sarah Chang became a witness of Jesus to many American college students like Lawson Glenn and Dennis Yoder. There are also betrayals. Look at verses 12-13. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” If we sum up the characteristics of the end of the age, they are a rebellious mind and disobedience and broken relationships. All men will hate God’s people because of Jesus. Christians will be the targets of discrimination and hatred. The worldly people will label sincere Christians as religious fanatics or Jesus’ freaks. But Jesus promises that if we stand firm to the end, we will be saved. We never give up our faith due to persecutions. Instead, we must endure hardship as an opportunity for our spiritual growth. Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” In 2001 God refined our faith through many hardships so that we may become excellent Bible teachers and fruitful disciple-makers.
All people hope for an easy life, in this confused world. We want to marry. We want to have a sweet home. We want to make money. We want to dream dreams. We want to live well and eat well and enjoy the world as long as possible. But we don’t know what to do next, even though we live as Christians. But here we learn what we should do in this troubled world. Look at verse 10. “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” What should be our number one priority in this troubled world? It is to preach the gospel to all nations. Jesus said in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Jesus does not force us. Jesus loves the world and wants to save people one by one, and so finally save all the people. Jesus taught that the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Jesus had great world mission vision. At that time Jesus’ disciples were very narrow-minded and nationalistic. They did not have any visas to go Rome. They did not have money to buy tickets to go to Rome. It was unrealistic for them. It was impractical for them. It was risky for them. But Jesus told them to preach the gospel to all nations including the world superpower Roman Empire. Jesus’ world mission command was not an option but it was a “must.” Jesus wanted to save all nations before he comes again to judge the living and the dead. To our surprise, the disciples obeyed Jesus’ world mission command and conquered the world with the gospel of Jesus. They conquered the Roman Empire with the gospel of Jesus. The first thing they did was to go upstairs to the room where they were staying. Acts 1:14 says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” All they did was to pray together with one heart and one mind. They were united in prayer. They made a vessel of God for the world mission. Then the world mission was possible.
What should be their spiritual weapon? Look at verse 11. “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trials, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Acts can also be called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because it teaches about the coming and work of the Holy Spirit. The disciples did not have to worry what to say because the Holy Spirit would help them to speak. It is important for us to rely on the Holy Spirit when we do the work of God. When we do so, the work of God is like riding a roller coaster. It is very exciting, smooth, and joyful. It is not like pushing a car, without gas, up a hill. These days we talk about global trades, global warming, global terrorism, and global computer systems. But these days not many people talk about global gospel work. But Jesus believed that the whole creation must be saved through the gospel. 30 years ago late Dr. Samuel Lee accepted Jesus’ world mission command and began to send Korean missionaries to Germany and America. According to his faith, God sent more than 1500 missionaries to overseas. He also began to pray for America to become the kingdom of priests and a holy nation according to Exodus 19:5-6. God blessed his faith and raised up many sacrificial American shepherds who are willing to go anywhere for the sake of Christ. In 1975 three Korean missionaries arrived in Washington National airport to pioneer Washington the nation’s capital. They did not know what to do first, so they fought each other and then began to pray together and made a vessel of the Holy Spirit. In 1977 three men missionaries joined them. Through their sacrificial life of faith God raised up many American shepherds. We sent M. Wynelle Gibson to Germany as the first America UBF missionary to Europe. We also sent S. Alan Wolff and Bob Von Moss to Chicago. We began to pioneer Baltimore and GMU later. God gave us a prayer topic to pray for 206 East Coast pioneering work. Later, we sent S. Elizabeth to Lehigh and Dr. Rimas and his family went to Milwaukee. Dr. Daniel Hong and Daniel Lee became our pioneering partners. When I think about the work of God among us, it is imperative that Jesus wants to save all people of all nations. Here we learn how to live in this troubled world. What must we do in this troubled world? Shall we be a dead fish floating downstream or do we have to be men and women of God who know the birth pains of our Lord Jesus Christ? In this troubled world the first thing we must do is to preach the gospel to all people. Amen. God bless you.
PART III. THE ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION (14-23)
Look at verse 14. “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong-let the reader understand-then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” On one level, this event refers to the Roman army which invaded the Temple and defiled it. They placed the pig’s head in the place of worship. The immediate prediction was the destruction of the temple. It actually came to pass. This part refers to the historical event happened in 70 A.D, but also describes the terrible event that will take place before the Second Coming of Jesus. The characteristic of the abomination is that it causes desolation. It is to be avoided at all costs. Jesus advised God’s people to flee to the mountains and not to go back to home to get material possessions. Jesus is concerned about the pregnant women and nursing mothers in time of tribulations. For the sake of the elect, the Lord had shortened the days of distress. Jesus also predicted that the sun would be darkened and the moon would not give its light and the stars would fall from the sky before his Second Coming. In this time of tribulation we must trust God and rely on him because there will be no other way to save ourselves. Money cannot save us or friends cannot save us. Only God can save us. Acts 2:21 says, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
In conclusion, Jesus wants us to preach the gospel in these troubled times as our first priority. All things in the world will perish and spoil and fade away. But the gospel message we preached will remain forever because it saves people’s lives. When we stand firm to the end, Jesus will invite us to his kingdom when we leave our earthly tent and then he will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will meet all other Christians in the New Jerusalem and live with Jesus forever. I pray that God may bless you to be Jesus’ faithful witnesses to all kinds of students in 2002. May God help to prepare the Second Coming of Jesus with prayer and Bible study. Let’s read the key verse 13:10.