Wars and rumours of wars
Whatever dominates the skyline of a city tells you what they worship. In that ancient city of Babel, they sought a name for themselves so they tried to build a tower to heaven. In a sense they worshipped themselves. The ancient cities that Paul visited would have been dominated by massive shrines and temples, set up in the high places. Up until the last hundred years, London was dominated by St Paul’s Cathedral. Of course today our city skylines continue to be dominated by our objects of worship. Today the great centres of finance tower over us and remind us who we really serve.
In Jesus’ day, one building captivated the hearts and minds of the Jews – the temple. And with good reason. In Moses’ day the LORD revealed a heavenly blueprint to construct a model of heaven and earth. Moses built this portable model called the tabernacle. And the Glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle with the very Presence of God. Later Solomon built a bigger, solid version of this model of heaven and earth – this was the first temple. Again, the cloud of the LORD’s Presence filled this building. Here was the dwelling place of God on earth.
No wonder that the people thought they were safe so long as they had the temple (Jeremiah 7). And no wonder that when the LORD judged the Israelites for their sin He struck at the temple. So in the 6th century BC the Babylonians came and destroyed the temple and carried the people into exile. The people came back after 70 years of exile and built a second temple. This time the temple was desecrated by the Greeks. Then the temple was rebuilt again by 20BC as Herod’s Temple. That’s the one standing in Jesus’ day. And the disciples are very impressed by it.
“And as Jesus went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” (Mark 13:1)
Here was the most impressive building a Jew was ever likely to see. Massive stones, magnificent structures. More than this, it’s God’s house – the place where humans can meet with the Most High. Surely Jesus will also be impressed by the temple. But His reply leaves everyone dumbfounded:
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)
It’s almost impossible to imagine the impression these words would have had on the disciples. Think for a second of those stunned faces witnessing the Twin Towers collapsing – that’s the level of shock here. To strike at the heart of America, Al Qaeda struck at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon – symbols of American pride and security. Well, take the shock of that attack and multiply it: because here is God’s building – God’s house – and Jesus says it will be rubble. He was predicting Jerusalem’s destruction in AD70 – but that cataclysmic event spoke of an even more cosmic demolition.
After 9/11 America was in a state of shock because if those buildings could be struck, nothing was safe. Even more so with the temple. If God’s house was going to be demolished then nothing on earth is safe.
After Jesus speaks no-one can say a word. Maybe for an hour. Maybe even longer. In verse 3 we see Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the temple. No-one can speak as they leave the temple courts, cross the Kidron Valley and climb the Mount of Olives. All are silent because Jesus has spoken of something truly earth-shattering. God’s house is going to be demolished. Is nothing safe?
The disturbing answer Jesus gives is ‘No’. If God’s house is scheduled for demolition, rest assured the rest of the world will follow. That is Mark chapter 13 in a nutshell.
Judgement from heaven always moves from the top down. As 1 Peter 4 declares:
“Judgment must begin at the house of God.” (1 Peter 4:17)
The stones of the temple will be completely broken apart. But that’s just the beginnings of things breaking apart.
There will be international breakdown:
“And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not trouled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Mark 13:7-8)
There will be family breakdown:
“Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.” (Mark 13:12)
Most shockingly, there will be cosmic breakdown:
“The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.” (Mark 13:24-25)
First the temple will be rubble. But one day the whole universe will be rubble.
What hope can there be when, according to Hebrews 12:27, everything that can be shaken will be removed? Where will we find security when even the Temple resists the saying “safe as houses”? Where can we put our trust when even God’s house is scheduled for demolition?
When we hear of “wars and rumours of wars” there’s two things we can conclude. Firstly, this age is not a safe time in which to make your home. Secondly, we are moving towards a regeneration – through the pains will come new birth. And only the new Jerusalem can provide the security we crave.