Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have a section in which they tell of Jesus’ prediction of the “signs of the close of the age” (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). And, though these are some of the most difficult passages to interpret in the Gospels, they are perhaps the most quoted and discussed among Christians and non-Christians alike. People seem to be preoccupied with the end of the world.
Much ink has been spilled and much time has been spent trying to figure out when and where the Lord should return and what his return will be like. Yet, none of the Gospel writers give us a definitive answer on either of those questions. I believe that this is because Jesus’ purpose in teaching his disciples about the end of time was to prepare them to live faithfully, expectantly, and missionally (Daniel Wells should be proud) in the time between his ascension and his return.
Preparation and Promise
Matthew and Luke agree with Mark that Jesus taught these things during his “Olivet Discourse” just prior to his deliverance into the hands of the authorities for his crucifixion; therefore, these are some of the last words that Jesus taught his disciples. This point is significant. Jesus knew that his time with them was limited — He knew that he was to be handed over to the authorities, that he was to be crucified, that he was to die and be buried, that he was to be resurrected, and that he was to ascend into heaven. They would soon be left on this earth without him. So, he prepared them for this coming time by warning them of the struggle that lies ahead and by giving them the hope-filled promise of future certainty and glory.
Faithful, Expectant, and Missional
If we rightly apply the sum total of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13 to our lives, then our Christian lives could be easily summarized with three adjectives — faithful, expectant, and missional. And, this is why.
We are faithful because of our refusal to be led astray by the circumstances and distractions of our lives that are a reality of the age in which we live, the age between Christ’s ascension and his return. Though we do not presently see everything in subjection to him (Hebrews 2:8), we, as those who have responded to his call in faith and have been sealed by his Spirit and have received the grace of adoption as sons of God, are called to endure faithfully until the day in which we rest in the presence of our everlasting God.
We are expectant because we would be ready for his return at any moment. Jesus said that no one knew the time or the place of his return. Therefore, we are to be ready for it in a moment’s notice. As expectant disciples, we are to be always “expecting” Christ’s return and our lives are reflect that “expectation.” We do not want to be caught off guard; so, our lives are lived in such a way as to always be prepared.
We are missional because we want to hasten Christ’s return and because we want to se his glory revealed throughout the world. Jesus gave one definitive sign that will precede his return — “And gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations” (13:10). If we wish to hasten the return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom, we should get busy proclaiming to gospel to all peoples throughout the world. We should be focused on testifying to the greatness of the king who is to return. We should also be about the business of preparing folks for his return. This is the essence of missional living.
I pray that our reading of Mark 13 encourages us to be more faithful, expectant, and missional disciples of Christ. How can you practically realize these qualities in your life today? How can you be more faithful? Expectant? Missional?