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Prayers for challenging times

Prayers for challenging times

(7) When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

(8) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains

(10) ...And the gospel must first be preached to all nations

(13) ...Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

Mark 13:7–8,10, 13, NIV

Lord our God, Ruler over the world, whose longing is to see your thoughts and your will in all peoples, we come before you and ask that we may find strength in your Word and never cease to hope for the coming of your kingdom. Even when the world storms and rages, even when earthly kingdoms rise up against each other and everything seems dark, even then be present. Let your kingdom go quietly forward, to the honor of your name. Help us come closer to the goal Jesus has shown us, closer to the time we wait for, the day of his coming when all shall be made new and good through your power, through your Spirit. Amen.

The context of the words of Mark 13:7–8,10, 13, NIV

Mark 13:3–13 occurs less than a week after a crowd celebrating their belief that Jesus is the Son of David, come to restore Israel from her Roman oppressors (Mark 11:10). The disciples think Jesus spent the last three years preparing them to rule in His royal court (Mark 10:35–45). Moments ago, Jesus prophesied it is the temple and Jerusalem that will be destroyed, not the Romans (Mark 13:1–2). The disciples were understandably confused, even as He continued His dire predictions. Jesus' warnings are also recorded in Matthew 24:4–14 and Luke 21:8–19.

Chapter Summary

Days before the crucifixion, the disciples praise the glory of the temple. When Jesus tells them the temple will be destroyed, they ask for signs of that coming destruction and of His return (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answers their second question with information crucial for believers in the end times, and any time. Tribulation Christians will face horrifying hardships and violence, as may believers of any era, but they must remember that the hardships will not last. Jesus will return so quickly, any attempt to live by the world's rules will be futile.

Meaning of the words

"When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come"

Peter, James, John, and Andrew have asked Jesus what signs will precede the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:4) as well as His return and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3). Jesus starts with events that are not such signs: He explains events that do not, themselves, imply that the end times are approaching. Christ is clarifying that just because the world gets dangerous, or "worse," does not automatically mean the end is moments away.

"Wars" means active battles where you live while "rumors of wars" refers to battles you hear about but that don't directly affect you. Countless wars have taken place in the last two thousand years. It's estimated that 123 million people have died in the thirty-or-so wars of the 20th Century. But even if a worldwide nuclear war were to break out tomorrow, it would not mean that Jesus will return immediately.

These wars and rumors are necessary. For the most part, we don't know why God uses the tragedy of war to set the stage for His plans. We do know that World War II resulted in the re-formation of the nation of Israel. The existence of Israel is crucial to prophecy; the Antichrist will be definitively identified when he brokers peace between Israel and their enemies (Daniel 9:24–27).

Naturally, we have a hard time understanding how God could allow such atrocities as the Holocaust or trench warfare in WWI for His plan. But it is our inclination to be violent and cruel to each other. It is God's nature to provide opportunity for our redemption. He does this despite and through our own sinfulness. Just as it was our cruelty that crucified Jesus, it will be human cruelty that will prepare the world for Jesus' return

"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains"

"Nation" is from the Greek root word ethnos and means a group of people who are associated by some shared characteristic, whether geographical or familial or tribal. Paul uses the term in his letters to identify Gentiles in general (Romans 2:14, 24; 3:29). "Kingdom'' is from the Greek root word basileia, and has more of a formal, political meaning. It is the territory and people ruled over by a specific leader, particularly a monarch. In simplified, modern terms, with basileia, Jesus prophecies formal wars, and with ethnos, He warns us of what modern people might define as "terrorists."

The world has seen truly dramatic earthquakes. In 1556, 830,000 people in China died via an earthquake. In 2004, 230,000 people from Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India died in an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. If these are "normal" natural disasters, we can imagine how catastrophic earthquakes might become leading up to the end times.

Luke 21:11 adds that there will be "famines and pestilences…terrors and great signs from heaven." Millions of people have died from famines since Jesus' warning, including 25 million in the 6th century Plague of Justinian, 50 million from the Black Death in the 14th century, and 15 million in China and India in the early 20th century. Like the earthquakes, we have not yet seen what horrific damage famines and pestilences will wreak as we approach the tribulation. Revelation depicts events which kill a fourth or a third of the living people on earth (Revelation 6:8), including natural disasters which inspire even the rich and powerful to despair (Revelation 6:12–17), leading most to believe that actual end-times events will be catastrophic beyond what we have seen thus far in history.

The last phrase spoken here is both depressing and inspiring. When we experience warfare, natural disasters, and famine, we need to remember that it is not time, yet. We must be patient and have endurance to run the race (Hebrews 12:1). Such events give us a chance to show God's love to others, but we should not necessarily expect to be rescued in the midst of them. Jesus is coming, but not necessarily right now, even when we're experiencing suffering.

Preterists and semi-preterists teach that the prophecies in Mark 13 were mostly fulfilled by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This verse adds a complication to those claims. Between Jesus' teaching around AD 30 and the destruction of Jerusalem, there weren't wars, rumors of wars (Mark 13:7), earthquakes, and famines on the scale described in books like Revelation. We need to remember that despite the number of wars and natural disasters we experience today, when the end times truly approach it will be much, much worse.

"And the gospel must first be preached to all nations"

Mark is the only Gospel author to record this quote, which has puzzled scholars for generations. "Nations" is from the Greek root word ethnos. It means any group of people that is affiliated in some way, whether by geography, culture, or tribe. Preterists and semi-preterists believe that end-times prophecy is not literal, and understand "nation" to mean the people groups within the Roman Empire, a much more reasonable goal, or the nations known to the people of Judea in this moment. The work of missionaries in the last hundred years proves that we do not have to interpret this verse so conservatively.

If the verse means the end times will not come until the gospel spreads to every people group on earth, we are almost there. According to the Bible translation ministry Wycliffe, the Bible has been at least partially translated into 3312 out of the 7099 languages currently known to be in use. The complete Bible has been translated in 670 languages and the New Testament in 1521. As of this writing, BibleRef.com's parent ministry, GotQuestions.org, has gospel presentation pages translated into 167 languages. Over eighty percent of the world has internet access, and that number is quickly rising with the spread of smartphones. Statisticians suggest that ninety percent of online users can be reached using only twenty-one languages.

We may never arrive at the place where every single person has heard the gospel. However, we are rapidly reaching the point where someone from every tribe will.

"Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved"

John 15:18–25 expounds on the first part of this verse. Jesus' "name," here, means we are representatives of His reputation, authority, and identity. If we are citizens of the kingdom of God, it is natural that those who do not follow God would make themselves our enemies. In the same way, those who reject Jesus also reject God. Instead of fearing such rejection, we should follow the examples of those apostles who were beaten, and consider it an honor to be worthy of persecution in Jesus' name (Acts 5:17–42).

To be hated by "all" is to be hated by all types of people, not literally every person in existence. The world naturally divides itself into groups with similar beliefs. We see this drastically highlighted in politics. If we truly follow Christ and hold fast to God's wisdom, those characteristics will not be reflected perfectly in any manmade group or club. The world rejects God, and every earthly, manmade interest or philosophy will ultimately have reason to hate or downplay believers.

Some Christians have the idea that once they accept Christ, all their problems will be over. This verse strongly says otherwise. Jesus warns that we should expect persecution (Matthew 5:10–12, 44; 10:23). He points out, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). Paul says, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

The last part of the verse has led some to wonder about the relationship between salvation and faith. Do we have to "endure" until the very end in order to be saved? That would infer we must earn salvation—a claim the Bible denies (Acts 15:1–11; Romans 3:19–20; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9). Alternatively, does this mean we lose our salvation if we don't "endure"? That's not right, either, according to Scripture (John 6:37, 40; 10:28–30; 1 Corinthians 1:8). Endurance in the face of hardship is an identifier of those who are saved, not a requirement. We will know who are saved because they will endure (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 2:19). Nothing that we face will separate us from God's love (Romans 8:38–39).


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