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“Seven Signs of the Second Coming”
Mark 13:1-13


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost—November 15, 2009

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is today’s Gospel Reading, in which Jesus predicts the end of the world at his Second Coming, and the disciples ask him, “Tell us, when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled.”

You are invited to follow along the outline on the bulletin insert, as we look at “Seven Signs of the Second Coming.”

In the year 1831, a man named William Miller concluded that the Second Coming of Christ would occur on March 21, 1844.  For over a decade he proclaimed this teaching and gathered more that 50,000 faithful followers.  Many of them sold or gave away all their earthly possessions and journeyed to Jerusalem, to await the Second Coming that day on the Mount of Olives, where Miller said Christ would return.

Imagine their disappointment when the expected event did not take place.  But, they were relieved when it was announced that a miscalculation had merely been made, that Christ would actually return a few months later on October 22, 1844.  This time, even more faithful followers divested themselves of their worldly good and expectantly waited, only to be disappointed again.

But, today, our problem is really the exact opposite attitude. We tenaciously cling to our earthly life and our earthly goods as though we will live here on earth forever.  Today we live life as though Christ’s Second Coming and the end of the world is a dream that will never come to pass.  As the Apostle Peter prophesied: “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. . . They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?  . . . everything goes on as it has since the beginning . . .” 

Jesus warned, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with eating and drinking and the anxieties of life, and that day will come on you unexpectedly, like a trap. . .  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

“And before him will be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. . .  Then [the wicked] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  “Heaven and earth will pass away.”  “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

“Tell us, when will these things happen?”  “Of that day and hour knows no man, not even the angels in heaven, but my Father only. . .  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him!”

“What will be the sign that [these thing] are all about to be fulfilled?”

In our Gospel Reading, Jesus gives seven signs to look for that the end of the world is imminent.  All of these signs have already been fulfilled.  Soon, he will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.  As the Apostle James says, “The Judge is standing at the door!”

Let’s look at each of the “Seven Signs of the Second Coming” Jesus gives in today’s Gospel Reading.

Sign # 1: The Destruction of Jerusalem

“‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ Jesus said. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’” 

This sign was fulfilled already just a few decades later in 70 A.D., when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem, and actually bragged that he had left, “not one stone standing upon another.”  The destruction of Jerusalem has been fulfilled.

Sign # 2: False Teachers and False Christs

“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.’”

From the beginning, the Church has been plagued with false teachers who deny Christ.  The Apostle John wrote already in about 90 A.D., “Dear children, this is the last hour; for as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”  The sign of false teachers has been fulfilled.

Sign # 3: Human Warfare

“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars,” Jesus says, “do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

An historian once tallied all the recorded wars in world history since Christ gave this prophecy, and concluded that since Christ spoke those words there has indeed not passed a single day without a war taking place.  Even today, at this very moment, this sign continues to be fulfilled, as we are sadly reminded when the flags fly at half-staff for those killed in battle.   The sign of human warfare has been fulfilled.

Sign # 4: Earthquakes and Famines

“There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines,” Jesus said. “These are the beginning of birth pains.”

The Bible tells us in the Book of Acts that just a few years after Jesus made this prediction there was a “severe famine . . . over the entire Roman world.” 

And, already on July 21, 365 A.D. there occurred in the Mediterranean what is considered to have been the worst earthquake in recorded human history.  I have worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East, and in every excavation across the entire area you can always see clearly what is called the “destruction layer” from that tremendous earthquake.  It is very significant and actually helpful for archaeologists, because at that point in your excavation you can pinpoint the precise date, to July 21, 365 A.D.

Still today, we hear often about tragic famines and destructive earthquakes.  The sign of earthquakes and famines has been fulfilled.  

Sign # 5: Persecution of Christians

“You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues,” Jesus said.  “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.”

Just a few months after Jesus spoke those words, the Book of Acts records how Stephen was the first follower of Christ put to death on account of his faith.  “They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. . .  While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Since the martyrdom of Stephan, millions of other Christian martyrs have followed, persecuted and even put to death on account of their faith.  The Romans fed Christians to the lions as entertainment in Coliseum; the Huguenot Christians were massacred in 16th century France; hundreds of thousands of Christians were imprisoned and executed on account of their faith by the Communists and Nazis; in many Muslim countries, it is common for those who have converted to Christianity to be stoned to death, like Stephen.  That may have even been part of the motive in the recent tragic shooting in our own country.   The persecution of Christians has been fulfilled.

Sign # 6: Defense of the Gospel Before Governors and Kings

“On account of me,” Jesus says, “you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.”  The Book of Acts records how the Apostle Paul stood before the Roman governor Felix and probably before the Emperor Nero.  And, 1,500 years later, Martin Luther also stood as a witness to the Gospel before Emperor Charles V.  The defense of the Gospel before governors and kings has been fulfilled.

Sign # 7: The Gospel Preached to All Nations

It is hard to say exactly the scope of what Jesus meant when he said, “And the Gospel must first be preached to all nations.”  But, today, by any measure, there remains hardly a corner of the globe that the Gospel has not penetrated.  And, already when Paul wrote the Book of Romans in about 60 A.D., even then he said that the faith was being spread “all over the world,” and in Colossians he says, “All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing.”  So, according to the Bible’s own interpretation, the sign of the Gospel preached to all nations has been fulfilled.

All of the “Seven Signs of the Second Coming” which Christ gives in today’s Gospel Reading were already fulfilled in the days of the Apostles, and have continuously been fulfilled since then.  We must agree with what Luther concluded, commenting on these verses some 500 years ago, “The greater part of these signs have already occurred and not many others are to be expected.”  Or, as Peter put it some 2,000 years ago, “The end of all things is at hand!”

Soon, Christ will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.  As Paul says in Acts, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.”  And Hebrews warns, “Man is destined to once to die, and after that to face the judgment.”

The Good News is, you will not be judged according to your own sinful life.  Because, the Judge gave himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sin of the world.  He himself has blotted out your transgressions with his blood.  He himself has entered your name into the Book of Life, which Daniel speaks of in today’s Old Testament Reading: “Everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered . . . [and] will awake . . . to everlasting life.” 

The Good News is, the Judge has actually already rendered his verdict on you: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you . . .  For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

“Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”  “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends,” Peter says. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.”

The “Seven Signs of the Second Coming” which Christ gives in today’s Gospel Reading have all been fulfilled.  For you and all who trust in him, his Second Coming, the end of the world, and the final judgment is not reason to fear, but to rejoice, as Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Amen.

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