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Gospel of Mark 13: 1-13 (NIV)
1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours 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.
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. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, 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.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
This passage alerts us to four spiritual dangers about which Jesus warned his disciples.
The first danger is to rely on the outward show of religion. Jesus was preparing his disciples for a time when participation in the familiar rites of Judaism would be denied them and when the temple would be destroyed. His warning remains relevant today. God desires humble, obedient and contrite hearts. He wants people to love him and to love one another.
The second danger is to be led astray by the deception of false Messiahs. We must remain on guard against false teaching and attempts to corrupt the message of the Gospel.
The third danger is to be distracted from God’s mission by a world in turmoil. “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars”, Jesus said, “do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come”. Enduring peace between nations seems as remote now as it ever has been. Jesus calls us to focus on him and his mission regardless of current turmoil. “The good news must first be proclaimed to all nations,” he said. Proclaimed by whom? By you and by me.
The fourth danger is to stumble when confronted by the bitter persecution of those who put their faith in Jesus. Jesus’ followers in many countries are persecuted to death. Should we be surprised? Jesus warned that people who love and follow him will be hated by all because of his name. “But,” he said, “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
The Apostle Paul likened life to running a race, completing the distance, reaching the finish line. Standing firm to the end requires that we heed Jesus’ warnings against these four great spiritual dangers.