A Question for Jesus
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A Question for Jesus

Mark 13:1–4  (ID: 2892)

Like many Christians today, Jesus’ disciples wanted to know the signs and timing of the Jerusalem temple’s destruction. Alistair Begg shows how Jesus responded with love and practical warnings about the future. Biblical prophecy can be hard to understand, especially when the prophets describe events in the near and far futures simultaneously. Still, we can trust God with not only the timing of the end times but also their purpose in His perfect plan.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Mark, Volume 7

The Last Days and Christ’s Return Mark 13:1–37 Series ID: 14107

Sermon Transcript: Print

Mark chapter 13, and reading from the first verse:

“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’

“And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?’ And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do[n’t] be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“‘… Be on your guard.’”

We’ll stop there.

Alan Stibbs was for years teacher at a theological college in London, Oak Hill Theological College. And in helping his students come to terms with the Bible, and particularly the more daunting passages of the Bible, he gave them this instruction: do not try to satisfy an unhealthy curiosity. It is, he said, a serious misuse of Scripture to try to make it disclose more than God has purposed to reveal. It is a serious misuse of Scripture to try to make it disclose more than God has purposed to reveal. Now, that’s very helpful, because it means that we need to come, as we said last time, diligently to the Scriptures, expectantly to the Scriptures, and humbly, recognizing that while the Bible is in itself without error, no particular interpreter of the Bible is exclusively without error. And so the warning is well-taken.

We noted last time that there is a danger in coming to a passage like this and viewing it as largely theoretical. And Jesus is making it very clear to his disciples that this is actually intensely practical. He’s encouraging them, in relationship to what he’s saying, to make sure that the moral imperative, if you like, of the information that he gives them is to be uppermost in their thinking. That’s why he wants them to be on guard. That’s why he wants to make sure that they are not distracted or deceived, that no one frightens them, that they’re not unsettled by the things that he says and by the explanations that others might give.

And in verse 31—which, of course, we didn’t read—but you’ll find there Jesus is pointing out that “heaven and earth will pass away, but,” he wants to remind them, “my words will not pass away.” In other words, we may rest in security in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is not dissimilar, actually, to the familiar words—the opening two verses—of Psalm 46, where the psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore [we will not] fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be [cast] into the midst of the sea.”[1] He’s not saying that there won’t be things that shake the cosmos. He’s not saying that there aren’t issues that are to be addressed. But he says that these things are set within the context of God and the absolute security that is there in him.

I tried to point this out last time, so that we might get a grasp of the fact that what we’re dealing with here challenges so much contemporary thought. So much of what was embryonic in the ’60s is in full bloom now in these early decades of the twenty-first century. I went looking for Noel Harrison—not looking for him, but, well, looking for him—because I wanted to see if he was still around, singing, “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which, of course, was one of my favorite songs. I hadn’t a clue what it meant then, and I’m not sure what it means now. But I found him there. He’s on YouTube, singing, I think, on Top of the Pops, which was a program when I was growing up in my teens in Britain. I remember, you know,

Run like a circle in a spiral,
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning
In an ever-spinning reel,

Like a snowball down a mountain,
Or a carnival balloon,

and so on,

Like the hands that are passing
Across the minutes of the face of the clock,
And the world is like an apple
Twirling silently in space.[2]

We used to think, “Man, there must be a reason why some of these people smoke that stuff, because it presumably was generated in part by it and was only understood when enabled by it.”

But in actual fact, it was a foreshadowing of the notions that are part and part of so much Western culture, that regards history as being cyclical rather than being linear—that there is actually no point of beginning, and that there will be no ending point. And so we are somehow or another just spinning around in space. That’s supposed to make us feel very tranquil. What it ought to do is make us feel very unsettled. And if you’ve been feeling unsettled by that notion at all, and you’ve been thinking about embracing the ideas of Hinduism or of Zen Buddhism, which is out there in the marketplace for you to see… It’s interesting, now, that just yesterday I remarked to Sue… I was watching something. I was watching golf, and with the expression of finding peace in this particular commercial, the statement was, “And finding peace,” and the symbol that went with finding peace was one of the moves from yoga and from Hinduism. Very subtle, but very clear: “There is a peace to be found in these things.”

Now, when we come to Mark chapter 13, we realize that this is saying something radically different from that—and that it was daunting for the disciples to lay hold of it, and it’s pretty tough for us as well. What Jesus is teaching to his disciples is what Paul the apostle had to learn. He then taught it to the intelligentsia of Athens, when they were surrounded by all the emblems of their contemporary philosophical and religious thought, and he said to ’em, “The God that made the world and everything in it does not live in temples made by hands.[3] He cannot be contained in any of these structures. He is the God who created all these things. He is the God who has revealed himself in the person of his Son. And this Son has been raised from the dead.” And when they heard about that notion, then they began to disband very, very quickly.

Now, it is this truth that is dawning upon the disciples—albeit slowly, but nevertheless being made clear. And I wrote in my notes that what we have in verse 1 is a passing comment. A passing comment: “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” It’s an observation about the structure of the temple. It’s understandable; the temple was a magnificent structure. Josephus, the Roman historian—the Jewish historian, forgive me—said the exterior of the building “lacked nothing that could astonish either the soul or the eyes.”[4] This temple was more than twice the size of the Acropolis. It was the work of Herod the Great, and there was nothing too good for Herod the Great. It was vast, and therefore, there is no surprise that this anonymous disciple would, as they left the temple, look back at it and just make a passing comment: “Wow! What a wonderful building. What amazing stones!”

And that passing comment gives rise to Jesus teaching, “The temple is going to be destroyed”—verse 2. So a passing comment—just the kind of thing that anyone might say—gives rise to this very important instruction by the Lord Jesus. They’re going to have to realize that there is an obsolescence that is built into this magnificent structure. It’s not simply that the doors of the temple are going to be closed, but they’re actually going to be destroyed: “There will not be left here one stone upon another.”

Now, it’s pretty hard for us to grasp this, even if we’ve been to Jerusalem and stood at the Wailing Wall—because the Wailing Wall comprises some of the foundation structure of the temple of Herod the Great, as you will know. But even when you stand there at that, you don’t have any real sense of the fantastic significance of the superstructure that was built upon it. The disciples did.

The temple said to God’s people, ‘This is where God is known.’ It was at the very heart of everything they understood about God’s revelation of himself.

The temple’s architecture, however—its splendor—was more than matched by its religious significance. And it is vital that we understand that. We need to realize that for these disciples, the temple was the epicenter of all of their Jewish universe. Remember that God had established his presence among his people of old in the ark of the covenant that they took with them as they moved in their wilderness wanderings. Eventually they built a temple that was fit for his name, and in that temple they took the ark of the covenant, and there in that temple they had the symbolic presence of God. And so the temple said to them, “This is where God is known. This is where God’s glory is established. This is where you encounter God.” It was at the very heart of everything they understood about God’s revelation of himself.

And so for Jesus to say, “You know what? This temple is going to be absolutely destroyed…” The temple in which Isaiah had seen the glory of God—Isaiah chapter 6. The temple in which Jesus had been discovered by Mary and Joseph, remember, when he is separated from them after a visit to Jerusalem, and they come back, and they find him in the temple, discussing with the religious leaders there. And he says to them, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”[5]

But when Jesus had most recently arrived in the temple precincts—you find this back in chapter 11—he did not find it as “a house of prayer,” but he found it as “a den of robbers.” And as he was teaching them, he said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”[6] That didn’t go down well. This is 11:18: “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and [they] were seeking a way to destroy him.” “To destroy him.” To destroy the king who has come to establish his kingdom. Mark chapter 1: “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news.”[7] They said, “We’re not gonna listen to this stuff. We must destroy this man.” Jesus says, “You want to know something? Just as the significance of the structure lay in its religious purpose, the destruction of the structure—the demolition of it—is not actually significant because of the physicality of it but because of the theological implications.”

So, the chapter opens with a passing comment, and Jesus gives a word of instruction: “This temple is actually going to be destroyed.”

When you get to verse 3, Mark tells us that there was a private question. I just wrote that down as well. It might be helpful to you, I don’t know. But there is a private question. When they were “on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple,” Peter, James, John, and Andrew “asked him privately…” So as they sit on the Mount of Olives, they’re looking across the Kidron Valley—some of you will have been there—and they have a magnificent view of the temple as it sits there in all of its splendor. When you look from that point on the Mount of Olives now across the Kidron Valley, of course, you see the Muslim structure, the Dome of the Rock. But on that occasion, that is exactly what they would have seen.

Now, what struck me as I studied it again this week was not the question that they ask, to which we’re going to come—namely, “When?”—but the question that they didn’t ask—namely, “Why?” Why? I found that interesting. I’m not pausing on it just out of a sense of intrigue, but I think it’s very, very important. Why didn’t they ask him, “Why is it going to be destroyed?” Was it that they understood perfectly all that the Old Testament prophets had said? Did they understand what Micah was saying about that day? Had they assimilated Jeremiah’s words about that being now “inscripturated,” if you like, in the hearts of people, that it would no longer be external?[8] It’d be hard to believe that they did, because they missed so much. I think it’s probably that they were just preoccupied with the when. Far more intriguing to ask questions about when than to understand the significance of the why.

But we need to understand it. It becomes apparent as you go through the rest of the Gospel of Mark, but let’s pause here for just a moment, purposefully, this morning. The short answer to the why question—“Why is the temple going to be destroyed?”—the short answer is because it’s no longer going to be needed. It’s no longer going to be needed. Matthew has it in just a phrase, where he records in Matthew 12:6 the words of Jesus, where Jesus says, “Something greater than the temple is here.” “Something greater than the temple is here.” And the destruction of the temple is actually a judgment on the spiritual blindness of those to whom Jesus came. Remember, “He came [to] his own, and his own received him not.”[9] Here he is, saying these things. And the Pharisees are immediately opposed to him, saying, “We must destroy him.” And now Jesus explains to his disciples, “The very temple, which is the epicenter of everything you regard about knowing God, it is going to be brought down.”

Now, if you read this morning part of the reading through the New Testament, you will now, as you hear my voice, be saying to yourself, “Well, that ties in a little bit with what we saw this morning in John chapter 9.” Because if you’re reading through the New Testament in a year, then you would have been in John chapter 9, and you would have read this morning the encounter of Jesus with the boy who was blind. He heals him, remember? And—I can tell how many of you read this this morning just by the way you’re looking at me, but that’s by the way—he heals the boy, and that leads to quite a furore involving the religious leaders and involving his parents. And the story unfolds, where they come and say, “Is this your boy?”

They say, “Yes, it’s our boy.”

“Was he blind?”

They say, “Yes, he’s blind.”

“Can he see?”

“Yes, he can definitely see.”

“Well then, how did this happen?”

They say, “You better ask him.”

And then that unfolds, and… let me just quote it to you; it’s easier than paraphrasing it.

They said to him [that is, to the fellow] “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I[’ve] told you already, and you would[n’t] listen.”

So he’s getting a little obstreperous here.

“Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

This fellow’s getting quite bold!

And they reviled him, saying, “You[’re] his disciple, but we are [the] disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and [you would] teach us?” And they cast him out.[10]

That’s what was unfolding in this great drama that is leading to the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. “Now,” says one of the disciples, “this is an amazing building, I must say!” Jesus says, “Let me tell you about this building. It is going to be utterly demolished. And the reason that it’s going to be utterly demolished is because the sacrificial system that finds its apex in the events of the temple is no longer going to be needed, because I am going up to Jerusalem to suffer and to die at the hands of cruel men and to make a once-for-all provision for sin”—Hebrews 10. “And when that once-for-all provision for sin is made, there will not be any necessity for this temple anymore.”

Indeed, the next point in the calendar for the temple was what? It was the drama that unfolded when the curtain in the temple was torn in two. And suddenly, all that had been represented as a barrier to God—particularly to the non-Jew, for they were only allowed into the Court of the Gentiles; they could not go into the Court of the Jews. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies in order to represent them, first having made sacrifice for his own sins, and all of a sudden, boom! The curtain is torn in two.

And now the gospel that is to be preached to all the nations is about to unfold. And for those of you who look at this and say, “The gospel has to be preached to all the nations before he returns,” and you’re immediately saying, “and that means before the return of Jesus Christ,” it surely means before the return of Jesus Christ, but it actually also means before the events of AD 70. The gospel was going to go out. The disciples were going to stand up in Jerusalem and say, “There is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved. It’s the name of Jesus!”[11] So the question they don’t ask is a significant question. And what Jesus is pointing out is that it is easy for them—even them—to be distracted by the magnificence of externalized religion, of all the things that had been put in place. But they were the facade, if you like, pointing to the reality. They were the present that was pointing to the future.

Calvin says of the disciples, “The vast size and wealth of the temple” hung “like a veil … before the eyes of the disciples,” preventing them from elevating their faith “to the true reign of Christ.”[12] It wasn’t simply that those who were stuck, if you like, with the law of Moses didn’t get it. The disciples themselves were in danger of missing it—until they recognized all that this Jesus, whom they had committed themselves to follow, had come to do. You see, it is only when we come to terms with the ultimate emptiness of externalized religious endeavor that the story of a person who has lived a perfect life, the life that we should live but can’t—the story of a person who has died in our place a death that we deserve but could never pay—it is only when, if you like, the temple structures of our religious orthodoxy have crumbled that we will then say, “Well, only in Christ, only in this Savior, only in this sacrifice, is the answer to my sin.”

And some of us are there this morning. It would be an unusual Sunday were that not the case. There are people who come here every Sunday, and you still have not made the transition—the transition from what represents religious endeavor and the hopes of acceptance with God as a result of all that you’re seeking to do—you have still not given up on that and cast yourself entirely on the mercy and grace and provision of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. You are, if you like, still saying, “This is a magnificent structure. This is a terrific building, and I’m glad that I can meet God there.”

Jesus is no more present in the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem than he is on the Via Pettibone in Bainbridge.

There is no special place to meet God anymore. Jesus is no more present in the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem than he is on the Via Pettibone in Bainbridge. And there are no special rooms, and there are no special buildings, and there’s no sanctuary. Do you understand that? How many times do I have to tell you that there is no such thing as a sanctuary? That is Roman Catholicism; that is not the Bible. Jesus is no more present in this room than he is in the men’s toilets out there. Now, if that doesn’t make the point, nothing will. (Or the ladies’, for that matter. That’s okay. I’m not saying that you have to go in the gents’.) The fact is that the destruction of that notion has to take place before a person lays hold of Christ.

The poster boy for this is Saul of Tarsus, isn’t he? Saul of Tarsus. When the people come to Saul—Paul—and they’re claiming their benefits and their religious heritage, and they’re demanding of the people in Philippi that they do all of these things for acceptance with God, he says, “Guys, there’s no point in you playing this game, because I understand it perfectly. If ever there was a person,” he says, “who understood what it meant to try and get acceptance with God on the basis of externals, I am your main man.” Listen to the paraphrase of what he says:

You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting [Christians]; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.[13]

In other words, he is like the fellow in the story told by Jesus about the two men who went to the temple to pray. He is the guy who stood up and prayed to himself, and he said, “I thank you, Father, that I’m not as other men are—and certainly not like this character who’s here, who won’t even lift his eyes up to heaven.”[14] That’s Saul. That’s religion. Religion says, “Do this and you’ll be accepted by God.” So I’m going to do it as best I possibly can, and hopefully I’ll do enough to be accepted.

When are you going to stop doing that? When you discover that it doesn’t work, when you discover that you can’t, and when you discover that you don’t need to. But until you do, you will keep doing it. That’s the transformation that brought about in Saul’s life. This is what he said. “These people are waving these credentials around,” he said. “I’m tearing them up and throwing them out—along with everything else I used to take credit for.”[15]

And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing [Jesus Christ] as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant …. [I] dumped it … [I dumped it] so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally.[16]

Take the conversion of Luther. Goes to Rome in great anguish of soul, seeking somehow or another to discover just how he could be righteous enough before God, up and down the Scala Sancta, doing everything he can, finding himself even more depressed than when he went on his vacation in the first place. And then suddenly the light goes on, and he realizes that this righteousness is a righteousness not that we produce in order to be accepted by God but a righteousness that has been granted in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as a free gift. Why could Paul give up on all of that heritage? “Because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.”[17] Why would the temple be no longer necessary? For the very same reason.

Well, that’s the question they don’t ask. And it’s almost time to stop, isn’t it? Yes it is, actually. But what about the question they do ask? We should say something about that, ’cause some of you are getting really ticked off now, because this is two weeks, and we still haven’t started.

But anyway, what is the question they do ask? Verse 4: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” In Matthew, he adds what is implicit here in Mark and Luke. Don’t take my word for it; just think about it. Listen to Matthew’s question—or the question as Matthew records it. Because remember, these fellows are like journalists. They’re writing down the events as they’ve taken place. The journalist for the Daily Telegraph doesn’t necessarily put the same exact detail as you find in the Times; they’re covering the same event. This is Matthew: “Tell us,” they said, “when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and [the close] of the age?”[18] “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming [at the close] of the age?”

You see, because the disciples could not imagine a world without the temple. If the temple came down, it was over. So when Jesus says, “This whole thing is coming down,” they said, “It’s the end of the world! So tell us: What in the world’s gonna happen now? And when is this going to happen? Give us a sign. Give us some indication.” In the same way that someone says, “There’s a McDonald’s. As soon as you see the McDonald’s, it’s two streets after that.” “Give us something like that, so that we’ve got an idea.”

Now, there are two elements, there are two motifs—and with this I have to finish—but there are… Two significant notions run entirely through this text. You understand motif; I can use the word motif, right? M-o-t-i-f. There is the destruction of the temple and the dreadful sacking of Jerusalem, and there is also the ultimate destruction that is going to come at the end of the age. Now, both these motifs are present in the text. And it is imperative that we read the text with those two notions in mind and in recognition of the fact that there are, if you like, two stages of fulfillment, and it’s not always easy to fit one into the other.

Those of us who do LEGO, or who like LEGO—and I’m going back into my childhood again; I just bought another LEGO thing the other day. It’s horribly embarrassing, going in there like a big baby and buying LEGO. But nevertheless, you got all those little pieces—you gotta put ’em out and make sure they’re all there—and they’ve all gotta absolutely fit. If you are obsessively compulsive in any way at all, it’ll drive you insane if anybody loses one of those under the dining room table. So if you come to Mark chapter 13 like that, like you’re putting it together like a LEGO set, you will go nuts—if you haven’t already gone crazy. Because the great future—the great future, the end of all things—is described from the point of view of Judea and Jerusalem. Right? But the application to Judea and Jerusalem implies that the ultimate significance of what is being taught breaks the boundaries of that immediate historical context.

Now, let me illustrate it for you, if I may, because I can see that that went over really well. Verse 14, for example… Well, we wouldn’t even have to go to verse 14; let’s go to verse 7: “And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.” Somebody says, “Well, that is clearly the end of the age, because there were no wars and rumors of wars.” What? You don’t know any history? You don’t know any history, Jewish history, at all? There were all kinds of wars and rumors of wars before the sacking of the temple in AD 70. “Yeah, but there’s going to be wars and rumors of wars ultimately at the end.” True. And frankly, there’s wars and rumors of wars every day of the week. That’s also true. So what do we know? That the two stages of fulfillment coalesce with one another. So, for example, verse 14, “the abomination of desolation” cannot be restricted to the temple, because if you read the Old Testament phraseology in relationship to the abomination of desolation in Daniel, it points far beyond anything that might take place there. And it points forward to the reality of the Antichrist.

Now, we shouldn’t be alarmed by this. In fact, we should rejoice in this. Because what this actually is is the comprehensive nature of prophetic teaching. That’s why when you read the Old Testament, and you read either prophetic passages in the Psalms or you read in the Prophets themselves, you frequently discover that future events which in their fulfillment are separated from one another by centuries—okay? So future events which when fulfilled are separated by centuries—you will discover them set side by side in the text, or you will discover them set down in a way that is linear. But it’s clearly not the case.

And the challenge is that they can’t ultimately be separated from one another. And when you find somebody who tells you that they know exactly how to do it, you should be a little more afraid of him than you ought to be of me. Because the final desecration of the temple and the great final distress at the end of the age, they coalesce with one another. What you have in the destruction of the temple is a type. What you have at the end of the age is the antitype. In other words, what you have in the destruction of the temple is a foreshadowing of that which will ultimately be the case.

And the challenge in going through this is in being prepared to say, “You know, this is like hill walking in the Lake District of England or in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland.” If you and I go walking in those hills—and we’ve said this before—as we make our way up the side of the hill, we look to what we think is the summit. It may be 450 yards ahead of us. We get up to it, and what do we discover? We’re not at the summit. There is another summit beyond the summit. And we may proceed to do that to the height in Scotland of some four and a half thousand feet before we actually finally get to the summit. But from the perspective of seven hundred feet above sea level, it appears that within just a quarter of a mile, we have seen it all, and we are there for the view. We set off, and we discover we’re not. When you read through the prophecies of Isaiah, you find the exact same thing happening. And therefore, the explanation of Mark chapter 13 is not that it is an aberration from the comprehensive view of prophecy which is given to us in the entire Bible, but rather it fits in with it entirely.

So I want you to know that, so that you’ll keep it in mind as we study it. And before you throw your hands up in despair, keep in mind where we began. The purpose of Mark chapter 13 is pastoral, and it is practical. Jesus is providing instruction to equip his followers in the immediate context of Judea and Jerusalem and to equip all of his followers in every age in relationship to the prospect of that which will be at the end of the age.

So, whatever we do with this passage, we walk away from it and we say, “We’re watching, we’re waiting, we’re hoping, we’re praying.” We’re saying, “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done, so that the world might know, Lord Jesus Christ, that you are the King. That you are not some remote figure of history buried away in a Palestinian tomb, but you are the risen Lord, you are the ascended King, you are the returning Christ.” That is the import of it. And one of the greatest tragedies of studying passages like this is that that has largely failed to be the import of it, because people want to study it like a LEGO set rather than allow it to be what it is—namely, a mathematical Venn diagram, where the circles coalesce with one another. And at that epicenter of it all, when one day in that great denouement Christ appears, the things that we can see only dimly now will become apparent to us.

Well, let’s just pray:

O God, how we need your help! How it humbles us to be students of the Bible in a passage like this. How it forces us to advance to the reality of the practical, not theoretical, nature of this instruction. Help us so to read, so to study, so to believe, so to behave, in the light of your truth. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[1] Psalm 46:1–2 (KJV).

[2] Michel Legrand, “Les Moulins de Mon Cœur,” trans. into English by Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman as “The Windmills of Your Mind” (1968). Lyrics lightly altered.

[3] Acts 17:24 (paraphrased).

[4] Josephus, The Jewish War 5.1.6.

[5] Luke 2:49 (paraphrased).

[6] Mark 11:17 (ESV)

[7] Mark 1:15 (paraphrased).

[8] See Jeremiah 31:33.

[9] John 1:11 (KJV).

[10] John 9:26–34 (ESV).

[11] Acts 4:12 (paraphrased).

[12] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, trans. William Pringle (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1846), 3:116.

[13] Philippians 3:4–6 (MSG).

[14] See Luke 18:9–14.

[15] Philippians 3:7 (MSG). Paraphrased.

[16] Philippians 3:7–10 (MSG).

[17] Philippians 3:8 (ESV).

[18] Matthew 24:3 (ESV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.