“…but the time is not yet…”
From our comfortable vantage point of the 21st Century, modern-day Christians have the luxury of reading Jesus’ frightening warnings in Mark Chapter 13 and recognizing that He was prophesying about several events at once. As is often the case with prophecy, Jesus’ poetic warnings have both a present-minded, “literal” application to a near-future event as well as a future-minded, “metaphorical” application to the broader picture. In this case, we understand that the practical application of Jesus’ prophecy was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which would come before the end of His generation, while the extended meaning has applications for future events such as the ongoing persecution of the church and the recurring antichrist-type figures that we see throughout history.
Even though this dual meaning is a motif we see frequently in Scripture—the prophets of the Old Testament frequently had present and future prophecies mixed together—still modern-day Christians persist in misconstruing Jesus’ words by interpreting this passage solely as a prophecy about the final “end of the world.” While a lot of poor theology has been birthed from this misunderstanding, this interpretation is not entirely untrue; there are a lot of life principles hidden in this passage that are applicable to the Church’s daily workings, especially during times of persecution. But the painful irony is that, while the modern Church is so quick to make parallels from this passage to our own time, in so doing they are missing the most important lesson Jesus was trying to teach.
The oft-quoted phrase from this passage reads: “You will hear wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet.” (vs. 7, paraphrased, emphasis mine) Most of the time, when this passage is preached, it is used as a justification for fear. People love to cite this passage and then point to crises happening in our own world. “Here is a war, or a rumor of war; therefore, the End Times are near.”
Not only is this assessment wholly inaccurate and a blatant misuse of Scripture, but such people are tripping over the very same trap that the 1st Century believers stumbled into—the very trap Jesus was attempting to warn them away from. First of all, by using this Scripture as “proof” that the world is ending soon, people are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus said (“the end is not yet”). But what’s worse is that these End Times fanatics then use the supposed impending end of the world as justification for “closing shop” and “bunkering down” to wait out the “Tribulation”—when, in fact, Jesus wanted His followers to do the exact opposite.
Jesus’ reason for specifying the precise signs that indicated the true end of the age was to keep His people from “jumping ship” too soon. In the author’s words, Jesus was encouraging His followers to stay strong and “be patient,” living out their faith within Israel until the appointed time. Only then were they to flee for their lives.
When we as modern-day Christians use this same passage to inspire doomsday paranoia, we are stumbling over the same “false alarms” and fleeing for our lives before our time has come. There is so much work to be done in our culture, country, and world, and yet Christians are so eager to abandon it all. Let us remember that the end is “not yet” and stay in our city, ministering up until the very last moment, so that we can redeem as many people and gain as much ground as possible.