Most people never think about where the world is going. Most live according to their own preoccupations and concerns. We have ambitions for ourselves, our families and friends. We rarely think about the bigger questions. Indeed why bother ? No-one knows for sure where it is all going; different people with different beliefs have their different ideas about it all; indeed, how can we change the big picture anyway ?
Well, I agree. We cannot change the big picture. We can do nothing about the past. The future is unknown, though decisions we take today will determine how things go tomorrow. All we can do is live for today, and for ourselves in the here and now.
That of course assumes that 7 billion people on the planet are the sole determiners of our fate. All those people making their individual decisions which collectively have a particular effect. In today’s world the main driving force behind most decisions is consumption and production. We all want more material goods and wealth to improve our condition. Governments are motivated by what happens in the economy; indeed wars are waged because of such essential facts.
But is that really all there is ?
Frankly if it is, then it is a pretty sad picture. Consume and produce. More money, more wealth. Sure there are lots of people who want to improve the state of our planet. Something certainly must be done because we will run out of natural resources in the course of this century. And something must be done about pollution – from air quality through to the avalanche of plastics in the oceans.
Well, that’s one catastrophic scenario for the future. And it is realistic. There are others, of course. Take the Bible – there is plenty in there which looks cataclysmic and dismal. Indeed in our study through the Gospel according to Mark we reach chapter 13 which has a lot about what was going to happen in the future.
But let me issue a health warning about how we understand and interpret the Bible. Far too often people pick up a Bible and find various things recorded in there and start applying it to today. And predictions about the future are perhaps the most abused.
Let me just step back a moment and explain how we should receive the Bible as a book overall. The big picture.
As a book it comprises 39 documents in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. All were written at different times, in different places by more than 3 dozen different human authors, often addressing different scenarios and situations. In fact the documents are spread over several centuries.
The unique quality of the Bible which places it beyond all other documents in history is this. Despite being such a disparate collection of texts, the collection of all those texts into one book is because it has one theme: Jesus Christ.
The Bible is an impossible book – humanly speaking. No one person or group of people can possibly have concocted its collection or its meaning. Yes at certain times certain committees or people recognised the various documents as holy: for the Old Testament books there was clearly an understanding 4 centuries before Christ, and then in the third century before Christ came the translation of the Septuagint, that is the Old Testament texts written in Greek, ie translated from the original Hebrew.
The New Testament documents [4 Gospels, one history, 21 letters and the apocalyptic Revelation – all written in the first century AD] were in general circulation and understood to be special and authoritative: in AD 367 Athanasius lists the 27 books, and synods in AD 393, 397 and 419 formally recognised them.
Circumstances and events played a critical part in the evolution and definition of the Bible’s 66 documents.
To take a simple but effective way of understanding how those two different Testaments come together as one, let me recommend this: the New is in the Old contained, the Old is in the New explained.
For those who take the time and trouble to read all 66 documents in the entire Bible, they will discover how true that is. Because the New Testament is about Jesus Christ – why he came, what he did and what he wanted.
That is it – an historical record.
That historical record exists by the Providential hand of God to witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; therefore each of us must make up our minds about whether he is to be our own personal Saviour and King.
That’s the whole point of the book. It is not to distract people with arguments about “the end of the World !”. Millennial talks always detracts from the task Jesus Commissioned the Church: Go and preach the Gospel !
So to come back to catastrophic events in the future and abusing the Bible, our examination of Mark’s Gospel chapter 13 is a case in point. It is history. It spoke to people in the first century about events happening and about to happen in that century. It is not a prediction about future events in the world today.
The return of Jesus Christ in the end of this world’s existence is explained quite simply by Peter as an event which will happen suddenly, without warning, when every one is living their lives as they always have done [2 Peter 3,10].
Mark chapter 13 concerns events in that day. Note the original question concerns the Temple’s existence and Jesus reply that it will be destroyed. Now that actually happened some 40 years later in AD 70 when the Roman armies finally destroyed Jerusalem, razing the Temple to the ground.
And yet there is indeed running through the New Testament an assumption that the end of the world would come in the first century.
Clearly Jesus Christ has not yet returned in final Judgement. So 1st century writers mistakenly conflated their age with the ultimate end of the world. As Peter explains [2 Peter 3,8]
BE NOT IGNORANT OF THIS ONE THING, THAT ONE DAY IS WITH THE LORD AS A THOUSAND YEARS, AND A THOUSAND YEARS AS ONE DAY.