Monday, November 21, 2011

The Beginning of the Birth Pains (Mark 13:5-8)

Mark 13:5-8 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 rumors 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... 

As we read news of unusual natural disasters & calamities - earthquakes, tsunamis, unprecedented flooding in many places, terrorism, wars against terrorism, territorial disputes, economic troubles in the Eurozone--Jesus' warning of the "beginning of birth pains" has a very contemporary echo. The Four Horses of the Apocalypse as recorded Revelations 6:1-8 seem to have gone out in our generation:

1) The White Horse: "I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest" (Rev. 6:2). There are two interpretations of the White Horse: one, it is a symbol of the triumphant Church in the last days conquering, with Christ as the Rider. He carries only the bow because the Arrow of the Gospel of the Kingdom has gone out and the enemy has been defeated. Jesus said in Mark 13:10 that "the gospel must first be preached to all nations" before He returns to receive the Church. Even today, the Gospel has gone out in various ways as more and more people are coming to Christ. The Gospel of the Kingdom is going forth in power with accompanying signs and wonders to attest to its reality. The second interpretation is that it represents false Christs and false prophets going out to deceive the world. There is no doubt both events are happening in our generation.

2) The Red Horse: "Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword" (Rev 6:4). There is little doubt this refers to Jesus' "wars and rumors of wars." (Mark 13:8). As nations compete for scarce resources to fuel their economic growth (oil, water and minerals), there is increasing tensions as we witness the assertive rise of China as the next superpower in the Asia-Pacific region to challenge the United States, even as Europe is engulfed in its own monetary crisis. There will be in coming years much economic and political uncertainties. Will these looming crises trigger of another major world military conflicts, causing Jesus' prophecy to come to pass: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom"?

3) The Black Horse: "I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!" (Rev 6:5-6). Clearly, the Black Horse is a symbol of economic depression in the world. Jesus warned of "famines" and there will be scarcity of food in the coming global economic depression. We are expecting food prices to inflate and it will soon be "a quart of wheat for a day's wages" in many parts of the world.

4) The Pale Horse: "I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth" (Rev 6:8). Here is death brought on by wars, natural disasters, diseases and wild beasts. Death and destruction will spread around the globe. Jesus describes the coming days as "days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now — and never to be equaled again" (Mark 13:19).

As we watch world events through the lens of biblical prophecy, we should be asking ourselves what the Church should be doing in the midst of these looming crises. The White Horse shows us the Church going out conquering in the midst of death, diseases and destruction. That is the priority of the church - not just warming the pews every Sunday in air-con comfort, contemplating our own good fortunes for being the Elect and the Select, but being stirred up with a compassionate and compelling desire to go out with the Gospel to save the lost while there is still time.

Father, may You fill us with Your Spirit to empower us to be Your witnesses, to go out into the world with the Gospel of the Kingdom and to rescue the lost and bring them into Your Kingdom. Amen.

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