Saint Paul's Lutheran Church of Irvine

Tomorrow, November 18th, 2012, at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Irvine (LC-MS): “The End” (Mark 13:1-13 & Matthew 24:1-14)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’m sure you have heard about the latest military conflict in the Middle East between Hamas and Israel. There is a possibility that Israel will conduct a ground invasion. These events cause “prophecy” teachers to salivate with their ongoing Israel-based scenarios leading to the rapture, the tribulation, and the millennium (as they understand these concepts). Tomorrow, I am going to present the traditional version of these “end” aspects and give clear warning about the fear-mongering ways of the popular — and very inaccurate — teachings associated with the events leading up to the second coming of our Lord and the end of the world.
Who cares? Isn’t the bottom line that Jesus is coming again? I hear this a lot, but we underestimate how important these things are. If anyone compromises any portion of God’s Word, bet your bottom dollar that it is just a matter of time before distracting clouds block the rays of light of God’s love and mercy for us in Christ Jesus. One way in which our grace-orientation is impacted is when fear, distraction, and anxiety about political and world events removes our gaze from Christ Himself and the basic mission He has set before us. Bottom line: we are called to live in faith, not fear and anxiety…tomorrow’s message will set before us the war that has already been won for your salvation instead of wrongly predicting future wars that some Christians are eager to bring to fulfillment.
This is also another opportunity to receive the precious body and blood of Jesus which covers your sins and empowers you — by God’s grace alone — to walk in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit who works through Word and Sacrament.
Oh yes, just a few reminders:
1. Tomorrow is our 2nd Evangelthon. I will be joining our high school youth and other adult chaperones who will once again go out and invite our surrounding neighbors to our congregation. The high school youth meet in the cafe for a pizza lunch, fellowship, and prayer before going out from 12 pm to 1:45 pm…then we’ll meet back at Crean to report and pray.
2. Remember (based on the letter you should have received in the mail this past week), we are taking a special offering to help Trinity Lutheran Church (LC-MS), New Hyde Park, New York which is trying to get back on her feet after Hurricane Sandy.
3. Also, please remember that tomorrow is our last day for Heart for Hunger. Please bring canned goods, bathrooms supplies, blankets, cereal, bottled water, and other items.
4. Finally, this Wednesday night at 7 pm (at Crean in their new 2nd floor classroom building) we will have our Thanksgiving Eve service. Our speak guest preacher is Vicar A.J. Espinosa (my son) who is currently serving at Salem Lutheran Church, Affton, MO…he will proclaim God’s Word on where true thanksgiving comes from.
Here is an excerpt from tomorrow’s sermon:
A. One side is the traditional view of Jerusalem which we advocate as Lutheran Christians:
1. Mark 13 and Matthew 24 describe the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in A.D. 70.
2. We know from Josephus – the great Jewish historian – that the legions of Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus laid siege to the city from A.D. 66 to 70 and that Jerusalem finally fell on August 10th in A.D. 70.
3. That is, after Jesus was crucified and raised in A.D. 30, the Lord gave the Israelites an entire generation — another 40 years of mercy — before the end came upon Jerusalem.
4. Jesus’ prediction about the end of Jerusalem is recorded in Mark 13:2 as our Lord was referring to the buildings within the city of Jerusalem:


“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.’”

B. In this short passage, Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem.

1. The disciples were understandably alarmed and so they asked him when this was going to happen and what sign would accompany the destruction (Mark 13:4).

2. The traditional view rightly holds that the words “the end” (mentioned in Mark 13:7, 13 and Matthew 24:6, 14) refer to different events in the Bible, depending on the context. It may refer to the final Day of Judgment when Christ comes again in glory, but it may also refer to the day when the Assyrians destroyed Israel in 722 B.C. or when the Babylonians carried Judah into exile in 587 B.C. and destroyed Jerusalem, etc. In Mark and Matthew, it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. These were days of God’s coming in the sense of a great outpouring of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem.


C. The other view held by so-called “prophecy” believers are led by networks and teachers like the following: TBN, Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, John Hagee, Dave Hunt, Grant Jeffrey, Tim LaHaye, and David Jeremiah.

1. These Christian leaders lead gigantic evangelical ministries, have sold millions of books, and lead substantial media networks. Millions of American Christians have swallowed their teachings hook, line, and sinker.

2. The long and short of their teaching is this: The earthly national Jerusalem must come into increasing political prominence since these teachers view the teachings just covered not in a spiritual sense, but in a wooden, literalistic sense. The words “all Israel will be saved” is applied to the modern nation of Israel and all national Jews. The Jews will be given a second chance to accept the Gospel of Christ. In order for this to happen, they say that Israel must be fully restored politically and geographically! Their view might seem tame enough, but let’s take a closer look:

3. They believe that the sections of Mark 13 and Matthew 24 we’ve considered are NOT descriptions of 1st century events, but that these references are about events yet to come.

4. These teachers try hard to convince us that natural catastrophes, weather conditions, and political crises are more serious today than ever before. History, however, does not sustain their claim. Throughout history, whenever major wars, or plagues, or natural catastrophes occurred, fear-mongers have always been there predicting the end of the world. This is a fact. In actuality, there have been cycles of history that make our current cycle look like a day on the beach. For example, during the decade-long “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 6600 American troops have been killed in war. History records, however, that when the Romans invaded Jersualem that the temple – just the temple – was deluged with the blood of 8,500 victims.

5. However, because these “prophecy” teachers insist that the events we’ve considered in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 are still in the future, they INSIST that what Jesus is here describing is actually a FUTURE  GREAT WAR that will eventually lead to glorious blessings for Israel. Many of these teachers fuel an apocalyptic fervor with modern predictions of war between America and Israel on one side and radical Islam on the other…War World III MUST occur in their sensational scenarios in order to fulfill God’s Word (as they understand “prophetic fulfillment”). The current crisis in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians, esp. in light of other end-of-the-world predictions associated with 2012 is another chance for many of these teachers to take advantage of an anxious public ready to buy millions more of their books.

6. But consider the real problem: while using the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, many of these teachers perpetuate fear, war, dread, and hatred. Brothers and sisters in Christ, what these teachers present is dangerous and shameful. It is also an assault on the Gospel of Christ. Why? Because it takes our eyes off the wonderful victory, hope and love that Christ has won for us and desires for us to live in — for the rest of our lives — until the New Jerusalem comes!

In Your Service and To Christ’s Glory,

Dr. Espinosa
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