WATCH OUT FOR THE ANTICHRIST
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 24, 2013
14 But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! or Look, there he is! do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
There is not a day that goes by when God could not speak to us and say, “See, I told you so.” That’s because everything God has ever said, everything He is saying now by His word and His Spirit, and everything He will say when we see Him face to face is absolute truth. Actually, there was a day when Jesus said this very thing. The third section of the Olivet Discourse, recorded in Mark 13:14-23, concludes with this very statement, “See, I told you so.” A better translation might be “Watch Out” (the third of four appearances of this imperative, ref. vs. 5, 9, 23, and 33), Jesus said, “Because I’ve told you the truth about what’s going to happen.” Just what is going to happen? The Antichrist is coming!
The “abomination of desolation” is a “he” (the ESV seems to be the only major English translation that gets this right), not an “it.” And, “he,” apparently, is the antichrist. The name “antichrist” is not mentioned in this text, it is not mentioned in the book of Daniel or the book of Revelation. As a matter of fact, it is only found four times in Scripture, three in 1 John and one time in 2 John. An “antichrist” is anyone who is against Christ, or opposes Christ, or seeks to replace Christ in any ways or means. Since Jesus said that anyone who is not for Him is against Him (ref. Matthew 12:3), this leaves room for a lot of antichrists in history and in our present world.
But prophetic Scripture seems to suggest that there is a singular antichrist who is particularly abominable to Heaven and brings about desolation on earth. This person, or organization of persons, embodies, or leads, or otherwise exemplifies a blasphemous resistance to the worship of God and a hatred for God’s people. The Bible reveals that this antichrist will be revealed just before the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, in this sermon said the antichrist will be revealed just before the destruction of the Temple (ref. vs. 1-4 and keep in mind that this is the main focus and context of Jesus’ sermon). Yet Daniel’s prophecy, on still another hand, which coined the phrase “abomination of desolation,” was actually fulfilled in the second century before Christ. So just who is the antichrist, and how can we “watch out” for him?
The Antichrist came before Christ.
A careful study of this part of Jesus’ sermon would also have to include a close look at the book of Daniel (ref. 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11). The Old Testament exile prophet is the first to introduce us to the “abomination of desolation.” Jesus makes him something to watch out for in His sermon, and Mark records it with a parenthetical note that we’d better put our minds in high gear. In other words, this is complicated stuff.
To unlock the identity of this antichrist requires a key from the Old Testament (Daniel), the Apocrypha (2 Maccabees), and a good academic book which records the history of the world between the Greek dynasty of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Empire. Daniel predicted the rise of an ungodly king who would invade Israel, take over the Temple, stop the regular sacrifices and worship of God, and put forth the “abomination of desolation.” Maccabees records a successful Jewish revolt against this ungodly oppressor which ushered in a brief time of independence before the occupation of Rome. And Greco-Roman history details how Alexander’s kingdom was divided into fourths before being reconstituted under the iron grip of Rome. These prophecies and histories converge around a singular, detestable, repulsive man named Antiochus IV Epiphanies.
Antiochus IV Epiphanies ruled one-fourth of what would become the Roman Empire. He invaded the neighboring section which included Palestine in the second century BC. Upon encountering the Jews, he persecuted the people, blasphemed God, took over the Temple, put up an idol of Zeus, and sacrificed a pig, spilling swine blood all over the sacred altar of God. That was the “abomination of desolation.” That makes him the antichrist, in living color. That’s who Daniel was talking about.
But who is Jesus talking about? Remember, even the most specific of prophecies can point to more than one event (ref. Hosea 11:1/Matthew 2:15). Jesus, and all Jews who loved and revered the book of Daniel, would have understood the significance of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Yet our Lord, speaking in this section of the Olivet Discourse around AD 30, plainly preached to “watch out” for such an abominable antichrist just before the destruction of the Temple. A generation after Jesus’ sermon, and approximately ten years after Mark’s writing, he came.
The Antichrist came after Christ.
Remember that before Jesus gave this “watch out” warning, He issued the first two regarding false messiahs and intense persecution. Antiochus IV Epiphanies put himself in the place of God, persecuted God’s people unto death, and set up the abomination of desolation. So did the Roman General and Emperor Titus.
Titus was in charge of 70,000 Roman soldiers despatched to quell a Jewish rebellion in Jerusalem from AD 66-70. During the siege a large number of Jews and Jewish Christians (apparently heeding Jesus’ advice) fled to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth, which is one reason the gospel spread so far and so fast (ref. vs. 10). Then, at the end of the battle, Titus placed a Roman insignia (proclaiming Caesar as Lord) above the entrance to the eastern gate to the city (the “messianic” entrance), persecuted and killed as many Jews as he could get his hands on, and blasphemed God by looting and burning the holy Temple. It was, without a doubt, the “abomination of desolation” Jesus was talking about in verse 14.
Antiochus IV Epiphanies was no friend of Jehovah and Emperor Titus was no friend of Jesus. Both men put themselves in the place of God. Both men persecuted the people of God. Both men violated the Temple of God. Both men blatantly blasphemed the name and the holy worship of God. Both men were the antichrist. And, they are not alone.
The Antichrist will come before the return of Christ.
The prophecies of Daniel and the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ take into full account the double vision of Antiochus IV Epiphanies and Emperor Titus. Furthermore, a faithful interpretation of Scripture must bring in a third party. Remember, Matthews’ addition to Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse tells us that Jesus said these thing to point to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70, plus the events that will “be the sign of [His] coming and of the end of the age” (ref. Matthew 24:3).
So, just as Antiochus IV Epiphanies came in 167 BC, and just as Emperor Titus came in AD 70, so there will arise another antichrist just before the SC (second coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Based upon Jesus’ words in Mark 13, my years of experience as a student of Scripture, and a careful observer of history, I’m now going to tell you who I think is the next antichrist.
I don’t know.
Some say that before the next great antichrist can come, the Jews will have to rebuild their Temple, so that the antichrist can violate it. This would make literal sense, but it would also obscure the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant and deny the fact that today it is not national Israel, but the New Testament church, who are the people of GOd. The before mentioned antichrists came near the end and at the very end of the Old Covenant, which certainly could suggest that a New Covenant interpretation and application is necessary for the new antichrist.
New Covenant Christianity has no Temple nor synagogues, only the Body of Christ expressed by the church. Therefore, before Christ comes again, the antichrist will violate the church and seek to destroy her, blaspheme God, and attempt to take His place. It seems to me there is an evolved whole world system of governments, financial institutions, media, alternative religions, and aggressive atheism that has been doing this for about a generation or so, with an ever increasing pace. And do not discount the recent historical and present attacks against the church by Maoist China, Stalinist Russia, radical Islam, and the rest of the secular West.
So if you are looking for an antichrist who is a world ruler, you’ll have to wait a while for the glorious return of Christ. If you are looking for a world system, perhaps a revived Roman Empire, which is opposed to Christ and His church, then welcome to our present world. And, watch out!
Watch Out for the Antichrist
Jesus did not bother to name the antichrist for us, neither did any other biblical prophet or writer of Scripture. But He did tell “the elect,” or true believers chosen by God, what to do if we think we are living in the day of the antichrist. Run!
If you or someone you love is part of a false church or religion preaching a false gospel offering false salvation, then run! Get away, get out, or get them out if at all possible. Watch out for the false christs and false prophets of false religions.
If you or someone you love is unequally yoked with a person or partnership that is against Christ as Lord and Savior, then run! Christians who are married to non-Christians have an obligation to stay and try to redeem their spouse (ref. 1 Corinthians 7). Christians also have an obligation to befriend non-Christians in a effort to show them common and saving grace. But if you are in a relationship or partnership with a person or entity that is hostile to Christ and Christianity, you’d better flee, or warn the person who is to flee from the certain wrath to come.
As Mark wrote, “let the reader understand” (ref. vs. 14). Think deeply and seriously about the antichrist and any and all persons who are critical or opposed to orthodox, evangelical, biblical Christianity. If you are not influencing them for Christ, they will influence you against Christ. As John said (ref. 1 John 2:18), many antichrists have come and will come. Watch out for the antichrist!
WATCH OUT FOR PERSECUTION AND PERSEVERE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 17, 2013
9 But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
-- Mark 13:9-13, ESV
Mark 13, the Olivet Discourse, tells us what to watch out for when we are watching out for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Even though Christ’s prophecy primarily pointed to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70, there are dual references and downright predictions that pertain to the blessed hope, the second advent, the return of our Lord to earth. The first warning in this chapter waved a flag at false messiahs (vs. 1-8), whose false messages rarely touch true believers because we can spot them and ignore them, lest they do us any harm. This second warning, however, tells us about something that will touch the life of every follower of Christ in a painful yet redeeming way (vs. 9-13). It is persecution, it fulfills prophecy, and it calls for perseverance on the part of every true saint of God.
Contrary to the health and wealth messages of the false prophets of these latter days, the genuine Christian life is genuinely filled with problems and pain. Often, the deeper you walk with Christ, the deeper your problems and pain. Gospel faith is no inoculation from suffering, trials, tribulation, and persecution. Let me distinguish these four things and elaborate on the fourth, since persecution is what this particular text is all about.
All Christians suffer, meaning that all of us have to endure times of physical sickness and suffering, either directly or in the life of someone we love. Often we are hit with family, financial, or other hardships, which are by no means due to our lack of faith or diligence. Suffering can be our fault, someone else’s fault, or nobody’s fault in particular. If I get lung cancer because I smoke two packs a day, it’s my fault. It I get lung cancer from the second hand smoke of my spouse who smokes two packs a day, it is their fault. It I get lung cancer in spite of the fact I don’t smoke or deliberately engage in other cancer-causing behaviors, then it is nobody’s fault in particular, but I’ll suffer just the same. Christians are humans, too, and suffering is part and parcel of the human experience for us all, whether we have faith or not.
All Christians go through trials, which are peculiar pains put forth upon people of faith, either by the providence of God, the personal attacks of Satan, or a combination of the two. Look at the life of Job in the Old Testament, or a million other examples scripturally, historically, and personally. Trials are for believers only, and they serve to strengthen our faith by making us love the things of this world a little bit less and love the things of God a whole lot more. I would expect that you are experiencing a trial right now, or you’ve just gone through one, or there is one waiting for you just around the corner.
All Christians live through tribulation, for this is our promise from Christ (ref. John 16:33). A tribulation is a period of time, with a fairly definite start and finish, during which we are put under duress because of our faith in Jesus Christ. It is a time when it seems that the world has turned against us, because it has. Like the trials contained in them, tribulations come and go in our lives. In the greatest sense, I believe the entirety of the New Covenant, the time between the first coming and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is one “great tribulation” period between the forces of God and good and the forces of Satan and evil. Others see a specific tribulation of seven years just before the return of Jesus Christ. I think it is safe to say that tribulation is happening and tribulation is coming. The world puts it upon Christians every day; and, one day Christ is going to put it on the world.
The point I want to make most plainly, for it is the plain point of this text, is that godly Christians will experience ungodly persecution. Persecution is the threat or actual attack of an unbeliever or unbelieving entity against a true believer for the express purpose of stopping the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ironically, it always backfires and fans the flame of the gospel forward. If we are not suffering persecution, then one of two things are true. Either we are living in a protected pocket or period mostly devoid of persecution (see the church of Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13, or a good Southern town in the U.S.A. with a church on every corner); or, we are not making the proper effort to live and preach the gospel so that other people will come to faith in Christ.
Obviously, Jesus and His disciples were trying to get the gospel out in their world. So, their world came crashing down against them in bitter persecution. This persecution, according to verse 10, actually helped further the gospel. This was certainly true at Jesus’ first advent and its immediate aftermath. Apparently, the same kind of intense persecution will come again before the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Persecution and Prophecy
Consider Jesus’ prophetic promise to His four faithful disciples and the early Christians they represented. They will be arrested, beaten, put on trial, betrayed by family members, put to death, and hated on top of all that. Who wouldn’t want to sign up for a faith like that? Well, they did, for at that time they were all in, and intended to stay in. Let the persecution begin!
It began with the crucifixion of Christ. After the resurrection, persecution hounded every Apostle to their death. The persecutions Jesus depicted in these verses read like the biography of Peter, James, John, Andrew, the Apostle Paul, and almost all the leaders of the early church. By the time the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, all of them, except for John, had become a martyr for their gospel faith.
This forty-year period of persecution may have been the first and worst of church history. It came from a double-barrel shot-gun, Jewish and Roman. After the Jewish nation was virtually abolished by the Romans, the Roman part of the persecution remained until Constantine made Christianity legal at the beginning of the 4th century. But the fact is that all of Jesus’ prophetic words about persecution came true between the time He uttered them in AD 30 and AD 70 when the Temple was destroyed.
This was a sign, something to watch out for, before the Temple was destroyed. And this will be a sign, something to watch out for, again, before Jesus comes again (ref. Matthew 24:3). Now remember, there has been and will be persecution as long as their is Christianity. It did not end in AD 70, nor with the Edict of Milan in 313, nor with the Great Reformation, nor with the founding of freedom of religion in the United States of America. However, persecution of the kinds Jesus described in this chapter will increase in intensity as the end of time draws near. The 20th century buried more martyrs in China, Russia, the Middle East, and other parts of the world than all the martyrs in all the world during the previous 19 centuries. Now as we progress through the 21st century, what will be the cost of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will it be loss of job and income, loss of family and friends, loss of citizenship and rights, or even the loss of life? What will be the cost of Christianity in our lifetime, and will we be willing to pay the price?
Persecution and Perseverance
I certainly hope so, for in the words of Jesus, only “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (ref. vs. 13).
Suffering cannot make a believer quit believing. Trials only make belief more believable. Tribulation ironically offers assurance of salvation. But persecution is the biggest test of all, and a test you do not want to fail. And if you are a true Christian, you will not.
You may stumble at times, but you fill not fall. Simon Peter stumbled in the courtyard of the high priest, but he did not fall. He denied the Lord in one episode, but the the complete series of his life, he was a champion for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We all stumble when we downplay our Christian faith in order to gain acceptance or enjoy sin. We all stumble when we refuse to speak up and speak out when the opportunity for Christian testimony and witness presents itself. We all stumble, but we cannot fall if we have fallen into the arms of Christ by grace through faith in Him and His finished work. The Holy Spirit in us is greater than anyone or any entity that will persecute us. He, the Holy Spirit, will empower us to speak and live for Christ in the midst of persecution.
The doctrine of the perseverance of true saints, even in the face of persecution, is as old as the preaching of Jesus Himself (ref. John 10:28). It is part and parcel of the grand doctrine of salvation by grace (ref. Ephesians 2:8-10). It is due to the power of the Lord and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer (ref. Philippians 1:6). And it is sealed in the Lamb’s book of life, written before the foundation of the world (ref. Revelation 13:8).
Therefore, I do not think Jesus punctuated this prophecy on persecution with a conditional promise (If you endure, you will be saved), but rather an indicative promise (you are one of the ones who will endure, because you are one of the ones who are saved).
You do not have to seek out persecution. You need to watch out for persecution. If you live and preach the gospel, it will find you. It comes because of and for the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you are living near the day of Christ’s return, it will find you in bushels. Do not be afraid to lose, a friend, a family member, a job, even your life, for you are never a loser in Christ. What you gain, the reward of your eternal soul and perhaps a reward in the souls saved because of your witness, is the eternal worth of any temporary persecution you may have to suffer on earth. Watch out for persecution and persevere!
WATCH OUT FOR FALSE MESSAGES FROM FALSE MESSIAHS
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 10, 2013
1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings! 2 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. 3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished? 5 And Jesus began to say to them, See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, I am he! and they will lead many astray. 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. 8 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.
-- Mark 13:1-8, ESV
Mark 13 records the “Olivet Discourse” (paralleled in Matthew 24 and Luke 21) in which Jesus, sitting on the Mount of Olives with four of His closest disciples, speaks near the end about the end of time and the end of times. The Lord Himself was facing the end of His time on earth, for the cross awaited Him in less than two days’ time. The four disciples, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, devout Jews before becoming devout Christians, were about to discover clues concerning the end of the Jewish Temple and the Old Covenant. And as we read these words today, we are alerted to what to watch out for as we watch out for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The key word in the sermon of Jesus, as recorded in New Testament Greek, is “blepo,” which means to “see” or “watch out” for something significant. It is used first in verse 2 in the interrogative, pointing to the great Second Temple built upon the site of Solomon’s Temple on the sacred Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The next four uses are in the imperative and are found in verses 5, 9, 23, and 33, respectively. In context each text commands us to “watch out” for something that is significantly linked to the end of the Old Covenant and, perhaps, the very end of time.
We will start our four watches in this chapter with the first “watch out” warning given in verse 5, taking in the context in verses 1-8. Watch out for the false messages from false messiahs.
False Messages from False Messiahs at the End of the Temple
It is clear from the first four verses of this chapter that the primary matter being discussed in this discourse is the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The disciples were overly impressed with the ornate construction of this place of worship. Jesus said not to be, for the day would come when it would be all torn down. This peeked the curiosity of Jesus’ closest friends.
The holy Temple has always been a holy place in the mind of the Jews. The original Temple was constructed under the vision of King David and supervision of King Solomon around 1000 BC. It stood for four centuries until it was destroyed by the Babylonians. This was a great shock to the Jews, because they had come to believe that as long as they had the Temple, they had God on their side and could never be defeated by their enemies. After the first temple’s destruction they seethed through seventy years of Babylonian captivity, then returned to the land to build the Second Temple. The Second Temple was not nearly as beautiful as the first and was a source of both pride and embarrassment to the Jewish people until shortly before that birth of Christ. That is when Herod the Great, in an effort to magnify himself and gain political favor with the Jews, called for an elaborate remodeling project which restored the Temple to its original glory. And once again, the Jews put their trust in their place of worship instead of the Person who alone should be worshiped.
Jesus’ words about false messiahs and false messages at the destruction of the Temple were fulfilled about a generation after His death and resurrection. In the AD 60’s, false messiahs such as Simon Ben Giora, Eleazar Ben Simon, and John of Giscala convinced the Jews that by defending the Temple they could defeat the Romans. Each one deceived the Jewish people into believing they needed a military or political messiah, rather than a spiritual and eternal one like Jesus. The Romans responded by dispatching General Titus, who would eventually become an Emperor, and 70,000 soldiers to crush the Jewish rebellion. In AD 70, after four years of hostilities and sieges, wars and famines, the Romans broke through and destroyed the Temple, most of the city, and estimates of from 100,000 to 1 million Jewish people.
Falsehood number one to watch out for: the place you worship is more important than the Person you worship. The Jews were guilty on multiple occasions, never more so than in Jesus’ day. There He was, God incarnate, walking through the Temple, and they never even saw Him for who He was, is, and always will be. They thought the stones and buildings of the Temple were “wonderful,” though.
I believe the buildings belonging to a local church should be beautiful, clean, functional, and safe. But these buildings are not why we are here. God is why we are here. And when God comes again to earth, these buildings, if they are not already gone by then, will become a heap of dust. So don’t put your trust in a church building, put your trust in the builder of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ!
False Messages from False Messiahs at the End of the Old Covenant
Falsehood number two to watch out for: practicing religion for God is more important than a personal, corporate, and covenant relationship with God. Consider some things the Jewish religious parties of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Zealots all had in common. They rejected Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah of Israel and the world. They hounded Christian Apostles and missionaries like the Paul and tried to prevent the spread of the gospel. And, they were champions of their versions of the old time religion.
For these reasons and more, God ordained the end to Old Testament worship and sacrifice at the end of the generation that rejected the true Messiah and His saving sacrifice. The destruction of the Temple and the end of the Old Covenant also flushed New Testament Christians out of Jerusalem and into the world to spread the gospel. From that point onward, the New Covenant would be established as the only way to God and the Old Covenant would be fulfilled, replaced, ceased, and desisted forever. This seems to be the plainest interpretation of the Lord Himself, of the Old Testament writers (especially Jeremiah), and the New Testament writers (especially the author of Hebrews). And, since its destruction in AD 70, the Temple and its religion has no relevancy whatsoever for God’s people in this world or the world to come.
For the record, let me state that I am by no means anti-semitic. I love the Old Testament, I love Jewish people, and I loved my trip to the “Holy Land.” I also love Christian dispensationalists, who claim that Scripture (especially Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation) and history (the restoration of Israel as a political nation in 1948) call for a rebuilding of the Temple and a restoration of Old Covenant religion.
It is just that I believe what Jesus was saying was that in the same way the Temple symbolized Old Testament religion, its destruction would signal the very end of the Old Covenant. Put your trust in Me, Jesus said, not in an old place of worship or an old practice of worship, but just worship Me, He said. For, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no once comes to the Father except through Me” (ref. John 14:6).
Which leads me to the last warning of what to watch out for when we are watching out for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
False Messages from False Messiahs at the End of Time
With Matthew’s insertion into Mark’s material (see Matthew 24:3), we realize there must be something a little more to this conversation than merely the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70. Prophecy is like that. It is full of double entendre. It can speak literally about one thing and figuratively about another at the same time (see Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15, the Exodus, the Passover, etc.). Therefore, while Jesus’ command to “watch out” concerned events foretelling the end of the Old Covenant, they also signal similar events which will occur at the dusk of the New Covenant, or the end of time, or the second coming of the Messiah, as well.
So what are we to watch out for as we watch out for the second coming of Jesus Christ? False messiahs with false messages mean to lead people “astray” (ref. vs. 5), which mean away from God to false gods, away from virtue to immorality, and away from gospel faith to heresy. Have you heard any of their voices lately?
Well, consider the religion-related messages of our day. No one is telling us that one place of worship, like some ancient Temple, is the only place to meet with God. They tell us any place will do. Hardly anyone is telling us there is a certain religion to follow in order to be right with God. Any religion will do. You rarely hear a voice say that a certain standard of morality is the practice preferred by God. Anything goes.
Now, do you recognize the deception? We live in a day when false messiahs preach a gospel of tolerance that totally trumps the truth of God. They say Christianity cannot be the only way to God, chastity and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman cannot be the only way to live, and the only thing intolerable to these tolerant messiahs is the believe that Jesus is the only Messiah and that believing in Him affects the way you behave in this world.
Never before in our history has faith in God and the gospel been so ridiculed, and the day may come that it is even outlawed. Therefore, never before in our history have we been so close to the second coming of Jesus Christ. There have always been and always will be wars. There have always been and always will be famines. But the real birth pains are the extreme levels of tolerance for immorality and the rising intolerance for Christianity. Therefore, we’d better begin to “watch out” for the second coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
February 3, 2013
 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
-- Mark 12:41-44, ESV
I always approach the prospects of preaching on money with fear and trembling. I don’t want members getting the wrong impression that I base their value on the value of their offerings. And I certainly don’t want non-members to think for a moment that all the church cares about is money (which, thanks to the televangelists, is what many think).
So, I avoid the subject as much as possible. But I don’t know why. The Bible doesn’t avoid the subject, the New Testament doesn’t, and the Gospels certainly do not. All four Gospel writers go to great lengths to discuss money in narratives and parables. And no where does our Lord Jesus Christ get any more concerned about cash contributions to the kingdom than in Mark 12:41-44.
A church I served had an excellent television ministry. With state-of-the-art equipment, our volunteers did a great job. But, there were a few kinks at first. As I watched our initial broadcasts, I noticed the camera workers doing something that most of us wouldn’t do during a certain part of the service.
What do you do when the offering is taken? Most of us go to extremes not to notice what our neighbor is giving. But what did our cameras do? They followed the ushers around the sanctuary as offerings were given. I thought they probably shouldn’t do that, and during subsequent broadcasts they focused on the instrumentalists, or anything other than people putting in their tithes and offerings.
But what would Jesus do? What did Jesus do in this text? I’ll tell you what he did. Jesus peeked!
Jesus watched what the widow gave.
Actually, He watched what everyone was giving. Christ intentionally sat down in a place where He could get a good view of the offering plate. He stayed long enough to observe a large number of people make their contributions. Young and old, men and women, rich and poor, they all passed by and Jesus peeked at what every person gave.
Does this make you uncomfortable? Does it seem at least a little bit contradictory? Doesn’t the Bible teach us that giving is supposed to be a secret matter just between you and God? Well then, it’s okay for God to watch!
As a matter of fact, giving tithes and offerings to the Temple (Old Testament) or the church (New Testament) has always been a public matter. It is this way throughout biblical history. It has even been this way throughout church history. Less than a hundred years ago many Baptist churches published member’s names and the amount they had given the previous Sunday in the church bulletin. One church I served was so enthusiastic about giving that the members came forward, publicly, and gave their offerings by placing them in a chest (very similar to what was happening in this text).
Jesus watched what people gave because in His day, like our day, giving is an important part of public, corporate worship. Also, since giving is a command, the act of public giving in worship helps to build in at least a little bit of accountability (a discipline almost lost in the modern church).
So next time the offering comes up in worship, feel free to look around and watch. Just kidding! You probably won’t, and perhaps you shouldn’t. But Jesus did!
Even if you watch what people give, you still won’t know exactly how much people give, will you? Jesus did! He not only watched her give, He knew exactly how much she gave.
Jesus knew what the widow gave.
They didn’t have offering envelopes in Jesus’ day. So when He spied the offering plate, He could see the exact amount each person put in. If Jesus were here physically in this place today, His eyes might make many of us nervous.
But someone knows exactly how much you give. You know. The church treasurer knows. The IRS knows, if you take your contribution record and include it with your income tax return. So there is much about your giving that many people know. But there is one thing that probably only Jesus knows.
When this widow gave her offering, Jesus and His disciples and anyone else who cared to watch knew how much it was. But only God knew this: how much was left. Jesus said she gave “all she owned, all she had.”
Let me tell you this about your giving to the Lord by giving to His church. It is not just the amount you give that matters, it is the amount you have left. If you are like most professing Christians in America, you have over 98% of your income left after your offering to the church. That’s right, the average evangelical today gives an average of 2% to kingdom work. In most cases, this is sinful and harmful to the cause of Christ.
Storehouse tithing, giving at least 10% of your gross income to your local church’s budget, is not merely an Old Testament commandment, but a New Testament principle. I agree with another pastor I heard who said that any Christian who gives less under grace than a Jew would under law is a disgrace to grace. I will just say that God knows what percentage you give, and what percentage you have left, and you and I will give an account to Him one day for both percentages.
Now, back to our story, and the main point.
Jesus was impressed with what the widow gave.
Jesus did not criticize the rich people who put their sums into the offering. God knows any giving is good giving if it helps strengthen the church and broadcast the gospel. But Jesus was clearly impressed with the offering given by this poor widow. What was so impressive about it?
For one thing, even though this woman had been let down, perhaps even victimized, by the leaders of her church (ref. previous verses, Mark 12:38-40), she still gave her offering where it belonged. Your major offering does not belong to you, to television preachers, to mission organizations, or any one or any where else other than your local church. God will hold your local church pastors and leaders accountable for the way they use your offerings. He will hold you accountable on the faithful or unfaithful manner in which you give them.
Secondly, and even more importantly, she not only gave in the proper way, she gave with the proper attitude. She “gived” like she “lived.” Nothing she owned did she hold back from God. This, more than anything else, is what impressed the Lord Jesus Christ. It is living more than giving that matters to God. But when life is lived under the absolute Lordship of Christ, giving is one of many aspects of life that belongs totally to God.
The point is that Jesus peeks. And when He looks He sees things inside out and upside down. He is not impressed with what impresses us. Rich people strutting their stuff doesn’t do anything for God. Entertainers and athletes making millions are not on God’s short list of heroes. But poor widows, simple country folks, faithful preachers, committed church members who are willing to give God their time, all their talents, and all their treasures not only make Jesus peek, they make Jesus smile.
Don’t you want to put a smile on God’s face at offering time or at any other time? Then repent of any and all pride in your lifestyle, greed with your money, and apathy in your allegiance to Christ and His church. Step up to the plate, like this poor widow, and determine to give all of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, then bring the appropriate offering He leads you to give. And don’t forget, Jesus peeks!
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org