Lesson 14: Mark -Chapter 13
First read Mark 13 all the way through.
The ‘Supernatural’ Acts and Events in Mark 13
Things you don’t see everyday:
– Prophecy of the destruction of the temple.
-Prophecy of coming false teachers.
-Prophecy of signs of last days.
-Prophecy of help from the Holy Spirit.
-Prediction- followers of Jesus would be persecuted.
-Prophecy of the ‘abomination of desolation’ of the temple.
-Prophecy of false christs and false prophets performing signs and wonders
Now read it again in detail along with the Notes and Commentary below:
Notes and Commentary:
Mark 13: The Olivet Discourse -‘The Little Apocalypse’
I. The Prophecy of The Destruction of The Temple –Verses 1-3
The disciples here are impressed with the huge and magnificent Temple that Herod built. It was one of the architectural wonders of the ancient Roman world. Jesus takes them by total surprise by proclaiming and prophesying the total destruction of the Temple.
The followers of Jesus are still expecting Jesus to conquer the Romans and set up the ‘Messianic’ kingdom. After all, a couple of days ago he came into Jerusalem as the ‘Son of David’ riding on the back of a donkey with the shouts and adoration of the people. Now he is proclaiming that the Temple was going to be utterly destroyed! This had to be completely confusing to the disciples.
Also, the last couple of days he taught in the Temple, challenged the Temple leaders and teachers, and cleaned out the Temple. It probably looked like he was intending to take over the place to his followers. Now he was prophesying its destruction? Peter, James, John, and Andrew go privately to Jesus to find out what the deal is.
Note: In 70 AD, Jerusalem was attacked by the Roman army under Titus, and the Temple was utterly destroyed. The Soldiers took it apart one stone at a time in order to recover the ornamental gold which had melted into the cracks and crevices when the Temple was burned. The prophecy was completely fulfilled.
II. The Ultimate Question –Verse 4
Peter, James, John, and Andrew were elected to ask Jesus the question on everyone’s mind. When is the Temple going to be destroyed, but the real underlying question which Jesus knew was on their minds but they do not officially ask- when are we all going to take over, and when is the “Messianic” kingdom going to be established after all?
Jesus answers these two questions in the rest of the chapter. Some have referred to these passages as the ‘Little Apocalypse’. However, some of the references pertain to the generation of the disciples up to the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, while other references are for the very ‘end-times’ leading up to the Second Coming of Christ and the ushering in of the ‘Messianic’ Kingdom of God which the disciples were looking for.
The disciples did not envision a large parenthesis of time between these major events. For us, it provides some difficulty and some differences of opinion among Bible scholars in interpreting where to place all the events noted by Jesus. I believe that much of what Jesus talks about is relevant for both events and for both time periods.
III. Signs of The End -The Beginning of ‘Birth Pangs’ –Verses 5-8
Verse 5-6: Jesus tells them not to be deceived. Before the end, there are going to be false teachers who come claiming: ‘I am he’ (The Messiah), deceiving many.
Verses 7-8: Signs of the ‘end times’ to look for: Wars, earthquakes, famines- the beginning of birth pains.
Many critics of the Bible have asserted that wars, earthquakes, and famines have happened in every generation of human history. This may be true, however, the prophecy of Jesus here is to look for a time which is more clearly defined by extraordinary catastrophic events. Also at the same time, look for false leaders who are proclaiming that they are the expected ‘Messiah’ or the next or final embodiment of ‘Christ’.
Leading up to 70 AD, there were a number of leaders in Judea that rose up against the Roman Empire. Some believed that it was a good time to rebel against Rome because of succession battles that were on-going (there were four different Roman emperors in 69 AD) and there were rebellions and wars in far away places occupying the Roman armies.
There had also been a number of major earthquakes at the time, and famines were numerous, many caused by the disruptions of war. However, all of these difficulties were quickly resolved and soon the army of Titus was marching on Jewish cities and particularly Jerusalem.
One could say that our own times are marked with wars, famines in some places, and extreme problems and disasters brought on by weather. However, there are other signs to be aware of also. Jesus refers to these signs as the ‘beginning of birth pangs’. This analogy indicates that in the end-times, these type of events will proceed to get increasingly more numerous and more severe.
IV. Witnessing In The Church Age –Verses 9-13
The counsel of Jesus to his disciples here in verses 9-13 is particularly pertinent for the early Christians and continues to be relevant even today, especially for missionaries.
Verse 9: Local ‘councils and Synagogues’ represent the Jewish ruling authorities in towns and synagogues; while ‘governors and Kings’ represent the Gentile rulers.
The disciples were expecting to ‘rule’ in the Messianic Kingdom. Jesus is trying to prepare them for reality and the hard times they will soon be facing. One cannot imagine the turmoil that they were going through listening to what Jesus was telling them. After all, they had been constantly arguing among themselves who was going number 2 in the Messianic Kingdom.
Now Jesus was informing them that they were going to be subject, not only to arrest by Jewish authorities, but also Gentile rulers. What a come down this was. Most likely they didn’t accept any of this until after the death and resurrection of the Lord.
Verse 10: And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. (ESV)
This had to be very disappointing for the disciples to hear. They pretty much expected to rule over the whole World first and then teach all the people from a position of power. However, Jesus is saying that it is going to be the other way around. They are going to be subject to the interference of Jewish and Gentile authorities, and the ‘Messianic’ Kingdom that they expect to help rule isn’t going to happen until the ‘good news’ of Jesus is preached and proclaimed to every nation.
The language of this statement includes all the Gentile nations! Even after the Resurrection and Pentecost, they were bringing the Gospel to only the Jews. Later the Apostles would take the Gospel to the Gentiles, particularly Paul and Peter.
However, the World was a lot bigger place than they really knew. In the first generation, the disciples and their followers took Christianity to all of the Roman Empire and nearly all of the known World.
‘Doubting’ Thomas walked all the way to India and started a church that was still there when the Portuguese showed up over 1300 years later. As incredible as their ministry was in the first century; Asia, Southern Africa, and the Americas were probably still untouched as the second generation began their ministry.
Today, the Gospel of the Kingdom is still in the process of being expanded and preached to every nation. There are still a few groups of people that have not been reached yet.
Verse 11: This is good counsel for their time and for the entire church age down to our own generation. If Christians are persecuted and brought into court for spreading the Gospel, then they can expect the Holy Spirit to help them. Like Peter and John astonished the learned men in the Sanhedrin with their answers (Acts 4:1-21).
Verses 12-13a: And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. (ESV)
This warning is specifically for the disciples in the first century, but it has also been proven valid for the followers of Jesus down to our time. Even close relatives and friends may betray those who serve the Lord Jesus. In this generation it is demonstrated in Muslim countries when one converts to Christianity.
Verse 13b: But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (ESV)
Regardless of the persecution, Followers of Jesus are called to endure and keep on keeping on until the end of the age. Rev. 2:10 tells us:
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (ESV)
And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (ESV)
This is called the doctrine of ‘the perseverance of the saints.’ Those who are true followers of Jesus shall endure to the end. Those who really don’t have saving faith will quit when the going gets rough. See I John 2:19:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (ESV)
V. The Abomination of Desolation –Verses 14-20
The ‘Abomination of Desolation’ reflects the imagery used by Daniel 9:25-27. One fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy took place nearly two hundred years before when the Greek army under Antiochus Epiphanes brought a statue into the Holy Place and sacrificed a pig.
Jesus is prophesying that something similar is going to happen again. In 70 AD, Roman soldiers did bring in their pagan banners and profaned the Temple once more, before they burned and utterly destroyed it.
Most Bible scholars expect that an end-time Temple will be rebuilt in the last days and will be desecrated once more by the Antichrist. It is in that final application of this passage that the phrase- “And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved” would most appropriately apply. The Roman attack on Judea and the Destruction of Jerusalem would threaten the survival of the Jewish people but not all of humanity.
The first century Christians living in Jerusalem took this prophesy serious. When they saw the Roman armies circling the city, they immediately left Jerusalem and escaped to Pella, in the Trans-Jordan area.
Verse 20: ‘The elect’ here are the people of God. The early church believed that they were spared when the Roman armies had to cut short their expedition in Judea and did not expand their campaign into the Trans-Jordan area where they had escaped. Many Bible scholars teach that in the last days, Jesus will come again in the nick of time to insure that followers of Jesus and the Jewish people in the end-times will not be completely destroyed by the Antichrist.
VI. False Christs and False Prophets -Verses 21-23
This continues the teaching of verse 6. Many pseudo-Messiahs did break upon the scene before 70 AD. leading to the rebellion against Rome. For the early Christians, early heretics such as some of the Gnostic leaders seem to fit this scripture.
Many Bible scholars believe that there will be numerous examples of such in the final moments of history. The Book of Revelation for example warns us to look out for the Antichrist and his False Prophet. However, it also tells us about Two Prophets of God who witness in the ‘last days’.
I have read or heard the theory that since Satan does not really know the future, he has a potential ‘antichrist’ prepared and ready to go in every generation. Only the hand of God holds back some of these evil leaders. Hitler, is an example of one evil man who tried to fulfill the role of the Antichrist.
What about prophets or ministers today, are all who perform signs and miracles by definition ‘false’? Some Christian pastors teach that the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit and the ministry of prophets ended in the first century when the Bible was complete. If so, then this scripture is meaningless for Christians today. If all prophets today are false then how can faithful Christians be deceived?
However, if God has genuine prophets and leaders performing healings and signs and wonders today, then this warning also continues to have meaning for us to
day and in the future.
I believe that the people of God today (‘The Elect’) will need to continue to discern the ‘real’ from the ‘false’. Look at the ‘fruit’; does the ministry bring people to Christ and closer to God the Father and his Holy Spirit, or does it lead away from God and any of his genuine teachings in the Bible. This is the real Scriptural test.
VII. Extreme Natural Disasters –Verses 24-25
“…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven…”:
Jesus foretells here that many extreme natural disasters will precede his Second Coming. These verses are similar to the ‘Day of the Lord’ portrayed in the Old Testament prophets. See: Joel 2:10, 30-31, 3:15; Isaiah 13:10, 34:4; Amos 8:9; and Ezekiel 32:7-8 for examples. See also Rev. 16:1-21 which gives a possible detailed picture of these events.
VIII. Son of Man Coming In The Clouds –Verses 26-27
The Second Coming of our Lord will not be in secret. Everyone will miraculously see him coming in the clouds “with great power and glory.”
He is not coming as a baby again, he is not going to be the ‘Christ Spirit reincarnated’, he will not be the Islamic 12th imam or the Mahdi. He will be the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God coming back in power with all of ‘His people’ to establish his Kingdom.
All the believers (the elect) that are alive at his coming will be gathered by the Angels from every direction of the globe to meet him in the air. Also, the Jewish folk will be gathered back in their land waiting and hoping for the coming of their Messiah.
IX. Parable of The Fig Tree –Verses 28-30
The fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel. The Jewish folk in the first century were expecting the coming of the Messiah and rebelled against Roman authority wanting to set up their own country. The Jewish Christians in the land were hoping for the same thing, only they were looking for Jesus to come back as Messiah.
However, since Jesus had predicted the utter destruction of the Temple in that generation, one could have anticipated that when the fig tree (Judea) tried to extend its authority, destruction would be soon coming. The Jewish Christians bailed out as the Romans began to prepare for their attack. The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem was completed within the lifespan of the disciples, in that first generation.
Many Bible scholars believe that the parable of the fig tree is also valid for interpreting the events for those who live during the ‘end-time’ generation. In this case, the fig tree represents the re-establishment of the Jewish nation once more- like modern Israel. In that case, ‘the generation’ that witnesses the extension of Jewish national authority in the land once more will witness the completion of all the ‘end-time’ events prophesied by Jesus in Mark 13 and elsewhere.
Therefore, many Bible teachers today believe that the parable of the fig tree is valid for both events- that the parable represents both the first Christian generation that witnessed the destruction of the Temple and for the final generation who see the Lord coming again.
X. But My Words Will Not Pass Away –Verse 31
Jesus wants his disciples to understand that he is not talking about possibilities here. These events are really going to happen. I am sure that the disciples were hoping that maybe their homes and country could somehow escape destruction; that maybe the Jewish folk in that generation could all be converted and that Jerusalem and the Temple would be spared.
Jesus underlines it all for his followers–those in the first generation on through to the last. The Temple is going to be destroyed, all the catastrophic events of the ‘end-times’ are going to happen, and everything he ever said was going to be fulfilled.
XI. But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows…only the Father –Verse 32
I have heard al sorts of theories about why Jesus may not have known exactly when he was coming back. Many contend that in his ‘bodily’ form that his knowledge was limited, and some contend that since he has been ‘glorified’ that he surely would now know the ‘day or hour’. This of coarse is speculation which has little or no scriptural basis.
Nevertheless, he did not inform his disciples then, and I doubt that he will provide the exact date to any minister or prophet in the future. Beware of those who claim to know the time of his coming and set dates. They will always be wrong for sure! But Jesus does give us lots of clues to watch for in anticipation of his coming.
XII. Be On Guard, Be Alert, And Be Prepared! –Verse 33-37
Rather than telling his disciples or us when these events will take place, Jesus emphasizes here that we all should be watching and we should all be prepared to respond to the ‘signs of the times.’ Particularly the ‘doorkeeper’ who as a servant should be prepared for the Masters return. This analogy fits the profile of the minister of the Lord Jesus Christ rather well. It was the responsibility of the ‘doorkeeper’ to wake up or warn all the rest of the servants when he saw his Lord approaching.
The final counsel here from Jesus is for all of us:
What I say to you (the disciples), I say to everyone: ‘Watch’.
-Read: Mark 14 for the next lesson.