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Do Not Trust in Earthly Things
13:1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, look at these tremendous stones and buildings!’
As Jesus was leaving the temple one of his disciples was very impressed by its greatness and splendour and drew his attention to it. This was the second temple which by this time had been rebuilt and enlarged by Herod the Great. In Luke 21:5 we are told that it was adorned with shapely and magnificent stones. The Jews were very proud of it and this disciple was too.
13:2 Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!’
However, if he thought to make an impression on Jesus he was greatly mistaken; Jesus was not taken up with the temporary things of this world, not even the temple. He directed this disciple’s thoughts away from the temporal to the eternal (2 Cor. 4:18) by warning that what seemed so magnificent would not endure. The temple would be completely destroyed, with every stone thrown down; this took place AD 70 when the Roman legions besieged and captured Jerusalem.
The temple belonged to the old covenant; but when Jesus died and rose again this was the beginning of the new covenant. The continual animal sacrifices made in the temple were no longer required, as Jesus had made his once and for all sacrifice on the cross (Heb. 10:9-12). Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples for the day when the external regulations for worshipping God would be done away with and they would instead worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:21-24). Believers today must also be careful not to be so caught up with the external observances of Christianity that they become distracted from Christ himself (Col. 3:2).
Signs of the End of the World
13:3-4 So while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?’
As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple with just four of his disciples (Andrew is an addition to the usual three), they asked him what signs would indicate the time when these things would happen.
13:5-6 Jesus began to say to them, ‘Watch out that no one misleads you. Many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and they will mislead many.
The signs given in these verses were to be fulfilled from the time of the first disciples right up to the time of Jesus' return. The first was the appearance of false Christs and false teachers (claiming to represent Christ). Believers must be very careful not to be deceived by anyone (2 Thess. 2:3). The best way to safeguard ourselves is to walk close to Jesus every day, reading his word and taking it into our hearts.
Down through the centuries right up to the present time there have been many false teachers and false Christs. Their numbers will continue to increase as a sign of the near return of Jesus (1 John 2:18).
13:7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Jesus next refers to wars and rumours of wars; the latter being a reference to civil unrest, or acts of terrorism. Christians are not to be alarm by these events, for we are not like those who have no hope (Luke 21:25-26); they are signs that our Lord’s coming is getting nearer! But, says Jesus, these events do not mean that the end will come at once.
13:8 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines. These are but the beginning of birth pains.
Whole nations shall make war against each other and earthquakes will occur in all sorts of places, even where they had previously been unknown. There will be constant famines and catastrophic happenings throughout the world. All this is but the beginnings of the sufferings that are to happen (Rom. 8:22-23).
13:9 ‘You must watch out for yourselves. You will be handed over to councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them.
Another sign of the coming end of the age is the persecution of the church. Jesus warns that his followers would be turned over to the local governing authorities to be beaten, and even appear on trial before rulers, such as when Paul appeared before Caesar (Acts 25:11-12); though this would become an opportunity for the believers to testify of Christ. Such persecution has continued throughout the Christian era and will do so until Jesus comes again. As with all the signs of the end of the age, the persecution will get worse as the end approaches.
13:10 First the gospel must be preached to all nations.
God has purposed that the message of salvation must be declared to all nations before the second coming of Christ.
13:11 When they arrest you and hand you over for trial, do not worry about what to speak. But say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave these instructions to his disciples concerning how they should conduct themselves when they were delivered to those in authority for the gospel’s sake. These instructions hold good for believers facing persecution today. We are not to be anxious about what we are to say or try to prepare our defence beforehand, for when the time comes the Holy Spirit will speak through us.
13:12 Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death.
Jesus further warns that close family members would betray Christians, even if that meant them being put to death.
13:13 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The time would come when all Christians would be hated and detested by the whole world for Christ's sake. Once again, the picture Jesus gives implies that this hatred would increase toward the end of the age. Nevertheless, “those who patiently endures to the end shall be made a partaker of the salvation of Christ and delivered from spiritual death' [Amp. N. T.] The Christian “must hold fast to the very end: and if he be truly Christian he will hold fast, because God holds him fast” (Alan Cole). Jesus said “remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself” (Rev. 2:10).
A Time of Great Trouble
13:14-18 ‘But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one on the roof must not come down or go inside to take anything out of his house. The one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter.
Remember that Jesus was replying to his disciples’ question about the signs of the end of the age when he spoke of this “abomination of desolation” (Daniel 9:27). It is difficult to see how Jesus’ words could be taken as a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, for many of the events depicted in later verses did not coincide with the Roman siege. Perhaps the “abomination” is a reference to the image of “the beast” - a world-ruling opponent of Christ who would appear toward the end of time, and erect a statue of himself in the temple, proclaiming himself to be God (Revelation 13:12-15; 2 Thess. 2:4). Similar profanities had defamed the temple previously. During the period of Antiochus Epiphanes a statue was erected of him in the temple and pigs were sacrificed there. But Jesus was clearly speaking here of a future day that would be worse than the time of Antiochus.
Jesus’ words were given as a warning to those alive at the time of this “abomination”. When they saw these things happen it would be vital for them to escape from Jerusalem and the surrounding area as quickly as possible and head for the Judean Mountains. There would be no time to take any possessions, just enough time to flee for their lives.
13:19 For in those days there will be suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, or ever will happen.
Although the days of the Roman siege were dreadful they did not come up to what Jesus foretold here. He was warning about a time of affliction that would be more dreadful than anything ever seen on earth, and which would never be witnessed again. This can only be a reference to the end of the age, a time which is spoken of in more detail in the book of the Revelation.
13:20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved. But because of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut them short.
The word “elect” (chosen) is often used of believers in Christ (1 Pet. 1:2). Yet the word is also used to denote the nation of Israel. In context, Jesus has been addressing a localised situation (“let those who are in Judaea”) at a particular time. It is possible that he simply means only a few will be saved alive at this time; he does not elucidate as to whether they are Christians or Jews. But given their locality, they would more likely be Jews.
13:21-22 Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect.
During these days of suffering many false prophets will appear professing to be the Christ. Many will follow and support these false prophets. They will be able to show signs and work mighty miracles (Rev. 13:11-14). These signs and miracles will be such a good counterfeit that if it was at all possible even those chosen by God would be deceived by them.
13:23 Be careful! I have told you everything ahead of time.
It is because Jesus has forewarned us of this that we can be on our guard and not taken in by what is false.
Second Coming of Christ
13:24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Immediately after these days of suffering are completed, awesome signs from God will appear in the heavens to announce the end of the world. Even the sun, moon and stars, together with the powers of heaven (e.g. gravity) will be shaken.
It is noteworthy that the signs given in this verse seem to correspond with those in Revelation 6:12-13, which occur at the opening of the sixth seal. Just before this, in Revelation 6:10-11 many Christians who had been martyred ask Jesus how long it will be until they are avenged. The Lord answers that it will not be until more of their fellow servants have been killed as they were. This might suggest that up until the opening of the sixth seal the church is present on the earth, whilst after the sixth seal comes the day of wrath (V17). On the other hand, some commentators believe the church will be removed before the great trouble occurs and “the beast” is revealed. Certainly, at some time between the sixth and seventh seal being opened the tribes of Israel are sealed (Rev. 7:1-8) and the redeemed of the Lord are in heaven (Rev. 7:9-17).
13:26-27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man arriving in the clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send angels and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
After these signs appear in the heavens, Jesus himself will be revealed, coming in the clouds of the sky with great power and glory. Then shall be gathered in from all over the earth to the utmost limits of heaven all those who belong to him (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Parable of the Fig Tree
13:28 ‘Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
This is a simple parable taking an object of nature that response to the seasons as a matter of course. It cannot do anything else but respond. As summer approaches the young shoots appear and its leaves begin to bud. This is invariably taken as a sign that summer has arrived.
13:29 So also you, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, right at the door.
So it is with the signs the Lord gave to his disciples: they herald that his coming is near, even on the threshold
13:30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
The generation here certainly does not mean that of the twelve disciples. It may refer to the generation that is alive at the time when all these signs have been accomplished. Jesus is emphasising by this and the following verse that an end will come to the world.
13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Yet although heaven and earth will perish and pass away (2 Pet. 3:10), there are some things, which, according to the eternal word of God will endure forever.
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This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark