ISRAEL (WHO WAS ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH FOR CHRIST’S FIRST COMING) HAD BETTER BE ON THE ALERT FOR CHRIST’S SECOND COMING
Chapter 13 needs to be treated in its entirety despite its length of 37 verses. Therefore, it will take several weeks for us to work our way through the chapter. But we must always have the full context in view. Commentators differ widely on the interpretation of much of this material. We will have to consider the parallel accounts in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21 as well where there are differences in order to get the full picture.
We will start by reading the entire chapter – but this time with a few comments interspersed so that I make sure that I don’t lose you. Still separate in your minds the inspired words of scripture from my attempts at explanation.
You can see that the occasion of leaving the temple complex where Jesus had just been interacting with the Jewish religious leaders and exposing their hypocrisy and failure to grasp both the teaching of the Scripture and the power of God sparked a question from one of His disciples. The response of Jesus was the gateway to delivering what has been called the Mt. Olivet Discourse because of its setting.
The first thing I want you to focus on is the overall tone … the theme … the main emphasis of the exhortations and warnings here. There is no disagreement on this point. This is a call to Be On ALERT. To accentuate that, I will ring a bell every time we read a phrase that communicates that tone.
We have so many Alerts in our culture today, that I am afraid we have become numb to their value. Almost like the phenomena of the boy who cried “Wolf.” Alerts are intended to wake us up and cause us to have a heightened sense of awareness so that we are on guard and won’t get caught by surprise. We have alerts for:
- – Weather alerts – even come across your cell phone now as well as your TV
- – floods, hurricanes, tornados
- – smog levels, atmospheric conditions
- – susceptibility to fire, etc.
- – Amber alerts – when some young child has gone missing or been taken
- – Terrorist alerts – we have a color coded system to tell us how serious the threat level is at any point in time
- – Breaking news alerts – to provide information on key stories that can’t wait for the usual programming times
- – Health alerts – the status of the Zikah threat or some flu epidemic or some other threat to our health and well-being
- – Education alerts – on TV news this week
- – Financial alerts – condition of the stock market and how it is impacting your portfolio and your retirement funds; critical action that you must take on a timely basis
No end to alerts – when the kids were growing up … I used to mock this …
But when Jesus calls us to Be On ALERT – we had better listen and respond. We can’t afford to overlook His warnings or take His exhortations lightly. This must be serious stuff. We know that is true as well because Jesus just has several days left on earth and He concludes His teaching ministry with His disciples with these important words.
So what is the frame of reference here for the Alert status?
– Because He starts off talking about the destruction of the Temple which could certainly reference the events surrounding 70 A.D., some commentators try to fit this language into an historical or preterist context – saying that what Jesus is warning against here has already taken place.
Cf. quote from R. C. Sproul: My main thrust [in his commentary on this passage] is to show that many, if not all, of the details in this discourse can be understood in terms of first-century events. [based on a literal understanding of “generation” to refer to a 40 year window for fulfillment]
But when you understand the full scope of what Jesus is describing here, it certainly goes way beyond that destruction to speak of end time events – events that will culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus in power and majesty and glory.
– Also it is obvious that rather a significant amount of time has to pass to provide for the fulfillment of all that is spoken of here. Jesus is not simply going to usher in the kingdom in the weeks to follow. So these precursor events would certainly undermine any teaching regarding the imminency of Christ’s return.
– This passage also undermines the pre-trib teaching of a secret Rapture event. No secret rapture is mentioned here and in fact there are many points of comparison between the language and imagery used here and in Matthew’s parallel account and Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thess. 4 (the classic Rapture passage) to say that the same events must be in view. Others would argue that points of similarity do not necessarily equate to identical occurrences.
It should be no surprise to us after our careful study of the prophecy of Isaiah, to find that this prophetic passage from the lips of Jesus must be taken on multiple levels. While there seems to be some near term reference to events about to happen in 70 AD, the ultimate fulfillment surely awaits the end time events which include what is called the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ. The trigger event is this Abomination of Desolation which we must study in detail.
Derek Thomas: very often the Bible foreshortens the gap between the first resurrection of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus, and, as it were, sees the whole of that period (including the period we’re in) as ‘the last days’ – the time between the two advents of Jesus.
James Edwards [note on structure]:
Mark employs “these things” (Gk. tauta) or “all these things” (Gk. tauta panta) with reference to the destruction of the temple, not to the end of the age. . . This linguistic pattern is a clue that Mark intends readers to understand vv. 1-13 and 28-31 with reference to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Two other blocks of material in the chapter are held in close connection with the destruction of the temple. They are vv. 14-27, the description of the tribulation and subsequent coming of the Son of Man; and vv. 32-36, the reminder of the unknown day and hour of the return of the Son of Man and the consequent reminder to present watchfulness. These two sections are designated by the expression “those days” (vv. 17, 19, 20, 24; or “that day”, v. 32). “Those days” is a stereotype for the eschaton in the prophets (Jer 3:16, 18; 31:29; 33:15; Joel 3:1), and it appears likewise in Mark 13. Chapter 13 is thus constructed according to a twofold scheme of tension and paradox, alternating between the immediate future (related to “these things”) and the end of time (related to “those days”), in which the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem function as a prefigurement and paradigm for the Parousia.
One must also keep in mind the overall timeline of the Pre-Wrath Rapture:
Let’s work our way now through the passage.
7 REASONS TO BE ON ALERT IN ANTICIPATION OF THE END TIMES (look at the first 3 here)
I. (:1-2) DESTRUCTION — BE ON ALERT BECAUSE JUDGMENT IS COMING
“And as He was going out of the temple,”
Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ
Leaving the temple for the final time – Jesus has left the temple for good – very significant
Triumphal Entry – not received as the Messiah; observed the corruption and idolatry and hypocrisy; cleansed the temple; came back to continue teaching the people in the temple and confronting the religious leaders; now he goes out for the last time
A. (:1b) Futile Attempt to Hold on to the Past
“one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones
and what wonderful buildings!’”
λέγει αὐτῷ εἷς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ· διδάσκαλε, ἴδε ποταποὶ λίθοι καὶ ποταπαὶ οἰκοδομαί.
In the commendation of the widow for giving her only two small copper coins, Jesus had pointed to the different standard of evaluation used by God who sees the heart as opposed to man who is impressed by mere externals … so this is an uninformed evaluation by one of the disciples who is so focused in on the external beauty of the temple when Jesus has just exposed its internal corruption
Is Judas speaking here??
Does this have to mark the end of the old system – can’t we somehow make something good out of this beautiful structure of the OT religious system
B. (:2) New Wine Calls for New Wineskins
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings?
Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down.’”
καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· βλέπεις ταύτας τὰς μεγάλας οἰκοδομάς;
οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ ὧδε λίθος ἐπὶ λίθον ὃς οὐ μὴ καταλυθῇ.
Speaks to the totality of the coming destruction in judgment
Hendriksen: As to the fulfillment, when the Jews rebelled against the Romans, Jerusalem was taken by Titus, son of the emperor Vespasian (A.D. 69-79). The temple was destroyed. It is believed that more than a million Jews, who had crowded into the city, perished. As a political unit Israel ceased to exist.
Christians who followed exhortation to flee the city were largely spared ….
Such specific fulfillment of this prophecy of Jesus should reinforce our faith that the other prophecies uttered here by Jesus will likewise be fulfilled in similar fashion – literally
What about the teaching of Jesus that used the destruction of the temple building as a metaphor for His own death on the cross – is that in view here … at least to some extent??
Josephus remarked: the temple and the city walls, except for a few towers, were so thoroughly “dug up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.”
II. (:3-8) DECEPTION AND DISCORD — BE ON ALERT SO YOU AREN’T DECEIVED REGARDING THE TIMING AND THE SIGNS OF THE END TIMES
A. (:3-4) Key Question – How can I tell when the end is upon us?
- (:3a) Setting for the Key Question
“And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple,”
Καὶ καθημένου αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν κατέναντι τοῦ ἱεροῦ
Significance of the Mount of Olives as the place to which Jesus will return on the last day –
Just east of the temple; across the Kidron Valley – a beautiful view of a majestic temple structure;
It’s been a long day with much activity; dusk settling over the city of Jerusalem
- (:3b) Audience for the Key Question
“Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,”
ἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν κατ᾽ ἰδίαν Πέτρος καὶ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης καὶ Ἀνδρέας·
Unusual to see this group of 4 treated together – the two sets of brothers
- (:4) Two Aspects to the Key Question
“Tell us, when will these things be,”
εἰπὸν ἡμῖν, πότε ταῦτα ἔσται
“these things” – how can we identify what is included in this reference?
“and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”
καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον ὅταν μέλλῃ ταῦτα συντελεῖσθαι πάντα;
Matt. “completion of the age”
Hiebert: the question assumes that the destruction will be part of complex events culminating in the consummation of the age and the inauguration of the Messianic kingdom.
MacArthur: In fact, their question is bigger than the destruction of the temple because in Matthew 24:3, Matthew records that they asked about the coming of the end of the age…the coming of the end of the age. And the sign of the end of the age…and even the word “coming” means presence,parousia. When will there be divine presence, the end of this age, the end of this age, if you will, of apostasy and the fulfillment of all Kingdom promise, how soon will it come? And they’re still asking this question 40 days after the Resurrection because in Acts chapter 1, after 40 days of being instructed by Jesus, they still ask the question…Will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?
B. (:5-8) Don’t Panic — Don’t mistake birth pangs for the consummation of the end
- (:5-6) Don’t Be Misled by Charismatic Religious Leaders
“And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you.
Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many’”
Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἤρξατο λέγειν αὐτοῖς· βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς πλανήσῃ·
πολλοὶ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ πολλοὺς πλανήσουσιν.
These things will happen throughout these “last days” in which we are living now … certainly happened to a limited extent before the destruction in 70 A.D. … but the intensity will be ratcheted up during the final 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy – and especially in the second half which begins with the Great Tribulation as we will see next week
So there is definite application to us right now – we have to be on guard against deception …
But at the end there will be many false Christs … and especially the AntiChrist Himself …
Jesus makes it plain that He will come in power and glory in obvious fashion so that there can be no mistaking his return … these others that appear from the desert or brought forth from inner rooms (Matt. 24:26) … must be rejected as imposters
- (:7-8a) Don’t Be Frightened by Dramatic and Dangerous National Events
“And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.
For nation will arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;”
ὅταν δὲ ἀκούσητε πολέμους καὶ ἀκοὰς πολέμων, μὴ θροεῖσθε·
δεῖ γενέσθαι, ἀλλ᾽ οὔπω τὸ τέλος.
ἐγερθήσεται γὰρ ἔθνος ἐπ᾽ ἔθνος καὶ βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν,
John 14:2 “Do not let your heart be troubled”; believe in God, believe also in Me.”
Alan Flavel: [influential Presbyterian minister in Belfast] We get all anxious and run to God when the foundations are shaking, only to find that He is the One who is shaking them.
- (:8b) Don’t Be Confused by Natural Disasters
“there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines.
These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
ἔσονται σεισμοὶ κατὰ τόπους, ἔσονται λιμοί· ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων ταῦτα.
Not exactly an optimistic, post-mill type of response;
MacArthur: Human history itself has been a long ordeal of survival against the deadly and dominating effects of sin and corruption. And even as society advances scientifically, as it advances educationally, as it advances technologically, it does not advance morally. It does not advance spiritually. And it does not advance socially. Man is simply a more comfortable beast. Advancement materially from the discovery and the application of the powers and rich resources that are in this planet has in some way only made it more dangerous and increased the threats of death and killing force.
III. (:9-13) DANGER — BE ON ALERT BUT NOT ANXIOUS IN LIGHT OF THE COMING DANGER IN THE END TIMES
Note chiastic structure
A1. (:9a) Perseverance Requires Vigilance
“But be on your guard;”
Βλέπετε δὲ ὑμεῖς ἑαυτούς·
Zeisler: What do you see when you look at yourself? Do you see that God by his grace has given himself to you in such a way that you will finish the course, that you have been given a love for him that will not ultimately fail under pressure?
B1. (:9b) Pressure in the Form of Betrayal and Persecution
“for they will deliver you to the courts,
and you will be flogged in the synagogues,
παραδώσουσιν ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια
καὶ εἰς συναγωγὰς δαρήσεσθε
C1 (:9c -10) Powerful Testimony in Fulfillment of the Great Commission
and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake,
as a testimony to them.
And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.”
καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνων καὶ βασιλέων σταθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ
εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.
καὶ εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη πρῶτον δεῖ κηρυχθῆναι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον.
Hiebert: A twofold fulfillment of this prediction seems evident. The preaching of the gospel throughout the Roman world is affirmed by Paul (Ro 1:8; Col 1:67, 23). But Matthew 24:14 clearly refers to a preaching which relates to the eschatological end.
Rev. 14:6-8 angel proclaiming the gospel to all the earth in the Tribulation period
No longer is witness concentrated in the temple in Jerusalem – now the followers of Jesus are sent throughout the world to bear witness to the gospel
C2 (:11) Powerful Testimony Empowered by the Holy Spirit
“And when they arrest you and deliver you up,
do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say,
but say whatever is given you in that hour;
for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”
καὶ ὅταν ἄγωσιν ὑμᾶς παραδιδόντες, μὴ προμεριμνᾶτε τί λαλήσητε, ἀλλ᾽ ὃ ἐὰν δοθῇ ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦτο λαλεῖτε· οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑμεῖς οἱ λαλοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον.
B2. (:12-13a) Pressure in the Form of Betrayal and Persecution
“And brother will deliver brother to death,
and a father his child;
and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
And you will be hated by all on account of My name,”
Καὶ παραδώσει ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον
καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον,\
καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς·
καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.
A2. (:13b) Perseverance Wins Out
“but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”
ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται.
Cf. same language used in the Book of Revelation
MacArthur: By your endurance, Luke 21:19, you will gain your lives. You don’t earn salvation by endurance. You prove you have the real thing by endurance. Superficial faith will collapse under persecution. “They went out from us because they were not of us,” 1 John 2:19. This is basic gospel truth, authentic, God-given faith will endure because the Holy Spirit will provide strength, God will provide grace. Trouble, deception, persecution, suffering will burn up the chaff, it will reveal the shallow, weedy, rocky ground of false profession. And under these kinds of pressures, superficial interest in Christ will have no endurance. And so I say again, we don’t earn our salvation by enduring, we don’t keep our salvation by gritting our teeth and enduring. We demonstrate our salvation by enduring. We have a salvation that’s a gift of grace. It’s authenticated in the midst of suffering.
Longest teaching of Christ in the Gospel of Mark – focused on eschatology – but has profound practical implications for how we live our lives today
What are the characteristics of someone who is on alert, in a state of vigilance:
Illustration: coaching little league baseball – before the ball is pitched, the fielders need to get down in the ready position so that they are prepared if the ball is hit to them;
What does that ready position look like for believers?
- Awake . . . not asleep; can’t be nodding off – look at what will happen shortly in Jesus’ prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane — 14:37 “Could you not keep watch for one hour?”
- Focused . . . not distracted
- Discerning the signs of the times . . . not oblivious
- Girded for action . . . not paralyzed
- Anticipate . . . not get caught by surprise
- Accountable . . . not irresponsible