BRIEF INTRO: Sometimes, it is hard to remember everything we have learned in a lengthy study simply because there is so much good stuff! So, I want to remind you how similar chapter thirteen is to chapter four. They are different in that in chapter four, Jesus speaks in parables, and in this chapter, He speaks in an eschatological (end times) sense. But they are alike in that both chapters serve as transitional! “Chapter thirteen is a fitting end to the section on Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders in the temple, because it starts with Jesus prdicting the destruction of the temple.”
This chapter is also significant because it serves as the framework for making sense of His coming death, burial, and resurrection—which Jesus often spoke of to His disciples so they would understand. Yet, here again, in the first few verses of this chapter, we realize that they still did not comprehend it fully.
We must keep a few truths in mind to properly understand this prophecy.
- First, this passage never mentions the church or the Rapture. Why? It doesn’t mention these things because this passage was not written to the church, it was written to the nation of Israel. This is primarily a Jewish prophecy. Still, there are many truths we can glean from these verses.
- Second, this prophecy covers a tremendous expanse of time. Over 3,000 years of human history are in view here. These verses contain prophecies that have been partially fulfilled and that will be completely fulfilled in the future. So, we will be looking backwards and forwards at the same time.
- Third, as with any prophetic passage of Scripture, we need to move cautiously and with the knowledge that no one has all the answers. No Bible scholar has ever been able to solve all the theological riddles hidden within The Olivet Discourse. Thus, we must approach these great verses with a humble heart, knowing that none of us knows it all.
I share these truths with you, gleaned from one commentator because we would do well to exercise wisdom as we move through this section of Mark.
13 “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, look! [a]What wonderful stones and [b]what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
FOCUS ONE: Destruction of the temple (1-2)
“The Temple in Jerusalem was considered among the most spectacular wonders of the ancient Roman Empire. The original temple constructed by Solomon was a magnificent building that took seven years and many millions of dollars to build. This temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in about 600 BC.
When the Jews returned to the homeland 70 years later, they constructed the second temple. This temple served the Jews for nearly 500 years, but by the time of the New Testament, it had suffered great damage due to the passage of time. When King Herod assumed the throne of Israel, he wanted to gain favor with the Jews. So, he offered to rebuild their temple. They accepted and in 18 BC, the work began.
By the time of Jesus, the work had been underway some 46 years, John 2:20, and would continue for another 20 years. The temple that Jesus and His men visited was an amazing building. It sat atop Mount Moriah and literally dominated the skyline of the ancient city. The temple mount covered some one-sixth of the land area of Jerusalem. The temple itself was 172 feet long and 20 stories high. It could be seen from many miles away and from anywhere in the city.”
“The stones that made up Herod’s Temple were enormous. Some were forty feet long, eighteen feet high and fifteen feet wide. They were cut by hand from pure white limestone, and fit together so tightly and perfectly that a sheet of paper could not be inserted between the stones.
The doors, walls and even the floors of the temple were overlaid with pure gold. There were jewels, ornate carvings, and many awe inspiring sights. It was said that when the sun came up over Jerusalem, you could not stand to look at the temple because of the light gleaming from its golden walls. Anything that was not covered with gold was the purest of white. Whether the temple was seen during the day or at night, it was a sight that no one ever forgot.”
With such a description of the temple, it is not hard for us to understand how impressed the disciples would have been at “such wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (v. 1).
Jesus’s reply must have been unexpected and startling, to say the most! Rather than agree with the disciple and stare enthralled at the buildings, Jesus predicts their destruction. Talk about “shock and awe.” This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
3 “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, [a]James, John, and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things come about, and what will be the [b]sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”
FOCUS TWO: Private questions (3-4)
After they left the temple and the city, Jesus led His men up the Mount of Olives. This mountain stood some 150 feet higher than the city below. It offered a commanding view of the temple and its grounds. It is here where Peter, James, and John ask Jesus questions and for a sign so they know when these things are asking place.
But, again, His answer is not exactly what they are looking for! Rather than provide dates and signs, Jesus seeks to “prepare them by exhortation and warning for the trials that lay ahead.”
They want to know the following:
- When will these things be?
- What will be the sign when these things are going to be fulfilled?
“How natural it is to us to desire to know things to come, and the times of them; more inquisitive we are apt to be about that than about our duty” (Matthew Henry).
“The disciples’ question has in view the predicted destruction of the temple. Jesus’ replyseems to include both this particular event and the time leading to the coming of the Son of Man (v. 26; cf. Matt. 24:3). The events surrounding the destruction of the temple seem to anticipate and typify those associated with the Second Coming” (Reformation Study Bible).
5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and they will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are only the beginning of birth pains
FOCUS THREE: Jesus begins to answer (5-8)
Jesus begins His answer to their questions with a warning (see to it or watch out), a warning to be careful that they are not deceived. Jesus uses this word throughout this section (see vv. 9,23,33). “Blepo” is a word that stresses having more excellent perception, a discerning eye at what is going on around you.
Seeing that Jesus uses this word repeatedly in this section, the disciples are made aware of one of His greatest concerns, deception.
False Christ’s are first on His mind. Those that will come and claim messiahship, claiming “I am He,” misleading many. But we notice that it’s not just going to be one or two people claiming this, but many. “History records no such pretender’s before the destruction of Jerusalem, although doubtless there may have been.”
We know of two that rose before the days of Christ because they are mentioned in the book of Acts, but they did not claim to be Christ: Theudas and Judas (Acts 5:34-39). There were others:
“After the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, many more would-be Messiahs came to prominence in Israel. One was a man named Simon Bar-Kochba. He started a rebellion that lasted three years and cost thousands of lives in Israel. His revolt led to a harsh Roman crackdown that left Jerusalem in utter ruins.
Others included Moses of Crete. He claimed he would part the Mediterranean Sea and lead his followers across dry land from the island of Crete to Israel. Many leaped from the cliffs at his command and were drowned in the sea.
In the 1100’s a man named Moses Al-Dar’I told his flowers to sell all their possessions because Messiah was coming at Passover in 1127. Passover came and went and his followers were left destitute.
In 1666 a man claimed to have heard the voice of God declaring that he was the son of God. He led his followers to the city of Constantinople and was arrested by the Turkish Sultan. The Sultan ordered him to either prove that he was the Messiah or be executed. The would-be Messiah promptly converted to Islam. The Jews rejected their true Messiah and many imposters rose to take His place.
In our own era many so-called Messiahs have paraded across the stage of history. Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Patterson Glover Eddy, and Sun Myung Moon come to mind. Many can remember Jim Jones, the founder of The People’s Temple, and the nearly 1,000 people he led to commit mass suicide in 1978.
As the end of time approaches, there will be more and more people who will step forward claiming to be the savior of the world. Beware that you are not deceived by their slick words and evil deception. The appearance of such people is merely a sign that the end is approaching.”
Jesus then speaks about rumors of wars and wars taking place (v. 7-8). How Jesus is saying this seems to dictate that they shouldn’t be alarmed by such news but should expect it as the day approaches. These wars, like the destructive forces of nature mentioned later, are within God’s providence and purposes. Take notice of the “definitive” language He uses (For nation will rise; there will be earthquakes; there will be famines, etc.).
Sadly, and yet amazingly, it doesn’t stop there. In addition to international power struggles, he tells them there will be severe weather-related catastrophes. Two are mentioned (earthquakes and famines), but there could be others that are not mentioned. Matthew’s account speaks of pestilence, earthquakes, and wars (Matthew 24:7) in KJV. Pestilence is a disease or plaques.
“We may think something like that cannot happen today. Just stop to think of the AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that 70% of the people in Africa are HIV positive. Think of the SARS and Bird Flu scares of a few years ago. Think of the horrors of viruses like Ebola. There are killer diseases out there just waiting for an opportunity to devastate the human race. An outbreak of deadly disease in our world has the potential to kill hundreds of millions of people in a just a few short weeks. An outbreak like that would shut down society as we know.” I add Covid-19!
But we should not be fearful. Jesus said that we would see diseases, pestilence, and trouble of every kind increase as the end approached.
After telling His men some things that will cause people to believe the end is near, Jesus lets them know that they can’t know when the end will come. Jesus tells them that they are just “the beginning of sorrows” (or birth pangs) when they see these things. These men were looking for signs. What Jesus gave them were not signs at all; they were non-signs.
Any woman could tell you that when their “birth pangs” begin, they begin somewhat weak BUT continually get worse! Those early contractions are an indicator of a long, painful road ahead. So shall it be before “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26)?
Jesus wanted them and us to live every day as if it could be the day he returned. He didn’t want them to be looking for signs but for Him, a savior. How are you living in light of these truths? What is your mind occupied with, signs of His coming or HIM?
The Complete Word Study NT
Exegetical Guide to the NT
Second Coming Bible