Matt Carter speaks on Mark 13:1-33
Series: When Will Jesus Return?
There have been generations who have tried to interpret the second coming and when it’s going to happen in light of these words from Jesus.
Jesus was talking about His second coming. But, He was also prophesying, predicting and describing an event that would happen within the lifetime of the disciples.
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” Mark 13:1 (ESV)
They had been at the temple worshipping God and as they walked out one of the disciples said, “Check it out Jesus, look at the temple. This is awesome. Look at these great, beautiful buildings!” Jesus responded with a very interesting statement.
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.” Mark 13:2 (ESV)
He agreed it was beautiful, but wanted them to understand it was going to be destroyed. This completely freaked out the disciples.
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?” Mark 13:3-4 (ESV)
The disciples were not asking Jesus about His second coming. They were asking Him when the temple was going to be destroyed. It was in the answer to that question when Jesus discussed another issue.
The Destruction of the Temple
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. 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. 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. Mark 13:5-23 (ESV)
Jesus was predicting the events leading up to the destruction of the temple, which He got all right.
In 70 A.D., thirty-seven years after He spoke these words, the temple was destroyed. Titus wanted to take over the leadership of the Romans. He gathered an army together and attacked the city of Jerusalem, completely leveling the temple. Every sign Jesus said would happen did so.
He predicted the Jewish folks would hear of this coming attack beforehand. Historically, we know this is true. They heard this was going to happen, but didn’t act on it.
He predicted there would be famines. When Titus came to Jerusalem the way he wanted to destroy it was through a siege. The ancient writer Josephus talked about this siege in a book called The War of the Jews, where he describes it in great detail. 97,000 Jews survived, but 1.1 million died, the vast of them through slow starvation.
Jesus predicted woe to those who were nursing. The writings of Josephus are almost too hard to bear when you read about what the Jews went through. They were so hungry women were killing their children and eating them. Children were killing their parents and eating them.
He predicted not one stone of the temple would be left upon another. The temple was completely leveled. Everything Jesus said came true.
Clearing Up the Confusion
Some people get hung up on verse 30.
30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Mark 13:30 (ESV)
He was speaking to the disciples, talking about their generation, which is how we know He wasn’t just talking about the second coming. All this stuff was going to take place before their generation died. He got that right. The temple was destroyed in the lifetime of the disciples.
So Jesus was talking about the destruction of the temple. But, mixed in with all that, He also predicted His return.
23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Mark 13:23-29 (ESV)
In the middle of His accurate prediction of the destruction of the temple, Jesus just popped in and said, “Oh yeah, I’m coming back.”
For Americans, this chapter makes absolutely no sense. Was He talking about the destruction of the temple or about Him coming back?
The answer is yes. He was talking about both.
As twenty-first century Americans, we learn our pattern of thinking from the Greeks. The Greeks think very literally, on a timetable. It’s the way we communicate. Something happens, then something else happens, which leads to something else, etc.
Ancient Hebrews didn’t think that way. They thought and communicated circularly. As long as the main point got out, it didn’t matter the timetable. The Old Testament is full of this type of communication. Look at the prophecies of the Messiah. A psalmist or prophet would be speaking about the Messiah in a future context, but it was in the middle of a current context.
Jesus was implementing this ancient Jewish strategy of communication. When the disciples asked Him about the temple, He was taking the opportunity to answer them in the current context, but also to point them, and us, to the future reality of Him coming back.
Connecting the Temple with Jesus’ Second Coming
Why did Jesus choose this moment in time to explain the second coming in light of the destruction of the temple?
The temple represented the presence of God, the Holy of Holies, where the presence of the Lord hung out. But there was a problem with this; people couldn’t get to the presence of God. There were veils and walls that separated them.
If you go to Jerusalem today, the temple has been rebuilt. There is a wailing wall, which the Jewish people get right up next to and press their foreheads against. They try to get as close to it as they can, because they believe the Holy of Holies, the presence of the Lord, is on the other side of the wall.
Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the temple, the tearing down of that wall, and His return at the same time to point us to the fact there is coming a day when He is going to come back, when we are going to be in His presence without walls and veils, face to face. Forever.
The wall being destroyed was to be a picture of the day Jesus will come back to get us and take us home so that we can be in His presence forever.
The Second Coming of Jesus
Can we use these signs to interpret His second coming also? Can they be as accurate about Him returning as they were regarding the temple?
I have no idea. There will probably be signs, but there’s no way for us to know for sure.
But there are three things we can know for certain about the second coming of Jesus:
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:31-32 (ESV)
We know the angels are worshipping the Lord twenty fours hours a day. They are also here on earth ministering to the elect. But they don’t even know when it’s going to happen.
Jesus didn’t even know. But He does give us some action steps on what we’re supposed to be doing until that happens.
33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. Mark 13:33 (ESV)
We need to believe He’s coming and get ready for it.
14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (ESV)
At some point in time in the future, the Father will look at the archangel Michael and say, “It’s time, let’s get this thing started.” Michael will shout. Then Gabriel, the one who proclaimed the coming of Jesus the first time, will pick up the trumpet of God and blow it. The dead in Christ will rise and those of us who are alive and remain are going to meet Him in the air and will be with the Lord forever!
Whether or not He comes in our lifetime, it does not matter. Jesus is clear, He wants us to life our lives in reflection of Him coming back.
This is Our Hope
Jesus was straightforward in His answer to show His disciples, and us, that living in light of His second coming is going to enable us to endure the hardships, suffering, trials, pain, loneliness and difficulty of this life.
Every single one of those men would suffer greatly for the name of Jesus. He was telling them the truth of Him returning to make everything right would get them through all their tribulations and suffering.
John was going to survive being boiled in oil then exiled to Patmos to spend the rest of his life alone. James was going to be beheaded. Andrew would be crucified. Peter would be crucified upside down.
Jesus was telling them they’d make it through all of that, because they would be with Him forever.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessolonians 4:13-18 (ESV)
Paul says not to grieve like you have no hope. We are to comfort each other in the midst of our hardships with the truth that Jesus is coming back.
The lover of your soul is coming back and you’re going to be with Him forever.
We’ve always been a church that has loved, celebrated and lived in the reality the Jesus came once. Let’s be a church that loves, lives, walks, serves and worships in the reality that He’s coming back.