Mark 13:1-2… 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!” 2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
On the Wednesday before his Friday death Jesus left the temple in Jerusalem with his disciples. As they left the city one of the men commented to Jesus as to how beautiful and magnificent the Jewish temple was. And it was, by all accounts, a magnificent structure. Tacitus, a Roman historian, said that the temple was a place of immense wealth. Another man said, “He that never saw the temple of Herod never saw a fine building.” It must have been a truly awesome sight. Now while the disciples were in awe over the magnificence of the temple, Jesus told them that it would eventually be overthrown and completely torn down. And 35 years later, in AD 70, that’s exactly what happened. The Romans surrounded the city, overran it, and tore down the temple leaving it in a heap of rubble. Truly Jesus knew the future of his chosen people.
The Jews were intensely interested in their prophetical future given that they had been under political dominion for over 600 years. Their Hebrew Scriptures promised a deliverer, but they were forbidden to consult mediums as to when that would be (Deut. 18:9-14). The OT promised a governmental leader who would rise up (Isa. 9:6-7), and the Spirit of the Lord would rest on him (Isa. 11:1-2). His name would be called the “Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6), and they looked forward to the day when they would divide spoil among themselves, when living waters would flow out of Jerusalem, and where the curse would be no more (Zech. 14:1, 8, 11). In short, they longed for a restored kingdom in Israel that would never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44).
First century Jewish literature reveals that the Jews believed their Messiah would return following a time of terrible tribulation. They held that one like the prophet Elijah would return in the midst of great turmoil to announce the coming of the Messiah. They believed the Messiah would then set up his kingdom and would free them from the political domination of the Gentiles. They also believed that there would be an alliance of nations that would fight against the Messiah, but the nations would succumb to the Messiah’s power and be destroyed. The Jews expected that after this event they would be regathered to the land of Israel which would become the center of the world. Then they would live in everlasting peace in the Promised Land.
All of these Jewish expectations can be found in the OT as part of the prophecies of the coming Christ, but the problem with the Jews was that they had no expectation of their Christ coming twice – the first time in humility to atone for sin. They didn’t recognize him because of their preconceived notions of the Messiah. They had no idea of their need for inward deliverance from sin and were only concerned with their outward deliverance from political oppression. This is likely why Judas betrayed Jesus. His ideas of the Messiah were not only wrong (that he would set up his kingdom right then and there), they also revealed his hypocritical devotion to Jesus. Once he realized that he wouldn’t be reigning with Jesus in Jerusalem as part of his inner circle with power and wealth, he betrayed him by handing him over to the Romans to be crucified.
Food for Thought
The church age, the time immediately following Christ’s first coming extending to his second coming, was a mystery to the Jews. Even the Apostle Paul called the church age a “mystery” kept secret for many years but which is now “manifested” (Rom. 16:25-26). God has revealed the mystery of the church, and He’s given her the protection from the end-times wrath He will pour out on those who reject Jesus Christ. Jesus took that wrath for us at the cross.
Mark 13:3-8… While Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, & Andrew asked him, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?” 5 Jesus said, “Watch out that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places and famines. These are but the beginning of birth-pangs.”
This section of Scripture is called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus teaches the disciples about the end-times while on the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem. The disciples wanted to know when the temple would be destroyed and what sign would precede the catastrophe. Jesus’ answer was insightful in that it revealed the distant future for all mankind.
In v. 5 Jesus’ first words are “watch out that no one misleads you.” Earlier he had warned them to “watch out” for the scribes and their hypocritical teachings, and this would help them discern the truth from error. For in v. 6 Jesus tells them that false-messiahs would come and say, “I am he.” The Greek literally reads, “I AM” – the OT designation for Yahweh who appeared to Moses at the burning bush and revealed Himself as “I AM.” Jesus said that the same thing would happen as false messiahs would appear announcing their presence and misleading many.
In v. 7 Jesus said that in relation to the end-times events there would be “rumors of wars” but they were not to be alarmed at such rumors because those rumors and those wars would not signify the end, for it was still to come. And in v. 8, as part of the events leading up to the end-times, Jesus told them that nations and kingdoms would rise up against one another and that there would be earthquakes in various places along with famines. But these events, as predicted, would simply signify that the end was near. He called them the beginning of “birth-pangs.”
Now “birth-pangs” are significant in this context. For when a woman goes into labor she has sudden contractions a few minutes apart, and as time goes by those contractions become more and more frequent and intense. Like a snowball going down a hill, her pain progresses like a snowball that gets larger as it rolls down. So it is with labor pains. They start slow and build up along the way. By the time the baby is in the birth canal the pain is at a climax. Then there’s a child! So it is with the end-times. World-wide events like false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, nations rising up against other nations, and earthquakes/famines in various places signify that the labor pains have begun in relation to the end-times events. Just as labor pains come upon a woman suddenly (though expectedly) the end-times events will come about suddenly. The Apostle Paul said, “While they are saying, ‘Peace; safety,’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thes. 5:1-3).
Food for Thought
There have been wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, and false messiahs (Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.) for millennia. The events of Mark 13, however, will be unique on every descriptive level when they finally occur. Even though Jesus was speaking to the disciples, he was actually addressing a generation of people yet future – a common practice in prophecy (cf. Isa. 33:17-24; 66:10-14; Zech. 9:9). Jesus was basically saying, “You who are alive at that time, be warned!” But he does not give the time in which these events occur. If Jesus would have dated these events people would have lived their lives in chaos up to the time they expected him to return. Our ignorance of his arrival is designed to keep us sharp and on the alert.
Mark 13:9-13… “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. 10 First the gospel must be preached to all nations. 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. 12 Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The beginnings of birth pangs that Jesus spoke of are yet future events (false messiahs, wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines). The specific time in which these will occurs is called the Tribulation – the final “week” of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). The false messiahs Jesus spoke of equate to the first seal judgment in Rev. 6:1-2 where the rider on the white horse appears wearing a crown and carrying a bow signifying false peace. He is the Antichrist. The “wars and rumors of wars” equate to the second seal judgment in Rev. 6:3-4 where the rider on the red horse signifies devastating war. The earthquakes and famines equate to the third seal judgment in Rev. 6:5-6 where famine results from the world-wide war and catastrophic earthquakes. The fourth seal of Rev. 6:7-8 equates to what Mark only implies in that there will be a huge death rate as a result of the conditions of the “beginning of birth pangs.”
In v. 9 it appears as if Jesus is telling the disciples that they will be persecuted during that time period. This is not the case, however, for those events did not occur in their lifetimes, and they’re now deceased. The prophecy has a near and a far fulfillment. The near fulfillment was that the disciples were handed over to councils (“handed over” having the basic meaning of being arrested), and most of them were beaten and martyred. But the far fulfillment, the one yet future, is a prophecy that parallels the fifth seal of Rev. 6:9-11 which is martyrdom. Those living during the Tribulation, who profess Christ and who do not take the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16-18), will be murdered for their faith, and Jesus is warning those people in v. 9. During those days people will curse God, but because He cannot be touched, His children will suffer.
Prior to Jesus’ second advent all the events of the Tribulation must take place, and one of those events is the worldwide preaching of the gospel (v. 10). Now even in the modern era of mass-media this is still yet to occur. That task will be performed by the 144,000 Jews (cf. Rev. 7) who will be miraculously converted to Christ during the Tribulation. Other converts will aid in that task, and v. 11 addresses them with encouragement because they will be killed for doing so. However, they are not to worry about what they’ll say to their accusers because God will speak through them with His Holy Spirit. When they die for their faith their voice will be remembered.
It will be a horrible time period as those birth-pangs progress. Verse 12 says that even family members will hand each other over to the God-hating authorities and will join in their persecution and eventual death! Everyone on the planet will hate Christians during that time, and many so-called Christians will abandon their faith as a result of the severe persecution. Only those who hold firm to the end – the end of the 7-year tribulation – will be saved (v. 13).
Food for Thought
The Bible spells out the events of the end-times. God has already orchestrated those events even though they are yet future. Now they’re given to us for our comfort in knowing that we will be spared from God’s wrath – for after having placed our trust in Jesus we are protected from God’s wrath through the rapture. In the interim our task is to lovingly warn all unbelievers.
Mark 13:14… “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand)…”
When Jesus addressed the disciples’ questions as to when the end-times would come it is evident that he was addressing a future audience. First, none of the events he spoke of throughout Mark 13:1-37 actually happened in their lifetimes. And second, the axiom “let the reader understand” in v. 14, clearly refers to those who would read about this account in the future.
Mark 13:14 speaks of the “abomination of desolation.” An “abomination” in the Bible refers to a repulsive and offensive object. It is used throughout the Bible in reference to heinous sins like idolatry and other practices within pagan religions. The abomination “of desolation” is better translated “abomination which makes desolate.” The question is what is Jesus predicting?
The prophet Daniel wrote his prophecies way back in the 6th century BC, and he spoke of the abomination of desolation – the same one Jesus is speaking of. Daniel’s prophecy was partially fulfilled in a man named Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a Syrian king who ruled from 175-164 BC. He controlled the land of Israel, but he had no regard for Jewish laws and traditions. He certainly had no regard for the Jewish God. As his persecution intensified, a Jewish rebel named Judas Maccabaeus rose up and eventually defeated him. Antiochus was incensed and eventually went insane over his hatred for the Jews. He set up an image of Zeus in the Jewish temple and made the Jews bow down to it, he stopped the daily sacrifice, and he threw the blood of swine all over the temple – the most ceremonially unclean of animals to the Jews. In short, he desecrated the temple, but Judas rose up, and he and the rest of the insurgents purified the temple on December 25, 167 BC (celebrated today as Hanukkah by Jews).
To the Jews, Daniel’s prophecy of the “abomination of desolation” was fulfilled in their past with Antiochus. But Jesus spoke of it again with reference to a yet future event. In other words, Daniel’s prophecy (9:27; 11:31; 12:11) had a near and a far fulfillment. The far fulfillment is the rise of the Antichrist who will set up an image of himself in the Jewish temple and cause all Jews to worship him. This will be the man who will make a peace treaty with them for seven years (the event that commences the end-times events). And because the Jewish people are so severely hated by the Arab nations (and Russia who will invade her during that time [cf. Ezek. 38-39]) she will seek refuge and security from the leader of the western confederation of nations – the former Roman Empire of Europe – revived from the dead. He will sign a peace treaty with Israel for seven years (Dan. 9:27), then he will break it after 3.5 years. The Bible refers to this time as the Great Tribulation when the Antichrist betrays Israel and sets up an image of himself in Israel’s rebuilt temple. He is the man who will be given “a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies… and authority to act for 42 months” (Rev. 13:1ff.). Of course 42 months is 3.5 years. The Apostle Paul spoke of the Antichrist as “the man of lawlessness” in 2 Thes. 2:3-4 and called him, “the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god,… he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
Food for Thought
For those who reject Christ and miss the rapture of the church, God has been more than fair to those who will live during the Tribulation. He’s described the man who will rule the world for a brief time in great detail. When he comes on the scene he will be impossible to miss. He’ll be known as the leader of the European Union, for orchestrating a peace treaty with Israel, his slander of God, his breaking of the peace treaty, and for drawing worship to himself.
Mark 13:14-20… “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. 15 The one on the roof must not come down or enter to take anything out of his house. 16 The one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 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. 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.
For those living at the mid-point of the Tribulation, God has issued a warning. That will be the day Antichrist (AC) breaks his peace treaty with Israel, sets up an image of himself in the temple, forces all to worship him, and murders those who refuse (cf. Rev. 13:15).
Since the Jerusalem temple is in the province of Judea it makes perfect sense as to why “those who are in Judea should flee to the mountains” once they find out what has transpired in their place of worship. They will be in the most immediate danger at that time due to their close proximity to the temple. And since AC is the agent of Satan himself, the Jews, who will have moved in droves back to their peaceful homeland, will be severely targeted by him for death. Satan has always sought to destroy God’s people, from the time of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden by the serpent, to the Egyptian captivity by Pharaoh, to their decreed annihilation in the OT book of Esther by Haman, to the Nazi holocaust in WWII by Hitler. His target has always been the Jews, for salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22), namely Jesus Christ (a Jew).
So those in Judea should immediately flee as fugitives into the mountains for protection. Those in their homes must leave immediately without pausing to pack a bag or take a coveted personal object. One working in a field must not fetch his coat that he hung on a fence after shedding it while working into the heat of the day. These instructions have “urgency” written all over them. That’s how critical time will be for those who find out about what the AC has done. If they don’t get away quickly they will die, and God lovingly warns of this danger in advance.
Women who are pregnant in that day and who have nursing children will be severely handicapped, for their ability to move quickly will be greatly hindered. It’s not unthinkable that their babies could be cut out of their wombs and their children dashed to pieces in front of their eyes, for this was the common practice of pagan nations against Israel in days past (Babylon, Assyria, Pharaoh, Herod the Great). And when v. 18 says to pray that this event doesn’t take place in winter, it’s likely just saying that winter conditions will make fleeing more difficult.
Verse 19 sums up the prophecy by describing those days as the most horrific of anything that has ever occurred nor will occur since the beginning of creation. They will be so dreadful that if the Lord had not cut those days short, per v. 20, no one would be spared. But because of God’s elect children, whom He chose for salvation in the beginning, those days will be cut short.
Food for Thought
Three times in the book of Revelation the sun, moon, and stars are said to be darkened (6:12-14; 8:12; 16:10) in differing measures in the end-times. It’s possible that with greater darkness during those days God’s elect will be better able to hide. And once again, God will preserve His remnant. Revelation 12:5-9 also speaks of this, and it’s clear that though Christians in that day will suffer, God will protect some of them through the entire ordeal, for they will be the ones who populate the millennial kingdom and reign with Christ on the earth for 1000 years.
Mark 13:21-23… “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe him. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear performing signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect. 23 Watch out! I’ve told you everything ahead of time.”
After the Antichrist sets up the abomination of desolation in the rebuilt Jewish temple (an image of himself demanding worship) all Jews and Christians living in Judea, where Jerusalem is the capital city, must flee immediately without hesitation. They will be at the highest risk for arrest and murder because as Christians their allegiance will be to Christ; as Jews their allegiance will be to Judaism which forbids worship of any deity outside of Yahweh in the Jewish temple.
Verse 21 implies that during their flight away from Judea false prophets will appear. It is possible that many of those fleeing will be Satan’s emissaries who will have infiltrated the ranks of Jews and Christians in order to deceive them. Their powers will be very persuasive, for v. 22 says that they will perform “signs and wonders.” It’s possible that word will get out to the refugees that Christ has indeed returned and is in Jerusalem setting up his kingdom. They will likely be hungry, cold, and exhausted, so this kind of news will be tempting for the Christians and Jewish refugees who left town with nothing more than the shirt on their backs. They will be susceptible to proclamations like this because they’ll be desperate, and desperate people who long for good news and physical relief are the most susceptible to false prophets and messiahs.
The Apostle Paul warned Christians in 2 Cor. 11:13-16 of false teachers: “…such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.” This is exactly what Jesus was warning the future generation who would be in the Tribulation about. While they fled from the Antichrist, Satan’s own servants – disguised as Christians – would attempt to lure them away from their hiding by telling them that the Christ had appeared here or there. Their miraculous deeds, which might even include bringing the dead back to life, would be so believable that “if possible” they would be able to deceive even God’s elect. Now the fact that “if possible” is present in the warning by Jesus, this means that it will not be possible for God’s elect to be deceived by the false claims of those charlatans.
In v. 23 it’s notable that Jesus, once again, tells them to “watch out!” The fact that he tells them “everything ahead of time” shows that prophetical events, given many years before they will actual occur, are meant to warn believers and make them secure in their salvation. The point of Jesus’ warning was to tell those being duped by false teachers that the true Messiah will not have come in those days. His coming will be unmistakable, and no one will miss it (cf. 13:26).
Food for Thought
Satan’s attempts to deceive people continue to work, and God’s people must be watchful of their deceit. There continue to be many false prophets even in our Christian churches today leading people to believe lies. One of those lies pertains to eternal salvation, and there are many who think they have salvation but who don’t. They have been led astray by false teachers proclaiming a false salvation. Consider Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father… Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name cast out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me you doers of unrighteousness.” So beware of false prophets even today!
Mark 13:24-27… “But in those days, after the suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 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.”
This passage is about Christ’s second coming to the earth. The phrase “in those days” in v. 24 is parallel to Matthew 24:29 which says, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days.” This means that Christ’s second coming, though unknown in specific time, will in fact occur immediately after the events of the seven-year Tribulation. During that time the church will be raptured, the Holy Spirit will be removed, Satan will have unrestricted freedom to wreak havoc on the earth, and the Lord’s rebuilt temple in Jerusalem will be desecrated. But all of these events are part of God’s plan, and when they’re completed, Jesus will return in glory.
In Genesis 1:16-19 God created the sun, moon, and stars in the expanse of the sky to govern the days and the nights and to separate light from darkness. God saw that what He had done was good, and that completed the fourth day in His creative work of the earth. In the days directly preceding Christ’s second coming, those same three generators of light (sun, moon, & stars) will cease to give their light. The sun will be darkened, in v. 24, and the moon will not give its light. Of course since the moon only reflects the light of the sun it makes perfect sense that when the sun is darkened the moon will also cease to give light. And verse 25 says that the “stars will be falling from heaven.” This may refer to meteors and the like, for since God sustains the universe in its present state, it stands to reason that when He lets it go His protection for the earth will cease. Then the skies will deliver His judgments upon unbelievers and slanderers of His name (cf. Isa. 13:6-12; 34:1-5; Joel 2:30-31). All unbelievers left alive at that time will die.
In paralleling the end-times events of Mark 13 to the ones in the book of Revelation, the events in vv. 5-23 constitute the events of Rev. 6:1-11 when the first five seals of God’s wrath are broken. And the events of vv. 24-27 parallel the sixth and seventh seal judgments of Rev. 6:12 through Rev. 19 which obviously gives a much more in-depth view than Mark 13:24-27.
Now when these cataclysmic events are completed “everyone will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (cf. Dan. 7:13; Acts 1:11). This is a further exhortation to those fleeing Judea into the wilderness to not believe the widespread claims that the Messiah had arrived. His arrival will be plain to see for everyone because he will appear in the clouds. Revelation 6:16 states that when Christ is seen in the air, those who have rejected him will flee in fear and cry out for death. The holiness of God and the wrath of the Lamb (Jesus) frightens them so much that they cry to the mountains to fall on them to hide them from his face.
Now when Jesus descends to the earth he sends his angels who will gather his elect from all over the planet. This will include all of the Tribulation saints and Jewish believers who are still alive – most of whom will be hiding in secluded places away from the Antichrist’s trickery.
Food for Thought
The second coming of Jesus Christ has not yet occurred. The fact that Jesus’ prophecy was not a prediction of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 is evident in the fact that Jesus has not yet returned. His return to the earth, contrary to his first coming which was in humility (born in a stable; placed in a manger), will be in “power and glory.” No one will miss it. And this is exactly what Jesus said to pray for in Matt. 6:10: “Thy Kingdom come” (lit. “send Your Kingdom!”).
Mark 13:28-31… Jesus said, “Learn this parable from the fig tree: whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So you, when you see these things, know that He is near, right at the door. 30 Truly, this generation will not pass away until all these things occur. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Parables were used by Jesus for two reasons. First, he used them to judge unbelievers. He would speak the parable as a riddle in the presence of the false religious leaders of the day and not give an explanation. Second, he would use parables in front of the disciples, then he would explain the meaning. He used them in this second way as a way to illustrate his teaching.
In the present context Jesus uses a parable concerning a fig tree in vv. 28-29. He reminded them that when the fig tree’s branches become tender everyone knows that summer is near. This of course was Jesus’ way of illustrating the onset of the end-times events of which they had been inquiring. Jesus said that when they see “these things happening” Jesus would be near. In other words, when false messiahs, worldwide earthquakes, famines, worldwide wars, and the Antichrist’s image set up in the Jewish temple, they were to know that the end was near. The fig tree branches parallel all of these signs, and they would indicate that Jesus and his kingdom were near, “right at the door.” His coming to the earth follows right behind these signs.
In v. 30 Jesus solemnly promised the disciples that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Now if Jesus was speaking of the generation in the first century and directly addressing the disciples, then he was way off in his predictions because none of the events Jesus spoke of occurred during that generation. Even if Jesus were speaking of the tearing down of the Jewish temple at the hands of the Romans in AD 70, that battle was a localized event, but these passages are international in scope. There were no false messiahs, famines, earthquakes, the abomination of desolation, worldwide preaching of the gospel, sun and moon going dark, etc. And Jesus did not come back immediately after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The “this generation” Jesus spoke of was the generation of people who would live during the seven-year Tribulation. And that generation of people would not die or pass away until all of the events Jesus predicted came to pass. He had told the disciples in 13:5, 7, 9, 13-14 that “you” must beware when these things happen, but he was using the same “you” that the OT prophets used when they addressed and warned the future generation of Jews (cf. Isa. 33:17ff.; Zech. 9:9). Therefore, that future generation, once they see these signs, will know that Christ’s appearance in the clouds will be close behind. They will see him return, and it will be exactly 3.5 years from the time the abomination of desolation is set up in the temple of the Jews (Dan. 9:27).
Jesus closed with another solemn promise, namely that heaven and earth would both eventually pass away, but his words were trustworthy and would never pass away. This was to show the disciples the certainty of Jesus’ prediction and solemn declaration of the end-times.
Food for Thought
Christians today need not fear that they will live through these horrible events that complete God’s wrath. The rapture of the church immediately precedes this time period and takes them to be with Jesus just before that time. For why else would Paul have encouraged the believers in his day about the rapture (cf. 1 Thes. 4:13-18)? The Tribulation completes Daniel’s 70th week, and since the first 69 were for Israel’s chastisement, and since the church is not destined for God’s wrath (1 Thes. 5:9), Christians need not fear that they will live during God’s divine judgment. So with what time we have left we must be about warning unbelievers of it.
Mark 13:32-33… “But as for that day or hour no one knows it; neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; only the Father. 33 Watch out! Stay alert! For you do not know when that time will be.”
Back in Mark 13:4 Jesus’ disciples asked him, “When will these things be, and what will be the sign that all these things are going to be fulfilled?” Now it’s important to note that Jesus never answered their question as to when “these things” would occur. He simply told them about the events of the days leading up to his second coming, for in his humanity he did not know the exact time that those events would commence. Only the Father knows that time. For Jesus willingly became human along with its limitations, and he did it without ceasing to be God. One of his limitations, then, was the knowledge of the exact time of the end due to his humanity.
So because the time of the these events leading up to Christ’s second coming is unknown, Jesus told the disciples, and everyone who would read Mark’s account, to “watch out and stay alert!” He spoke of that “day and hour,” and this phrase must be understood as referring to the “day of the Lord” which would include the entire seven-year Tribulation (preceded by the rapture), Christ’s second coming, and his millennial reign on the earth (cf. Isa. 2:12-22; Jer. 30:7-9; Joel 2:28-32; Zech. 12-14). The day of the Lord will commence with the rapture of the church, be filled with discipline and blessing, and will begin suddenly with no warning (1 Thes. 5:2).
The Rapture will occur just prior to the “day of the Lord” – just prior to the initiation of Daniel’s 70th week – and it is not prefaced by any preliminary event or events. The Rapture, therefore, remains an imminent event for every generation. No wonder Jesus warned all believers to “watch out!” and “remain alert!” If the Rapture followed the Tribulation, as some have proposed, the day and hour could be easily determined since Jesus revealed to John the Apostle that there would be exactly 1,260 days (Dan. 9:27) until the end after the abomination of desolation is set up in the temple. There would be no imminence in that if Jesus were referring to the day and hour of his second coming, but he was referencing the day and hour of the “day of the Lord” – a time which will commence when he appears in the clouds to rapture the church.
Dr. J.F. MacArthur, Jr. lists several reasons why the Rapture is prior to the Tribulation (pre-tribulational). First, Revelation 2-3 speaks of the church on the earth while Rev. 4-5 speaks of her in heaven. Chapters 6-17 make no mention of her, and those chapters are all about the Tribulation. Second, there is nothing in the NT given to Christians as to how they should endure the Tribulation wrath. Third, if the Rapture occurred after the Tribulation what would be the point? They would be raptured then immediately brought back to earth in glorified bodies while the rest of wicked humanity would be dead. Who would populate the Millennium? Fourth, Jesus promised the church in Philadelphia (not in Pennsylvania!) that they would be delivered from the hour of worldwide testing. And they represent the church at large since the whole world didn’t endure that hour in the first century. He promised them that those who have “kept the word of my perseverance” will be kept from the Tribulation (Rev. 3:10). Finally, Paul’s assurance to the Thessalonians that they had not missed the rapture would beg for relevance if it was post-tribulational. Those folks would have rejoiced that their loved ones had died and missed God’s wrath in the Tribulation as opposed to worrying that they had missed the joy of the rapture.
Food for Thought
The day and hour of Christ’s return in the clouds to call his living children home is an imminent event. We are to watch for it and be ready at all times. Don’t get caught not watching! Those who do will be passed by and find themselves in the Tribulation. So stay alert; be holy.
Mark 13:34-37… It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will come – whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn – or 36 else he might find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 What I say to you I say to all: Stay alert!”
In the context of Jesus teaching the disciples about his imminent return to earth – a return that is known only to God the Father – Jesus tells them another story to illustrate how imminent his return would be.
He spoke of a man going on a journey. This man left his home in the capable hands of his household servants, and he assigned them various tasks to perform while he was away. He didn’t tell them when he would be back because if he did the servants wouldn’t do their work until the day before he arrived. Therefore, he commanded the doorkeeper of his home to remain alert to his coming so that he could encourage the other servants to do the same. The doorkeeper’s role in that society was a prominent one. He was the key-master in that he held the keys of his master’s home. He kept out unwanted visitors and acted as an overseer of the other servants. None of them knew, however, when their master would return, and their master wanted it that way. Mark uses four different times that the master could have arrived, and his use of time is clearly a Roman use in that Mark penned his Gospel to Gentile Christians in Rome. The evening watch was 6-9 p.m.; the midnight watch was 9 pm till midnight; when the rooster crows is the midnight till 3 a.m. watch; and the dawn watch was 3-6 a.m. The point being was that the master of the house could return at any of those times. No one knew when.
In this story the man going on the journey represents Jesus. He left his church in the capable hands of his servants – Christians who call on his name for salvation and who vow to serve him. The doorkeeper represents apostles and elders/overseers (pastors) in the modern day. Each Christian has a duty to remain spiritually alert to the imminence of Christ’s second coming. They can sleep physically of course, but spiritually they must remain awake at all times. Pastors today have the greater responsibility (like the doorkeeper did in the story) to watch the door and not allow false teachers and false doctrine to infiltrate the ranks of believers. They must remain alert by watching over the spiritual flock put in their care. Far too often there are people that enter into the church and have ideas that tend to take doctrine and Bible teaching out of the church, thus causing people to go to sleep spiritually and cease to remain alert to Christ’s coming. The story here serves as an illustration of what might happen if the master returned most unexpectedly to his house only to find his servants asleep and the house is great disarray. So Jesus closes out this lengthy discourse with the stern admonition to “stay alert!”
Food for Thought
What do you think about the church today? Is she alert and ready for Christ’s coming? I’ll bet that if you interviewed Christians all over the country today, most of them would tell you that they aren’t quite ready for Jesus to return. They’ve got too many unfulfilled obligations to him that they have let dust settle upon. This ought not be! His return is imminent, and we are supposed to be alert to his coming. The church has a cancer on it, and it’s called complacency. It’s a watered down version of holiness that plagues us. Our lives are full of deceit, malice, revenge, greed, and hatred. The church body is filthy, yet Christ is coming back soon! Let’s get it together and put this watered-down Christianity to rest. We must be holy and ready for Him.
I) Beginnings of Birth Pangs (Mark 13:1-13)
A) Deception by False Christs (13:5-6)
1) Saying “I AM”
2) Misleading many
3) Seal #1: the white horse w/a crown and a bow (Rev. 6:1-2)
B) Disputes and Warfare Among the Nations (7-8a)
1) Wars and rumors of wars
2) Nation vs. nation; kingdom vs. kingdom
3) Seal #2: the red horse who takes peace from earth (Rev. 6:3-4)
C) Devastation Throughout World (8b)
1) Earthquakes in various places
2) Seal #3: black horse w/a balance (Rev. 6:5-6)
D) Persecution of God’s Children
1) Gentile Christians handed over and arrested b/c of Christ
2) Jews to be beaten in synagogues b/c of Christ
3) Given words to speak by HS to governors and kings
4) Gospel to be preached to the whole world
5) Hated because of devotion to Christ
6) Seal #4: pale horse… disease, famine, ¼ of earth killed (Rev. 6:7-8)
E) Defection of False Believers
1) Family members handed over by family
2) Seal #5: martyrs for Christ (Rev. 6:9-11)
3) Those who endure to end are saved (purified through trials)
Seven reasons why the prophecy relates to the distant future (and not fulfilled in AD 70)
1) YOU as a prophetic future (Isa. 33:17-24; 66:10-14; Zech. 9:9)
2) The analogy of the birth pang simply signifies the beginning
3) Mark 13 says that the one who endures to the end shall be saved, but since the disciples didn’t live until the end (of the age) this passage does not concern them or any other believer up to the present time – mainly b/c believer will be raptured (1 Thes. 4:17) just before the Trib time period. It can only refer to those during the Trib. time period whose genuine faith is proved by their endurance until the end.
4) The promise that the gospel would go worldwide obviously didn’t occur in the apostolic age nor in any modern time. There are still billions who haven’t heard (13:10)
5) The abomination of desolation set up in God’s temple (yet to occur, and there’s no temple).
6) The great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall (13:19; see also Dan. 12:1-2 where this occurs after 11:36-44).
7) Immediately after those days the sun and moon will be darkened and the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky (Matt. 24:30; Mark 13:24-27).
8) The analogy of the fig tree. Just as the leaves appearing means that summer is near, so too when these events occur it means that Christ is right at the door.
9) Christ hasn’t come back yet (so the events weren’t just for the disciples’ generation)
II) Abomination of Desolation
Earthquakes as birth pangs… On average about 1,000 earthquakes with intensities of 5.0 or greater are recorded each year. Great earthquakes (intensity 8.0 or higher) occur once a year, major earthquakes (intensity 7.0-7.9) occur 18 times a year, strong earthquakes (intensity 6.0-6.9) 10 times a month, and moderate earthquakes (intensity 5.0-5.9) more than twice a day. Because most of these occur under the ocean or in underpopulated areas, they pass unnoticed by all but seismologists. Notable earthquakes have occurred at Lisbon, Portugal (1755); New Madrid, Mo. (1811 and 1812); Charleston, S.C. (1886); Assam, India (1897 and 1950); San Francisco (1906); Messina, Italy (1908); Gansu, China (1920); Tokyo, Japan (1923); Chile (1960); Iran (1962); Managua, Nicaragua (1972); Guatemala (1976); Hebei, China (1976); Mexico (1985); Armenia (1988); Luzon, Philippines (1990); N Japan (1993); Kobe, Japan (1995); Izmit, Turkey (1999); central Taiwan (1999); and Oaxaca state, Mexico (1999). The Lisbon and Chilean earthquakes were accompanied by tsunamis. On Good Friday 1964, one of the most severe North American earthquakes ever recorded struck Alaska, measuring 8.4 to 8.6 in intensity. Besides elevating some 70,000 sq mi (181,300 sq km) of land and devastating several cities, it generated tsunamis that caused damage as far south as California.