MARK CHAPTER 13.
Christ Foretells the Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the World. Mark 13, 1-37.
Prophecy concerning the Temple: V. 1. And as He went out of the Temple, one of His disciples saith unto Him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! V. 2. And Jesus, answering, said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. The Temple built by Herod to take the place of that erected by the Jews under Zerubbabel and restored and embellished under Judas Maccabaeus, was, so far as outward architectural beauty was concerned, a building, or rather a complex of buildings, of which any nation might have been proud. Beginning in 20-19 B. C., the sanctuary had been wrecked and rebuilt in about eighteen months, but the other halls and chambers of the Temple had been constructed much more slowly. It took forty-six years to finish all the buildings as planned by Herod, John 2, 20, but the last stones of the enclosures with their beautiful sculptured work were not put into place until the year 64 A. D. The disciples thus had good reasons for pointing out to Jesus some of the immense stones, fifty feet long, twenty-four broad, and sixteen in thickness, of which Josephus writes, and they could well admire the immense porticoes, with their slender Corinthian columns and the great central buildings, rising almost 180 feet over the Court of the Gentiles, its marble coping and golden ornaments making it by far the most conspicuous edifice in the entire city. Jesus freely admits that the great size and the magnificence of the Temple are unquestioned, but He also knows, according to His prophetic wisdom, what terrible destruction and devastation would be worked here less than four decades hence, that God's wrath would be poured out upon the city and the Temple in full measure. He knows that the unbelief and the rejection of the Messiah, of His own labor and ministry, would bring upon the Temple such a fate as would vainly seek for a comparison in the history of the world. As for the Temple, not one stone would be left in place upon the other which would not be removed and thoroughly destroyed. This was the beginning of a conversation between Christ and His disciples which was continued on their way over the Mount of Olives, where they stopped for a while, and was probably not ended till they reached Bethany for the night's lodging.
The first signs preceding the end: V. 3. And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the Temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately, V. 4. Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? V. 5. And Jesus, answering them, began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you; V. 6. for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. V. 7. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled; for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. V. 8. For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. Mark's description is graphic, vivid: Jesus with His disciples goes over to the mountain and then sits down opposite the Temple, with the great buildings in full view; an impressive setting for an earnest discussion. Throughout the chapter, note: Before the eye of the omniscient Son of God, when He speaks in a prophetic vein, the factor of time does not exist; unless He Himself makes the distinction, all the happenings are in His mind's eye at this instant; He sees them all together, whether they are connected with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem or with the end of the world; then, also, the judgment of God upon Jerusalem was the type and the beginning of the last great judgment. The final destruction of the world steeped in sins was begun in Judea, and its end, with the extension of God's avenging fury over the whole world, may be expected at any moment, we know not when.
The statement of Jesus concerning the absolute destruction of the Temple had made a deep impression upon all disciples. And therefore His three most intimate friends, together with. Andrew, the brother of Peter, venture to ask Him about this judgment of God. They combine, in their inquiry, the end of Jerusalem and the Temple and the last day of the world, when all these things will be fully executed. In giving them His answer, Jesus makes no sharp distinction between the two events, but speaks of them in such a way that the signs presaging the one may also be taken as foretelling the other. They should beware of deceivers that would falsely claim Messianic power and authority. As in those days these prophets misled the people, Acts 21, 38; 8, 9. 10, so men and women usurping the Christian name and authority of Christ are appearing in increasing numbers in our days. And they are deceiving many; the Athenians have been surpassed in gullibility and credulousness. As in those days people arose against people and kingdom against kingdom, the Jews and Galileans against the Samaritans, the Jews against the Romans and Agrippa, civil war in Italy, so the wars and rumors of wars of our days have reached a magnitude hitherto unheard of in the history of the world. These things will come; it is inevitable, so long as human nature remains sinful, that they do come; and they come also as a just punishment of God. As in those days there were earthquakes in various places, at Crete, in several cities of Asia Minor, on some of the islands of the Aegean, in Rome and the surrounding country, so the earthquakes of the last two decades, in California, in Alaska, in Java, in Italy, and many other countries and states are preaching a forcible sermon. As there were famines and internal strife in those days, in the days of Claudius Caesar, Acts 21, 28, so at the present time a gigantic famine is threatening a large part of Europe and Asia, hundreds of thousands have perished, and this is but the beginning; and as for seditions, never has social unrest been so apparent throughout the nations as at the present time. The Lord is speaking with a powerful voice, asking the nations to heed His prophecies.
Persecution of the believers: V. 9. But take heed to yourselves; for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogs ye shall be beaten; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them. V. 10. And the Gospel must first be published among all nations. V. 11. But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Incessant watchfulness, untiring vigilance, the Lord enjoins upon His disciples. For the Jews and their leaders would not passively permit the extension of the Christian influence, the spread of the Christian religion. All their various courts would be called upon to hinder the work of the apostles and their assistants. Christ bluntly tells them: You, delivered to the synagogs, shall be maltreated. And for His sake they would have to stand before rulers and kings. All this will be a testimony not to them, but against them. It will be marked down in the judgment-book of God as another item calling down His punishment upon the enemies of His Word. As we read throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and in individual accounts given by St. Paul in his letters, these prophecies were literally fulfilled. And there is little difference between those days and ours, only that at the present time expediency and political measures are urged by the enemies of the pure Gospel in persecuting the believers throughout the world. But, in the midst of it all, Christ's prophecy shines like a beacon light: And to all nations the Gospel must first be preached. In those days the apostles filled the known world with the glorious news of the salvation gained by Jesus for all men, and in our days there are always some to be found that go out in utter selflessness to bring the news of the reconciliation of God with men through the blood of Christ to every nation. With this promise to guide them, to cheer them, to fill them with new courage every day, the prospect of suffering injustice before the powers that be holds no terror for the believers. Christ tells them not to worry beforehand how they might duly defend themselves against the false accusations. At the critical moment He promises to give them the right words which they may use in defending themselves. The Holy Ghost would directly inspire their utterances, so that their defense would be, in each instance, a powerful vindication of the truth of the Gospel and of the power of God. And the history of the Church since the time of the apostles narrates instances in number which show that God, in times of great crises, awakens men with extraordinary abilities and powers to defend the Scriptures against false accusations and to vindicate Christianity. Though we do not yield to a false enthusiasm in their case, as, for instance, in that of Luther, and are far from claiming direct inspiration for them, yet we know that in their preaching, also in defense of the truth of the eternal Gospel, it was God and His Spirit that was with them.
Dissension within families: V. 12. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. V. 13. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. There is no hatred so unrelenting and implacable as that caused by enmity against Christ. It destroys the firmest friendships, it severs the ties of the closest blood-relationship. Brothers, fathers, children will not only stand by unmoved and see their nearest of kin suffer for the sake of their religious, Christian conviction, but they will become inhuman enough to cause these sufferings, to deliver them into the hands of the authorities and cause them to be put to death.
History has scores of examples, from the time of the apostles down through the time of the Inquisition, to the present day. It is an ineradicable characteristic of the world and its children that they hate the truth of the Gospel, even at such times when they speak of toleration and of the value of the Christian spirit for the community. But mark two factors that make such persecutions not only endurable, but under circumstances welcome: They come upon the believers for the sake of the Lord's name, and it is an honor to suffer for Him, on His account; they have a glorious promise: He that endures, patiently suffers, to the end, the same shall be saved. A reward of mercy will come upon him from the boundless treasure of his Lord, salvation will be given him with endless rejoicing in heaven.
The visitation upon the Jews: V. 14. But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains; V. 15. and let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein to take anything out of his house; V. 16. and let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. The Lord here mentions some of the signs that would presage especially the destruction of the Temple and of the city. It makes little difference, so far as the actual point and object of the admonition is concerned, whether we understand by the abomination of desolation the desecration of the Temple by the Emperor Caligula or the armies of the Romans with their ensigns and idols, as they came marching into the country and approached the city of Jerusalem. At any rate, the presence of the armies in the neighborhood of the city, Luke 21, 20, should be considered the final period for remaining in Judea. Jesus warningly interpolates the call: Whoever reads it let him understand! It is important that the disciples heed His warning. All those that were still in the country should then flee, without delay, into the mountains. This the small band of Christians remaining in Jerusalem before the destruction did, finding refuge in the mountain town of Pella. If one should receive the news of the invasion and its abomination while on the flat roof of his house, he should take no time to enter into the house again, but should flee down the outside steps leading to the open. One at work in the field should not turn back for his mantle. Every minute's delay will increase the danger and the nearness of the calamity.
The horrors of the devastation: V. 17. But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! V. 18. And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. V. 19. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. V. 20. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect's sake, whom He hath chosen, He hath shortened the days. The prophecy of Christ here becomes so vivid that the apostles had the whole picture before their mind's eye; the precipitate flight, the fear and terror, the greatest hardships falling upon those that are by nature least able to bear them. The condition of those that had but recently become or were about to become mothers would be most pitiful, since they would be severely handicapped for hurried departure. And so far as they all were concerned, they should implore God most earnestly that their flight should not take place in the winter, when the season's unpleasantness would be an added inconvenience. Jesus uses a very strong figure at this point: The days will be tribulation. The people would be so completely submerged and overwhelmed with the horror of it all that they would be able to see nothing but these fears and fightings; there would be such nameless misfortunes and trials that all calamitous experiences of the entire human race would thereby be eclipsed. The siege and destruction of Jerusalem was the bloodiest spectacle which the world has ever seen, and the actual affliction of those days was not been equaled since. If it had not been for the merciful shortening of those days out, of regard for them that were God's own, none would be saved. Note: Both the creation and the work of redemption are here ascribed to God by Jesus; He has created the whole creation, and He loves, and will care for, His believers, He will hear their intercession for others out of loving kindness.
The false Christs: V. 21. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, Lo, He is there; believe him not; V. 22. for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. V. 23. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. A second warning against the insidiousness and impertinence of the false teachers. They came in those days, in increasing numbers, political Messiahs that promised deliverance from the yoke of the Romans. Their apparent sincerity, the power of their oratory, the mere influence of their personality induced many a person foolishly to cast his lot with them and be carried along with them to his destruction. And they are coming in our days, without the Church and within the Church, political Messiahs, social reformers, millennial dreamers that place the kingdom of Christ here upon earth, that glibly prate of the emancipation of the masses and of a final glorious state where all men will be equal and all men will be happy. They even do signs and wonders, both false and apparently real, by the help of Satan. The object always is to seduce, if possible, the believers, God's own elect. But there will be a deliverance at the last hour. Therefore the believers will, in the mean time, be on their guard. Christ has come, He has left us His infallible Word; we need no further word, or revelation, no key, no new light; all these are signs of the false Christs. The Word is nigh unto us, the Word of the Gospel; that will save our souls, all other words and books of new sects are dangerous, deceiving, destroying. Christ's warning was given in advance on their account.
The coming of Judgment Day: V. 24. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, V. 25. and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. V. 26. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. V. 27. And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. The evangelist's account is only a brief summary of the words of the Lord, but what depth of emotion is in the few words thus recorded! As Jesus looks forward, according to His omniscience, the earlier calamity will merge into the later, the judgment upon Jerusalem is carried out only on a greater scale in the final judgment of the world. There will be no interval of a happy, sinless reign, no millennium. With no respite and without extensive previous warning the Day of the Lord will dawn, it will burst upon the world with great suddenness. Then there will be signs such as are entirely out of the usual course of events in nature; no ordinary eclipses which follow laws and rules framed by God, but a return to chaos. The sun will be darkened; the moon will lose her splendor; the stars will no longer be able to hold the position which was given them by the Creator, but will fall from heaven. There will be a great concussion of the powers of the heavens. The entire universe will go out of joint. The hand of God's providence and government will be withdrawn, and all will be dissolved into its component parts. And then, when the world is falling to pieces and the heavens are being rolled up like a curtain, then they, the people of the earth, will see the Son of Man, the divine-human Savior of mankind, that came into the world for them all, but was received by so few, coming in the clouds. Like a mighty conqueror riding in his chariot of triumph, the former despised Nazarene will appear, with great power and glory. According to His human nature, He has now assumed the full divine glory and majesty, and now returns as the Judge of the living and the dead. In the fullness of this majesty He will command His angels to go forth and to bring together to Him the elect, from the four winds, from every part of the earth, as far as the world extends, wherever human beings have penetrated. Not the slightest shred of the former lowliness and weakness is evident in this glorious picture, it is the great; the almighty Lord of the universe that is here holding the great harvest of the last day.
The parable of the fig-tree: V. 28. Now learn a parable of the fig-tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near; V. 29. so ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. V. 30. Verily I say unto you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. V. 31. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but My words shall not pass away. In the matter of the proper state of preparedness against the coming of the Lord the fig-tree is used to teach a lesson. When its branch becomes soft and full of sap, and when its leaves come forth, then men have a sure indication that the entire tree has been influenced by the growing warmth; they know that summer-time is near. And the same degree of watching and drawing conclusions is necessary where the disciples of Christ of all times are concerned. The signs, general and special, which the Lord gave the apostles of the near approach of Jerusalem's doom, ought always to be in their memory, and they ought to heed their first warning. Even so the signs, general and particular, that herald the coming of the last day, are clearly given in the Word of God by Christ Himself. There will be no excuse for not knowing about, the coming of the Judgment and preparing for its advent. And the Lord adds another sign: Verily I say to you that this generation will not pass away till all this come to pass. He meant to say, either that some of the people living at the time of this prophecy would be witnesses of the great judgment which would come upon Jerusalem; or, what is more likely, He referred to the race of the Jews. This people, the nation that had rejected Him, should not cease to be a distinct race of people, separate from all the rest, until Christ's coming in glory would take place! They should remain as a standing testimony and proof of the truthfulness of Christ's words. For, as He says with great emphasis, heaven and earth shall pass away, their physical contents and elements will be destroyed in the fire of that last day, but His words shall not pass away. Amidst the ruin of worlds and the destruction of the heavens His eternal Word will stand unchanged as He. Himself, for it belongs to His essence, it is eternal.
The time of the last day: V. 32. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. V. 33. Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. V. 34. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. V. 35. Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning, V. 36. lest, coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. V. 37. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. With so much information given them, the disciples might have thought that they ought to know the exact date of Christ's second advent, for that would greatly simplify matters. But Christ rejects the idea before it has been voiced. Of the day when the final judgment will burst upon the world and of the hour of the day when its first indications will come to pass, no person knows; even the angels are ignorant, though they know many of the secrets and mysteries of God. A what is more, the day is not known to Jesus in His state of humiliation. The Son of God, in His capacity as Savior of men and specifically according to His human nature, has renounced His right to this knowledge, chiefly for the sake of men, lest they be tempted to make inquiries and bother Him with importunate pleadings concerning the day and the hour. Here is a secret which is hidden in the omniscience of the Father. But that fact brings out Christ's admonition all the more strongly: Be on the lookout, be vigilant, for the exact time is not known upon earth. All the calculations of the various sects as to the exact date of Christ's coming are utterly unreliable vagaries, and those that follow them are just as foolish. This is brought out in another parable. When the master of a household who has business in a distant part of the country or in a far country is called away he will leave his house in charge of his servants, distributing the work according to the ability of each and giving to everyone some authority and responsibility, each one thus being put on his honor. The porter will be singled out for a special warning, lest he be asleep at his post. Thus Jesus, the Lord of His Church, has given to each one of His believers, His servants, some work to do, some ability, some gifts, with which the individual Christian is to serve Him in His kingdom. The Lord will return some time, soon, almost any minute, and therefore it is necessary for everyone of the servants to be about his business with careful vigilance. The Master may come in any of the four watches of the night, and His coming must find no one sleeping in security. The picture reminds us of the custom of watching in the Temple. This was in the hands of a certain number of priests and Levites, whose business was a sleepless vigilance. At any time during the night, no one knew in which watch, the chief of the Temple-service might make his rounds. And woe to him that was caught asleep at that time! Much more important, however, is the necessity which is laid upon all the disciples of Christ not to become drowsy, listless, and negligent in the Master's work or in constant watching for His coming. Let every Christian write upon the portals of his heart that one word: Watch! It is very true, indeed, that the unbelievers think it a huge joke to ridicule the belief of the Christians about the coming of Judgment Day: Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation, 2 Pet. 3, 3-7. At the same time, however, those very scoffers are the first ones, during a storm or at the time of an earthquake, or in the presence of some other extraordinary manifestation of God in nature, to fall upon their knees and implore God's mercy. It is absolutely safe to stand on God's word and to heed His warning at all times: Watch!
Summary. Answering several questions of His disciples, Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, predicts the devastation of the Jewish country, mentioning a number of signs that would precede such judgment of God, also prophesies of the end of the world and tells several short parables to impress upon every one the necessity to watch.