The Book of Mark
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
“If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
“But in those days, following that distress,
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
It is very common for scholars to spend a lot of time trying to interpret passages that speak of the end times (eschatology), such as is seen in this chapter. While some of the details are known (the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), most are difficult if not impossible to translate into actual events that will happen. But the overall theme of Jesus’ words is to warn us.His warnings are in four areas; world-wide strife, persecutions, deception and Jesus’ coming. Jesus calls the warfare, famines and earthquakes “birth pains.” Birth pains are not the actual event, but precede it. The warning is not to be taken in by the increase in these human dilemmas.As bad as persecutions have been in the past, and still are in certain parts of the world, Jesus is indicating that it will get much worse. It will get so bad that God has determined to shorten the days to protect the elect.
Along with the persecutions will be strong delusions (signs and miracles). The idea that false christs will be able to perform miracles in order to deceive people is almost frightening. How will we be able to resist? No wonder that Jesus says, “I have told you everything ahead of time” (v. 23).
Finally, Jesus predicts his return, which he says of that day no one knows the day or hour. This is what Jesus wants us to know; we must stay true to Jesus no matter what happens, no matter how long his return is delayed. His return will be such that no one will miss it, “Coming in clouds with great power and glory” (v. 26). So be alert and watch.
Questions to ponder:
- Have you ever encountered an attempt to draw you away from Jesus Christ? How was it presented?
- What are some things Christians should do to stay alert? What is Jesus’ purpose in warning us?