Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
The Tear Down of the Temple Foretold
In this chapter the Lord Jesus speaks His sermon about the last things. In accordance with the character of this Gospel, He speaks about these things to His disciples in their character as servants. This chapter therefore contains teaching for ministers in times of great tribulation. The Lord warns His disciples how they can escape the judgment that comes over the beloved people because of their sins. When the time comes that He speaks of here it will be the proof of the truth of His words and also an encouragement to their hearts.
The reason for this sermon on what will happen at the end of time is the remark made by one of His disciples to Him about the temple. When He leaves the temple again, He turns His back on it as it were. He leaves the whole system to itself. However, one of His disciples turns around, sees the greatness of the temple, and praises it. He sees the temple as God’s house and the center of their service.
This gives the Lord the opportunity to share with them God’s thoughts about His ways with His people and His judgment of its spiritual state. In the same way, beautiful churches and objects of admiration can be beautiful to look at today, but God will judge it all. We see this in the fall of Babylon, the great city (Rev 18:21).
The Lord partly repeats as a question the remark of His disciple. He does this in order to involve them in what He is going to say about the temple. Then He says straight away that nothing of all those impressive buildings, so beautiful to the eye, will be left intact. That is a shock for the disciples. They still believe that the temple is the proof of God’s presence among His people and thus the recognition of the people by God. They still see things from their religious beliefs that their Master is going to establish His kingdom. But only a few decades later the judgment on these buildings will come.
Questions About the Future
The Lord occupies a significant place: on the Mount of Olives and opposite the temple. Twice two brothers ask Him for an explanation. From the Mount of Olives they have a good view of the temple. The Lord sits again. There is peace with Him and from that peace He gives His disciples answers to their questions and leads them further into God’s plans for the future. To know God’s thoughts, we must be in an exalted place like Him. From there we can see the reality, for there He teaches prophecy.
The Mount of Olives lies to the east of Jerusalem. Between the Mount of Olives and the city runs the brook Kidron. From the Mount of Olives came the donkey that brought Him to Jerusalem in a triumphal march under the cheers of the crowd (Mk 11:9-10). Near the Mount of Olives lies Gethsemane. From the Mount of Olives He will go to heaven and He will return there from heaven (Acts 1:11; Zec 14:4).
The four disciples ask two things. They ask for the “when” and for the “sign”. Their question for the sign proves that they are still behaving as real Jews and thinking as real Jews. The teaching that follows is therefore primarily meant for them as Jews. However, the Lord proposes it in such a way that it also applies to us and especially to us as servants to follow Him in it.
The Beginning of Birth Pangs
The Lord “began” to say something to them. What He says is a beginning of His teaching and not a completed whole. It is teaching that they have to work out in their lives and in which He continues to teach them more and more. The introductory words of His teaching are a warning. They indicate that His concern is not to satisfy their curiosity, but that He wants to apply His words to their hearts and consciences. All His directions and warnings are given in this Gospel for their service.
He first of all points out that the time when these things will happen will be a time of great misleading.
Many will pretend to be the Messiah. Each of those false messiahs will say it is him. And many will be caught up in it. These false messiahs will owe their success to the unbelief of the masses who prefer to believe the lie rather than acknowledge the truth and repent. It is also a tremendously misleading time today when people have renounced the Christian faith because it has been taken away from them by religious leaders. A gap has opened in which the demons are eager to fill it with their deceptive teachings.
Apart from the danger of misleading, there is also danger by circumstances. There will be wars. A war is an eruption of violence between population groups, in which violence and death make life unbearable. A war is often of a long-term nature with long-term consequences. The rumors of wars are enough to frighten people. The Lord says that they should not be frightened of it, because it is part of the end time, but it does not mean the end. Wars are also common today and frighten people, but Christians do not need to be.
Apart from misleading people and wars, there will also be natural disasters and smaller hotbeds of conflict between people. All these causes of discontent and misery are the announcement of even worse things. In most of the world there is famine and the shortage of food is getting worse. These are all direct consequences of sin. And it’s only the beginning of the birth pangs.
The Servant Is Persecuted
Mk 13:9-13 we find only here and not in the prophetic discourse written by Matthew in Matthew 24-25 and Luke in Luke 21. Not only the circumstances are characteristic of that time, but also what will happen to themselves. The hatred of the people will focus on them as followers or servants of Christ. They will be at the mercy of courts of religious systems to be interrogated. The methods of interrogation are cruel, and interrogations will even take place in synagogues, which are buildings where teaching is given from God’s law.
In addition, worldly authorities will call them to account for Who Christ is. It will be an opportunity to make these authorities aware of His Name through which the gospel will also come to these places. Thus Paul testified before the Jewish counsel, as well as before Festus, Agrippa and even the emperor. Also the gospel has sounded and still sounds in penal camps to which faithful witnesses were banished and are still being banished. In all this it was and is important to preserve the character of truth and humility.
Thus the gospel will find its way, for before the end comes, it must first be preached to all nations. God wants His joyous message to be brought to the extremities of the earth even in the darkest times, or perhaps precisely then. God never judges without first giving a complete testimony of the way to salvation of that judgment. It is our task to do so while we see what is going on in the world.
The Lord has great encouragement for His disciples. If they are led away to be interrogated, they need not worry about what they will speak. He will make sure that they will speak the right thing at the right time. He will work that through the Holy Spirit Who will put the words in their mouths.
This is also important for any situation of threat and need that we, as servants, may encounter in order to be aware of it. The Holy Spirit wants to fill us to fulfill our task to testify (Acts 1:8; Acts 4:31). We do not need to plan tactics or establish an organization to know how to resist the enemy. If we rely on our own insight and skills, our defeat is certain. If we trust in the Lord, He will give us victory, even if it would cost us our lives. We will experience this miracle of speaking through the Holy Spirit every time we speak up for the Lord Jesus when He brings us into situations where He asks us to.
Each service for Christ will also reveal the hatred of the human heart. That hatred will be so great that there will be no security even in family relationships. Authority will disappear and family ties will be torn apart. Where otherwise one brother helps the other brother, now one brother will hand the other over to death. While a child naturally finds protection and safety with his father, there is nothing left of that at that time, and a father will surrender his child when he notices that this child is a disciple of Christ.
The fact that all natural proportions are chilled is also shown by the rebellion of children against their parents and the putting to death of them. Children should honor their parents and not rise up against them. They are without natural love (2Tim 3:1-4). This is the result of the selfishness that prevails in families with the result that lovelessness increases hand over hand. This is how parents raise their children for death because there is no natural love anymore. Children die due to emotional neglect caused by the parents’ desire to assert themselves. The foundations of society are undermined. It’s all insidious, but very certain.
Hate will be general because hatred of the Lord Jesus is general (Jn 15:18-21). It is important not to let it stop us, but to persevere to the end. The end is first and foremost to the end of the great tribulation which the Lord will speak of hereafter. Perseverance is the utter fruit of obedience (Jam 1:4). He who perseveres is saved.
This does not mean that it depends on our own effort whether we are saved. Salvation cannot be earned, and he who is saved by grace cannot be lost. What matters here is that perseverance is the proof that someone knows Christ, has chosen Him, and therefore serves Him consistently. And once there is a failure, there is also confession and restoration.
The Abomination of Desolation
The abomination of desolation is the idol working desolation (Dan 9:27; Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11). The Lord here refers to the image of the beast that represents the ruler of the restored Roman Empire. This image will be put into the temple by the Antichrist and everyone will have to worship it (2Thes 2:4; Rev 13:12-15). This is the beginning of the great tribulation that will last three and a half years. Setting up this idol in the temple is the sign for the faithful Jews to flee. The great tribulation will reveal the faithful. It is they who will be warned, a warning they have received by reading in the Word.
The Lord states that it is vitally important to read His Word with insight, not for form. In this way we can escape the great misleading. He says it and we must pay attention to it. That is how it is with every misleading that comes to the servant. The only way not to be misled is to read God’s Word and take it to heart.
The persecution that will erupt will be so sudden that not a moment should be lost by taking anything out of the house quickly because it might be useful. Wherever anyone is, it is a matter of fleeing as quickly as possible, even leaving behind the coat that is supposed to protect them from the cold of the night. Life is more than protection from the cold.
The Lord also takes the vulnerable into account. This time will be particularly hard for the pregnant and those who are nursing babies. They will be weakened and will have to flee quickly. He even takes the weather conditions into account. He tells them to pray that these things will not happen in winter because of the extra need it will cause. They may pray, for God’s ear is open to their need, and He will save them by helping them through it. It doesn’t say here what the Gospel according to Matthew says, that they should also pray that their flight will not happen on the Sabbath (Mt 24:20). This shows that the experiences of servants are paramount here and not, as in Matthew, the Jewish aspect.
The Lord predicts the unprecedented tribulation of those days. There has never been such a tribulation on earth and there never will be again. How great that tribulation must be! It is the time that Jeremiah calls “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1; Mt 24:21; Rev 3:10). It is an unparalleled time of tribulation.
However, the Lord has set a limit to that tribulation. He has fixed its duration. He has determined the measure, the boundary of the revelation of the lawless one, for the sake of His elect. The tribulation will be limited to three and a half years. Many will perish, but they will miss nothing of the realm of peace. They will participate in (the second phase of) the first resurrection (Rev 20:4). There will also be a remnant kept alive by Him.
Warning of Misleaders
How tempting it is to accept a false Christ at that time of greatest need in order to be saved from need. But the Lord warns not to believe him. It is not only about the rage of satan – he is the “roaring lion” (1Pet 5:8), but also about his wiles – he is also the “angel of light” (2Cor 11:14). All those who have not accepted the love of the truth will become prey to such misleaders (2Thes 2:9). And there will be many in those days.
In addition to the false Christs, there will also be false prophets who, with beautiful speeches and brilliant puns, point out the false Christs as the true Christ. They will not only say that this is the Christ, but also perform misleading signs and wonders to support their claim. It will all seem so real that there is a tremendous misleading power in assuming that person as the true Christ.
The Lord warns emphatically that they will not be deceived. A warned person counts for two. He said it beforehand. This is His love for His own. He doesn’t leave us ignorant of what’s about to happen. So we can have eyes open for the deceptions that will come and be on guard for them.
If as seeing disciples we let ourselves be deceived after all, it is due to forgetting or ignoring the Word of God in which everything has been said to us beforehand. The Word is our only safe guide to remain faithful and persevere to the end. The Lord speaks as the Prophet of God announced by Moses (Deu 18:18).
The Coming of the Son of Man
The end of the tribulation comes with impressive natural phenomena. It may be that what the Lord says here is literally fulfilled. It may also be that He is referring to a total revolution and overthrow of reigning powers, of which the sun and moon are a picture. In that case the stars represent lower ruling powers than the sun and the moon. The universe is in turmoil. In the heavens, too, the spiritual evil powers that have reigned there for so long will be shaken.
When the chaos is complete, the Son of Man will come to bring order. Then He will appear, not like the first time as a helpless Baby, but with great power and glory. He will put an end to all oppression of His own. Every resistance He strikes down. He judges all iniquity.
He will use His angels to take His chosen ones from everywhere to bring them to the land that is His and where the enemy has been so raging. This is the remnant of the ten tribes that have been in scattering. None of His chosen ones will be left behind.
Parable of the Fig Tree
The Lord takes the fig tree as an example. The fig tree is a picture of Israel. Just as the branch of the fig tree will become tender again after the winter, and leaves will appear on the tree, so will the people of Israel. The people will get life again through the Spirit (Eze 37:1-14). Summer time points to the time of the glorious reign of Christ. We can already see the branch tendering and the leaves putting forth.
Through what is happening with Israel, we know what time it is on the prophetic clock. We see how Israel has been a nation again since 1948. The branch has become tender and leaves put forth, but there is no fruit yet. That fruit can only come when the Spirit in Israel, i.e. in a remnant, has first worked humility (Zec 12:10) as a harbinger of new life. There is a visible nation of Israel, but no dependence on God yet. That will only come when the church has been taken up and the Spirit comes into the people, that is, He makes a remnant alive. The leaves point forward to that time. Summer has not yet come, but it is near.
The Lord clearly states that all the things He has prophesied will happen irrevocably. They will suffer the consequences that they have called upon themselves by their rejection of the Messiah. This generation is still there, it has not yet passed away. It is not the time to eradicate this generation, not even now. The Lord will deal with this generation on His coming.
He states that the certainty of the fulfilment of His words is greater than the continued existence of heaven and earth. The existence of heaven and earth will come to an end, but His words will not. When His words have been fulfilled, they have not passed away, but the fulfillment shows the value of His words forever.
Day and Hour Unknown
The Lord Jesus says as the true Servant and Prophet serving God on earth that the exact time of His coming is unknown. As the eternal God He knows everything; as a Servant He submits Himself to God and does not know everything. This is incomprehensible to us, just as we cannot understand that He could increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk 2:52). If we could understand it, we would also understand what it is that He is both true God and true Man. However, this is impossible for us, for then we would be God’s equal. His unfamiliarity with the day or hour shows how truly Human He is.
The fact that the hour is coming, at our doorstep, does not mean that the moment of His coming can also be calculated. The accompanying phenomena of the Son of Man’s coming indicate that He is coming soon, but His coming itself will happen at the speed of lightning.
Once again He tells them to take heed, to watch out. They have to be awake, that is to say consciously awake, unable to find rest in a world in which He also cannot find rest. It is not a fearful view, but a trusting and hopeful view. That is why He adds that they have to pray. Praying means trusting that God is not getting out of hand.
While they watch and pray like that, the Lord also gives a commission. There is work to be done for every servant. He presents Himself as a man who leaves his house, that is the house of Israel, and goes abroad, that is, He goes back to heaven while giving commands to those who stay behind. On His return to heaven He has put his slaves in charge and to each of them his task, not his gift. This is consistent with this Gospel where the Lord Jesus is the Servant and teaches His disciples how to serve.
After His leaving, His own service on earth is over. He lets it continue by His slaves. Here there is no question of giving talents to trade with them (Mt 25:15), but here everyone has his task as a slave. It is about service in the house - for us it is the house of God, the church - in which every servant has his commission. Each one of us can act with authority in the land that the Lord gives, for to this end He has put His slaves in charge.
The doorkeeper is told separately that he must be on the alert. He must see to it that no evil enters the house in the form of evil persons or wrong doctrine. However, the Lord emphasizes the importance and necessity of being on the alert not only in view of the evil that might enter the house, but also in view of the coming of Himself as the Lord of the house. As has already been mentioned, in this house we can see a picture both of the house of Israel and of the church.
How will He find us? Asleep? Even as Christians we can fall asleep and lose sight of His coming. Falling asleep means that we look like the unbelievers who are dead (Eph 5:14).
The Lord concludes His sermon by giving, for the fourth time in this short section (Mk 13:32-37), the command to be on the alert. Over the heads of the disciples, He says it “to all”, without exception, that is, expressly to us as well. The heart must be ready to receive Him. If we stop looking forward to His coming, we will begin to focus on the things of the earth. We will then have taken the first step on the path of decay. That is why it is vitally important to be on the alert and to look forward to Him.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26