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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 13

Verses 1-37


(See notes on Matthew 24:1 to Matthew 25:30.)

Verse 6

6. Saying, I am Christ The FIRST SIGN of approaching downfall should be the numerous false deliverers and spurious messiahs, (the Hebrew word for Christs,) which should deceive many. At that period the acknowledged prophetic chronology demanded the appearance of the true Messiah so clearly that a general expectation of his advent was even then prevalent. Of this expectation impostors plentifully availed themselves; thus punishing the nation who had rejected the true one, and at the same time furnishing a SIGN of the decline of the Jewish state. Such was the false Egyptian prophet at the head of thirty thousand men, (Acts 21:38,) about twelve years after our Lord’s death; and Theudas, a false deliverer, who, Josephus says, almost in our Lord’s words, deceived many. Under the procuratorship of Felix, in the reign of Nero, such impostors were so numerous that some were taken and slain almost daily. Among false Christs, distinctively, were Dositheus appearing as the Christ foretold by Moses, and Simon Magus as son of God. Josephus says, Many affirmed the time of the advent to have arrived; and Hegesippus says, Many false Christs came.

Verse 7

7. Wars and rumours of wars The SECOND SIGN, of wars and warlike rumours, was abundantly fulfilled. At our Lord’s birth the temple of Janus was closed for the second time in history, in token of universal peace. From his death to the destruction of Jerusalem the Jewish people knew little of perfect and peaceful repose. It is not necessary to detail the long train of turbulences during the interval of forty years. But that Jerusalem was in constant terror from threatened or actual war, for a protracted period before her downfall, will abundantly appear from the history of the times.

Verse 8

8. Earthquakes Convulsions of this kind marked this period in various parts of the known world. At Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, the beautiful cities of Asiatic Greece, these signs were given, as mentioned by Grotius. The cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were completely overthrown. Rome was twice visited by this fearful sign during this period. But perhaps Jerusalem herself was warned most loudly by a terrible earthquake, accompanied by thunders, lightnings, and overwhelming storms. Famines and pestilences, (Luke 21:11,) the FOURTH SIGN, are ever attendant upon general civil commotions and wars. The cessation of the labours of husbandry produces scarcity; exposure, hardship, and the effluvium of the dead produce pestilences. The Greek words for famine and pestilence have a very similar sound, limos and loimos.

And famine and pestilence are so conjoined in experience that it was a Greek proverb, after limos comes loimos. Josephus says, that the famine under Claudius Cesar (predicted by Agabus, Acts 11:28) was so severe that at Jerusalem many died of starvation.

To these Luke adds, there shall be “fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” On this FIFTH SIGN Dr. Clarke makes the following concise summary.

Josephus, in his preface to the Jewish Wars, enumerates these: 1st. A star hung over the city like a sword; and a comet continued a whole year. 2d. The people being assembled at the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth hour of the night, a great light shone about the altar and the temple, and this continued for half an hour. 3d. At the same feast, a cow led to sacrifice brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple! 4th. The eastern gate of the temple, which was of solid brass, and very heavy, and could hardly be shut by twenty men, and was fastened by strong bars and bolts, was seen at the sixth hour of the night to open of its own accord! 5th. Before sun-setting there were seen over all the country, chariots and armies fighting in the clouds, and besieging cities. 6th. At the feast of Pentecost, when the priests were going into the inner temple by night, to attend their service, they heard first a motion and noise, and then a voice as of a multitude, saying, LET US DEPART HENCE. 7th. What Josephus reckons one of the most terrible signs of all was, that one Jesus, a country fellow, four years before the war began, and when the city was at peace and plenty, came to the feast of tabernacles, and ran crying up and down the streets, day and night: “A voice from the east! a voice from the west! a voice from the four winds! a voice against Jerusalem and the temple! a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides! and a voice against all the people!”

Though the magistrates, endeavored by stripes and tortures to restrain him, yet he still cried with a mournful voice, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” And this he continued to do for several years together, going about the walls and crying with a loud voice: “Woe, woe to the city, and to the people, and to the temple;” and as he added, “Woe, woe to myself!” a stone from some sling or engine struck him dead on the spot! It is worthy of remark that Josephus appeals to the testimony of others, who saw and heard these fearful things. Tacitus, a Roman historian, gives very nearly the same account with that of Josephus. ( Hist., lib. 5.)

These are the beginnings of sorrows Terrible as all these omens seem, they are small compared to the miseries of the siege and downfall of the holy city.

Verse 9

9. They shall deliver you From the sorrows of the Jews our Lord now turns to the persecutions of the Christians. Compare Matthew 24:9. The fulfilment of the predictions of the Christian persecutions is thus given by Whitby:

“1. They suffered “a great fight of afflictions,” (Hebrews 10:32-33,) being persecuted by those of their own nation, (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15,) and suffering fiery trials from them. 1 Peter 4:12. “I persecuted them,” saith St. Paul, “to strange cities.” Acts 26:11.

2. They were imprisoned: Peter, Acts 4:3; Paul and Silas, Acts 16:23; 2 Corinthians 11:23; “I delivered up to prison men and women.” Acts 22:4. “I shut up many of the saints in prison,” saith St. Paul. Acts 26:10.

3. They were beaten in the synagogue: St. Paul and Silas, Acts 16:23; 2 Corinthians 11:23-25; Peter and John, Acts 5:18.

4. They were brought before councils and sanhedrims: Peter and John, Acts 4:3; Acts 4:6; the disciples, Acts 8:3. Before kings: James and Peter before Herod, Acts 12:1-2; Paul and Peter before Nero. Before rulers: Paul before Gallio, Felix, and Festus. Acts 25:6; Acts 25:6.

5. They were killed: Stephen by the judgment of the council, Acts 7:59; James the Greater by Herod, Acts 12:1; the Less by Ananus the high priest; yea, multitudes of Christians were persecuted to the death by Saul, Acts 22:4; by Nero, Tacit. Annal. 15, p. 363; by the Jews, Justin. Mart. Dial. cum Tryph., p. 234, 235.

6. We learn from Tacitus, in the place forecited, that Christians were delivered up by their parents, brethren, kinsfolk, friends; from Josephus, that contention sprang up in their very houses; and that the Idumeans slew many of their own kindred; and from the Scripture, that the Jews persecuted those of their own country. 1 Thessalonians 2:14.

7. That upon occasion of these persecutions “the love of many waxed cold, and many Jews” revolted from the Christian faith. And, lastly, of the care of God in preserving his faithful servants in this time of imminent danger, Eusebius informs us, saying, that “before the war all the faithful of the Church of Jerusalem were astonished by an oracle delivered by revelation to men approved there, to depart from the city, and to get over Jordan, and to go to Pella.” The occasion of this departure was, saith Dr. Hammond, wonderful; for Cestus Gallus then besieged the city; and if he would, saith Josephus, he might easily have taken it, and put an end to the war; but he, without cause, raising the siege and going from it, many eminent Jews fled from the city as from a sinking ship, among whom doubtless were those Christians who remained after the destruction of Jerusalem.”

Verses 24-27

24-27. All before the beginning of this paragraph describes the ruin of the Jewish state; all subsequent to that beginning predicts the judgment day. Did but this report of our Lord’s discourse alone exist, not the slightest difficulty would exist in its interpretation. All the difficulty in fact arises in Matthew 24:29 being the parallel passage to the first verse of this paragraph; and all the difficulty in that verse arises from the word “immediately.”

Mark says that the “sun shall be darkened,” etc., “in those days, after that tribulation.” Making allowance for prophetic perspective and for the intentional obscurity, the phrase “those days” may bring us down to the last period of time. It thus stands in contrast with the phrase “these things” in the apostle’s question. The period of the destruction and the period of the advent stand, as the Lord intended, in stupendous contrast.

If we ask, When shall the second advent take place? Mark answers, It is in THOSE DAYS which are after that (Jewish) tribulation. If we ask, In what part of THOSE DAYS? Matthew will answer, Immediately after the (mundane) tribulation of THOSE DAYS.

We have then this parallel: a tribulation including the city’s destruction, a tribulation ending in the world’s judgment.

That a tribulation is to precede the second advent is the clear doctrine of Scripture. Thus, in Revelation 20:7-10, at the close of the millennial thousand years, Satan, who had been bound during that period, is let loose, and with his armies besieges the camp of the saints just before the appearance of the judgment throne. And in 2 Peter 3:0: “In the last days scoffers shall come,” etc. Of this truth the Jewish tradition gives a shadowing, in the doctrine that a desperate tribulation shall precede Messiah’s advent. “The Jews (as Kuinoel observes) expected that great calamities would precede the advent of the Messiah; yet at the time when these calamities should have reached their height they hoped that he would unexpectedly appear.” Bloomfield’s Recensio Synoptica.

Verse 32

32. But This is the turning point of the contrast between these things and that day. Not the angels… neither the Son This is a most important text to prove the pure humanity of the Son of man. His humanity was neither infinite nor omniscient. In his childhood he grew in stature and in wisdom; at his temptation he struggled with the deceptions of the crafty adversary; at his agony his soul was exceeding sorrowful, and here he knows not the day or the hour of his own second coming. As his human mind was not omniscient, so there were facts to it unknown. This union of the divine and human in Christ is more inexplicable than the union of our soul and body, solely because it occurs but once and has no analogy.

It has, indeed, been argued, that inasmuch as the Son is here named after the angels in the order of ascending climax, we must understand it to be the Son of God and not the Son of man. The result of this would be to prove that our Lord in his highest personality was limited in knowledge. But those who thus argue forget that even as Son of man he was superior to the angels. They are his ministers. It is as Son of man he judges the world attended by HIS holy angels! Surely it is a thousand times more wonderful that the judgment day should be unknown to the judge than to his mere attendant officers. And this expression, neither the Son, stands in striking coincidence with our Lord’s expression: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”

Acts 1:7.

Verse 37

37. What I say unto you The few disciples who now hear me. I say unto all Who do not hear me. For they were representative men. Through them our Saviour addressed all ages. His words speak to the congregated Church to you, reader, and to me Watch. So that these words do not literally intimate that our Lord expected the judgment day to come in that generation. See supplementary note to Matthew 25:0.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Mark 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.