Mark 13:3-36 Out With The Old And In With The New.
This same topic occurs in Luke 21, in the record of a historian, and in language more straightforward, as it were, than Mark. Matthew and Mark write with more apocalyptic language. In Luke the teaching concerning the last days is also immediately preceded by the disciples drawing attention to the temple itself, how it was “adorned with beautiful stones and donations” (v. 5; Mk.13:1-2). This was also the context of what Jesus had said concerning the rich giving to the treasury (21:1), and the widow’s two mites (vv. 2-4). What then follows is Jesus teaching concerning the temple’s future. As impressive as it no doubt looked, there were some standing in its precincts who would see its destruction (Cf. Mt. 24:33-34). What comes in largely prophetic apocalyptic language in Matthew and Mark, comes in more straight forward historical descriptives in Luke, but they all are concerned with the same events.
Before the destruction of the temple there would arise false Christs (vv. 8-9), wars (v. 10), natural upheavals (vv. 11, 25-26), persecution of His disciples (v. 12), all of which will occasion the opportunity for witness bearing to the gospel of the kingdom (vv. 13-17). Yet, in the midst of this persecution, Jesus promises them that if they are patient they will lose nothing (vv. 18-19). What Matthew called “‘the abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” Luke informs us is “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (v. 20 Cf. Mt. 24:15). These were signs which those present could and should indeed look for as their cue to flee the area of Judea (v. 21). It will be harder for those who are pregnant (v. 23). This desolation, “are the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (v. 22). “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles,” which indeed happened when the armies of Rome overtook the city in 70 AD (v. 24).
This all describes what Jesus called “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (v. 27). “He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Dan 9:27). “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:26). This would bring to a close the last days of the old covenant era when Messiah would “make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy” (Dan. 9:24). Everything Jesus said about the last days of the old covenant era, also spoke to the vengeance of covenant lawsuit judgment on apostate Israel who rejected their Messiah. This is the fig tree of this parable (vv. 29-31). Everything that preceded, Jesus made clear would come upon that generation (v. 32). He also made clear that His words were as secure as the rest of the scriptures (v. 33). The fact is that these events did indeed take place with the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
As in Luke (21:7), Mark records that the disciples ask about the exact time and sign associated with these events (vv. 3-4). As in Luke, many would come forward claiming to be the Christ, but only to deceive (vv. 5-6). Wars and rumors of wars would not signal the end, as horrible as these always are in any age (v. 7), likewise with earthquakes, famines, and troubles, but these things were only “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8). Jesus then directs some words to his hearers directly. They were to watch themselves, that some would deliver them up to councils, and specifically they would be “beaten in the synagogues” (v. 9a). It is hard to see how these predictions could somehow apply to anyone other than those he was addressing directly. The purpose that they would fulfill in this suffering, would be to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ, “before rulers and kings” (v. 9b), taking the gospel to all nations (v. 10).
In Luke’s second volume concerning his history of the Messiah and his work, it is recorded that during the Pentecost “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (2:5). On this occasion Peter preached his sermon concerning the last days – that Pentecost was part of the fulfillment of the last days of the old first covenant administration (vv. 14-21), signifying that Jesus the Messiah was then seated on his throne reigning as King (vv. 22-35). In his preaching, he had multiple biblical references from the first covenant scriptures themselves. These men represented the respective nations where they were from – those who would be granted repentance and faith (along with their children), in Jesus as the promised Messiah (vv. 36-39). However, they were the exception among a “perverse generation” (v. 40). Nevertheless, the true church would prosper and grow (vv. 41-47).
It was those whom Jesus addressed directly who would be arrested and delivered up, to bear witness, even to kings and rulers, and the Holy Spirit would give them words to speak (v. 11). This was a turning point. Here there would be families divided, brother against brother, parents against children and vice versa, even to the point of causing death (v. 12). All the believers in Jesus as the Messiah would be hated, but enduring to the end was a sure sign of all who would be saved (v. 13). Jesus made clear that the prediction of Daniel would be fulfilled in the time of those standing before him (v. 14; Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11 Cf. Mt. 24:15; Lk. 21:21). The daily sacrifice would be taken away, and the “abomination of desolation” would be set up. Directions are given to those listening, which would only make sense to them – those on housetops or in the fields were to flee, not going back for anything (vv. 15-16).
Jesus pities those who are pregnant, as he addresses his hearers directly, where they should hope that their flight would not be in winter (vv. 17-18). This Jesus called a time of tribulation, “such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be” (v. 19). Therefore, those positing a time they call ‘the Tribulation’ to occur in the future, as the greatest tribulation ever, are clearly mistaken. They interpret this passage in this way by ignoring the clear pointers to the generation to whom Jesus spoke, and they also see the tribulation in non-biblical terms. The reason why Jesus said that this time of tribulation was unique is because it would signify the end of the old covenant administration with the dawn of the new. Jesus would bring the first covenant sacrificial system to an end with the once for all propitiatory sacrifice of himself on the cross (Cf. Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; I Jn. 2:2; 4:10).
For the sake of the salvation of the elect within the covenanted community and without, those days were shortened (v. 20). This was a covenantal curse judgment on the apostates of the old covenant administration – those who rejected the promised Messiah who had come, but hope for those who believed by grace. His hearers were warned to pay no attention to those who claimed that the Christ was visibly present, for they had the Christ visibly present teaching and warning them not to heed these calls which were coming from false prophets about false Christs. They would only be trying to deceive people, “if possible, even the elect” (v. 22). In these few words, we are reminded again that it is not possible for the elect to be deceived (Cf. Jn. 17:12; I Jn. 2:19). They were to take heed, because Jesus was telling them these things beforehand so that they, the elect ones, could be prepared (v. 23).
Not only would that tribulation be in the near future, but some standing before Jesus would also witness its end (v. 24). That which is often associated with the so-called Tribulation, will actually occur after it, the significance of which can only be understood if one thinks in the context of biblical imagery. Verse 25 is in effect a parallelism – stars symbolizing powers. There would be no mistaking that it would be the resurrected and ascended Son of Man who would come through the instrumentality of angels in providential history making events. Yet, while there is judgment coming upon apostates, there will also be a gathering of the elect into his church from the farthest corners of earth and heaven (vv. 26-27). That generation would receive enough signs to indicate when that season of harvest was approaching – like a fig tree putting forth its leaves to indicate that summer is near (vv. 28-30).
There would be a new heaven and earth coming, so that the old would pass away. However, Jesus’ words, including what he spoke here, will never pass away (v. 31). Everything he had predicted would come to pass, and did come to pass. Since these events are past, they are proof to all who are granted spiritual understanding, that the Prophet’s words have been fulfilled. However, even though that generation would have signs of that approaching season, the more narrow chronological category of the day or hour they would not be given – for this was known only to the Father (v. 32). Therefore, they were to “take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is” (v. 33). Jesus is the Master who will depart for a time, but he will also return on a day and in an hour that is known only to the Father (v. 34). That generation needed to not sleep with his soon departure, but rather to watch for this return (vv. 35-36).