This may be the shortest post in my series on Matt. 24-25, Luke 17 and 21, and Mark 13.
The entire chapter of Mark is called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem proper, overlooking the temple (Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:3).
All translations are mine, unless otherwise noted. Readers are invited to see other translations at biblegateway.com.
This post has a companion piece:
If this post proves too complicated, go here:
Before we begin in earnest, let’s look at the most “stubborn” verse that appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the same context.
I tell you the truth: this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matt. 24:34)
I tell you the truth: this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (Mark 13:30)
I tell you the truth: this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Luke 21:32)
If “generation” were to be translated as “race,” as some propose, then Jesus was declaring something vapid. Of course Jews would not pass away at the time he spoke. Instead, his prediction is about the timing, so “generation” is the right translation, as it is in nearly all other verses where it appears.
Now let’s go to the heart of the post.
Let’s compare Mark’s Gospel with Matthew’s on the topic of the Second Coming or Parousia (or “Arrival” or “Visitation”). Luke’s Gospel is not included because he goes in a slightly different direction and places his Second Coming passage in his Chapter 17. In contrast, Matthew and Mark place theirs at the same time and location, though Matthew’s eschatology goes on long after Mark wraps his up.
Both Matthew and Mark teach that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple happened within the generation in which Jesus lived (v. 30 in Mark and v. 34 in Matthew). In their respective posts I have called this verse the most “stubborn” verse in the synoptic Gospels, because Mark and Matthew (not to mention Luke) seem to talk about far-reaching, end-time events, like the gospel going to all nations before the end, or the angels gathering in the elect from the ends of the earth, before v. 30 and v. 34 appear. I explain those events in each of their posts, but suffice it to say here that we must slightly reinterpret these events through the textual context, and then the stubbornness of those two verses evaporates. I can say here that Matthew focuses on the difference between the telos-end of the temple and the synteleia-end of the age. The gospel will go forth to the ends of their earth before the telos-end, which it did, in the first-century disciples’ knowledge of the whole inhabited world. Now the gospel is still going forth until the synteleia-end of the age.
For more details, click on:
Happily, this next table comes after the “stubborn” verse. In fact Matthew and Mark make a sharp break from the destruction prediction to the Second Coming. Let’s look at the two passages now, and note how the Son does not know when his return will happen.
|Mark 13:32-37||Matt. 24:36-44|
|32 “But concerning that day or hour—no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, except the Father. 33 Watch! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like man away on a journey who had left his house and given to his servants, each one, authority for his task and commanded the doorkeeper that he keep awake. 35 Keep awake therefore! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or in the middle of the night or at the crowing of the rooster or in the morning, 36 so that when he comes he does not find you sleeping. 37 But what I tell you I tell everyone: Keep awake!”||36 But concerning that Day and hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.
37 For just as the days of Noah were, in this way the visitation of the son of Man will be. 38 For as just as they were in the days were before the flood, munching and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the days Noah entered the ark, 39 they also did not know until the flood came and took everyone away, and in this way will the visitation of the son of Man will be. 38 For as just as they were in the days were before the flood, munching and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the days Noah entered the ark, 39 they also did not know until the flood came and took everyone away, and in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be.
40 Then two men will be in the field, and one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding grain at the mill, and one will be taken and one left. 42 Watch therefore because you don’t know which day your Lord comes. 43 But this you do know that if the head of household knew at which watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and not permitted his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason, you also be prepared because at the hour you don’t expect, the son of Man is coming.
So in both passages, Jesus does not know the day or the hour. In contrast, Mark 13:5-31 had laid out all sorts of time markers for the destruction of the temple. Here they are:
It is not yet (7b)
Only the beginning (8)
It is not yet (9)
Good news to all nations first (10)
He who endures to the end … (13)
But when (14), as opposed to not yet (vv. 5-13)
In those days (17)
In those days (19)
At that time (21)
But in those days following distress (24), referring back to 19
And this an unbroken sequence from when of v. 14
And then (26) } Answers when of v. 4
And then (27) } Answers when of v. 4
Fig tree, a necessary chronological sequence indicating that these things are near (28-29)
All these things must occur within this generation (30)
So v. 30, the “stubborn” verse, is the clearest time marker of all
Now we transition to the Second Coming (32-36)
But concerning that day or hour (32), and the rest of the pericope says it could happen at any time. So watch!
So let’s see the contrast:
In vv. 5-31: Not yet, but when, then, those days, within this generation–all clear time markers.
In vv. 32-36 there are no time markers. In fact, Jesus says we don’t even know when the season (kairos) of his coming is (v. 33).
The noun here is kairos (used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
It seems the best definition here is 3(b).
So Jesus says he does not know the day or the hour, and he tells his disciples that they won’t even know the season of the Second Coming. This is a warning to us today that we should not obsess over signs about his Parousia. It will come at a time when we least expect it.
Jesus knew approximately when the destruction of the temple would occur: in this (his) generation (v. 32). In contrast, he did not know the day or hour of his Return (vv. 32-36). It could happen at any time. Therefore there are no time markers.
Therefore, we are dealing with two sections of Scripture about two different comings. Verses 5-31 are about his coming in judgment on Jerusalem and the temple. Verse 32-36 are about the Second Coming or Parousia, when he closes out the entire age.
There are other clues that Jesus has changed the topic from the destruction to the Second Coming.
The Greek preposition translated concerning is peri and it is often used to introduce a new topic, when peri begins the sentence or clause (Matt. 22:31; Mark 12:26; 13:32; John 16:9, 10, 11; 17:20; Acts 21:25; 25:18, 26; 1 Cor. 7:25; 8:1, 4; 12:1; 16:1, 12; 2 Cor. 9:1; 1 Thess. 4:9; 5:1; Heb. 5:11; 1 Pet. 1:10). This use of peri is also reinforced with the tiny connector de (pronounced deh). It is an elusive particle, but in this case, “but” is used to contrast this topic with the previously long one.
Here’s Paul using peri de in 1 Cor. 8:1, in his change of subject from marriage in 1 Cor. 7 to food sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor. 8: “Now about [peri de] food sacrificed to idols … (NIV). Similarly, using peri de, Jesus is shifting topics from the destruction of Jerusalem to his Second Coming–two distinct events at widely different times.
Bottom line: clearly in v. 32 Mark is changing the topic from the coming-in-judgment on the temple to the parousia or Second Coming or visitation to judge the world and put things right (cf. Matt. 24:36-25:46). In vv. 3-31 the temporal connections were clear: “then,” “in those days,” “immediately after,” and “it is near” (and so on). In contrast, in this second eschatological section there is no such temporal connections. In fact Jesus said that the disciples did not know when the time was. It will come when people don’t expect it. This absence of time markers in vv. 32-36 stands in stark contrast to the conspicuous time markers in vv. 3-31.
Not even the Son knew when his return would happen, but he predicted when the destruction would happen–within his generation.
For an answer to the question of why Jesus did not know the day or the hour, click on this post:
“that day”: it is often used in both the OT and NT of the final day leading to judgment: you can look up the verses online but here are some references: Is. 10:20; Joel 1:15; 3:18; Amos 8:9; 9:11; Zeph. 1:10, 14; Zech. 14:4; Mal. 3:17-18. This is the first mention of a singular day or hour, in contrast to “those days” (vv. 17, 19, and 24) or the timeframe of the Roman war.
I go into a longer treatment / analysis / exegesis of the Second Coming by Matthew’s Gospel, since he greatly expands on Mark’s short finish to his thirteenth chapter. Once again, Please see this post:p
Summary and Conclusion
Jesus was answering two questions about the destruction of the temple in vv. 5-31. The most “stubborn” verse in the synoptic Gospel (v. 30) won’t allow interpreters to claim that some verses before v. 30 are about the Second Coming. No, it is about the coming-in-judgment on Jerusalem and the temple, which happened in Jesus’s generation. Though he died young, many who were alive when he was experienced the judgment in A.D. 70.
In this post, he does shift the perspective to the Second Coming, and it has no specific end-date or expiration date.
For clarity, here’s a short diagram to illustrate the questions and answer in vv. 5-31 and the flow of the whole Gospel:
First Coming → Resurrection → Coming to His Throne and then Judgment →End of the Old Temple
The end happened in A.D. 70, the generation that was living when Jesus taught in 5-31. His prediction came true.
For a fuller perspective from the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, here’s a diagram that lays out the Second Coming:
________________← This Age ⸻→ End of This Age
First Coming ⸻⸻⸻⸻→ Second Coming → New Messianic Age
In the second diagram, the First Coming (Jesus’s birth and ministry and crucifixion and resurrection begins the movement towards the Parousia or Second Coming. At the Second Coming the end of This Age occurs and the New Messianic or Kingdom Age begins in full manifestation. And you can certainly insert the judgment on the temple in This Age, shortly after the First Coming.
This interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all (or nearly all) the complications that popular Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on the Olivet Discourse for decades—over a century. Since this tradition has deep roots—not to say entrenched—in the conservative sectors of American Evangelicalism (broadly defined to incorporate the Renewal Movements), these teachers won’t give up their complicated interpretation. So I hope to reach and teach the younger generations in the church. They need to prepare for tough times ahead. I’m not a pastor, but I can still have a teacher’s pastoral heart.
One additional point: There is simply no verse in in all of Mark 13 that supports the rapture of the church, distinct from the Second Coming.
See my post:
Luke 21:5-33 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple (Luke is by far the clearest on this topic)