In verses 5-31, Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which will happen before his generation passes away (v. 30). He saw the near future and accurately predicted it. In verses 32-37 he talks about the day or hour of his Second Coming, which has not yet happened for the past two thousand years (and counting).
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
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The translation is mine. I add yet another translation for one purpose: to learn. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
I ask Growth Application (GrowApp) questions after each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
I add some Greek word studies, in a nontechnical way. The Greek terms with brief definitions can also be looked up at biblehub.com.
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Mark 13:1-31)
1 And as he was leaving the temple, one of the disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at such stones and such buildings!” 2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? In no way will one stone be left on another stone which will not be thrown down!”
3 While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately: 4 “Tell us: When will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things are to be completed?”
5 Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ And they will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars or reports of wars, do not be troubled; these things must be, but the end is not yet, 8 for nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines. These things are the beginning of birth pangs.
9 “You see to yourselves! They will hand you over to local courts, and you will be beaten in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings, for my sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel of the kingdom must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they arrest you to hand you over, do not worry ahead of time about what you should say, but speak that which is given you at that time, for you are not the ones speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death and father a child and children will rise up defiantly against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by everyone because of my name, but the one who endures to the end—this one will be saved.
14 “When you see the abomination of desolation standing where it must not”—let the reader understand!—“then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 And the one on the housetop must not go back down nor go back in to pick up anything from his house! 16 And the one in the field should not return to the things behind, to pick up his cloak! 17 But woe to pregnant women and to the ones nursing in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in the winter, 19 for there will be tribulation in those days such as has not happened from the beginning of creation which God created until now and will never be. 20 And unless the Lord shorten the days, no flesh will be saved, but because of the elect who has been elected, he will shorten the days. 21 And then if anyone says, ‘Look! The christ is over here! Look! There!’ Do not believe him, 22 for false christs and false prophets will arise and produce signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect. 23 But you watch! I have told you all these things in advance.
24 But in those days, after that tribulation,
The sun shall be darkened,
And the moon shall not give its light
25 And stars shall fall from the sky
And the powers in the sky shall be shaken. [Is. 13:10; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15]
26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ [Dan. 7:13-14] with much power and glory. 27 And then he will send the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the end of heaven. [Deut. 30:4; Zech. 2:6, 10]
28 From the fig tree, learn this illustration: when its branch has become tender and it is sprouting leaves, you know that summer is near, at the door. 30 I tell you the truth: This generation will not pay away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
These comments in this page are simple and for your personal growth. If you want a detailed exegesis, please see this post:
Further, if you want a fuller picture of how Mark fits in to the eschatology of Matthew and Luke, please see this post:
Mark’s version is more streamlined, while Matthew and Luke fill out the picture.
The disciples admired the temple and wanted Jesus to admire it too. However, in v. 2, he shocks them. The temple won’t stand. It’s going to be destroyed.
A little later Jesus and the disciples were sitting on the Mount of Olives, which overlooks the temple. Peter, Andres (two brothers) and James and John (two brothers) ask him two questions: “When?” and “What sign?” At this point Matthew’s version is clearer, because he catches on to what Jesus was teaching them. There are two ends: the telos (pronounced tel-loss) end of the temple, and the synteleia (pronounced sin-teh-lay-ah) end of the entire age. Once we keep these two ends in sight, we can understand the two major sections.
False messiahs and false religious leaders will arise to deceive many. These deceivers arose back in the first century, and they will arise in every generation. It’s a perennial reality. If we don’t know basic doctrine, we will be vulnerable to their deceptions. Watch out!
Here Jesus is referring to the language of Is. 19:2, which also prophesies nations rising against nations. This too happened in the entire Roman world in various hot spots. And there were various earthquakes in the first century, as well.
Those things are the beginning of birth pangs. Note the time marker “beginning.” Those talks about wars and actual wars and earthquakes are not signs of the end times, but just the beginning. Jesus knows when the attack on Jerusalem and the temple will happen—before his generation passes away—but in v. 32, talking about the Second Coming, not even he knows. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple on the one hand and the Second Coming, are two separate events, now two thousand years apart (and counting).
Again please see this post for more details:
In this pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or unit or section of Scripture, Jesus brings up persecution and troubles in the family. The uncoverted will report on the conversion of family members. They will snitch. Then the converted will be dragged before the local religious courts and synagogues and be flogged. Or they will stand before governors and kings and be harassed.
In the Book of Acts, Paul persecuted new converts to the Jesus Movement. But when he converted, he too stood before Jewish tribunals and Roman governors and kings.
The converts will be hated by everyone, but if they endure to the end, they will be rescued, even if by martyrdom.
In v. 10, the gospel first spreading around the nations happened in their times. They knew nothing about Australia or North and South America, but the gospel did go throughout the Roman empire. Now, with our fuller knowledge the gospel can go around to all nations.
However you interpret v. 10, it has to be fulfilled before Jesus’s generation passed away, and it was fulfilled for their point of view two thousand years ago.
Incidentally Luke’s version does not include v. 10:
Usually omissions do not clarify things, but in this case Luke’s omission does clarify the meaning of Mark 13:5-31. Luke’s version is by far the clearest of either Matthew or Mark that Jesus is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, not the Second Coming. Please click on that link for the biblical evidence.
In this long unit of Scripture, Jesus now predicts the abomination of desolation, which refers to Dan. 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. The pagans will stand in the temple. This took place at first in 167 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanes stood in the temple, ordered the stoppage of animal sacrifices, and was poised sacrifice unclean animals (including pigs) to Greek deities. More relevant to Jesus’ prediction, the abomination of desolation also took place in A.D. 70, when the Romans sacked the city of Jerusalem and stomped all over the temple.
It has been fulfilled. Note how the temple is desolate. Note how Judaism has never been the same since. They were days of unequalled stress or tribulation. And the Lord did shorten those days, because the war ended.
The people fleeing cannot refer to the Second Coming, because no one can flee from it. Instead, it is talking about the Roman army coming. And the Christians living in Judea and Jerusalem did flee to Pella, beyond the Jordan River, and farther north.
Jesus circles back around to warn about false messiah and false prophets. Of course during times of unparalleled distress people will emerge and proclaim that they are the saviors. And there was never a time of tribulation for Judaism as there was during the Roman Wars of A.D. 66-70. Be on the alert! Watch out! He was telling the people of his generation.
The sun darkening and the moon not giving light and the stars falling from the sky are references to OT prophecies, and if the stars were to literally fall from the skies in the OT the cosmos—the whole universe—would have been forever changed, and the earth would have been swallowed up and destroyed. No, this is not literal. Instead, this is apocalyptic language and imagery for a major change or national judgment.
Here are at least fifteen passages in which nature is disturbed when God judges a nation:
Do not take those quoted passages literally! Or else the cosmos would not be here!
These verses about cosmic disasters are about the judgment on Jerusalem and the temple, which has forever been changed from then until now. The religion set up by Moses has been altered in the ceremonial aspects, but not the Ten Commandments and the moral law. They remain. So of course nature will be disturbed when such a nation-shattering and religion-shattering event happens.
For a Christian response to the change in Judaism, please see these links:
These two verses refer to the Son of Man in Dan. 7:13-14, when he comes in the clouds of heaven:
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan. 7:13-14, NIV, emphasis added)
The Ancient of Days is God. Jesus was about to ascend and be enthroned on high, sitting next to God. So his coming here in v. 26-27 refers to his ascension and enthronement. Jesus was granted authority over heaven and earth (16:19). Now Jesus returns invisibly to Jerusalem and the Father vindicates his Son. The temple is destroyed.
And no, vv. 26-27 does not refer to the grand and glorious Second Coming when the whole earth will be overtaken by his glorious appearing.
Once again, please see my comments on Mark 13:5-31 about why Jesus’s ascension and enthronement (and later coming-in-judgment on the temple) and the parousia (Second Coming) must be kept distinct.
As for gathering the elect from the four corners of the world under heaven, Luke’s version omits this verse:
At that link, scroll down to Unit 6.
As noted, Luke’s version is by far the clearest of either Matthew or Mark that Jesus is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and not the Second Coming in those parallel verses.
The fig tree could refer to Israel and judgment on its capital and temple, but more likely it refers to a time marker about the right season. Agricultural societies can spot when the crops are ready to harvest. Likewise, people should be able to tell when judgment on Jerusalem was coming because Jesus just finished giving them a list of signs.
This is the clearest time marker of all. Jesus’s generation would not pass away until all these things took place, and they did take place by A.D. 70, so his prediction came true.
His statement here means that his prediction was absolutely trustworthy. It did come to pass.
In the next pericope, he changes topics and talks briefly about his Second Coming. Not even the Son of God know what that will happen. There are no time markers. It could happen at any moment.
GrowApp for Mark 1-31
A.. To be a good and effective disciple, you do not have to figure out the details of eschatology (study of the ends times). Instead, Jesus predicts tough times for the people of his generation. How can we prepare ourselves for tough times in our generation?
Jesus talks about his Second Coming (Mark 13:32-37)
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 a 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!”
Please see this post for the commentary:
And as to why Jesus the Son did not know the day or the hour of this Second Coming, please see this post:
GrowApp for Mark 13:32-37
A.. Study 1 John 3:2-3. How do we purify ourselves before his Second Coming?
Summary and Conclusion
Jesus is about to go through the Passion (suffering) in the next two chapters. Before then, however, he must predict the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. And so he does in vv. 5-31. It would be unrealistic to believe that he would not give a long and significant prophecy about that. He did. Not everything in those verses are about us today. Yes, we can learn some lessons when we go through tough times and persecution or discern when false messiahs and prophets emerge, but the events in those verses were for Jesus’ audience when he was speaking and for his generation.
In vv. 32-37, we don’t know when the time will be at his Second Coming. This stands in contrast with the time of the destruction of the capital city and the temple, because he gave us time markers, capping them off with the ultimate one: this (his) generation. Now, however, in v. 33 he says we don’t know when the Second Coming will happen. It is open ended.
Before we begin, once again please see these related posts for more details:
Here’s a short diagram to illustrate:
First Coming → Resurrection → Coming to His Throne and then Judgment →Telos [End] of the Old Temple
Now let’s fill out the picture.
In the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, particularly Matt. 13:39-43, and in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46), Jesus clearly teaches that the New Messianic Age is ushered in right after the Second Coming and the judgment of the righteous and the wicked happen at the same time.
We can depict things in this flow chart:
___________← This Age ⸻→| End of
First Coming —————————→ Second Coming → Judgment → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / That Age
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops This Age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / That Age. Finally, the Kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming (Parousia), after judgment. And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Age can begin in true and pure rulership.
In short: Messianic Age = Kingdom Age = The Age to Come. Just because different terms are used does not mean they are different things. All three terms refer to the same (wonderful) reality. The Messianic Age or Kingdom Age or The Age to Come begins and will last forever.
Bottom line: All of the New Testament (outside of a few contested verses in the Revelation) fully and clearly and consistently teach this flow chart:
___________← This Age ———⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom —→ Second Coming → Judgment → Fully Realized Kingdom Age
Until and before the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between This Age and the Inaugurated Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry. (They are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people surrender to the Son’s Lordship, and then Satan is pushed back and people experience victory in their lives. The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in This Age, but are part of the inaugurated Kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in This Age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in That Age. The Second Coming stops This Age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or Kingdom Age or That Age.
What about the Church? The Father and the resurrected and ascended Son and the outpoured Spirit, by means of the inaugurated kingdom, created the church at Pentecost (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-4). It exists in This Age and preaches the gospel of the kingdom. It will be snatched up or raptured at the Second Coming, meet Jesus in the air, descend with him, go through judgment, and then finally will last forever in the Fully Realized Kingdom Age.
Let’s look more deeply at the overlapping This Age and the fully realized Kingdom Age. Until and before the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between This Age and the Inaugurated Kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry. (They are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people surrender to the Son’s Lordship, and then Satan is pushed back and people experience victory in their lives. The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in This Age, though happening during the inaugurated Kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in This Age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in The Age to Come. The Second Coming stops This Age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or Kingdom Age or The Age to Come.
There is no word on a literal thousand-year reign with two comings and “several first” resurrections. And there is no separate rapture that makes the church disappear, before the Second Coming. If Jesus believed in a separate rapture, he would have taught it here; he missed his chance. However, he did not miss his chance and he did not teach it. Therefore, he did not believe in a separate rapture. All of it is too convoluted. Instead, the Gospels (and Epistles) present a streamlined picture of salvation history and God’s dealing with his human creation and the return of Christ.
An amillennialist believes that the millennium begins with Inaugurated Kingdom, but apparently it is quiet and behind the scenes (note the Parable of the Mustard Seed and its slow growth in Matt. 13:31-32); Satan is not literally bound with chains (as if a spirit being could be), even though Jesus did teach that he bound the strongman (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22). So what this binding means is that Satan cannot now fully stop the advance of the kingdom (as Satan did to the ancient Israelites, except a remnant). Even under Islamic and communist regimes, the gospel has a way of infiltrating societies, even if underground. Instead, kingdom citizens, surrendered to the Kingship of the King and following him, are plundering Satan’s domain of This Age and rescuing people out of it and transferring them to the inaugurated kingdom of God. So the final victory over Satan will be fully manifested at his Second Coming.
In contrast, based on his interpretation of a few verses in Rev. 20, one chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible, a premillennialist believes that a literal thousand years of Christ (not shown in flow charts) is ushered in at the Second Coming, where there will be peace and harmony. And Satan is literally bound in chains until the end of the thousand years. During the literal millennium, people will still die, so the last enemy (death) is not defeated after all at the Second Coming (even though Paul said death would be defeated, in 1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-56). However, the theory of a literal thousand years says that death and Satan are defeated at the end of the millennium, when another resurrection and another judgment will take place.
Never mind, however, that in John 5:28-29 and Matt. 13:41-43 and 25:31-46, Jesus teaches that the wicked and righteous are judged together at the end of This Age, as indicated in the above flow charts.
So then where does the rapture fit in? When all peoples are called out of their tombs and those who are alive also respond to Christ descending from heaven at the Second Coming, they will be “caught up” (the rapture) and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Then they will descend with Jesus to a new heaven and new earth, which will have been recreated, renewed or renovated. They will be judged, and the wicked will be sent away to punishment, and the righteous will be welcomed into the Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / That Age (as distinct from This Age). In other words, the rapture and the Second Coming happen at the same time and are the same event.
Please see my post:
There is no reason, biblically, to over-think and complicate these verses and insert a separate rapture that happens before the Second Coming. Just because a teaching is popular does not make it right.
Personally, in my study of the Gospels and Epistles, I have now accepted amillennialism because it is streamlined, and I don’t believe the NT teaches convoluted theories. The entire NT fits together if we adopt amillennialism, from Matt. 1 to Rev. 22. I cannot allow, in my own Bible interpretation, a few contested verses in Rev. 20 to confuse the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels and the apostolic teaching in the Epistles. That is, I don’t believe we should allow Rev. 20 (the only few verses where one thousand years are mentioned) or the entire book of the Revelation, the most symbolic book of the Bible (after Chapter 3), to guide our interpretation of these clear teachings in the Gospels and the Epistles. Instead, we should allow the clear, straightforward, nonsymbolic teachings in the Gospels and Epistles to guide our interpretations of the most symbolic book in the Bible, in which even the numbers may be symbolic and probably are. To see everything fit together, all we have to do is turn the kaleidoscope one notch or click and adopt amillennialism. I am willing to do that. And I have now done that.
This guidance in interpreting Scripture is called the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture. Clarity guides the unclear portions. My main point: keep the plain thing the main thing in hermeneutics (science of interpretation), and let the clear verses guide the unclear ones.
Once again, this interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all (or nearly all) the complications that popular Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on Mark 13 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 interpretations of a straightforward passage. 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.
The Second Coming can happen at any time! Be ready!
But in these eschatological (end-time) discussions:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
We should not lose fellowship with those with whom we differ in eschatological matters.
So let’s move on to the Passion (Suffering of Jesus) in Mark 14-15.
As a life-long learner, I refer to a community of Bible teachers. They are excellent in many ways, but too technical. I hope that I have simplified things. I also write from a Renewal perspective.
Decker, Rodney J. Mark 9-16: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor UP, 2014).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).
Garland, David E. Mark: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996).
Lane, William L. Mark: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1974).
Strauss, Mark L. Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 1993).
Wessel, Walter W. and Mark L. Strauss. Mark: The Bible’s Expositor’s Commentary, Vol. 9, Rev. ed. (Zondervan 2010).