MARK 13:1-37 (NIV – UK)
The destruction of the temple and signs of the end times
1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’
2 ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?’
5 Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth-pains.
9 ‘You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 ‘When you see “the abomination that causes desolation” [Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11] standing where it does not belong – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now – and never to be equalled again.
20 ‘If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything in advance.
24 ‘But in those days, following that distress,
‘“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” [Isaiah 13:10; 34:4]
26 ‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The day and hour unknown
32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’
From verse 5 to 23 Jesus outlines what seems to be a dreadful future – an earth that seems to be crumbling, families turning on one another because of the name of Jesus, whole nations rising up against one another – we might be mistaken in thinking we are reading the plot of a Hollywood disaster movie… but we’re not! Creation, as it stands at this time, is at odds with Jesus – it has fallen away from him – and we are currently living in the result – a place where hatred, murder, and death are commonplace – and left to our own devices, things will only get worse. Creation is heading towards a crescendo – not of peace and prosperity – but ultimately of death and destruction. And the reason is because the whole of creation is alienated from God – being cut off from all that is good and holy.
These can be scary verses to read – and it can make us feel uncertain about the future… but thankfully Jesus gives us something sure and certain to hold on to… Jesus will redeem creation (v. 24-31).
When Jesus returns he will be ‘coming in clouds with great power and glory’ (v. 26). Imagine the sight – it will certainly be spectacular. Jesus will come to gather all those to himself who belong in him – who abide in him (v. 27). This earth will then pass away, making way for a new earth – a perfect earth – where there is no more death, no more decay, no more crying, no more mourning, no more enmity – Jesus’ followers will be with him – and as he says, his words will never pass away (v. 31).
Jesus’ warning to us is ‘watch!’ (v. 37). Keep watch – because we don’t know when Jesus will return – only the Father knows when that will be (v. 32). It could be tomorrow, it could be in 10 years, it could be in 1,000 years. We don’t know. But Jesus warns us to keep watch – to stay close to him – so that on that day his angels will gather us up (v. 27).
Question: Do you find it comforting to know that no matter how bad things may get in this world, Jesus’ promise is that he will one make it new?