It was Wednesday of Passion Week. As Jesus taught in the temple, religious delegations questioned him. They did not desire to learn anything from Jesus. They sought to discredit or accuse him. They failed miserably. As Jesus departed from the temple for the last time, he condemned the religious leaders and commended a poor widow’s offering.
That is where our text picks up the story.
Jesus left the temple to return to Bethany for the night. On the way, the disciples pointed out the gloryand grandeur of Herod’s temple. In response, Jesus predicted the destruction of that magnificent edifice. The inner circle later asked follow-up questions.
- When will these things come to pass?
- What will be the signs of the time?
Mark 13:5-37 records the Lord’s answer. Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21 also record it. Here is the most extensive and comprehensive answer Jesus gave to any question. The passage is called “The Olivet Discourse” because it took place on the Mount of Olives. It is also called “The Little Apocalypse” – The Book of Revelation in miniature.
Many who do not believe in Jesus claim he was a prophet. To accept his prophecy is to affirm his deity. If you do not trust what Jesus predicted about the end of the world, you do not believe he was a true prophet. If you believe the Olivet Discourse, you are a true believer. Only God knows what the end will be. It is not incidental this discourse precedes Mark’s report of the crucifixion and resurrection. Only the one who rightly predicted he would die and rise again has the authority to tell us what the future holds.
Mark 13 is the source of confusion and controversy. Scholars with conflicting views of eschatology find support for their arguments here. Some use this passage to chart a timeline for the Second Coming. Mark 13:32 says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The Olivet Discourse is not grounds for speculation about the end. Jesus spoke these words to prepare his disciples for the future. The disciples asked about dates and signs. Jesus’ initial answer does not address either. He answered the question they should have asked.
- The right question is not, when will the end come?
- The right question is, will you endure to the end?
The last days will be hard days. Will you endure to the end? Jesus gives four warnings to help you endure to the end.
Do not be Impressed.
Verse 1 begins: “And as he came out of the temple.” This is more than a transitional statement. It is an ominous sign of divine rejection. In a real sense, Jesus did not cleanse the temple. He condemned it. What they made a den of thieves would never be a house of prayer again. Matthew 23:36 says, “See, your house is left to you desolate.” The chapter begins with Jesus making that point to his disciples.
The Glory of the Temple. Verse 1 says, “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” The stones and buildings of the temple awed the disciples. The temple was truly wonderful. Solomon built the original temple. Because of Israel’s sin, God permitted Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to destroy it. After the Babylonian Captivity, the temple was rebuilt under Zerubbabel. But it was modest in comparison to the majesty of Solomon’s temple.
Herod the Great began a massive renovation and expansion of the temple. At the time of the text, the project was in progress for forty years. It was still not complete when it was destroyed. The massive complex covered thirty-five acres – one-sixth of Jerusalem. The massive stones and beautiful buildings were marvelous. The disciples told Jesus to look at it. It was as if they did not want him to judge the temple for things the religious leadersdid in it.
The Downfall of the Temple. Verse 2 is a stunning prediction: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’” A car does not have to be demolished to be totaled. This prediction does not permit semantics. Jesus said not one stone would stand on another. This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70. The Roman general, Titus, sieged Jerusalem to stomp out a Jewish rebellion. He ordered his troops not to harm the temple. They burned it to the ground. All that was left was a part of a bearing wall in the foundation. It is called “The Wailing Wall.”
The sacrificial system ended 2,000 years ago. The temple has never been rebuilt. If I correctly understand verses 14-23, the temple will be rebuilt. That’s what the Middle East conflict is about. Judaism and Islam fight over the land where the temple was located. But Jesus will be enthroned as King in the city of David.
Do not be Deceived.
The Lord’s prediction left the disciples speechless. But unspoken questions shouted at them. When they reached the Mount of Olives, several disciples questioned Jesus privately. Verses 5-37 record Jesus’ answer. The first thing he says to them is do not be deceived.
The Speculative Question. The inner circle of the disciples consisted of Peter, James, and John. Verse 3 adds Andrew. The two sets of brothers approach Jesus privately. But the four spoke for the twelve. Verse 4 states their question: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished.” The disciples had two questions:
- When will these things be?
- What will be the sign of these things?
It may seem these two questions are about one event. The temple’s destruction would mark the world’s end in the disciples’ minds. But they asked about two events – one near, one far. Matthew 24:3reads: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
These questions have consumed the disciples of Jesus for two thousand years. But these questions were speculative. They did not ask why the temple would be destroyed or how it could be avoided. When God told Abraham he would destroy Sodom, Abraham intervened for the righteous of the city. The disciples seemed to have no such concern. They only wanted to know the timing and signs of the end.
The Solemn Answer. Verse 5 says, “And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.” “See” means“take heed.” Jesus tells them to beware “that no one leads you astray.” The Lord was more concerned about deception and persecution. Verse 5 makes a twofold prediction: “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”
Great Deception. Jesus says, “Many will come in my name.” Jesus predicts many false prophets and teachers will arise. It happened in the early church. It continues today. The church today lacks spiritual discernment. New bishops, prophets, and apostles keep emerging. Jesus warns that many are spiritual counterfeits with sinister intentions.
Great Apostasy. Many will come and “lead many astray.” Some predict end-time revival. Jesus predicted end-time apostasy. Mark 12:31-23 says, “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”
Do not be Alarmed.
Beginning with verse 7, Jesus predicts terrible things will happen in the last days. But he instructs the disciples not to be alarmed by them.
- We should be alert about what is happening in the world.
- We should not be alarmed by what happens in the world.
Verses 7-8 predict two signs of the end times.
Political Conflicts. Verse 7 says, “And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.” This prediction may not feel prophetic. World history is the account of wars and rumors of wars. The mainstream mediaselectively report geopolitical conflicts. But the “breaking news” is about wars and rumors of wars around the world. Yet Jesus says, “Do not be alarmed.”
We should not overreact to the unpleasant news of wars and rumors of wars. Verse 7 says, “This must take place, but the end is not yet.” The closer we get to the end, the more there will be political conflicts. World wars are not the end of the world. Verse 8 says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom until kingdom.” There will be no world peace until Christ returns.
Natural Disasters. Two kinds of natural disasters will take place as the end nears.
Earthquakes. Verse 8 says, “There will be earthquakes in various places.” I remember being awakened by the 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994. The aftershocks were so strong that I said my prayers and forced myself back to sleep, not expecting to wake up again. That was nothing compared to what will come. There will be severe earthquakes in various places.
Famines. Verse 8 says, “There will be famines.” We are told climate change is the greatest threat to humankind. Climate change may be the inevitable cause of worldwide famines in the end. Verse 8 ends: “These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Calamities will strike as the end nears. But do not be alarmed. These calamities are only early contractions of the new heavens and new earth that will be born.
Do not be Careless.
Christians preoccupied with health, wealth, and success foolishly picnic on a battlefield. Verse 9 says, “Be on your guard.” Christianity is a battleground, not a playground. Your faith will not survive if you adopt a carefree attitude toward life. You must be dressed and ready for battle for two reasons.
The world will be against you. Whatever your political affiliation, the government is not your friend if you are a Christian. Verse 9 says, “For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.” Jesus predicts his disciples will stand trial before Jewish and Roman authorities. It happened in the Book of Acts. It has continued throughout church history. It will get worse!
Religious liberty is a fairytale for followers of Jesus. Your Christian witness is a threat to the present world order. The world is hostile to the Christian faith. John 16:2-3 says, “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
Verse 10 says, “And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” Here is why the end has not yet come. The work of world missions is not complete. There are 2.38 billion Christians in the world. There are 3.2 billion unreached people worldwide, more than 7,000 unreached people groups. Most of the world is unsaved. Almost half of the world has never heard the gospel.
Any church that does not make the Great Commission its primary work commits treason against the Lord Jesus. The world needs to know all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. And all who repent and trust in Christ are saved freely, completely, and eternally.
Verse 11 says, “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak but the Holy Spirit.”This is the lazy preacher’s life verse. Jesus does not excuse a lack of preparation. He warns you may be forced to witness for him when you least expect it. Do not worry about what you will say when the world puts you on the spot. The perfect teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit will give you what to say and how to say it. The Lord gives blessed assurance that you do not stand alone when you stand for him.
Your family will be against you. Verse 12 warns you may be betrayed for Jesus’ sake: “And brother will deliver brother to death, and father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.”
Here is a hard saying: You cannot trust your family if your family does not trust Jesus. When persecution arises, they may sell you out to save their necks. This is why – biblically and historically – it is deemed impossible to sustain faith in Christ outside of fellowship with the church. You need your spiritual family to help you press on when your faith is tested.
Verse 13 says, “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” You will discover that you cannot be godly and popular simultaneously. John 15:18-19 says, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, because I chose you of the world, therefore, the world hates you.”
Verse 13b says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” This statement does not mean you must endure to the end to be saved from sin. It does not mean you will lose your salvation if you do not endure. Genuine conversion is evidenced by steadfast endurance. True Christians hang in there with Jesus to the end. Christians are saved in three tenses:
- We have been saved from the penalty of sin.
- We are being saved from the power of sin.
- We will be saved from the presence of sin.
Verse 13 is about the future hope of salvation. We persevere in the faith because we know the worst the world can do is kill us. Death does not have the last word! The sovereign perseveration of the saints enables the steadfast perseverance of the saints. God will keep you when you can’t keep yourself! Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”