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÷÷MARK 13



The Destruction of the Temple Foretold Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold Jesus Speaks of the Destruction of the Temple The Eschatological Discourse: Introduction
13:1-2 13:1-2 13:1-2 13:1-2 13:1-2
The Beginning of Woes The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age On the End of the Age Troubles and Persecutions  
13:3-13 13:3-13 13:3-13 13:3-8 13:3-4
        The Beginning of Sorrows
      13:9-13 13:9-10
The Great Tribulation The Great Tribulation   The Awful Horror The Great Tribulation of Jerusalem
13:14-23 13:14-23 13:14-23 13:14-20 13:14-20
      13:21-23 13:21-23
The Coming of the Son of Man The Coming of the Son of Man   The Coming of the Son of Man The Coming of the Son of Man
13:24-27 13:24-27
The Lesson of the Fig Tree The Parable of the Fig Tree   The Lesson of the Fig Tree The Time of This Coming
13:28-31 13:28-31 13:28-31 13:28-31 13:28-31
The Unknown Day and Hour No One Knows the Day or Hour   No One Knows the Day or Hour  
13:32-37 13:32-37 13:32-37 13:32-37 13:32
        Be On the Alert

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.


A. New Testament eschatological passages reflect Old Testament prophetic insight that viewed the end-time through contemporary occurrences. Jesus follows this pattern. The OT prophets Micah and Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as a sign of God's judgment on unbelieving Israel. God would call Gentiles to judge His people and take over their land. Now in the NT God's people still act in unbelief. They reject His Messiah. They will be destroyed, along with their city and temple (i.e., a.d. 70 by Titus). Their promised land is now given to others (cf. Mark 12:1-12, especially Mark 13:9, i.e., apparently Gentile believers. The Gentile mission is described in Mark 13:9-13).


B. Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are so difficult to interpret because they deal with several questions simultaneously.

1. when will the temple be destroyed?

2. what will be the sign of the Messiah's return?

3. when will this age end?


C. The genre of New Testament eschatology is usually a combination of apocalyptic and prophetic language, which is purposely ambiguous and highly symbolic.


D. Several passages in the NT (cf. Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 and 21, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation) deal with the Second Coming. These passages emphasize

1. that the exact time of the event is unknown, but the event is certain

2. that the last generation will know the general time, but not specific time, of the events

3. that it will occur suddenly and unexpectedly

4. that every generation of believers must be prayerful, ready, and faithful to assigned tasks


E. The primary focus of this chapter is on practical advice (19 imperatives), not pinpointing the exact time or chronological sequence of the events of the Second Coming.


F. The two key phrases are

a. "look out" (Mark 13:5,9,23,33)

b. "not yet" (Mark 13:7,10)

These twin foci of "be ready" and "wait patiently" are balanced with the other paradox of "the already" and "the not yet."

Special Topic: OT Predictions of the Future vs. NT Predictions—Why do Christians Have So Many Dogmatic Interpretations of Revelation?

Special Topic: Apocalyptic Literature

POSSIBLE OUTLINE RELATED TO THE DISCIPLES' QUESTIONS (taken from E. F. Bruce's Answers to Questions, p. 57)

A. Warnings against being misled (Mark 13:5-8)

B. Predictions of persecution (Mark 13:9-13)

C. The destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:14-23)

D. The return of Christ (Mark 13:24-27)

E. Exhortations to be watchful in their contemporary situation which led to the destruction of Jerusalem (Mark 13:28-31, i.e., that generation Mark 13:34)

F. Exhortations to be watchful for the Lord's return (Mark 13:32-37; i.e., no one knows but the Father, Mark 13:36)

G. F. F. Bruce makes Mark 13 parallel to first six seals of Revelation 6 (cf. p. 57 and 138)



÷MARK 13:1-2

 1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" 2And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down."

13:1 "the temple" This was the word (hieron) for the whole temple area. Jesus had been teaching there since the events of Mark 11 (cf. Matt. 26:55). These buildings had become the great Jewish hope, a symbol of God's exclusive love for Israel (cf. Jer. 7; John 8:31-59).

▣ "one of His disciples" It may have been Peter (cf. Mark 13:3). John Mark may have given us Peter's memory of Jesus' words. This is the longest teaching session in Mark's Gospel.

▣ "wonderful stones" This is literally "huge stones." Josephus tells us Herod the Great used huge polished limestones or mezzeh that were native to this area. They were 25 x 8 x 12 cubits (cf. Antiquities 15.11.3). Stones of similar shape and material are still visible at the wailing wall in Jerusalem.

▣ "wonderful buildings" This is literally "huge buildings." They were white polished limestone with gold trim. This huge and expensive building project was meant to placate the Jews who were upset over an Idumean being king. This remodeling and expansion was begun in 20/19 b.c. and finished in about a.d. 63/64 (cf. Josephus' Antiquities 15.11.1-7; Wars 5.5.1-6).

13:2 "Not one stone will be left upon another" This phrase has two double negatives with the Subjunctive mood. There is no stronger grammatical negation possible in the Greek language! This speaks of total destruction. This must have dumbfounded them! Josephus tells us that in a.d. 70 the Romans destroyed this site so completely that one could plow the ground as a field (cf. Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:18).

There are some Greek manuscript variants related to this phrase. One follows the wording of Matt. 24:2 found in the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L, and W. The second follows the wording of Luke 21:6 found in MS A and the Vulgate. The UBS4 follows Matt. 24:2, which adds the adverb "here" or "in this place."

÷MARK 13:3-8

 3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" 5And Jesus began to say to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 6Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He!' and will mislead many. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs."

13:3 "sitting on the Mount of Olives" This 2.5 mile ridge on the east overlooked (i.e., about 300-400 feet higher) Jerusalem and the temple area.

▣ "Peter and James and John and Andrew" Only Mark's Gospel mentions this detail. This is probably one of Peter's eyewitness memories.

13:4 "when will these things be said, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled" Matthew 24:3 records the expanded questions. There were several events that these disciples wanted to know about:

  1. the time of the destruction of the temple
  2. the time of the Second Coming
  3. the time of the end of the age

The disciples probably thought all three would happen at one time. Notice Jesus merges the temporal and the eschatological, just as the OT prophets did.

Special Topic: Answers to the Diciples' Two Questions of Matthew 24:3

13:5-13 "See to it that no one misleads you" "See" is a present active imperative. Jesus commands them to be on constant alert. In some ways these Jewish traditions about the Messiah had already biased them. These verses mention false signs or precursor signs that are present in every age. This statement is repeated often (cf. Mark 13:5,9,23,33). There will be many who try to trick them on these issues.

Every generation of Christians has tried to force its contemporary history into biblical prophecy. To date they have all been wrong! Part of the problem is that believers are to live in a moment-by-moment expectation of the Second Coming, yet the prophecies are all written for one end-time generation of persecuted followers. Rejoice that you do not know!

13:6 "Many will come in My name" This refers to false Messiahs (cf. Matt. 24:11,23-24). There is even a reference in Josephus' Wars of the Jews 6.54 which asserts that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem because of the fanaticism of the false prophets, who led the people astray with false promises of YHWH's intervention in saving Jerusalem based on Isaiah's prophecies (i.e., Isaiah 37), but of course not mentioning Jeremiah's repeated predictions of faithless Jerusalem's fall.

Special Topic: The Name of the Lord (NT)

▣ "saying 'I am He'" This is literally "I am." This was a Messianic designation using the title of the OT Covenant God, YHWH, from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:12,14; John 4:26; 8:24,58; 13:19; 18:5).

Special Topic: Names for Deity, D.

▣ "and will mislead many" These types of warnings and terminology are common in apocalyptic literature. This shows the persuasive power of the false Messiahs and the spiritual vacuum of fallen humanity (cf. Matt. 24:11,23-26). It also shows the naivete of new believers and/or carnal Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-14).

13:7 "do not be frightened" This is a present imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in progress.

▣ "those things must take place; but that is not yet the end" Wars and earthquakes are not signs of the end, but precursors/signs present in every age (cf. Mark 13:8,10; Matt. 24:6-8). These violent natural events are not signs of the Second Coming, but of life in a fallen world (cf. John L. Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, pp. 25,28, which is a good presentation ot the Preterist Interpretation).

13:8 "there will also be famines" Some Greek manuscripts add the phrase "and troubles" (cf. MSS A, W, and NKJV). There are several other variants, but most English translations have "and famines," which is found in Matt. 24:7 and MSS א, B, and L (and MS D in a slightly different form). The parallel in Luke 21:11 has several other things listed. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

▣ "birth pangs" The full idiom is "birth pangs" of the new age (cf. Isa. 13:8; 26:17; Jer. 30:6-7; Micah 4:9-10; Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8; Acts 2:24; 1 Thess. 5:3). This reflects the Jewish belief in the intensification of evil before the new age of righteousness (cf. Mark 13:19-20 and the Book of Jubilees 23:18 along with the Apocalypse of Baruch 27-29). The Jews believed in two ages: the current evil age, characterized by sin and rebellion against God, and the "age to come." The New Age would be inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). It would be a time of righteousness and fidelity to God. Although the Jewish view was partially true, it did not take into account the two comings of the Messiah. We live in the overlapping of these two ages: the "already" and "not yet" of the kingdom of God!

Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come

÷MARK 13:9-13

 9"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."

13:9-13 This material is not paralleled in Matthew 24, but appears in Matt. 10:17-22. This shows that Jesus must have repeated these same truths on several occasions or that Matthew and Mark structured this material topically.

13:9 "be on your guard" This is a present active imperative (the same form as Mark 13:5 and 23). There is an element of personal responsibility involved in preparation for the persecution of the end-time events.

▣ "courts. . .synagogues. . .before governors and kings" "Courts and synagogues," a phrase not found in Matt. 24:9, shows both governmental and religious persecution of Christians by both Jews and Gentiles (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-16).

▣ "the courts" This is the plural form of Sanhedrin. It refers to local synagogue courts (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24).

▣ "flogged" This is literally "beaten" or "skinned" (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24). Jews whipped offenders thirty-nine times—thirteen times on the front and twenty-six times on the back in accordance with Deut. 25:1-3.

13:9,12 "for My sake" Will believers be persecuted, not for their own wickedness or civil crimes, but simply because they are Christians (cf. Matt. 5:10-16; 1 Pet. 4:12-16)?

13:10 "The gospel must first be preached to all the nations" The term "must" is the Greek dei, which implies necessity. Jesus (or Peter or Mark, all of whom are inspired) was trying to show the disciples

  1. their Gentile mission (cf. Gen. 12:3; 1 Kgs. 8:60; Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 52:10; 60:1-3; Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 11:25-27)
  2. that there would be an extended period of time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2; 2 Peter 2)

We must hold in tension the any-moment return of our Lord and the truth that some things must happen first. There is a real tension in the New Testament concerning the time of the Second Coming: imminent, delayed, or unknown.

13:11 The Spirit will always be with believers! The Spirit will empower believers amidst persecution (cf. Acts 4)! The Spirit is often identified with Jesus as the parallel in Luke 21:15 shows. This promise does not replace personal preparation for regular preaching and teaching opportunities; therefore, it is not a substitute for proper study. This is a special grace which allows believers to witness to faith in Christ in times of persecution (cf. Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12; 21:14-15).

▣ "in that hour" See Special Topic: Hour.

13:12 "brother. . .brother" Family was the heart of Jewish life, but families will be split over Christ (cf. Matt. 10:21,35-37). This is also a recurrent theme in apocalyptic writings (cf. Jubilees 23:19 and II Baruch 70:3).

13:13 "but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved" This is the doctrine of perseverance (cf. Matt. 10:22). It must be held in a dialectical tension with the doctrine of security (cf. Rev. 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21; 21:7).

Special Topic: The Need to Persevere

÷MARK 13:14-23

 14"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15the one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 17But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 19For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. 21And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance."

NASB. NKJV   "the abomination of desolation"
NRSV   "the desolating sacrilege"
TEV   "the Awful Horror"
JB   "the disastrous abomination"
Peshitta   "the sign of uncleanness and desolation"

Special Topic: The Abomination of Desolation

NASB   "standing where it should not be"
NKJV   "standing where it ought not"
NRSV, NJB   "set up where it ought not to be"
TEV   "standing in the place where he should not be"
Peshitta   "accumulating where it should not be"

The participle "standing" is perfect active accusative masculine in The Analytical Greek New Testament by Barbara and Timothy Friberg, p. 154 (cf. TEV), but perfect active accusative neuter in The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament by William D. Mounce, p.219 (cf. NASB, NRSV, NJB). If neuter, then it refers to

  1. "the abomination" (bdelugma)
  2. to Titus' army (strateuma). Matthew 24:15 adds "standing in the Holy Place" (i.e., the Holy Place of the temple), which implies the masculine gender and refers to the Roman General.

This, too, fits Titus, who set up the Roman standards (which stood for their gods) in the temple in Jerusalem.

▣ "(let the reader understand)" This means "to think about carefully" or "to consider well" (cf. 2 Tim. 2:7). This is a comment from the author of the Gospel. It apparently was meant to trigger further discussion (i.e., the Abomination of Desolation from Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) on the subject by the person reading the text aloud to a study group in a worship setting, somewhat like our modern Sunday School classes.

▣ "those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains" Eusebius, a church historian from the fourth century, records that the Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella, about twenty miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, just before the Roman siege encircled the city in a.d. 70 (cf. Hist. Eccl. 3:5:2-3).

13:15 "the one who is on the housetop" The houses had flat roofs. They were used as the place of social gathering in the hot months. It has been said that one could walk across Jerusalem on the roofs of houses. Apparently some houses were built next to the city's wall. When the army was seen, immediate flight was necessary.

13:16 "coat" This referred to the outer robe, which was also used as sleeping cover. Men working in the field would not have had this with them.

13:17 "woe" This term is used in the OT to designate judgment prophecies. It was a way of referring to a funeral dirge or lament. God's judgment on Jerusalem would affect believers as well as unbelievers (as will the Great Tribulation).

▣ "to those who are pregnant" This obviously refers to the destruction of Jerusalem only. It would have been difficult for pregnant women to flee rapidly over the wall. This has nothing to do with the Second Coming! These disciples' questions to Jesus relate to three separate issues: the destruction of Jerusalem, His Second Coming, and the end of the age. The problem is that these questions were dealt with at the same time. There is no easy verse division by topic.

13:18 "in winter" Rapid travel would have also been difficult in winter for pregnant women and little ones.

13:19 This can be viewed as

  1. the severity of the end-time persecution of believers and God's judgment on unbelievers
  2. an Oriental hyperbole

It is hard to know whether references are literal or figurative (compare Joel 2:28-32 and Peter's use of it in Acts 2, where it is not taken literally). The NT is an eastern book. They were much more accustomed to exaggerations and figures of speech than we are as modern westerners. It is never a question of taking the revelation seriously. It is a hermeneutical question of the intent of the original inspired author. To take the NT literally every time and in every place is not biblical conservatism, but improper interpretation.

This verse might be an allusion to Dan. 12:1, but with an added phrase. The elect are those whose names are in the book of life (i.e., believing Jews, the true remnant, and believing Gentiles, the mystery of God hidden, but now revealed, cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13)!

▣ "since the beginning of the creation" See Special Topic: Ktisis.

13:20 The interpretive question is to which of the three events (i.e.

  1. destruction of Jerusalem
  2. the Coming of Christ
  3. the end of the age)

does this refer? These three events are discussed in overlapping ways. There is no clear and precise verse division. It seems to me this refers to the Second Coming and the end of the age and not the destruction of Jerusalem, because the Christians fled the city before its destruction.

▣ "Unless" This is a rare second class conditional sentence called "contrary to fact." It states an incorrect premise which makes the conclusion incorrect. Literally this would imply "If the Lord had not shortened the days (which He did) no one would be saved (but they were)."

▣ "the Lord" This must refer to YHWH, not Jesus. YHWH is the One who elects/chooses (cf. Eph. 1:4).

▣ "been saved" This is the use of the term in its OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15), not spiritual salvation.

Special Topic: Salvation (OT term)

▣ "but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose" See Special Topic: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance.

▣ "He shortened the days" This phrase implies that the unchangeable God (cf. Ps. 102:26-27; Mal. 3:6) can alter His plans! His character and redemptive purposes never change, but the prayers of His people do affect Him and often alter His plans. This is mystery! But it is the essence of intercessory prayer.

Special Topic: Intercessory Prayer

Special Topic: Forty-Two Months

13:21 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

▣ "do not believe Him" This is a Present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act in process, but in this context it could not have this normal implication.

Christians need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves (cf. Matt. 10:16). Naive Christians, gullible Christians, baby Christians are all too common. We must test the spirits (cf. 1 John 4:1) to see if they are truly God's spokespersons. It is so sad to me when I hear of believers flocking to trees, screen doors, or special holy sites to see Jesus. This context is very clear! When He comes all will see Him and know Him (cf. Matt. 24:27).

The immediate context of Mark 13:14-23 refers to those escaping from Jerusalem, not to be deterred by someone claiming Christ had appeared in the city, in this place, or that.

13:22 "will show signs and wonders" These false christs will perform miracles. Be careful of always identifying the miraculous with God (cf. Exod. 7:11-12,22; Deut. 13:1ff; Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rev. 13:13-14). False believers can do miracles (cf. Matt. 7:21-23).

▣ "if possible" It seems to me that the contingency of Mark 13:22 may be contextually related to the contingency of Mark 13:20 (i.e., a second class conditional) because the elect (cf. Mark 13:20 and 22) cannot be led astray!

13:23 This was one of Jesus' ways (which reflect YHWH's predictions in the OT) of proving to His followers His control of history and redemption by foretelling upcoming events. YHWH and His Christ control time and history! Even hard times are part of His overarching redemptive plan.

÷MARK 13:24-27

 24"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven."

13:24 "But" This is a strong adversative that shows a break in context. A new time segment is being revealed.

13:24 "the sun will be darkened" This is the OT apocalyptic language of the end-time (cf. Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10; 3:15; 28:3-4; Amos 8:9; also see II Esdras 5:5; Assumption of Moses 10:5; and I Enoch 80:4-7). This is a series of OT quotes:

  1. Mark 13:24 is from Isa. 13:10
  2. Mark 13:25 is from Isa. 34:3
  3. Mark 13:26 is from Dan. 7:13

Yet this may refer to upheavals in nature as the Creator approaches (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7,10,11,12; Rom. 8:18-22). Often these apocalyptic cosmic events are used to describe the fall of governments. See D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

13:25 This is a quote from Isa. 34:4. It reflects the belief that stars are heavenly powers (cf. Jdgs. 5:20; Job 38:7). In apocalyptic literature falling stars often refer to angels (cf. Rev. 8:10; 9:1; 12:4). In the Bible angels are God's servants, but in Mesopotamian idolatry they refer to gods who control human destiny (i.e., twelve signs of the Zodiac or planet movements).

13:26 "the Son of Man coming in clouds" Jesus' humanity and deity are emphasized by the term "Son of Man" as it is used in Ps. 8:4; in its regular Jewish idiomatic sense as human being in Ezek. 2:1; and in its divine sense in Dan. 7:13 (cf. Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62 all use Dan. 7:13). The fact that this "Son of Man" rides on the clouds of heaven shows His deity (cf. Ps. 68:4; 104:3). The clouds are the transportation and covering of YHWH (the Shekinah Cloud of Glory during the wilderness wandering period of Exodus and Numbers. Jesus leaves on a cloud [cf. Acts 1:9] and returns on the clouds [cf. 1 Thess. 4:17]).

Special Topic: Coming On the Clouds

▣ "great power and glory" This shows the drastic contrast between His first coming (cf. Zech. 9:9; Isa. 53) and the Second Coming (cf. Rev. 19). This is paralleled, but in different terms, in Matt. 24:30.

13:27 "the angels" In 2 Thess. 1:7 the angels are called Jesus' angels. Usually they are called YHWH's angels (cf. Jude 14).

▣ "gather together His elect" This is OT prophetic language (cf. Deut. 30:35; Isa. 43:6; and Ps. 50:5). The exact order of these specific end-time events is uncertain. Paul taught that at death the believer is already with Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6,8). 1 Thess. 4:13-18 teaches that apparently something of our physical bodies, which were left here, will be united with our spirits at the Lord's coming. This implies a disembodied state between death and resurrection day. There is so much about the end-time events and afterlife experience that is not recorded in the Bible.

▣ "from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven" This implies a worldwide following of Jesus! It also implies a long period of time for the gospel to spread.

The number four in the Bible is symbolic of the world. It referred to the four corners of the world (Isa. 11:12), the four winds of heaven (Dan. 7:2; Zech. 2:6), and the four ends of heaven (Jer. 49:36). The elect will be gathered from wherever they are scattered.

Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture

÷MARK 13:28-32

 28"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 30Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

13:28 "the fig tree" In this parable the fig tree is apparently not a symbol of national Israel as in Mark 11:12-14, but a metaphor of believers knowing the general season, if not the specific time, of the Lord's return. The fig tree was a late bloomer. It signaled the coming of summer, not spring.

13:29 "recognize" This is either a present active indicative or a present active imperative. The last generation will understand exactly these prophetic passages. The church's problem is that every generation of believers has tried to force the prophecies into its own contemporary history and culture. So far every generation has been wrong. The church loses her credibility by all of these false predictions!

▣ "He" There is no pronoun in the Greek text. The "to be" verb can be masculine or neuter. Because of Mark 13:14, the neuter "it" fits best. If so, then this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem.

13:30 This is a strong double negative grammatical construction. It could refer to

  1. the destruction of Jerusalem
  2. the transfiguration (cf. Mark 9:1)
  3. the signs of the Second Coming

The problem is that Jesus merges all three questions (cf. Matt. 24:3) the disciples asked into one context, with no clean division between events.

13:31 "Heaven and earth will pass away" This great truth is couched in OT apocalyptic language (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7,10). God's Word will never pass away, but the physical creation which has been affected by human sin will be cleansed. This is the recurrent theme of Scripture (cf. Jos. 21:45; 23:14-15; 1 Kgs. 8:56; Isa. 40:6-8; 55:8-11; Matt. 5:17-20).

Special Topic: Heaven

13:32 "that day" This is an abbreviation of the OT phrase "the Day of the Lord" (so common in Amos and Joel). It refers to the Second Coming or a judgment day (i.e., temporal = destruction of Jerusalem or eschatological = the last judgment).

Special Topic: That Day

▣ "or hour" See Special Topic: Hour.

▣ "no one knows. . .but the Father alone" This refers to the Second Coming and the New Age, not the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus specifically addressed that generation in Mark 13:30. This is a strong verse to deter Christians from setting specific dates for the Second Coming.

Special Topic: Fatherhood of God

▣ "not even the angels in heaven" The angels are viewed as curious about God's dealing with humanity (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; Eph. 2:7; 3:10; 1 Pet. 3:12). Even though they are present with God, they do not fully understand His plans. In Christ these eternal purposes are made evident!

▣ "nor the Son" This lack of information clearly shows Jesus' true humanity. Jesus, though fully man and fully God, left part of His divine attributes in heaven when He was incarnated (cf. Phil. 2:7). The limitation was only in affect until after the ascension.

Jesus' use of the term "Son" to describe Himself reveals His self-understanding (i.e., YHWH is the Father, He is the chosen, Messianic Son). This is a rare usage of the term "Son" implying "Son of the Father" (i.e., God). Jesus often referred to Himself as "Son of Man," but this phrase would have been understood by His hearers as "human person" unless they were familiar with its specialized use in Dan. 7:13. But, Judaism did not emphasize this OT text and title.

The phrase "nor the Son" is not included in Matt. 24:36 nor in some ancient Greek uncial manuscripts אa, K, L, W. It is included in most translations because it does occur in manuscripts א, B and D, the Diatesseron, and the Greek texts known to Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and the Old Latin manuscript used by Jerome. This may have been one of the texts modified by orthodox scribes to accentuate the deity of Christ against false teachers (See Bart D. Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 91-92).

 33"Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the morning— 36in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37What I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'"

13:33 "Take heed, keep on the alert" These are present active imperatives (cf. Mark 13:5,9,23). Believers are to live in the constant hope of the Second Coming. In Mark 13:33-37 there are two different Greek terms translated "watch":

  1. blepō (Mark 13:33, cf. Gal. 6:1)
  2. grēgoreō (Mark 13:34,35,37, cf. Eph. 6:18)

In Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, vol. 1, p. 333, these words have a semantic overlap of "stay awake" or "stay alert" for #1 and "be aware of" or "watch out for" for #2.

Although the reality of the Second Coming will only be the experience of one generation, each generation lives in the constant hope of the any-moment return of the Lord. This explains why the Apostles and the early church thought the return was imminent. The 2000 year delay is surprising, but God is longsuffering and wishes that none should perish (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). He tarries so that the church may fulfill the Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8) and that the full number of believing Jews and believing Gentiles shall be gathered in (cf. Romans 11). The return is wonderful for believers, but a disaster of eternal consequences for unbelievers.

▣ ["and pray"] These words are present in many ancient Greek uncial manuscripts, including א, A, C, K, L, W, X, but are missing in B and D. They very well might be original (cf. NKJV). The UBS4, however, gives the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

▣ "the appointed time" This is not the term for chronological time chronos, which is not used in Mark, but the term for a special appointed time (kairos, cf. Mark 1:15). This refers to a major eschatological event. The question is which one: (1) the destruction of Jerusalem; (2) the appearing of the Son of Man; or (3) the beginning of the New Age? Number one occurred in a.d. 70. Number two, in one sense, has already occurred (i.e., the incarnation and life of Jesus), but in another sense, is future (i.e., the consummation of the Kingdom of God at Jesus' Second Coming). Number three, like number two, has in some sense already occurred. Believers live in the already – not yet of the New Age, the Kingdom of God (cf. Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 131-134).

13:34 "like a man away on a journey" This is common terminology for many of Jesus' parabolic teachings (cf. Mark 12:1; Matt. 21:33; 25:14; Luke 15:13; 19:12; 20:9). The issue is the time factor (cf. Mark 13:35-37). Given enough time, the true nature of people comes out. The delayed return causes people's true loyalties and priorities to manifest themselves. Matthew's Gospel expands these words in Matt. 24:42-51.

▣ "assigning to each one his task" This possibly relates to the gifts of the Spirit, listed in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; and Ephesians 4. Christians will be judged (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10), but for what? Surely not for sins, because Jesus' blood forgives all sin (cf. Hebrews 9). Possibly Christians will give an account to God for the stewardship of the gospel and the use of their spiritual gift.

NASB  "whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the morning"
NKJV  "in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning"
NRSV  "in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn"
TEV  "in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or at sunrise"
NJB  "evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn"

This wording reflects the four Roman night watches of three hours each:

  1. evening, 6 - 9 p.m.
  2. midnight, 9 p.m. - midnight
  3. cockcrow, 12:00 a.m.- 3 a.m.
  4. dawn, 3 - 6 a.m.

13:37 See note at Mark 13:33.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the basic purpose of this chapter?

2. Does Mark 13:4-7 describe the end time?

3. How is Daniel's prophecy of Mark 7-12 related to the Second Coming?

4. Why does Jesus use apocalyptic language like Mark 13:24?

5. Can believers know when the Lord will come again?

6. Is the Second Coming: imminent, delayed, or time uncertain?

7. How could Jesus not know the time of His return?

8. Do you expect Jesus' return in your lifetime? 


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