36 min read


Mark 13 (ESV)

The question

1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 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.” 3 And as he sat 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 about to be accomplished?”


  • Many have noted the progression of Jesus from within the temple, to leaving the temple, to sitting on the mountain opposite the temple parallels with Ezekiel 11 vision of the glory of YHWH departing the temple prior to the destruction brought about by the Babylonians.
  • It’s important not to miss the focus of the question - Jesus has just predicted that this marvelous temple complex, the revered and holy site, would be completely destroyed. They want to know when and how to be ready for it. They are primarily asking for signs to look out for so they can be ready.
  • What do you make of the question here as compared with the parallel in Matthew 24? Do the disciples connect the destruction of the Temple with end of the age and the return of Christ? Why might they do that?
    • Is there an allusion in v4 w/ συντελεῖσθαι to Dan. 9:24 and 12:7? If so, that might justify the supposition that the disciples connected the destruction of the temple with the end of the age. This would align with Matthew’s form of the question - “when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”
    • However, we shouldn’t press the disciples questions in Matthew too far. Seeing as they have had a hard time even understanding that he was to be taken away with them, we can’t presume that they would know enough eschatological timeline to ask 3 nuanced questions. More likely, the thrust of their question is “when will this destruction happen and presumably what is the sign to expect preceding your being received as Messianic king, and ushering in the age to come?”
    • The Temple is the center of their whole world and talk of the destruction of it must be the complete end and the inauguration of the age to come.
    • It does seem to me, as we’ll see, that Jesus intends to lead his disciples to draw a distinction between these two events.
  • Not one stone:
    • Luke 19:41–44 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.””
      • Isa 29:3; Jer. 6:6; Eze 4:2; 26:8
  • Mount of Olives:
    • Ezekiel 11:22–24 “Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me,”
      • Zech 14:4 -The questions:
    • Matthew 24:3 “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end (συντέλεια) of the age?””
      • Dan. 12:1-6;
    • Luke 21:7 ““Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?””

The Answer

Not Yet

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. 9 “But be on your guard. 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. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 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. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.


  • If you asked your average man on the street (or in the church foyer) what are the biggest signs that the end is near, what would they reply?
  • The disciples ask for a sign; Jesus first response are the not-signs, the things that must happen before but are not themselves harbingers of the end. “The end” in the context is most naturally the end of which the disciples were inquiring - the Temple. Even if the “end” refers to the return of Christ, the point is that these are things not to be taken in by.
  • The things not to be deceived or disturbed by:
    • False Messiahs,
    • Wars,
    • Earthquakes,
    • Famines,
    • Persecutions,
  • These things will characterized the time before the Roman war and have characterized a great part of the church age since then. These are not signs of the end but the necessary birth pains of the age to come. Do not be deceived or disturbed by them.
  • Jesus prepares his disciples for facing opposition, both formal persecution and betrayal by loved ones. They will face deception from others and temptation under persecution. - What in this text makes it clear we’re still very much focused on the disciples and the first century here?
    • v9 - councils and synagogues - these point us to a first century fulfillment because after 70AD, the councils and synagogues ceased to be operational as a vehicle of judgment
    • That we’re very much focused on the disciples here can be reinforced by the fact that Matthew’s exact parallel to v9-13 is found in Matt. 10:16-23, during his commissioning and sending of the disciples. v.23 of that passage strikingly ends with - 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. - Which we’ll come back to a little later.
  • The emphasis is that the persecution before rulers is a means of bringing the testimony of Jesus to all. It brings to mind the book of Acts, with Peter before the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, Paul in numerous places and ultimately before Festus, Herod, and to Rome to appeal to Caesar. c.f. Col 1:6 “even as the gospel is bearing fruit in all the world.” and 1:23 “the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven” and Romans 1:8 “your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world”.
    • Acts 4:1-18; 5:17-40 (synagogues); before the Sanhedrin
    • 12:1; 23:24; 24:27 (governors and kings)
  • Jesus’ teaching here is echoed throughout the NT - Do not marvel at the trial you face as this is what we are destined for, but God is with us in it, and carry out his purposes through it.
  • In v12, Jesus draws on language from Micah 7:6 in describing betrayal of loved ones. The whole passage of Micha 7:2-10 is evocative and worth reading in this context:
    • Micah 7:2-10 - The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. Then my enemy will see, and shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” My eyes will look upon her; now she will be trampled down like the mire of the streets.
    • This is the faithful servant of God standing firm in the midst of a wicked generation, praying and patiently awaiting vindication. Don’t miss the twist here - in Micah it’s the enemies of Israel who will put to shame, and the faithful Israel vindicated. In this discourse, Jesus has placed his disciples in the role of faithful Israel, and Jerusalem and the temple system in the position of Israel’s enemies - How does v12 affect the way that we understand the end of v13 - he that endures to the end will be saved?
    • v12 provides important backdrop to v13 - “Enduring to the end” may include remaining faithful even to the point of death, and the deliverance is greater than an end to the suffering. c.f. Rev. 2:10 - “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.”

To sum up v5-13: Watch out that you’re not deceived (This is not the end):

  • by False Christs
  • by Wars
  • by earthquakes and famines Watch yourselves as persecution comes (Endure to the end):
  • You will bear witness
  • You will be betrayed
  • You will be hated
  • Jer. 29:8 - Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
  • Luke 21:8 - And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.
  • 2 Chron. 15:6 - One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.
  • Isa 19:2 - “I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian— brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.
  • Micah 7:4-6 - The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion. Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.


  • Some have understood the “birth pains” here to refer to something known as the Messianic woes, a time of travail that would usher in the Messianic age. Some interpreters see here a late fulfilment of the Messianic woes, subsequent to Christ and hinted at in passages like Isa. 66:7,8

But When

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.


  • Up until now, we’ve talked about the not-signs, and warned of coming persecution, now he points to an actual sign that requires immediate action - “but when you see…” - What are the disciples to look out for?
    • For abomination of desolation, see book of Daniel (9:26-27, 11). Presumably, this speaks of the sacrilege that occurred in 167 B.C. that spurred the Maccabean revolt. Presumably, Jesus is pointing to that as an indicator of the kind of thing to look out for. The pagans are coming to defile Jerusalem, and you need to leave before that happens. Luke, who is writing to a primarily Gentile audience, interprets the significance of the sign for us - “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies.”
      • “In 168 b.c. Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtered 40,000 Jews and plundered the temple. He sacrificed a pig on the altar of burnt offering, sprinkled broth from the unclean flesh all over the holy grounds as an act of deliberate defilement. He then erected an image of Zeus above the altar. It was a sacrilege of indescribable proportions indelibly imprinted on the minds of the Jews in Jesus’ day.”
  • While previously he exhorted his disciples to endure persecution, here the command is clear, “Flee!” A disaster is coming and the moment you recognize it, get out without hesitation so as to not be consumed by it. Why the exhortation to flee in this case whereas before it was to stand and endure suffering?
    • This is not simply fleeing persecution, but an exhortation to take no part in this rebellion. The kingdom of God is not to be brought in by the sword. Jerusalem has herself become become Babylon, and the faithful were called to get our before destruction came.
    • See the inexplicable retreat of the Roman commander Cestius in the early days of the siege which provided Jewish Christians an opportunity to flee the city (if they hadn’t already).
  • in v.19, Jesus says - “For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” - How should we understand this?
    • Many people read v.19 and assume that this means we’re talking about a still future event because of how bad it sounds and worse things have happened since (although questionable). A couple important things to keep in mind:
      • We don’t appreciate how brutally terrible the war of AD67-70 really was. An immense amount of human suffering that culminated in 1.1 million people being killed during the seige of Jerusalem and the remaining 97,000 being sold into slavery. The historical descriptions left behind of that time are horrendous in the intensity and scope of disaster.
      • The language used is common in the OT for an extraordinary event. For example:
        • Exodus 11:6 - There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt - worse than there has ever been or ever will be again
        • Exod. 10:14; A plague of locusts such as never before had been nor ever will be again (compare with the locust plague in Joel 1:1-4)
        • Ezek. 5:9 - speaking of the coming Exile, God says “I will do with you what I have never done, and the like of which I will never do again.”
        • 2 Kings 18:5 - of Hezekiah, There was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him . (c.f. 2 Kings 23:25 - of Josiah - before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart… nor did any like him arise after him)
  • Is v20 truly universal in scope (no human flesh would remain), or specific to the Jewish race (hence “for the sake of the elect”)?
    • Likely the best understanding is that the without cutting short the days, all the Jews would have perished in the brutal war but the days were cut short for the sake of the elect Christians who has fled.
    • On the historical testimony to an early cutting short of the days -
      • the city of Jerusalem was equipped with tower fortifications that were considered all but impenetrable. It was only due to in-fighting among zealot groups that resulted in the towers being abandoned and the Romans able to successfully enter the city. Josephus says: “They did wholly deprive themselves of the security they had in their own power, and came down from those very towers of their own accord, wherein they could never have been taken by force… They left those towers of themselves; or rather they were ejected out of them by God himself…The Romans when they had gotten on the last wall without any bloodshed, could hardly believe what they found to be true.” The Roman general Titus himself said: “We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than God that ejected the Jews out of their fortifications; for what could the hands of men, or any machines, do towards overthrowing these towers!” As a result, the actual siege lasted only 5 months.
  • At this point, in the midst of great upheaval, the danger of deception is high and many claiming a false path of deliverance. As Matthew points out, Christ’s coming in glory will not happen in secret or need anyone to tell you to go here or there, but will be seen by all. There is not going to be a new Maccabean deliverance with Christ leading the charge. Don’t fall for it.
    • (time permitting) It’s worth recounting this extended passage from the historian Josephus, which recounts one of these moments of false prophet late in the seige of Jerusalem, as well as some fascinating accounts of signs and portents that also sequeu nicely with the discussion in our next section: “A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get up upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. (286) Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose upon the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God: and this was in order to keep them from deserting, and that they might be buoyed up above fear and care by such hopes. (287) Now, a man that is in adversity does easily comply with such promises; for when such a seducer makes him believe that he shall be delivered from those miseries which oppress him, then it is that the patient is full of hopes of such deliverance. (288) Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend, nor give credit, to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see, or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. (289) Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. (290) Thus also, before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which light lasted for half an hour. (291) This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. (292) At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. (293) Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. (294) Now, those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it: who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty, was able to shut the gate again. (295) This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. (296) So these publicly declared, that this signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the twenty-first day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], (297) a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, (298) and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen (299) running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, (300) and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.” But, what is still more terrible there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for everyone to make tabernacles to God in the temple, (301) began on a sudden cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. (302) However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say anything for himself, or anything peculiar to those that chastised him, but still he went on with the same words which he cried before. (303) Hereupon our rulers supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator; (304) where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet did he not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” (305) And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him who he was, and whence he came, and why he uttered such words; he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. (306) Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe, to Jerusalem!” (307) Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. (308) This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; (309) for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe, to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last,—“Woe, woe, to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages, he gave up the ghost.”
  • While up to this point, the message is clearly focused on the destruction of the temple, what comes next has caused considerably more debate.
  • Abomination of desolation:
    • Dan. 9:27 - And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
    • Dan 11:31 - Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.
  • Judgment against Israel:
    • Mt. 22:2-10 - “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
    • Mt. 23:29-36 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Coming on the Clouds

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.


  • Why do most people assume that when we get to v.24 that we’ve transitioned from talking about the destruction of Jerusalem to talking about the second coming of Christ?
    • A lot of people assume that v.24 jumps straight to the end and the second coming of Christ. This is because when read in a woodenly literal fashion, such a cosmic upheaval could mean nothing less than the end of the world. However, Jesus is again using language that is drawn directly from the OT prophets when speaking of judgment against the existing order - our our idiom, the world turned upside down -
      • Isaiah 13:10 (of Babylon) - For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.
      • Isaiah 34:4 (of Edom) - All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.
      • Jer. 4:23-25 (of Israel) - I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
      • Ezekiel 32:7 (of Egypt) - When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.
      • Amos 8:9 (Northern Kingdom) - “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
      • Joel 2:10 (Judah) - The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The other difficulty is that Jesus explicitly and temporally ties this event to the destruction of Jerusalem, with the phrase “in those days, after that tribulation.” Matthew goes one step further and makes it “immediately after the tribulation of those days...” Based on those two factors, it seems right to conclude that what is being described in vv.24-25 is nothing less than the destruction of the Temple itself and the final overturning of the old covenant order.
  • Now, it’s possible that, depending on how you come to read v.26-27, that the tumult in v.24-25 extends to cover the rising and falling of kingdoms and the ensuing tumults throughout the church age. Regardless, given Jesus’ language it cannot NOT be referring to the upheaval coming upon Jerusalem and the Temple.
  • v.26 poses a greater difficulty. On the one hand, some people understand the language as describing visible return of Christ to earth. On the other hand, we again have an OT reference that others argue could possible point us in a different direction - Dan. 7:13-14 -
  • Let’s talk through 3 ways this is read:
    • Some have described this as a coming of Christ in judgment. See, for example, Isa 19 describing the Lord riding on a swift cloud in judgment against Egypt. Also, Jesus to the churches in Rev. 2-3:
      • Rev. 2:5 where Jesus says to the church at Ephesus “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent”
      • Rev. 2:16 where he says to Pergamum repent or “I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth”
      • Rev. 3:3 where he says to Laodicea, “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you”
    • Others have described this as a demonstration of Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of the Father. The fulfilment of his words in the destruction of Jerusalem shows that he is indeed the Son of Man in glory. Often Dan. 7:13-14 is cited in favor of this, where it shows the coming of the Son of Man as a coming to the throne of the Father to receive a kingdom. See also Jesus’ response to the high priest in Mark 14:62, which draws on the same passage “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
      • Wright, JVG - “(In Mark 14) Jesus is not . . . suggesting that Caiaphas will witness the end of the space-time order. Nor will he look out of the window one day and observe a human figure flying downwards on a cloud. It is absurd to imagine either Jesus, or Mark, or anyone in between, supposing the words to mean that. Caiaphas will witness the strange events that follow Jesus’ crucifixion: the rise of a group of disciples claiming that he has been raised from the dead, and the events which accelerate towards the final clash with Rome, in which . . . Jesus will be vindicated as a true prophet. In and through it all, Caiaphas will witness events which show that Jesus was not, after all, mistaken in his claim, hitherto implicit, now at last explicit: he is the Messiah, the anointed one, the true representative of the people of Israel, the one in and through whom the covenant God is acting to set up his kingdom”
      • Likewise for this passage, the fulfillment of the judgment against Jerusalem would vindicate Jesus as a true Messiah.
    • Still others have described this as a case of prophetic time horizon, where two events are described together even though there is a long time between them. The generic “and then” at the start of v.26 does provide a grammatical opening for that interpretation, unlike the temporally locked verbiage of v.24-25. Matthew’s version also includes and allusion Zech 12:12 - “all the tribes of the land will mourn” which could further be understood as a reference to 70AD.
    • France - “All the tribes of the earth is better translated ‘all the tribes (families) of the land’, for in Zechariah 12:10-14 the mourning is explicitly restricted to the families of Israel. What is in view here, then, is not so much a world-wide lamentation, but the response of Israel when they see the vindication of ‘him whom they pierced”
  • The same interpretive decision applies in v.27.
    • Some understand this as a reference to messengers gathering the elect from the nations (e.g. the great commission / spiritual return from exile).
      • For the language of the gather from the four winds and return from exile, see Deut. 30:4, Zech. 2:6
        • Deut 30 - return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it.
        • Note: “The LXX of v. 4 renders the Hebrew biqtse hashamayim, lit. ‘among the ends of the heavens’, as apʾ akrou tou ouranou heos akrou tou ouranou, ‘from the end of heaven to the end of heaven’, which is echoed more or less exactly in Mt. 24:31b, apʾ akron ouranon heos ton akron auton, and modified only slightly in Mk. 13:27b, apʾ akrou ges heos akrou ouranou (‘from the end of earth to the end of heaven’). This, in other words, suggests strongly that the Mk. passage refers, not to a ‘supernatural’ or ‘heavenly’ event, but to this-worldly activity.”
      • See the parable of the wedding feast in Mt. 22:2-10, and note the similarities - the kings servants are persecuted, the king comes and destroys their city, and then he sends out servants to gather guests from all around.
    • Others see a literal gathering of the elect at the end of the age by angels (c.f. 2 Thess 2).
  • There is also the possibility that we see here a near and far fulfillment and both are true. AD70 was a coming of Jesus in judgment, and was a vindication of him as a prophet and the reigning Messiah. Likewise, we know from many other passages to expect the Lord’s visible and glorious return, and described in language that is similar sounding to this.
  • Dan 7:13-14 - “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

This Generation and That Day

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”


  • Verse 30 represents possibly the strongest exegetical challenge to any interpretation of v.1-27 that is awaiting future fulfillment. Jesus stakes his reputation as a prophet on a fulfillment in “this generation.” There have been a lot of creative interpretations that try to understand “generation” in some way other than “the generation of people we are living in” but they all strain credulity and fall flat.
  • On the relationship between v30 & v32, two ways to read that:
    • v30 means we know that the events will take place within a generation, but v32 means no one knows exactly when it will be.
    • Alternatively, v30 speaks of the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem (“all these things”), whereas v32 speaks of the second coming itself (“that day”). Of the first, Jesus knows the timeline and the disciples can read the signs to know that it is near, but of the second no one knows and hence the call to stay awake and be ready.
  • Some take “all these things” to refer to everything in v3-27, and “that day” to refer to the previously unreferenced (except maybe in Matthew’s account) second coming and last judgment.
    • c.f. the many references to the coming of the Lord and the final judgment as “that day” almost as a technical term. Matt. 7:22; Luke 10:12; 17:31; 21:34; 2Thess 1:10; 2Time 1:12, 18; 4:8
  • What is the “it is near” in v29? It seems, in the context of Mark’s gospel, that he is referring to either the kingdom of God or the destruction of Jerusalem.

How to we apply this passage?


  1. Jesus Christ is a true prophet and his words and ministry are vindicated by their fulfillment - they are striking in their accurate fulfillment, but it is spoken in OT prophet language and not in any kind of detailed description that might lead one to believe that it was written after the fact.
  2. Jesus is the glorified Son of Man, who reigns right now at the right hand of God the Father - all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him. The rise and fall of nations is very much under his sovereign control. That applies every bit today as it did during AD70.


  3. We should always be watchful, as there remains nothing more to look for before the return of our Lord. He will return in a fashion that will be unmistakable to all, and will come without warning. All of the prerequisite things preceding his coming have come to pass. But,
  4. We should not presume to have any idea as to the timing of the Lord’s return. It may be tonight, or it may be another 1000 years. If Mark 13:32 tells us anything, it should tell us to be humble about this.
  5. We should not be led astray by disasters natural or human, to suppose that the world is coming to an end, or lose heart in the face of persecution and opposition. These are but the birth pains of the Messianic age. We must not be, as Luke describes, “People who faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world.”