Olivet Discourse: Mark Chapter 13
The Gospel according to Mark provides a condensed view of the events compared to the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It also presents Christ as the “servant” that transcends any cultural issues, and the words penned in this short book are penetrating to the hardest of people. Though Mark was not one of the 12 named disciples, he was among them, and in this gospel it is thought that he is presenting the word that was revealed to Peter.
In examining this chapter in Mark, recall the prophesy given in Daniel 9:26. That passage in Daniel prophesied the rejection of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. There is a short span of time, approximately 40 years between the writing of this gospel and the destruction of Jerusalem. So when the Lord's disciples remarked on the grandeur of the temple, it was before the Lord's crucifixion and decades before the complete fulfillment of Daniel 9:26. As the Lord taught the disciples on the Mount of Olives, he was describing future events that not only included Daniel 9:26, but also the events described in Daniel 9:27 which is separated by millennia with the previous verse. The events in Daniel 9:27 are yet to be fulfilled. However, in current world conditions it is no longer a question of how all these events could occur, but when will they occur.
The time when the disciples asked their questions occurred after the events recorded in Matthew 23:1-39. The events in that chapter describe a very condemning dialog between the Lord and the Pharisees, in which they refused to acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah. Following that dialog, the Lord pronounces seven woes: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! …” These are the last few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry prior to the cross and the Lord's lament over the city of Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37-38.
In Mark 13:1-2, as the Lord and His disciples were leaving the temple on their way to the Mount of Olives, the disciples remarked on the physical structure and construction of the temple. The Lord's response was very stark, and prophesied its destruction, as well as the totality of the destruction. This was consistent with the words that Daniel recorded concerning the destruction of the temple, Daniel 9:26, and was literally fulfilled! Examine pictures of the temple mount today and you will only see the retaining walls, not one stone from the temple in Jesus's day was left on top of the temple mount. Only the Mosque of Omar (or the Dome of the Rock) exists, which was built between 687 and 691 A.D. This was after the destruction of Jerusalem and its sanctuary by Titus in 70 A.D.
Mark 13:3-4 is the beginning of the Olivet Discourse. Only Peter, James, John, and Andrew are identified to ask the questions of Jesus privately. Mark only records two questions:
- When shall these things be
- What shall be the signs when these things shall be fulfilled
Matthew records three questions, with the second question being broadened into two questions that are nearly the same question, but can be separated out to describe two events. The second and third questions in Matthew are:
- What will be the sign of the return of Jesus Matthew 24:3
- (What will be the sign of ...) and the end of the age, Matthew 24:3
In Mark 13:5-8, the Lord provides an outline of events that lead up to the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. There are two parts to the beginning of His discourse on the end times while he sat on the Mount of Olives; the first is the warning concerning deception of false Christ's, and the second was on wars and the rumors of wars.
Mark 13:5-6 provides the warning by the Lord about the deception of false Christ's. One can easily wander through the pages of newspapers or periodicals, or search through the Internet and discover who or what would constitute the basis of what Jesus is warning us about. The threat against the church through apostate teachings, or blatant affronts to the basic tenets of Christianity are already evident and unfortunately prevalent. Too many men and women in leadership positions across the world put their own interests and reasoning ahead of the simple truth revealed in the Bible. This is not new, for even these warnings are also found in the epistles by Paul, Peter, John, and Jude, which all espoused the same warning against those who would teach false doctrine and lead many astray. The difference from then to now are the wrapping of these errors in teaching and proclamations of deity into the great marketing schemes available today, and then communicating these lies across the mass media outlets hitting every niche in the world. A person not versed in the Bible, or having ever been born again as the Lord instructed Nicodemus in John 3:1-21, will not be able to discern the truth concerning these matters, 1Corinthians 2:14-16, and may follow after false doctrines that lead only to suffering and death, 2Timothy 4:1-4.
In Mark 13:7-8, the Lord adds more to the list, but He tells the believer in Christ not to be troubled. These other events are:
- Hear of wars and rumors of wars
- Nation rising against nation
- Kingdom against kingdom
- Earthquakes in various places
- Famines and troubles (or pestilences in Matthew)
All of these things were not unknown during the days of the Lord's first ministry, nor in the history prior to that time. The world has never known an extended time of peace, and never will until the Prince of Peace appears and establishes His millennial rule, Isaiah 9:6-7. What would differentiate all past occurrences to those leading up to the seven years of tribulation is the frequency, intensity and the geographic extent of these horrible events. The climax of all these things will be during the seven years of tribulation, with the peak in the latter half of the seven years of tribulation. These events and temporal extent that lead up to the tribulation can be viewed in the timelines for Mark chapter 13 on this web site.
To aid the reader on the relevance of this information for today, consider how the terms used in these passages can be easily attributable to what our world is experiencing. The word "nations" in the Greek can be rendered as ethnic groups. It would not take much to link this with what we are now experiencing on a worldwide scale with Islamic radicals rising against Israel and the U.S. today. These are not nations per-se, such as Islamic countries taking direct arms against the United States and its allies, but Islamic radicals who know no geo-political boundaries. Contrariwise, kingdoms can be rendered as countries where people identified with a leader or ruler within geo-political boundaries who do rise against another of a similar nature upon the direction of that leader or ruler.
An excellent study tool when reading the Bible is the website, blueletterbible.org. There the reader can look up individual passages in the Bible and search for the usage and meanings for Greek and Hebrew words found in the Bible. Since almost every site is refreshed from time to time, and their internal links are not necessarily preserved, the reader is pointed to the site to conduct their own investigations and study, rather than providing a direct link. However, the links that are provided do work at the time of this writing.
There are three words to focus on from the blueletterbible.org.org site to better understand the meaning in the Greek word, than to simply overlay today's usage of the word or term. These three words in Mark 13:8 are "nations", "kingdoms", and "sorrows". The Greek word in this verse, which has been interpreted as nations, is ethnos. There are several meaning applied to this word used in this verse that the blueletterbible.org site provides: 1) a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together as: a) a company, troop, swarm 2) a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus a) the human family 3) a tribe, nation, people group 4) in the OT, foreign nations not worshipping the true God, pagans, Gentiles 5) Paul uses the term for Gentile Christians (Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for ethnos (Strong's 1484)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008).
The Greek word in this verse that was interpreted as kingdoms, is basileia. The meaning applied to this verse that the blueletterbible.org site provides are: 1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah's kingdom 2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king 3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah (Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for basileia (Strong's 932)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008).
The third Greek word being highlighted by this site in Mark 13:8 is sorrows, which in the Greek is odin. The meanings to this word found in the blueletterbible.org site are: 1) the pain of childbirth, travail pain, birth pangs 2) intolerable anguish, in reference to the dire calamities precede the advent of the Messiah Blue Letter Bible (Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for odin (Strong's 5604)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008).
Simple graphics to illustrate the buildup of these events to the tribulation are provided on the timelines for Mark chapter 13.
Mark 13:9 is probably a dividing verse from those events leading up to the seven years of the tribulation, and the actual events and characterization of the times during the tribulation. In Mark 13:9-11, the Lord refers to this time for His saints as great suffering, and the tribulation saints will be brought before kings. Their suffering, as is experienced today by many Christians in a great number of regions in the world today, will be similar to what the Apostle Paul experienced in Acts 9:15-16. This suffering was spoken of in Daniel 12:10, and in Revelation 6:9-11, Revelation 12:13-17, Revelation 17:3-6. More information is provided on this web site concerning the tribulation and the impacts during that time on the tribulation saints. As desperate as those times will be, the tribulation saints will be preserved by the Lord. They are not to plan ahead on what they will say when brought before those in governmental positions, but they are to rely on the Holy Spirit who will fill them and inspire them with what they are to say.
In Mark 13:12-13, the Lord indicates that there is a complete breakdown of the family. Also the saints will be hated by all men because of their belief in Christ, and the maintenance of their testimony that they hold, Revelation 6:9. The essence of the family will be destroyed, and family member will betray another member’s faith in Christ. For those who endure to the end of the tribulation period, there will be great blessing for them, as shown in Daniel 12:12 and Revelation 20:4.
Mark 13:14-18 describes the singular event that marks the midpoint of the seven years of tribulation; the erection of the Antichrist's image in the holy place of the tribulation temple. This is the temple that will be fully functional for the sacrificial worship to God according to the law given to Moses, and is described in Revelation 11:1-2, and on this site for a discussion on these verses, Revelation chapter 11, and the timelines for Revelation chapter 11. Much as been described as well in the sections in the web site on Daniel chapter 7, Daniel chapter 9 and Daniel chapter 9 timelines, and Daniel chapter 11 through Daniel chapter 12, with emphasis on the Daniel chapter 12 timelines. This will be a pivotal time in man's history on this earth, when satanic evil will run rampant throughout the world, resulting in catastrophic death and destruction. It is only because of the Lord's judgments that there will be an end to that madness, and all things will be restored during the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For the Jews living in Jerusalem and in Israel, upon seeing or hearing of this desecration, they will finally understand what the Lord is referring to in these passages. They will accept that Daniel was indeed a prophet, and based on the prophecies in his book and among the other prophets in the Old Testament, they will turn completely toward the Lord and seek Him for their salvation. After this desecration, will come the desolation of the temple that will remain for the remainder of the tribulation period, until the final judgment of the Lord with the pouring out of the seventh and final bowl judgment, Revelation 16:17-21.
The warning to all the Jews living in the land upon the initiation of this event is to flee immediately to the mountains. More is written about this in this site on Revelation chapter 12 where the gathering point for all the evacuees is speculated to be the ancient city of Petra. The warning of the Lord is adamant. The people are to flee from the point they are when they learn of the desecration of the temple. They are not to return to their homes to get anything, but to flee to the mountains. There are three woes that the Lord addresses for those people at that time, for those women who are pregnant, the women who are nursing, and for all the people that it would not be winter when those days fall upon them. In Matthew 24:20, there is the additional concern that the flight would not also be on the Sabbath day. Nothing can compare in that day to any other time in man's history concerning the onslaught of terror and evil that will fall upon any of those who remain behind, and for those who continue to remain faithful to the Lord. This will be the time of great tribulation. See the accompanying timelines on the associated page on Mark chapter 13 timelines.
Continuing from the previous verses, Mark 13:19-20 is the time described by the Lord as the great tribulation, which is the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation. Those days are described by the Lord as being the worst time that the world will have ever known. This characterization of those days is the same as the prophecy given in Daniel 12:1. The shortened days are not shorter than given in Daniel 12:7, Daniel 12:11-12, nor in Revelation. The judgment of the world deserved much worse, but for the elect's sake, God shortened the judgment period to the 1,260 days, or times, time and half a time.
In Mark 13:21-23, the Lord repeats the warning, but this time to those living in those perilous times. The first warning was directed to those in Jesus's day and was repeated by the apostles to the church. In these passages, the repeated warning is directed to the tribulation saint concerning false Christ's, false teachings, and apostasies. The time will be so grave, with the subtle deceptions of Satan, the Antichrist and the false prophet who will perform many signs and wonders, that the temptation will be great to fall from the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Revelation 13:11-18. The comfort to the saints is that Jesus tells us to take heed, as He has foretold us all the things that we need to know to be prepared.
Mark 13:24-25 covers the end of the end of the seven years of the tribulation, and the severe condition of the earth at that time as a result of man's rebellion and sin. The depressed physical conditions of the earth consists of:
- The sun being darkened
- The moon will not be visible on earth
- Meteors and other objects from space will collide with earth
- Even the orbits and natural laws of gravity and motion will be disturbed
The whole of creation will be adversely affected by all that Satan has inflicted upon mankind and earth. Only the Lord can set things right upon His return. To see the potential impact just on the worlds' population, see the page on this site on the compressed view on the tribulation.
In Mark 13:26-27, the time of the Lord's return in all His glory is described. This is the time when several events occur nearly simultaneously, the pouring of the last bowl judgment, Revelation 16:17-21, the return of Christ, Revelation 19:11-16, the battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:17-19, the Antichrist and false prophet being thrown into the lake of fire, Revelation 19:20, Satan being bound and thrown into the bottomless pit, Revelation 20:1-3, and the utter destruction of all the Antichrist's military forces, Revelation 19:21. In these two verses in Mark 13:26-27, the Lord reveals that He will return to the earth in the clouds just as He will do when He raptures the church unto Himself in the clouds. However, on this occasion of the Lord's return, He will place His feet on earth and His presence will be witnessed by the entire globe, Revelation 19, 2Thessalonians 2:8. The Lord will then gather His entire elect on earth and heaven to share in His kingdom, Daniel 7:27, Revelation 20:1-15. When Mark writes in Mark 13:27 concerning heaven, it is important to fully comprehend the nature of the verse, and how it relates to the rapture. As indicated on this webpage, in the section on two resurrections, there are several parts to the first rapture:
- The Lord is the first fruits of the resurrection
- Some of the saints were raptured with the Lord to be the first fruits presented to the father
- The rapture of the church and resurrection of the saints in the church age
- The resurrection of the two witnesses
- The resurrection of the slain tribulation saints
- The resurrection of the Old Testament saints
The focus in Mark 13:27 is the resurrection of the Old Testament saints, Daniel 12:1-3. Only the first five in the list of the part of the first rapture would have been resurrected, only the Old Testament saints are left to be resurrected, following the end of the seven years of tribulation, following the battle of Armageddon. Also, as described in this web page on Matthew chapter 24:40-42, concerning the gathering of the saints from around the world, they are the surviving tribulation saints. However, when Mark comments about sending out the angels to gather the elect from the four winds and the uttermost of the earth, he also comments about the uttermost part of heaven. The only group not to be resurrected at that time are the Old Testament saints. They were taken up to be present with the Lord after the Lord's resurrection and are awaiting their time when they can return to enjoy all the promises that the Lord had made through Abraham, Moses, David, and with the Nation. They will return to enjoy the fruits of the land forever.
In Mark 13:28-29, the Lord provides a parable to help the disciples and all of the saints during the church age, to understand the season when these things will happen, and to encourage us to watch. The fig tree is the object used by the Lord in this parable to represent Israel, and has a compound representation. Within the context of the previous verses, the fig tree represents the time when the things concerning the great tribulation Jesus just expounded upon will begin. An important reference for the reader to understand is that the portion of the verse that talks about knowing that summer is near, when one sees the tender branches and the shooting of leaves. This is indicative of the rebirth of Israel, as shown in Ezekiel 37, see the webpage on this site on Ezekiel chapter 37 for more information. A similar allegory is used in Revelation 6:12-17 with the opening of the sixth seal, and the description of the end of the great tribulation being related to the time that the late figs fall with the blowing of a strong wind. Again the subject is Israel, and the condition of the tree and its fruit is indicative of the time relative to the tribulation. The former is before the tribulation, and the regathering and establishment of Israel, and the latter reference is indicative of the end of the tribulation, see the Mark chapter 13 timeline for more information.
There are several references in scripture to support having the fig tree represent the nation of Israel, though there is not complete agreement with making this association. In Jeremiah 24:1-10, two baskets are used to represent Israel, the good figs represented the Jews who were carried off to Babylon for their 70 year exile, but the poor figs represented the survivors of Israel who either remained in the land or fled to Egypt. Then there is the curse of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14, which occurred the day after the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem. This occurred as the Lord left Bethany on His way to Jerusalem, though it was not the season for the figs. It is then recorded in Mark 11:15-19 that Jesus cleansed the temple the second time. Then in Mark 11:20-27, upon returning to Jerusalem on the third day, Peter observed the condition of the fig tree and remarked to the Lord that it had dried up. The Lord's response to Peter was to have faith in God. He then expounded further on what that faith in God could accomplish, if they only believe. This is not a cart blanche for asking and receiving, but having faith in God to accomplish the things of God and His will. This tree that was cursed then represents the spiritual state of Israel that the Lord found to exist. It was also indicative that while in this state, they would soon reject their Lord and King, and they were unfruitful. There is a strong correlation between these events in Christ's day during His first advent, and the physical and spiritual progress in the condition of Israel as revealed in Ezekiel 37, see the webpage on this site on Ezekiel chapter 37 for more information. Finally, in Mark 11:28-33, the chief priests and teachers of the law, and elders challenged Jesus concerning His authority to cleanse the temple the day before. That authority was demonstrated to his disciples via the fig tree.
Mark 13:30-32 provides the fulfillment of the Lord’s words. In Mark 13:30, the Lord makes the connection between the physical condition of Israel with the beginning of the tribulation and the generation that sees Israel reform, and witness these events unfold. Then in Mark 13:31, the Lord assures His disciples and us that His words will not pass away unfulfilled, and is a matter of surety. It is not whether these things will come to pass, but whether they are being interpreted properly. Finally, in Mark 13:32, the Lord warns that no man knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s return, and neither does the Lord or the angels know, only the Father in heaven who has set the times and the seasons, reference Geneses 1:14-19, Daniel 2:20-23, Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel 7:13-14, 1Thessalonians 5:1-3, and Acts 1:6-7.
Lastly, in Mark 13:30 the Lord gives authority to His church during the period of time between His first and second advents, and charges us, His church made up of both Jews and Gentiles, to watch. This forms a basis of the teaching of the Lord's eminent return to call His church unto Himself. This is seen through the story the Lord gave concerning the man leaving his house for a time, and giving his servants authority and work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. As with the fig tree, this also has duel applications. First, to His church and the waiting for the Lord’s glorious appearing before the tribulation period Titus 2:11-15, and second to the tribulation saints who are waiting on the 2nd advent of Christ Revelation 16:15.