Study Notes

Mark 13:1-37

13:1-2 The Temple Destroyed

The temple was indeed gorgeous. King Herod had begun the renovation of Zerubbabel's temple around 20 BC. It wouldn't be finished until 64 AD. The stones that the temple was built of were massive - 40 feet by 20 feet. Some weighed as much as 140 tons! So it must have been strange to hear Jesus say, "Not one stone will be left upon another."

But less than 40 years later, it happened just as Jesus had said. The Roman Titus Vespasian laid siege to Jerusalem. History tells us that Titus gave orders for battering rams to bring down the western wall of the inner temple, since there were Jews holed up there protecting the house of the Lord. The Romans hit that wall for six days without making a even a dent. Then the Romans got the great idea of climbing over it with ladders. The Jews were waiting for them at the top to kill the Romans as they climbed over. Some of the ladders were even pushed backwards while they were full of soldiers! When Titus saw how many of his men were dying, he gave orders to set the temple gates on fire - this would provided them a safer entry to the temple. Once this was accomplished, Titus ordered the fire to be put out. But the Jewish historian Josephus tells us,

...One of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window... (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.249)

The entire temple burned. The untold amount of gold and silver which had covered the surfaces melted down into cracks and crevices. The Romans pulled every one of those massive stones off of one another to get to the precious metals that had melted inside. Just as Jesus had said, "Not one stone left upon another."

13:3-4 Two Questions

Four of the apostles - Peter, James, John, and Andrew - ask Jesus about these things. They believed that the destruction of the temple would signigfy the end of the age. So they ask Him, "That sounded really scary, Lord. When is this going to happen? What signs are going to happen at the fulfillment of these things?" Jesus' answer will tell them what will happen at the end of the age - the time of the Great Tribulation, but He's also going to warn them about devastating things that will happen in their lifetimes.

13:5-6 Many Will Come In My Name

Jesus first warns about the possibility of being misled by people who claim to be either from Him or He Himself. In the last 2,000 years, about 70 men have made claims to being the Messiah. It is sad that so many have followed these who claimed to be Christ. These lives could have been saved if only these people had turned to the Scriptures to confirm or disprove their claims.

13:7-8 Wars And Disasters

Jesus tells us that when the end times are near, there will be three things on the rise: wars, earthquakes, and famines. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to look at the data. This century alone has been host to World Wars I and II. Earthquakes have increased exponentially, and famine is widespread.

Now it's easy to become worked up, and then to become complacent again, because these things seem to increase and intensify, but then the seem to dwindle and diminish. But the next time, they come back even bigger and scarier... but then they subside again. But remember what Jesus likened these signs to? Birth pangs. And the patterns we're seeing are just like labor pains and contractions. They start, they stop, they come again even more intensely.

13:9-13 Christian Jews Persecuted

Jews will be persecuted for the name of Christ. When? In the end times or during the apostles' lifetimes? Both. During their lifetime, Jews that converted to Christianity were persecuted mercilessly - both by other Jews, and by the Roman governors and kings. It started on a large scale in Acts chapter 8. Paul the apostle was himself one of these persecutors (before being saved). He was...

Acts 8:3 ...ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Now this will happen with even greater intensity during the Great Tribulation. Many Jews will become Christians during that final seven years. And the world will violently persecute them, killing as many as they can. Those who actually do live through that terrible period will enter the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth.

13:14-20 The Abomination Of Desolation

Jesus tells them about the "Abomination of Desolation." That horrible happening had already occurred once in Jewish history. A man named Antiochus Epiphanes ruled Syria after the death of Alexander the Great. In 170 BC, he ordered the decimation of Jerusalem because the Jews would not worship him as Zeus. 100,000 Jewish men were killed in one day. Antiochus entered the temple, and slaughtered a pig on the altar of sacrifice, making the Levite priests eat the raw meat and drink the blood. Then he smeared the rest of the blood all over the walls of the temple.

Jesus said that the Abomination of Desolation, a historical event to them, would also happen in the future. This time, it will be the antichrist who commits it. Paul had told the Thessalonians about it, saying,

2Ths. 2:3-4 ...the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

Just as Antiochus Epiphanes did, the antichrist will defile the temple and claim to be God. We know that this will occur at the halfway point of the last seven years - 3 1/2 years into the "firm" covenant he made with the Jews.

When You See

In order for the temple to be desecrated, it needs to exist. The Jews haven't had a temple since 70 AD. But preparations are being made even now for the rebuilding of the temple - they have been for about the last ten years. At least three major groups have dedicated their lives to seeing this vision brought to fruition. There are men being trained in Y'Shevas (schools) in the rituals and sacrifices of the temple priests. There are blueprints drawn, priestly garments being manufactured, financing available, and 2/3 of the implements used in the daily operation of the Temple have been completed.

But how will people in houses and fields see the antichrist commit this horrible act? One thing that the new temple will have that the old one didn't will be closed-circuit television. No doubt that CNN will carry this event live!

Into The Wilderness

Jesus tells the Jews that when they see this event, they are to take off as fast as they can. Don't stop even for a minute to grab anything in the house. Don't turn around to grab your coat. When he commits the Abomination of Desolation, the antichrist will launch a world-wide persecution against the Jews. We read in Revelation 12 of Israel, represented by a woman, and the devil, called the serpent or the dragon...

Rev. 12:15-17 And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

The Israeli Jews will flee into the wilderness, hotly pursued by armies (described as floods) who are faithful to the antichrist. But God will supernaturally protect them.

The Jews that hide in the wilderness will wait out the last 3 1/2 years, presumably in the city of Petra. Why Petra? Petra is a city that is built in a mile-wide volcanic crater. To enter it, you must pass through a narrow canyon that ranges between just 12 and 40 feet wide.

In the Bible, Petra is known as Sela. The reason that most scholars believe that the Jews will be hiding there is because of two references in the book of Isaiah. In chapter 16, we see that there will be people fleeing, outcasts that need hiding, coming to Selah:

Isa. 16:1-4 Send the tribute lamb to the ruler of the land, from Sela by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion. Then, like fleeing birds or scattered nestlings, the daughters of Moab will be at the fords of the Arnon. Give us advice, make a decision; Cast your shadow like night at high noon; Hide the outcasts, do not betray the fugitive. Let the outcasts of Moab stay with you; Be a hiding place to them from the destroyer..."

Later, in chapter 42, we read that there will be inhabitants of Sela praising God when the Lord returns.

Isa. 42:11-13 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices, The settlements where Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing aloud, Let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, And declare His praise in the coastlands. The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.

So it fits the profile, and meets all the needs that the Jews will have during this time of terrible persecution.

Such As Has Not Occurred

Although the Judean Jews that make it to Petra will be safe, there will be plenty of Jews and new Christians that will not be. Remember in Revelation 12, we read that, seeing that he cannot catch the fleeing Jews, the antichrist will focus on destroying the Jews and Christians in other parts of the world. The world-wide persecution of God's people will make the holocaust pale in comparison.

13:21-23 Here Is The Christ

There will be subversive attempts to draw the Jews out of their hiding in Petra. People will come in, saying, "Messiah has come, and delivered us from the antichrist! Come on out! It's safe now!"

Others will claim to be the true Messiah, even showing satanic signs and wonders to "prove" their claims. But the Lord is saying "Don't believe them. You'll know when I show up." How will they know? The next verses tell us...

13:24-27 Coming In Clouds

Jesus will come in the clouds with the church, the martyred tribulation saints, and the angels. They will gather together His people that are still alive.

13:28-30 The Fig Tree Generation

It has been pointed out that Israel is represented in prophecy by a fig tree. For example,

Hosea 9:10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season...

Joel 1:6-7 For a nation has invaded my land, Mighty and without number; Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, And it has the fangs of a lioness. It has made my vine a waste, And my fig tree splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast {them} away; Their branches have become white.

The fig tree had been dead for almost 1,900 years, since 70 AD. But then when it became tender, and brought forth leaves again, we would know these things were close! Israel was rebirthed in 1948. The generation that witnessed that will see the coming of the Lord!

How many years does the Bible say is in a generation? Depending on where you're reading, a generation is between 38 and 100 years. The Lord's "deadline" could have been as early as 1986, or He could extend His wait until 2048 - just 50 years from now. Either way, we're right at the door!

13:31 Heaven And Earth Will Pass Away

After Christ reigns on earth for 1,000 years, He's going to wipe the whole thing out and start from scratch. The psalmist wrote,

Ps. 102:25-26 Of old Thou didst found the earth; And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed.

In 2Peter 3, we read,

2Pet. 3:5-13 ...The heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Again, in Isaiah 65, we read, that the Lord told Isaiah,

Isa. 65:17 "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind."

It will be consumed, destroyed, and completely forgotten. Why do we invest so much in this place?

13:32-37 Be On The Alert

So when's the Lord coming back? No one knows the day or hour except God. But we can recognize the season, and we are oh so close! He tells us to stay alert. Three times in these 7 verses He says,

Mark 13:33 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the {appointed} time is.

Mark 13:35 "...Be on the alert - for you do not know when the master of the house is coming...

Mark 13:37 "And what I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'"

Can He make Himself any clearer?

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