Mark 13:1-37

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

February 14, 2013


1.      I went back and counted this week and discovered that this is our 38th session in our journey through Mark.  Since we have completed 12 chapters in this journey, that means we have spent an average of just over three sessions to cover each chapter.  However, in this session we are going to cover an entire chapter in a single session.

2.      Without question Mark 13 by far most difficult chapter in Mark's gospel.  And along with parallel passages in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, this is one of most difficult parts of New Testament to interpret.  This body of material referred to by New Testament scholars as Jesus' Olivet Discourse.  That's because spoke these words while sitting on the Mt. of Olives just to the east of Jerusalem. 


The Setting (13:1-2)

It is important to understand setting of this portion of Mark.  I believe Jesus spoke these words late in day on Tuesday of Holy Week or Passion Week.  He had spent the entire day Tuesday in conflict with religious leaders of Jerusalem.  He had endured their questions and then exposed them as hypocrites and blind guides.  These confrontations had taken place within the Temple complex (see Mark 11:27)


Verse 1

“…going out of the temple…”[SLIDE 1] The Jerusalem temple (not fully completed until ca. a.d. 64) was built by the Herodian dynasty to win Jewish favor and to create a lasting Herodian monument. It was considered an architectural wonder of the ancient world. It was built with large white stones, polished and generously decorated with gold (Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 15. 11. 3-7). It covered about 1/6 of the land area of old Jerusalem. To the Jews nothing was as magnificent and formidable as their temple.[1]  The word for temple Mark uses is hieron, which refers to the entire temple complex. [SLIDE 2]


“…one of His disciples…” – Matthew’s account just says the disciples made this statement, but Mark points to a specific disciple, perhaps Peter, since he was more than likely the main source for Mark’s Gospel.


“…wonderful stones…wonderful buildings…” – More literally, huge stones and huge buildings.  Josephus tells us Herod the Great used huge polished limestones … that were native to this area. They were 25 × 8 × 12 cubits (cf. Antiquities 15:11:3). Stones of similar shape and material are still visible at the wailing wall in Jerusalem.[2] [SLIDE 3]

Verse 2 – Jesus response no doubt shocked the disciples.  The grammatical construction of His statement is unique.  Jesus used two double negatives which makes the statement extremely strong.  Literally He said, “No, not one stone will not be left that will not be torn down.” 


      This prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when Titus, the Roman General, ordered his soldiers to demolish the city of Jerusalem, leveling all of the buildings, including the Temple complex.  To this day the evidence of that destruction can be seen at the base of the western retaining wall of the Temple.  [SLIDES 4 & 5]


The Disciples’ Question (13:3-4)

Verse 3

“…sitting on the Mt. of Olives…” [SLIDES 6] As Jesus left the Temple area, He passed through Kidron Valley just outside wall of Temple complex.  He then walked up Mt. of Olives east of the Temple complex.  This ridge which is about 2.5 miles in length, rises 300 to 400 feet above Jerusalem.  From the Mt. of Olives one gets a magnificent view of the Temple mount.  Apparently, they sat down for moment to rest and view the city. [SLIDES 7 & 8]


“…Peter and James and John and Andrew…” – This detail is unique to Mark, perhaps because of Peter’s memory of the event.


Verse 4 – The key to understanding Mark 13 is understanding the question the disciples asked in this verse.  Matthew's account makes the question a little clearer than Mark. Matthew 24:3 puts the question this way: "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"  While they didn't intend to do so, the disciples really asked two questions--When will your prophecy concerning destruction of Temple be fulfilled?  And what are the signs of Your coming at end of age?  In their minds those two events were tied together.  They could not conceive of the Temple being destroyed unless it was end of time.


However, from our perspective we know those are two different events.  The prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Romans looted and burned Jerusalem and tore the Temple apart stone by stone.  And, of course, the Lord's return to this world and the end of the age has yet to occur.



In the remainder of Mark 13 I believe Jesus is responding to both of those questions.  In my opinion--

·         Verses 5-23 deal with the events leading up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D...

·         Verses 24-27 refer to the Lord's return to our world at the end of the age...

·         Verses 28-37 contain some parables and warnings related to being prepared for either event...


Events leading up to the destruction of the Temple (13:5-23)


Verse 5 “See to it that no one misleads you…”  This seems to be the main theme of this section.  Interspersed throughout this section are some things that have the potential of being used to mislead God’s people.


·         False teachers – False teachers will come...just fact of life in this world...Pointed out in v.6 that as the times became more and more perilous many false leaders will come claiming to be the Messiah...but tells them in vv.21-22 not to believe those false teachers...

·         Social upheaval – Social upheaval will come...just fact of life in this world...In v.7 mentions "wars and rumors of wars" and in v.8 mentions that "nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom…"

·         Natural disasters - Natural disasters will come...just fact of life in this world...Also in v.8 says "there will be earthquakes in various places"...

·         Economic problems – Verse 8 says “…there will be famines…”  Reference to times in human history when the economic conditions are so poor, the survival of those caught up in the situation is at question.

·         Persecution – Verses 9-13 give an accurate description of what Christians began to experience in the days just before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.  After the great fire in Rome in 65 AD, Nero blamed the fire on Christians and a terrible persecution against Christians began to spread across the Roman Empire.


"...the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved." – It is important to understand this phrase does and does not mean.  It does not mean if saved and then stop enduring a person is no longer saved.  Our salvation not conditional on what we do but on what God in Christ has done for us.  However, does mean, if we are truly saved, we will endure to the end.  One mark of a true Christian is the ability to keep on keeping on....someon has said that the Christian life is not a sprint; it is a marathon...true believers keep on going...through persecution...through disappointment...through discouragement... through the Energizer bunny, we just keep going and going...


In I John 2:19 said this about those who claimed to be Christians but dropped out along the way..."They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us."  In almost anything we do, how we finish is as important or perhaps more important than how we begin... should be our prayer as Christians that we will persevere and finish well...


What is Jesus’ point in mentioning these things?  It is that these are the very things that unscrupulous teachers have used to manipulate and mislead people in every generation.  Every generation has had those who take the events of contemporary history and tried to see in them eschatological significance.  A good example of that is how every generation seems to find a unique way to prove that some prominent international figure is the antichrist, from Adolf Hitler to Henry Kissinger.


Verses 14-23 provide a picture of how difficult things will become when the Romans conquer and destroy Jerusalem.

“…abomination of desolation…" This is a phrase taken from the prophecy of Daniel.  Historically, the first fulfillment of Daniel’s prophetic use of the expression (Dan. 11:31-32) was the desecration of the temple in 167 b.c. by the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. He erected an altar to the pagan Greek god Zeus over the altar of burnt offering and sacrificed a pig on it (cf. apocryphal 1 Maccabees 1:41-64; 6:7; and Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 12. 5. 4).  Jesus’ use of “the abomination of desolation” referred to another fulfillment—the temple’s desecration and destruction in a.d. 70.[3]


The return of Christ (13:24-27)


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) v. 24 is from Isa. 13:10; (2) v. 25 is from Isa. 34:3; and (3) v. 26 is from Dan. 7:13. Yet this may refer to upheavals in nature as the Creator approaches (cf. II Pet. 3:7, 10, 11, 12; Rom. 8:18–22).[4]


Well aware that equally committed and equally competent Bible scholars differ radically concerning the events surrounding the second coming of Jesus...are a number of views, each supported to some degree or another by Scripture, about the events surrounding the Lord's return...not my desire today get bogged in evaluating and dissecting those views...


But think one thing from this passage is crystal clear and can be agreed on by all who take the Bible seriously...and that is the time is coming when Jesus will return to this world...doesn't say may return or might return...He will return...according to one writer about 1/20th of NT speaks of His return...23 of the 27 NT books refer to it...are over 300 references to second coming in Bible (Lucado, And the Angels Were Silent, p.135)...



Parables warning us to be ready (13:28-33)


And think most appropriate thing can learn from Mark 13 is what we should do in light of fact that the Lord is coming back...and three times in last paragraph Jesus states what our response should be...v.33 - "...keep on the alert"/v.35 - " on the alert"/v.37 - " on the alert"...


In the book And the Angels were Silent Max Lucado tells about one of Sir Ernest Shackleton's expeditions to the Antarctic Circle... left some men on Elephant Island with intent of returning and taking them back to England...but Shackleton was delayed and by time could go back for the men, the sea had frozen and he had no access to the island...three times tried to reach them and each time was prevented by the ice...finally, on fourth try broke through ice and found a narrow channel leading to the island...


Much to his surprise, when arrived found crewmen all packed and ready to board the amazement he asked them how they knew he was coming that day...they told him had no idea what day would return, but knew one day would come every morning when they awakened, their leader rolled up his sleeping bag, packed his gear, and said to the crew, "Get your things ready, boys, the boss may come today."


Not a bad way for Christians to live...each day should say to ourselves, "Get ready, the Lord may come today."



[1] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mk 13:1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Utl- ey, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide

Commentary Series (158). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mk 13:14). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (166). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.