(Jesus Foretells the Future)
9 "When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 10 For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. 11 But when you are arrested and stand trial, don't worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 "A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 13 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
14 "The day is coming when you will see the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing where he should not be. (Reader, pay attention!) Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 15 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 16 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 17 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 18 And pray that your flight will not be in winter. 19 For there will be greater anguish in those days than at any time since God created the world. And it will never be so great again. 20 In fact, unless the Lord shortens that time of calamity, not a single person will survive. But for the sake of his chosen ones he has shortened those days.
21 "Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,' or ‘There he is,' don't believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones. 23 Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!
Jesus says his disciples will be made to stand trial before various religious and secular bodies, which will be for them an opportunity to present the Gospel. Betrayal will be common: disciples' own family members will turn against them, and they will be hated by all types of people. The temple will be desecrated, signaling the time to go into hiding. Great calamity will follow, and many "false messiahs" will arise and deceive many people.
Watch out (Mark 13:9, 23)
Jesus repeatedly commanded his disciples to remain steadfast: "don't panic" (v. 7) . . . "watch out!" (v. 9) . . . "Watch out! I have warned you!" (v. 23). These repeated warnings reflect Jesus' main purpose - i.e., "to give practical, ethical teaching. ... He is preparing his disciples - and beyond them the church - to live and to witness in a hostile world."1417 This is an invaluable lesson in light of every generation's tendency to see catastrophic events as signs of the end of the world and Christ's return. As one source insightfully notes:
If Jesus did not endorse sign-seeking, he certainly did call for another sort of watching. The first word of Jesus' discourse is "watch" (blepete, v. 5 - a word that regularly means "be discerning" in Mark's Gospel, cf. 4:12; 8:18). The last word of the discourse is another word for "watch" (gregoreite, v. 37 - a word that means "be alert and faithful," cf. 14:34, 37–38).
The overall message of Mark 13 seems to be that since no one knows when the end will come, vigilance is required at every moment. Trials will test faithfulness, but the disciple must serve and if necessary suffer "to the end" (13:13). Sign-seeking and apocalyptic calculation are not endorsed.1418
Handed over ... beaten ... stand trial (Mark 13:9)
Jesus warned that his disciples would be severely mistreated. As one source explains:
On account of the disciples' belief in Jesus, the Jews would brand them as traitors or heretics, pass down the sentence right in their synagogue, and have them flogged. Flogging was the punishment given to Jews who were found guilty of serious offenses. A flogging consisted of thirty-nine lashes across the back with a leather whip. This was based on Deuteronomy 25:1-3, which calls for forty lashes; thirty-nine were given in order to avoid accidentally giving too many. The apostle Paul wrote that he had received such floggings five different times (2 Corinthians 11:24). This punishment could only be given to Jews who would submit to it in order to remain in the Jewish community.1419
The book of Acts recounts how Jesus' prophecy was at least partially fulfilled following the establishment of the Christian Church. The apostles, including Paul, were persecuted, harassed, and forced to endure much hardship for the sake of the Gospel. They also appeared before high-ranking officials - both Jewish and Gentile - with whom they shared the Gospel. For example, we know that "[t]he apostle Paul spoke to the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30), Governor Felix (Acts 24:10), Governor Festus (Acts 25:1-6), and King Agrippa (Acts 26:1) and had hoped to speak to the emperor himself (Acts 26:32)."1420
The most important phrase here is "'because you are my followers'" (v. 9; "'for my sake'" NASB; "'because of me'" HCSB,1421) Several points are worth special mention:
"Whatever they suffer is for him. He sends them, him they represent, him and the royal rule of his kingdom they proclaim."1422
"When anyone persecutes Christ's disciple he is persecuting Christ himself."1423
"[T]he persecuted one is never separated from Christ's love and from the strength and the comfort he imparts."1424
"This will be an effective testimony indeed, which will be greater than ordinary preaching. For it will compel all these high authorities to investigate judicially the whole course of the gospel and to note all that the gospel contains and all that it does for man."1425
Preached to all nations (Mark 13:10)
"Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to emphasize to his followers the urgency of spreading the good news of salvation to everyone. Although they would face persecution, Jesus' followers must never give up in their mission of actively preaching the Good News to all the nations and getting the Word of God to every language group."1426 Proclaiming the Gospel - that is, "all that pertains to Jesus and his work and rule of grace in his kingdom for the salvation of men"1427 - remains both the privilege and the responsibility of each new generation of Christians.
Notice, however, that while Jesus said the Gospel would be preached to all nations - and, strictly speaking, Jesus said "this preaching will be carried out before officials of all nations"1428 - he did not say that it would be accepted by them. "[P]reaching the gospel worldwide does not require or guarantee its worldwide acceptance before or at the end of the Age."1429 As one source notes: "Jesus seems to be saying here, 'Instead of looking for signs of the end, get busy and spread the 'good news'! All nations must hear before the End comes.'"1430 Thus we conclude that rather than simply a period of suffering and persecution, the time between Jesus' first and second comings is also a time of grace and evangelism on a global scale.1431
We might also wish to note the apostle Paul's repeated assertion, made prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, that "the gospel ha[d] spread all over the world" (see Colossians 1:6, 23) - "[a] legitimate hyperbole, for the gospel was spreading all over the Roman Empire. Paul does not say that all men are converted, but only that the message has been heralded abroad over the Roman Empire in a wider fashion than most people imagine." 1432 What's more, this same type of "world-wide" language is found throughout the Scriptures: Genesis 41:57; 1 Kings 10:24; Romans 1:8; Acts 2:5.1433
Brother ... father ... children ... everyone (Mark 13:12, 13)
It was generally believed that "spiritual decline" and "social breakdown" - including "a period of steep moral decline and religious apostasy" - would precede God's "redemption and restoration."1434 Jesus' warning closely parallels that of the prophets Micah (Micah 7:6) and Isaiah (Isaiah 19:2).1435 He warned that opposition will come from two different sources: "official channels and ... close personal relationships."1436 Hence we can be certain that "[c]onfessing Jesus will create division even within the family circle."1437 "Everyone" indicates equal-opportunity persecution: believers will be hated by all kinds of people1438 "regardless of rank, station, race, nationality, sex, or age. Because the world hates Christ it also hates his representatives."1439
Because you are my followers (Mark 13:13)
Jesus said his followers would "'be hated by all because of My name'" (v. 13, NASB). As one source notes: "The reason for it is the onoma [= name] of Christ, which here, too, signifies more than merely the personal names 'Jesus,' 'Christ,' etc.; it includes all by which he is known. Hence in phrases such as this 'name' is equivalent to 'revelation.' Men will in dislike and opposition turn against everything that reveals Christ and makes him known. The implication in 'name' is that the apostles and those who succeed them will always proclaim this 'name' or revelation and will thus arouse the hatred. In the Acts the persecutors avoid even pronouncing the name Jesus wherever possible."1440
Endures ... saved (Mark 13:13)
Jesus was not endorsing salvation by works. Rather, "[h]e was simply arguing that genuine faith evidences itself in persistence through even the worst of trials."1441 As one source explains: "This 'saved' one will experience God's salvation in its final form - glorification. Perseverance is a result and outward sign, not the basis, of spiritual genuineness. A person genuinely saved by grace through faith endures to the end and will experience the consummation of his salvation."1442 A victorious ending awaits both the individual believer and the Church: for the believer "this period of persecution will last until death delivers him from this earthly scene. For the church in general it will last until Christ's return in glory."1443
The day is coming (Mark 13:14)
"Mark 13:14-23 offers many parallels to the events immediately leading up to and involved in the Jewish revolt in [A.D.] 66-74. ... It is probable that most readers of Mark would see the events of the 60s and 70s in these verses."1444 In keeping with the usual pattern of biblical prophecy, we should see the events surrounding A.D. 70 as a partial fulfillment, or foreshadowing, of what will take place at a later time - that is, during the Great Tribulation. Put differently, the connection between the two time periods is more theological than chronological.1445 One commentator compares the destruction of Jerusalem with the Flood of Noah's day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as "a type of the end of the world."1446 As has often been noted: "The 'prophet' - whether Isaiah, Joel, Micah, Malachi … Jesus Christ - views the future as a traveler beholds a distant mountain range. He sees one peak rising right behind another. And from where he stands, he describes the future exactly as he sees it. Yet, the closer one gets to the first peak, the greater the distance is seen to be between peak No. 1 and peak No. 2."1447
The sacrilegious object that causes desecration (Mark 13:14)
"'ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION'" (NASB). This phrase "designate[s] a detestable object of pagan idolatry so loathsome to God that he would enact desolating judgment."1448 In particular, Jesus was referring to "the presence of an idolatrous person or object so detestable that it [would cause] the temple to be abandoned and left desolate."1449
This appears to be an allusion to Daniel 9:27 (see also Daniel 11:31; 12:11). It is possible to understand Daniel's prophecy as having three fulfillments:
It was fulfilled "in the actions of Antiochus IV (or a representative of his) in 167 B.C."1450 The Jewish historian Josephus reports that "the abomination of Antiochus was a pagan altar, on which swine were sacrificed,"1451 and it was "[t]his act [which] incited the Maccabean wars."1452
Another fulfillment came with "the occupation and appalling profaning of the temple in A.D. 67-68 by Jewish Zealots, who also installed a usurper, Phanni, as high priest. Jewish Christians fled to Pella, a town located in the Transjordanian mountains."1453
The final fulfillment will involve the Antichrist - "a power who [will] be the vary incarnation of evil and who [will] gather up into himself everything that [is] against God"1454 during "the period of the great tribulation at the end of the age"1455 (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). "In the end times, the Antichrist will commit the ultimate sacrilege by setting up an image of himself in the temple and ordering everyone to worship it (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:14-15)."1456 As one source explains in some detail:
This person is the end-time Anti-christ (Daniel 7:23-26; 9:25-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 8-9; Revelation 13:1-10, 14-15). He will make a covenant with the Jewish people at the beginning of the seven-year period preceding Christ's second coming (Daniel 9:27). The temple will be rebuilt and worship reestablished (Revelation 11:1). In the middle of this period (after 3 1/2 years) the Antichrist will break his covenant, stop temple sacrifices, desecrate the temple (cf. Daniel 9:27), and proclaim himself to be God (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:2). This launches the terrible end-time events of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 6:1-17; 8-9; 16:1-21). Those who refuse to be identified with the Antichrist will suffer severe persecution and be forced to flee for refuge (Revelation 12:6, 13-17). Many - both Jews and Gentiles - will be saved during this period (Revelation 7:1-17) but many will also be martyred (Revelation 6:9-11).1457
Roof ... field ... pregnant ... nursing (Mark 13:15-17)
Jesus said that when the temple is desecrated "'those in Judea must flee to the hills'" (Mark 13:14). It may or may not be coincidental that Jesus' words reflect the three most common stations in life:
Retiree. "'A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack'" (Mark 13:15).
Worker. "'A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat'" (Mark 13:16).
Domestic care-giver. "'How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days'" (Mark 13:17).
Greater anguish ... Never be so great again (Mark 13:19)
"At no time in the past, present, or future has there been or will there be such a severe tribulation as this."1458 As one source notes: "While the events of A.D. 70 may reflect somewhat the comments Jesus makes here, the reference to the scope and severity of this judgment strongly suggest that much more is in view. Most likely Jesus is referring to the great end-time judgment on Jerusalem in the great tribulation."1459 The same point applies to Jesus' words in v. 20: "'In fact, unless the Lord shortens that time of calamity, not a single person will survive. But for the sake of his chosen ones he has shortened those days.'"1460 Jesus' language in this verse "suggests God's direct intervention in judgment, an unmistakable characteristic of the end-time Tribulation (cf. Revelation 16:1)."1461
"[T]his tribulation ... immediately precedes the close of the world's history and surpasses any other distress in its intensity."1462 As one source explains, the Great Tribulation will be set apart from all preceding calamities by both its scope and its severity:
[I]t will be worldwide, not localized, as stated in the promise of deliverance (Revelation 3:10) and as described in detail in the judgments of the Revelation. The intense local persecutions and calamities of this present day cannot be the beginning of the Tribulation, for that time will affect the entire world.
Then too the Tribulation will be unique because of the way men act. ... When the Great Tribulation comes, men will act as if they think the world is coming to an end. For years some men have been talking as if they thought the end were near, but at the beginning of the Tribulation, they will realize that the end is actually at hand. Scientists, politicians, and even church leaders warn today that the end of human history could be upon us, and even use the term "Armageddon," but people are not behaving as if they believe it. Real estate is being bought and sold, savings are being accumulated, and plans are continually being made for the future. But when the Tribulation comes, people will hide in bomb shelters and will actually seek death rather than try to preserve life. The future, in those days, will hold no attraction.1463
We do well to remind ourselves that all this does not mean that God has lost control or that he no longer cares. As one source puts it: "When the time of suffering comes, the important point for the disciples and all believers to remember is that God is in control. Persecution will occur, but God knows about it and controls how long it will take place. He will not forget his people."1464
False messiahs and false prophets (Mark 13:22)
"This time Jesus warns of false prophets, as well as false messiahs. These false prophets may come on their own, or they may accompany various false messiahs."1465 Their aim will be to deceive and mislead true Christians through the use of counterfeit miracles "that would seem to validate their claims."1466Here and throughout his apocalyptic message, Jesus lovingly prepares his disciples in advance of the severe difficulties awaiting them. "When fiery trial arrives they must never be able to say, 'How strange and unexpected! Why did not the Lord prepare us for this? Why did he not warn us?' Having been forewarned, the disciples will not be unduly disturbed when the prediction attains preliminary fulfilment. In fact, their faith in Jesus will then be strengthened."1467
A "sign" can be defined as: "An unusual phenomenon interpreted as of supernatural origin and designed to provide instruction, give warning, or encourage faith. In this sense it is a rough synonym of miracle."1468 Signs and wonders have been associated with God and his people in both the OT and the NT, beginning with the miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt, all the way through the establishment of the Christian Church (Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 26:8; 29:3; 34:11; Nehemiah 9:10; Psalms 135:9; Isaiah 8:18; Jeremiah 32:20, 21; Daniel 4:2, 3; 6:27; John 4:48; Acts 2:19, 22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 15:12; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4). "The Exodus was clearly the great redemptive act of God in the OT, when He did His powerful signs and wonders to save His people out of Egyptian bondage. This theme is especially developed in Deuteronomy ... [T]he coming of Jesus places a whole new perspective on [the meaning of signs and wonders]. The phrase now refers, not to God's activity in the days of Moses, but to His even greater redemptive work in Christ and to the proclamation of this redemption by His apostles."1469
That said, the Bible also consistently warns against false/counterfeit signs and wonders. As one source explains:
Signs may also be performed by people not sent from God (cf. Exodus 7–8). Thus, from very early in their history as the people of God the Israelites were warned to test the signs and wonders of a prophet against his teaching (Deuteronomy 13:1–5). The NT continues this emphasis. Jesus warned that "false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24; cf. Mark 13:22). This will occur especially at the end of the age and the consummation of the Kingdom (2 Thessalonians 2:9f; Revelation 13:13f; 16:14; 19:20). The emphasis throughout Scripture is that both the message and the signs must be from God (cf. Acts 4:29f for a positive example of this point). Signs substantiate an authentic word from God, but many false prophets try to validate false messages with signs. Both Testaments teach that the people of God must be discerning in this matter.1470
Tex was Deceived
Popular Bible teacher and author Charles Swindoll tells of a cruel joke he played on a co-worker.
At the time, Chuck was living in Huston, Texas and working as a machinist apprentice. He worked just behind a fella named Tex who had the nasty habit of chewing tobacco, and he kept his opened tobacco pouch in his back pocket.
One night a small cricket happened along. It was the same color as Tex's tobacco, and so Chuck grabbed the cricket, pulled its head off, and dropped it in Tex's tobacco pouch.
Sure enough, in just a little while Tex reached around and took a big wad of tobacco from his pouch. Without ever looking at it, he shoved it into his mouth. As Chuck tells it: "He spit wings and body parts throughout the evening. It was a delight to watch him. I don't think Tex ever knew that he chewed up a cricket - which proves, if you chew tobacco, you don't know what you've got in your mouth."1471
Tex was deceived. He took for granted that the contents of his tobacco pouch had not changed, and so he never stopped to inspect what he was putting into his mouth. The world is filled with philosophies and belief systems that lead to deception and destruction. As we wait for the return of our Savior, we are called to chew on God's Word, the Bible, day and night. And while we certainly should not be afraid to use the thoughts and reflections of others in helping us to understand the Bible, we should also and always be alert to the possibility of any teaching that seeks to corrupt the pure truth of God's Word.
??? False teachers are heretics, their false teaching is heresy, and we must be on constant guard against both. Along those lines, one Bible commentator helpfully identifies five precursors to heresy:1472
Self-serving doctrine. "It arises from constructing doctrine to suit oneself."
Lack of balance. "Heresy arises from overstressing one part of the truth."
People-pleasing. "Heresy arises from trying to produce a religion which will suit people, one which will be popular and attractive."
Lone-ranger mentality. "Heresy arises from divorcing oneself from the Christian fellowship. When a man thinks alone he runs a grave danger of thinking astray."
Intellectualizing the Bible. "Heresy arises from the attempt to be completely intelligible. ... Even at our most intellectual we must remember that there is a place for the ultimate mystery before which we can only worship, wonder and adore."