(Jesus Foretells the Future)
24 "At that time, after the anguish of those days,
the sun will be darkened,
the moon will give no light,
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 "Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world - from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
28 "Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
Jesus says that there will be an unprecedented series of cosmic catastrophes, followed by his return and the gathering together of his chosen ones. He uses a budding fig tree as an illustration. Jesus says "this generation" will witness these events. And he assures the disciples that his words are more permanent than heaven and earth.
After the anguish of those days (Mark 13:24)
"' ... after that tribulation ... '" (NASB). This phrase "refers to the events described in vv. 4-23, the tribulation that began with the 'abomination of desolation.'"1473 "Tribulation" (Greek thlipsis: "trouble involving direct suffering - 'trouble and suffering, suffering, persecution'"1474) is often associated with OT prophecy, and is an apt term for describing "the terrifying future scenario Jesus envisions."1475
Sun ... moon ... stars (Mark 13:24-25)
Here we have "[a]n allusion to Isaiah 13:10; 34:4 (Septuagint (LXX)); Joel 2:10."1476 Jesus said that at the time of his second coming the fabric of the universe will be torn. The sun, moon, and stars will all be dramatically affected. What did he mean? It is very possible that his words should be taken literally, in which case Christ's return will be heralded by a sort of "universal fireworks."1477 This goes along with the theme of the fall and recreation of nature.1478 Of course it is also possible to take Jesus' description figuratively. "The heavens were seen as the abode of heavenly forces, so their shaking indicates distress in the spiritual realm."1479 As one source notes: "One should not forget that prophetic imagery was not always meant to be taken literally, especially apocalyptic symbols. Peter in Acts 2:15-21 applies the prophecy of Joel about the sun and moon to the events on the day of Pentecost."1480 And since "the greatest earthly powers" are symbolized "in the OT by sun, moon and stars,"1481 the toppling of all earthly governments may well be in view.1482 Probably Jesus intended a combination of the literal and the figurative/symbolic.
Son of Man coming ... gather his chosen ones (Mark 13:26, 27)
Jesus said that everyone will witness his arrival in his "royal chariot," so to speak1483 (= "on the clouds," a reference to Daniel 7:13), which will be followed immediately by the gathering of his "chosen ones." As one source explains: "This is Jesus' personal, visible, bodily return to the earth as the glorified Son of Man (cf. Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-16). ... His triumphant return will bring an end to the veiled nature of God's kingdom in its present form."1484 As one commentator has noted: "The manifestation of the angels and the gathering of the people will gloriously mark the end of Jesus' keeping secret his divine power and authority. Jesus' second coming marks the core of the Christian hope. When he comes, the whole world will know that Jesus is Lord, and Christians' hope and faith will be vindicated."1485
Jesus' words regarding the gathering of his chosen ones call to mind the OT promise regarding the gathering of Israel's exiles at the restoration of Israel (see Zechariah 2:6-13). As one source explains:
The Old Testament often mentioned God's regathering of dispersed Israelites from the remotest parts of the earth to national and spiritual unity in Palestine (Daniel 30:3-6; Isaiah 11:12; Jeremiah 31:7-9; Ezekiel 11:16-17; 20:33-35, 41). At the time of the Second Advent Israelites will be regathered around the triumphant Son of Man, judged, restored as a nation, and redeemed (Isaiah 59:20-21; Ezekiel 20:33-44; Zechariah 13:8-9; Romans 11:25-27). Also all the Gentiles will be gathered before Him (Joel 3:2) and like a shepherd He will separate "the sheep" (the elect) from "the goats" (Matthew 25:31-46). These redeemed Jews and Gentiles will enter the millennial kingdom, living on the earth in natural bodies (Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 4:1-5; Zechariah 14:8-11, 16-21).1486
His angels (Mark 13:27)
Again we note that Jesus' sending out the angels is something that in the OT only God can do.1487 One source summarizes the angels' role in the final judgment:
They function as a kind of heavenly police force, arresting offenders, presenting evidence and executing punishment. In Jesus' teaching the end of the age will see angels separating the righteous from the wicked (Matthew 13:36-42). Angels will be dispatched to gather God's people from all over the earth (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27), and they will be with the Son of man when he sits in judgment (Matthew 25:31). They will also assist in inflicting punishment on evildoers (Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50). When Jesus taught that those who acknowledged him and his teaching would ultimately be acknowledged before God's angels at his coming, the angels were being cast in the role of hearing evidence in the heavenly courtroom. Those ashamed of him will be denied before the heavenly court (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 12:8-9).1488
This generation (Mark 13:30)
What did Jesus mean when he said that "'this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place'"? One source explains:
rious views exist for what generation means. (1) Some take it as meaning 'race' and thus as an assurance that the Jewish race (nation) will not pass away. But it is very questionable that the Greek term genea can have this meaning. Two other options are possible. (2) Generation might mean "this type of generation" and refer to the generation of wicked humanity. Then the point is that humanity will not perish, because God will redeem it. Or (3) generation may refer to "the generation that sees the signs of the end" (Mark 13:26), who will also see the end itself. In other words, once the movement to the return of Christ starts, all the events connected with it happen very quickly, in rapid succession.1489
The third view is very common and, in keeping with prophecy's dual fulfillment, it should be applied to both those (Jews) alive during the events of A.D. 70 and those (Jews) "living at the time of the Great Tribulation who will see the end-time events."1490
My words will never disappear (Mark 13:31)
Once again Jesus applies to himself a truth the OT reserves exclusively for God (Isaiah 40:8; compare Psalms 102:25-27; Isaiah 51:6, 55:11).1491 Jesus' words regarding the disappearance of heaven and earth "does not mean total annihilation but glorious renewal."1492 In essence Jesus claimed that his words "will never undergo even the slightest change in meaning or in form - the modernistic speaking of 'outworn categories of thought' or 'thought forms' to the contrary notwithstanding."1493
"Rapture" refers to "the church being united with Christ at his second coming (from Lat. rapio, 'caught up')."1494 Here we note the three main views regarding the Rapture in relation to the events described by Jesus as marking the end of the age (the Tribulation/Great Tribulation):
Pretribulation. Pretribulationists believe that the Church will be raptured/removed prior to the beginning of the Tribulation.
Midtribulation. Midtribulationists believe the Church will be raptured/removed halfway through the Tribulation.
Posttribulation. Posttribulationists believe the Church will be raptured/removed after the Tribulation.1495
One source explains the connection between the chosen ones of Mark 13:27 and the pre- and posttribulational views of the Rapture:
Identifying "the elect" in this context as Gentiles and Jews who come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah during the final Tribulation period (cf. Revelation 7:3-4, 9-10) is compatible with a pretribulational view of the Rapture of the church, the body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Since the church will be spared from God's final judgment on the earth (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9-11; Revelation 3:9-10), the church will not go through the Tribulation. This preserves the imminence of the Rapture for present-day believers and gives added emphasis to Jesus' exhortation, "Watch!" (cf. Mark 13:35-37). But since Jesus' disciples had no clear understanding of the coming church (cf. Matthew 16:18; Acts 1:4-8), He did not mention this initial phase of God's end-time program separately.
Some interpreters, however, hold to a posttribulational view of the Rapture. They identify "the elect" here as the redeemed of all ages - past, present, and future. This requires the resurrection of all the righteous dead at the end of the Tribulation and together with all living believers they will be caught up (raptured) to meet the returning Son of Man who descends to the earth at that time. Thus the church, the body of Christ, remains on earth during the Tribulation period, is supernaturally protected as an entity through it, is raptured at the end of it, and immediately returns to the earth to participate in the Millennium.1496
Regardless of which view one adopts, the emphasis "is on disclosure and triumph. Whereas the Son of Man has been hidden or at least veiled in his first coming, now he will be revealed."1497
The Longed For Leader
God's promise of a future kingdom where Christ rules in great power and glory gives us reason for hope. Today, leaders are shortsighted, prone to bend principle for political gain, and sometimes corrupt. Yet we ask them to be for us what only Christ can be. When Christ returns to rule, his leadership will be just, strong, and wise. He will bring the world for which we have hoped and longed, led by the leader we needed and for whom we have waited.
When injustice ruins your plans today, spoils your program, or angers your soul, take hope. God calls us to work and live for the next administration, led by the one whose program brings justice and love.1498
??? What is the difference between hoping (and working) for positive change and putting one's ultimate hope in a human leader?