The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 13D

Chapter 13:24-37

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  • Tonight, we will pick up in the natural flow of Jesus responding to the fourth question within our expanded question outline which deals with the disciples’ second question: “What will be the sign of Jesus’ Second Coming?”

    • So far, we have walked through major components of the 1st half of the tribulation and its events.

      • We then walked through the mid-point of the tribulation and what would be the sign of the close of the present age.

    • We discovered that the mid-point would begin what Daniel called the “abomination of desolation”.

      • This is where the Antichrist would sit on the mercy seat of God in the Temple declaring to be God himself, and will be worshipped by men during that day. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)

      • The next sign that would mark this abomination was something that would be standing where it did not belong.

    • It would be “an image or statue” of the Antichrist that would be set up in the Holy of Holies in the temple.

      • Furthermore, this image would be made to come to life. (Revelation 13:11-15)

    • And it was upon that event, that Jesus informs the reader that they need to flee to the mountains.

      • This “sense of urgency” was that time should not be wasted because this coming of great tribulation would be an unparalleled moment in history.

    • This detail from the Lord Jesus was significant because it shows us that this period will indeed be unique.

      • It is unique in the fact that the very demonstrations of God’s judgements, even from the beginning of History, will be astronomically different than what is to come.

      • If we think those judgements such as the flood or the raining down of fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah were great demonstrations of judgements, then these events in the Great Tribulation would be unprecedented.

      • This period was going to be an increase of pressure that would move God’s plan and human history to a culminating point. (Birth pangs)

      • For the dawning of the New Age and the visual announcing of the world’s true Messiah is coming.

    • For where the false messiahs would seek to mislead many into believing their savior had already arrived, Jesus’ entrance will be marked with visual “pomp and circumstances” on a cataclysmic and cosmic level.

      • So tonight, we arrive to the last few verses of Chapter 13 as we deal with the return of Jesus, physically upon the earth.

    • Our outline of this portion of the text can be broken down into 3 sections which are as follows:

      • 1. The Return of Christ (v.24-27)

      • 2. The Parable of the Fig Tree (Illustration) (v.28-31)

      • 3. Exhortation: Be on the Alert (v.32-37)

    • With this outline in mind, let’s look at our first section of the outline by reading through verses 24-27.

Mark 13:24  “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 
Mark 13:25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 
Mark 13:26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 
Mark 13:27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.
  • Verses 24-27 begins with transitional language: “But in those days, after “that” tribulation”.

    • Clearly, the language is indicating a movement or transition from one section of the tribulation to the next.

      • More specifically, Jesus provides us with a stark contrast between the arrival of the false messiahs on the scene versus that of the true Messiah’s arrival into the earth.

    • Notice, verses 21-23 Jesus mentions the “signs and wonders” of the false messiahs and how they will attempt to mislead the believing remnant.

      • This is why Jesus issued the warning in verse 23. (Take heed!)

      • The believing remnant will need to be on guard, take heed, and not be misled by these false signs.

    • So, to provide the believers with what signs are indicative of His coming, Jesus provides a response in verses 24-27.

      • And it will be that generation that will visually see the cosmological curtain unfold, and the scene set for Jesus’ Kingly arrival.

    • Notice how this event begins. Jesus mentions in verse 24b-25 that the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.

      • There’s much to consider, so let’s begin with the sun being darkened.

    • We know that the sun is the very source of light for earth and therefore with the sun being our source of light, and the moon itself not emitting light, but rather reflecting it, points to the reality that this phenomenon could not be a mere eclipse.

      • Beyond that, the universe itself will experience celestial changes which will indeed alter the universe as we know it.

      • Now, the question becomes: How will this darkening of the sun directly impact life on earth in that period of history?

    • Within our human understanding, by means of conjecture, science tells us that the sun going dark and not emitting light would cause global extinction for human life. (We would freeze to death)

      • However, scripture tells us that human life will continue with the arrival of the King because He will gather His elect.

    • Therefore, it begs a question: How does this darkness of the sun and the celestial changes still permit human life while on earth if the sun goes dark?

      • Friends, this only proves one thing: God is the sustainer of life and accomplishes His purposes how He sees fit.

      • He can choose to demonstrate His Power and miraculous work however He wills for He is the Creator of all things.

      • To put it plainly, if God can cause the sun to stand still for a 24-hour period as in Joshua 10:12-14, how much more could God demonstrate His power with the return of His Son as King by turning off the lights.

    • Along with these cosmic phenomena will be the falling of stars from heaven and the very forces in the universe will be altered.

      • This would be what is known in theater as the Final Drama.

      • This universal darkness witnessed from the earth will be how Messiah will come in power and authority showing forth His great light and power - being the very light of life.

      • This arrival of Messiah would be greatly anticipated with much joy for believers in that day!

    • Now, Matthew’s gospel mentions a very interesting contrasting response for non-believers in Matthew 24:30 which is to be expected.

      • Jesus states that the “tribes of the earth” will mourn at this sight of Jesus’ Second coming.

    • The “tribes of the earth” is referring to that of the unbelieving Gentiles in that day and they will be mourning because they recognize that the Lord’s return means their judgement is coming.

      • Whereas in verse 27 of Mark 13, regarding the believing remnant of Israel, they will be physically delivered and brought to safety by the angels that Messiah will send forth.

      • This “gathering together” (episynago) will be an assembling of all who have endured through the hard trials, growing persecution, and sinful upheaval in the earth by the Antichrist and the wicked kingdoms of the earth.

      • Therefore, for the believing Jew and Gentile in that day, this sign will be one of great rejoicing and anticipation that Messiah is around the corner.

    • This final sign of great turmoil and judgment is spoken about in the Hebrew scriptures.

      • The prophet Isaiah, by the Spirit, speaks about this coming judgement of the world and the gathering of the Jewish people back in Jerusalem.

    • And this moment will begin with a great trumpet sounding forth.

      • Check out what Isaiah writes down in Isaiah 27:12-13.

Isaiah 27:12  In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. 
Isaiah 27:13 It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
  • It is this threshing that Isaiah uses as a metaphor, to reflect the coming future judgement of Israel in the tribulation period for those who are non-believing.

    • So, Mark’s gospel, here in verse 27 mentions this reality of a final gathering into safety for the believing remnant in that day.

    • We will now see that as Mark transitions to section two of our outline, that Jesus moves to the believers’ needed response, in parabolic form. (Illustration)

      • Check out verses 28-31.

Mark 13:28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 
Mark 13:29 “Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 
Mark 13:30 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 
Mark 13:31 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 
  • Throughout the entirety of Mark 13, Jesus has been answering the pressing questions of the disciples regarding Messiah’s physical return to earth with the Kingdom.

    • Jesus has walked through the first half, mid-point, and the last 3.5 years (great tribulation) which leads to the return of the Lord.

      • And in our prior verses, we witnessed what the key sign will be that points to the return of Messiah and the coming of His Kingdom.

    • It is in this section of the text, that Jesus will use parables to express the sign of the His return by plainly illustrating for the disciples what they must do in the meantime as well as for believers in that future day.

      • Ultimately, this parable will express the need for believers to trust and rely on God’s trustworthiness and His word.

    • So, Jesus opens verse 28 with the Parable of the Fig tree.

      • He mentions that this fig tree has moved from its dormant state during the winter months to its budding season in the summer months.

      • And the timing for the budding of the fig tree is in accordance with its seasonal timing for ready and ripe fruit.

    • In other words, when you see the budding of the leaves of the fig tree come forth, know that summer is around the corner.

      • It’s as if Jesus uses the illustration of the fig tree as a time clock for the unfolding of the end of the age and the coming of the New Age (i.e Jesus’ return)

      • And Jesus using the illustration of the fig tree is not by happenstance, but rather by a Divine timetable set by God.

    • There is a “sense of awareness” that Jesus is saying that the Jewish believers living in that day must be cognizant of regarding the signs of the times.

      • For it will be this key sign (cosmological changes of v.24-25) which will signal that Christ is at the door – He is arriving, so be prepared.

    • The point of the parable here is of watchfulness and anticipation of the signs and the times.

      • Jesus wants the believing Jews to be aware and alert for these signs whereas the leadership of Israel had missed them in His first coming.

    • You might remember in Matthew 16:3, Jesus called the leaders of Israel out with the following statement:

Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 
Matthew 16:2 But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 
Matthew 16:3 And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?
    • It was because of the failure of Israel’s leadership to understand the very signs of Messiah due to their hardened hearts that they missed His first coming.

      • Therefore, by Jesus providing this illustration it serves as a teaching for the disciples and the believers in that day to be watchful for these signs.

      • This is the point that Jesus is making: the believing remnant must recognize these signs and not stumble where the previous generation did in the first century.

    • Now, we can clearly see what Jesus is saying and who He is referring to especially as we move to verse 30.

      • This section of the text has been interpreted in many ways and has caused much confusion regarding who Jesus is referring to and what period this is pointing to.

      • So, remember, context is key to lead us to proper understanding of the text.

    • To begin, there are a few terms we need to underline and closely examine and they are the following:

      • 1. “this generation”

      • 2. “until all these things”

    • Some people looking at this verse assume that Jesus is talking about when Israel became an independent nation in 1948. However, this is the wrong starting point.

      • The term “generation” is roughly 40 years, so if the generation that Jesus was speaking about was in 1948 then that means that the second coming would be in 1988 and we’re still here – so that can’t be right.

      • Then individuals extended their timeline to 1967 trying to connect “the 6 day war” when the nation of Israel gained control of Israel (as the new starting point).

      • However, add 40 years to 1967 and what do you get – 2007 (we’re still here)

    • So, to understand what “this generation” means, we have to look at the context of the Olivet Discourse and not within the period of the church age.

      • And when we examine the context of the Parable of the Fig Tree considering where it is placed in Mark’s Gospel, we see that the general context is dealing with the believing remnant of Jews during the tribulation period.

      • The last question that we have to address here is: What is “all these things” referring to?

    • If it’s not the nation of Israel becoming a State as some suggest, based on the context, then it is speaking to everything we have reviewed from verses 14-27.

      • “All these things” are referring to the sign of the Abomination of Desolation which means “this generation” that Jesus is talking about is none other than the remaining believing remnant of Israel during the 2nd half of the tribulation.

      • This will be the sign which marks the soon coming of Christ in His return.

      • And Jesus lets them know that this second half of the tribulation, the believing remnant, will not pass away for they will have been gathered and will see the Kingdom.

    • As these cataclysmic events occur and the dawning of the New Age commences, Jesus tells the disciples, in the present age, in preparation for the believers in this future moment that, His words are eternally established. (Emphasis on “My”)

      • That even with the heavens and earth passing away, Jesus’ words will not.

      • And being that these words came out of Jesus’ mouth, who is the very Logos, it further emphasizes the eternality of the second person of the Trinity.

      • God’s words are true for if they weren’t He would not be God.

    • Jesus is now preparing to bring about a close of this discourse.

      • However, He will not do so until He encourages the disciples by means of exhortation in diligence in the faith.

      • Check out verses 32-37.

Mark 13:32 “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 
Mark 13:33 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 
Mark 13:34 “It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 
Mark 13:35 “Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—
Mark 13:36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 
Mark 13:37 “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ ”
  • Jesus explained previously the necessity for believing Israel to be aware of the signs that He mentioned which would distinguish false messiahs versus the true Messiah (false signs vs. true signs).

    • These contrasting descriptions make it very clear that there will be a future attempt by the enemy to eliminate the believing remnant of Israel, and if possible, mislead them out of enduring well to the end in faith. (Rise of Anti-semitsim)

      • Therefore, Jesus provides these assurances of sorts that will be reminders of what to look for and how to not be deceived during such evil days.

      • However, as we enter verse 32, we notice the phrase in the first half of that verse which reads: “But of that day or hour no one knows”.

      • The question becomes: What day or hour is Jesus speaking about?

    • Clearly, Jesus has provided a proper timeline, and signs as to the return of Christ, however a specific day or hour is not disclosed.

      • Jesus mentions that neither do the angels nor He Himself know the specific date or time in which the Second coming will occur.

    • Now, I can imagine for some this could be extremely confusing. How can Jesus who is fully God and fully man not know when this day is to come?

      • Well, it’s here that we see, yet again, another example of the Son submitting to the will and plans of the Father.

      • This does not make Jesus less divine or lesser in nature from the other members of the Godhead, rather this shows us that Jesus was willing to voluntarily restrict independent use of His divine attributes to not make things easier for Himself, in order to demonstrate dependency upon the Father.

    • This theological term is known as Kenosis which we get from Philippians 2:7 which speaks to Jesus “emptying” Himself. (Another example can be found in 2 Corinthians 8:9)

      • The word “emptied” is a form of the Greek word Kenoo’ (ke-no-o) by which we get the word Kenosis.

    • Dr. John Walvoord explains Kenosis in this way:

“The act of kenosis . . . may . . . be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of Deity, but that He did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with His purpose of living among men and their limitations” (Jesus Christ Our Lord, p. 144).
    • Simply put, Jesus did not cease to be God at any point in His earthly ministry.

    • The question becomes: Why would Jesus go to the length of providing all of these signs and demonstrations yet come short of providing an exact moment, day, and time?

      • It goes back to our earlier point regarding the leadership of the past.

      • They failed to respond to the signs God had already provided them because their hearts were far from the Lord.

    • However, for this believing remnant, they would need to depend upon the very words of Jesus as recorded in scripture.

      • These believing Jews would need to take Jesus at His word and depend upon His very words, as Christ depended upon the Father in His every command.

      • Isn’t this what believers in Christ are to do even today, despite the craziness of the culture around us?

      • That we are to not be fixated upon the things of this world and the distractions that come with it, but that we set our eyes on eternal things.

      • We must set our minds on things that are above, for the moment that we become distracted with temporary things we lose sight on the important things that are to come.

    • Israel’s leaders were more focused on their own agendas and feeding themselves rather than preparing the sheep for their Messiah. And this was John the Baptizer’s rebuke towards the religious leaders in his day.

      • So it’s after Jesus tells the disciples about this future period and the readiness the believers must have in that day, that He mentions the phrase “Be on the Alert” four times.

      • And whenever you see a phrase in the same context repeated multiple times by Jesus, this means you might want to pay attention to what’s being said and, in this case, the exhortation is: Be watchful!

    • Verse 33 begins with the phrase “Take heed, keep on the alert”.

    • This once again is pointing to Jesus’ statement in the previous verse regarding the coming appointed time that no one knows, but should be aware due to the signs.

      • The warning is clear: Do not get distracted or lose sight of the goal – stay awake!

      • It is that of being on constant watch, not distracted by the noise of the culture or the world. These are specific instructions!

    • It’s in verse 34-36 that Jesus provides another parable to further illustrate His previous points from verses 32-33. This is how the parable reads:

Mark 13:34 “It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 
Mark 13:35 “Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—
Mark 13:36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 
  • This parable, known as the Parable of the Porter, pictures a homeowner heading off on a journey and before departure the owner assigns various tasks to His slaves.

    • We see in verse 34b that tasks were given to the slaves and the doorkeeper for the purposes of keeping watch of the Master’s return while being diligent in their duties which have been distributed by the Owner of the home.

      • It becomes clear that the owner who is going away for a time is representative of Jesus.

      • And the slaves and the doorkeeper, all in whom are charged with a task from the master, of some sort, are told to stay alert.

    • Notice how verse 35 addresses the unknown “timing” of the Master’s return.

      • Clearly, the night represents the master’s absence.

    • Furthermore, Mark uses a Roman system for calculating time within a day for His audience. The times correspond as follows:

      • In the evening (6-9PM)

      • At Midnight (9PM til Midnight)

      • When the rooster crows; third watch (12AM-3AM)

      • Or in the morning (3AM-6AM)

    • The point here being, that regardless of the time of day, the believer should always be on the watch for the signs that Jesus has provided in order to be ready for when He comes so that they are not taken off-guard and not off duty.

      • For our neglect of spiritual matters results in missed opportunities for ministry service to the Lord and having served our best.

      • If we end up abdicating our responsibilities as believers, we begin to look more like the unbelieving world who is asleep.

      • This is what Paul was getting at in Romans 13:11-14. Check out the text:

Romans 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 
Romans 13:12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 
Romans 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 
Romans 13:14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
  • Therefore, Jesus’ warning here is that every believer should be actively working/living in service to the Lord and being watchful in anticipation of His coming.

    • Contextually, these signs are for the believing Jewish remnant to be ready for the Coming of Christ and His Kingdom and to endure in obedience to His word and warning.

    • However, for the Church Age saints, we too should find ourselves being diligent in our service to God and that begins in faith and obedience to His word.

      • Once again, observe this present/future reality that the believers in every generation should be watchful and diligent in our work, our lives, and our dependence on the Lord.

      • The question on the table is: What will Jesus find you doing, or acting, or behaving when He comes to rapture His Church?

      • Secondly, how will Jesus find the tribulation saints upon His return to gather them? Will they have been misled or will they be in faith trusting the Lord through it all?

    • I believe our interpretation, although speaking to a specific generation, can be applied to all believers in every age: “Be on the alert. Be watchful!”

      • What a prophetic pronouncement and such timely words for every generation of believers.

    • We should stand firmly in our faith in the Lord and not be blindsided or lured away from the truth of the word of God.

      • And being that these are the words of Jesus, may I remind us of His very words in verse 31: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

    • God’s words are indeed eternal, and we must depend and rely on His very words to guide us without the influence and distraction of the culture, demonic influences, troubling times, or even growing persecutions.

      • Let’s Pray.