Our weekly bash into Mark took us last night into chapter 13 with that mash of information about the destruction of the temple and the end of the world… the tricky bit was trying to work out which bit was which.
We figured there may be parts of the chapter describing events that occur both pre-end-of-temple, and pre-end-of-world, for instance 3-8 (there are plenty of wars, famines, and earthquakes… ‘this must take place, but the end is not yet’), and 9-13 too (the call to preach the gospel ‘to all nations’, which hasn’t yet been completed, and the promise that ‘the one who endures to the end will be saved’).
14-23 seems to focus in on the destruction of the temple, with the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ being the sign it was soon to happen. The claims of v. 19 are big: ‘for in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be’, initially causing me to infer it’s the end of the world on the agenda. But hang on, the destruction of the temple was, in short, a localized picture of God’s judgement on old Israel… pretty massive.
The description of the coming of the Son of Man (24-27), already referred to in 8.38, seems to bring about the end of this old world, with the Son of Man gathering his elect and the natural lights coming to a halt.
And the lesson of the Fig Tree? When the leaves come out, summer is near. Thus, when the temple is destroyed, Jesus’ return is also near, ‘at the very gates’ (v. 29). What Jesus says to his disciples, he ‘says to all: Stay awake’ (v.37). The command to be alert is all over the chapter (5, 9, 23, 35-37).
Is Jesus’ (and Mark’s) point that we have no grounds to assume that Jesus’ return won’t be tonight, tomorrow, this week, etc. It seems as followers of Jesus we’re called to be a watching people, potentially tried & beaten ‘for my sake’ (v. 9, 13), preaching to all nations, and not getting so caught up that we lose an eternal perspective… would our lives look significantly different if we knew He was returning tomorrow? (…I think that’s a rhetorical question).