There’s a Great Trouble coming
Jerusalem’s big stones are coming down1 Jesus was walking out of the Temple when one of his disciples said, “Teacher, my goodness, look at those huge stones! The buildings are beautiful!” 2 Jesus said, “Yes, we’re looking at some great buildings, aren’t we? And yet, they will be ripped down and leveled. Not one stone will be left sitting on top of another.” 3 Jesus took a seat on the western slopes of the Mount of Olives, the side that gave him a good view of the Temple. Four of his disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew—came to him with a question. 4 “We’d like to know when this is going to happen and what kind of advance warning we’ll get that the time is almost here. Would you tell us that?”
You’ll get arrested and killed5 Jesus said, “Be careful that people don’t trick you into believing their lies. 6 Many will come claiming to be me. They’re going to say, ‘Here I am, your Messiah!’ They will con many folks into believing them. 7 When you hear about wars breaking out and rumors of more war, don’t be afraid. These things are going to happen. What I’m talking about will come later. 8 One country will go to war against another, one kingdom against another. Scattered earthquakes are coming. Famines, too. These are just the first of the birth pains. 9 Keep your eyes open and stay alert. You’re going to get arrested and turned over to government officials and synagogue leaders who will beat you. You’ll be forced to stand in front of governors and kings and testify about me. 10 Before this, the good news needs to be preached to people everywhere. 11 When you do get arrested, don’t worry about the testimony you’ll need to give. No need to practice your speech. Whatever words come to mind when you have to stand up and speak, go ahead and speak those words. They won’t be coming from you. They’ll be coming from the Holy Spirit. 12 Some of you will be turned over to the authorities and executed because a brother turned you in. A father will turn in his child. Children will rebel against their parents and get them executed. 13 Everyone around you will hate you because you have tied yourself to my name. But those of you who hang onto your faith all the way to the end will be saved. 14 Keep your eyes open for something detestable and destructive standing where it has no right to stand. (Note to readers: Do your homework if you want to understand.) When you see this, that’s the clue for everyone in Judea to escape to the hills. 15 If you’re on the roof of your house when this happens, get out of the house. Don’t stop to pack anything. Just go. 16 If you’re in the field when this happens, don’t take the time to go back to the house to get a coat. 17 When this happens, it’ll be bad news for pregnant women and those nursing babies. 18 Pray that it doesn’t happen in the winter.
Time of Great Trouble19 What’s coming is a time of Great Trouble. It’s going to be worse than anything that has ever happened before—since the beginning of God’s creation until now. 20 God is going to shorten the time of Great Trouble. If he didn’t, everyone would die. But he’s going to shorten the time because he wants to save the chosen ones—the people he chose. 21 During that time, someone might say to you, ‘Oh my, look! Here’s the Messiah!’ Or someone might say, ‘Look, he’s over there!’ Don’t believe it. 22 I want you to know that fraud messiahs and fake prophets are coming. They’re bringing with them little signs and clues that hint they are genuine. And they’ll be able to do wonders that look like miracles. They hope this will trick my chosen people. 23 So I’m putting you on notice to stay alert. I’ve told you ahead of time what’s going to happen.
After the Great Trouble,
The sun won’t shine
and the moon won’t glow.
their powers shaken in the heavens. 26 That’s when they will look up into the clouds and see the Son of Humans coming. When he comes, everyone will see how glorious and powerful he is. 27 He’ll send his angels on a mission: Bring him all the chosen people from everywhere in heaven and on the earth.
Read the signs of the times28 You can learn something from the fig tree. When the winter branches soften in the springtime and pop out their leaves, you know summer’s coming. 29 Well, when you see the things I’ve been talking about start to happen, you’ll know the time is almost up. 30 I’m telling you the truth, this generation of human beings will live to see everything I’ve talked about here. 31 The earth and everything in the sky will die someday. But my words will live forever.
It’ll happen, but you don’t know when32 No one knows when this is going to happen. Not the day. And certainly not the hour. Angels don’t know it. Even the Son doesn’t know it. The only one who knows it is the Father. 33 So stay alert and keep your eyes open because you know it’s coming, but you don’t know when. 34 Think of it this way. A man has to leave home and go on a trip. So he tells the servants to do their job. And he tells the guard at the front door to stay on alert. 35 So keep your eyes open. You have no idea when the master of the house will come back. He might come in the evening. He could come at midnight. He might come in the darkness of early morning, when the rooster crows. Or he might come with the sunrise. 36 When he comes suddenly, don’t let him find you sleeping. 37 I’m not talking to you folks alone. What I’m saying, I say to everyone. Keep your eyes wide open all the time.”
The narrow Kidron Valley rested between the Mount of Olives and the ridge on which Jerusalem was built.
This was two sets of brothers. James and John were brothers. Peter and Andrew were brothers.
More literal translation: “abomination of desolation.” There are lots of theories about what Jesus meant. The prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 44:22, uses those terms to describe what Babylonian invaders eventually did to Jerusalem in 586 BC. He said that because of the evil abominations the people committed, Jerusalem was going to be decimated. A later prophet, Daniel, seemed to pick up this phrasing when he talks about a future ruler who sets up a sacrilegious object that spiritually pollutes a holy place, which could be the Jerusalem Temple. Daniel says the abomination will cause desolation (Daniel 9:27). Contenders for the culprit behind this sacrilegious act: (1) Pontius Pilate tried to bring into Jerusalem Roman standards, which were flags that had engraved images. Jews objected and Pilate backed down. (2) Emperor Caligula ordered that a statue of him be installed in the Jerusalem Temple. He died before he could enforce his order. (3) Roman general Titus led the Roman army in crushing the Jewish rebellion that started in AD 66. In AD 70, he went into the Jerusalem Temple and stood in the most holy room, according to Josephus, a Roman citizen and a Jewish historian who collaborated with Titus. (4) Some early Christians began to associate Jesus’s cryptic description with “the antichrist,” someone who would pretend to be the Messiah, but who acted like a devil of a Messiah.
This parenthetical note from Mark may have intended to point readers to prophets who used the words “abomination” and “desolation.” The prophets would have included Jeremiah and Daniel.
Some early Christian writers, including Eusebius (about AD 260-340), said that when Christians saw what Roman general Titus was about to do to Jerusalem in AD 70, they remembered Jesus’s warning. They fled to the city of Pella, about 20 miles (32 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan.
Jerusalem fell to Roman general Titus in the summer of AD 70.
In the Jewish Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, the “Chosen” is a shorthand way of talking about the Jewish people, who were also known as the “people of the covenant,” which is the agreement they had with God: obedience was their responsibility, protection and blessing was God’s job. Jewish writers such as Mark, who became followers of Jesus, used “chosen” as a way of referring also to Christians as the people of the new covenant, which was launched during the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus seems to be quoting two prophecies: Isaiah 13:10; 34:4. There, Isaiah is talking about a judgment “day of the Lord,” when the Babylonian Empire will be punished for destroying Jerusalem in 586 BC, and exiling the Jewish survivors to what is now Iraq. Some Bible experts say Jesus is probably using cosmic-scale exaggeration to describe the punishment God has in store for Jerusalem, much like Isaiah used the same kind of exaggeration to talk about what was going to happen to Babylon. Other scholars say Jesus was talking about something beyond the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. They argue that Jesus was talking about some kind of Tribulation or Great Trouble directed by some autocratic, antichrist character.
The Roman army crushed a Jewish rebellion and leveled Jerusalem about 40 years later, in AD 70.
Many Bible experts say that the Gospel of Mark was written sometime between AD 66-70. Jews revolted against the Romans and drove them out of what is now Israel in AD 66. The Roman army came back, conquered the Jews, and leveled Jerusalem. The only Jewish Temple on the planet was destroyed and never rebuilt. Jesus seemed to predict that about 40 years ahead of time: “Not one stone will be left sitting on top of another” (13:2). If a Christian and non-Christian each read this prediction, how do you think each one might react to it?
Bible experts say they see two different scenes in these prophecies of Jesus (13:1-37; see also Luke 21:5-28). In some cases, they see the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, when Romans crushed a Jewish rebellion and leveled the city of Jerusalem. Others say they see references to the Second Coming. What are some of the quotes you see in here that seem to track nicely with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70? And what lines seem to point to something beyond that event?
Jesus seems to say that before he comes back, “the good news needs to be preached to people everywhere” (13:10). Are we there yet? There are a lot of people who have never heard anything about Jesus.
Jesus said there was a time of “Great Trouble” coming (13:19). He said “It’s going to be worse than anything that has ever happened” (13:19). What do you think he’s talking about?
Jesus said the people would see signs in the sky: “The sun won’t shine and the moon won’t glow. Falling stars will paint the sky” (13:24-25). What are some scenes that would qualify during the Roman army’s attack on Jerusalem? What are some scenes that would qualify today?
How could Jesus, in one breath, say “some of you will be turned over to the authorities and executed” (13:12), and in the next breath say that those who hang onto their faith “all the way to the end will be saved” (13:13)?
Jesus says that there is coming a day when everyone “will look up into the clouds and see the Son of Humans coming.” (13:26). Many preachers have gotten rich by writing books and hosting TV shows that focus on end times and the Second Coming. How much time and energy do you think Christians should give to studying and talking about these prophesied events?
Jesus said, “I’m telling you the truth, this generation of human beings will live to see everything I’ve talked about here” (13:30). Does this suggest to you that everything Jesus said in this section about future events was about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70? Or was he talking about the Second Coming and he was mistaken about the timing—which is a position some religion scholars take?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus said that some of his followers would be “arrested and turned over to government officials and synagogue leaders who will beat you” (13:9). He said this would be their opportunity, forced though it may be, “to testify about me.” When we go through stressful situations, what are some of the ways we give others a glimpse of our Christian faith?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus told his followers that some of them would be “executed” (13:12). Christians in recent times have been executed by extremist groups who ordered Christians to either convert to another faith or die. Imagine one of the people you love most being put in that situation and converting. Would you think less of that person? Do you think God would think less of that person?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus says he’s giving a warning to everyone. He’s telling us, “Keep your eyes wide open all the time” (13:37). With apologies to Johnny Cash and “I Walk the Line,” what do you think Jesus wanted us to do?