Jesus is leaving the Temple in Jerusalem where He had been teaching. One of the disciples, overwhelmed by the temple’s beauty said to Jesus, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (v. 1). But instead of agreeing, Jesus tells him that this magnificent structure would instead be completely destroyed.
This came true in 70 A.D. when the Romans under the ruler Titus ransacked Jerusalem, killed a million Jews, and demolished the temple. Titus’s soldiers set the temple on fire and then literally pried stone from stone to recover the gold leaf that had melted from the roof when the temple was burned. What only remained, were huge foundation stones that formed footings for the retaining wall under the entire Temple Mount. It is a portion of the western side of that retaining wall which today is called the Wailing Wall.
Jesus and His disciples then climb the Mount of Olives where they find a spot to sit which overlooks the city and the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew question Jesus asking, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”, (v. 4). Thus begins a great sermon given by Jesus known as the Olivet Discourse in which He mentions the many signs and wonders that would point to His soon return.
Jesus begins by warning us to “shamar”, or to take heed. In fact, Jesus echoes this warning thought out the Chapter. He’s telling us to keep our eyes and ears open for, “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.” (v.6).
The only way we can defend ourselves from deceit is by knowing the truth. And only the Bible contains the real truth. We need to check everything against what Jesus has to say about it. Because many false religions and prophets will try to deceive us claiming to be the answer to all of our problems. And some will even claim to me the Messiah Himself.
Next Jesus tells us of wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and natural disasters which He refers to as the “beginning of sorrows“, or as “birth pangs“. And just as birth pangs are infrequent at first and then intensify as just before delivery, so it will be in the world before Jesus’ return.
Jesus promises in verse 13, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures will be saved.” Believers will be persecuted, betrayed, hated, and killed. But Jesus tells us to stand strong, draw near to Him, and trust Him regardless of the storm around us. There is no doubt that there will be times when we will suffer because of our love for Jesus. But the glory and grace that is ours in Him for eternity outweighs every trial we may face.
We are then told to beware of the sign of the “Abomination of Desolation.” In 167 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanies, a Greek ruler, set up an alter to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the temple in Jerusalem. There he also sacrificed a pig. This event was called the “Abomination of Desolation”.
Here in Mark, Jesus is warning of another Abomination of Desolation in which the Antichrist who has established a covenant with Israel for seven years, then breaks it by doing something similar in the Jewish temple in the city of Jerusalem. This will set off a chain of events that Jesus says, “those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.” (vs. 19)
We are told that the sky will be dark, for neither the sun nor the moon will provide light. Stars will fall from the sky, and the heavens will be shaken. And after all of this, “Then they will see The Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (v. 26).
Those will be terrible times indeed. But as Christians are promised freedom from such punishment. 1Thess. 5:9 says, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet even so, we are called to be spiritually alert and living productive lives for the kingdom of God.
We are to, “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age , looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and a Savior, Christ Jesus...” (Titus 2:12-13).
Although we know not when, we know Jesus will return. Are you ready? Do you have things you plan to do but haven’t gotten around to yet? Maybe it’s to read your Bible more, or start attending Church. Perhaps it’s sharing your faith with others, or forgiving someone who has hurt or sinned against you. Whatever it is, don’t wait waste another second. Do not take for granted that you have tomorrow for as Jesus warns, “…you do not know when the appointed time will come.” (v. 33).