Newspaper reporters would be frustrated with Jesus. He did not answer questions, but replied with more important issues of his own choosing.
What is the purpose of Jesus’ prophecy in Mark 13?
We will discuss Jesus’ non-sequitur answer to his disciples’ question about when these things will be in Mark 13:1-8.
Mark 13:1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.” 2 Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” 3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, 4 “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?” 5 Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 6 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 7 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 8 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
1. The Temple
The Temple was a “building of shining white marble and gold, with bronze entrance doors, it was said that you could not look at the Temple in daylight as it would blind you.”1 No wonder that the disciples were in awe of this architectural wonder. The Second Temple in Jerusalem existed longer than America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have been nations — 420 years. The Temple was constructed stone upon stone (Haggai 2:15). Jesus’ prophecy that it would be completely demolished would have the same shock value as if we were to say that the greatest architectural icons of our nations would be destroyed. Complete destruction such as leaving not one stone upon another was familiar in ancient warfare. As we look at the magnificent structures our countries have built, let us remember by whose grace we stand.
Jesus’ answer as to when these things would be was to avoid deception. Deception has always been around to lead us astray. Many would come in his name and say I am he? What name? Who? In the ancient world, using someone’s name meant the same as their authority. Jesus means salvation. From political parties masquerading as having Christian values, to televangelists who preach false gospels, to advertisers of products which purport to save us from sickness and drudgery, those who claim to be our saviors are everywhere. Jesus also warns against false prophecies, or a fearful attachment to prophesy, what some call prediction addiction. There will be wars and threats of war, but we should not panic. The end will not follow those things immediately. Even earthquakes and famines would come, but even that is not the end yet.
Just as with us, patriotism was a strong emotion among the Jews. Their land had been occupied by a hated, brutal enemy with a foreign religion. Many Americans and Australians fear that a foreign religion and foreign interests are invading our countries and the ugly sisters of patriotism, xenophobia and jingoism may grow even uglier. For Jesus to say that the Temple will be destroyed would have offended the disciples’ Jewish patriotism as much as anyone prophesying the destruction of the twin towers would offend both Australians and Americans. Despite some differences of opinion, both countries have always remained close friends and when the chips were down, have always fought together. Life in Roman Judea under occupation was difficult. The Jews wanted freedom. Imagine how hard it would have been to hear that something even worse was about to occur.
4. Prophecy Panic
The admonition not to panic is still relevant. Every generation has looked at these signs, predicted that Jesus would return in their lifetimes and so far they have all been wrong. Hopefully, apocalyptic prophets of America’s impending doom are equally wrong. Prophecy has basically four schools of thought: Preterists believe that this prophecy was completely fulfilled in 70 AD, with the destruction of Jerusalem. Historicists believe that this and other prophecies detail events of history. Futurists believe it is mostly still in the future. A fourth view is symbolic of the ultimate victory of good over evil. Jesus said no one knows the day or hour (Mark 13:32). The reason that most interpretation of prophecies of the past 2,000 years have failed, is speculation. We need to be so careful not let our imaginations run wild turning guesswork into fact.
5. Look for Christ not Antichrist
Christians panic and false prophets teach that the end is here. Jesus taught that it was not the end, only the beginning and that no one knows the day or hour. Jesus gives clarity. Today’s suffering is caused by sin. Be faithful in an evil world. Patience and faithfulness will be rewarded. During times of trouble false prophecies abound. Jesus’ purpose was not to detail the future, but to encourage faithfulness in the present. Jesus is basically saying that everything will be all right, that God is working on behalf of humanity. He wants us to be free and open to the future and not have our faith limited by fear of world news. We seem to worry too much about the fate of the world our parents knew. Jesus encourages us to watch in prayer, stay faithful and endure.
As things change, civilizations and monuments come and go. We are to learn not to put our faith in temporary things, but in the only thing that is permanent. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17 KJV)