Years back when an introductory book on doctrine was being written, I was given the ‘option’ of writing the chapter on eschatology – the study of last things. Through the years I’ve collected magazine articles, pamphlets, books, journals, fiction and non-fiction on the subject of the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. “88 Reasons why Jesus Christ MUST come in 1988” has for some reason never been reprinted. “1980s – Countdown to Armageddon” is now available at yard sales for a reasonable price. I never got ‘hooked’ on the ‘Left Behind’ series but chose to leave behind the endless pages of speculation. I watched most of the prophetic ‘thrillers’ which circulated through churches and high school auditoriums, like “A Thief In the Night,” “Distant Thunder,” etc. To say I’ve had my ‘fill’ of prophetic speculation is an understatement.
In my posting through the Gospel of Mark, I now come to chapter 13 – a chapter which is entitled “Signs of the End of the Age” in my bible. What I want to encourage in reading through this chapter is some serious study. Is that possible after our minds have been swayed by prophetic ‘prophets’ who have sold books, made movies, preached their speculation and at times embedded their theories and bound them alongside the sacred text of Holy Scripture. I commend the “Thompson Chain Reference Bible” which has no ‘commentary’ but profitable ‘chains’ of references linking through the entire Bible. As one of my respected former pastoral leaders often said – “ALL that the Bible teaches about a subject is the truth about that subject.” Some times our misconceived interpretation is simply corrected by the context of the chapter or book we are reading from the Bible, rather than building a complete superstructure on one verse. Enough said!
V.1 The context of this discourse of Jesus is set during the final week of Jesus ministry. He has spent hours in the temple and as he and his apostolic band are leaving the buildings, one of his disciples draws attention to the massiveness and magnificence of the buildings. Anyone who has visited the Wailing/Western/Wall of Rejoicing in Jerusalem cannot help but be impressed with the size of the massive stones. The engineering and design of this house of worship must have been impressive to anyone who visited.
V.2 Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple. Speaking to the disciples, he anticipated the throwing down, the tearing apart of the temple. Read the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and you learn of the destructive energies applied by the Roman armies as they levelled this symbol of the Jewish faith.
V.3-4 Sitting on the Mount of Olives with a clear view of the temple from the east side, some of the Twelve, namely, Peter, James, John and Andrew drew Jesus into a conversation about “future things” with two probing questions. The temple destroyed? How is this possible? Surely this must mean the end of all things? How could ‘the faith’ continue without a temple? (These are MY questions in grappling with the text.) The temple had been destroyed and rebuilt – Had they forgotten? Read 1 Kings 9 where the LORD ‘consecrates’ the temple built by Solomon but anticipates rejecting it when His people later rejected Him and His rightful rule over their lives.
The disciples were understandably curious. Here are their two specific questions –
#1 – When will these things happen?
#2 – What will be the sign they they are all about to be fulfilled?
Timing, timing, timing. Timing is everything. The disciples equated the timing of the destruction of the temple with the timing of Christ’s coming – Read the parallel passages in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. The unravelling of ‘what happens when’ becomes the interpretive challenge for this teaching.
My challenge for you are curious about this passage is simply to read and reread and reread the text. Make careful notes. DON’T use any commentaries. Simply list questions and observations under OBSERVATION, INTERPRETATION & APPLICATION. Remember Who? What? When? Where? and Why? Remember that Jesus is speaking originally to these men who had asked the questions.
I intend to do exactly this over the next week and report my findings.