Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

3. Prophecies concerning the kingdom of Israel,13:1-37

i] The last days


Having exposed Israel's hypocrisy, Jesus abandons the temple in fulfilment of Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:22-23, and moves to the Mount of Olives where he answers the disciples' question concerning the preliminary signs that will usher in the end of the old order of things.


The days before "the end" demand endurance.


i] Context: See Mark 11:1-11. Although often treated as a separate entity, The Little Apocalypse serves as the conclusion of Jesus' Temple ministry recorded in chapters 11 and 12. The passage presents a prophetic word from Jesus which answers a question from his disciples. Jesus had commented that the temple would one day be destroyed, v1-2. The disciples naturally want to know how they will recognise this coming day when "these things" (ie., the events leading up to, and associated with, the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem) will be accomplished, v3-4. So, Jesus goes on to detail the preliminary events, "the birth-pangs", v5-13. These events are not signs of the end, but are rather the way things are prior to the end.

In v14-23 Jesus goes on to explain the tauta, "these things", and the shmeion, "sign", that herald the end. He focuses on the bdelugma thV erhmwsewV, "the desolating sacrilege", v14 - the Roman military action against the Jewish rebellion which leads up to the destruction of the temple / Jerusalem in 70AD.

Using apocalyptic language, Jesus goes on to speak of the destruction of the temple, his enthronement, and the gathering of the lost, v24-27. Finally, He gives a summary answer to the disciples' question - the "when?" (within "this generation"), and the "how?" (the easily recognised "these things"), v28-31.

The Little Apocalypse ends with an illustrative parable on the subject of watchfulness, v32-37.


ii] Structure: Jesus' prophetic discourse - The Last Days:

Jesus' prophetic prediction, v1-2;

An outline of preliminary eschatological troubles, v3-13;

The disciples' question, v3-4;

The normal order of things, v5-8;

The inevitable persecution of God's people, v9-13.


iii] Interpretation:

This passage calls on disciples to endure as the day of the Lord, the day of judgment, draws near. In the interim, disciples must endure.

The disciples have commented on the magnificence of the temple, and Jesus tells them that its days are numbered. Naturally, the disciples want to know "what" events will herald the coming day "when" the temple is destroyed. Before getting into the details, Jesus stresses the reality of the present, for it is the present they need to deal with, not the future.

In the present age, disciples need to stand firm against false messiahs, false prophets confusing the Christian community, diverting believers from their prime objective of proclaiming the gospel to all nations. Believers will also need to stand firm in the face of wars, and rumours of wars, and persecution, all part-and-parcel of the days before the end.


Biblical Prophecy: It is of course a misnomer to describe Mark 13 as an example of apocalyptic literature; the angels, symbols etc. are missing, although its apocalyptic flavour conveys the immediacy of the desolating sacrilege. None-the-less, Jesus is more concerned with his disciple's faithfulness in the time before the "day of the Lord" than in the day itself. His focus is on the delay, the "not yet." None-the-less, Jesus' words certainly do have something to say about the future, but what future?

Commentator's like N.T. Wright argue that the whole of the chapter refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. Many other commentators follow the long tradition of interpreting the passage as a symbolic revelation concerning the end of the world at the return of Christ, although today, following the lead of Beasley-Murray and others, there is a tendency to divide the passage into prophesies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, v1-31, and prophecies concerning the end of the age, v32-37.

We are on a firmer footing if we view Biblical prophecy as layered. A prophet always speaks to his own generation concerning the realisation of God's reign. In like manner to the prophets of the Historic Kingdom who spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem in 590BC, so Jesus, a prophet of the Restored Kingdom, speaks to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. When Jesus speaks about "these things" that are "about to be fulfilled", v4, (with its preparatory sign, the "abomination that causes desolation" - the defilement of the temple?, v14), he is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Yet, at the same time, Jesus' words about the day of the Lord in 70AD serve as a paradigm of another day, a coming day when the old order of things will pass away with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The layered nature of prophecy is illustrated in the following diagrams.

[Kingdom diagram]
[Kingdom diagram]

As represented in the illustration below, Biblical prophets will usually direct their words to a particular immediate situation, yet their words will often push beyond this situation. When interpreting a prophetic word, commentators will argue over whether the words concern the immediate present, or are still to be fulfilled in the future. In truth, Biblical prophecy brings with it a depth of perspective. The prophet will address the immediate situation, but the immediate situation often reflects a future reality. The prophecies of Jesus are classic examples of this feature. Here in Mark, Jesus is speaking specifically about the destruction of Jerusalem, yet his words also push well beyond 70AD to the last days - the present day onward to the Great Tribulation and Armageddon.
the prophetic perspective


iv] Synoptics:

Matt.24:1-14, Lk.21:5-10. As usual, there are numerous small differences, but in particular, Mark applies Jesus' words to the destruction of the temple, but Matthew extends them to "the end of the age", v3. Luke follows Mark.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The last days.

Text - 13:1

The Last Days, v1-13. Jesus' prophetic prediction, v1-2. Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple, v1-2. Jesus' leaves the temple for the last time, but a disciple's comment about the magnificence of the building, prompts a prophetic word to the crowd. The day is coming when the temple will be completely destroyed.

ekporeuomenou (ekporeuomai) gen. or. part. "as [he] was leaving [the temple]" - [and he] going out. The genitive participle and its genitive subject "he" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

ek + gen. "-" - from [the temple]. Source / origin, or separation; "came out of / away from the temple."

twn maqhtwn (hV ou) gen. "[one] of [his] disciples" - [one] of the disciples [of him says to him]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

ide "look" - pay attention, behold. In NT Greek, normally just an interjection standing by itself, but here followed by a clause indicating what to take note of.

potapoi pro. "what magnificent" - of what kind, what sort of. Interrogative pronoun; here obviously in the sense of an acclamation, "how magnificent." "He who has not seen the temple in its full splendour has never seen a beautiful building", Josephus.

liqoi (oV) "stones" - stones [and what sort of buildings]. Josephus mentions the massive size of the stones used in the construction of the temple.


autw/ dat. pro. "-" - [and jesus said] to him [do you see these great buildings]. Dative of indirect object. Singular for the singular "one of the disciples" who asked the question. Jesus' words may either be a statement or a question. If a statement, the sense may either be that the temple's greatness will soon be brought down, or that the disciples should not be overawed by its greatness since it will soon be brought down.

ou mh + subj. "not one" - no no = by no means [will be left here]. As for ou mh kataluqh/, "will not be thrown down", a subjunctive of emphatic negative emphasising the total destruction of the temple. Jesus clearly predicts the destruction of the temple, most likely because it has been a stumbling block for Israel and a symbol of its religious life, which life stands condemned. In any case, one greater than the temple is here, a new age has dawned and the temple will be replaced in the divine economy. Did the crowd turn against Jesus because of this prediction, or because he would not take up the roll of liberator-king? The prediction is used against Jesus at his trial, although he didn't actually say he would personally destroy the temple.

epi + acc. "[stone will be left] on [another]" - [stone] upon [stone which will not not = by no means be destroyed]. Spatial; cf., Luke 19:44 where the reference is to Jerusalem. Interestingly, other than the foundation platform upon which the temple stood, there are no stones left.


The days before the end the old age and the beginning of the new, v3-13; i] The disciples' question, v3-4. Alone with his disciples on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is asked what sign will warn of the coming day when the temple is about to be destroyed.

kaqhmenou (kaqhmai) gen. pres. part. "as [Jesus] was sitting" - [and he] sitting. The genitive participle and its genitive subject "he" forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, "while", "as". Grammatically inappropriate here (as in v1), because its subject is part of the main clause. None-the-less, Mark's construction ties Jesus' words, from v5 onward, to his prediction in v2. Jesus is explaining to his disciples his startling, but mysterious words, declared earlier to the crowd, v2.

twn elaiwn (a) gen. "of olives" - [into = in/on the hill] of olives. The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting "mountain / hill"; "the hill known as the olives", etc... Possibly emphasising Jesus' view of the temple and therefore identifying the focus of his words, or more likely fulfilling Ezekiel 11:23, God's abandonment of the temple.

katenanti + gen. "opposite" - opposite, before [the temple]. The adverb serves as a spatial preposition.

ephrwta (eperwtaw) imperf. sing. "asked" - [peter and james and john and andrew] was = were questioning [him]. The imperfect tense may be inceptive, "began to ask", or even indicate ongoing questioning, although where there is speech content the imperfect properly reflects the action associated with a series of words. The imperfect is also used for background information, as here. The singular indicates that the questioners are being taken collectively, or that possibly Peter is doing the asking.

kat idian "privately" - according to one's own = in private, privately. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, idiomatic.


hJmin dat. pro. "-" - [say] to us. Dative of indirect object.

pote .... tiv "when ....... what ....." - when [will these things be and] what [will be the sign when all these things are about to be complete]? The two interrogatives + the fut. ind. of the verb to-be, estai, defy convention. The two conjoined questions direct the following discourse, in that Jesus sets out to answer them. The first part of the question is probably not seeking an actual date for the destruction of the temple, since in Aramaic idiom, the next (parallel) phrase in this construction serves to exegete the first, so the two questions are probably best treated as one, "what will be the end of the old order of things, ie., what signs will herald its accomplishment?" The question concerns the "what", ie., the preliminary signals that will serve to warn disciples "when" Jerusalem is about to be destroyed, cf., Dan.12:6,7.

tauta "these things" - The Greek word for "these things" is repeated in the second half of the verse, but it is often argued that it does not refer to the same event, the first being the destruction of the temple and the second, the end of the world. Matthew's account drives this view, but here Mark's focus is on one set of events, namely, the destruction of the temple /J erusalem. None-the-less, as noted above, the destruction of Jerusalem is but the outer shell of a layered prophecy.

o{tan + subj. "that [they are]" - when [these things]. Forming an indefinite temporal clause, but note above.

sunteleisqai (suntelew) pas. inf. "to be fulfilled" - [are about] to bring to completion. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "are about". Rather than describing the end of all things, the word serves to identify the completing, accomplishing, of a process. "What will be the signs that precede the accomplishing of the temple's destruction?"


ii] Jesus explains that the end of the age is not yet upon us, v5-8. Jesus now sets out to describe the circumstances of life prior to the fulfilment of "these things." The first is the emergence of messianic leaders who claim to act with the authority of Christ. They will appear in the interim leading up to the destruction of the temple. Disciples must be discerning and so not be deceived by them. Their presence is not a sign of the end. The second non-sign is wars, famine and natural calamities. These are but a foretaste of the coming terrible day, but are not a sign of its nearness. When they occur, a disciple should not jump to hasty conclusions.

legein (legw) pres. inf. "said" - [but/and jesus began] to say. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "began". A phrase that signals an important teaching.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - to them. Dative of indirect object.

blepete (blepw) imp. "watch out" - look carefully, beware. Without a direct object the word means "take note, be discerning, be alert." In the context, the word may lean toward "be prepared."

planhsh/ (planaw) aor. subj. "deceive" - [not = lest someone] deceive [you] (cause someone to hold a wrong view and thus be mistaken, to mislead, to deceive, to cause to be mistaken*). Although there is no iJna, the subjunctive by itself may form a negated purpose clause, "beware lest someone leads you astray", but it can also form a dependent statement of perception expressing what the disciples should be careful about, namely, "that no one misleads you." Some commentators argue that the presence of deceivers is a sign that "these things" "are all about to be fulfilled", Cranfield. Other commentators (eg. France) see v5-8 as a warning against premature expectation, and therefore, not a sign, as such. It seems likely that the presence of deceivers, and dramatic events (v7-8), serve only to evidence that "these things" are still coming. None-the-less, it is possible that these preliminary events are accentuated as the day draws near.


epi + dat. "in [my name]" - [many will come] in [the name of me]. Spatial, "under" - acting under the authority of Jesus, in the sense of claiming to represent him. Possibly, "abrogating to themselves the title of Messiah which by right belongs to me", Cranfield.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "claiming" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "will come", "will come and say/claim."

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech / of stating, "will come and claim that ....."

egw eimi "I am he" - i am [and they will deceive many]. It is unlikely that these deceivers claim divinity by using the great "I AM." It is more likely they are claiming a special association with Jesus the messiah; "I am the messiah." Josephus indicates that there were many self-proclaimed prophets (he doesn't use the word messiah) up to the rebellion in 66AD.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

oJtan + subj. "when" - when [you hear]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, "whenever", although usually translated as definite, "when ...."; "Don't get into a panic when you hear of wars and reports of wars", Barclay.

polemwn (oV) gen. "of wars" - [wars and rumours] of violence, wars. "Hear" followed by the genitive, may indicate hearing with understanding as against the hearing followed by the accusative polemouV, "[hear of] wars", indicating a hearing without understanding. Probably over subtle.

mh qroeisqe (qroew) pas. imp. "do not be alarmed" - do not be troubled. Cf., 2Thes.2:2. In the passive voice this verb takes the sense "frightened, disturbed, shaken in your mind." Possibly here, "Don't jump to hasty conclusions."

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "[such things must] happen" - [it is necessary these things] to happen, occur. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb "It is necessary" = "to happen is necessary."

oupw adv. "still to come" - [but the end is] not yet. Predicate adverb with the verb to-be assumed. Violence, or sensational rumours, are not a sign of the fulfilment of "these things" and so the disciple should not jump to hasty conclusions.


gar "-" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why "the end is still to come", because ..... National strife is but the birth pangs of the new age to come.

egerqhsetai (egeirw) fut. "will rise" - [nation] will rise up. The future tense is not indicating a future sign, but rather that these conflicts will go on happening up till "these things" are fulfilled.

ep (epi) + acc. "against" - against [nation, and kingdom against kingdom]. Here expressing opposition.

kata + acc. "in [various places]" - [there will be earthquakes] according to [place and there will be famines]. Distributive, "from place to place", or spatial, as NIV.

wdinwn (in inoV) gen. "of birth pains" - [these are the beginning] of birth-pangs" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. The birthing imagery illustrates the sufferings of the interim. The wars etc. are but a taste of the future "abomination", not a sign of its nearness, none-the-less, such troubles should prompt a faithful eye toward glory. "The birth-pangs of the Messiah", a rabbinic expression, is regarded by some commentators as an obvious source for Jesus' words, although some modern commentators date the expression later than the New Testament era.


iii] Jesus warns of the coming days of persecution, v9-13. The third non-sign is persecution. At a personal level, the disciples can expect that their fellow Jews will persecute them during the interim before the end. As Jesus was "given over" to suffering, so will they. Not only will the disciples suffer at the hands of their own fellow Jews, they will find themselves defending their faith before secular magistrates. In the face of the troubled days before "the end", disciples will need to sharpen their witness; they must proclaim the gospel from king to surf, throughout all nations. To this end, they will need to rely on the Holy Spirit to give them the words to say when they are forced to give account of their faith. Finally, the disciples must firmly face the days of trouble. Jesus points out that those who follow him will suffer as he suffered. Yet, a disciple who endures through the times of trouble will inevitably be vindicated.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument.

uJmeiV pro. "you" - you [see = watch out for yourselves]. Emphatic by use, and reinforced by the reflective pronoun eJautouV, "yourselves", which functions as the direct object of the imperative verb blepete, "watch out"; "but you - watch yourselves." The disciples are no longer watching strife, or hearing rumours of it, they are in it.

paradwsousin (paradidwmi) fut. "will be handed over" - they will give over [you]. Indefinite plural. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were "given over" to death. Those ("they") who do the handing over are unspecified.

eiV "to" - into. Expressing the direction of the action and arrival at. The main verb "you will be handed over" is followed by three prepositional clauses; "they will hand you over to (eiV) local councils, to (eiV) synagogues ... and before (epi) governors and kings ..." The second prepositional construction is awkward, but the sense is "handed over = taken into (eiV) synagogues and beaten (darhsesqe)." The third prepositional construction takes a similar line; "handed over = place before (epi) ....."

sunedria (on) "the local councils" - sanhedrin [and into synagogues you will be flogged]. Possibly the local Jewish courts or tribunals, as NIV, although the word is used of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. The sense is possibly "people will give you over and in tribunals and synagogues you will be flogged."

epi + gen. "before" - [you will stand] before [governors and kings]" - Spacial; "in the presence of, before." As above, the sense of this phrase is governed by the main verb "given over." The disciples will be "given over" and stand before secular authorities and suffer the consequences of being accused before a hostile power. Some commentators argue that it is the Jewish authorities who are the persecutors. Other commentators argue that instead of referring to persecution by secular authorities, this phrase is speaking of the disciples' witness to them, in the sense of preaching the gospel. Although a worthy suggestion, the immediate context of persecution seems to mitigate against this point of view.

eiV + acc. "as [witness]" - [for the sake of, on account of, because of me] into = for [a testimony, witness]. Here expressing purpose / goal; "this will be an opportunity for you to show them what you believe", Barclay.

autoiV dat. "to them" - for them. Dative of interest, advantage, or possibly reference / respect. It is interesting trying to decide whether it is advantage, or disadvantage. If they believe it is to their advantage, good news indeed; if they reject the gospel, it is to their disadvantage, bad news indeed.


to euaggelion "gospel" - [and into = unto all the nations first of all] the important news = gospel [to be preached is necessary]. Accusative subject of the infinitive "to be preached", the infinitive being the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary." Mark defines this message as "the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand." Gundry limits this statement of the gospel to a declaration of the inauguration of God's long promised reign. He argues that to understand the gospel in its entirety it is necessary to add the atoning death of Christ, the resurrection, coming glory... Yet, it is far better to understand the phrase "the kingdom of God is at hand", as a statement that sums up the grace of God that is now ours through the establishment of his eternal righteous reign in and through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. "But before the end comes, the good news must be preached to all nations", CEV.

prwton adv. "[must] first" - Used here with a non-temporal / sequential sense; "first of all." The temple will not be destroyed until the gospel has moved from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Mark would undoubtedly agree with Paul the apostle that the gospel had been preached to all nations, even in Rome. The modern idea of having to preach to every language group in the world before the return of Christ, is not in Mark's / Jesus' mind, and certainly cannot be argued from this verse. The verse is treated as a parenthesis by Moffatt with "first" taken in a temporal sense; "(Ere the end, the gospel must be preached to all the nations.)

panta ta eqnh "all nations" - The phrase declares the universal nature of the gospel. It is interesting how the Old Testament image of Israel as a light to the Gentiles, has the Gentiles attracted to the light, just as the Queen of Sheba was attracted to Solomon's kingdom. The reticence of the apostles to evangelise Gentiles may well reflect the orthodox view that the Gentiles will come to Israel, of their own accord, particularly in the last days. Yet, Jesus has a more proactive approach, although no less Biblical.


o{tan + subj. "whenever [you are arrested]" - whenever [they may bring, lead you]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause.

paradidonteV (paradidwmi) pres. part. "brought to trial" - handing you over to the jewish authorities. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they may bring/lead (arrest)", as NIV; "arrest and hand over [to trial]". The word ties this verse to v9, indicating that the handing over is to the Jewish authorities. The Jewish authorities may hand the disciples onto Gentile magistrates, although this is not stated.

ti "what [to say]" - [do not be worried beforehand] what. The "what" is clearly content, although some argue from the parallels in Matthew and Luke that the addition of "how" indicates speaking in tongues. In the NT, speaking in the Spirit is more often an understandable message uttered in a strange way, rather than a word that "no one understands."

lalhshte (lalew) aor. subj. "to say" - you might say. Deliberative subjunctive.

all (alla) "-" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "do not worry ........, but say whatever is given you", Barclay.

o} ean + subj. "[just say] whatever" - whatever. Introducing an indefinite relative clause which stands as the antecedent of touto, "this", "this say", ie., "whatever is given to at the time." "Use whatever words are given you when the time comes", Cassirer.

uJmin dat. pro. "[is given] you" - [is given] to you. Dative of indirect object / interest.

en + dat. "in [that hour]" - in [that hour, this you shall say]. Temporal use of the preposition. The "hour" is not an end-time reference. "At the time a disciple is handed over to the Jewish authorities."

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a disciple should retain a passive approach in their defence before the tribunal. The reason for passivity is that the Holy Spirit will give them the words to say. France writes "The promise that the words will be supplied, is for hard-pressed (and often illiterate) disciples on trial, not for lazy preachers!" "Because it will not be you yourselves, but the Holy Spirit who will be doing the speaking", Cassirer.

oiJ lalounteV (lalew) pres. part. "speaking" - [you yourselves are not] the ones speaking. The participle serves as a substantive; "for he who speaks is not you", Moffatt.

to pneuma to aJgion "the Holy Spirit" - [but] the holy spirit. After the prologue, the Holy Spirit is mentioned only three times, and this is the only time we are told that he functions on behalf of disciples. The Spirit's particular function of supporting a disciple's witness is developed in Luke, John and Acts, although this role is also ascribed to Jesus.


paradwsei (paradidwmi) fut. "will betray" - [and brother] will hand over [brother]. The sense of "betray" for "deliver over" is supported by some commentators, eg., France, Boring, Evans, ... Possibly prompted by Jesus' own experience. Note allusion to Mic.7:6. We know of Stephen and the two James boys suffering death, but other than Saul's purge of Hellenist believers in Jerusalem, we know of no general Jewish persecution of Christians.

eiV + acc. "to" - into = for [death]. Here the preposition expresses purpose, "in order to, for."

epi + acc. "[children will rebel] against" - [and father child and children will rise up] upon [parents and put to death them]. The preposition here expresses opposition; "against".


esesqe misoumenoi (misew) pres. pas. part. "will hate you" - [and] you will be being hated. The future tense of the verb to-be with the present participle forms a future periphrastic construction, possibly expressing durative aspect = ongoing hatred. The future tense of the verb to-be is rare in the NT.

uJpo + gen. "-" - by [everyone]. Expressing agency.

dia + acc. "because of" - because of, on account of. This causal construction serves to establish an association with Jesus, cf. 9:37. The disciples will be persecuted because they follow Jesus.

onoma mou "me" - the name of me. Used in the sense of Jesus' person and authority.

oJ ... uJpomeinaV (uJopmenw) aor. part. "he who stands firm" - [but/and] the one having endured. The participle serves as a substantive; "but the man who sees things through to the end", Barclay.

eiV teloV "to [the end]" - into, to [end]. Temporal construction. Most likely the end of the persecution, even death, but possibly through to the destruction of Jerusalem. As telos does not have an article, the meaning is something like "right through", "forever" and so no specific time is in mind. "There is no expectation that this hostility will be overcome, only that it must be endured", France "He who endures, for as long as it takes, will be vindicated."

swqhsetai (swzw) fut. pas. "will be saved" - [this one] will be saved. Lane suggests "vindicated", and this seems better than physical rescue, eg., "will not be killed". Spiritual salvation may be intended, but this sense can lead to the false notion that eternal salvation depends on faithful endurance in the face of adversity. Salvation is given, not earned. This issue split the early church when the "martyrs", those who suffered for having not offered sacrifice to the emperor, questioned the salvation of those who had.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]