The Olivet Discourse – Part 2
Text: Mark 13:14-27
Main Idea: Perseverance is fueled by steadfast hope in the second coming, not fervent sign-watching.
Outline (Continued from last week):
II. The Singular Event That Will Signal the Temple’s Destruction [and Appears to Foreshadow The Great Tribulation]. (Mark 13:14-23)
A. What is the “Abomination of Desolation”?
B. How Should They Respond?
C. How Are We Supposed to Interpret These Events?
III. The Irrefutable Event That Will Signal the End of Days (Mark 13:24-27)
I want to begin by highlighting two things about Mark 13.
(1) Everything Jesus says in verses 5–37 flows from the disciples’ question in verse 4 about the Temple’s coming destruction. Notice, the disciples are not challenging Jesus. Rather, they are utterly blown away at his unexpected revelation and they want to know when it’s going to happen and what singular event will signal its imminent fulfillment. They want to be ready.
Yet as we saw last week, Jesus initially responds to their question by warning them about all of the unsettling events that are, in fact, not signs of the Temples destruction; whether it be false teachers, natural disasters, widespread war, or intense persecution for the sake of the gospel.
And that is because, he is more concerned that they are ready to stand unshaken, side-by-side for the sake of the gospel in the face of every storm than he is concerned with them being informed about the specific timing of future events.
(2) But at the same time, Jesus does not ignore the disciples’ request for a sign. He not only discloses the singular even that will signal the Temple’s imminent destruction; he provides them with ultimate reason to persevere in the face of uncertain times and history’s greatest horrors. The promise that he will usher his people into everlasting joy when he returns in glory. Or to put it another way:
Main Idea: Perseverance is fueled by steadfast hope in the second coming not fervent sign-watching.
The Singular Event That Will Signal the Temple’s Destruction [and Appears to Foreshadow The Great Tribulation]. (Mark 13:14–23)
So I’d like to organize our discussion of these verses around three questions: (1) What is the Abomination of Desolation? (2) How should they respond when they see it? (3) How are we supposed to interpret these events?
What is the “Abomination of Desolation?” (Mark 13:14)
First, if we look in a lexicon we find that the noun “abomination” denotes something loathsome, detestable, or repugnant to God, and is often used in the context of pagan worship. And the noun “desolation” means something devastated or rendered uninhabitable.
Therefore, when we put these two terms together they appear to indicate something holy that has been rendered unholy and unusable to God because it was defiled through an act of unsanctioned worship.
Secondly, if we look in the OT we quickly find that Jesus did not invent the mysterious term “the abomination of desolation” on the spot. He is depicting a future event through a pre-established OT pattern/type, first revealed Daniel 11 and 12.
Daniel 11:31–32; 36 Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. 32 He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action… 36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done.
And this very event happened in 167 B.C. when the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes the IV not only outlawed the entire sacrificial system and the rite of circumcision with the threat that “whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die” (1 Macc 1:50). He also lashed out against God himself by sacrificing pigs on a pagan altar that he erected over top of the Temple’s altar of burnt-offering (Flavius Josephus, Ant.12.5.4 §253)… thus rendering it unholy and unfit for use.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus is telling his disciples that some sort of ostentatious desecrating event, similar to Daniel’s prophecy about Antiochus Epiphanes the IV, will happen shortly before the Temple is destroyed—even though he doesn’t tell them exactly what they will see.
How Should They Respond When They “See” it? (13:14–20)
Did you notice the drastic difference between these verses and our passage last week? In verses 5–13 Jesus encouraged his disciples to faithfully preserver in the face false teachers, natural disasters, wide-spread war, and religious persecution.
But, when it comes to “the abomination of desolation” he tells them to abandon everything and literally run for their lives. Do not go into your house and pack your belongings. Do not return to your house to grab your cold weather jacket. Beware it will be especially hard on pregnant women. And pray that it does not happen in winter. Because this “sign” is going to signal a moment of Undeniable Urgency and inaugurate a season of Unimaginable Hardship.
Yet, if you think about it, this exhortation to “run for the hills” seems utterly backwards. What I mean by this is that during times of war people ran into a walled city for protection (Jer 4:6) because a city provided the greatest amount of safety, shelter, food, and water.
And in addition to this, the Jewish people were wholly convinced that God himself would keep his holy Temple from ruin. Which is why Jesus also warns his disciples about the false prophets who will proclaim unwarranted oracles of God’s protection and deliverance in verses 21–22.
In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that false prophets doomed thousands of people to certain death with their baseless promises of divine protection and deliverance from Rome in the months leading up to the Temple’s destruction (J.W. 6.5.2–3 §§285–300; cf. 2.13.4–5 §§258–263).
But, just like prophet Jeremiah begged the people of Israel to ignore the false prophets in his day and save themselves by abandoning Jerusalem before the Babylonian army arrived; so also, Jesus is telling his disciples to abandon Jerusalem when they see the “abomination of desolation” (cf. similar counsel in Jer 6:1; Rev 18:4). And that is because Jerusalem will be ground zero for coming the judgment of God not a city of refuge under the protection of God.
The second thing we see in this passage is that this event will be marked as a period of Unimaginable Suffering and Tribulation. (13:19–20)
The Jewish historian Josephus catalogued the unbridled horror of this event inside and outside the walls of Jerusalem (J.W., books 5–6):
- On the outside, the Romans crucified so many Jews that they ran out of wood for crosses.
- Inside the city, he tells us that there was extreme infighting among the Jews, murder, famine, disease, and even cannibalism.
- And when Titus’s troops finally breached the city, thousands of people were slaughtered like animals (J.W. 6.3.3 §§193–195; 6.8.5 §§403–406). In all Josephus claims that over 1,000,000 died during the siege and that another 97,000 were taken captive (J.W. 6.9.3 §§420–421).
Yet, in the midst of the unrestrained and unimaginable carnage that marked the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., we are left with at least one significant question…
How Are We Supposed to Interpret These Events?
How can Jesus say that these events in 70 A.D. will be worse than anything that has happened since the beginning of creation until now, and never will be in the history of man and that no human being would have survived if God did not cut short the days (13:19–20)?
What I mean by this is that, even though 1-million dead is appalling it does not come close to:
- The more than 6-million Jews that were systematically exterminated by the Nazi’s during WW2.
- The 25 million people who died in the Black Plague.
- The 20 million people who died in WW1.
- The 75 million people who died in WW2.
70 A.D. was a human tragedy but it doesn’t come close to these other events.
When it comes to this question, Biblical scholars fall into one of three general camps:
First, some scholars propose that verse 19 is an obvious example of hyperbole. Suggesting that Jesus is using intentional exaggeration to underscore the unbridled horror of 70 A.D. not gauge its blood-shed against the historical scale of human atrocities.
Other scholars propose that verses 14–23 are, in fact, a prophetic leap past the first-century into the distant future of the Great Tribulation. And suggest that we should read this entire passage in light of 2 Thessalonians and Revelation 13.
While a third group of scholars contend that the entire chapter is, in fact, a mix of both historical and end times (eschatological) imagery—images that relate to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and the ascension of the antichrist during the Great Tribulation at the end of time.
- EX: Think of it like two different projectors at the movie theater projecting two similar but historically different events on the screen. Some of the events would be clearly different while other events would blend into an indistinguishable collage of actions.
I gravitate toward the third view—that this section is, in fact, a mix of both historical and end times (eschatological) imagery—for four primary reasons: 
1. The disciples’ question in verse 4, is about the Temple’s destruction, not the end of the age. And Jesus gives no indication in verse 14 that he is ignoring their question and jumping to the future. Therefore, verse 14 though 22 must apply in some way to the disciples question about the Temple.
2. When we examine what Jesus says about the Temple’s destruction in light of what Paul says about the Second Coming in 2 Thessalonians, it is increasingly clear they are following a similar “script” or “typological pattern”.
2 Thessalonians 2:1–4 1Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
Paul’s explanation in verses 3 and 4 sound very much like the abomination of desolation in Daniel 11 and Mark 13. But, the difference is that Paul is not talking about the Temple’s destruction but the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the age because the Christians in Thessalonica believe they have missed the second coming!
3. Jesus’ statement in verse 19 about the “tribulation” is a clear allusion to Daniel 12, in which Daniel describes the end of the age in very similar language:
Daniel 12:1–2 At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Notice, what will the end of days be like? It will be a time of trouble “such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.” Which sounds very much like Jesus in Mark 13:19.
4. And, according to Daniel what follows this time unmatched trouble/tribulation? The resurrection of the dead and final judgment, in which, everyone who belongs to God will be raised to eternal life. Which leads me to the fourth reason I believe that Mark 13:14–23 is an intentional mix of both historical and end times imagery: Jesus continues to follow the end times script of Daniel 12 as he transitions to verses 24–27. Jesus has Daniel on his mind.
The Irrefutable Event That Will Signal the End of Days. (Mark 13:24–27)
Unprecedented Cosmic Catastrophe (Mark 13:24–25)
Notice that Jesus is clearly transitioning to a period of time that is well beyond 70 A.D. A period of time which is clearly after the Great Tribulation at the end of the age. Because it is a period of time in which the universe itself will announce Jesus’ imminent return; not in hidden signs or subtle astronomical phenomena BUT an unmistakable unmaking of the universe itself. No one will miss it. It will not be hidden.
As one commentator puts it, “The fundamental idea [here is that]… The elements of creation [are thrown] into confusion and fear because Jesus appears, not as a sign that he is about to appear (see, e.g., Judges 5:4–5; Amos 1:2; Habakkuk 3:3–6, 10–11; Psalms 77:14–16; 114:1–8).”
- Psalm 97:1–4 The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.
This is what happens when the creator of the universe appears in glory.
The Undeniably Glorious Return of Jesus Christ (Mark 13:26–27)
And that is because his second coming will not be anything like his first coming. In his first coming he came as Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, a man who was disregarded, despised, and rejected. But, when he returns in glory he will fulfill Daniels vision about the “son of man” in Daniel chapter 7.
Daniel 7:13–14 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
See, when Jesus calls himself the “son of man” in gospel of Mark he is not highlighting his humanity. He is alluding to his true identity and universal authority. And when he arrives he will gather his people from every corner of the planet to himself.
Jesus is the One:
- Who has dominion and authority and a kingdom that will not pass away.
- Who will rule over all peoples, nations, and languages.
- Who is reigning at the Father’s right hand right now until his enemies are crushed under his feet.
- Who is coming on the clouds with his angles to gather his elect.
- Who will judge the quick and the dead.
Which means that Jesus is the only one who is worthy of our unfading hope and undying devotion.
An Observation and an Exhortation
Do you see what is Jesus doing in these verses? He is providing his disciples (and the disciples of every age) with the singular hope that can fuel their persevering gospel-centered faithfulness in the midst of false teachers, regional catastrophes, political instability, and hope-crushing tribulation—and it is the promise of glorious return.
See, the disciples ultimately do not need to know everything about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. And Christian, we don’t need to know everything about the Great Tribulation and the coming antichrist. We don’t need to spend our time at prophecy watch conferences, playing with gematria, tracking cosmological phenomena, or stockpiling guns, ammo, and MRE’s for Armageddon.
Rather, just like the disciples, we need to know that Jesus wins. And that we are on the winning side despite the fact that we might spend much of our lives feeling like losers. And when you and I feel like we are at are breaking point, we don’t need prophetic time-lines we need the gospel promise that Jesus will right every wrong when he returns in glory.
Please be careful that you do not allow prophetic sign-watchers to poison your personal pursuit and study of Biblical eschatology.
Abuse and misuse of prophecy by fellow Christians should never drive us to abandon Biblical prophecy but to understand it rightly. Yet as we study, we need to study with humility knowing full-well that we will never be able to fill in all the missing gaps in the prophetic record because God didn’t give us all the data. And he did this because he wants us to live by faith in the hope of his imminent and glorious return; not by our confidence in a comprehensive end-times schedule.
Because when it comes down to it, eschatology is an encouragement to faithful obedience.
1 Peter 4:7–11 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
 Mark L. Strauss, Mark, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 577–78.
 “The flight envisioned in these verses would make more sense in AD 67–68 than in AD 69–70, when the Roman army had occupied Judea and the siege of Jerusalem had begun. This lends support to the interpretation of the abomination of desolation as involving the desecration of the temple by such people as John of Gischala and Eleazar in AD 67–68;” (Robert H. Stein, Mark, Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 605).
 Strauss, Mark, 581–82.
 James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 400; Strauss, Mark, 580–83; Walter W. Wessel and Mark L. Strauss, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark, Revised Edition., ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 925–27.
 Strauss, Mark, 579–80.
 Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude, the desolations of 167 B.C. and 70 A.D. function like a preview of the final desolation at the end of the age.
 “The imagery and language derive from OT descriptions of the day of the Lord. The quotation echoes Isaiah 13:10 (“the stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light; the rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light”), but other OT passages reveal similar language (Isa 24:23; 34:4; Eze 32:7–8; Joel 2:10, 30–31; 3:4, 15, 20; Am 8:9);” (Wessel and Strauss, “Mark,” 931).
 G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days; cited by: Wessel and Strauss, “Mark,” 931.
 Note: This title is used 16x in the Gospel of Mark: 9x before 13:26 and 4x after. In light of 13:26 we can see that Jesus does not use the title “Son of Man” as a circumlocution for his humanity but a veiled reference to his Kingly authority.