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Mark 13: ‘The Little Apocalypse’

by Dr. D ~ August 31st, 2006

Mark 13: The Olivet Discourse

Vs. 1-3  The Prophecy of The Destruction of The Temple

The disciples here are impressed with the huge and magnificent Temple of Herod.  It was one of the architectural wonders of the ancient Roman world.  Jesus takes them by total surprise by proclaiming and prophesying of the total destruction of the Temple.  The followers of Jesus are still expecting Jesus to conquer the Romans and set up the ‘Messianic’ kingdom.  After all, a couple of days ago he came into Jerusalem as the ‘Son of David’ riding on the back of a donkey with the shouts and adoration of the people.  Now he is proclaiming that the Temple was going to be utterly destroyed! 

This had to be completely confusing to the disciples.  Also, the last couple of days he was teaching in the Temple, challenging the Temple leaders and teachers, and cleaning out the Temple.  It probably looked like he was intending to take over the place to his followers. Now he was prophesying of its destruction?  Peter, James, John, and Andrew go privately to Jesus to find out what the deal is.     

Note:  In 70 AD, Jerusalem was attacked by the Roman army under Titus, and the Temple was utterly destroyed.  The Soldiers took it apart one stone at a time in order to recover the ornamental gold which had melted into the cracks and crevices when the Temple was burned.  The prophecy was completely fulfilled.


Vs. 4  The Ultimate Question

Peter, James, John, and Andrew were elected to ask Jesus the question on everyone’s mind.  When is the Temple going to be destroyed, and the real underlying question which Jesus knew was on their minds but they do not officially ask:  when are we all going to take over, and when is the “Messianic” kingdom going to be established after all?  Jesus answers these two questions in the rest of the chapter.  Some have referred to these passages as the ‘Little Apocalypse’,  However, some of the references pertain to the generation of the disciples up to the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, while other references are for the very ‘end-times’ leading up to the Second Coming of Christ and the ushering in of the ‘Messianic’ Kingdom of God.  The disciples did not envision a large parenthesis of time between these major events.  For us, it provides some difficulty and some differences of opinion among Bible scholars in interpreting where to place all the events noted by Jesus.  I believe that much of what Jesus talks about is relevant for both events, and for both time periods.


Vs. 5-8  Signs of The End -The Beginning of ‘Birth Pangs’

Many critics of the Bible have asserted that wars, earthquakes, and famines have happened in every generation of human history.  This may be true.  However, the prophecy of Jesus here is to look for a time that is more clearly defined by extraordinary catastrophic events.  To also look for false leaders who are proclaiming that they are the expected ‘Messiah’ or the next or final embodiment of ‘Christ’.

Leading up to 70 AD, there were a number of leaders in Judea that rose up against the Roman Empire.  Some believed that it was a good time to rebel against Rome because of succession battles that were on-going (there were four different Roman emperors in 69 AD) and rebellions and wars in far away places that were occupying the Roman armies. There had been a number of major earthquakes at the time, and famines were also numerous, many caused by the disruptions of war. All of these difficulties were quickly resolved, and soon the army of Titus was marching on Jewish cities and particularly Jerusalem.

One could say that our own times are marked with wars, famines in some places, and extreme problems and disasters brought on by weather.  However, there are other signs to be aware of also.  Jesus refers to these signs as the ‘beginning of birth pangs’.  This analogy indicates that in the end-times, these type of events will proceed to get increasingly more numerous and more severe.   …To Continue…


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