Summary: Jesus is not being a pessimist here, however, in spite of the gloomy nature of His prophecy. He is being a realist with an optimistic foundation. You can afford to face the worst when you know the best will finally triumph
A man stood before the judge and told him this story. One day when my rheumatism was bad, and
my daughter had just eloped with a good for nothing scalawag, and fire had destroyed my barn, and
my best hog had up and died of the cholera, and they had foreclosed the mortgage on me, and the
sheriff was looking for me with a warrant, I told my troubles to one these here optimists and he said,
"Cheer up, old man, the worst is yet to come." So I shot him.
Nobody, let alone a troubled person, likes to hear that the worst is yet to come, but sometimes it
happens to be the truth and it needs to be faced. Jesus had to do this in Mark 13. He makes it
unmistakably clear to His disciples that the clouds of doom hang over the future, and darkness rather
than sunshine covers the horizon.
Jesus is not being a pessimist here, however, in spite of the gloomy nature of His prophecy. He is
being a realist with an optimistic foundation. You can afford to face the worst when you know the
best will finally triumph, and that is why Jesus taught His disciples about the trials ahead. Jesus was
optimistic about the ability of His followers to stand in the storm of testing and bear a fruitful
witness. Therefore, He opens up the scroll of the future and reveals the dreadful consequences that
will befall them as well as unbelieving Israel. He had some pessimistic facts to share, but in an
optimistic attitude, and so Jesus was revealing and attitude of optimistic pessimism.
The greatest tragedy ever to befall the Jewish nation was no the threshold of history. The hand of
mercy had been knocking at the door of Judaism, but they would not open the door. Instead, they
nailed that hand of mercy to a cross. Jesus knew this was going to be their response, and that the
next response would be God's hand of wrath which would not knock at the door, but demolish the
door. The Jews had been captives in Egypt for 400 years. They had been captives in Babylon for
70 years, and they had had their share of troubles ever since, and were now under the domination of
Rome. In this chapter Jesus says in effect, "Cheer up, the worst is yet to come."
In 70 A.D. the Jews would suffer the most shattering defeat in their history. The temple would be
destroyed and all the records and genealogies would be destroyed, and the whole ceremonial and
sacrificial system of Judaism would be demolished. Since then Judaism has not been the same for
1900 years. Nothing of such catastrophic proportions had ever happened before, and unless we
believe history will go on for several thousand more years, nothing like it can ever happen again.
The killing of millions of Jews by Hitler did not change the essence of Judaism at all, nor has any
other tragedy, as did the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
This being the greatest calamity ever to hit Judaism made it the ideal type for the greatest
calamity to ever hit the world-namely, the end of the world-the second coming, and the judgment.
God's judgment on Israel has many parallels with God's judgment on the world at the end of history.
Jesus is the actually speaking of both of these events in this passage, and this has lead to confusion.
The chapter is impossible to unscramble unless you see he has both the immediate and the far off
judgment in mind. He talks of wars and earthquakes, and says don't be alarmed, the end is not yet.
He says in verse 10 that the Gospel has to go into all the world before the end, so there is a long
period of history ahead. Yet in verse 30 He says all this will happen before this generation passes
away. It is common sense to recognize that the same event cannot be around the corner and far in
the distance at the same time. But it is clear that around the corner was judgment on Israel, and far
off was the judgment on the world. The fact that Jesus put the two together indicates that the first is
a type of the second, or at least that they are similar.
Men disagree a great deal in trying to determine what parts of this chapter apply to the fall of
Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and what verses apply to the second coming. The variations of scholars are so
numerous that it is a waste of time to try to set up a system before hand. We have to take a verse at
a time, and from within that verse look in both directions, and see how far, or how near the