Summary: What matters is that we keep alert and be watchful, for the Lord may come at anytime.
I have been anxious to get to this section of Mark 13 for two reasons. One, it means we have reached the end of a difficult series of messages. Two, I can finally say what many of you have been telling me after each sermon. Inevitably someone would say that what matters is that we keep alert and be watchful, for the Lord may come at anytime. My response was to wait until the last sermon and I would get to that. Well, now I am getting to that! Let’s get straight to the text.
Signs of the Destruction
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Keeping in line with the amillennial approach I have been taking (If you don’t know what I mean by amillennial, don’t worry about it!), I believe Jesus is speaking here of the destruction of the Temple to come forty years later. The disciples had asked (v. 4) when “these things” of the destruction will take place. Verses 5-23 form Jesus’ response, which he closes by saying he has told them everything, or as the NKJ expresses it “all these things.” He adds in verses 24-27 that some day after he will return. Now he goes back to speaking of signs for these things and closes again will all these things. Thus the section, 4-23, corresponds with section 28-31.
For those of you who have been following along in the series this might be a helpful distinction. The amillennialist separates the destruction of the Temple from the Second Coming. The dispensational premillennialist and the full preterist unite them. Other premillennialists do separate them, and moderate preterists say that Jesus did appear back then, but he will return again. As you can see, every position has its variations. That is one reason after my sermons someone will come up and say, “I fall under that camp, but I don’t believe…”
Anyhow, back to the text. Jesus is saying, you (the disciples and their contemporaries) will be able to see this great tribulation coming. And surely anyone observant could. Many Afghans fled from Kabul after the destruction of the Twin Towers, because they could put two-and-two together. The terrorist attacks will force a response from America against bin Laden and al Qaeda. The Taliban harbor the terrorists. They know the Taliban, and that it will not give in. Conclusion: it is time to get out before the bombs come.
The same situation will occur for the Jews. The Zealots will become more daring in opposing and attacking the Romans. As danger rises, they will grow only more obstinate and become ruthless with their own people, eventually incurring the full wrath of the Roman Empire against their nation. When the sacrilege of the Temple is made by the Zealots, no more signs will be needed. Get out! Jesus assures them that it will happen in their lifetime, i.e. this generation (v. 30). They can bank on his word (v. 31).