The Book of Mark - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 3 Lesson 10 - The Last Days

Teachers Comments
Aug 31 - Sep 06

Key Texts: Mark 1:14, 27

Study Focus: Mark 13

Introduction: Mark 13 contains Jesus’ perspective on eschatology, or last-day events. His discussion is prefaced by a question put forth by His disciples in response to His statement about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, an event that they associated with the end of the world: “ ‘Tell us, when will these things come about, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?’ ” (Mark 13:4, NASB).

Lesson Themes: The main topic for study this week is the eschatological material of Mark 13. We will seek to define or examine the following:

  1. What eschatology is, or a brief definition of eschatology.

  2. The eschatology in Mark 13, or the analysis of its inner context and the perspective of Ellen G. White on this topic.

Part II: Commentary

What Eschatology Is

Eerdmans Dictionary states that “eschatology (from Gk. éschatos, “last”) concerns expectations of an end time, whether the close of history, the world itself, or the present age.”—John T. Carroll, “Eschatology,” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2000), p. 420.

A basic element of biblical eschatology is that it implies a future fulfillment. Specifically, there is a predictive statement and its later fulfillment. It is important to note that the biblical expressions “end of the time” or the “fulfillment of the time” are connected not only with the parousia, or Jesus’ second coming and the end of the world. Eschatology also includes the fulfillment of an announcement concerning “the end” of an era or the beginning of a new one. Such is the case in Mark 1:15, in which Jesus Himself proclaims that “ ‘the time is fulfilled.’ ” There is no doubt that the fulfillment referred to here is related to the 70-weeks prophecy. Another example of eschatological fulfillment is the case of the abomination of desolation in Daniel 9, referring to the destruction of Jerusalem as we shall study here. The eschatology of Mark 13 includes a discussion of both of these predictive prophecies—the 70 weeks and the abomination of desolation—and their future fulfillments.

Eschatology in Mark 13

Before we analyze select elements in the eschatology of Mark 13, it may be helpful to consider that eschatology is much the same as an anticipated history. That is, it is a promise of history before it happens.

Let us begin by considering a fundamental question: Why do we have the genre of eschatology in biblical literature? Possibly because biblical eschatology aims to show that the Lord is in control of history, that everything flows according to His purposes. However, eschatology has an additional purpose: to keep God’s people cognizant of the fulfillment of God’s prophecies, including those related to the Parousia. Thus informed, they will be affected positively by the anticipated event. So, we can say that eschatology is the gospel, or “the good news,” about tomorrow.

If I know today that a good friend is going to visit me next month, I will take advantage of that information to make provisions, to prepare myself and my house to receive this guest in the best way possible. We should prepare in the same way for the coming of Jesus.

We also note that the idea of alertness is emphasized in the escha­tology of Mark. The following verses reveal this theme: Mark 13:9, 23, 28, 33, 35, and 37. In short, one could say that eschatology is given for the practical purpose of helping us stay alert!

The first discussion of eschatology in Mark pertains to news of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. As such, this future event signaled the fulfillment of the abomination of desolation announced in Daniel 9. So, the eschatology of Jesus is rooted in Bible prophecy. In Mark, Jesus is not necessarily announcing a new event; rather, He is referring to the fulfillment of an appointed time. There is no precise date in Jesus’ explanation on what would take place, but He provides signs. Thus, the abomination of desolation—referred to in Mark 13:14—has its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple (Mark 13:2). Both Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, and Ellen G. White describe the unfortunate last days of the temple and the city.

“Titus retired into the tower of Antonia, and resolved to storm the temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp around the holy house. But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous [Ab] upon which it was formerly burned by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned to them; for upon Titus’s retiring, the rebellious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the holy house fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning in the inner [court of the] temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the holy house itself.

“. . . Now around the altar lay dead bodies heaped one upon the other, as at the steps going up to it ran a great quantity of their blood, where also the dead bodies that were killed above [on the altar] fell down.”—Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus, book 6, trans. William Whitston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), p. 896.

“After the destruction of the temple, the whole city soon fell into the hands of the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers, and Titus found them solitary. He gazed upon them with amazement, and declared that God had given them into his hands; for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was ‘plowed like a field.’ Jeremiah 26:18. In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror’s triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 35.

The beloved city was now in ruins. However, it is important to remember that, in order to help people to flee the city and thereby preserve their lives, certain events heralded the approach of the coming destruction. Among these signs were false teachings. Jesus warned, “ ‘Many will come in My name, saying, “I am He!” and they will mislead many’ ” (Mark 13:6, NASB); there would be social and political upheaval, wars and famines (Mark 13:7, 8); and persecution (Mark 13:9, 11–13). Before the fulfillment of “the great day,” Jesus emphasizes that “the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” (Mark 13:10, NASB). There is no doubt that those who heeded the signs saved their lives from the coming destruction. Ellen G. White says that “not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christ had given His disciples warning, and all who believed His words watched for the promised sign.”—The Great Controversy, p. 30.

The Fulfillment of Prophecy Hundreds of Years After the Time of the Prophet Daniel

“The Jews had rejected the entreaties of the Son of God, and now expostulation and entreaty only made them more determined to resist to the last. In vain were the efforts of Titus to save the temple; One greater than he had declared that not one stone was to be left upon another.”—The Great Controversy, p. 33.

Although the eschatology of Mark 13 concerning the abomination of desolation had a partial fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus’s forces in the year ad 70, Mark portrays, in chapter 13, an additional fulfillment of considerable significance. As an aside, let us preface our discussion by observing that some eschatological announcements should be studied with a larger perspective in mind. That is, we should consider the ways in which the eschatological lens may aid our understanding of the foretold event more completely. In this vein, the prophecy of the abomination of desolation transcends in scope the destruction of Jerusalem while, at the same time, forecasting the destruction of our planet at the very end of time. Ellen G. White describes this future event as a second fulfillment of the prophecy: “The Saviour’s prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible desolation was but a faint shadow. In the fate of the chosen city, we may behold the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled upon His law. Dark are the records of human misery that earth has witnessed during its long centuries of crime.”—The Great Controversy, p. 36; emphasis added. Ellen White also adds, “Christ saw in Jerusalem a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God.”—The Great Controversy, p. 22.

We can find textual evidence to support the prophecy of the abomination of desolation, thereby confirming a second fulfillment, as Jesus asserted in Mark 13:24: “ ‘But in those days, after that tribulation_’ ” (NASB, _emphasis added). The children of God will be delivered during this time, just as His followers were delivered from the destruction of Jerusalem. To quote the pen of inspiration, “As He warned His disciples of Jerusalem’s destruction, giving them a sign of the approaching ruin, that they might make their escape, so He has warned the world of the day of final destruction and has given them tokens of its approach, that all who will may flee from the wrath to come.”—The Great Controversy, p. 37.

Mark 13 ends on a note of admonition that is not without encouragement: “ ‘What I say to you I say to all: “Stay alert!” ’ ” (Mark 13:37, NASB).

Part III: Life Application

Ask your students to ponder the following question: How aware is their community of the fact that the events of Mark 13 are about to be fulfilled, concerning the destruction of this world?

In light of this discussion, consider what Ellen G. White declared more than a hundred years ago: “The world is no more ready to credit the message for this time than were the Jews to receive the Saviour’s warning concerning Jerusalem. Come when it may, the day of God will come unawares to the ungodly. When life is going on in its unvarying round; when men are absorbed in pleasure, in business, in traffic, in money-making; when religious leaders are magnifying the world’s progress and enlightenment, and the people are lulled in a false security—then, as the midnight thief steals within the unguarded dwelling, so shall sudden destruction come upon the careless and ungodly, ‘and they shall not escape.’ ”—The Great Controversy, p. 38.