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ch. 1:1-31    ch. 13:32-37

Signs Of The End Of The Age (ch.13:1-32)


We’re at the end of Jesus’ life on this earth and now one of the last things He teaches about is the things pertaining to the end of this age, and to His return.  I would think that during these last few hours of Jesus’ life the things that He said would have been very important. Therefore we should never underestimate the importance of prophecy as some do.


It’s still Tuesday in verse 1 when Jesus and His followers  were leaving the temple.  One of them comments to Jesus about the beauty and massiveness of the temple.  It makes me wonder what this person would say if he was in downtown New York , London , Tokyo or Toronto and saw our buildings. 


Things like large massive buildings made by human hands always impresses us. It’s just part of our nature.  We were made to create in the first place, so we tend to sit back in awe of what we’ve created. 


But Jesus has a different response, and why not.  Creating a temple is nothing compared to creating the universe.  In verse 2 Jesus responds by saying, “ not one stone here will be left upon another”. Every one will be thrown down.  If Jesus said anything else we don’t know. But we have no record of Jesus agreeing that the temple was a wonder to see.


This was a specific prophecy spoken by Jesus that came true in 70 A D when Rome destroyed Jerusalem, leaving nothing standing, including this very temple that the disciples were in awe of.


In verse 3 we see that Jesus and the Twelve have now left the temple and have found a quiet place on the Mount of Olives that overlooks the Kidron Valley, and just beyond that valley is another hill where they can see the temple.


As they look at the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew ask a couple of specific questions.  They ask, "when will these things happen"  By this they mean, when will the temple be destroyed.  The other question is, "what will be the sign that they will be fulfilled"?


Concerning the second question, Matthew phrases it with a little more detail. He writes, “what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age”?


So it is important to see that we have two specific questions that are asked and that Jesus answers.  The two questions refer to two different events, not the same event.  The first question concerns the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  The second question concerns Jesus’ return and the end of the age. Thus we need to see this distinction in Jesus’ answer and not confuse the two.


It is interesting to me that the Twelve now seem to understand that Jesus will come back and at that time the end of the age will come.  This tends to make me think that at this moment the Twelve finally got it.  Jesus was not going to set up His earthly kingdom now.  That would wait until the end of the age, and before the end comes, Jesus had to depart in order to return.


 Before we see Jesus’ answer we should note that the first thing He says is not in reference to the first question concerning the destruction of the temple.  It is in reference to the end.  Therefore from verses 7 through 13 we see the time period beginning at that present moment to the end.  From verses 14 to 28 we see Jesus answering question one concerning the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem .  Then beginning in verse 24 to the end of the chapter Jesus speaks about the time of the end again.


In verse 5 Jesus says, “watch out that no one deceives  you”.  This is a warning that is directed straight to these Twelve men.  Men would try to deceive them and the rest of His followers, and would actually succeed in many cases.  Man seems bent on having itching ears and listening to voices they shouldn’t be listening too. 


Of course, deceivers didn’t stop deceiving back in those days.  They continue to deceive up unto the very end as Jesus implies in His words. 


In verse 7 Jesus tells them that they’d hear about all sorts of wars but that shouldn’t concern them.  What Jesus is saying here is that wars are not a sign of the end.  In fact wars will be present throughout history, right up to the end.  Many have said that what Jesus is saying here is that at the time of the end there will be more wars, but that’s not exactly what He said here.  He’s saying that the Twelve will hear of wars and these wars will continue until the very end. Jesus says that these wars must come but the end is not yet. War, fighting between countries and individuals are all part of the fallen world.  Nothing will change until Jesus returns and brings the needed change.  


In verse 8 He says that nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.  This is all part of human history.  In the same breathe Jesus says that there will be “earthquakes in various places and famines”. Then He says that “this is the beginning of birth pains”. 


What will be born from these birth pains is the Kingdom of God that will be on this earth.  Earthquakes and famines are just the beginning of the signs of the end. Yet like the wars, they will be around throughout history.  Jesus doesn’t really say that there will be more earthquakes at the end.


My guess is that Jesus only pointed out three things of many that He could have pointed out.  Wars, earthquakes and famines are just examples of tragedies that will befall men in their depraved state they find themselves in. 


In verse 9 Jesus prophecies directly to these twelve men by telling them that they will be “handed over to councils and flogged in the synagogues”.  These twelve along with others would suffer persecution, and we all know that prophecy came true.  The reference to synagogues point out that this particular persecution that Jesus is speaking about will come from the Jews. 


Not only would they be flogged by the Jews in the synagogue, but Jesus tells us that on account of Him they’d stand before governors and kings.  We know that came true as well.  We just need to remember that they weren’t invited guests to the governors.  They stood before the governors and kings as prisoners.  This particular persecution that Jesus is speaking about here comes from the Gentile world.    


Verse 10 says that the gospel must first be preached to all nations.  This is in the same breath when Jesus tells them that they will be witnesses to kings.  So it is clear that part of the method of evangelism here spoken of by Jesus is prison evangelism, not TV evangelism that seems much more appealing to most of us.


Matthew in Matt. 24:14 adds one phrase to what Jesus says that Mark leaves out.  The phrase is, “then the end will come”. Matthew’s statement from Jesus seems to suggest the real sign of the end is when the gospel is finally preached to all nations, something that many Evangelicals hold strongly to.  And this makes sense.  If you read Romans 9 through 12 one things that stands out is that it appears that there is a certain number of Gentile men and women that will come to salvation, and once that number is reached the Jews will return to Jesus and then the end will come.  The preaching of the gospel to all nations might well be a direct reference to that final Gentile that will come to Jesus. Then once he or she is saved, the Jews return to Jesus and Jesus returns to them and us. 


In verse 11 Jesus continues his prophetic words concerning the arrest of these Twelve men.  He tells them not to worry about their defense because the Holy Spirit will give them the words to say.  The Holy Spirit had not yet be given to these men.  This would happen later in Acts 2.  These words of Jesus were directed to these Twelve men, but it is not bad hermeneutics to believe that if the Holy Spirit could speak through these men, He could speak through us as well.


In verses 12 and 13 Jesus gives a few more examples of things happening as time goes on up to the end.  He says, “brother will betray bother to death and a father his child”. If you believe that earth quakes and famines will increase as time goes on you’ll believe that these family problems will get worse as well.  So some feel that family relations will deteriorate as time goes on.  You can certainly see that.  Then He says, “children will rebel against parents and put them to death”.   As time goes on, you can clearly see how children are rebelling against their parents.  And there will come a time, and it has already begun to come, that children will kill their parents.


In verse 13 Jesus says, “all men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  The last phrase here, “.. to the end” tells me that the hating of believers here is speaking just as much to those at the end of the age as it is to the Twelve.  If the Twelve stand firm to the end, that is the end of their lives, they will be saved.  If we stand firm to the end of time, we will be saved.


By Jesus telling us to stand firm to the end to be saved, He is implying that some won’t stand to the end and they will lose their salvation.  This is a point to consider for those believing in “once saved always saved”.         


In verse 14 Jesus speaks of the abomination that makes desolate.  This is clearly the reference to Daniel’s prophecy in Dan. 9:27, 11:1 and 12:1.  The introduction of this abomination focuses our attention on the first century and not on the end of this age.


We need to look that this “abomination that causes desolation”.  Without getting too detailed, Daniel speaks of this.  What Daniel prophesied has a two fold fulfillment.  This is not really debatable.  Most scholars agree that Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Old Testament times, but still had another fulfillment that would be in New Testament times.  You can read my commentary on Daniel to learn more about this.


There’s another thought to consider.  Some say that the events of 70 AD which is the New Testament fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy is in fact prophetic itself.  By this I mean that as  Israel was judged and destroyed, this is symbolic of the final judgment and destruction of the earth.  I’m not sure if this is correct or not, but I can see how one could think this way.  


So as I said, most scholars  link this abomination to the destruction of Jerusalem , but that is only accurate in part.  The abomination actually took place prior to Rome coming into Jerusalem and destroying both the city and the temple. 


What took place is this.  Certain Jewish zealots caused a major uproar in the temple, took over the Temple, killed about 8500 people and did all sorts of things that were an abomination to the Law of God and the temple. 


In verse 14 Jesus tells His followers that when you see this abomination take place, flee Judea.  He does not say flee Jerusalem the city, but flee Judea the province that Jerusalem is in.  He tells them to get out of the whole area and flee to the mountains.  Why does He say that?  Because soon after, Roman soldiers came in and destroyed the city and the temple and any believer should be as far away as possible.


Also in verse 14 Jesus says, “let the reader understand”.  Jesus does not go into detail here.  It’s too bad He didn’t.  It might have cleared up some end time differences between Christians.  But by saying this, Jesus is expecting us to understand what He is saying. This means we cannot neglect this subject as some have tried.  Prophecy is important and even though we may have differences that should not stop us from trying to understand the prophetic nature of Scripture. 


The fleeing of Christians from both Jerusalem and Judea is actually documented in non Biblical history. So we know for a fact that Christians were taught what Jesus spoke some three decades later. 


In verses 15 and 16 Jesus says that if you are on the roof of your house don’t bother going into your house to get anything.  People’s houses had flat roofs and they often went up to the roof to rest in the sun.  Jesus also says that if you’re working in your fields, just go, don’t go back to your house.  The reason for this is that there won’t be enough time to get your earthly things.  Soon after the Jewish zealots abominate the temple, the Roman soldiers invade. 


The sad part of this is that it wasn’t the Gentiles that defiled the temple.  It was the Jews themselves, or at least one sect of the Jews.  And I’m wandering if there isn’t some prophetic symbolism here.  Paul tells us that in the last days some will depart from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.  This is the contamination of the church that some feel will happen at the end of the age.  If this is true, then as the Jews contaminated their own temple, so Christians contaminate their own temple which is the church. I don’t say this as truth.    


In verse 17 Jesus is sad over the fact that if a woman is pregnant or has babies in arms, their trip out to the mountains will not be easy for them. 


In verse 18 Jesus tells the Twelve to pray that all this won’t happen in the winter, which would be the cold and rainy season making it much harder to flee all the way out of Judea into the mountains. 


In verse 19 Jesus says that these days will be the most stressful and dreadful in history.  The whole event of Rome plummeting Jerusalem and leveling it to the ground is in fact God’s judgment on Israel.  We’ve seen this in the parables that Jesus just told in the last couple of days. This shows you how angry God was after He sent His own son to His vineyard.  You can’t say that God doesn’t get angry.


In verse 20 Jesus says that God “will cut short these days for the sake of the elect”, which means, those who belong to God.  I will not get into a detailed explanation of the word “elect” at this point.


Jesus says that these days of judgment will be the worst in history.  Because of these words some people believe that what Jesus is talking about here is the end of the age and not the destruction of Jerusalem.  Yet if you believe that the destruction of Jerusalem is also prophetic of the end, then there’s no problem here.


Then another way to look at these words is that there was more than a destruction of a city here.  There was the destruction of a whole nation, a whole ethnic group.  The Jews lost their identity and were scatted all over the world until 1948 when they gained their country back.  You might argue the fact that there has been no other civilization or nation in history that has lost such an identity as the Jews did in 70 AD, and in such a short span of time.    


“These days” refer to a specific period of time, lasting from about 66 to 70 AD, that is from the time the zealots defiled the temple resulting in a four to five year conflict between Jews and Rome and ended in the total destruction in 70 AD.


In verses 21 and 22 Jesus says that if you see or hear of people saying here is, or there is the Christ, don’t believe them.  Why would anyone say such things in the first place?  One reason is that there were those claiming such things, even with miracles. Yet there’s more to this.  Both Christians and Jews might think this would be the time of the end and they’d expect their Messiah to come.  The Jews would think that Messiah would come to set up His Jewish Kingdom.  Christians might think that Jesus would return to end this age. But Jesus is “clearly” saying that He’s not coming back then so don’t concern yourself with talk of the Messiah coming 


In verse 23 Jesus says, “so be on your guard because I have told you everything ahead of time”.  Once again we see the importance of understanding prophecy.  Jesus is saying all these things because He wants us to understand ahead of time.  This understanding will save us in the time of deception from satan.  The Twelve were told these things and they would in turn pass them along so all Christians would know and understand them before they came about.  What applies to those in the first century also applies to us in the twenty first century.  We are to study prophecy, understand it, and be saved from the deception that comes our way.


In verse 24 we read the words, “but in those days following the stress”.  These words switch our attention from the stress of 66 to 70 AD to the times of the end of this age. 


In verses 24 and 25 we have an extremely shortened version of part of the book of Revelation.  Jesus says that “in those days following the distress” certain things will happen.  When using the word “following” He doesn’t tell just when these things will happen.  He simply says that they will happen and these thing will take place, after the trouble of 70 AD. 


The things Jesus mentions here are the sun and moon being darkened and the heavenly bodies shaken.  Once again when you read Revelation you’ll see the full picture. 


In verse 26 Jesus answers the question concerning when He will return.  After the above events, and not before, everyone will see the Son of Man return.  Elsewhere the return of Jesus is described as lightening flashing across the sky.  It’s my thinking that Jesus will come in the clouds as Scripture says, or in the sky, and as He comes down He will encircle the earth, maybe many times in a matter of a mille second, much faster than the speed of light or the speed of sound.


In verse 27 Jesus says that He will send His angels who will gather His elect from all over the earth. Once again the elect are those who have accepted God’s salvation. 


In verse 28 Jesus begins to tell a parable about a fig tree to help the Twelve understand what He’s been saying.  The parable itself is prophetic.   Concerning the fig tree He says that once you see the leaves come out in the spring you know that summer is not far off.  So He continues to say that the end is like this.  Once you see the things I’ve described happening, you know that the end is near.


In verse 30 Jesus says that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened”.  There are two things we need to consider.  One is “this generation”, and  two is “all these things”. 


We’ll take the easy one first.  “All these things” are the things that Jesus just mentioned, and that is the shaking of the heavenly bodies and the sun and moon being darkened. 


Jesus says that “this generation will not pass away until the sun and moon are fully darkened and the heavenly bodies are shaken.  What does “this generation mean?  This seems to be one of the hardest questions in eschatology.  Some give a certain time period, like 20, 30, 40, or a 100 years.  Yet it may have nothing to do with time.  The Greek word can also be translated “race”, as in, “this race will not pass away”.  A race of people can cover many generations.  A race of people can be seen as the race of Jews who have returned to Israel.  That means the nation of Israel will not pass away again until all these things happen. This makes some sense in light of the fact that those who are always counting the years seem to be always adding years to their count because the end hasn’t come yet.  


To complicate things further many end time people refer back to the parable of the fig tree and also connect it with other certain verses. They say the fig tree is symbolic and represents Israel.  If this is the case, they then say Israel will be reborn, that is, like the fig tree comes to life in the spring.  Then once you see the rebirth of Israel, you know the time is near.  I’m not saying this viewpoint is right or wrong.  Then they say that “this generation” refers to the people who are alive on earth when Israel becomes a nation.


Over the past few decades there’s been many guesses about these things. Israel became a nation again in 1948.  So some held that a generation is a apace of time, not a race of people and said the time span was 20 years.  Thus the end would come in 1968.  Well that didn’t turn out so they had to expand the time to 30, 40 or more years.  Forty years have come and gone and so they’ve had to find other ways to extend the meaning of “this generation”.  One way they’ve done this is pointing out certain discrepancies in calendars over the centuries.


Another way of extending this time period is saying that we shouldn’t start counting from 1948 but from 1967 when Israel gained Jerusalem in the Seven Day War. 


Yet if the fig tree is not symbolic of Israel , then anything built on this premise is wrong. Once again, I’m not saying that the fig tree isn’t symbolic of Israel. I just don’t know for sure.  The one thing we do know is that the reason why Jesus uses this analogy is to plainly tell us that when we see these things happening around us, we should know that the end is near.  


At this point I'd like to insert an article I wrote to further explain my position.


  The Generation That Ends This Age


I was 15 years old when Happy Together by the Turtles was a hit song in what pop culture called the "Summer Of Love".  One of my favourite songs in the summer of 1967 was "Windy" by the Association.  I liked the "59th Street Bridge Song", otherwise known as "Feeling Groovy".  It was recorded by Harpers Bizarre, but it sure sounded like Simon and Garfunkel who originally wrote and recorded the song.  America's manufactured response to the Beatles was the Monkees, who conscripted Glen Campbell and others on their earlier albums to improve their sound.  I liked Glen Campbell's guitar solo on Valarie.  The big album that summer was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".  It put the Beatles on a new musical path, or should I say, took them on a "Magical Mystery Tour", if you catch my drift.  


Every July our family attended the Free Methodist Camp just north of Brighton, Ontario, Canada, and the summer of 1967 was no exception.  While listening to songs like "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" by Procol Harum, which I'm sure wasn't acceptable at a church camp, I overheard the adults talking about the end of the world.  Such talk was scary for us teenagers.  We weren't into free love so we sure didn't want Jesus to return before we got to experience the joys of our wedding night. 


The reason for all the end time talk was because of the Six Day War in June of 1967 and how it might relate to Matthew 24.  Jesus told His disciples that when the branches of the fig tree get tender, summer is near.  He then said that in like fashion when you see the things He predicted being fulfilled; know that the end is near.  "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened". (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32) 


There has been much controversy and confusion over the words "this generation" in Matthew 24:34.  Some say the word "this" in "this generation" refers specifically to an Israeli generation.  Others say it refers to all ethnic generations.  Many understand "this generation" to be a generation lasting a certain length of time, anywhere from 20 to 120 years.  Then there's the debate over when "this generation" begins.  If you can figure out when this generation begins and how long it lasts, you'd have a good idea when the end will come. 


Most Prophetic Futurists understand the fig tree in this passage to be Israel.  This makes Israel becoming a nation in 1948 key to understanding the passage.  No matter whom you think "this generation" refers to, if you begin the  countdown to the end in 1948, the generation alive in 1948 will be alive at the end.  Others suggest the countdown should begin at the Six Day War in 1967, thus the reason for all the talk of the end of the world in the Summer Of Love.  All these differing opinions on how long a Biblical generation is, when it starts, and to whom it refers, is indeed confusing.


After getting serious about Jesus in 1970 my heart's desire was to know the Bible.  That's why I ended up at Elim Bible Institute, in Lima, New York, in 1975.  Prior to my Elim days my two favourite Bible teachers were Derek Prince and Malcolm Smith.  These two men were miles apart in their eschatology, especially in relation to Israel .  Smith taught that the church replaced Israel in prophetic history, making Israel of absolutely no significance when it comes to end time events.  Prince taught that Israel was the key to prophetic history right up to the end of the age, something my dad also believed.   


My dad often talked to me about Israel 's place in prophetic history.  I'd often respond by saying, "but dad, there is another way to think about these things".  My dad would have nothing to do with my "but dads".  Back then I was trapped between two prophetic scenarios, between Smith and Prince, with seemingly no way to untangle myself from this perplexing prophetic web.  I wish my father was alive today to see that I did finally fall onto his side of the fence.   Since untangling myself from the various prophetic scenarios I think I see something we might have missed.  I suggest the following for your consideration. 


The Greek word "genea" is translated as "generation" in Matthew 24:34.  "Genea" means "to become", as in "to become a human", or, "to become a race of people".  For example, Abraham became a human being and his descendents became a race of people known as Israelis.  Because "genea" can legitimately be translated a "race of people" many credible Bible translators translate Matthew 24:34 this way.  "This race of people will not pass away until all these things have happened".  Note that the NIV Bible has a footnote for Matthew 24:34 that states this translation to be an acceptable alternate rendering.


Matthew 24:34 means something quite different when you think in terms of a generation as a race of people instead of a generation lasting a certain number of years.  No longer do you have to smash your head against the wall to figure out how long a Biblical generation lasts. 


With this in mind, I refer you to Amos 9:14 – 15.  "I will bring back my exiled people Israel ; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.  They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.  I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God".  Amos prophesied around 750 to 730 B C.  In 586 B C the last vestige of national Israel came to an end with the final Babylonian attack.  It took more than 2500 years, but in 1948 Amos' prophecy began to be fulfilled when Israel once again became a nation.  They have rebuilt their cities.  They drink their wine and eat their fruit from their miraculous agricultural successes. 


The important part of Amos' prophecy for my present purpose is the prediction that once Israelis return to their land, they would never be uprooted from it again.  Despite present pressures on Israel , know for a fact that Israel will never cease to exist.  Israelis will never be uprooted again.   Here's my point.  Whether it takes 7 years or 70 years for the end to come, the distinct national race of Israelis who came into existence in 1948 will not pass away until all prophecies are fulfilled.  I propose that it's not a matter of how many years a Biblical generation is.  It's not a matter of certain individuals who were alive in 1948 or 1967.  It's a matter of a race of people.  It's a matter of the present day national race of Israelis that came into existence in 1948.  It's Israel that will be in existence when Jesus returns to secure her rightful place among the nations of the world.  This is what I believe Amos means when he predicted that Israelis would never be uprooted again.         


Back in the Summer Of Love my dad's generation thought they might be the last generation because they understood "this generation" to be a 20 to 40 year period of time.  Well, most of that generation has since departed.  If I had have known back then what I think I know now, maybe I could have suggested another way to think, but why would they have listened to a kid blasting out "Judy In The Sky With Diamonds" by the Beatles on his 6 transistor radio.


I now return to my commentary on Mark 13.


Verse 31 ends this section with Jesus saying that heaven and earth will pass away but His word will never pass away.  This might present what may appears as a problem after reading the book of Revelation where it says there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  So how can heaven and earth pass away if it’s going to be made new. Well Revelation doesn’t really say the old earth will be made new.  It simply says there will be a new earth.  It appears to me that the old heaven and earth will pass away. Then once it is gone a new heaven and earth will appear, and this new heaven and earth may not resemble the old one in any way.   


The Day And Hour Unknown (ch. 13:32-37)


In verse 32 Jesus says that “no one knows about that day or hour”.  The angels don‘t know and neither does He.  The angels not knowing is understandable, but Jesus not knowing is hard to understand.


We often read this verse to mean that no one knows the exact day or hour that Jesus will return, and I believe that’s part of the meaning, but Jesus doesn’t say exactly that. He doesn’t really say that no one knows the day or hour of His return. He says that no one knows “about” the day or hour, which to me, is broader than knowing just the exact time. It would include other things as well. So it seems to me that their might well be parts of the picture of the end that we don’t know about, which would include the exact day and hour of Jesus’ return.


Concerning Jesus not knowing about these things, it is a little hard to understand.  Some have suggested that Jesus in His humanity didn’t know these things but when Jesus left humanity and returned to Heaven, He’d then learn all about these things.


In verse 33 Jesus tells the Twelve to “be on their guard and be alert” for they don’t exactly know when the important day will come.  Yet in context Jesus did give them some clues when the end would come.  So they were to anticipate and look for the end.  They should be alert and on guard, so none would be caught sleeping in their faith.


In verse 44 and following Jesus tells a small parable to help explain these things.  He says that a man goes away and puts others in charge of his house.  Each have their own jobs to do.  One particular person was assigned to stand at the door and keep watch.


One thing we see in this parable is that a number of people are in charge and each seems to have a different job and one important job is the door keeper who keeps watch for the owner to return.


So once again, we can’t ignore the things of the end of this age as some do. And it is clear that certain people in the Body of Christ are to be door keepers These are those who are to keep watch.  I would equate some of these people to those teachers today who major on the topic of prophecy and keep the rest of us up to date.


In verse 35 Jesus tells these Twelve men to keep watch even though they never saw the end in their day.  But remember, it is quite possible that when Jesus was saying these things that He Himself didn’t know when His return would be, therefore He had to tell them to keep watch.


But Jesus didn’t stop here.  In verse 37 He says, “what I say to you, I say to everyone.  Watch”.  These words are words that are directed to all Christians, past, present and future.  These words are spoken directly to you and I.  We are to keep watch for the return of Jesus.  It’s as simple as that.


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