The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Mark 13

Mar 13:1

Vv 1-3: "And now he and his disciples had departed from the temple. Once more they lingered in sweet retirement on the mount of Olives. The purple light on the mountains of Moab was fast fading out. Across the city the sinking sun cast a rich glow over the pillared cloisters of the temple, and over the silent courts as they rose terrace upon terrace. From where they stood they could see over the closed Beautiful Gate, and right to the entrance of the holy place, which now glittered with gold; while the eastern hills and the deep valley below were thrown into a solemn shadow, creeping, as the orb sunk lower, further and further towards the summit of Olivet, irradiated with one parting gleam of roseate light, after all below was sunk in obscurity. Then it was and there that the disciples, looking down upon the temple, pointed out to the Master: 'What manner of stones and what buildings are here!' The view from that site must have rendered belief in the Master's prediction even more difficult and more sad. A few years more and it was all literally fulfilled" (Temple 59,60).

AS HE WAS LEAVING THE TEMPLE: The Glory of God departs from the city via the mountain on the east: Eze 11:23 (cp Acts 1:11: his final departure).

WHAT MASSIVE STONES: According to Josephus, huge stones, 70 ft long, 10 ft wide, 8 ft tall, in walls. 40-ft high white marble pillars -- "whited sepulchres". "Goodly stones" (Luk 21:5). Titus, etc, caused "Zion to be plowed as a field" (Mic 3:12). (Luk 21:5 adds "beautiful stones".)

Mar 13:2

Cp Mat 21:21: "Mt removed and cast into sea".

NOT ONE STONE WILL BE LEFT ON ANOTHER: Certain stones were even pried apart in order to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple burned. Excavations in 1968 discovered many such stones thrown down into the valley.

True of temple building itself, but not true (as yet?) of the great foundation stones of the Temple Mount.

Mar 13:3

AS JESUS WAS SITTING ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES: Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Mar 13:4

WHEN WILL THESE THINGS HAPPEN...?: The disciples, of course, expected that Christ would "come" as King, with a royal presence, and to remove the Romans and thrown down the corrupt temple, all at the same time and soon!

Mar 13:6

False Messiahs: "(1) Josephus says (War, b.ii.c.13) that there were many who, pretending to Divine inspiration, deceived the people, leading out numbers of them to the desert, pretending that God would there show them the signs of liberty, meaning redemption from the Roman power: and that an Egyptian false prophet led 30,000 men into the desert, who were almost all cut off by Felix. See Acts 21:38. It was a just judgment for God to deliver up that people into the hands of false Christs who had rejected the true one. Soon after our Lord's crucifixion, Simon Magus appeared, and persuaded the people of Samaria that he was the great power of God, Acts 8:9,10; and boasted among the Jews that he was the son of God. (2) Of the same stamp and character was also Dositheus, the Samaritan, who pretended that he was the Christ foretold by Moses. (3) About twelve years after the death of our Lord, when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, arose an impostor of the name of Theudas, who said he was a prophet, and persuaded a great multitude to follow him with their best effects to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide for their passage; and saying these things, says Josephus, he deceived many: almost the very words of our Lord. (4) A few years afterwards, under the reign of Nero, while Felix was procurator of Judea, impostors of this stamp were so frequent that some were taken and killed almost every day: Jos Ant b.xx.c.4,7" (Clarke).

Mar 13:8

EARTHQUAKES: The May 1984 National Geographic shows through color photos and drawings the swift and terrible destruction that wiped out the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was so sudden, the residents were killed while in their routine: men and women were at the market, the rich in their luxurious baths, slaves at toil. They died amid volcanic ash and superheated gases. Even family pets suffered the same quick and final fate. It takes little imagination to picture the panic of that terrible day. The saddest part is that these people did not have to die.

Scientists confirm what ancient Roman writers record -- weeks of rumblings and shakings preceded the actual explosion. Even an ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible from the mountain days before the eruption. If only they had been able to read and respond to Vesuvius's warning!

There are similar "rumblings" in our world: warfare, earthquakes, the nuclear threat, economic woes, breakdown of the family and moral standards. While not exactly new, these things do point to a coming Day of Judgment. People need not be caught unprepared. God warns and provides an escape to those who will heed the rumblings.

Mar 13:9

Act 4:1-22: Apostles at Jerusalem.
Act 5:17-42: Apostles at Jerusalem.
Act 6:11 -- 7:60: Stephen at Jerusalem.
Act 12:11: James and Peter before Herod Agrippa.
Act 16:19-40: Paul and Silas at Philippi.
Act 17:5-9: Jason and others at Thes.
Act 18:12-17: Paul before Gallio at Cor.
Act 19:29-41: Gaius and Aristarchus at Eph.
Act 21:27--23:11: Paul in Jerusalem.
Act 24:1-21: Paul before Felix in Caesarea.
Act 25:6-12: Paul before Festus.
Act 26:1-32: Paul before Agrippa.

SYNAGOGUES: Synagogues were used not only for school and worship, but also for administration and trials.

Mar 13:12

The Jewish plot: to wreck the developing ecclesias from within: 2Pe 2:1; 1Jo 4:1; 2Co 11:26.

Mar 13:13

Cp Rev 2:10; Heb 10:36,39.

Mar 13:14

THE ABOMINATION THAT CAUSES DESOLATION: The // passage in Luk 21:20 has: "Jerusalem being surrounded by armies"!

LET THOSE WHO ARE IN JUDEA FLEE TO THE MOUNTAINS: To Pella (Tes 48:25,26). Cp days of Lot (Gen 19:17).

"To advise anyone to flee from a city already encircled by a besieging army sounds the height of absurdity; nevertheless this was the instruction, which the saints of those days received from their Lord. Nor was there any absurdity, for throughout the siege Titus, the Roman general, seems to have been actuated by an earnest desire to keep destruction of both life and property to a minimum -- so much so that, according to Josephus, in the early days of the siege there were several opportunities for flight. At one time, for example, the siege of Jerusalem was as good as raised for a period of four days, so casual was the watch maintained by the Roman army. In another place Josephus writes (2.20.1): After the first attack upon the city many of the most considerable of the Jewish folk forsook it as men do a sinking ship. Eusebius, the Christian historian, has this similar narrative: 'The whole body of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine Revelation given to men of approved piety there, before the war removed from the city, and dwelt in a certain town beyond Jordan, called Pella; there those that believed in Christ having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea, the divine justice for their crimes against Christ and his Apostles finally overtook them, totally destroying the whole generation of those evil-doers from the earth' (Eccl Hist 3.5)" (WRev).

Mar 13:15

LET NO ONE ON THE ROOF... ENTER THE HOUSE: But rather descend stairs on outside of house -- ie in extreme haste (LB 43).

Mar 13:18

IN WINTER: When the wadis would be swollen with floods.

Mar 13:19

DISTRESS UNEQUALED FROM THE BEGINNING: "A time of trouble such as never was" (Dan 12:1; cp Joe 2:2; Jer 30:7; Amo 8:8; Zech 14:4; Isa 2:21).

Mar 13:20

CUT SHORT THOSE DAYS: The civil wars of Jewish factions inside the city shortened considerably its siege and suffering. The city fell in only 5 months.

Mar 13:24

SUN... MOON... STARS: Symbols used to describe Israel: Jer 31:35,36 (also, Gen 37:9,10; 15:5; 22:17; Amo 8:8; Mic 3:6; Song 6:10; Isa 24:23; Jer 33:20-26; Joe 2:10,30-32; Act 2:20; Rev 6:12; 8:12; 12:1). Or, more literally: 2Pe 3:7,10; Isa 24:18.

Mar 13:26

CLOUDS: The Divine glory revealed in Israel as cloud (Exo 13:21,22; 14:19,20,24; 16:10; 19:16-19; 20:18; 24:15-19; 33:18-21 with Exo 34:4-7; 40:34-38; Num 10:34; 12:5,10; 14:9,10,14,21,22; Deu 31:14,15; Psa 105:39; 1Co 10:1,2). The same Shekinah glory appeared to Abraham (Gen 15:17; Act 7:2), David (Psa 18:6-15), Ezekiel (Eze 1:4; 10:4); Elijah (1Ki 19:11-13), Job (Job 38:1), apostles (Luk 9:34,35). Judgments of God in last days are manifest in this cloud (Dan 7:13; Joe 2:2; Zep 1:15; Eze 30:3; Isa 19:1; 25:5). Jesus will so come from heaven (Act 1:9,11; Luk 21:27; Mat 26:64).

Mar 13:28

FIG TREE: Luk 21:29 has "fig tree and all the trees": "Fig tree" = unsatisfactory covering: Gen 3. Fig sym Israel: Mar 11:13-21; Luk 13:6,7; Jer 24; Hos 9:10; Mic 7:1. "All trees": Intense national pride; proliferation of nations in Middle East: Psalm 83 lists 10 nations -- giving their ancient names -- which will join together in their determination to destroy Israel as a nation in the Last Days. Likewise, recent Mideast history has seen ten Arab nations, occupying generally the same territory as the nations of Psa 83, gain their independence during the same generation (1922--1971) that saw the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948. There are currently, in the area occupied by the old Roman Empire, exactly 10 such independent Arab nations. This scenario even allows for the infamous eleventh "horn" of Dan 7, which arises after the others and acts as a catalyst in the defeat and persecution of Israel -- the incipient "nation" of Palestine. Not yet independent, will this be the eleventh horn which comes up among, and after, the former ten?:
1. Egypt (1922)
2. Saudi Arabia (1932)
3. Iraq (1932)
4. Lebanon (1943)
5. Syria (1946)
6. Jordan (1949)
7. Kuwait (1963)
8. Bahrain (1971)
9. Qatar (1971)
10. United Arab Emirates (1971)
11. Palestine (?)

TENDER: In ct to the previous fig tree (Mar 11:13), cursed by Christ, this tree puts forth tender branches (the first sign of fruit).

Mar 13:30

THIS GENERATION: "This is generation of them that seek your face" (Psa 24:6 and context). "Genera", in general, a race (NIV mg; the Jewish race: Luk 21:28,29), but sometimes a single generation. Possibly, "this present evil order of things", which continues until Christ returns.

Mar 13:32

NOR THE SON: Notice that Jesus had Daniel to read. Thus, Daniel alone is not enough to predict the time of the Kingdom accurately! "If Jesus could not use the book of Daniel to know the precise time of the end, what hope for anyone else?" (LD 15).

Mar 13:35

// Isa 26:20,21.

Mar 13:37

WHAT I SAY TO YOU, I SAY TO EVERYONE, "WATCH!": What is entailed in watching? Jesus answers this question elsewhere, in the parallel account: "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." (Luk 21:34-36).

I just had an interesting letter from an old friend -- we haven't corresponded in some time, and so we're "catching up". He writes: "It's kind of funny; I used to be so diligent in watching the signs of the times, but I'm not sure it was much more than seeking for knowledge, rather than watching to make sure I was doing the right things. Now, I'm more interested in how I'm living the Truth, whether I'm 'living right'; how what I do affects my family; how I'm able to help others to hold on to the Truth and how I might be able to interest others in finding life, instead of the certain death that awaits so many."

I told him I appreciated that point of view; he made a good point quite concisely.

I have a favorite cartoon (actually, several favorite cartoons, but I'll mention one in particular): It involves Woodstock, Snoopy's bird friend, one of the lesser known characters in "Peanuts".

in one of Snoopy's elaborate play-acting schemes, his doghouse is the fortress and Woodstock is standing guard. Snoopy, the captain, leaves him instructions: "Watch out for the enemy!" So Woodstock starts marching back and forth on top of the doghouse, but because he's so concerned about the "enemy" "out there" somewhere, and trying to look every direction at once, he doesn't keep his eyes on where he's going... and takes about three serious falls off the ends of the house. When Snoopy finds him, dazed and a bit worse for wear after the last fall, he helps him stand upright again, puts the helmet on his head, and the gun in his hand, and then leaves him with a final instruction: "Maybe you'd better just watch out for yourself!"

We all have a duty to be "watchmen"... but "watching" can take several forms. And I do not mean to denigrate any of them: there is "watching" the "signs of the times", "watching" for the welfare of the brotherhood, "watching" for the needs of one's family and close associates, etc. But it's always a desideratum (JT word: "the thing greatly to be desired") to "watch" out for oneself... how one walks, how one lives, how one speaks, how one writes.

And we should all take care, lest while we are "watching" in 15 different directions, and doing that many different things, we don't make serious missteps personally, that may do spiritual damage to ourselves, and to those whom we are trying so hard to help.

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