13:1-2 Peter remembered how the disciples were impressed by the huge foundation stones and buildings of the temple. Jesus prophesied that they would be toppled, as happened 40 years later in AD 70. Scholars assumed that Jesus could not have foretold this and other facts in this chapter, and consequently they dated Mark's Gospel after AD 70, but there is not a shred of linguistic or other evidence for this (see John Robinson, Redating the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 1976). Others object that the huge stones remained in place at the site of what used to be called the wailing wall. But these stones were not part of the temple but a revetment built to widen the foundation around Mount Moriah (Genesis 14:18; 22:2; 2 Samuel 24:16-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1; 21:25-26), on the west side. It is easy to see that Mark 13 was used more or less verbatim by the other two synoptic Gospels (Matthew 24:1-36. Luke 21:5-33).
13:3-4 Having crossed the Kidron Valley, Jesus and his disciples looked back to the temple from the Mount of Olives. Usually Peter, James, and John are the inner circle (5:37, 9:2), but now they are joined by Simon Peter's brother Andrew. They wanted to know when the destruction of the temple would take place (it took place in that generation, 13:30, 40 years later in AD 70).
13:5-6 We imagine Mark may have asked "Did Jesus give us any of the signs of this imminent destruction?" Jesus warned the disciples that the destruction would be preceded by many false prophets (also false Messiahs, 13:21-23). These abounded in the early church in the period immediately before AD 70 (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:12; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 1:3; 4:12; 6:3-5; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:3-4; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 7, Jude 4; Revelation 2:14-15, 20, 24; 3:9).
13:7 In the four years before the fall of Jerusalem (AD 70) there was a time of terrible confusion for Jewish people all over the Roman Empire. In AD 66 when the procurator Gessius Florus raided the Jerusalem temple funds, and massacred many of the inhabitants, the Jews began their great revolt. A group of revolutionary Zealots stormed the fortress of Masada which they held till 73 AD. In February 67 the general Vespasian was sent to put down the rebellion. It took a year to subdue Galilee and Samaria (Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin were raised to the ground as Jesus predicted in Matthew 11:21-24, Luke 10:13-15). . But then Nero committed suicide (June 68) and this was followed by a time of anarchy in the empire with four emperors in a year. . This gave Jerusalem a reprieve, and false prophets assured the citizens that God was on their side. Christians recognized this as the birthpangs (13:8) before the end, and they escaped from the city, as Jesus had told them (13:14). In June 69 Vespasian came back to the attack and took Hebron, but he was proclaimed emperor and had to leave to take over in Rome. But his son Titus came and laid siege to the city of 600 thousand men and women (AD 70). The legions had to take room by room till the city was taken, and the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem for 1900 years (ending in 1948).
13:8 In the 40 years from the crucifixion to the fall of Jerusalem all over the Roman world there were terrible earthquakes (e.g. those recorded by Josephus, Tacitus, Seneca ), and famines (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11. Tacitus Annals 6:13 refers to the pestilence which killed 30,000 people just in Rome). Jesus called this terrible period of tribulation (see 13:19) the birthpangs (like those that preceded the fall of Babylon. Isaiah 13:8; Micah 4:10, 5:3; Jeremiah 6:24, 22:23, and as in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). These birthpangs would warn of his coming (13:26, 29-30, 33, 35, 36). Matthew makes it very clear that he understood from Jesus' own words that the fall of Jerusalem was the result of his coming as Messiah (Matthew 16:27-28, 21:40, 23:36, 24:3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 44, 50).
13:9 "What else would happen in this period?" The handing over to councils and kings (as in Acts 4:5; 5:27; 6:12; 22:30; 24:1; 24:24; 25:7, 23) marked this whole period of tribulation.
13:10 "As all this happened, what were Christians to do in the midst of the tribulation?" Jesus said the good news would be proclaimed. And in the Book of Acts we see how the preaching of Peter, Philip, and Barnabas, Paul and members of his team resulted in the good news being taken by Jews all over the Mediterranean world. After the fall of Jerusalem there would be a going out of the Gospel through churches of the Spirit among Gentiles to the four winds (13:27, as Jesus foresaw in Matthew 8:11; 24:31; Luke 13:29).
13:11-13 "How could Christians proclaim good news when the world was in such confusion?" Jesus said the Holy Spirit would empower the preaching of the good news (as described in Acts 1:8; 2:4; 4:8; 7:55, 8:15-17, 29; 10:44-48; 13:2-4). But this would inevitably be divisive as family members responded to, or opposed, the work of the Holy Spirit.
13:14-15 Mark may have asked "People say that we will get a signal to leave Jerusalem before it is destroyed. What did Jesus say about this?" Jesus said that when we see "the desolating sacrilege" we are leave the city immediately and escape to the hills of Judea. "What do you think this means?" The abomination that desolates was an event that Daniel prophesied would take place in the future (Daniel 12:11). It certainly means that when we see Roman armies surrounding the city (Luke 21:20), we must get out before the siege closes (Eusebius said in his Ecclesiastical History 3.5 that the Christians did just that, and escaped in the nick of time).
13:16-20 "Did Jesus say anything about this future escape from the city?" He said there must not be a moment of delay. It would be in a period of terrible tribulation and distress. From his questioning of other apostles Luke added Jesus' prophecy that after the siege Jewish people would be taken captive among all nations, and Jerusalem would be occupied by other nations "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24, as Paul also expected in Romans 11:25). Note Jesus' special concern for pregnant and nursing mothers
13:21-23 "Did Jesus say anything about the Messiah coming in to intervene?" He said that before the final end of Jerusalem there would be many who would claim the Messiah had already come. Nearer the time John wrote "Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18. Here an antichrist is one who opposes and puts himself in the place of Jesus as Messiah). "Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now is already in the world" (1 John 4:3, 2 John 7). Josephus said that when the Roman legions arrived the Zealots took over the Jewish temple, removed the Aaronic priests, and promised that the Messiah had already come to save them (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 4.6, 6-8).
13:24-26 "Does that mean that Jesus the Messiah will not do anything to save our beloved city of Jerusalem?" Jesus quoted the exact words of the imagery that Isaiah used to prophesy the fall of Babylon (539 BC). It was a Day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:6, 9) and the wrath on the city would result in the sun and moon being darkened (the king and queen being toppled), and the stars falling (the military, government, and business dignitaries of the city being removed), and the power structure of empire being shaken (Isaiah 13:10, 13). But then he made clear that he himself would be coming (13:26, 33, 35-36) to topple Jerusalem in his Day of the Lord intervention in our generation (13:30). When Matthew used Mark's words in this chapter, he added that Jesus had said this intervention would be the sign of his coming (Matthew 24:30). And that means we can see the Lord reigning whenever there are day of the Lord interventions throughout human history in every country and in our personal histories.
13:27 "What did Jesus day about the growth of his churches?" As Jesus explained (13:7), he foresaw a first spreading of the good news, mainly through Jewish apostles, in the period before his coming to destroy Jerusalem. But that would be followed by a far greater spreading of the good news "to the four winds" after the fall of Jerusalem (AD 70). Looking back through church history we can see how this happened through churches of the Spirit. Churches were planted before the end of the first century as far east as China, to the west as far as Spain, north into Asia and Europe, and south down the Nile into Africa.
13:28-31 "This has not happened yet. Did Jesus give any indication when we should expect this?" He said we will see the first signs of his coming (see 13:14-23). And we will get the signal to leave Jerusalem (13:14). But the final end of the temple, and Jerusalem as our Jewish city, will certainly be in our generation (13:30, as in Matthew 23:36; 24:34, Luke 9:27; 21:32). "That means you expect this to happen within twenty years?" Yes, certainly.
13:32-33 "Can't you suggest a date for us?" Jesus was very clear that not even he knew the exact date. Matthew remembered that Jesus' coming would be as unexpected as a thief breaking in to one's house (Matthews 24:43-44, as in Luke 12:39-40, see 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10).
13:34 "How did Jesus want us to be ready for these terrible events?" We should be like stewards when the owner of the vineyard is away on a journey (Matthew remembered the parable Jesus told of the Jewish tenants being replaced by "other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time" (Matthew 21:33-41).
13:35-37 "What should be our attitude as we wait for the appointed time?" Jesus used the picture of a night watchman keeping awake instead of going to sleep. That does not mean we are to give up sleeping. It is an attitude of being ready for a thief attempting to break in (see 13:32-33).
A note on pre-millenianism The Pre-Millenial model teaches that since Jesus did not come again in that generation, the events of Mark 13 must be in the future. We are still in the generation (Matthew 23:36, 24, 34, Mark 13:30) that awaits his coming. We have described how Jesus taught that the period of tribulation would precede his coming to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70. Pre-millenial interpreters differ about a pre-tribulation rapture, a post-tribulation rapture, or a mid-tribulation rapture. But they all expect Jesus' return in the future, and this will consist of the rapture (based on 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18) of true believers followed by a thousand year reign of the Messiah on earth. In our model we point out that the many references to the parousia in the Epistles give evidence that the early church expected that coming to occur in their lifetime. This is why we avoid the term "second coming." The Lord King Messiah Son of God kept coming again and again in Days of the Lord in the Old Testament period, he came again in the Day of the Lord in AD 70, but he continues coming in Days of the Lord throughout history (see our explanation more fully in Advent Comings of the Lord among the Nations).