Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 6 August 2012; Revised 1 April 2017
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
Date: Nisan 12, A.D. 30 (Tuesday)
The lengthy sermon of this chapter (parallel Matthew 24─25) is commonly known as the Olivet Discourse because it took place on the Mount of Olives, perhaps in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:39). The sermon is Yeshua's response to questions posed by his disciples and serves as a reality check to their expectations for an immediate establishment of Messiah's kingdom. Yeshua prophesies the future in a straightforward manner with warnings to his apostles of difficult times for them and proclamation of events that will lead to the glorious Second Coming at the end of the age.
Considerable scholarly debate has arisen concerning the content of the sermon, but there is no good reason not to accept the sermon as the authentic words of Yeshua. Some scholars liken this sermon to Jewish apocalyptic works that flourished for a century before Yeshua. Such Jewish writings have been classified as apocalyptic because they include vivid imagery and symbolism to communicate that there is no hope in this present age, but at some point in the future history will end in a cosmic catastrophe, the wicked will be punished and the persecuted righteous rewarded. Yeshua's sermon departs from the typical Jewish apocalyptic by avoiding the symbolic language of those works and offers a confident fulfillment of Jewish expectation for the Messiah to reign over the earth.
Judgment on Jerusalem, 13:1-2
Warnings for the Apostles, 13:3-13
End of the Present Age, 13:14-23
The Second Coming, 13:24-27
Lesson of the Fig Tree, 13:28-32
Admonition for Readiness, 13:33-37
Judgment on Jerusalem, 13:1-2
Parallel Passages: Matthew 24:1-2; Luke 21:5-6, 20-24
1 As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
As he was going out: Grk. ekporeuomai, pres. mid. part., to move from one place to another, to come out or to go out. from the temple: Grk. hieron, sanctuary, temple (subst. neut. of the adj. hieros, 'sacred, holy'). When used of the temple in Jerusalem hieron applies to the entire temple complex with all its courts in contrast to naos, which refers to the sanctuary proper where priests offered sacrifices. For a description of the construction and characteristics of the temple see my comment on Mark 11:11. one of his disciples: Grk. mathētēs, one who learns through instruction under a teacher. In the apostolic writings mathētēs corresponds to the Heb. talmid and occurs only in the apostolic narratives. See the note on 2:15 for the expectations of a disciple. Robertson suggests that perhaps Peter himself was the one who sought thus by a pleasant platitude to divert Yeshua’s attention from the serious topics of recent hours in the temple.
said to Him, Teacher: Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. In the LXX didaskalos occurs only in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason. However, the participle form of the verb didaskō, "one teaching," is used to render the participle form of three Hebrew verbs: (1) maskil, part. of sakal, give insight, teach (SH-7919; Job 22:2); (2) hamlammed, part. of lamad, instruct, teach (SH-3925; Ps 119:99); and (3) moreh, part. of yarah, to throw or shoot and thus "one who throws out," "points out," or "instructs," (SH-3384; Prov 5:13; Isa 9:15) (DNTT 3:766).
In Greek education teaching was concerned with imparting knowledge or technical skills. Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher (25 BC - AD 50), employs this meaning when he uses the term "teacher" to refer to both Moses (On Giants 54) and God (Who is the Heir of Divine Things? 102). In both cases Philo regards a teacher as one who imparts knowledge, not as one who lays ethical demands before others. Hebrew education in the Tanakh, however, is more concerned with obedience than imparting information. The situation is different in the Qumran texts where moreh occurs more frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one," probably in reference to the founder of the sect (DNTT 3:767).
Elsewhere didaskalos is used interchangeably with rhabbi (Matt 23:8; John 1:38; 3:2). Since the disciples and Yeshua conversed in Hebrew, then the actual address would have been Rabbi. When the general public and adversaries addressed Yeshua as didaskalos (as given in the Greek text, e.g., Matt 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16; 22:24, 36; Mark 4:38; 9:17; 10:35; John 8:4), they most likely said moreh or possibly rabbi.
behold what wonderful: Grk. potapos, interrogative pro., "of what sort or kind." The word is used to express a strong impression. stones: Grk. lithos, stone. The term is used of various types of stone. and what wonderful buildings: pl. of Grk. oikodomē, a structured entity. Matthew 24:1 and Luke 21:5 tell of the fact of the comment, but Mark alone gives the precise words. The exclamation by the disciple may seem superfluous to the situation, but being one of the great architectural wonders of the time the Herodian temple would never cease to impress visitors. The Talmud expresses Jewish pride in the temple with these words, "He who has not seen Jerusalem in her splendor, has never seen a desirable city in his life. He who has not seen the Temple in its full construction has never seen a glorious building in his life" (Sukk. 51b; B.B. 4a). Tacitus, the Roman historian, described the building as a "temple of immense wealth" (History, V, 8).
2 And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down."
And Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of Yeshua, our Lord's Hebrew name given to him by his parents in accordance with angelic direction. Yeshua is the only name by which he was known to his contemporaries. See the note on 1:1 for the background of this precious name. said to him, Do you see: Grk. blepō, pres., has three possible meanings, (1) to possess the capacity to see; (2) to use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) to have inward or mental insight or (4) to be looking in certain direction. Yeshua's question has shades of all three meanings. these great: Grk. megas, a superlative referring to something that exceeds the standard and therefore impressive; commonly rendered as "great." buildings: pl. of Grk. oikodomē. See the previous verse.
Not one stone will be left: lit. "by no means be left." upon another: The description alludes to the manner of building construction in ancient times. Large stones were quarried and prepared for large building projects as the temple. Some of these stones at the southeastern and southwestern angles survive today and measure from twenty to forty feet long and weigh as much as a hundred tons (RWP). which will not be torn down: Grk. kataluō, aor. pass. subj., to tear down, to destroy or to demolish, lit. "loosened down." Only the foundation stones would remain after the destruction. The description reflects the manner of conquest of cities in antiquity (Lane).
As the disciples were remarking on the wonder of so great an edifice and perhaps fantasizing about when the temple would be under the Messiah’s control (and theirs), Yeshua bursts their bubble with an ominous and deeply disturbing prophecy. In Luke's narrative of the Messianic entrance on Nisan 10 Yeshua stops before entering Jerusalem and makes the heart-rending announcement:
"When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:41-44)
The prophetic statement is summarized in Luke's version of the Olivet Discourse.
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. … 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:20, 24)
For a summary of the Gentile occupation of the Land see the note on 12:9.
Mark does not include the prediction of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem as Luke does, but the prediction of not one stone left on top of another is repeated here in relation to the destruction of the temple (also Matt 24:2). As Kasdan notes, the ancient test for a true prophet as found in the Torah (Deut 18:20-22) may be applied to Yeshua's prophecy (284). The prediction would come to pass in all its literal horror in A.D. 70, thus validating Yeshua as a prophet sent from God. The historical record of Josephus (Wars IV-VI) confirms the fulfillment of Yeshua's prophecy in every detail. Talmudic scholars would later record various reasons for the destruction of Jerusalem (Shab. 119b), such as
· Desecration of the Sabbath [citing Ezek 22:26].
· Neglect of reading of the Shema morning and evening which led to a lack of knowledge [citing Isa 5:11-13].
· Neglect of the education of school children [citing Jer 6:11].
· Not being ashamed of each other when they committed abominations [citing Jer 6:15].
· Making the small and the great equal [citing Isa 24:2-3].
· Failing to rebuke each other [citing Lam 1:6].
· Despising scholars, mocking the messengers of God, and scoffing at His prophets [citing 2Chr 36:16].
· Men of faith ceased therein [citing Jer 5:1].
While all the suggested reasons might have merit, the "mocking the messengers of God, and scoffing at His prophets" comes closest to the reason Yeshua gave for the impending destruction. Unfortunately, Christian church fathers also took the wrong lesson from the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the crushing defeat of the Jewish rebellion in A.D. 135. God did not reject His people (Rom 9:1-2), as He foretold through the prophet Jeremiah:
"Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the LORD of hosts is His name: 36 "If this fixed order departs from before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever." 37 Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done," declares the LORD." (Jer 31:35-37)
In God's eyes the nation of Israel continued to exist, even in her scattered condition among the nations.
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,
As he was sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. The beginning clause would be lit. "And as he is sitting." Sitting was the normal posture for a teacher or rabbi to give instruction (cf. Matt 5:1; Mark 4:1). on the Mount of Olives: Heb. Har HaZeitim, given for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The topographical name refers to the middle peak of a north-to-south ridge of hills east of Jerusalem. See the note on 11:1. opposite the temple: This phrase identifies the relative portion of Mount Olivet where Yeshua went, a location that kept the temple in Yeshua's line of sight.
Peter: Grk. Petros. Mark is clear that the name was not given at birth by his parents, but by Yeshua himself (3:16). According to John 1:42 the name Yeshua gave Simon was the Aramaic name Kefa transliterated in the Greek as Kēphas and rendered in the English by the inaccurate "Cephas." Petros, then, is the translation of Kefa, which means "rock" in Aramaic. His Hebrew birth name was Simon (Grk. Simōn, Heb. Shim'on, "he has heard"). The apostle's name should be pronounced "See-mown" or "Shee-mown," not "Sigh-mun." Yeshua also addressed him as "Simon Barjona" (Heb. bar Yona) (Matt 16:17), which means that Simon was a descendant of the prophet Jonah.
and James: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), but rendered as "James" in Christian Bibles. The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," had no pejorative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. There is no such name as "James" anywhere in the Bible. For more on the background of the name and its translation see the note on 1:19. and John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yochanan and means “the Lord is gracious.” When John's name appears with his brother he is always listed second, indicating that he was the younger of the two. When Yeshua first called John to discipleship, he was engaged in mending fishing nets along with his father and brother (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-19). John and Jacob had a close working relationship with Simon Peter in fishing (Luke 5:10).
and Andrew: Grk. Andreas, derived from andros, the genitive case of anēr "of a man." Andrew is the brother of Simon Peter and apparently the first disciple to join Yeshua (John 1:40). Andrew, being a Greek name, may have been only a nickname or a translation of his real Hebrew name, which is not known. There is a Hebrew name Aner ("boy") found twice in the Tanakh, once of an Amorite chieftain who aided Abraham in the pursuit of the four invading kings (Gen 14:13, 24) and once of a Levitical city west of the Jordan in Manasseh allotted to the Kohathite Levites (1Chr 6:70). "Andrew" could also have been chosen by his father because he liked the name or wished to honor someone important to the family.
were questioning Him privately: Grk. kat idian, a preposition-adjective construction that means "apart" or "privately." The words actually precede the listing of the names in the Greek text. Matthew 24:3 says only that "disciples" asked him for an explanation. Since Mark's report reflects the preaching of Peter, then the narrative gives the names of the specific disciples that were the immediate audience, although it's reasonable to assume that the rest of the disciples drew near as Yeshua began his great eschatological discourse.
Signs of the End of the Age
Parallel Passages: Matthew 24:3-8; Luke 21:7-11
4 "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?"
Tell us: Grk. legō, aor. act. imp., to make a statement or utterance. The imperative mood reflects an urgent entreaty given what Yeshua had just announced. when will these things: pl. of Grk. outos, a demonstrative pronoun used to signify a person or thing. The pronoun serves as a reference point in the discourse (also in verses 8, 29, and 30) be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. ind., to be, which may be rendered as "is, was, or will be" depending on the tense and context. The two questions, phrased in the manner of Hebraic parallelism, may allude to similar words of Jeremiah and the angel to Daniel,
"It shall come about when they say, 'Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?' then you shall say to them, 'As you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you will serve strangers in a land that is not yours.'" (Jer 5:19)
"I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed." (Dan 12:7)
These questions were of immediate significance to Israel, yet they are still being asked. Since the triumphal entry in Chapter 11 Yeshua had told several parables about His mission and the fulfillment of the kingdom, taught on the resurrection and had just prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. Asking "when" seems insensitive on the face of it, but it's an important question. If destruction is coming they want to be able to prepare for it.
what will be the sign: Grk. sēmeion means sign, miracle or wonder. Sēmeion is used in reference to miracles to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f). The corresponding Heb. word oth referred to signs, omens or miracles promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men. Oth has its root in the verb avah, which means to sign, mark or describe with a mark (BDB 16).
The term “sign” in Scripture has a variety of important uses in the Tanakh. The first usage is in Genesis 1:14 in which the stars would serve as signs that speak for God or even as portents of events on earth (cf. Ps 19:1f; Jer 10:2). “Sign” also referred to a visible manifestation of God’s grace and favor, as the rainbow, circumcision and the Sabbath are covenantal signs (Gen 9:12f, 17; 17:11; Ex 31:13, 17; Ezek 20:12). Most of the usages of “sign” in the Tanakh are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, such as the plagues on Egypt (Ex 7:3) and the shadow’s advance on the palace steps (2Kgs 20:9). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a warning or reminder, such as Aaron’s rod (Num 17:25) and the stones in the Jordan (Josh 4:6). These meanings frequently overlap and the use of the word “sign” may point backward to a historical event or even forward to the fulfillment of a promise (See TWOT 1:39f).
when all these things: The apostles allude again to the ominous prophecy of Yeshua concerning the temple. are going to be fulfilled: Grk. sunteleō, pres. pass. inf., to bring to a close, to complete or finish. The present tense clarifies that the question concerns a sign that the fulfillment of Yeshua's prophecy is imminent. While to the Western mind the question sounds like morbid curiosity or even insensitivity, their concern is likely to be their own safety. If the temple is going to be destroyed, then they don't want to be in the vicinity when it happens. In Matthew 24:3 the disciples also ask "and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Mark does not repeat the question, but he does answer it in verses 24-27.
5 And Jesus began to say to them, "See to it that no one misleads you.
And: Grk. de is a conjunction that generally indicates either a slight contrast or a transition in presentation of subject matter. It is an extremely flexible word. De could mean “and" in the sense of "moreover" or "furthermore,” implying that what follows continues the thought already begun. De could also mean “but", implying that what follows is different from and contrasts with the preceding thought. Because of the prophecy the apostles were instantly fixated on the fate of the temple. However, for Yeshua there were more pressing concerns. (Interestingly de appears at the beginning of verses 7, 9, 14, 17, 18, 23, 28, 32, and 37, as if he were saying "and then there's this to consider.")
Jesus began: Grk. archō, aor. mid. ind., to begin or start something. to say: Grk. legō, pres. act. inf., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form. In English "began to say" sounds inane, since you either say something or you don't say something. The Greek syntax reflects Hebraic phrasing with the infinitive "say" functioning as an imperfect tense. In other words, the functional meaning is "Yeshua began by saying," which serves to introduce a quotation since ancient manuscripts contained no punctuation. Yeshua began to redirect their focus, to shift from a telephoto lens to a wide angle lens.
See to it: Grk. blepō, pres. act. imp. See the note on verse 2 above. Yeshua could have issued the command without this verb but he engages in a play on words. The apostles need to look beyond what can be perceived with the physical eyes. The verbal command has an idiomatic force of "take care" or "take precautions" and is repeated in verses 9, 23 and 33, each time with an accompanying reason for the caution. that no one misleads: Grk. planaō, aor. act. subj., to cause to go astray, in the sense of leading one from a standard of truth or conduct, to deceive. The hortatory nature of the verb reinforces the imperative mood of "see."
you: pl. of Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, "you" as a group. Older Bible versions as the KJV helpfully translated the pronoun as "ye." Many of the verbs in the discourse are second person plural, but the use of the specific pronoun is significant, because it directly means the twelve (including Mattathias, Judas' replacement) and the apostles who would be added after Pentecost. The direct address also occurs in verses 9, 11, 21, 23, 29, 30, 36, and 37. Yeshua expresses sincere concern over how the apostles will respond to the prophesied events as they occur, as well as how they will respond to false prophets who offer a different view of the future. The potential deception applies not just to the warning of the next verse, but the entire chronology of events described in this discourse. And the warnings apply to all disciples in all centuries because the discourse closes with "What I say to you I say to all" (v. 37).
Yeshua issued a number of specific prophecies and anyone who says that fulfillment of prophecy is not necessary or that events won't transpire as presented in this discourse essentially questions the integrity of Yeshua. Judas Iscariot refused to accept Yeshua's prophecy and easily became a pawn of Satan. Yeshua's prophecies, of course, as those in the Tanakh of Messianic expectation, have a dual character. Messianic prophecy typically had an immediate application and a long-term application in the distant future. The same principle holds true for the events prophesied by Yeshua. He proceeds to list major happenings in a variety of categories (religious, environmental, political, and social). The apostles and their disciples would experience many of the prophesied events in some measure, but the prophecies have a particular meaning for the time preceding the Second Coming.
6 "Many will come in My name, saying, `I am He!' and will mislead many.
Since this verse serves as a reason for the caution of the previous verse, there is an implied "for" that precedes "many" as occurs in the parallel verses of Matthew 24:5 and Luke 21:8. Many: pl. of Grk. polus, an adjective of number indicating extensive in scope. will come: Grk. erchomai, fut. mid. ind., means to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances it means to go. When used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. in My name: Grk. onoma, in its central sense is used to identify someone. The phrase "in My name" is a technical expression designating an appointed emissary or representative (Lane 457). The misuse of the expression may refer to claiming Yeshua's authority to do something (e.g., Matt 18:5; Mark 9:39; John 14:14), but more likely claiming possession of Yeshua's title, qualities, attributes and authority for oneself.
saying, I am He: The last form of "name" applies here of someone who will claim (or others will claim for him) to be the Messiah of Israel and Davidic deliverer. and will mislead many: Grk. planaō, fut. act. See the note on the previous verse. When Yeshua says that many will say they are the Messiah he is not referring to claims of deity. Many Jewish imposters have indeed claimed the title or been heralded by Jewish groups as the Messiah. Stern says there have been more than fifty messianic pretenders in the last 2000 years of Jewish history (5). In the first century Messianic pretenders endeavored to free Israel from Roman oppression, starting with Judas of Galilee in A.D. 6 (Acts 5:37), followed by his son (or grandson) Menahem ben Judah, then Theudas and in c. A.D. 46 (Acts 5:36) and finally John of Gischala, a leader in the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 A.D. (See the Wikipedia article Jewish Messiah Claimants.)
7 "When you hear of wars and rumors of Wars do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.
When you hear: Grk. akouō, aor. act. subj., to hear with focus on willingness to listen to or heed the substance of what is said. While mass media did not exist in ancient times, important news events were publicized through Acta Diurna, or government announcement bulletins, made public by authority of Caesar. The bulletins were carved on stone or metal and presented in message boards in public places. Jews would have also learned the gory details of the war through the publication of the eyewitness chronicle of Josephus.
of wars: pl. of Grk. polemos, to wage war. While the noun polemos in Greek literature may refer to strife, conflict or quarrels, in Scripture the term refers generally to armed conflict and hostilities between nations or kingdoms. When used of armed conflict, the term may indicate a single battle or a war of some duration consisting of many battles. Sharp political tensions abounded in Israel during the first century and with the constant pressure of the Zealots the threat of Roman reprisal was ever present. Besides Zealot terrorism wars during the lifetime of the apostles would have included the ongoing war of Rome against the Parthians and Persia, the invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, the Roman civil war of 68-69 A.D. and the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 A.D.
and rumors: Grk. akoē, something that is heard, whether a report or rumor or message. of wars: Living in such a strife-filled time naturally fostered the proverbial "rumor mill." With their connections to the extensive Jewish communities of the Empire the apostles and their disciples might easily hear of local incidents involving Roman oppression and the potential for war. Today the threat of war in some part of the world is a part of the daily news reporting. do not be frightened: Grk. throeō, pres. pass. imp., used of inward disturbance by outward circumstances, to be alarmed, terrified or scared. Yeshua had already warned his disciples on various occasions against allowing any situation or person, other than God, to cause fear (Matt 6:25-34; 10:26-31).
Those things must: Grk. dei, an impersonal verb from deō, pres. act. ind., to stand in need of. The basic idea is that circumstances, expressed or implied, determine expectations for an outcome or event, "it behooves" (Marshall). The use of dei in Mark refers to a necessity imposed by the sovereign will of God (Lane 455). In the parallel verses of Matthew 24:6 and Luke 21:8 this clause begins with "for" to indicate the reason for not being alarmed. take place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. inf., to come to be, to become or to originate, i.e., "come to pass." This particular syntax ("this must come to pass") occurs in Daniel 2:28 (LXX), where the expression is used with reference to the last days (Lane, ibid.). The expression is also used in Revelation to preface prophesied events (Rev 1:1; 4:1; 22:6). This clear statement rebuts the notion that any of the prophesied events in this discourse can remain unfulfilled.
but that is not yet the end: Grk. telos, a point in time that marks culmination. BAG defines this point of time in the sense of either (1) termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed. In Classical Greek telos is derived from a root tel-, which means to turn around. Originally it referred to the turning point, hinge, the culminating point at which one stage ends and another begins; later the goal, the end (DNTT 2:59). Telos occurs 150 times in the LXX, chiefly in adverbial combinations and often to translate the Heb. qēts, “end” (DNTT 2:60).
The Hebrew word qēts is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3), indefinitely of the passing of a time (e.g., Gen 4:3; 1Kgs 17:7), the end of a people (Jer 51:13), or the end of an individual (Job 6:11; Dan 11:45) (BDB 893). In Daniel "the end" has an eschatological sense as the end of the age and conclusion of God's sovereign plan (Dan 8:17, 19; 9:26; 11:35, 40; 12:9). In this verse "the end" is probably shorthand for the "end of the age" (Dan 12:13; Matt 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20).
8 "For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements. In this case gar connects the imperative mood exhortation in verse 5 ("see to it"), emphasized by the warnings in verses 6 and 7, with the reason expressed in this verse. nation: Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. Ethnos in the singular may refer to a specific ethnic or cultural people, such as the Jewish Samaritans (Acts 8:9) or Israel (Matt 21:43; Acts 24:17). The use of "nation" might give the wrong impression, since ethnos does not refer to a political state. In the Besekh the plural form ethnos normally corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). From the Second temple onwards Jews generally used the plural of ethnos to refer to non-Jews.
will rise up: Grk. egeirō, fut. pass. The verb for upward movement is used metaphorically of appearing on the scene that had not previously existed. against nation: Yeshua prophesies strife between ethnic groups, whether within a country or across country boundaries. and kingdom: Grk. basileia may means either the act of ruling or the territory over which a king or sovereign rules. Basileia does refer to a political entity. against: Grk. epi, prep. lit. "upon." kingdom: Strife between kingdoms or countries as political entities has existed from the first great kingdom established by Nimrod after the deluge. The strife may range from tensions to all out war. there will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., to be. The futurity is certain, but no timing is given.
earthquakes: pl. of Grk. seismos, from which we get our English word “seismic,” means “to shake.” While used once for a strong storm at sea (Matt 8:24), seimos is used mostly for earthquake (BAG). Seismos occurs 13 times in the Besekh, three of which are in the Olivet Discourse narratives and seven in Revelation (6:12; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18). The other three quakes mentioned occur in special circumstances. Prior to the first century only a few earthquakes are mentioned in relation to Israel (Ex 19:18; 1Sam 14:15; 1Kgs 9:11-12; Amos 1:1), the first one accompanying the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai and the last one occurring in Jerusalem in the days of King Uzziah. Yeshua warned his disciples to expect significant seismic events as well as other adverse environmental catastrophes as portents of the end of the age.
In almost immediate fulfillment an earthquake followed the death of Yeshua and opened tombs (Matt 27:51-54), and a quake opened the tomb from which Yeshua had risen (Matt 28:1). Luke records that a house in Jerusalem "was shaken" (Grk. saleuō, see verse 25 below) after a Spirit-anointed prayer meeting (Acts 4:31). A quake in Philippi severely damaged the prison house in which Paul and Silas were incarcerated and opened the prison doors (Acts 16:26). In the year 60, just ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem, an earthquake destroyed Laodicea and demolished a large part of Pompeii (Tacitus 14:27; 15:22), no doubt adversely impacting the Messianic congregations in those regions.
in: Grk. kata. When used with nouns in the accusative case (as here) the preposition normally pertains to a place and has the sense of extension in space and may be translated as along, over, through, in or upon (BAG 406). However, the root meaning of kata is "down," which is very appropriate since earthquakes occur beneath the surface of the earth. various places: pl. of Grk. topos, a spatial area, which may be an unnamed geographical area or a named locality. Most versions insert the word "various" as fitting for the plural noun and unspecified locations.
Earthquakes are common on every continent and have always existed, but only in modern times could they be measured. The Richter scale, developed in 1935, calculates the intensity of earthquakes on a ten-point scale. Detectable earthquakes (2.0 and greater) routinely occur around the world, but most cannot be felt and cause no damage. Quakes measuring 5.0 or greater are considered significant due to the potential for property damage and loss of life. In the parallel account Luke uses the word "great" in describing the earthquakes (Luke 21:11), perhaps denoting killer quakes. Revelation describes a future earthquake that destroys a tenth of a great city and kills 7,000 people (Rev 11:13). Only eleven earthquakes in modern history have exceeded this number of fatalities, some with the number of dead in the hundreds of thousands (Deadly History of Earthquakes,” BBC News, UK Edition, 30 March 2004).
Charles Wesley, in his sermon The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes (Sermons on Several Occasions, 1872 ed.) in recounting several catastrophic earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries, asserted that earthquakes are truly acts of God, and, whatever the natural cause may be, they are the result of His judgment on sin. Indeed, the very first earthquake in human experience initiated God's judgment of the great deluge in Noah's time, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open" (Gen 7:11). Prior to Noah there had apparently never been an earthquake, but ever since then earthquakes are a reminder of God's wrath. Scriptures are replete with prophetic pronouncements attributing earthquakes and climate-related calamities to God acting in judgment (Judg 5:4-5; 2Sam 22:8; Job 9:5f; Ps 18:7; 46:8; 75:3; 77:18; 82:5; 97:4f; 104:32; 114:7; Isa 2:19, 21; 5:25; 13:11, 13; 24:1, 18-20; 29:6; 54:10; Jer 5:9, 22; 10:10; Ezek 38:19f; Hag 2:6; Zech 14:5).
Luke's version of the Olivet Discourse not only mentions earthquakes, but also powerful storms in the sea and threats from interstellar space (Luke 21:11, 25). These calamities are not outside of God’s control (cf. Heb 1:3), but rather signs of the self-destruct sequence that began with God’s curse on the physical world in the Garden (Gen 3:17), and further accelerated by the global deluge in Noah's time. The ecological and geological cataclysm of the deluge totally destroyed the world Noah knew and set in motion physical stresses in the earth's structure still being felt to this day. The many promises in Scripture that neither the righteous nor God’s kingdom can be shaken (e.g., Prov 10:30; Heb 12:28) point to the reality that earthquakes bring fear and torment because people are not ready to meet their Creator and Judge.
On the basis of the Olivet prophecy a number of Bible teachers have claimed that a pronounced increase in both the frequency and intensity of earthquakes would occur just prior to the Second Coming and that recent decades have witnessed such a trend. However, Yeshua did not say that earthquakes would increase in any manner; only that they would happen. (For a contrary opinion on the statistical frequency of earthquakes see the article, Steven A. Austin and Mark L. Strauss, Earthquakes and the End Times: A Geological and Biblical Perspective, Institute for Creation Research: 1999.) Whatever the frequency of earthquakes may be, Scripture does speak much of catastrophic earthquakes to come in the final days of the present age (cf. Ps 99:1; Isa 2:19-21; 13:13; 24:18-21; Joel 2:10; 3:16; Hag 2:6; Heb 12:26-27; Rev 11:13, 19). Every time an earthquake happens it is one more reminder that the present age is coming to a close. John describes the earth being destroyed by a final cataclysmic earthquake:
"And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found." (Rev 16:18-20)
there will also be famines: pl. of Grk. limos, condition of misery caused by lack of food and impacting a large area. The common word in the Tanakh for "famine" is ra'ab (Gen 12:10), but re'abon also occurs (Gen 42:19), and kaphan (Job 5:22), all meaning "hunger," "want of food" and "famine." Throughout Bible times famines were not infrequent. Famine may be caused by lack of adequate rainfall, destructive hail storms (Ex 9:23; 10:12-15), infestation of insects (Ex 10:15) and by enemies (Deut 28:49-51; 2Kgs 6:25). Famine occurred during the lives of all the patriarchs, as well as in the time of the judges (Ruth 1:1) and during the reigns of David (2Sam 21:1), Ahab (1Kgs 17:1) and Zedekiah (2Kgs 25:3). In the time of Caesar Claudius, A.D. 45, a famine severely affected Israel (Acts 11:28). The apostle Paul collected and delivered financial support to the Jerusalem congregation to relieve their plight (Acts 11:29; Rom 15:26; 1Cor 16:1-3).
The warning of famine is a prelude to the unveiling of the sixth seal in Revelation:
broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I
looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in
his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four
living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of
barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine."
At the time of the end food will become very expensive and the poor will suffer because of it. Agricultural production is primarily dependent on the right weather, whatever the skill of the farmer may be. The mention of "famine" is not to describe drought per se, because famine or shortage of food products can result from a variety of causes as already mentioned.
These things are merely the beginning: Grk. archē, the point of derivation or originating moment, and may be rendered as "beginning" or "start." of birth pangs: Grk. ōdin, pain associated with giving birth. Yeshua no doubt alludes to the prophecy of Isaiah 26:17-21, which summarizes the teaching of this discourse:
"As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, she writhes and cries out in her labor pains, thus were we before You, O LORD. 18 We were pregnant, we writhed in labor, we gave birth, as it seems, only to wind. We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth, nor were inhabitants of the world born. 19 Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until indignation runs its course. 21 For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; and the earth will reveal her bloodshed and will no longer cover her slain."
Paul echoes this same prophecy,
"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Rom 8:22-23)
In Luke's account of the Olivet Discourse Yeshua adds the mention of "great" earthquakes, plagues and terrors and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:11), and the roaring of the seas and waves (21:15). What Yeshua is describing is the degeneration of the earth as the time of its destruction draws nearer. The disturbances in the meteorological and tectonic systems are occurring with increasing frequency with devastating results.
The Apostolic Mission
Parallel Passages: Matthew 10:16-23; 24:9-14; Luke 21:12-19
9 "But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.
But be: Grk. blepō. See the note on verse 2 above; lit. "But see." on your guard: Grk. humeis (pl. of su, pro. of the second person, "all of you") eautous (pl. of eautou, reflex. pro., "yourselves"). Yeshua uses the pronouns to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5. The entire phrase would be lit. "But see ye yourselves" (Marshall). The word "guard" is not in the Greek text. Idiomatically, the double pronouns means that Yeshua urges caution on his apostles to look out for themselves. for they will deliver: Grk. paradidōmi, fut., to convey from one position to another. The verb in general refers to subjecting a person to a custodial procedure, which could involve various stages and numerous parties in the judicial process, with delivery to an authority for penalty by someone filled with animus. In the parallel verse in Luke 21:12 the verb "deliver" is preceded by the warning "They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you." The verb persecute is diōkō, to put to flight, to pursue, to persecute.
Yeshua repeatedly warned his disciples that they should expect to be persecuted by unbelievers (Matt 5:10-12; 10:23; Mark 10:30; John 15:20). The apostolic writings confirm that this indeed was the experience of first century disciples (Acts 8:1; 11:19; 13:50; 22:4; 2Tim 3:11). Persecution included harassment, public insults, being disinherited, deprived of property, being forced to flee as a refugee, violent aggression, being beaten, imprisonment and sometimes death (Acts 8:1; 22:4; 1Cor 4:12; 2Cor 4:9; 12:10; Heb 10:32-34). After Paul's experience of both committing persecution and being persecuted as an apostle he could say, "all who desire to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted" (2Tim 3:12 TLV).
you: pl. of Grk. su, pro. of the second person, "you" as a group. Yeshua repeats the personal pronoun for emphasis. to the courts: pl. of Grk. sunedrion, a governing board, always used of an Israelite governing structure. In the LXX sunedrion occurs ten times rendering various Heb. words that denote either counselors to the king or judicial authorities (Ps 26:4; Prov 11:13; 15:22; 20:19; 22:10; 24:7; 26:26; 27:22; 31:23; Jer 15:17). In the Besekh the term is used for both the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and local Jewish councils that were modeled after the Sanhedrin, both in Israel and the Diaspora. According to Mishnaic law any city with a Jewish population of 120 persons was qualified to have its own judicial council (Sanh. 1:1). Yeshua would soon stand before the Sanhedrin, and the apostles Peter and John followed by Stephen would be "delivered" to them as well (Acts 4:1-7; 5:26-29; 6:12).
and you will be flogged: Grk. derō, fut. pass., to punish in a violent manner, at the very least with fists and at worst with whips. Luke would later record Saul's role in persecuting, imprisoning and beating Messianic Jews (Acts 8:1-3; 22:19; 26:11). Those regarded as apostates by Jewish authorities could be subjected to public scourging. The Mishnah tractate Makk. ("floggings") sets forth specific rules to implement the punishment prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:2-3. The standard whip for beating consisted of a strap of calf leather which was divided into four thons and through which smaller thongs were plaited to make it stronger (Makk. 23a). A ruling by a court of three or sometimes twenty-three was required to authorize the punishment (Sanh. 1:1). Deuteronomy 25:3 limited the number of strokes to 40, but reduced to 39 in actual practice to avoid exceeding the number (as Paul reported from his experience of being flogged, 2Cor 6:5; 11:24; Makk. 3:6).
in the synagogues: pl. of Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Greek apostolic writings refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning as well as the congregation that met (Acts 6:9; 9:2), including that of Messianic Jews (James 2:2). The origin of sunagōgē dates back to the 5th century BC and in ancient times was used to refer to any collection of things or people. Sunagōgē had a particular usage by Gentile trade guilds to refer to both their business meetings and religious feasts.
In the LXX sunagōgē is used to translate the Heb. words kahal (a summons to an assembly) and edah (the assembly or congregation of Israel). Interestingly, kahal was also translated with ekklēsia in the LXX, but edah was never translated by ekklēsia (DNTT 1:292ff). While Gentiles typically think of "synagogue" as the house for Jewish worship and instruction on the Sabbath, the Hebrew and Greek words are general enough to refer to any Jewish assembly. In the context "synagogues" no doubt has the functional meaning of "in assemblies of unbelieving Jews."
The ruler of the synagogue was authorized to administer a flogging (Makkot 3:8), which would be applied to both chest and back. Both men and women were subject to flogging. Yeshua had already issued this warning when he sent the apostles on their first mission (Matt 10:17) and he himself experienced strong opposition at synagogues (Luke 4:28; 6:6-7; 13:10-17). As predicted, after Pentecost the apostles were arrested and flogged (Acts 4:1-3; 5:17-18, 40). Likewise, Stephen appeared before the Sanhedrin because of opposition from the Synagogue of Freedmen and then made the ultimate sacrifice (Acts 6:9-12; 7:54-59). Not long afterwards all the disciples in Judea and Samaria suffered in the persecution of Saul (Acts 8:1-3).
After his commissioning Paul (and his colleagues) faced not only fierce hostility but bodily peril at synagogues and among unbelieving Jews for preaching about Messiah Yeshua: in Damascus (Acts 9:20-24), in Jerusalem (Acts 9:29; 12:2-3; 21:27; 22:22; 23:1-22), in Paphos (Acts 13:6-8), in Antioch (Acts 13:44-46), in Iconium (Acts 14:1-5), in Lystra (Acts 14:19), in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), in Berea (Acts 17:13), in Corinth (Acts 18:5-6, 17; 19:8-9), in Macedonia (Acts 20:3, 19), and in Caesarea (Acts 24:9; 25:2, 7). In contrast the book of Acts records only four incidents of Gentile hostility against the apostles (Acts 12:1-4; 14:5, 19; 16:16-24; 19:23-25).
and you will stand: Grk. histēmi, fut. pass., cause to be in a place or position, to set or stand. The verb doesn't just refer to having to appear to answer charges, but making a stand or remaining firm in loyalty to Yeshua. before governors: Grk. hēgemōn, a leader or a head of a Roman province, i.e., governor. and kings: pl. of Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. The double reference to "kings and governors" serves to designate all men of authority (Lane 461). for My sake: Grk. eneka, a prep. that expresses the cause or reason for something, lit. "for the sake of me." The phrase could also be rendered as "on account of" or "because of." as a testimony: Grk. marturion, that which serves to corroborate or attest, a testimony or witness. before them. In other words, the occasion for giving testimony is because of being faithful to proclaim the good news.
to them: The book of Acts records the fulfillment of this prophecy in the life of Paul who stood before King Agrippa (Acts 25:23), Governor Felix (Acts 24:22-27) and Governor Festus (Acts 25:1-12) and eventually Caesar Nero. John's mention of being exiled to Patmos came as a result of appearing before Caesar Domitian (Rev 1:9).
10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.
Some Christians believe that fulfillment of prophecy is unnecessary for Yeshua to come. There were over 50 prophecies related to the first coming of Yeshua. They were all fulfilled. Does it not make sense that all the prophecies pertaining to the Second Coming of Yeshua must also come true?
The gospel: Grk. euaggelion, good news or glad tidings, which translates Heb. besorah in the LXX. See the note on 1:1. Yeshua proclaimed the good news that God had fulfilled the promises given to Israel through the prophets, including Moses. The good news is the same message the angel Gabriel gave to Zechariah (Luke 1:13-17), to Miriam (Luke 1:30-33), to Joseph (Matt 1:20-21) and then to the shepherds (Luke 2:10-11). This is the same message that Zacharias declared to his fellow Jews (Luke 1:68-75) and Simeon to Yeshua's parents (Luke 2:29-32), all of which reflected the Jewish hopes and expectations of a redeemer and deliverer. At the beginning of his ministry Yeshua proclaimed the fulfillment of these announcements as personified in himself.
must: Grk. dei (an impersonal verb from deō, to lack or stand in need of), pres. act. ind. The basic idea is that circumstances or conditions, expressed or implied, determine expectations for an outcome or event; therefore, "it is necessary." In this discourse the use of dei refers to a necessity imposed by the sovereign will of God. first: Grk. prōtos, standing out in significance or importance. be preached: Grk. kērussō, aor. pass. inf., to make a public announcement in the manner of a herald. The verb applies mostly about the reign of God and associated themes. to: Grk. eis, lit. "into." The preposition suggests movement across boundaries. all the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See the note on verse 8 above.
Lane observes that verse 10 interrupts the natural flow of thought between verses 9 and 11. In Matthew's version of the Olivet Discourse the mission statement ends this section and immediately precedes the announcement of the abomination of desolation, serving as a bridge that separates two periods of time. Luke does not even include the mission statement. Mark may have inserted the statement here to emphasize that it is the preaching of the good news that causes the persecution of the apostles described in verses 9 and 11. The prophecy here anticipates the "great commission" given to the apostles before Yeshua's ascension (Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). This prophecy is general in scope and does not necessarily mean it will be proclaimed in every dialect. Some places, such as Africa or Papua New Guinea, have scores of dialects, but the people there are of the same group or culture. (Even in such diverse cultures there is normally a language known to the inhabitants that permits cross-cultural communication.)
Consistent with the announcements of Gabriel, Zacharias and Yeshua the apostles declared that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, who fulfilled the promises made to Israel through the prophets; that God has made Yeshua Lord; that forgiveness of sins is available to all through Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice; that the proof of God’s Word is that Yeshua was raised from the dead; and that all are accountable before God for their response to the good news (Acts 2:14-40; 10:34-43; 13:16-41; 17:23-31). Gentiles were therefore called to turn to the God of Israel and serve Him, because only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20).
Ironically, the Mishnah contains a quotation that seems to recognize the advance of the Kingdom message, "in the footsteps of the Messiah … the government will be converted to heresy" (Sot. 9:6). The reference to "heresy" could be an allusion to the Birkat HaMinim ("the sectarians, heretics") added sometime after A.D. 70 as the twelfth benediction to the Shemoneh Esreh, the daily Jewish prayer. The benediction asks God to destroy those in heretical sects, especially the Essenes and Messianic Jews. In any event the "heresy" is a departure from Rabbinic Judaism. The "government" could well be the Roman Empire as suggested by Jewish commentators on the Talmud (Stern 73). While unbelieving rabbis viewed the Kingdom message as a threat, Messianic Jews and Gentile disciples, succeeded in proclaiming the good news to all people groups.
Unfortunately, in the history of Christianity the good news was divorced from its Jewish context. The "Christian Christ" rejected the Jews and their rights to the covenantal Land, and, unfortunately, there are still groups within Christianity that would deny Israel ownership of the Land that God promised to them. In these last days through the Messianic Jewish movement, the original message of the Jewish apostles, the good news of Israel's Savior, is going out to the nations.
11 "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.
And when they arrest: Grk. agō, pres. subj., to cause movement by taking the lead, here with the focus on judicial matters. The opening clause is lit. "when they lead you" (Marshall). you: pl. of Grk. su, pro. of the second person, "you" as a group. Yeshua uses the plural pronoun to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5. and hand you over: Grk. paradidōmi, pres. part. See the note on verse 9 above. The implication here may be to deliver to execution by judicial decree. The Talmud records that five disciples of Yeshua were executed by Jewish courts: Matthai (Matthew?), Nakai, Nezer, Buni and Todah (Thaddaeus?) (Sanh. 43a). All the apostles except John died as martyrs, but for most the location and manner of death is a matter of speculation in church tradition.
do not worry beforehand: Grk. promerimnaō, pres. imp., to concern one's self, to be anxious beforehand. about what you are to say: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See the note on verse 4 above. but say whatever is given: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass. subj., to give. The passive voice emphasizes receiving what was not in one's possession. In computer language the divine impartation could be rendered as "downloaded." you: pl. of Grk. su, pers. pro., "all of you." The direct address to his apostles is repeated. in that hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day; here idiomatically meaning "at that time." A good example of this instruction may be found in the lengthy speech of Stephen before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:2-53). for it is not you who speak: Grk. legō, pres. part. The verb is plural in number so it means lit "the ones speaking." Yeshua could be implying that all his apostles would have this experience, or the occasion could find two or more together for the speaking opportunity.
but it is the Holy Spirit: Yeshua promises divine enablement in the required hour. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to inspire God's servant to speak His words (cf. 2Sam 23:2; Isa 59:21; 61:1; Ezek 11:5; Matt 10:20; Acts 1:16; 4:25). The book of Acts records a few incidents of apostles being Spirit-inspired to speak before ruling authorities: Peter (Acts 4:8), Stephen (Acts 7:55), and Paul (Acts 13:6-12).
12 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
Brother: Grk. adelphos (from delphus, "of the same womb") is usually literal in the Besekh. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings (Mark 1:16, 19; 3:17; Acts 1:14; 7:13), but sometimes euphemistically as fellow Israelites who share a common lineage back to Jacob (Matt 5:22-24; Acts 9:17). will betray: Grk. paradidōmi, fut. act. See the note on verse 9 above. The verb here takes on the added dimension of betrayal. brother to death: Grk. thanatos, death, which refers to the natural physical sense, but may occur figuratively for a spiritual condition denoting a lack of relationship with God (Matt 4:16) or eternal death (John 8:52). and a father: Grk. patēr normally refers to an immediate male parent (Matt 2:22), but also included more distant ancestors (Matt 3:9). his child: Grk. teknon, a child in its literal sense of genetic kinship.
and children will rise up against: Grk. epanistēmi, fut. mid., to rise up or rebel against. parents: pl. of Grk. goneus, begetter, father or ancestor. The plural form would refer to the father and mother together as parents. and have them put to death: Grk. thanatoō, putting to death or exposing to death. Since the future tense verb is active voice (not passive as translated) the prediction is that of children committing patricide or matricide or both (cf. 1Tim 1:9). The horrific prediction is not simple family dysfunction or the breakup of the nuclear family as is common in modern culture. Rather, Yeshua prophesies that the same sort of violence common to internecine strife will affect families divided over loyalty to Yeshua. The Talmud contains a similar warning:
"It has been taught: R. Nehorai said: in the generation when Messiah comes, young men will insult the old, and old men will stand before the young [to give them honor]; daughters will rise up against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. The people shall be dog-faced, and a son will not be abashed in his father's presence." (Sanh. 97a)
There is also a figurative meaning to the intra-family strife. Malachi prophesied that Elijah, when he returned, would restore the children to their fathers (Mal 4:6; Luke 1:17), meaning the faith of their national fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses). Many of the religious leaders of Yeshua's time had turned against their spiritual forebears and figuratively put them to death (Matt 23:37; Luke 16:31; John 5:45-46; 7:19; 8:39). First the Pharisees and then their spiritual descendants, the founders of Rabbinic Judaism, uprooted the Word of God by granting man-made traditions either equal or greater authority than Torah or contradicting the plain words of Torah. Here are a few examples from the Talmud:
"the Sages have imparted to their enactments the same force as that of Pentateuchal laws" (Ket. 84a)
"Whoever occupies himself with the study of the Torah needs neither burnt-offering, nor meal-offering, nor sin-offering, nor guilt-offering" (Men. 110a).
Hillel instituted the prosbul. A prosbul was a legal device that prevented the remission of debts required by the Torah in the Sabbatical year. (Gitt. 36a)
"Where a man remarried his divorced wife after she had been married, she and her rival are to perform halizah" (Yeb. 12a). The Torah explicitly forbids a man to remarry his wife after she has been remarried (Deut 24:1-4).
13 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
You will be hated: Grk. miseō, pres. pass. part., to have a strong dislike for some person or thing. In Scripture the word "hate" can have a range of meaning from merely loving someone less than another (Gen 29:31) to strong hostility that motivates murder (Deut 19:11), so the intention must be determined by the context. by all: lit. "all men." "All" must be qualified by verse 10-12. because of My name: lit. "on account of the name of me." The idiomatic expression supplies the reason for the hatred. The disciples of Yeshua are hated because the world hates Yeshua (John 15:18-19). The hostility is not because of a particular denominational viewpoint, as would occur later in the history of Christianity, but merely because of identification with Yeshua. Unbelievers suppose that their personal religious choice has no negative eternal consequence, but the light of Yeshua condemns such self-deception.
But the one who endures: Grk. hupomenō, aor. act. part., stay in a place when others are leaving or to be steadfast in the face of difficulty; lit. "the ones enduring." In context the verb is not talking about enduring the trials of life that come to all human beings. The enduring here has to do with refusing to recant one's devotion to Yeshua when faced with the reality of suffering or even dying because of being a disciple. While Yeshua uses the singular "one," he views his disciples as a collective group, regardless of their individual lifespans.
to: Grk. eis, lit. "into." the end: Grk. telos, a point in time that marks culmination. See the note on verse 7. The noun has no definite article in the Greek text, which leads Lane to suggest that eis telos signifies "in an ultimate sense" or "completely" as distinguished from "the end" (to telos) in verse 7 (460). In the LXX the phrase eis telos occurs more than 15 times to translate netsach, "forever" (e.g. Job 20:7; Ps 9:7; Hab 1:4). Starting from the basic meaning "to the finish" eis telos can mean 'utterly' or 'completely' (e.g. 2Chr 12:12; Ezek 15:4), or when understood temporally, 'for ever' (e.g. Job 23:7) (DNTT 2:60).
Since telos can mean a state of being or a time period, there could easily be shades of both meaning here. All the warnings to this point are but "the beginning of birth pangs" (verse 8). It will be no mean feat to survive all these things with one's faith intact. Another way to view telos in this context is as a euphemism for the end of life, as it occurs in Hebrews 7:3. The phrase eis telos does occur in the LXX a number of times in reference to the end of one's life, i.e., death (e.g. Gen 46:4; Num 17:13; Josh 8:24; 1Chr 28:9; 2Chr 12:12; Job 20:7; Ps 49:9; Prov 14:12; Eccl 7:2). Even in death, whether as a martyr or from normal causes, the rest of the verse certainly applies.
he will be saved: Grk. sōzō, fut. pass., to rescue from a hazardous condition or circumstance. The verb is used in various contexts to refer to being rescued from bodily peril, including sickness and death, as well as from spiritual peril, frequently in an apocalyptic sense of being delivered from God's wrath. In the historical books of the Tanakh God’s judgment was temporal, but beginning with Isaiah the prophets foretold the results of judgment lasting forever (Isa 34:10; Jer 25:9; Ezek 35:9). The apostolic writings reveal that salvation is the assurance of deliverance from God’s wrath in the Day of the Lord and at the final judgment (Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5; 1Th 5:9; Heb 11:7; 1Pet 1:5), as well as deliverance from all that might lead to such judgment, such as sin. Yeshua does not promise deliverance from persecution (cf. John 17:15), but he promises that the actions of others cannot affect his judgment of his loyal disciples.
The essence of the promise of "the one enduring will be saved" is captured by Paul's dictum, "If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2Tim 2:11-13). Discipleship requires perseverance or continued loyalty to Yeshua to gain the promise of reigning with the Messiah. In Revelation the "enduring ones" are called "overcomers" and it is they who inherit all the benefits of Paradise (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:3, 5, 12). The book of Revelation closes with this promise to the overcomers, "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son" (Rev 21:7).
End of the Present Age, 13:14-23
Parallel Passages: Matthew 24:14-26; Luke 21:20-24
14 "But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
But when you see: Grk. horaō, aor. act. subj., perceiving with the eye. The verb is meant to be taken in the literal sense of physical eyesight. the abomination: Grk. bdelugma means a detestable thing and refers to anything that must not be brought before God because it arouses his wrath. Rienecker says that bdelugma refers to something that stinks in the nostrils (II, 503). In the LXX bdelugma renders Heb. shiqquts, which means a detested thing, particularly anything associated with idolatrous religion (BDB 1055). See Deuteronomy 29:16; 2 Kings 23:24; Jeremiah 4:1; 16:18; Hosea 9:10; Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11. of desolation: Grk. erēmōsis, a condition of having been made uninhabitable, depopulation, desolation or devastation. The RSV has "the desolating sacrilege" and Lane suggests "the appalling sacrilege."
Yeshua alludes to the two revelations given to Daniel regarding an abomination of desolation. (Citations in Daniel are given with links to my commentary.) The first revelation was of an eschatological event, occurring sometime after the Messiah appeared and was killed.
"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." (Dan 9:25-27)
The second revelation was of a event that would occur during the time of the Greek empire, four centuries after Daniel lived.
"Forces from him [king of the north] will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. (Dan 11:31)
The account of the fulfillment of the second prophecy is found in 1 Maccabees 1:29-39; 54-55 and 2 Maccabees 6:1-3. In 168 B.C. an army of twenty-two thousand sent by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-164 B.C.) attacked Jerusalem on a Sabbath. The Syrian army killed thousands, plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. They defiled the sanctuary, the Temple, first by shedding the blood of Israelite defenders there and then later turning it into a pagan temple. It is believed that the appointees of Antiochus, aided by traitorous Hellenistic Jews, sacrificed a sow on the altar and erected a statue of Zeus in the temple at Jerusalem. The goal of Antiochus was to unify the great empire by imposing Greek culture and religion on every people group.
While the actions of Antiochus may have fulfilled Daniel’s second prophecy, it did not fulfill the first. Yeshua spoke of the event as one that still lay in the future. Messianic Jews might well have thought Yeshua's prophecy was about to happen in A.D. 40 when Caligula sent an army into Syria with an order to erect a statute of himself in the Jerusalem temple with force of arms if necessary. Josephus tells the dramatic story that after many entreaties to the Roman General by thousands of Jews willing to die to prevent the sacrilege, his support to their cause was gained and a final appeal by King Agrippa succeeded in convincing Caligula to abandon his plan (Ant. XVIII, 8:2-9).
In the first Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 A.D. the Romans had no interest in using the temple for idolatrous worship as Antiochus and Caligula and in A.D. 70 destroyed the temple. Ironically, Jewish Zealots committed a sacrilege during this war. Josephus records that the Zealots moved into and occupied the temple area and allowed persons who had committed crimes to roam about freely in the Holy of Holies. The Zealots even carried out the farce of casting lots to replace the High Priest and selected one named Phannias who was totally unqualified for the office. The retired High Priest Ananus who witnessed these events lamented, "Certainly it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places, that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains" (Wars IV, 3:7-10).
standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. act. part. See the note on verse 9 above. The perfect tense points to action completed in past time with continuing results to the present without any indication of the period of time. where: Grk. opou, an adverb of place, "where." it should not be: Grk. ou dei, See the note on verse 7 for dei. Marshall renders the phrase as "where he behooves not," since the verb "standing" is masculine in gender. Most versions as the NASB have "it." Only a few versions (ASV, GNB, and ERV), like Marshall's translation, have "he." Lane argues that while the antecedent of the verb would ordinarily demand a neuter, this is an instance of the grammatical structure conforming to the sense intended (465). The verb in the parallel prophecy of Matthew 24:15 is neuter, which probably influenced the translation of most versions here. According to Daniel's prophecy, the abomination is not simply an "it" that occurs by spontaneous emergence, but a manifestation of a Satan-inspired human being.
Something deemed to be an abomination belongs nowhere on earth, but here the phrase implies a specific place. Matthew names it as "the holy place," a regular reference to the inner sanctuary of the temple. Many interpreters assume that the abomination will stand in a rebuilt Jerusalem temple, largely because of Paul's words to the congregation in Thessalonica,
"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." (2Th 2:3-4)
However, this assumption is by no means certain, since Yeshua does not say the abomination of desolation is standing in a temple. All of Jerusalem is holy to the Lord. There is already an abomination sitting on the presumed site of the temple in the form of the Islamic Dome of the Rock. While "temple of God" in the Tanakh refers to the Jerusalem temple (Ezra 3:9; 6:17), Paul also uses the expression in a figurative sense of a physical body (1Cor 6:19) and of a congregation (1Cor 3:16-17; 2Cor 6:16). We won't know until it happens. (See my additional note Will There be a Rebuilt Temple?)
Luke's version of the Olivet Discourse does not use the words "abomination of desolation" at all, but instead says, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near" (Luke 21:20). These words are a double prophecy because they pertain to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the prophecy of Zechariah that all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem just preceding the eschatological coming of the Messiah (Zech 12:3; 14:2-3; Rev 16:13-16; 19:19). The presence of the beast and his army at the end of the great tribulation will be an abomination that Messiah Yeshua himself will expunge from the Land (Zech 12:7-9; Rev 19:20-21).
let the reader: Grk. anaginōskō, pres. act. part., to read, to read aloud and referred to a public reader; lit. "the one reading." The verb alludes to the practice in early congregations of reading Scripture in services and meetings, which was adopted from Jewish practice (cf. Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15; 15:21; 2Cor 3:15; Col 4:16; 1Th 5:27). In Judaism any member of the congregation may be called upon to read Scripture, lead in congregational prayer or preach sermons (Wilson 216). understand: Grk. noeō, pres. act. imp., to grasp with the mind or heart ('understand') or to give thought to ('think about or ponder'). A congregational reader would understand or recognize the reference to the abomination of desolation. While the command to the reader appears to be Mark's instruction (reflected by the NASB and other versions putting the phrase in parentheses), there is no reason not to take it as coming from Yeshua in anticipation of his words being repeated. (Parentheses do not appear in the original Bible MSS.)
then those who are in Judea: Grk. Ioudaia transliterates the Latin provincial name of Iudaea and corresponds to the Heb. name Y'hudah, which means “praised” or “object of praise” (Gen 29:35; BDB 397). "Judea" most likely refers to the historic territory of Judea (which lay between Samaria and Idumea), since the context is during the reign of the Herods, although the first readers of Mark might assume he meant the Roman province of Judea, which comprised all three territories. Only in the parallel version in Luke 21:21 does Yeshua direct those in the city (Jerusalem) to leave. must flee: Grk. pheugō, pres. act. imp., to make a decisive movement away to avoid a hazard. The present tense emphasizes to start and continue the action until completed.
to the mountains: pl. of Grk. oros means “mountain,” “hill,” or “hill-country.” The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. Regardless of the arbitrary standard of modern science Scripture uses a single Hebrew and Greek word to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height. In Judea people would not have to go far to find mountains.
Lane suggests the reason for fleeing is to escape divine judgment that will be meted out in response to the abomination, such as Lot and his family fled in advance of God's judgment on Sodom. However, the Olivet Discourse does not describe a divine response to the abomination and the prophecy of the tribulation in verse 19 would seem to be sufficient reason to flee. Yeshua's exhortation was heeded in the first Jewish-Roman War. In A.D. 66 the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem acting on a prophetic warning fled to Pella (located in the Decapolis southeast of the Sea of Galilee) in advance of the Roman onslaught (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III, 5:3). As an eschatological event the fleeing may relate to the flight of the woman into the wilderness described in Revelation 12:14.
15 "The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house;
In verses 15 and 16 Yeshua expresses the urgency for flight. The one who is on the housetop: Grk. dōmatos, the roof as a level structure over a house; lit. "the one on the roof." The flat roofs of ancient houses, accessed by means of an outside staircase, served as places for mourning (Isa 15:3) or prayer (Dan 6:10; Acts 10:9). must not go down: Grk. katabainō, aor. imp., to proceed in a direction that is down from the starting point; to come or go down. The prohibition is not directed at vacating the roof in the face of imminent danger, but the destination after leaving the roof as explained in the rest of the verse.
or go in: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. imp., to go into. to get anything out: Grk. airō, aor. act. inf., to take away, to remove. The infinitive is used to express purpose. of his house: Grk. oikos is a structure for habitation. The obvious point of the instruction is that life is more important than possessions. The instruction anticipates the warning of verse 19. Yeshua's warnings could come under the heading of "lessons learned" from Ezekiel's prophecy of the impact of the Babylonian invasion on those in the city and the field (Ezek 7:14-23). In the days of Antiochus Epiphanes the priest Mattathias and his five sons fled to the hills and left all they had in the city (1Macc 2:27-28).
16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat.
and the one who is in the field: Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture (Matt 13:24), i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village (Mark 15:21; 16:15; Luke 23:26). Many Israelites were involved in agriculture, so the instruction is appropriate. must not turn back: Grk. epistrephō, aor. imp., to turn about. to get his coat: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). The himation was worn over an undergarment, Grk. chitōn (Matt 5:40). In the LXX chitōn renders Heb. kethoneth, "tunic," the principal ordinary garment made of linen and worn next to the skin by both men and women (BDB 509). The scenario envisioned seems to be that of someone laboring in a field, having removed his outer garment for comfort. Yeshua's instruction insists that the crisis and danger, as described in verse 19, is so acute and near that the worker does not even have time to go fetch his cloak.
17 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
In verses 17 and 18 Yeshua expresses potential hindrances for flight and his compassion for those especially susceptible to hardship. But woe: Grk. ouai is normally used in the apostolic writings as an interjection denoting pain or displeasure, “woe” or “alas.” Here ouai refers to a pending calamity. In the LXX ouai renders Hebrew words meaning “to howl,” which may express grief (Prov 23:29), despair (1Sam 4:7), lamentation (1Kgs 13:30), dissatisfaction (Isa 1:4), pain (Jer 10:19), a threat (Ezek 16:23) or simply to attract attention (Isa 55:11) (DNTT 3:1051).
to those: Grk. tais, fem. pers. pro., pl. of ho, lit. "the [female] ones." The translation of "women" is made obvious by the following description. who are: Grk. echō, pres. act. part., to have or to possess something. pregnant: Grk. gastēr, the region of the body containing the stomach and the womb. The verb combined with the noun "womb" is used idiomatically for being pregnant. and to those who are nursing babies: Grk. thēlazō, pres. act. part., to nurse, to suckle at the breast; lit. "and to the ones giving suck" (Marshall). in those days: The time of distress as defined in verse 19.
18 "But pray that it may not happen in the winter.
But pray: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. imp., to petition God for a personal desire or to intercede for others. See the note on 11:25. that it may not happen: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj., to become or come into being. in the winter: Grk. cheimōn, from cheima ('winter weather, storm') means inclement weather conditions or more particularly the rainy season, which would be winter. Matthew's version adds "or on a Sabbath." This rule for observing the Sabbath would not be broken for private travel even in an emergency. As already mentioned, the army of Antiochus attacked Jerusalem on a Sabbath with devastating results. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973 a coalition led by Syria and Egypt attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, which happened to be the Sabbath. Israel knows that its enemies do not respect God's holy days.
It was not unusual for Yeshua to tell his disciples how to pray, but this is the most specific instruction he gave on prayer. Notable is that Yeshua does not enjoin prayer that the tribulation described in the next verse won't happen. There is no point praying against fulfillment of divine prophecy. Rather, disciples should pray as Yeshua instructed. While the instructions in verse 14 have particular relevance for Jews, Mark's presentation makes it clear the Yeshua intended all disciples to pay heed, including Gentile disciples.
19 "For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.
For those days: pl. of Grk. hēmera, normally used of period of daylight but also of time as a framework within which something takes place. The plural noun means an extended period time. Yeshua set the context of these events as a consequence of the abomination of desolation in verse 14 above. will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., to be. a time of tribulation: Grk. thlipsis, which comes from the verb thlibō, to press, squeeze or crush. The noun, then, means oppression, distress, or affliction. In the LXX thlipsis rendered a number of Hebrew terms, especially tsarah (straits, distress, affliction, trouble, BDB 865). The terms all denote need, distress, and various afflictions depending on the context, e.g. war, exile and personal hostility (DNTT 2:807).
The first occurrence of thlipsis in the LXX is Genesis 35:3 where Jacob speaks of his "day of distress," referring to the hostility of Esau. Joseph experienced thlipsis at the hands of his brothers (Gen 42:21 LXX). The people of Israel suffered thlipsis in Egypt (Ex 4:31) and one of the curses for disobedience was thlipsis caused by an enemy nation (Deut 28:49-57; cf. 1Sam 10:19; 2Kgs 13:4; 19:3-4; 2Chr 15:6; Neh 9:27; Isa 10:3; 26:16; Jer 28:8). The ration of bread and water in prison was known as the "bread of thlipsis and the water of thlipsis" (1Kgs 22:27; cf. Isa 30:20).
Thlipsis occurs 45 times in the apostolic writings and is translated by Bible versions as either tribulation or affliction. The usage in the Besekh is clearly the same as in the Tanakh. The first usage of thlipsis is Matthew 13:21 where Yeshua describes seed sown on rocky soil as the man who receives the word of God with joy, but then falls away because of affliction or persecution. Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for the saints (Acts 7:11; 14:22; John 16:33; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; Php 1:17; Col 1:24; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33; Rev 1:9; 2:9-10; 7:14), although a few references speak of the wicked suffering tribulation as retribution (Rom 2:9; 2Th 1:6; Rev 2:22). As Yeshua indicates here the source of tribulation for the saints is not God but Satan or the world (John 15:18-23; 1Pet 5:8).
such: Grk. hoios, a relative pronoun introducing a qualifying description or explanation, which may rendered as "such," "such as," "as" or "of what sort." as has not occurred: Grk. ginomai, perf. act. ind., to become, come into being or take place. since the beginning: Grk. archē, the point of derivation or originating moment, and may be rendered as "beginning" or "start." of the creation: Grk. ktisis, creation, either of the act of creation or that which is created. The noun is used primarily of God's creation of the universe, whether of individual things or beings, or the sum total of everything created. The noun is also used of human institutions (cf. 1Pet 2:13). The words "beginning of creation" obviously allude to Genesis 1:1.
which God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). All of the deities of polytheistic cultures were anthropomorphic and strictly non-personal, which stands in sharp contrast to the Hebraic view that God loves and desires a relationship with men. In the LXX theos renders primarily Elohim (over 2300 times), as well as El (over 200 times, including combinations such as El Bethel, El Elyon, El Roi, El Olam, and El Shaddai), and the tetragrammaton YHVH (over 300 times). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70).
created: Grk. ktizō, aor. act. ind., to create. The aorist tense points to a completed act. Ktizō is only used in biblical literature of God’s creative activity, both of the material universe and the spiritual creation of the inner man. The Scriptures make three important claims about creation. First, they affirm the source of everything that exists in the universe. The God who revealed Himself to the patriarchs and Moses, the God of Israel, is the only omnipotent God in existence and the only Power capable of performing the creative work (Gen 1:1; Ps 89:12; Isa 40:26; 41:20). Second, God created as an act of His will. Third, God's creation was a completed act. It is not still going on as evolutionists assert. Paul concurs, “For by Him all things were created” (Col 1:16).
Lane points out that the phrase "that God created" is redundant and finds no support in the parallel passages and is omitted in some manuscripts (465). The phrase may be read as an instance of Markan expansion to clarify a biblical statement for any Gentile reader, who would not necessarily assume that the creation of the world was an act of God.
until now: In Matthew 24:21 this period is called the "great" tribulation and the adjective "great" refers to an event of historic proportions. Never before has such a terrible time occurred. This is an incredible statement considering the great suffering inflicted on the Jewish people by the great empires of antiquity. The Hebrew prophets had already asserted that at the end of the present age there will occur a terrible time of distress for Israel in the latter days and before the Day of the Lord (cf. Obad 1:14-15):
"The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. 28 "There you will serve gods, the work of man's hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. 29 "But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30 "When you are in distress [LXX thlipsis] and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice." (Deut 4:27-30)
"Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob's distress [LXX stenos, a synonym of thlipsis], But he will be saved from it. 8 'It shall come about on that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, `that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves. 9 'But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them." (Jer 30:7-9)
"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress [LXX thlipsis] such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time." (Dan 12:1)
and never will: This tribulation will be terrible and widespread, but it will also be the last. According to Daniel and Revelation the beast will wage a fierce war against the saints, wearing down the saints and shattering the power of the holy people (Dan 7:25; 12:7; ; cf. Rev 11:2-7; 12:13-17; 13:1-18; 16:13-16; 19:19). He will succeed as no previous tyrant in silencing the voice of God’s people. The contention of preterist commentators that the “great tribulation” refers to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 in which over one million Jews died and the temple was destroyed does not satisfy this clause, since far more Jews were massacred by Hitler and Stalin.
Some modern interpreters associate the term “great tribulation” with the plagues of Revelation, even though these judgments are never specifically mentioned as belonging to the great tribulation and throughout Scripture the word thlipsis consistently refers to oppression by the enemies of God. In the Besekh tribulation is something that the saints must endure (cf. Rev 6:9-11, 7:9-17, 15:2-4 and 20:4). Rather, the severe judgments of the trumpets and bowls represent God doing justice for the saints in repaying the Antichrist and his followers for the tribulation they caused (Rom 2:9; 2Th 1:6-8; cf. Isa 49:26; Zeph 1:14-17). The promise of the new heavens and new earth is that the former tribulation will be forgotten (Isa 65:16-17). The good news for the saints is that neither common tribulation nor the great tribulation is able to separate anyone from the love of the Messiah (Rom 8:35).
20 "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.
Unless the Lord: Grk. kurios probably intends one of the divine names such as Elohim or YHVH, rather than Yeshua. It is the sovereign Father who determines times and seasons (Acts 1:7). had shortened: Grk. koloboō, to curtail in the sense of a reduction in number. The aorist tense functions as a prophetic future tense. From God's point of view the divine act has been completed. those days: Fortunately, by divine decree the great tribulation has a set time limit. If the period were to be allowed to go longer then Satan would destroy all life on the earth. The length of the great distress instigated by the abomination of desolation is given in Daniel:
"He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time." (Dan 7:25)
"I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. 8 As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, "My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?" … 11 "From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 "How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!" (Dan 12:7-8, 11-12)
Thus, the period of the great tribulation is three and a half years. Much debate has occurred among interpreters over the difference between the time periods given in Daniel (1,290 days; 1,335 days) and Revelation (1,260 days). Although there are 30 and 45 day differences all the numbers fit the general designation of "times, time and half a time" of Daniel. This period of 1,290 days could allude to the fact that Israel is protected for 1,260 days (Rev 12:6), and then is given 30 days to mourn over their Messiah (Zech 12:10-12; Matt 24:30), concluding 1,290 days.
As for the 1,335 days, the period of 75 days (30 + 45) equals the time from Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) until Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication). Hanukkah celebrates the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes and the cleansing and rededication of the Temple. So the 45 days could be devoted to preparing the Temple that will serve the millennial reign as prophesied by Ezekiel. Some commentators on Daniel suggest the 1,335 days as the specific inauguration day of the reign of the Messiah and the commencement of the millennial Kingdom. There will be no more blessed day in history than that day! Hallelujah!
no life: Grk. sarx, lit. "all flesh." Sarx can mean (1) the tissue that covers the skeleton of a human or animal; (2) the whole body viewed as a substance; (3) man of flesh and blood in contrast to God and supernatural beings; (4) human or mortal nature, with its limitations; or (5) the external or outward side of life. In this verse sarx refers to all with the breath of life, not just humans. would have been saved: Grk. sōzō, aor. pass., to save or deliver. See the note on verse 13. In the past tribulations of God’s people were localized. The great tribulation will be global and international in scope as reflected in the vision of John (Rev 7:9). Satan would like nothing better than to see all of God's creation destroyed.
but for the sake of: or "on account of." the elect: Grk. eklektos, "chosen," "selected." Yeshua makes it clear that the time limit of the tribulation is not for the benefit of the world, but for his chosen ones. whom He chose: Grk. eklegō, aor. tense, to pick out for oneself, to choose or to select. This is another occasion of Markan redundancy, but with a purpose. Ordinarily in Scripture the term “elect” or “chosen” is used frequently to refer to the people of Israel, both the blood descendants of Jacob and the nation of Israel formed at Mt. Sinai. The Israelites were especially chosen out of "all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6). Yet, here the terminology points to a special group existing at the time of the prophesied events.
Many who do not accept the posttribulation interpretation assume that the word “elect” in the Olivet Discourse must be used in the narrow sense of referring to the nation of Israel or a remnant of Messianic Jews. Certainly some of the instructions in this chapter pertain directly to Israelis, but the meaning of "chosen" is relative to the context. Yeshua referred to His disciples as elect (Matt 22:14; John 13:18; Rev 17:14). In apostolic usage outside the Gospels, the word “elect” Commonwealth of Israel and the Body of Messiah (Eph 1:4; Col 3:12). The first time the concept of chosenness occurs in Scripture is in reference to Abraham (Gen 18:19). The blessing of Abraham extends to all nations (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:14) and all those of the nations who believe in the God of Israel and His Messiah are the sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7) and therefore among the chosen.
The apostle Paul emphasized that the designation of “elect” is not based strictly on blood, because “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Rom 9:6). The elect are all whom the Father has called to salvation in Yeshua and who have responded in trusting faithfulness and joined themselves to Israel (Rom 9:24-25; 10:11). Thus, Gentiles who had not previously enjoyed the “chosen” status could now attain it by virtue of being grafted into the Jewish root (Rom 11:17) and granted citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12). In addition, the apostles used the term “elect” as a standard greeting in letters to the congregations, all of which had mixed membership of Jews and Gentiles (Rom 8:33; Col 3:12; 2Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1Pet 1:1; 2:9; 2Jn 1:1).
"Elect" has an historical focus, not just an ethnic focus. Since the warning of the great tribulation is grounded in Daniel 12:1, then consideration should be given to the definition there of the people who endure the great distress: "everyone who is found written in the book." The elect are those whose names are in the book of life (Luke 10:20; Php 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15). Nowhere in this discourse does Yeshua say that only Jews will suffer the great tribulation as if it never occurred to him that there might be Gentile disciples. Since the great tribulation is cut short for the sake of the elect, they must experience it. The length of the great tribulation would make no difference to the elect if they were “raptured” before it even started. (See my Additional Note: Targets of the Tribulation.)
He shortened the days: Yeshua repeats the exact same words as at the beginning of the verse, giving assurance that the length of the period of distress has a divinely established limit. The redundancy emphasizes the integrity of God who has never failed to keep His promises.
21 "And then if anyone says to you, `Behold, here is the Christ'; or, `Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;
And then if anyone says: Grk. legō, aor. act. subj., to make a statement or utterance, whether in oral or written form. to you: pl. of Grk. su, pro. of the second person, "you" as a group. Yeshua uses the plural pronoun to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5. In verses 21 and 22 Yeshua exhorts his disciples to anticipate deception, as he did in verses 5-6. The verbal clause implies an active initiative on the part of the deceiver. Behold, here is the Christ: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Anointed One or Messiah. See the note on 1:1. Yeshua echoes the Torah instruction warning about spiritual seduction:
"If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, `Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him." (Deut 13:6-8)
do not believe him: Grk. pisteuō, pres. act. imp., to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. Since the verse begins with "if anyone," then the translation of "believe him" is appropriate (also CJB). The command with the negative particle mē is a strong prohibition. Yeshua forbids his disciples giving any credence to anyone claiming personal knowledge of someone else being the Messiah. Don't trust in such a claim and don't act on such a claim, because to do so will bring utter ruin. Jews within the 1990s Lubavich movement believed their leader Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) to be the Messiah. Although he never directly stated that he was the Messiah, Schneerson did not contradict those who said he was. Even after his death in 1994, some continued to await his return as the Messiah.
22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
for false Christs: pl. of Grk. pseudocristos is one who makes false claims to being Israel's Anointed One, a bogus Messiah. This prophecy is not of the Antichrist, but of others that precede the Antichrist. Yeshua pointed out that some men will identify themselves as a messianic figure or others will claim the title and role for them. Many Jewish imposters have indeed attempted to fill this role. See the note on verse 5 above. However, pseudocristos can just as easily refer to a non-Jewish leader since God referred to King Cyrus as mashiach ("anointed one") (Isa 45:1). Other Gentile leaders throughout history have had dreams of world domination. Josephus nominated Caesar Vespasian for this role:
"But now, what did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, "about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea." (Wars VI, 5:4)
See the Wikipedia article List of Messiah Claimants. None of them met the criteria laid down in Scripture concerning the identity of the Messiah, whereas Yeshua fulfilled them all. False messiahs as consummate politicians hold out the promise of prosperity, peace and safety (cf. 1Th 5:3) and yet never fulfill expectations. False messiahs typically live as if they're accountable to no one. Eventually, though, their lives come to nothing and pass from the contemporary scene only to face God for their arrogance and presumption.
and false prophets: pl. of Grk. pseudoprophētēs is one who falsely claims to have divine credentials for service as a prophet, with or without the implication of offering incorrect information. In order to understand what makes a prophet false, we must consider the ministry of prophets in Scripture. Biblical prophecy (noun, Grk. prophēteia; verb, prophēteuō) means to foretell, tell forth or to prophesy, with three functional meanings: (1) the act of stating or disclosing divine will and purpose; (2) a gift for disclosure of divine will or purpose; (3) or a disclosure made under divine authority or direction. will arise: Grk. egeirō, fut. pass., to move from an inert state or position, to appear in order to cause trouble.
Prophecy is speaking on God’s behalf, like the prophets of Israel described in the Tanakh. Some left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 11). The Hebrew prophets provided four types of messages: (1) They warned Israel and Judah of the sins that lead to judgment; (2) They announced in advance various disasters and consequences for specific sins; (3) they taught the people about how to avoid judgment and turn back to him; and (4) they gave hope for the future when Israel and Judah would be restored and revived.
Almost all of the Hebrew prophets identified in the Tanakh were men, the first mentioned being Abraham (Gen 20:7). Some were women, such as Miriam (Ex 15:20), Huldah (2Kgs 22:14), and the wife of Isaiah (Isa 8:3). The prophetic voice was silent for a long period after Malachi, but then prophesying returned in power with Yochanan the Immerser (Matt 11:13). Several others followed him in this role: Yeshua (Matt 21:11), Anna (Luke 2:36), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32), the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9), and Agabus (Acts 21:10).
Prophesying leads the list of gifts in Paul's letter to the Romans (Rom 12:6) and second in Paul's Corinthian letter (1Cor 12:28). In 1Cor 14:3 Paul identifies three specific benefits of prophesying: (1) edification - building up, strengthening, fitting together as in construction; (2) exhortation - encouragement, challenge, appeal to moral excellence, as well as comfort and consolation; and (3) consolation - encouragement, comfort, or support. The ultimate purpose of prophesying is to glorify God, not the prophet, and to increase the passion of others for serving God.
False prophesying has two elements identified in Scripture, although they do not always occur together. First, the forth-telling of false prophets may counsel abandonment of the God of Israel, in particular, or more generally to disobey God's commandments (Deut 13:1-3) or may introduce false (heretical) teachings (2Pet 2:1). They often engage in reprehensible conduct themselves, such as immorality or divination (Jer 23:14; Acts 8:9-24; 13:6-12). In relation to false messiahs and the final antichrist false prophets play the role of giving credibility to the messianic figure, much as Rabbi Akiva did for Simon bar Kokhba in the early 2nd century AD.
Second, the foretelling of false prophets may announce predictions that do not come to pass (Deut 18:22; Jer 23:25) or deny predictions that biblical prophets have made (Jer 20:6; 2Chr 18:5; John 7:40-43). False prophets sometimes make their pronouncements based on dreams or visions or the bold declaration that "God told me" (cf. Jer 14:14; 23:32; Lam 2:14; Ezek 13:7, 9, 23; 13:7-9; 21:29; 22:28; 27:15; Zech 10:2; Col 2:18). The second element should be a strong clue to cease giving any end-times "expert" credibility when the prediction doesn't come true.
Yeshua warned his disciples of false prophets (Matt 7:15-16; 24:11) and the apostles reiterated the threat (cf. 2Pet 2:1). Paul similarly declared, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2Tim 4:3-4). Paul advised the Corinthian disciples to "pass judgment" on anyone who prophesies (1Cor 14:29). John instructed disciples to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1), i.e., evaluate carefully anyone who claims to speak for God. Merely asserting that one's message is from God does not automatically provide credibility. The message must accord with Scripture to be accepted as divinely inspired.
and show signs: pl. of Grk. sēmeion, which means sign, miracle or wonder. Sēmeion is normally used in reference to miracles to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f). The corresponding Heb. word oth referred to signs, omens or miracles promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men. Oth has its root in the verb avah, which means to sign, mark or describe with a mark (BDB 16).
and wonders: pl. of Grk. teras, a phenomenon with an astounding effect, and in the Besekh always with "signs" (cf. Isa 8:18). In Greek sources teras denotes terrible appearances which elicit fright and horror and which contradict the orderly unity of nature (DNTT 2:633). In the LXX teras chiefly renders mopheth ("wonder, sign or portent," BDB 68). The Hebrew and Greek words feature in contexts of supra-terrestrial occurrences and divine intervention. Since "signs" and "wonders" appear together they may be considered two sides of the same coin. In other words, "sign" is the event and "wonder" is the impact on those who witness the sign.
The Torah acknowledges that a false prophet might perform what appears to be a "sign or wonder" (Deut 13:1-2). Bible history records supposed miracles by those opposed to God, beginning with the magicians of Egypt (Ex 7:11, 22). Yeshua warns in his Olivet Discourse that false messiahs and false prophets will perform "great signs and wonders" to mislead. Paul says that the coming of the Antichrist will be "in accord with the activity of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders" (2Thess 2:9). In Revelation the false prophet causes fire to come out of the sky and makes an image of the beast come alive and speak (Rev 13:13-15). Yeshua prophesied this claim of people who will be condemned,
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness.'" (Matt 7:22-23)
Notice that he does not validate the claim of miracle-working. In fact, the biblical examples cited above suggest that the so-called miracles of false prophets are actually deceptions. The ability of the Egyptian magicians to turn their rods into snakes was accomplished by their "secret arts" or "enchantments" (Ex 7:11). In other words, as Henry Morris suggests, their "miracle" was actually a hypnotic illusion (BBMS 83). Paul describes the "miracle" of the Antichrist as a "false wonder." Most people operate on the principle of "seeing is believing" and skilled magicians can make people believe in an illusion. Unfortunately, too many modern believers follow after popular preachers because of supposed miracles and fail to examine their theology, their lifestyle and the substance of the miraculous claims.
in order to lead astray: Grk. apoplanaō, pres. act. inf., to mislead, to cause to go astray from the truth. if possible: Grk. dunatos, having power or competence ("competent, able") or capable of being realized ("possible, realizable"). the elect: Grk. elektos. See the note on verse 20. Satan will be extremely successful in deceiving the world (2Th 2:9-10), but he will not succeed with the elect, although the potential exists. Disciples are human beings and there are limits to endurance. Yet, it seems most likely that the elect here are synonymous with the overcomers in Revelation who do not abandon their Savior and Messiah in the face of trials.
23 "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.
But: Grk. de is a conjunction that generally indicates either a slight contrast or a transition in presentation of subject matter. The first word in the Greek text that precedes de is the plural pronoun humeis (pl. of su), which functionally means "all of you." Yeshua uses the plural pronoun to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5. take heed: Grk. blepō, pres. act. imp., "to see." See the note on verse 2 above. The verbal command is lit., "But ye see" (Marshall), an idiomatic expression exhorting disciples to remain alert for the events Yeshua has prophesied.
I have told you: pl. of Grk. su, pers. pro., "all of you." Yeshua repeats the pronoun for emphasis. everything in advance: Grk. prolegō, perf. tense, to tell beforehand or in advance. The instruction must be qualified by what Yeshua said before his ascension, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority" (Act 1:7). The disciples were informed about all the things they needed to know, but Yeshua never intended to provide a detailed timetable of the future. Many commentators practice "media exegesis," by which they try to fit contemporary events into biblical prophecy, but so many assessments and predictions are pure speculation with little value for discipleship.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 24:29-31; Luke 21:25-28
24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT,
But: Grk. alla, a conjunction that reflects emphasis 'otherwise.' Alla is a strong particle used adverbially suggesting other matter or varying viewpoint for consideration. Lane suggests that alla serves to set verses 24-27 off from the earlier sections of the discourse (473). in those days: See the events described in verses 14-22. In other words, what Yeshua is about to describe will occur in the same period of history as the events he just described, i.e., the last of the last days. after: Grk. meta, a preposition used as a sequential marker, here referring to that which comes after a period of time. This verse and the next indicate important events in a particular chronological sequence.
that tribulation: Grk. thlipsis. See the note on verse 19. The tribulation refers to the time of suffering that follows the abomination of desolation. Without the adjective "great' that occurs in Matthew's narrative, "that tribulation" could be parallel to Luke's prophecy of the "times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), which itself was great tribulation for the Jewish people lasting almost 2,000 years. The events described in the following verses occur after the great tribulation and the "times of the Gentiles," not before it. Much confusion could have been avoided in the subject of eschatology if Bible scholars had paid attention to the wording of this vital phrase.
Yeshua then proceeds to detail celestial phenomena that precede and announce his glorious Second Coming by conflating the prophecies of Isaiah 13:10, Ezekiel 32:7, Joel 2:10, Amos 5:20 and Zephaniah 1:15. The prophesied events are entirely consistent with historical observations of constellations, solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, comets and other signs in the heavens, occurring before and sometimes concurrent with political or military events in Israel or her neighbors (cf. Josh 10:12-13; Judg 5:20; 2Kgs 3:22; Isa 13:10; 30:26; 38:8; Ezek 32:7-8; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:10; 3:15; Hab 3:11). Astronomical observations were often taken as omens of the times, sometimes for good and other times for bad. The following celestial events will be cause of joy for the saints (Luke 21:28) and great distress for the wicked (Rev 6:15-17).
the sun: Grk. hēlios (Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles, its diameter about 864,000 miles, and its mass about 330,000 times that of the earth. The surface temperature of the sun is in excess of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and its distance from the earth assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165). In ancient times the sun was worshipped as a deity in pagan cultures. will be darkened: Grk. skotizō, fut. pass., (from skotos, 'absence of light') to undergo darkness as a natural phenomenon.
and the moon: Grk. selēnē (Heb. yareach), the earth's natural satellite, orbiting the earth at a mean distance of 238,857 miles and having a diameter of 2160 miles. Like the sun the moon was created on the fourth day to "govern the night" (Gen 1:16). As a result of the space program and lunar landings, the moon is now known to be completely void of life (just as the Bible indicated all along) but to be composed of similar rocks and minerals to those of earth. At the same time, the structure of the moon, as well as the proportions of the different rocks and minerals, is so vastly different from the corresponding attributes of Earth as to make it certain that the two could not have had a common evolutionary origin (BBMS 164). Like the sun the moon was also worshipped as a deity in ancient pagan cultures.
will not give its light: Grk. pheggos, brightness projected by a light-giving object, light or radiance. The moon, of course, does not generate light as the sun, but governs the night by reflecting the light from the sun. The sun and moon were given to mankind not only as a means to sustain life and aids to navigation, but to function as "signs" (Heb. mo‘adim), portents with religious significance (Gen 1:16-18). The sun and moon determined the climatic "seasons," but mo‘adim is used in the Torah to refer to sacred seasons or festivals, especially in Leviticus 23 (BDB 417). The constancy of the sun and moon are reminders of God’s covenantal faithfulness to Israel as the Psalmist says, “His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful” (Ps 89:36-37).
The prophecy, which the apostle John also reports in Revelation 6:12, is a condition as seen from the surface of earth, or more precisely from Israel. The prophecy does not mean that the sun's light is extinguished, only that it can't be seen from earth. Yeshua predicts a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse as preceding his coming. How can this be? A solar eclipse can only occur at New Moon when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. During a solar eclipse, which occurs at least twice a year, the moon covers some or all of the sun’s disk and effectively obscures the light from the sun. In that event the lunar disk appears black with a bright solar halo. While a lunar eclipse is safe to observe directly, a solar eclipse is dangerous to the naked eye.
During a total eclipse of the moon, the lunar disk is not completely dark, but is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth’s atmosphere, which filters out the blue rays. A lunar eclipse may even result in a range of colors from dark brown and red to bright orange and yellow. If the earth had no atmosphere, then the moon would be completely black during a total eclipse. The exact appearance depends on how much dust and clouds are present in earth’s atmosphere at the time of the eclipse.
During a total eclipse of the moon, the lunar disk is not completely dark, but is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth’s atmosphere, which filters out the blue rays. A lunar eclipse may even result in a range of colors from dark brown and red to bright orange and yellow. If the earth had no atmosphere, then the moon would be completely black during a total eclipse. The exact appearance depends on how much dust and clouds are present in earth’s atmosphere at the time of the eclipse. Yeshua's description of the sun and the moon being darkened and John's report of seeing the sun black as sackcloth and the moon as blood (dark red) implies that they occur at the same time, in effect a simultaneous double eclipse.
Double conjunction eclipses do occur, but simultaneous solar and lunar eclipses are impossible by definition. Double conjunction eclipses do occur in which the Moon obscures two planets at the same time, the last one occurring on April 28, 1998 with the Moon obscuring Jupiter and Venus. The next double conjunction eclipse will occur February 13, 2056. (See Astronomy Picture of the Day: April 28, 1998, NASA.) The Moon is totally dark during a normal solar eclipse, so the Moon would not appear dark red. However, the preeminent signal of the Second Advent is a divinely created event. So, two eclipses could occur if as the sun, earth and moon come into alignment for a lunar eclipse another planetary or asteroid body “happens” along at the same moment to obscure the sun. God has a history of making the impossible a reality.
25 AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.
and the stars: pl. of Grk. astēr, a luminous heavenly body. Modern astronomy generally defines a star as a large, fixed, self-luminous heavenly body, as the sun, but the Bible word is also used of wandering bodies, such as comets or meteors (Jude 1:13). Occasionally in Scripture angels are identified as "stars" (Judg 5:20; Job 38:7; Ps 148:3; Rev 1:20). will be falling: Grk. piptō, pres. act. part., to drop from a relatively high position to one that is lower, to fall or to collapse. from heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses one of three areas (1) atmosphere surrounding the earth, (2) interstellar space and associated phenomena or (3) the transcendent dwelling-place of God (cf. Ps 148:1-4). Which "heaven" is meant must be determined from the context. In the LXX ouranos translates the plural Heb. noun ha-Shamayim (“the heavens”) (DNTT 2:191). The consistent use of the plural form for “heaven” is thought to signify completeness, yet different activities and places are associated with ha-Shamayim.
The first usage of "heaven" in the Bible is Genesis 1:1 where ha-Shamayim, “the heavens” is mentioned in contrast to the earth. Then “the heavens” is the name given the expanse stretched out from the initial watery black hole (Gen 1:8) and then populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth. The next use of heaven refers to the atmosphere or “face” of ha-Shamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1Sam 2:10; 2Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26). The term "mid-heaven" (Rev 8:13; 14:6; 19:17) is a synonym for the "face" of ha-Shamayim. Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father, the home of angels and the place where Yeshua sits at the right hand of God (1Kgs 8:30; 2 Chr 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4; Eph 1:20). The majority of the occurrences of “heaven” in Scripture refer to the third heaven.
The phrase describing stars "falling from heaven" cannot be taken literalistically since falling has no meaning in outer space. Falling from the sky would imply impact with the earth as suggested by Revelation 6:13. However, multiple “stars” (as defined by modern astronomy) falling into the earth would destroy it. Scripture promises that the earth will be destroyed, but not from stars crashing into it. The quotation could be taken from Isaiah,
"And all the host of heaven will wear away, and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; all their hosts will also wither away as a leaf withers from the vine, or as one withers from the fig tree." (Isa 34:4)
In the Isaiah prophecy the stars wear away (Heb. maqaq), which means to rot or decay. The LXX translates maqaq with piptō, which means to fall and that is the word used in this passage, which obviously quotes from the LXX. However, piptō not only means to fall as a direction, but to fall apart or to collapse as a structure might collapse. A fact of astronomy is that big stars can experience gravitational collapse and when they do it produces a supernova, a massive explosion. Scripture does portend stars losing their light (Isa 13:10; Ezek 32:7-8, Joel 2:10; 3:15). Another factor to consider is that in Scripture any object in interstellar space is identified as a "star," so the stars falling could refer to a meteor shower.
The quotation could be taken from Daniel,
“It [the "little horn"] grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down.” (Dan 8:10)
Given that "stars" refers sometimes to angels the "falling" could refer to the fall of Satan (Luke 10:18) or to the time when Michael and his angels engaged in war with the dragon's angels with the rebellious angels being finally cast down to earth (Rev 12:7-9). The prophecy of Michael’s war has relevance here because he is the protector of Israel (Daniel 12:1).
and the powers: pl. of Grk. dunamis, which may be translated “power,” “strength” or “might.” In the apostolic writings dunamis is primarily used to refer to the power of God. In ordinary usage the Greek word suggests the inherent capacity of someone to carry something out, whether it is physical, spiritual, military or political (DNTT 2:601). In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602). that are in the heavens: pl. of Grk. ouranos. The meaning of "heavens" depends on how "stars" and "powers" are interpreted.
will be shaken: Grk. saleuō, fut. pass., to cause to waver or totter, to shake. This verse forms a poetic parallelism with "stars" and "powers" as equivalent terms. It also extends the thought of the previous verse and clarifies the meaning of the prophecy. As with "stars" the "powers in the heavens" could refer to supra-natural beings, suggested by the use of dunamis in Romans 8:38 and 1 Peter 3:22.
On the other hand, the "powers" could refer to inherent ability, such as described in Mark 6:14. The universe manifests powerful energy in a variety of forms (e.g., heat, gravity and motion), and in the end the universe will be physically shaken by a great catastrophe in interstellar space (cf. Isa 13:13; 34:4; 64:1; Hag 2:6; Rev 6:14). As R.H. Charles says in his commentary on Revelation 6:13, “The world and its wellbeing depend on the faithfulness with which the luminaries of heaven fulfill their parts. When the sun and moon and stars forsake this order, the end of the world is at hand.” (quoted in Rienecker, II, 482)
26 "Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory.
There is a significant difference between the narrative here and the version in Matthew. Mark omits the opening clause of Matthew 24:30, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn" (TLV). In this context of the Olivet Discourse the "sign of the Son of Man" is the double eclipse described in verse 24 above and the mourning refers to the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10 that Israel will mourn in repentance preceding the arrival of the Messiah. See my commentary on Matthew 24:30.
Then they will see: Grk. horaō, fut. mid., to perceive with the eye. The verb refers to a visible public event that is seen. "Every eye will see" (Rev 1:7). the Son of Man: See the note on 2:10 for this Messianic title. Christian scholars typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity, whereas "Son of God" pertains to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite. For Jews in the first century "son of Man" had the meaning of the eschatological supra-natural figure from heaven seen by the prophet Daniel in a vision (Dan 7:13-14). Yeshua often spoke of himself in the third person as the "Son of Man" and here he identifies himself as the one of whom Daniel prophesied.
coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part., means to come, come back, return or appear and in a few instances it means to go. When used of persons erchomai often indicates traveling or a journey. The present tense of “coming” emphasizes the active nature of achieving his purpose, traversing the distance from the right side of the Father in heaven to earth. Israelites will see Yeshua first, because Jerusalem is his destination (cf. Zech 14:4). In terms of timing, the Second Advent of the Messiah will only take place when the events described in verses 14-25 have been accomplished. There is no secret rapture in the Olivet Discourse.
in clouds: pl. of Grk. nephelē, cloud, referring to the atmospheric phenomenon consisting of a suspended collection of water particles. The plural number may be intended to convey overall mass or a quantity of individual clouds. In Scripture the divine presence, particularly in judgment, is often accomplished in a cloud, accompanied by a cloud or represented by clouds (Ex 13:21; 16:10; Job 22:14; Ps 104:3; Isa 19:1; Jer 4:13; Lam 2:1; Ezek 30:3; Nah 1:3; Matt 17:5). Because of the association of the Messiah with Daniel's Son of Man who comes with the "clouds of heaven" he was dubbed by rabbis as Mashiach ben Ananim (Aram. bar nafle), "son of the clouds" (Sanh. 96b). Yeshua declares the blessed hope of every disciple, the point toward which all of history is moving. Later Yeshua would depart the earth hidden by a cloud and at that time the apostles will be informed that Yeshua will return in the same manner (Act 1:9-11).
The mention of clouds would have significant meaning related to the disciples. James Neil offers this interesting first-hand report from his experience in Israel:
“I have observed invariably that in the late spring-time, in summer, and yet more especially in the autumn, white clouds are to be seen in Palestine [sic]. They only occur at the earliest hours of morning, just previous to and at the time of sunrise. It is the total absence of clouds at all other parts of the day, except during the short period of the winter rains, that lends such striking solemnity and force to those descriptions of the Second Advent where our Lord is represented as coming in the clouds. This feature loses all its meaning in lands like ours, in which clouds are of such common occurrence that they are rarely absent from the sky.” (Neil 44. James Neil, an Anglican minister, lived in Jerusalem from 1871 to 1874.)
with great power: Grk. dunamis. See the note on the previous verse. and glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). In this context "glory" refers to the radiance of his countenance and the accompaniment of myriads of angels.
The mention of glory may allude to the assertion in the parallel narrative of the Olivet Discourse that that the coming of the Son of Man would be "just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west" (Matt 24:27). Kasdan, declining to interpret the mention of lightning as a metaphoric contrast, suggests that the mention of lightning actually refers to a manifestation of Sh'khinah glory (301). He further believes that this glory of God that flashes from the eastern to the western horizon is the sign of the Son of Man (302).
Clouds of power and glory could well allude to the visitation of God's presence that has occurred multiple times in Israel's history. The cloud of glory has a prominent place in the history of Israel (Resnik 101-103). The first manifestation occurred in the borderlands of Egypt during the Exodus. The cloud served as a pillar of protection in the daytime and a pillar of illumination at night and marked the presence of the Lord (Ex 13:21). The second manifestation occurred after the crossing of the Red Sea, this time to chastise the Israelites for their grumbling (Ex 16:10). The third manifestation occurred as the cloud descended on Mount Sinai and out of the cloud God spoke to Moses (Ex 19:9-21; 24:15-17). Immediately after the appearance of the cloud God gave instructions for the building of the tabernacle.
The fourth manifestation of the cloud was upon the completion and dedication of the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35). The cloud filled the tabernacle with the presence of God to such a degree that Moses was not able to enter. The fifth manifestation is that the cloud remained with the tent for the duration of the wilderness wanderings and the Lord would speak to Moses at the entrance of the tent out of the cloud (Num 9:16; 11:25). The sixth manifestation of the cloud was upon the dedication of the temple by King Solomon (1Kgs 8:10-11). The seventh manifestation of the cloud was on Mount Hermon in which Messiah Yeshua was transfigured to mark the days of the Messiah (Mark 9:2-7). And, finally, the eighth, and greatest, manifestation of the cloud of glory will be at the Second Coming of the Messiah.
27 "And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.
And then he will send forth: Grk. apostellō, fut. act., to send someone as an authorized representative. the angels: pl. of Grk. angelos, messenger. The messenger may be human or angelic, which must be determined from the context. In this verse angelos refers to a divine messenger. and will gather together: Grk. episunagō, fut. act., to bring together as a group, to gather together. his elect: Grk. eklektos. See the note verse 20 above.
from the four: Grk. tessares, the numeral four. winds: pl. of Grk. anemos, the air currents that circumnavigate the globe. The corresponding Hebrew word is ruach, which may mean breath, wind, or spirit (of man or of God) (BDB 924f). The "four winds" probably mean the four directions of the compass. Global wind currents flow either east or west, depending on the latitude. North and south winds are a local or regional phenomenon. Rabbis have called the four winds the cardinal winds, i.e., winds directly controlled by God (Harold A. Sevener, God's Man in Babylon, 67).
from the farthest end: Grk. akron (from akros, 'highest'), the extremity of something, often applied to vertical or horizontal things. In a geographical sense an "end" would be the extreme limit. From the point of a human observer the "end" would be the horizon. of the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the planet earth in contrast to the heavens (BAG 156). The LXX uses gē more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) “the land” in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (TWOT, I, 74). The "ends of the earth" would be a euphemism for the horizon. The word picture indicates the farthest distance, similar to the prophecy that God would bring back the dispersed of Israel form the ends of the earth (Deut 30:4; Isa 11:12; 43:6).
to the farthest end of heaven: Grk. ouranos. See the note on verse 25. In this verse "heaven" refers to the place of God's abode, since it is mentioned in contrast to the earth and because heaven is the location where those who have died in the faith reside (2Cor 5:8; Rev 6:9; 7:9; 15:2). Paul echoed this revelation of the Second Coming when he said that "with Him God will also bring those who have fallen asleep in Yeshua" (1Th 4:14 TLV). Here (and Matt 24:31) the elect are gathered from heaven, not just the earth, which means the term "elect" cannot be restricted to Jews. Yeshua's coming will be a grand reunion of the elect. Therefore, the gathering of the elect must be equated with the resurrection.
Lesson of the Fig Tree
Parallel Passages: Matthew 24:32-36; Luke 21:29-33
28 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
Now learn: Grk. manthanō, aor. act. imp., to acquire knowledge. Learning may be accomplished through instruction or receipt of information or through example or experience. The latter means of learning appears to be Yeshua's intention here. The verb is the root of the noun mathētēs, disciple, which adds to element of devoted learning as a talmid learns from his rabbi. the parable: Grk. parabolē. Yeshua is not using “parable” as a story, but the meaning of the Hebrew word mashal, which might be proverb, figure or message. from the fig tree: A fruit-producing plant which could be either a tall tree or a low-spreading shrub. See the notes on 11:13, 20-21. The fig tree in 11:12-14, 20-24 represented the corrupt temple leadership, but such meaning cannot be applied here. The fig tree might represent the Jewish people as an extension of "this generation" in verse 30, but there seems to be a different point here.
when its branch … puts forth its leaves: The common fig in Israel yields two crops annually, the first one, ripe about June, growing from the midsummer sprouts of the previous year. The second crop is ripe about August that grows on the Spring shoots. The leaves that announce the nearness of summer also presage the coming harvest. By December, fig-trees in the mountainous regions of Israel have shed all their leaves, and they remain bare until about the end of March, when they commence putting forth their tender leaf buds.
you know: Grk. ginoskō, to be in receipt of information or to form a judgment or draw a conclusion, lit. "you are knowing." The second person plural verb is really rhetorical and applies to all men. that summer: Grk. theros from therō ("make hot"). Israel's summers last from May through late October and are mostly dry and hot. Summer conditions vary from region to region with the coastal plain experiencing humid weather, the hill regions experiencing little or no humidity and the Jordan Valley and Negev regions experiencing hot, dry semi-desert conditions. Rainfall is extremely rare during the summer months.
is near: Grk. engus, adv., near or close to, whether in a spatial or temporal sense. Lane suggests that Yeshua engages in a play on words since the Hebrew word for "summer" can mean either the season or the fig harvest in the summer (477). Just as there are two crops of figs so there are two comings of the Messiah. The summer foliage is thick and surpasses other trees of its size in its cool and dense shade, much valued by their owners (John 1:48). Yeshua tactfully chides his disciples for knowing what to expect in the fig tree seasons, but failing to comprehend the seasons of God sovereign plan (cf. Acts 1:7). Yeshua had reproved the Pharisees and Sadducees for a similar lack of insight:
"The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, "When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 "And in the morning, `There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?" (Matt 16:2-3)
29 "Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
Even so: This is a transitional conjunction to emphasize a natural conclusion. you too: pl. Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, "you" as a group. The use of the plural pronoun followed by the second person plural verb is purposeful indicating the apostles. See the note on verse 5. when you see: Grk. horaō, aor. act. subj., to perceive with the eye. these things happening: This is a reference to the prophesied events in the preceding verses, many of which would be experienced in the flesh and others in a resurrected state, although the apostles could not know this at the time. recognize: Grk. ginoskō, pres. act. imp., "you must know." See the previous verse.
that He is: Grk. eimi, pres. act. ind., "to be." The verb could be masculine as translated or neuter and be rendered "it is" (Marshall). Some versions, as the NASB have "he is" (ERV, ESV, HCSB, NRSV, RSV), and other versions have "it is" (HNV, KJV, NIV, NKJV, TLV). A few versions render the verb with the neuter "the time is" (CEV, CJB, GNB, NCV). near: Grk. eggus. See the previous verse. If the verb is masculine then "near" could mean that Yeshua is near to his people in all the vicissitudes of life, particularly the prophesied events of this chapter, or the verb could mean that the appearance of the Son of Man in verse 26 is close. Yeshua is also near to us in the sense that death is always immanent (cf. Php 4:5). He is on the other side of the veil that separates this life from the next.
If the verb is neuter, then "near" refers back to the parable of the fig tree in the previous verse. Just as the green leaves herald the fig harvest so the prophesied events herald the harvest of the earth at the end of the age. right at the door: pl. of Grk. thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway, a door, entrance, doorway, or gateway. The term is used figuratively, as a parallelism for "he/it is near," so "door" probably refers to the beginning of the age to come. In any event, Yeshua's declaration interprets the parable of the fig tree in an eschatological sense. The summer of the fig tree prepares for the great harvest in the fall. The second harvest of the fig tree might even symbolize a time for the Second Coming in proximity to the fall feasts (Feast of Trumpets to the Feast of Booths, September to October).
30 "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Truly: Grk. amēn, which means “so let it be” or “truly.” Amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen (ah-mayn), which means “it is true, so be it, or may it become true.” I say: Grk. legō, pres. act. ind., to make a statement or utterance, whether orally or in writing. Yeshua made this statement first orally and then his words were recorded in writing for all future disciples. In Hebrew ’amen points to something previously said, but Yeshua often uses the term in conjunction with the present tense of "I am saying" to emphasize that what he is about to say is of supreme importance. to you: pl. Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, "you" as a group. Yeshua uses the plural pronoun to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5.
this generation: Grk. genea means family or descent and can mean a clan, race, kind (Luke 16:8), or nation. The noun can mean all the people alive at a given time in history or refer to an age, a span of generations (Gen 50:53; Ex 13:18; 20:5; Matt 1:17; Luke 1:48). In the context of the Olivet Discourse "this generation" could be interpreted in one of four ways.
First, "this generation" might refer to the contemporaries of Yeshua and the apostles as in its previous usage in 8:12. Lane asserts that there is no consideration from the context that lends support to any other proposal, especially considering the exhortation of "when you see" in verse 29 (480). Wessel concurs, as does Geldenhuys, commenting on Luke 21:32 (539). Those who adopt this interpretation apply the fulfillment to the events prophesied in verses 5-23. Noteworthy is the fact that Yeshua did not say "you [i.e., the apostles] will not pass away." Relative to its usage here the concept of "this generation" is used in a negative sense addressed to Yeshua's adversaries, sometimes with warnings of judgment (Matt 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:36; Mark 8:12, 38; 9:19; Luke 7:31; 9:41; 11:29-32, 50-51; 17:25). Against this logical interpretation is that the saying occurs after mention of the eschatological events in 24-27, which the contemporaries of Yeshua certainly didn't witness in the flesh.
Second, some, such as Dispensationalists, believe "this generation" refers to a future generation, the generation that sees the signs of 14-27. Jewish rabbis used the term "footsteps of the Messiah" to denote the generation that would experience various sufferings preceding the coming of the Messiah (Sanh. 97a; M. Sot. 9:6). However, this is not without problems, because those of this interpretation cannot agree on when "this generation" begins. Some mark the start point with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 or with Israel’s recovery of the Old City of Jerusalem in the Yom Kippur War (1967), while others maintain it has not begun yet (Stern 75).
Dispensational speculation about a biblical generation being 40 years is no better than a guess and not relevant to Yeshua’ teaching about the Second Coming. As a population term a generation means the period of time from the birth of parents to the birth of their offspring. To determine the length of a societal generation requires statistical information. Biblical family genealogies focus mainly on the Messianic family tree and indicate extreme variance in the timing of births. Isaac and Rebecca may have been 35-40 when Jacob and Esau were born, but Abraham and Sarah were 98-100 when Isaac was born. Those were miracle births and atypical of normal youthful marriages in ancient times and childbearing at a very young age.
Third, "this generation" could refer to the continuation of the Jewish people, at least through the millennium (so Stern 75; and Kasdan 307). In the Tanakh the concept of generation is always of the nation, the Hebrew people. The whole history of Israel is often included in speaking of a generation (cf. Matt 23:34-36). Considering what Yeshua says in verse 35 He may be alluding to Jeremiah 31:35-37:
“Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done," declares the LORD."
Fourth, BAG notes that genea can also mean "age" in the sense of the time of a generation (e.g., Gen 50:23; Ex 13:18; 20:5; cf. Luke 1:48). Eventually the original sense disappeared and the meaning of "a period of time" remained (Ps 49:11; 89:1) (BAG 153). Paul himself combined the mention of age and generation in Colossians 1:26. So, Yeshua could have meant "this generation" to mean the same as "this age" (Matt 12:32; Luke 16:8), since these prophesied events herald the end of the age that he spoke of at the beginning of the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:3).
will not pass away: Grk. parerchomai, aor. act. subj., may mean (1) to move spatially from one position to another or (2) to come to an end and so no longer be on the scene, thus to go away, depart or pass away. Shades of both meanings may be involved here. until: Grk. mechri, a preposition expressing limitation. Here the word functions as a conjunction (Danker). all these things: This summary reference refers to previously mentioned prophesied events in the discourse, although not all commentators are agreed as to the extent. take place: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj., to become or come into being. The verb points to the time when the events occur, which all lay in the future. However the word "generation" may be defined, this clause implies its eventual passing, but only after the prophesied events have been completed.
31 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
Heaven: Grk. ouranos, See the note on verse 25. The noun is singular and its identification must be determined in contrast to the earth. and earth: Grk. gē. See the note on verse 27. Here the focus is on the entire earth and emphasizes Yeshua's authority over all governments, regardless of political type. will pass away: Grk. parerchomai, fut. mid., may mean (1) to move spatially from one position to another or (2) to come to an end and so no longer be on the scene, thus to go away, depart or pass away. The second meaning is in view here. God promised Israel new heavens and a new earth (Isa 65:17; 66:22), but in order the new to come the old must go. Peter echoed Yeshua's prophecy when he said,
"But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men…. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." (2Pet 3:7, 10)
In reality the heavens and earth are already passing away. The process of degeneration began after God cursed His creation because of Adam's sin. The scientific term for this process is the Law of Increasing Entropy. Creation cannot change itself back into Paradise. In reality all physical processes on earth are in a state of deterioration and decay. Paul described this condition in Romans:
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." (Rom 8:20-22)
The heavens, too, are passing away. Revelation 6:14 describes the sky, i.e., the heavens, as being "split" and "rolled up." In order to understand this description we need to consider important biblical and scientific facts. In the beginning when God created the cosmos, he began by forming the earth, initially a watery black hole, and from that point God “stretched” out an expanse he called the heavens (Gen 1:2-8; cf. Job 37:18; Ps 104:2; Isa 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jer 10:12; 51:15). Moreover, this stretching continued past creation and is apparently still going on. (Note the present tense of Job 9:8; 26:7; Ps 144:5; Isa 40:22; Zech 12:1.) As in Revelation 6:14, Scripture also indicates that the heavens can be torn (Isa 64:1), worn out (Ps 102:26), shaken (Hag 2:6; Isa 13:13; Heb 12:26), burnt up (2Pet 3:12), and rolled up (Isa 34:4; Heb 1:12).
This means that “interstellar space” is not just an empty nothing, but is a real something (Humphreys 67f). Modern astronomers generally believe that distant galaxies are all receding from our galaxy – or, that all galaxies are receding from each other (BBMS 171). Scripture seems to indicate that it is space itself that is being expanded or stretched out rather than the galaxies moving through unbounded nothingness. However, one day the heavens will break and roll up as a scroll (cf. Isa 34:4), perhaps in the same manner as a rubber band or balloon breaking after being stretched past its limit. The result will be catastrophic to the stars and to the earth, as indicated in the biblical prophecies.
but My words: pl. of Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind. The expression refers literally to all the words that have come from the mouth of God and given to his prophets and apostles to convey to His people (Deut 8:3; 18:18; Isa 1:20; Jer 1:9; Ezek 2:7; Zech 1:6; Luke 24:44). In this context Yeshua refers to his own teaching. will not pass away: Grk. parerchomai, fut. mid. The verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a condition that simply will not happen. God's Word is eternal and His promises to His people utterly reliable.
Combining this verse with the previous verse lends strong evidence that the "generation" refers to the continued existence of Israel. Yeshua may well be alluding to the promise God made to Israel through Jeremiah:
"Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36 "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever." (Jer 31:35-36)
"Thus says the LORD, 'If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. … If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, 26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them." (Jer 33:20-21, 25-26)
In the prophecy of Jeremiah God is not saying that the fixed order of the universe can't or won't change, but that casting off Israel during the present age is tantamount to destroying the heavens. According to the revelation to John the passing of heaven and earth won't happen until the great white throne judgment (Rev 20:11), which follows the millennium. Only then will God create the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:1).
Admonition for Readiness, 13:33-37
Parallel Passages: Matthew 24:36-51; Luke 21:34-36
32 "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
In Matthew's version of the Olivet Discourse this verse is followed by the teaching that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah (24:37-41). The history of the global deluge is a reminder of just how suddenly disaster can strike, "they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away" (Matt 24:39).
But: Grk. de is a conjunction that generally indicates either a slight contrast or a transition in presentation of subject matter. of: Grk. peri, a prep. used to denote the object or person to which an action refers or relates and could be translated as "about," "concerning" or "with reference to." that: Grk. ekeinos, pers. pro., that person or that thing. day: Grk. hēmera normally refers to the daylight hours, but also to the timeframe within which something takes place. “That day” is used in Scripture of the particular day of the week connected to the religious calendar. The date of Jewish feasts, though scheduled, fell on a different day of the week each year because of the lunar calendar. Since there were no printed calendars in ancient times the average man couldn’t have known what day a feast fell on in the next year until it was announced ahead by the priests.
Significant for this context is “that day" often occurs in the context of catastrophe or God’s judgment, specifically the Day of the Lord (Matt 7:22; 2Th 1:9-10; 2Tim 1:18). By combining Daniel’s prophecy of the Son of Man coming on the clouds and Joel’s prophecy of the signs announcing the Day of the Lord, then the Second Coming of Yeshua occurs on the Day of the Lord. Often the concept of God coming (in the Tanakh) and Yeshua coming (in the Besekh) is connected to pouring out judgment in present circumstances (e.g., Ps 96:13; 98:9; Isa 19:1; 26:21; Micah 1:3; Matt 16:28; 24:50; James 5:8-9; Rev 2:5, 16; 3:3).
or hour: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day (e.g., hour) and figuratively as a point of time as occasion for action or for an event. “That hour” does not necessarily mean an exact point in a 24-hour day as “hour” means today. Hōra was used in secular Greek literature for a year, a season, a stage of life, a day or even a moment. A precise division of time into hours and minutes as displayed on modern clocks was not known in ancient times. People only used general designations such as “third hour,” etc. (Matt 20:3-6) or portions of the day, such as morning, midday, or evening. If Yeshua was referring to a part of a day then he may have been referring to a watch of the night (cf. Mark 13:35). See verse 35. Yeshua may also have been referring to the season of the year since he had already mentioned summer in verse 28.
no one knows: Contrary to other events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse, this event cannot be determined by any man, no matter how scholarly and spiritual he purports to be. One would think that this simple assertion would prevent end times predictions, even among professed disciples of Yeshua, but the arrogance of men knows no bounds. not even the angels: Grk. angelos. See the note on verse 27. in heaven: Grk. ouranos. See the note on verse 25. Being "in heaven" could distinguish these angels from those who serve on earth as guardian angels of individuals or congregations. In any event, the angels may have many supra-natural powers, but they are not omniscient nor are they necessarily privy to the secret counsels of God. They live to do God's bidding.
nor the Son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant. The phrase “nor the Son” does not occur in the majority of MSS for Matthew, but the MS evidence is solid for the phrase here. The proximity of "Son" and "Father" naturally leads to the assumption of Yeshua as the "Second Person of the Triune Godhead," as expressed in Christian theology. On the contrary, the designation of "Son" is probably shorthand for "Son of Man" (in verse 26), whom Daniel saw coming to bring deliverance to Israel. Christian scholars typically treat "Son of Man" in the context of Yeshua's ministry as representative of his identification with humanity and "Son of God" as pertaining to his deity. In Hebraic thought these expressions mean just the opposite. See my notes on 1:1 and 2:10 for these titles.
Why wouldn’t the Son know the date of his own coming to earth? Does that mean it’s not scheduled or Yeshua is not omniscient? He certainly demonstrated divine knowledge while on earth, so this is not a statement about the limits of the Son's knowledge. He obviously knows what will happen before the Second Coming and what will happen on “that day,” because he just told His disciples.
but Father alone: Grk. patēr, a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in used reference to God, which emphasizes both His activity as creator and sustainer. In Scripture God is father to all mankind (Acts 17:28-29; Eph 4:6), but more particularly the father of Israel (Ex 4:22; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; Matt 2:15; Rom 9:4), and even more particularly the father of the disciples of Yeshua. Other passages also refer to God simply as "the Father" (Acts 2:33; Jas 1:17; 1Pet 1:2; 1Jn 1:2; Jude 1:1). There is no trinitarian intention as usage developed by the church fathers. Even Yeshua can be called "Everlasting Father" (Isa 9:6).
The event may be scheduled, but the Son will not execute it until he is expressly given the “Go Order” from the Father (cf. Acts 1:6-7). Think of D-Day in World War II. The invasion was scheduled and all the commanders and troops were prepared. They only launched when the order came from General Eisenhower. The important message of this verse is that that no man knows or can know with any certainty of the specific date or day of the week. Therefore vigilance is required on the part of the disciple to not be caught unprepared. Trying to predict the date of the Second Coming is the height of folly and anyone who actually sets a date for the Second Coming (or even the Rapture) is a false prophet. A 1999 article by George Lyons recounted the following list of “false alarms":
· In 1970, Hal Lindsay's Late Great Planet Earth predicted that the Second Coming would occur within a generation – "forty years or so" – after the founding of the modern state of Israel on May 14, 1948. His particular understanding of the Second Coming as a two-phase event presumed that there would be a secret Rapture of believers in 1981 and the Second Coming proper in 1988. One false alarm did not cure Lindsay of date-setting. He next predicted 2007 as the likely year for the Second Coming--40 years after the 1967 Arab-Israeli "Six-Day War." Thus, he expected the Rapture in 2000.
· In the mid-1970s, Cyril Hutchinson suggested that the so-called "Jupiter Effect"- a rare alignment of the nine planets of our solar system on the same side of the sun expected in 1982 – just might be a good time for the Second Coming.
· In 1988, Edgar C. Whisenant gave the most precise predictions of the Lord's return: actually a three-phase Second Coming – September 1988, March 1992, and September 1995.
· In 1992, "Missions for the Coming Days" published ads in several United States newspapers predicting the Rapture on October 28, 1992.
· In 1994, Harold Camping announced that he was "99 percent sure" that the end of the world would occur on September 6, 1994.
· Also in 1994 Gary L. Cutler suggested a date between 1995 and 1997 as a good possibility for the Second Coming.
· In 1992, Marilyn J. Agee set the date for the Rapture as May 31, 1998.
George Lyons, “False Alarms: The End is Near…Again,” Illustrated Bible Life, (Word Action Publishers: July 25, 1999), p. 32.
33 "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.
"The exhortations to vigilance which follow are linked to the fact that the critical moment remains unknowable" (Lane 482). Take heed: Grk. blepō, pres. imp., to see. See the note on verse 2 above. keep on the alert: Grk. agrupneō, pres. imp., to be on the hunt for sleep, i.e., to be sleepless, to lie awake. As a command this word means to be watchful, alert or vigilant. In the LXX agrupneō occurs eleven times, chiefly for Heb. shaqad ("watch," "wake" BDB 1052), e.g., Job 21:32; Ps 102:7; 127:1 (DNTT 2:137). Paul uses the noun agrupnia to describe his watching in sleepless nights endured for the sake of the congregations (2Cor 6:5; 11:27).
for you do not know: In the previous verse Yeshua informed his disciples that third parties did not know the time of the end. Now he makes it clear that they are included in that group. The apostles would be granted no special knowledge of the Day of the Lord, the revelation to John notwithstanding. There is a significant implied truth concerning theories of eschatology. The fact that disciples are to watch for the day and hour (1Th 5:1-10) is one more piece of evidence that disciples are not "raptured" before the event. You can’t watch for it if you’re not here.
when the appointed time: Grk. kairos, an appropriate or set segment of time; a period, definite or approximate, in which an event takes place, especially in regard to the end times. From the point of view of the apostles the Messianic age had already been ushered in (cf. Heb 11:1). Since all the prophecies about the first coming of the Messiah had been fulfilled then one can be assured that the rest of the prophecies about the consummation of all things, as summarized in the Olivet Discourse, will also come to pass. will come: Grk. eimi, to be, lit. "is." The Greek text does not use a verb here that means "to come." The point of eimi, which emphasizes the existence of something, is that the prophesied events are not just possibilities of the future, but present realities for the future. They "are" and "will be" because God "is."
34 "It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert.
It is like a man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being or man. Given the generalized nature of the parable, "man" could be translated "someone." away on a journey: Grk. apodēmos, a journey or trip, lit. "away on a journey" (Marshall). Since the verb form of the word occurs in 12:1 the first part of the verse may allude to the parable of the vineyard. who upon leaving: Grk. aphiēmi, aor. part., to leave. his house: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation. and putting his slaves: pl. of Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. See the note on 12:2. in charge: Grk. exousia, the right in a legal sense to act on behalf of the owner to make decisions for the management of his property.
assigning to each one his task: Grk. ergon may refer to a deed or action in contrast to rest or deeds exhibiting a consistent moral character. The phrase is parallel to the parable of the talents in which the owner distributed his property to his servants proportionately according to their ability (Matt 25:14-15). also commanded: Grk. entellō, aor. subj., to give instruction with magisterial claim, to instruct, command or order. the doorkeeper: Grk. thurōros, a watcher, guardian, doorkeeper or gatekeeper. In common usage a doorkeeper guarded the entrance to a city, public building, sheepfold (John 10:13), temple (John 18:17), and a rich man's house (as here). A guard was stationed at any entrance trough which someone unwanted might enter, especially at night. If the guarded entrance could be called a gate, then the guardian was known as a "gatekeeper." The mention of "doorkeeper" may refer back to the "gates" in verse 29.
to stay on the alert: Grk. grēgoreō, pres. subj., be fully awake, to be on he alert, be watchful. In the LXX it renders Heb. amad ("to take one's stand," "stand" BDB 763) in Nehemiah 7:3 and shaqad ("watch," "wake" BDB 1052) in Jeremiah 5:6 (DNTT 2:136). The Greek word used here simply means to be awake as a sentry who keeps his eyes open while he is on duty and is virtually synonymous with agrupneō in the previous verse. The parabolic saying is intriguing. If servants were left in charge of the property why give instructions to the doorkeeper? How does the work of the doorkeeper relate to the work of the servants? In terms of symbolism who are the servants and who is the doorkeeper? Yeshua doesn't explain.
Therefore, be on the alert: Grk. grēgoreō, pres. imp. See the note on the previous verse. To "be alert" should not be taken literalistically to mean never go to sleep, nor does it mean to be idle (cf. 2Th 3:11f) or go to a hill to continuously scan the horizons for the Lord’s return. (If the "rapture" is secret, what would be looking for?) In fact, Paul’s lengthy explanation of the Second Coming and attendant events in two letters to the Thessalonian believers was intended to reassure them that an imminent return did not mean an immediate return. Similarly, the command to “stay awake” does not imply that Yeshua will come back before the great tribulation, or else there would be no need to watch for His coming.
for you do not know: For the second time Yeshua states that the apostles will not know. when the master: Grk. kurios, lord, master, owner. of the house: Grk. oikos. The owner's residence. is coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. ind., to come or to arrive. Yeshua then gives four possible times of his coming, expressed in the language of the temple watches. Originally Jews divided the nighttime into three watches: the beginning of the watches (Lam 2:19), the middle watch (Judg 7:19), and the morning watch (Ex 14:24). By the first century they had adopted the Roman system of dividing the same period of time into four watches, each of which was a fourth part of the night. Since clocks didn't exist in ancient times, there's no way to know for certain when the watches began and ended. The watch period ran approximately 6:00 pm to 6:00 am with three hours per watch.
whether in the evening: Grk. opse, adv., can mean late in the sense of a late hour or late in the day, i.e., evening (BAG). Here the latter usage applies. By Jewish reckoning "evening" could be anytime after the noon hour, but given the mention of the watches "evening" probably means the first watch, 6-9 pm. at midnight: Grk. mesonuktion, midnight or the end-point of the watch. The midnight or second watch lasted 9 pm to Midnight. or when the rooster crows: Grk. alektorophōnias, cock-crowing, the third watch of the night, Midnight to 3 am. Actually cocks or roosters can crow any time of the day. Here it refers to a predawn period of time. Nevertheless, it was the peculiar habit of cock crowing with comparative regularity in Jerusalem, at three times during the period between midnight and 3:00 am that accounts for the designation of the third watch of the night as cock-crow (Lane 543). or in the morning: Grk. prōi, early, often used of the fourth watch, 3-6 am.
36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep.
in case he should come: Grk. erchomai, aor. part., lit. "coming." suddenly: Grk. exaiphnēs, adv., suddenly, at once. and find: Grk. heuriskō, aor. subj., conveys the idea of coming upon something or someone that has eluded one in some way or has not been in one's purview, to come upon. you: pl. Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, "you" as a group. Yeshua uses the plural pronoun to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5. asleep: Grk. katheudō, pres. part., to sleep, to take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake. The verb is also used figuratively of death (1Th 5:10) and moral or spiritual indifference (1Th 5:6). The warning about falling asleep is apt considering what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane.
This warning may allude to the first century practice of the captain of the guard at the Jerusalem temple checking to make sure the temple guards on the night watch were awake. If the officer found any asleep the guard’s clothes could be taken and burned and he was then sent away naked in disgrace (cf. Rev 16:15). The Rabbinical account of it is curiously confirmed by the somewhat naive confession of one of their number, that on a certain occasion his own maternal uncle had actually undergone the punishment of having his clothes set on fire by the captain of the temple as he went his rounds at night (Edersheim 112; M. Midd. 1:2).
The watchfulness anticipates a significant "coming" event, one that heralds destruction and judgment. The prophets speak of such watchfulness.
"O Lord, I stand continually by day on the watchtower, and I am stationed every night at my guard post." (Isa 21:8)
"So Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guardhouse until the day that Jerusalem was captured." (Jer 38:28)
"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me." (Mic 7:7)
"The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength." (Nah 2:1)
"I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved." (Hab 2:1)
37 "What I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'"
What I say to you: pl. Grk. su, pronoun of the second person, "you" as a group. Yeshua uses the plural pronoun to mean his apostles. See the note on verse 5. It's as if he's saying," I'm talking to you, so pay attention." I say to all: The adjective "all" is not limited to Messianic Jews. The prophecies and instructions of the Olivet Discourse pertain to all those who believe in the Messiah through the message (and writings) of the apostles (John 17:20). Be on the alert: Grk. grēgoreō, pres. act. imp. See the note on verse 34. The command is repeated for the second time. The repetition of any divine command reflects significant urgency.
Many Christians today believe they will not experience the great tribulation. Katterjohn asks, “Why, if the church has nothing to do with the tribulation, was Revelation even written? Surely God’s people have enough discouragement to ward off without adding more unnecessarily” (85). Yeshua intended that everything He revealed in this discourse and in Revelation to be for all disciples (Rev 22:16).
Yeshua warned His disciples in this discourse, as well as the Sardis congregation (Rev 3:3), about using their time productively. Until the day of Yeshua's appearance in the sky disciples are to be watchful against the deceits and schemes of the enemy and to be industrious and fully employed in the work of the kingdom, so as not to be caught unprepared by the end time events and the Lord’s return. The warning, of course, will have special meaning to those saints still alive at the end of the great tribulation and who must keep faithful in spite of doubts and fears.
Yeshua's intention behind his challenge may be understood from an insightful statement that occurs in the narrative of David's early monarchy. In 1 Chronicles 11-12 Ezra details David's mighty men and the forces from each tribe he had at his disposal. The Chronicler reports of the tribe of Issachar that they were "men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command" (1Chr 12:32). In modern military parlance "understanding the times" is called "situational awareness." To understand the times disciples certainly must keep informed of current events, especially happenings in Israel and the Middle East. Understanding the times, however, does not mean running to and fro from one "prophecy expert" to another to satisfy an obsessive curiosity, which inevitably stimulates a spirit of anxiety.
Understanding the times means being aware of the depth of spiritual need in the world and the threats posed by spiritual warfare to hinder Kingdom work. It's one thing to understand and it's another thing to act on that understanding, to obey the direction of the King. For Yeshua watchfulness consisted of both situational awareness and the action of intercession. Yeshua says as much to his disciples in the garden, "Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation" (Mark 14:38). Yeshua understood his times, but his disciples did not and thus they slept. Isaiah perhaps says it best,
"On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; 7 and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth." (Isa 62:6-7)
Yeshua called his disciples to watchful prayer in verse 18 above. In other words, what you see happening in the world, turn into an occasion for prayer. Disciples need to "keep an eye" on Israel and pray often for the Land and her people. In Luke's version of the Olivet Discourse, watchfulness and prayer are brought together:
"But keep on the alert [Grk. agrupneō] at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:36)
Yeshua's call to watchful prayer may appear purely self-focused, but the verbs in Mark 13:18; 14:38 and Luke 21:36 are second person plural. We of the fellowship of faith must pray for our brethren and ourselves that we might escape temptation to doubt, to fear, and to backslide because of the prophesied bad times being fulfilled. The sovereign God will work all things together for good (Rom 8:38). As Paul said, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph 6:18).
To recap, the prophesied events occurring before the Day of the Lord and Second Coming, of which disciples are to watch, may be summarized by the following categories:
· Earthquakes (Matt 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11)
· Plagues (Luke 21:11; Rev 2:23; 6:8)
· Famines (Matt 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Rev 6:5-6, 8)
· Roaring of the seas and the waves (Luke 21:25) (e.g., hurricanes, tsunamis)
· Great signs in the heavens (Matt 24:29; Luke 21:11, 26) (e.g., supernovas, constellation formations similar to first advent, lunar eclipses, solar eclipses, unusual sightings in the solar system)
· The double eclipse of the sun and moon (Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24; Acts 2:20; Rev 6:12)
· Significant meteor shower or asteroid impact (Matt 24:29; Mark 13:25; Rev 6:13; 8:10-11; 9:1)
· Wars and rumors of wars (Matt 24:6; Mark 13:7-8; Rev 6:4)
· The abomination of desolation standing in Jerusalem (Matt 24:15; 2Th 2:4)
· State-endorsed or sponsored persecution of the saints (Matt 24:21; 2Tim 3:12; Rev 6:10)
· The apostolic message proclaimed to all the nations (Matt 24:14; Mark 13:10)
· False messiahs (Matt 24:5, 23-24)
· False prophets (Matt 7:22-23; 24:11, 24)
· Signs and wonders by false prophets (Matt 24:24; 2Th 2:9)
· Increase of demonic activity (2Th 2:9-12)
· Abandonment of God's commandments as the standard for moral and ethical values in society (Gen 6:5, 11-13; Matt 24:12, 37; Luke 17:26; 2Th 2:3, 7-8; 1Tim 4:1-3; 2Tim 3:1-5)
· Betrayals in families because of faith (Matt 10:21; 24:10; Mark 13:12; Luke 21:16; 1Tim 1:9)
· Being hated by unbelievers (Matt 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; John 15:18; 17:14)
· Great anxiety among unbelievers because of threats to security and safety (Luke 21:26; 1Th 5:3)
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