Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple (13:1–2), provoking two questions by four of the disciples about the timing of the final judgment: “when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (13:4). In 13:5–37, Jesus explained when the judgment would be and what sign would precede this end.
In 13:5–8, Jesus stated that “the beginning of the birth pains” would include many saying, “I am he!” (i.e., the Christ). There would be wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines. Concerning the false christs, Jesus admonished, “See that no one leads you astray” (13:5). Of the catastrophes, “Do not be alarmed” (13:7).
In 13:9–13, Jesus prophesied that the world would hate His followers, arrest them, beat them, and that the Spirit would give them the words to say at this time. The gospel would thus be proclaimed to the nations. In light of such danger, Jesus admonished, “Be on your guard” (13:9). Concerning the Spirit’s help, He commanded, “Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour” (13:11).
In 13:14–23, the sight of “the abomination of desolation” would indicate increased danger at this time. Jesus described this time as “in those days” (13:17, 19) and “the days” (13:20, 2x) marked by “such tribulation” (13:19), that is, “that tribulation” after which other events occur (13:24; cf. 13:24–31). The commands given here tell of a time of great urgency: “let those . . . flee” (13:14); “Let the one . . . not go down, nor enter” (13:15); “let the one . . . not turn back” (13:16); “Pray that it may not happen in winter” (13:18); “do not believe it” (when someone claims to be Christ; 13:21); and “be on guard” (13:23).
In 13:24–31, after “that tribulation,” judgment “in those days” continues (13:24). The sun, moon, and stars are affected, and the Son of Man comes in the clouds and sends His angels to gather the elect. Just as the fig tree’s tender, leafy branch indicates summer is near, so also do these specific events indicate that Jesus “is near, at the very gates” (13:29) and will come once and for all (cf. 13:26, 35, 36). The generation of unbelieving Jews in Jesus day continues on today until His final coming takes place (13:30). No commands are given here. Jesus simply notes that “when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near” (13:29).
Finally, after detailing the many signs that would precede “when all these things are about to be accomplished” (13:4), Jesus specifically describes the timing of “these things” in 13:32–37. They take place in “that day,” “that hour,” which “no one knows” and “you do not know” (13:32, 33, 35). Because we do not know, we are commanded to “Be on guard” (13:33), “keep awake” (13:33), and “stay awake” (13:35, 37).
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.