Mark 13 – 5 Signs of Jesus’ Second Coming

When you watch the news and see disturbing headlines, let that prompt you to anticipation. Let wars, natural disasters, persecution, trouble and (yes) Christmas prompt you to anticipate the return of Jesus Christ. 

Christmas is all about anticipation. The first advent – the first coming of Jesus Christ – was the culmination of hundreds of years of anticipation as God’s people read the prophecies of the coming Messiah and waited for Him to arrive. And the first advent inevitably makes us think of the second advent, when Jesus is going to return.

Jesus didn’t complete everything during His life on earth. He lived, died, arose from the grave, ascended to heaven and promised that He would return to complete His project (see The Kingdom Project). So we are just like God’s people awaiting the first advent, but we are awaiting the second advent. Anticipation is a key part of celebrating Christmas.

So today, in our determination to celebrate Jesus by listening to Him, we find ourselves in Mark 13. 

Jesus Foretells the Destruction of the Temple

And as [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”

– v. 1

The temple was grand and massive, and had just been under 50 years of renovation and expansion. It was as big as 12 football fields. The highest wall was 15 stories tall and some of the stones were 60 feet long, 15 feet tall and 15 feet deep. The temple was spectacular, and it makes sense that the disciples would be looking around like they were.

But Jesus responds, “There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (v. 2). This was a really provocative thing for Jesus to say, and it later became a key accusation against Him (Mark 14:58). 

The Disciples Ask Two Questions

Reading on, we find Peter, James, John and Andrew asking Jesus privately:

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 

– v. 4

When will the temple be destroyed? What will the sign be when it’s about to happen? Those are two reasonable questions. Yet Jesus’ answer is one of the most difficult parts of Mark to understand.

Why is it so difficult to understand? Well, the disciples seem to be asking about the temple – Jesus’ answer seems to be talking about the temple, but also about His return. The disciples thought that the destruction of the temple and Jesus establishing His earthly reign were the same event.

Now, the temple was actually destroyed in 70 A.D. But, the rest of what Jesus says hasn’t happened yet. Just like ancient Israel didn’t fully grasp the prophecy of the first advent, so we don’t fully understand the prophecy of the second advent. 

5 Signs “When All These Things Are About to Be Accomplished”

Depending on how you arrange it, Jesus gives five signs for (to use the words of the disciples) “when all these things are about to be accomplished.”

  1. Imposters (vv. 5-6). This has happened throughout church history. Many have come leading people astray, even claiming to be the Christ. And it will happen in the future. The point isn’t to lay out a specific timeline – the point is: don’t be led astray.
  2. War and natural disasters (vv. 7-8). Nations will rise against nations, nature will rise against nature, “but the end is not yet.” These things have to happen, so don’t be alarmed by them. 
  3. Persecution (vv. 9-13). The disciples were persecuted. Christians today are persecuted. And we shouldn’t be surprised when persecution happens in the future.
  4. Desolation and tribulation (vv. 14-23). This likely refers to the prophecy in Daniel 9. Some believe this already happened around 160 B.C., but a lot of what was prophesied did not happen at that time. Some believe it is happening right now with the Islamic mosque sitting on top of the temple – yet that too doesn’t quite fulfill everything. It’s hard to know for sure when this will happen, but we can know for sure that Jesus wants us to “be on guard” (v. 23). What do you think about these verses? Let us know in the comments below!
  5. Cosmic chaos (vv. 24-27). We have not experienced all of this yet. The sun was darkened when Jesus died on the cross. However, “the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” and the angels gathering “his elect from … the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” has not.

What Can We Take Away from This?

What can we take away from all this? There are tons of things! But there is one overarching takeaway in this teaching of Jesus: BE ON GUARD. STAY AWAKE.

We may not be confident in our understanding of this, but we can be confident in how we ought to live in the meantime. We’ve been given work to do, and it can be tempting to get complacent in life and think Jesus will never come back. But He will – and we need to stay awake.

When you watch the news and see disturbing headlines, let that prompt you to anticipation. Let wars, natural disasters, persecution, trouble and (yes) Christmas prompt you to anticipate the return of Jesus Christ. 

Discussion Starters

  • What do you think Jesus meant by, “There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”?
  • What are the five signs Jesus gives in answer to the disciples’ questions? How have you seen these signs played out in history? Nowadays? 
  • What do you think the “abomination of desolation” (v. 14) might be?
  • When you see these signs, what is your reaction? 
  • What are some things you can take away from all this?
  • What is Jesus’ main point? How can you live right now in light of this teaching?

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