This chapter is known as the ‘Little Apocalypse’ or the Olivet Discourse. It makes predictions in three areas: the coming destruction of the temple (v1-4); future persecutions (v5-25); and the coming of the Son of Man (v26-37).
Please be advised as I write, I am using The ESV Reformation Study Bible edited by R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries to help me gain greater understanding of this powerful and prophetic chapter. I will be sharing some of the notes I find there.
Verses 1-4 Destruction of the Temple:
vs 2 – Jesus foretells the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD by the Roman general Titus who later became the Emperor of Rome. The ‘Arch of Titus’ commemorating his victory still stands in Rome.
vs 4 – Jesus begins to answer the disciple’s questions with a reply directed specifically to the 12 per Mark 4:10 and 8:29. His answer seems to include both the temple destruction and the time leading to the coming of the Son of Man. The events surrounding the destruction of the temple seem to anticipate and typify those associated with the Second Coming.
Verses 5-25 Future Persecutions:
vs 5-8 – False messiahs continue to present themselves, from Jesus’ time to now. Many believers are lead astray. Jesus talks about ‘birth pains’ as does Paul in Romans 8:22. Rumors of wars between nations and kingdoms, earthquakes and famines are ‘but the beginning of the birth pains’. Jesus tells us to not be alarmed, this must take place, but the end is not yet.
vs 9-13 – The time between the resurrection of Christ and His Second Coming is not just filled with suffering and persecution, though these verses describe great suffering. But also, this is a time of grace and evangelism throughout the earth in fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6 -” I will make you as a light for the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Our steadfastness in suffering is, in one sense, proof that true salvation has taken place.
vs 14-23 – The Abomination of Desolation: Daniel 11:31 predicts the coming of the king of the North who will desecrate the temple. (Daniel 11:31 – Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.) That prediction was first fulfilled in 168 B.C. when Antiochus Epiphanes set up a pagan alter and sacrificed a pig in the Most Holy Place. Then, as noted earlier, Titus destroyed the temple in 70 A.D.
Will this occur again? Verse 20 may refer to the limited period surrounding the destruction of the temple, or to a similar period before the Second Coming, or to both.
Jesus warns believers again that false christs will arise and perform signs and wonders. We are to be on guard – He has warned us.
vs 24-25 – Jesus may be speaking of the end – His Second Coming in view.
Verses 26-37 The Coming of the Son of Man:
vs 26-27 – If the first coming of the Son of Man is characterized by suffering and humiliation, His future coming at the end will be an open declaration of His diving glory. Praise God! We will ’26 see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.’
vs 28-31 – Jesus is saying that just as there are signs of what is to come in the natural realm, so it is in the spiritual. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His Words NEVER will. His Words ARE the Words of Scripture and are ETERNAL.
vs 32-36 – The Unknown Day and Hour: ‘no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.’ Jesus was conscious of His unique relationship to the Father as the eternal Son, yet there was a limitation of His knowledge during His incarnation. What the Father had not revealed to Him about the future He did not know. In that sense the man Jesus (the Son with regard to His human nature) was not omniscient.
Jesus again admonishes His followers to be on guard and Keep Awake. We do not know when our Master will return. Stay Awake!
Please pray with me,
Lord, bless our reading and study of this scripture. Some is beyond our understanding, but we know your Sacrificial Love for us and we trust you. Thank you Jesus, for being the Living Word who died for our sin and arose to give us Life. We know you are coming back. You have given us everything we need to ascertain truth from lies and to remain strong until that day. Your Spirit lives within us. Help us to seek you DAILY in your Word. In your name we pray, Amen. — Mary Mauderer