At the start of chapter 13 Jesus pronounced judgment upon the nation of Israel by declaring the destruction of the temple, which was the focal point of religious worship in Israel. During a private session, when sitting opposite the temple Peter, James, John, and Andrew enquired of Jesus 2 distinct questions.
"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" (Mark 13:4)
First, they wanted to know when the temple would be destroyed, and second, what would indicate that the time was near. The answer to the first question is simple, no one knows. After speaking a warning to His disciples about false prophets He indicated that an uncertain length of time must pass,
“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 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. 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.” (Mark 13:6-8)
It should be clear that Jesus taught His disciples that the end would not come in their day or many days following. All the problems that would follow would only be birth pangs. Notice Jesus used plural words, wars, nation after nation, kingdom after kingdom, earthquakes in various places, and famines. Furthermore, Jesus told them that the gospel must be preached to all the nations, which would be no short term task in that day.
Jesus taught them that proclaiming the Gospel would be costly, and that He would be the reason for their suffering. In a single statement Jesus declared the 2-fold nature of saving faith, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mark 13:13). First, the world hates Jesus, no matter what they say about Him; and their hatred is taken out on His followers. The nature of saving faith is divisive; it separates the true follower of Jesus from the false. Second, the true follower of Jesus endures the persecution to the end of his life. Saving faith is an act of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. No man can follow Jesus as an act of his own will, though many try. No sinner could or would choose to serve Jesus Christ as Lord apart from such a work of God.
“Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:7).
Many generations would come and go and never know the exact time of the end. Of course, there will be one generation that will experience it, and even though many people at that time will not see it coming, the signs will be made clear. The temple is the focal point; these things Jesus spoke while sitting directly across from it.
"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.” (13:14)
“Standing where it should not be” is a reference to the temple, which I will make clear just ahead. Furthermore, notice, Jesus said let the reader understand; these words were not intended for those sitting there, but for those who would read and understand. The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION is the fulfillment of Jesus warning about false Christ’s, in the most specific and tangible way. Satan himself will possess the final antichrist; He will draw the world after himself in the name of the true messiah. This occurrence did not take place in 70 AD at the destruction of the temple as some assume. This time has been hidden from all preceding generations, and the culmination of these events will first reveal the delusionary power of Satan and then the glory of the second coming of the true Christ.
Our world has suffered much in the way of tribulations, wars, and violent upheavals, however, our Lord made it clear,
“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.” (13:19)
Just by shear numbers the tribulation of World Wars 1 and 2 made the suffering of 70 Ad pale by comparison. However, a time is coming when the suffering of both World Wars will pale by comparison, according to Jesus. A time of such great devastation is coming that it will destroy ALL life if it were not for God’s intervention, “Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved” (13:20).
One of the most distinguishing features about the time of the end is the extreme extent to which false Christ’s delude the masses. They do so to the extent so as to almost deceive the very elect.
“For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (13:22).
The “elect” is the Biblical term God uses to distinguish those whom He chooses from those who choose Him. To choose Jesus apart from God’s saving power is to do so without saving effect. Those who are first chosen of God are brought to life so that they might properly follow the true Christ, who alone is savior of all those who truly believe. The elect follow Jesus, but false professors only pretend to; they stand in the line of Judas, who for 30 pieces of silver sold his Lord.
“All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (10:8 & 14)
A day is coming when many false converts to Christianity will be deceived by false teachers and the end result will be a great falling away, which will make it possible for the GREAT antichrist to draw them after him. Paul when speaking to the believers at Thessalonica taught them about that great apostasy or falling away.
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him… 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.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3-4)
Paul did not speak about this incident as a mere rhetorical expression or figure of speech but as an actual historical event. One man is coming who will set himself up above every other so-called god or object of worship. That man will be possessed by Satan himself; in the greatest delusion of all human history. It will be as if Judas were exalted to the place of Christ and the world at that time will express what it has done through all ages, which is to follow the devil in the name of God.
For those of my readers who are uncertain about their salvation, or those who know they are not followers of Christ - take Jesus’ words seriously.
“Therefore, be on the alert – for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning –. in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, be on the alert!” (13:35-38)
The only way to be on the alert is to be saved, follow Jesus in truth, be a lamb that knows his master’s voice and follow Him. It is possible to be a Christian, believe in Jesus as Lord, and not be certain about it. For this reason John wrote,
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
Faith comes by understanding the gospel as Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). To make your calling certain you must read and understand the message that Jesus teaches and not the word of false prophets. You must understand your Bible and not the corrupted gospel of false teachers. Every age has witnessed many false prophets, but God has always had a small remnant of those who belong to Him. Be careful!