Setting

In the last days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, He focused on preparing His disciples for the things to come. Watch for the signs, He said. There would be tribulation and false christs and false prophets. Jesus promised that He would come again. A servant of God must remain faithful until that day.

Key Verse

(13:29, 33)

Did You Know...?

1. Temple (13:1): The temple, which was part of Herod the Great’s reconstruction of Jerusalem, was an architectural wonder. A huge platform was erected over the sharp drop of the terrain to enlarge the grounds to 330 by 500 yards. [ref] It was supported by a retaining wall made of massive stones. On the platform stood the temple building, porches, and courtyards flanked by beautiful colonnades. The temple itself, which was not fully completed until A.D. 64, was built with large white polished stones (some were 37 feet [14 m] long, 12 feet [5 m] high, and 18 feet [7 m] wide) [ref] and was generously decorated with gold.

2. “Not one stone shall be left upon another” (13:2): Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled literally in A.D. 70, when Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings. Stones were pried apart to salvage the gold that had melted when the temple was set on fire. [ref]

3. Mount of Olives (13:3): A mountain range directly east of Jerusalem, running north to south. In Jesus’ time, it was rich in olives; but later was stripped bare of trees. [ref] The tallest  mountain rose to about 2,700 feet (1040 m), providing an impressive view of the city and the magnificent temple. [ref]

4. Sorrow (13:8): The NIV translates this as “birth pains,” which is a frequent analogy of the day when the Lord shows His power and exercises His justice (cf. 1Thess 5:1-3; Isa 13:6-11; Rev 12:1–2).

5. Councils (13:9): The Jewish court system consisted of the Sanhedrin (the highest court) and the lesser courts, of which there were two in Jerusalem and one in each town of Palestine. [ref] Each court, which was made up of Jewish elders, was granted legal and religious authority to judge local matters. [ref]

6. “Beaten in the synagogues” (13:9): Synagogues were used not only for worship and teaching, but also for confinement before trial. [ref] Sometimes the Jews flogged the prisoner up to 40 times. [ref] Jesus, however, endured a more severe flogging at the hand of the Romans (cf. Lesson 23, Did You Know 8).

7. “Abomination of desolation” (13:14): Jesus was referring to Daniel’s prophecy (Mt 24:15) that the temple would be desecrated (Dan 9:27, 12:11). This was fulfilled when the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. It may also point to the rise of the antichrist in the future (cf. Mk 13:5, 6; 1Jn 2:18, 4:3).

8. Housetop/Roof (13:15): People often relaxed on the flat roofs, where it was pleasant and cool (cf. Lesson 4, Did You Know 1). [ref]

9. Clothes/Cloak (13:16): An outer garment that protected against cold night air. [ref] Jesus’ warning in this verse echoes His command to the twelve disciples (cf. Mk 6:9).

10. Four winds (13:27): Refers to the boundaries of the physical world, most often in the context of describing the Lord’s mighty works (cf. Ezek 37:9; Dan 11:4; Zech 2:6; Rev 7:1).

Outline

General Analysis

  • 1.

    How do you stay on top of current events? How does the knowledge benefit your faith?

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  • 2.

    What should be the correct attitude in interpreting the signs of the last days?

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    We should be aware of what is happening around us. The signs of wars, famines, earthquakes, and suffering (which Jesus predicted) all remind us that the Lord Jesus is coming soon. Similarly, the imagery in the book of Revelation gives us both a sense of alarm and of hope. However, we should not get caught up in the exact meaning and the timing of the events. While Jesus tells us about the signs, He emphasizes that no one knows when the Lord will return.

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Segment Analysis

  • 13:1-20

    1.

    What were the disciples’ two questions (4)? To them, which was the more important question? In what order did Jesus answer their questions? To Jesus, which was the more important question?

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    “When will these things happen?” “What will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”

    Jesus answered the second question first by giving a detailed description of the signs. He did not address the question of “when” until the end of His talk (28-37). No one knows when these things will happen. The timing is not important. What is important is that we are aware of the signs and that we watch and pray.

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  • 2.

    Ask a mother about experiencing birth pains. Why did Jesus compare the signs to birth pains (8, NIV)?

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    When you compare the experiences of different mothers, you’ll find a range of the severity and frequency of birth pains. Some mothers feel the first pain and give birth very soon after. Some mothers feel the initial contraction and have time to get ready to go to the hospital. Some mothers do not feel much at all (at least at first). What they have in common is that eventually, they all feel immense pain (if they refuse epidural) when the baby is delivered. This is how it will be before the end of the world and the coming of the kingdom of God (Rev 12:1-5).

    The tribulation, like birth pains, will come without warning (1Thess 5:1-3). Jesus also uses birth pains as an analogy to impending sufferings (Jn 16:20-22). Birth pains come in successive phases, growing more and more intense, which might imply that signs will appear more frequently, and suffering will increase before Jesus comes again. In one moment, everything seems fine. The temple stands beautifully in the city, and people go about their lives, working and resting. In the next, there is great turmoil, leaving no more time for preparations. That is for certain. However, no one sign or group of signs can tell us that Jesus is coming for sure tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

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  • 3.

    List the sequence of signs recorded in verses 5-23. For each sign, if it has already taken place or is taking place, how? If not, how will it?

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    False christs and false prophets (6, 21-22)

    Wars and rumors of wars (678)

    Earthquakes (8)

    Famines (8)

    Disciples judged and flogged (9,11)

    Gospel preached to all nations (10)

    Holy Spirit speaks through the disciples (11)

    Disciples betrayed and hated (12-13)

    Appearance of the “abomination of desolation” (14-20)

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  • 4.

    Explain verse 12. Why will family members betray each other?

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    Jesus’ statement must be read in the context of 9-13. He was describing what must happen before the gospel is preached to all nations. For preaching the gospel, the disciples will be arrested and tried and beaten. For the sake of Jesus, we will be hated by those who deny Him, including our own family (Mt 10:36). But the Holy Spirit will be with us (Mk 13:11; Jn 16:13). Jesus’ prediction has proven true in church history and in testimonies of many believers whose family members do not believe in Jesus.

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  • 5.

    What are we the readers supposed to understand about the “abomination of desolation” (14)?

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    The expression “let the reader understand” stresses that we must correctly interpret what we see. Just as there will be many false christs and false prophets, there will be false alarms that deceive us. We must pray for spiritual wisdom to recognize the abomination when it truly appears and not fall for its deception.

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  • 6a.

    How does the description in 14-17 add to the impact of Jesus’ warning?

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    It adds a sense of danger and urgency. The tribulation will come when people least expect it. It will come while people are carrying out their daily routines. It will be so urgent that the best course of action is to leave everything behind and flee.

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  • 6b.

    What does “flee to the mountains” mean (14)?

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    Jesus warned us to leave everything behind and run. That is why pregnant and nursing mothers would suffer more in the chaos, because they carry greater burdens. Jesus teaches us not to love the world (Mk 13:15-16; 1Tim 6:6-10). We must be ready to abandon what we have and seek shelter in the Lord.

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  • 7.

    How do we prepare ourselves for the coming tribulation?

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    Do not be preoccupied over when it will come. Watch and pray (33), fulfill our God-given duties (34), and remain faithful to the Lord (13, Rev 3:10). God will give us the wisdom to recognize the signs and to know what to do when these things happen.

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  • 13:21-23

    8a.

    Give examples of false christs and false prophets.

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    They look like Christ but speak the words of the devil (2Cor 11:13-14; Rev 13:11). Various false teachings have arisen ever since the apostolic church. Some preached that the only way to be saved is to live an ascetic life (Col 2:20-23). Some said there is no resurrection of the dead (1Cor 15:12). Some preached a different Jesus and a different gospel (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6-9; 1Jn 2:22). Some might even perform signs and miracles (22).

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  • 8b.

    How do false christs and false prophets deceive?

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    Claim that they are the Christ (6); point people to the false christ (Mk 13:21; Rev 13:11-12); perform signs and miracles (22).

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  • 8c.

    How do we guard against false christs and false prophets?

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    Today, the devil continues to send false christs and false prophets to deceive the believers. Some come from outside the church. Some come from within the church. We must discern them through the Holy Spirit and the word of God (Gal 1:6-9; 1Jn 4:1-6). If they do not preach or follow the teachings given to the apostles, we must not listen to them.

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  • 13:24-27

    9.

    List the signs of the Lord’s Second Coming recorded in verses 24–27.

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    sun and moon darkened; stars fall from the sky; heavenly bodies shaken; Jesus coming in clouds with great power and glory; angels gather the elect from the four winds

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  • 10a.

    When will Jesus come again?

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    No one knows when Jesus will come again (32). The more important question is “Why will Jesus come again?”

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  • 10b.

    Why will Jesus come again?

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    to shorten the distress (20); to gather the elect (27); to redeem (Lk 21:28); to judge (Rev 20:11-15)

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  • 11.

    What do you feel when you think about the Lord’s Second Coming? Why?

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  • 12.

    In light of the fact that the world will end, what are your plans and objectives?

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  • 13:28-37

    13.

    Who is “this generation” (30)?

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    1. It refers to those living during Jesus’ time. If this is the case, then “all these things” would mean the things that precede the coming of Christ (5-23). The contemporaries of Jesus would experience all of the things that our Lord was predicting, although subsequent generations until Christ’s return would continue to experience them.

    2. “This generation” might also refer to the human race, which will pass away when a new heaven and a new earth appear (2Pet 3:12-13).

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  • 14a.

    How many times did Jesus mention that no one knows when the time will come?

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    Three times (twice in 32, once in 35).

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  • 14b.

    Why didn’t Jesus (“the Son”) know the day or hour (32)?

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    Jesus was emphasizing God’s supremacy. He was speaking as one of the servants who were put in charge of the house (34). As a man, He was just like us, and did not know the Father’s timetable.

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  • 14c.

    Why doesn’t God reveal the time to us? What is the danger of trying to pinpoint the exact time of the end of the world?

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    The timing is irrelevant to our faith. We must be ready at all times. Many people claim to know the exact time of the end of the world. These “doomsday cults” deceive people to give up their lives for a false warning. In the church, we must be careful of visions and prophecies that point to a specific year or date of when Jesus will come. Jesus reminded us that we don’t know, “whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn” (35). We must watch and pray so that our master will not catch us sleeping when he comes (36).

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  • 15.

    How is the fig tree growing leaves in summer a lesson?

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    A fig tree growing leaves was a sure sign of summer (cf. Lesson 18, Did You Know 7). Likewise, the signs Jesus talked about will tell us that His coming is closer and closer. When the time has come, Jesus will come to fulfill His promise to take us to the heavenly kingdom.

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  • 16.

    Why did Jesus stress that His words will never pass away (31)?

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    He was stressing the certainty of His predictions. There will be drastic changes and chaos in the world. False christs and false prophets will try to deceive us. But Christ’s words will always be true. He is always the same. As we watch and pray, waiting for His coming, we must remind ourselves of His promises and warnings.

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  • 17.

    What does each of the following in the parable (34-36) represent? a. Owner of the house (Mk 12:1; Mt 25:14); b. House (1Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19; Heb 10:21); c. Servants (1Pet 2:16; 2Cor 4:5); d. Doorkeeper (Ezek 33:6; Jer 6:17; Jn 10:3)

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    a. Owner of the house—the Lord Jesus

    b. House—the church, God’s household

    c. Servants—believers, members of the church, workers of God

    d. Doorkeeper—prophets, ministers, preachers

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  • 18.

    Explain this parable.

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    God has given us authority in the world to work for Him (1Cor 4:1-2). We are assigned different tasks. Some are entrusted as doorkeepers or watchmen, whose primary duty is to relay God’s message. That’s why the spiritual leaders of the church must be especially alert. In addition, the entire church must watch and pray, waiting for the Lord Jesus to return.

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  • 19.

    Compare the parable in 34-36 to the three parables in Mt 25:1-13, 45-51, and 25:14-30.

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    Each of these parables shows us different things we must do while we wait for Jesus’ Second Coming. Mk 13:34-36 reminds us to perform the duties given to us (1Cor 3:8, 12:4-6). Mt 24:45-51 teaches us how to be leaders who take care of God’s household (“give them food in due season” [Mt 24:45]). The parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13) teaches us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and spiritual qualities (oil in the lamp) in case the master delays his arrival. The parable of the tenants (Mt 25:14-30) teaches us to use our God-given talents to serve Him to the best of our abilities. The lessons can be summarized as “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming … lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping” (Mt 24:42; Mk 13:36).

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