“As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”” (Mark 13:3–4, NASB95)
Let’s see if we can figure out why Jesus gave a detailed glance at the future to Peter, James, John, and Andrew. In the course of this chapter, he tells them:
- See that no one leads you astray – vs. 5
- Be on your guard – vs. 9
- Be on guard – vs. 23
- Be on guard – vs. 33
- Keep awake – vs. 33
- Stay awake – vs. 35
- Stay awake – vs. 36
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that Jesus really! wanted his disciples (and those of us who follow in their footsteps) to pay attention to world events and watch for things he had said would come to pass. He gives the four all of this information about the future, so that they will be prepared when it comes.
Amazingly, the Christians took Jesus’ words very seriously. Eusebius, an early church historian explained that when Titus’ army approached Jerusalem in AD 70, bent on destroying the rebellious Jews once and for all, the Christians, remembering Christ’s words, fled to Pella and escaped the siege and consequent destruction of Jerusalem.
There is a couple of things to remember here about prophecy, for that is what Jesus is doing in Mark 13. First, both Jesus and the four disciples all believed that Jesus could (and did) tell about events before they happened. Jesus speaks throughout this chapter as if he really did know these events were coming, and acted as if they would indeed come to pass. Jesus made this prediction about AD 30 or so, and his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was fulfilled in AD 70.
The second thing to remember as we take up a chapter of prophecy is that even though people have the prophecy and know the prophecy, they rarely recognize that a prophecy has been fulfilled until afterwards. Despite all of the prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament, only Simeon and Anna appeared to have really understood what was going on at Jesus’ birth. Indeed, not even Mary, Jesus’ mother, seems to have understood that she had given birth to the Messiah until during Jesus’ pubic ministry when he was about thirty years old.
If we are the last generation of Christians, alive when Jesus returns, will we even recognize that fact until the very last minute? Based on prophecy already fulfilled, perhaps not.