The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz this week for your edification and uplifting. We encourage you to please contact us if you would like to know more about us.
Click here: Mark 13:24-31, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: Mark 13:24-31, for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.
Mark 13:24-31, Hope & Encouragement for the Coming Saviour:
- In our chapter, Jesus answered the disciples’ questions about the end of time. Now many would interpret these verses differently. With it either pointing to a future event, or referring to these events as history. One thing I think we all need to agree on is, Scripture itself should govern how we interpret it, not history or ideas.
- So friends, it is important that we as Christians know what God is up to and where all of history is heading to. And without a proper understanding of the end, we may live in fear of because of our uncertainty.
- See, despite all the various camps of interpretation, our focus needs to be on the Son of Man! Because when He returns, all that is wrong will be made right, and justice will be perfectly served.
- So coming to these verses, I want us to look at the hope and encouragement we can have knowing that Christ will return for us. So what we’ll do is; look at the explanation of the passage, and then practically, we’ll look at the hope of Christ’s return, and the encouragement to be ready!
1. Explain the Text:
- Text – 13:24-31
- Explanation – These verses are a prophecy about both the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning. See Jesus told the disciples to expect “the abomination of desolation” which would be the beginning of the end.
- It was the end of the temple, and therefore the end of the old covenant era. However, from verse 24, we now come to the end of the end.
- See, with the destruction of the temple, the old covenant came to an end and the beginning of the new era as the new covenant era was fully installed. And were living in this new era, were not taking part in a sacrificial system, we have a direct and intimate relationship with Jesus.
- So coming to the text, when Jesus uses the words “but in those days”, He is not referring to a change of subject, but rather a change of emphasis. He is not shifting from talking about the destruction of Jerusalem to some other event in the future.
- Hear me out, contrary to many interpreters, there is no reason from this text to conclude that Jesus was talking about His final coming in judgement to earth at the end of world history. Why? Because for about 1700 years, the church did not interpret these words to refer to the second coming. It was only from the early to mid-1800s that these words were interpreted as referring to the second coming of Jesus.
- In addition, Jesus did not use the Greek word Parousia, which is often used to speak of the second coming, because Jesus was not
talking about his second coming!
- Illustration – No matter what ‘end-times camp’ you’re in, whether you choose to believe these words refer to an historical event or a future event, every biblical scholar I have come across, agree that this passage is to be interpreted as figurative because of Christ’s use of language.
- Jesus referred to Old Testament prophecies when He said these things. Let’s read verses 24b-25a again. Now look at these passages who spoke of actual judgement but in a figurative sense. Isaiah 13:9-10, “Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.”
- Ezekiel 32:7-9 reads, “When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over you, and put darkness on your land, declares the Lord GOD. “I will trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries that you have not known.”
- Joel 2:28-31 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
- “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”
- Application – So if this is judgement language, which I believe it is, then we cannot interpret them literally. So why do many take a literal position on these words? I think firstly because of a misunderstanding of verse 26, where one believes it refers to Christ’s physical return.
- Second, one adds an emphasis to the words “but in those days” in which one may assume that “those days” are different than the days Jesus has been speaking about. Thirdly, one does not understand prophetic language and so assume a universal disaster instead of a politically disastrous event.
- Listen, God’s Word affirms that Jesus is coming back but that is not Jesus’ point here. His point here is that He would come in judgement on the temple and Jerusalem and would effect a devastating change in the world order.
- Israel would no longer be the nation at the centrepiece of God’s plan for this world. Instead, the kingdom is for the collection of believers who by faith trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation! So how can we understand this text biblically? Here’s a few brief explanations:
- Conclusion – verses 24–25 will take place at the same period as the events of verses 14–22. Matthew says, “immediately after the tribulation.” If it did point to the second coming, the second coming should have taken place, but we know that it hasn’t.
- These verses are taken from prophetic literature as we read earlier, words that were directed at nations, including Israel, who were about to go into judgement.
- And in the original prophetic context, this type of language carries a powerful symbolism of political changes within world history, and should not naturally be understood of a literal collapse of the universe at the end of the world.
- One commentator writes that these were ‘typical Jewish imagery for events within the present order that are felt and seen as “earth-shattering”. The wording would suggest a heavy weight divine judgment.
- They are pictures meant to describe the coming change which will take place through a terrible judgement. This would be understood in a Jewish context. And so Mark 13:24b–27 is not about the collapse of the universe, but about drastic events on the world scene, interpreted in the light of the divine judgment.
- So if verses 24-25 are symbolic for a political judgement, what do we do with verse 26? Well, verses 24–25 portrayed the negative side of Jesus’ prediction, the end of the old. Verses 26–27 is the positive as Jesus uses the words recorded in Daniel 7:13–14.
- Daniel’s vision is one of enthronement, of the ‘one like a son of man’ coming before the throne of God to be given universal and everlasting dominion. It is the imagery of setting up a new kingship to replace the failed rules of previous empires, and it is located not on the earthly scene but in the presence of God in heaven.
- In Daniel’s vision the ‘one like a son of man’ was a symbolic figure representing the believers of God. Let’s read these verses in Daniel in order to grasp how this imagery points to Christ’s authority and not His physical return.
- Daniel 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
- Daniel’s vision tells us that it is Jesus Himself who is to receive that ultimate authority. So despite the coming destruction figuratively described in verses 24-25, verse 26 reveals that Christ is crowned with victory in the heavenlies as He comes to the Ancient of Days as Daniel says.
- Jesus uses the language of Daniel’s vision to mark the new phase in God’s dealings with His world which will be seen when Israel’s temple is no more. You see, the idea of having the Temple meant there is still a need for earthly intercession or mediation.
- But through His death & resurrection, Jesus has become the only means of intercession & mediation. He is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus, the Son of Man, is seated at God’s right hand as the sovereign one!
- Friends, Jesus was telling the disciples that after the destruction they will clearly see and understand that it is He who is all-powerful, and those who belong to Him will experience His rule. Israel is not the glory of God. Israel fulfilled her purpose in God’s plan.
- The next phase of God’s plan on the earth is for His believers to be gathered under Christ’s authority. And how will the elect be gathered, well, we are currently gathered through those who minister the Gospel. So that could mean that angels refer to the Greek meaning, a messenger.
- But I do want to add, Hebrews 1:14 tells us that angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Could it be actual angels who help gather the elect? In either case, it still leads to the same conclusion, the elect are being gathered, regardless of our interpretation. See, the sovereignty given on the Son of Man is to be exercised in the gathering of His elect from all over the world.
- Now finally, verses 28–29 conclude Christ’s answer to when these things will take place. Jesus uses a parable which I believe suggests the time frame. Which affirm that verses 24-27 do not refer to the second coming.
- See, in Palestine the fig tree comes into leaf in March/April. The early harvest of figs can be expected in May/June. Last week we learned that the attack on Jerusalem took place when? In April 70 AD. I mean, that’s so on point…
- Bridge – Furthermore, verse 30 is clear and definite, it is not figurative language, but a straightforward statement of a time limit. The time limit is the passing away of this generation.
- So when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, they would not have thought that the atmosphere was going to come crashing down. They expected a “climactic change,” not a “climate change.” Which brings us to verse 31, and I briefly want to deal with the final two points:
2. The Hope of Christ’s Return:
- Text – 13:31
- Explanation – this is a great encouragement. Jesus says no matter what they will experience, no matter what happens in creation, His Word will never fail, it cannot fall away! Friends, you may not agree with the explanation of this passage, and I don’t expect you to. Our understanding of this passage should not be a Gospel issue.
- But I do believe, regardless of how we view these verses, we can agree that the coming of the Son of Man will fulfil all things! We can agree that Jesus will come in divine glory. The Jesus will “come” with His angels and sit on His throne to separate his sheep from the goats and to reward His servants
- Application – we can agree that He will come the same way as when He ascended into heaven! We can agree that at His coming, He will reveal everything that was hidden from us. We can also agree that He will come in glory with His saints.
- And finally, we can agree that Jesus is coming soon and He will come in the clouds in victory, power, and glory and every eye will see Him. And that should give us hope, it should help be at peace with God’s plan for our lives!
- Conclusion – Yet, as we wait for Christ, we cannot be still. He called us to minister the Gospel. He tells us to be on guard and to stand firm. Therefore we must!
- Because as His coming will be loud, visible, and final; the nature of the Second Coming is imminent, meaning it is near and when it comes it will happen quickly. Friends, His coming is not dependant on an one or anything, He can come at any moment.
- Bridge – And finally, Christ will come in victory and judgment. He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords. Because at His, every knee in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will bend to Him alone. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord. That’s our hope!
3. The Encouragement for Readiness:
- Text – 13:31
- Explanation – Because Christ’s return is unknowable as we’ll see next week, we are encouraged to be prepared by purifying our lives from sin and living in obedience to Christ daily. He will come as the true judge to reward His saints. But also to judge the wicked.
- However, as we hope in Christ’s return, we need to be aware of the reality that the Second Coming of Christ is a necessary feature of the Gospel message. Christ’s first coming brought salvation through His death and resurrection, but His second coming will bring about the resurrection of our bodies which is the final goal and hope of our salvation.
- Application – His return should encourage us with confidence to stand firm in this life. Therefore, the Second Coming has implications for how we live our lives from day to day. In Titus 2:12-13 Paul says, “… training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ…”
- Conclusion – this teach us that waiting for His return does not mean we are passive, it is an active purifying of our lives in the pursuit of holiness in readiness for our Lord. John tells us that as Children of God, we will be like Jesus when he appears and “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
- The encouragement for readiness is a call to conduct our lives in such a way, that we please Him now, rather than be ashamed when he appears.
- Bridge – In addition, the coming of our Saviour suggests that no matter what trials, suffering, of challenges we face here and now it is only temporary.
- But there is also a striking note I must share with you concerning Christ’s return, there will be no hope of salvation for the lost after Jesus comes, today is the day of salvation. That’s why Jesus told the disciples to preach the Gospel. It is important that we share the gospel and hope salvation in Christ by grace through faith.
- Take it to your families, share with your kids and grandkids. Preach the Gospel to your enemy, your loved ones, and strangers! Friends, Jesus is coming, and part of being ready isn’t just living pure lives, it is obeying His commands to make known His Gospel to all!
- Because in the acceptance of the Gospel, our hope is secure, and our salvation will be made complete!.