Mark 13 Study Notes


13:1-37 This chapter is often called Jesus’s Olivet Discourse (cp. Mt 24-25; Lk 21). The themes of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in AD 70 seem to be interwoven with the final tribulation and Jesus’s return. Some interpreters assign all of Mk 13 to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Most believe Jesus used the earlier destruction to foreshadow the end times. Some who hold this latter view assign vv. 1-13 to the first-century events and vv. 14-37 to earth’s last days. Others assign vv. 1-31 to the first century and vv. 32-37 to the end times. Still others find an A1-B1-A2-B2 pattern and assign vv. 1-13 and 28-31 to the first century and vv. 14-27 and 32-37 to the end times.

13:1 The massive stones and buildings of the temple complex were truly impressive. Herod’s temple had been under construction for almost fifty years, and the Jewish historian Josephus said some of the stones were sixty feet long. Archaeologists have found stones forty-two feet long, eleven feet high, and fourteen feet deep, weighing more than a million pounds.

13:2 Jesus prophesied (announced, not merely predicted) the destruction of the great buildings. Symbolically in the withering of the fig tree (11:12-14,20-21) Jesus had already prophesied their end. Some question the accuracy of not one stone will be left upon another because some stones remain today in the Western Wall, but this was not part of the temple itself but the foundation that supported the platform on which the temple stood.

13:3 The Mount of Olives rose three hundred feet above Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. It provided a panoramic view of the temple and Jerusalem.

13:4 These things and all these things refer to Jesus’s comment in v. 2 and the temple’s destruction. According to Mark and Luke (Lk 21:7), the disciples asked a double question. Their first question was about when the destruction would occur; their second asked what sign would precede it.

13:5-13 Jesus began his discourse by warning that his followers would experience persecution because of him. (v. 13).

13:5 Watch out (cp. vv. 9,23,33) lays on the disciples the responsibility to avoid being deceived. Jesus had accused the Sadducees of being deceived (12:24,27).

13:6 False claimants and false teachers can be popular. The phrase in my name may mean these imposters would claim to teach in Jesus’s name or that they would claim to be Messiah (cp. Mt 24:5).

13:7 Wars and rumors of wars are not signs of the end but characterize the entire age. Jesus said these things must take place, meaning they are part of God’s plan.

13:8 Natural disasters are not signs of the end, only the beginning of birth pains. Though troubling, these pains are harbingers of hope and new life.

13:9 Hand you over refers to betrayal. On being flogged, see 2Co 11:24-25. Governors and kings referred to Roman political authorities. Thus Jesus’s disciples could expect to experience persecution from Jewish and Gentile powers, from religious and secular authorities.

13:10 Persecution is the context in which universal proclamation of the gospel will take place.

13:11 Jesus admonished his disciples against anxiety that would distract them from their witness. God would give the appropriate response through his Holy Spirit. This is the last reference to the Spirit in Mark (1:8,10,12; 3:29; 12:36) and the only one that pictures his role with believers. On the Holy Spirit as Counselor, see Jn 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7.

13:12 Some Christians will experience betrayal by family members, even to the point of death (cp. Mt 10:34-36).

13:13 You will be hated indicates the animosity unbelievers often feel toward Christians because of the name of Jesus (cp. 1Pt 4:16). Jesus did not warn his followers so they could seek safety but so they would endure faithfully.

13:14 The abomination of desolation is drawn from Dn 9:27; 11:31; 12:11 (cp. Mt 24:15) and was used to describe the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC (see the apocryphal book 1Macc 1:54). Jesus’s reference may be to some event prior to AD 70 or to the “man of lawlessness” (2Th 2:3-10; cp. Rv 13:1-10,14-15). Mark did not identify the location for standing where it should not be, but Matthew (Mt 24:15) said “in the holy place,” meaning the temple’s sanctuary (cp. 2Th 2:4).

13:15-16 On housetop, see note at 2:4. Laborers who worked in the fields often laid aside their outer garments as they worked.

13:17 Woe is not a condemnation as in Mt 23:13-32 but a cry of pity for pregnant women and nursing mothers unable to move quickly.

13:18 Winter weather along with swollen streams that could not be crossed would add to the difficulty of their flight (cp. Mt 24:20).

13:19 This verse is drawn from Dn 12:1. The intensity of these days of tribulation (cp. Rv 7:14) will exceed what was experienced in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

13:20 The Lord will curtail the tribulation for the sake of the elect, emphasizing God’s sovereign choice.

13:21-22 False prophets were a problem in both the OT (Dt 13:1-5; 18:20-22) and the NT (Mt 7:15; 24:11; Lk 6:26; Ac 13:6; 2Pt 2:1; 1Jn 4:1). Signs and wonders is a standard expression for miracles in the OT and NT. The false messiahs and false prophets will have no trouble performing signs—but their purpose will be to lead astray. These words foreshadow Paul’s in 2Th 2:9-12.

13:23 Jesus had also told them to watch in v. 5.


Greek pronunciation [SOH zoh]
CSB translation save
Uses in Mark’s Gospel 15
Uses in the NT 106
Focus passage Mark 13:13

The Greek verb sozo literally means “to preserve” or “to keep safe” with an underlying idea of “making whole.” The term can refer to saving someone from physical harm (Mt 8:25) or death (Mt 14:30; 15:30-31; Ac 27:20,31), healing (Mk 5:23,28,34; 6:56; Jms 5:15), exorcism (Lk 8:36), or deliverance from a severe ordeal (Jn 12:27; Heb 5:7; Jd 5). The most common use of sozo in the NT, especially in Acts and the Epistles, is to describe the various aspects of salvation. Two important nouns are derived from sozo: (1) sotÄ“ria, which means salvation (in the redemptive sense) or deliverance from physical death or danger (see Ac 7:25; 27:34); and (2) sotÄ“r, which means “Savior” and is always a reference to either the Father or Jesus Christ in the work of redemption.

13:24-25 Just as Jesus warned of earthly signs occurring before the tribulation, he also spoke of cosmic signs occurring after that tribulation. He declared that the powers in the heavens will be shaken as if with a heavenly earthquake (cp. Heb 12:26-29). His language is drawn from Is 13:9-10; Jl 2:10-11,30-31; 3:14-16.

13:26 Jesus drew the wording for this verse from Dn 7:13. They will see refers to those living when these events occur. The clouds are a reference to God’s presence (9:7; 14:62; Ex 19:9; 1Kg 8:10-11; Ps 97:2; Dn 7:13). The phrase with great power and glory contrasts with the Son of Man’s first coming in weakness and humility.

13:27 The angels are regularly pictured as accompanying Christ on his return (8:38; Mt 13:39-41; 16:27; 25:31). The two phrases from the four winds and from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven stand in apposition to each other. The language is based on Dt 13:7; 30:4; and Zch 2:6. The former refers to the cardinal points—north, south, east, and west. The latter refers to the extremities of earth and heaven. There is no place in all creation where the elect are that will be overlooked (cp. Ps 107:1-3; Is 45:5-7; 49:12; Mt 8:11; Lk 13:29).

13:28 For Jesus’s previous use of a fig tree, see notes at 11:13 and 11:19-20. When the fig tree sprouts, usually in March or April around Passover, summer is near.

13:29 Just as Jesus’s followers knew how to read the signs of the coming summer, so also when they saw these things happening they were to know that a cataclysmic event was near. It is unclear whether Jesus was referring to Jerusalem’s fall or his return in the end time.

13:30 Truly I tell you was Jesus’s standard indication of a solemn pronouncement. The generation that will not pass away until all these things take place is either Jesus’s contemporary generation that would live to see the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (cp. 8:12,38; 9:19) or the eschatological generation that will be alive when the end begins.

13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away because they are temporal by nature. Jesus’s words, however, will never pass away. Only God can make this claim (Is 40:8; 51:6). Jesus’s words are as sure and permanent as God’s Word (Mt 5:18; Lk 16:17).

13:32 That day or hour indicates Jesus was speaking of the eschatological future. When the end will come is unknown to angels or even the Son. Only the Father knows (Ac 1:7).

13:33 Be alert expresses the idea of staying awake and watchful. Even though Jesus’s disciples don’t know when the time is coming, they are to be ready and faithful.

13:34-37 Jesus’s followers are to be like the doorkeeper, always on the alert for the master’s coming. Evening, midnight, the crowing of the rooster, and early in the morning are the four watches of the night based on the Roman identification of them. Suddenly indicates not the speed but the unexpectedness of the master’s return.