28 April 2014

Mark 13:5-13

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginnings of birth pangs.” (v. 8)


Jesus is depicted talking with his closest disciples: Peter, James, John and Andrew who were sitting near the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus gives somewhat dire warnings about the future which will leave no stones of the temple left standing (Mark 13:2).

There are several interpretations of all this. The most straightforward is that there will be a horrible event in Judea and that at some unspecified time the temple, symbol of Jewish authority, will be destroyed.

Others think Jesus is just using the apocalyptic language of his time symbolically to highlight the fact that Christian suffering and Jerusalem's destruction, though seemingly the end of the world, are necessary to achieve what Jesus deems will be the final victory of good over evil and that this generation refers to seeing Jerusalem's destruction.

The ideas of Jesus' imminent return and the final messianic triumph coupled with that of it being delayed until an unknown date in the future, or perhaps until after death, have always characterised Christian thought through the ages. In every generation, including ours, there have always been those who say the end is just around the corner, and those who say who knows when it will happen so just live a good life or that being good people is what brings God's kingdom. Augustine said concerning this passage that a person should be more concerned with their own "last day", their death:

"When it tells us to watch for the last day, every one should think of as concerning his own last day; lest haply when ye judge or think the last day of the world to be far distant, ye slumber with respect to your own last day ... Let no one then search out for the last Day, when it is to be; but let us watch all by our good lives, lest the last day of any one of us find us unprepared, and such as any one shall depart hence on his last day, such he be found in the last day of the world. Nothing will then assist thee which thou shalt not have done here. His own works will succour, or his own works will overwhelm every one."

To Ponder

  • Some people have a 'bucket list' of things to do before they die. What would be on yours?
  • In what ways do these descriptions of the end times affect the way you live your life?
  • Give thanks for the people and things that bring beauty and enjoyment to your life.

Bible notes author

Susan Johnson

Susan has recently moved house from the north east coast in Durham to the west coast in Cumbria. After completing eight years as the Darlington Methodist District mission and development enabler she is taking time out to explore what next, but hopes to get involved with the local foodbanks in the area.