Mk. 13:24-37 Extra Notes
Chapter Summary: Days before the crucifixion, the disciples praise the glory of the temple. When Jesus tells them the temple will be destroyed, they ask for signs of that coming destruction and of His return (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answers their second question with information crucial for believers in the end times, and any time. Tribulation Christians will face horrifying hardships and violence, as may believers of any era, but they must remember that the hardships will not last. Jesus will return so quickly, any attempt to live by the world's rules will be futile.
• Mark 13:1-2 is a short conversation tying together Jesus' teaching and interactions on the temple Mount in Mark 11:15-12:44 with the next section of Mark. That future episode is noticeably darker. Jesus has spent the last week sleeping on the Mount of Olives during the night and teaching in the temple courtyard during the day (Luke 21:37). The representatives of the temple have rejected Jesus, so God will reject them and the symbol of God-worship they have corrupted. Within forty years, the temple, Jerusalem, and the cohesiveness of the Jewish people will be gone-ruined by the Romans in AD 70. Jesus' prophecy about the temple is also found in Matthew 24:1-3 and Luke 21:5-7.
• Mark 13:3-13 occurs less than a week after a crowd celebrated their belief that Jesus is the Son of David, come to restore Israel from her Roman oppressors (Mark 11:10). The disciples think Jesus spent the last three years preparing them to rule in His royal court (Mark 10:35-45). Moments ago, Jesus prophesied it is the temple and Jerusalem that will be destroyed, not the Romans (Mark 13:1-2). The disciples were understandably confused, even as He continues His dire predictions. Jesus' warnings are also recorded in Matthew 24:4-14 and Luke 21:8-19.
• Mark 13:14-23 describes Peter, James, John, and Andrew asking Jesus for the signs that the temple will be destroyed and He will return to establish His kingdom (Matthew 24:3). Jesus has explained that wars, natural disasters, false teaching, and persecution will increase (Mark 13:5-13). Now He speaks of the second half of the end-times tribulation. It will start with the Antichrist erecting the abomination of desolation in the temple and end right before war and natural and supernatural disasters would cause worldwide extinction. Matthew talks a bit more about false prophets in Matthew 24:15-28 while Luke gives a shortened version in Luke 21:20-24.
Lesson Summary: Mark 13:24-27 continues Jesus' predictions about His eventual return. Anyone would be excused for being confused about the timeline of the end times, especially regarding Jesus' return. According to a pre-tribulation, dispensational interpretation, this event is Jesus' second coming, which occurs after the rapture and the tribulation. In fact, it marks the end of the tribulation when Jesus destroys the Antichrist and his army (Rev 19:11-21), imprisons Satan (Rev 20:1-3), and brings only the tribulation saints and past believers with Him into the millennial kingdom. Jesus' return is also prophesied in Mt. 24:29-31 and Lk. 21:25-27.
v. 24: The note about the stars and the heavenly powers is tricky to interpret. Given metaphors found in other Scripture, God's power over creation, and modern technology, there are at least three different options.
One option is that Jesus is explaining now-modern technology using terms the first century disciples will understand. A nuclear winter might cause debris to fill the atmosphere so that the light from the sun, moon, and stars is dimmed. "Stars" falling could be satellites which cause the "powers," or earthly rulers, to lose command, control, and communication over their forces. Or the stars could be the nuclear missiles, themselves.
Another option is that God is exerting His power over creation, as He has throughout the ages, and the meaning is explicitly literal. In Joshua 10:12-14, Joshua asked God to extend the day so the Israelites could finish the battle against the Amorites. God did so for about a full day. When God agreed to allow King Hezekiah to recover from his illness, He caused a shadow to retreat ten steps as a sign (2 Kings 20:1-11). When Korah disobeyed God, the earth swallowed him and his family (Numbers 16:31-33). As Creator, God would have no problem causing a natural disaster to fit this description. Although stars couldn't literally fall to earth, asteroids and comets could. Others think the forces of nature will be so unsettled that physics, itself, will fail, and the stars and planets will lose their orbits. With God's all-encompassing power and authority, there's no reason this couldn't happen.
Yet another option is that this verse describes the fall of evil spiritual forces. When Isaiah 14:12 talks about a fallen star, it means Satan. Isaiah 34:4 and Revelation 6:13 speak about the host of heaven falling. The powers in the heavens are demonic forces that exist in the spirit world but have influence on Earth. Ephesians 6:12 mentions "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." "Powers" is from the Greek root word dunamis and can mean the power of an army. "Heavens" is from the Greek root word Ouranos which can mean the sky or the spiritual realm of angels and demons. Furthermore, "falling" is from the Greek root word pipto which can mean physically falling, falling prostrate in submission and fear, or being removed from power. So, this is also a viable option.
The passage isn't specific enough to say conclusively what the stars and powers are or how, exactly, they will fall and shake. It's possible that all three will happen.