Bible Study – 33rd Sunday in ordinary time
1st reading – Daniel 12: 1-3
2nd Reading – Hebrews 10: 11-14,18
Gospel – Mark 13: 24-32
The notes on the front of our church bulletin tell us that Chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel is called the “Little Apocalypse”, while the Book of Revelation is known as the “Great Apocalypse”.
As Jesus’ words about the “end times” should take precedence over any human thoughts and interpretations on the matter I will type out Chapter 13 with some sub-headings of my own to see if a sequence of events can be determined. I may put some other comments in brackets by way of explanation. I will be using the Jerusalem Bible.
Mark Chapter 13
Prophesy of the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
As he (Jesus) was leaving the Temple (in Jerusalem), one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look at the size of those stones, Master!. Look at the size of those buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You see these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’
(In 70AD the Roman army under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and it’s Temple to suppress the first Jewish Revolt. A Roman colony ‘Aelia Captitolina’ was built on the site by Hadrian circa 130AD leading to the second Jewish revolt which was finally suppressed in 136AD. Judea was then renamed Syria-Palestina and the Jewish population was dispersed throughout the Roman empire.)
And while he was sitting facing the Temple, on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John and Andrew questioned him privately, ‘Tell us, when is all this going to happen, and what sign will there be that all this is about to be fulfilled?’
The Birthpangs – deceptions, wars, earthquakes and famines
Then Jesus began to tell them, ‘Take care that no one deceives you. Many will come using my name and saying, “I am he”, and they will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed, this is something that must happen, but the end will not be yet. For nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes here and there; there will be famines. This is the beginning of the birthpangs.’
Persecution and the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations
‘Be on your guard: they will hand you over to sanhedrins: you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them, since the Good News must first be proclaimed to all the nations.’
‘And when they lead you away to hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what to say; no, say whatever is given you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking: it will be the Holy Spirit.’
‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on my account; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’
(We might consider how this applies to the apostles at that time, to all Christians down through the ages, to us now, and those believers at the end times. Remember that of all the Apostles, only John died a natural death and he suffered torture and imprisonment. All the others were martyred. They all had the promise and assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as do we.)
The Desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem
‘When you see the disastrous abomination (the abomination that causes desolation) set up where it ought not to be, let the reader understand, then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains; if a man is on the housetop, he must not come down to go into the house to collect any of his belongings; if a man is in the fields, he must not turn back to fetch his cloak. Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come! Pray that this may not be in winter.’
(ref 1 Maccabees 1: 54 – Antiochus Epiphanes IV desecrated the Temple in 167BC, a forerunner of this end times desecration. See also Daniel 9: 27. For this to happen again would imply that the Temple needs to be rebuilt. Although us Catholics might wonder if this could involve a Church in Jerusalem where mass (the daily sacrifice – that is the sacrifice of Jesus – re-presented) is said, just a thought.)
(Incidentally, if you look at Luke 21: 5-36 verse 20 says, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate.’ – Before the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD the Jewish Christians left to seek refuge in the city of Pella. They saw the signs and acted accordingly. We can see in this a partial fulfillment of the prophecy with every prospect of a greater fulfillment in the future.)
The Great Tribulation aka The Big Trouble
‘For in those days there will be such distress as, until now, has not been equalled since the beginning when God created the world, nor ever will be again. And if the Lord had not shortened that time, no one would have survived; but he did shorten that time, for the sake of the elect whom he chose. And if anyone says to you then, “Look, here is the Christ” or, “Look, he is there”, do not believe it; for false Christs and false prophets will arise and produce signs and portents to deceive the elect, if that were possible. You therefore must be on your guard. I have forewarned you of everything.
(Remember, forewarned is forearmed.)
Signs in the heavens
‘But in those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.’
The coming of the Son of Man
‘And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.
(In order to see the Son of Man, the lights must be back on – this could be a supernatural light.)
When? – there are signs, but only the Father knows the day and hour
‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But as for that day and hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’
(The generation Jesus was speaking to has passed away, though some will have seen the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. So this means, if I stick my neck out, that it is the generation that sees the signs, beginning with the birthpangs, that will not pass away before Jesus returns. It may or may not happen in our lifetime.)
“I say to all, Stay Awake!”
‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’
Summary This chapter can be very distressing for those of us who have relatives and friends who aren’t saved, but that, perhaps, should only be a spur to evangelism.
The overall scenario is; for a short time things get worse and worse until they are the worst they have ever been, then they very suddenly get better than they have ever been and stay that way forever.
We need to be saying that the gift of salvation is free, you can’t earn it and you don’t deserve it but Jesus wants to give it to you anyway. You only have to accept it.
Romans 10: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Now go through it again and just read the sub-headings.
Graham Kendrick song on this album “Make it Soon” move on to 32mins 42 sec.
This site is very good for the Catholic view on these things;
Here is an extract;
The Catechism provides us with a general order of events at the End [CCC 673-677]. Chronologically they are,
1. the full number of the Gentiles come into the Church
2. the “full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles” (#2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, #1)
3. a final trial of the Church “in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” The supreme deception is that of the Antichrist.
4. Christ’s victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgment.