“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Mark 13:24-30)
Well, the last few days of Bible reading have been of the Olivet discourse, which has been one of difficulty in terms of interpretation. I’ve been avoiding writing on it because of the difficulty of confronting the problematic but popular teaching. Popular teaching has assumed this is speaking of events in the future which has led many to an unhealthy speculation of current events and an hyper-attentiveness to the land of Israel and the Middle East. But the text’s clues point us to the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The most clear is verse 30, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Jerusalem destruction was a judgment. The parable of the tenants of the vineyard and others were clearly warning of such. The parable of the wedding banquet goes further to explain how the invitation to the wedding will then go to even the beggars in the streets (or something like that). The verse that has tripped people up in connecting this passage to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD is verse 26, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” This is often associated with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But these events are very different purposes. The even in Mark is an event of judgment. The event in 1 Thessalonians is a reassurance given about a future resurrection, which will be led by Jesus own return. They are unrelated events. So, what is the impact of this understanding of Mark 13? It is to know where we are in redemptive history. We are not waiting for a time of tribulation as described in Mark (which is not to say we should not expect persecution) to the point that we are distracted and obsessed by it. Instead, we are in the time of verse 27, “And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” We are in the gathering time. That is our calling! We are to “go and make disciples of all nations…” We are to “proclaim the excellencies of he who called us out darkness and into his marvelous light…” We are “go and tell what God has done for us.” This is our mission, our commission from Jesus himself.
Lord, help us remember what era of redemptive history in which we live that we might take up our purpose with zeal and joy.