Mark 13 Part 2

14.  “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

The Lord refers to the prophecy of Daniel next and the prediction he made of an abomination of desolation being set up in the temple.  We can read of this in Daniel 9:27.

He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

Here we read of “the prince who is to come,” and see him setting up this abomination.  We can see too that “where it ought not” be set up is in the temple.  This is confirmed in Matthew 24:15, which says it is set up in the holy place, which is in God’s temple in Jerusalem.

Once this abomination is set up, the Lord calls upon those who see it to flee.  Many warn that when this time comes, all believers should be ready to “head for the hills” to get away from the terrible things to come.  Yet this urgent call to flee is not made to people in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world, but specifically to those “in Judea.”   After all, this call is for “you” who “see” the abomination set up, and who will see it but those who are actually there and living around the temple?  They will be privy to what goes on in it, they will be the ones who will see it set up, and they are the ones who at this time must flee.  Those who today in the Gentile world think that they will have to “flee to the mountains” in that future day are mistaken.  The flight will take place from Judea, and will be led by the twelve disciples.  For ultimately it is not all those in Judea who must see this and flee, but only these twelve men, as Christ commands that they should do this when “you” see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not.  As we have seen above, the antecedent to the “you” here is clearly these four disciples to whom He was speaking!  When they see this abomination of desolation, they are to lead this flight of those who are in Judea to the mountains.  This passage is not a warning or a command for the world at large.

15.  “Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house.
16.  “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

These verses speak of the urgency of the flight.  If those who are in Judea happen to be on a housetop when the call comes to flee, they are not to go down into the house to pack.  If they are in the field, they are not to return to the house, even to get their clothes.  Rather, they are to drop everything and flee.  The call to flee is urgent, and one who dallies might find himself facing the same fate as Lot’s wife, who looked back as they fled from the destruction of Sodom and was turned to a pillar of salt.  (Genesis 19:26)

Yet how will they live in the mountains without taking anything with them to help in their survival?  We learn the answer to this in Revelation 12:13-14, where, speaking of this same event, we read:

13. Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 14.  But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

So these people will be cared for, even in the wilderness without supplies.  How much better will they be there than if they stayed in Jerusalem and faced all the evils that are to happen there!

17.  “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

It would be wise for those who see that day approaching to abstain from intercourse, even as it was wise for the Corinthians to do so in days past, as Paul counseled them to in I Corinthians 7.  This is a circumstance only brought about by extreme conditions, however, as pregnancy is a good thing at most times.

Remember, too, that these words are spoken to the disciples, who will be among the leadership at that time.  The word “woe” in Greek can have two meanings.  One is the one we usually assign to the word: that is, sorrow.  The other, however, is to “give due heed” to something.  An example of woe being used in this way is in Luke 6:26.

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Now if all men spoke well of me, I would not be sorrowing or thinking it was a bad thing.  Yet I would need to take due heed to this, for men are far more likely to speak well of one who is not doing what pleases God than one who is.  This would be a wake-up call to me to take due heed to what I was doing, for I might not be doing what I should be doing if I have no enemies!

So in this passage, I think the Lord is calling for due heed to be taken to those women who are pregnant or nursing babies.  Remember, these men to whom He was speaking will be responsible for leading this desperate flight from Judea.  Now the Lord gives them instructions for that flight: that they are to give due heed to women in this condition at that time.  Though they may have picked an unwise time to become pregnant or to be nursing, they are now obeying the Lord by fleeing as He commanded, and due heed is to be given to them to care for them during these difficult events.  This is the Lord’s compassion showing through, and not a mere declaration of sorrow upon such women.

18.  “And pray that your flight may not be in winter.

Winter, although not anything like I would be used to in Minnesota, is quite uncomfortable in Palestine, and it would be best if this flight took place at a more pleasant time of year.  Yet we need to realize that ultimately winter is not just the technical time of year between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  Rather, winter is a condition of things characterized by certain weather conditions, like snow or uncomfortable or even deadly cold.  In the state where I live, winter lasts much longer than the three months allotted to it, whereas in some places of the world the conditions that we call winter never occur no matter what time of year it is.  Thus, though the calendar might show that it is winter when this flight takes place, with the prayers of the Israelites of those days, however, God will doubtless see to it that this prayer is answered, and the weather conditions will be pleasant for their flight, whether it is technically winter or not.

19.  “For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.

The Lord quotes from Daniel 12:1, and reveals this truth.  In those days there is a great tribulation of men on the earth, so great that there has not been such a tribulation since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be (except at that time.)  Men often are greatly exercised about the tribulation today.  By many, it is thought that this will be the most terrible time that there ever has been upon the earth.  Men fear the tribulation, and call upon others to come to Christ lest they are doomed to go through it.  “Tribulation” is supposed to mean a terrible suffering exceeding in intensity anything that even the Jews went through during the recent holocaust.  Yet this word “tribulation” in Greek does not mean anything similar to the word “holocaust.”

The word “tribulation” in English comes from the word “tribulum,” which speaks of a machine used for the sifting of wheat.  A “tribulum” was sort of a mechanical version of what in Bible times they called a “threshing floor.”  The tribulum would cast the grain into the air, and the wind would carry the chaff away.  The grain, however, would fall to the ground.  Thus, the good and the bad could be separated.  So, “tribulation” does not have to do with punishing or causing to suffer.  The grain is not tortured!  Rather, tribulation has to do with dividing the good from the bad.  We might define it as meaning “testing.”  And the Greek word has the same idea in it.  It is the word thlipsis, and can mean trouble or testing.  The tribulation of this future day will be a time when God will be severely testing all men on the earth through the troublesome times that then occur.  He does this to reveal those who are unworthy to enter the time of the thousand year reign of Christ, His parousia.  Those who are chaff will be destroyed, and those who are wheat will be allowed to live on the earth in that great day to come.  This is not such a terrible time as men try to make out, but rather a time for those who truly are faithful to God to shine forth for all to see.

Notice the words of the Lord here regarding the creation.  He speaks of “the creation which God created.”   This repetition is given for emphasis.  This provides the most solemn condemnation of evolution, which teaches that the things that exist were not created at all, but made themselves!  Yet this is not what the Bible teaches.  All things that exist in this universe are a creation, and were created, not by time and chance and nature, but by God.

20.  “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

Jesus Christ reveals here that, unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved.  Yet, for the elects sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.  Our translators have translated it away, but if we would go back to the Greek here, we would see another emphasis here, similar to the one we just considered in the previous verse.  The shortening of the days takes place “for the elect’s sake, whom He elected” or “for the chosen’s sake, whom He chose.”  Again, this gives this statement the most solemn emphasis.  It is for these chosen ones, and for no others, that this time is cut short.

What exactly this means is hard to determine.  The book of Daniel gave the exact amount of time these things will last, as we see in Daniel 7:25.

He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.

Thus, three and a half years are the exact amount of time these things will last.  How, then, can they be cut short?  One possibility comes from a clue in Revelation 8:12.

“Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.”

This speaks of a third of the sun being struck.  If that is the case, in order to keep life on earth, would God bring the earth closer to the sun, thus shortening the days?  This would be a very spectacular fulfillment of this prophecy.  Yet it could also be that the set amount of time that God has placed upon this time IS the shortening of the time.  If God did not limit this time to three-and-a-half years, it might continue on for a long period.  Yet God does not allow this, but cuts the days short.

Yet, whether this means that the days will literally be shorter, or whether this means the days will be short because God will draw them to a close, or whether this means something else entirely is unclear.  The important point is that God does shorten the days, and that He does so for the sake of His elect, His chosen ones.  Indeed, He is ever willing to shorten times of trouble for their sakes!

21.  “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.

These elect, these leaders from Judea led out to the mountains by the twelve themselves, are there because of their obedience to God and their faith in what was written in His Word so many centuries before.  Yet during this time of trouble and persecution, there can be no doubt that these disciples will long for Christ to return and put a stop to all that is taking place.  And it seems that at this time some will come to them and tell them that this very thing has happened.  These will carry stories and rumors, claiming that Christ has returned to earth and is waiting for them in some place or other.  Their stay in the mountains will no doubt be difficult in spite of God’s provision, and they will wish for it to come to an end so they can return to their homes once more.  Yet the Lord warns them that, in spite of the fact that they wish this were so, they are not to believe those who report this.  The fact is that they are right where God wants them at this time: out in the mountains.  As long as they are there, He will protect them and keep them safe.  Yet to leave their mountain refuge is to make themselves open to the traps and schemes of their enemies.  Whether those who bring these reports to them are sincere or not is hard to say.  It may very well be that they are agents of the enemy, seeking to bring them out from God’s protection so that they can be destroyed!  Yet we might hope that those who so faithfully fled from their homes at the Lord’s command will likewise keep His command here and will not listen to those who try through deception to bring them out from the place of safety their Lord has prepared for them.

22.  “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

The Lord quotes from Deuteronomy 13:1 and reveals to them the truth about these supposed sighting of Himself in various places.  The truth is that there will be many deceivers, apparently all powered by Satan to do great wonders to deceive.  In fact, this power is so great and so much a counterfeit of Christ’s that if it were possible, these things might even deceive the elect!  Yet this will not be possible, for the elect will not be there to see them.  Rather, they will be out in the mountains, dwelling there in safety, both from harm and from deception, at their Lord’s command.  The only way they could be deceived is if they leave their place of safety at the summons of these deceivers and go to see the false signs and wonders that they were warned against.  Only then, having left their place of refuge, could they possibly be deceived.  Praise God that, even in our day, He is a place of safety and refuge for all who put their trust in Him, and that as long as we remain in the place of refuge He gives us: the truth of His Word: we can avoid all deception and be kept from all untruth.

23.  “But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

They are to pay attention, for He has warned them ahead of time about all these things.  Thus, if they do take heed, they will not listen to these false reports, will not seek out these false christs, and will not fall for their counterfeit signs and wonders.  If they take heed and remain in their refuge in the mountains, they will be safe from all harm!