It was Tuesday afternoon before the Friday of His crucifixion. Jesus and His disciples were leaving the Jerusalem temple when some began to remark about its huge stones and magnificent buildings. Jesus said to them, “Do you see all these great buildings?” . . . “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2 NIV). Later, while sitting on the mount of Olives opposite the temple, they asked Jesus when this catastrophe would happen and what sign would precede it (v.4). His answer – “Watch out that no one deceives you!” (v.5).
Jesus’ first warned that there will be those who try to use the expectation of His second coming to lure His disciples away from Him to follow them (false Christs) (v.6). Second He warned them not to become anxious about current events, i.e. wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and the like (verses 7-8). Next, He gave them notice that His disciples would suffer the world’s abuse because of Him, but they would be saved in the end (verses 9-13). Jesus was describing the intervening years between His departure (Acts 1:10 -11) and His return (Revelation 1:7).
He then said, “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong — let the reader understand” (Mark 13:14 NIV). In other words, “Here is a definite sign that the temple’s destruction is imminent.” The abomination references an idol image set up in the temple which would desolate or desecrate it and require its abandonment. Such a defilement had been prophesied by Daniel in 11:31-32 and occurred during the reign of Syrian ruler Anitochus Epiphanes in 167 B.C. The temple of Jesus’ day was again violated and utterly destroyed by Roman General Titus in A.D. 70. Those who visit Jerusalem today will not find one stone of that once great edifice left standing upon another – just as Jesus said. Daniel also foretold another temple desecration still future (Daniel 9:25-27). And both Apostles Paul and John prophesied it will be perpetrated by Antichrist just prior to Jesus’ second coming (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4,8-9; Revelation 13:1-10,14-15).
Jesus’ point in this prophetic discourse recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 was to encourage His disciples then and in every generation to anticipate and watch for His return. We cannot know the day or the hour (Mark 13:32), but we can and should recognize the signs of the season: “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (v.29). In early March in Georgia, it is easy to recognize the signs of approaching spring. Come late October, you know autumn is very near. Jesus has given us very definite indicators that His return is imminent. Are you watching? Don’t fall asleep! As Paul instructed the Roman believers – Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. (Romans 13:11-12 NLT). Hallelujah!