Generations: Mark 13:28-31
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday March 28, 2021

Today’s passage isn’t difficult unless you already know what it means.  I’m going to say that again, today’s passage isn’t difficult unless you already know what it means.

I say that because the topic we talked on last week, 3 primarily views on the end times in scripture, are immediately called into play when we understand these words.   What you believe of the end times shapes how you understand this – and maybe how you understand this should inform your view on the end times.

  • Amil
  • Post-Mil
  • Pre-Mil

Much of these views bend around a millennial disagreement.  So, let’s read something:

We read Revelation 20:1-8 and it’s 6 mentions of the 1000 year period.  I’m going to again lean into historical grammatical hermeneutic, if you start by saying I have a view of the end times you can end with alternative approaches that satisfy your view, if you start with a plain reading of scripture, you will come out consistently with one view.  Premillennialism.

Revelation 20:1-8 (ESV)

The Thousand Years

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.

2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,

3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.

6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

The Defeat of Satan

7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison

8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

That is it, anything more or less is theater or philosophical musings.   A non-premillennial camp will find one or two verses which introduce confusion and START there and work for conclusions.  This is dishonesty and it is important to be clear on these issues – because, as we said last week our inputs impact our outputs and when we’re ingesting God’s word, our outputs are our conclusions about His nature, His character, and His word.  Knowing His word is important, what we communicate about what He has said is vastly important and so we should be concerned with how we understand it.

Of the amillenal view, we said that this view understand that the kingdom’s spiritual and that there IS not a millennial period on earth, there is not a time where Jesus comes again, and the myriad of promises that God made to Israel transfer to the church.  The amillenal would say that the future kingdom is new earth and life in heaven comes after this life and that there is no physical kingdom as God’s kingdom is now in the world and that Jesus as victorious rules His church today.

Post-Mil or postmillennialism would say that there is an extended peace on earth NOW, largely because of Christianity preaching and teaching on moralism.  This view would hold that after a millennial period Jesus will come back after this 1000 year reign of peace that we’re in the middle of now *crickets and which just means, a long time, the church becomes increasingly influential and powerful it conquers philosophy, other religions, government and all become obedient to Christ – as you can imagine things get better and better as time goes and this sets the stage for Jesus’ return.  Also, in this postmillinial view, as in amillenal view Israel through disobedience forfeited their promises (but not punishments/curses) to the Church.

The premillennial (my view/our view) is an output of grammatical historical reading of scripture where Jesus comes BEFORE his 1000 years on earth to a wicked place (which we’re currently preparing for Him, and doing a mighty fine job of, might I add) to retrieve his church.

Last week, we read Jesus’ words in verses 24-27 with a distinctly premillennial perspective and found the read to be most natural, unforced, and helpful.  Extending from here we get into verses 28-31 which are thought but non-premillennialists to be difficult.

Mark 13:24-27 (ESV)

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

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.

Remember we said, What you believe of the end times shapes how you understand this – and maybe how you understand this should inform your view on the end times, lets read this text and ask some questions:

Mark 13:28–31 (ESV)

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

28 “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.

I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have a fig tree and don’t really know any tree lessons.  I know they’re expensive to remove and/or otherwise maintain like trim.  I know they’re fickle; once a company told me I need to treat my trees to keep them health, had a huge oak, a cherry tree and some others and after their treatment the cherries never bloomed again and I had to have all the dead trees removed for an investment of over 3,000 – so I know there is something to know about trees that’s very specific.

Seasonally things change in measurable ways.  We know THAT in Pennsylvania very well, don’t we.  Florida has perpetual summer things are hot and humid or hotter and extremely humid.  We go from very cold and dry (thankfully we’re leaving that now) to being hot and humid before we know it.  There are some places that I drive back roads where I always marvel at this time of year – I’m always looking into the woods for deer – and in the winter and now, I can see into the woods fairly well and pretty far.  However right now, if you look closely at the tree branches green buds are starting to come out, lawns are going from being covered in snow and having dead ends and a yellow twinge to waking back up.  This is the forced changes that come with the seasons, and this is what Jesus was drawing on here – the kinds of things that come about as the seasons turn and change and specific differences come would be generally known in the fig tree.  The branches of the tree go from dry and seemingly lifeless to budding, filling up with sap again, becoming tender and ready to change.  Like my back road drives where I can stare through the woods looking for deer, within the next month they’ll be walls of green I can hardly see a few feet into.

Jesus’ lesson is, when you see the early beginnings of the seasonal changes coming, you’re aware of the types of things that are going to happen next.  When the sap comes into the branches, you may not be a professional tree arborist, but you know things are greening up.

29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

I think that people have indexed heavily on verse “these things” to explain this passage, but I think the REST 29 is actually key.  Let’s look at a few reasons why…

The linkage of “these things” is thought to be in 13:3

Mark 13:3 (ESV)

Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”

2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Signs of the End of the Age

3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,

4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”

That said the conclusion would be, when Jesus says: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” there is no issue with resolution, because he was talking about the destruction of the temple in 13:1-2.

However, if that was true, are we to abandon verses 4-27?  Rather than indexing so hard off of “these things” as a clue to ignore 23 verses of preceding Scripture, there is a more natural reading.  The more natural reading honors our hermeneutic of grammatical historical understanding and would look like this.

Mark 13:5-27 (ESV)

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.

6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.

8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.

13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The Abomination of Desolation

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out,

16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.

17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 

18 Pray that it may not happen in winter.

19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be.

20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.

21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.

22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,

25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

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.

Jesus in verses 1-2 tells His disciples about the pending destruction of the temple (which happened in 70ad).  Then when they ask to understand that better, he talks of a transitional period with rumors of wars and false Christs (this isn’t the end – 13:7)

He talks of a time of 7-8 unrest which BEGIN the birth pains (if wars and national revolt and earthquakes and famines are all taking place BEFORE/leading up to the temple destruction we’re dealing with a really tight active timeline.

Continuing on – people will stand before governors -… V10. “and the gospel must FIRST be proclaimed to all nations” – did that happen before ad70?

Continuing through, 14 Jesus says “let the reader understand” who is the reader, He is talking to Peter, James, John, and Andrew – (Mark 13:4, privately).  A few things to appreciate here the tense changes to 3rd person singular imperative – he directs to “the reader”, you could argue that the tense changes to “the reader” of the Danielic text that Pastor John Nicholas pointed to in the “abomination of desolation – and I think you’d be right to do so, but to see this as just instructing the 4 to rightly understand Daniel is talking about their next 20 years to to flatten the text, ignore everything that precedes and rob ourselves of honestly understanding the text.  Because the Danielic text, which was prophetic of future events, that Jesus calls on now talks about specific literal things that didn’t happen in these guys’ life times.

“such tribulation as has not been from the beginning”

“until now and will never be”

Nothing like that happened, this is why I say “this passage isn’t difficult unless you already know what it means” and have to force Mark 13:3-27 into Peter, James, John, and Andrew’s generation .  So understanding the grammar and understanding the history we’d see that break and calling into our perspective (the reader, not the hearer) that we’re past their generation and into the future events that will come at the last moments.  Verse 24 helps us understand that EVEN MORE, but in those days AFTER that tribulation”.  Again, unless I missed these worst days in creation, and the tribulation period already happened, we’re into the future when the sun is darkened, the stars fall, the heaven shakes, Jesus returns with GREAT POWER AND GLORY, and the angles gathers all the elect.. this is CLEARLY in the future for the reader to understand against Daniel’s text, so without pausing or taking a week off between 27 and 28 – I’ve just told you about the tribulation and rapture up-and-against the prophetic texts of Daniel, learn the less on the the fig tree and see when seasonal signs of change start, you’ll know when these things (V29) what things – sun darkens heaven shake, we’re not in verses 1/2 of Mark 13 getting explication of the Temple destruction *(we know 4-28 hasn’t happened) we’re talking around the time of the abomination of desolation and tribulation period(s), verse 24 “in those days AFTER that tribulation) so now Jesus is getting specific on a generational group of people (it’s not the 4 dudes, it’s tribulation people around the time of the gathering of the elect Mark 13:27)

30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The problem becomes the answer… “this generation”, it’s only hard if you think 4-27 had to take place for 70 AD so that you can be amillenal, for the premillennial this just reads. THIS generation is THIS generation that Jesus is talking about who live in THOSE days (V24) after the tribulation when the sun darkens and the stars fall, again – you’ll know if you’re in THOSE days it won’t be like hey you can see either right…. And just before you couldn’t see you noticed the heavens shake, and the stars fall, and Jesus comes back…. Right?

31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

That is, that is the great encouragement.

Maybe you’re like wait, that sounds awful.  Well, yes and no.

Read verse 31 again, and stop trying to NOT be premillennial.  Verse 31 is the encouragement.

All this sounds like chaos and madness – but Jesus’ word will not pass away, what He says will come to pass and that’s the great exchange of all humanity, truth for lie.

Since our first parents, generation 1, Adam and Eve, we’ve traded lies for truth, evil for good.  Satan challenged them, God is withholding something, he believed against God’s good word, but we, in Christ the Word of God have the opportunity to reverse that very curse, and re-understand life and truth – trusting in God.

This is why sin isn’t potty words and being mean, but rather sin is doubt of God’s faithful and True word – sin is that we trust our own understanding and ignore God’s explanation having exchanged truth for lie.  How do we reverse the unavoidable consequence for choosing a lie against God – but no longer choosing that lie, by no longer working actively against God, but coming to Him under His own means, through His son’s tested obedience and fidelity, His son Jesus perfect witness of faith – we come under that construct, we look to Christ and in HIS power, come to God giving over our everything to Christ, staying IN Him and we become new –

John 3:3 (ESV)

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

I pray you’ll see this truth, this fidelity in His word, and be called to salvation in Christ.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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