Hamilton Smith's Writings
( Mark 13) THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The low condition of the Jews has been exposed and the leaders of every party condemned in the presence of the Lord. They had rejected, and were about to crucify their Messiah. This supreme wickedness would bring the nation under the governmental judgment of God leading to the great tribulation foretold by the prophets. This would entail difficulties and dangers, suffering and persecution, for the Lord"s true disciples- the godly remnant in the midst of an ungodly nation. To prepare them for these terrible days, the Lord alone with His disciples, foretells the course of events, warning them of the dangers to which they will be exposed, and instructing them how to act in the presence of these perils.
(Vv1, 2). This instruction is introduced by one of the disciples calling the Lord"s attention to the beauty and magnificence of the temple. The Lord admits that the buildings were great, but, that which is so admired by men had become a den of thieves in the sight of God and was doomed to destruction. Not one stone would be left upon another.
(Vv3, 4). This statement that would sound so strange to those who looked upon the temple as the house of God and the glorious centre of their religion, leads one of the disciples to ask, "When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?"
In the discourse that follows, the Lord does much more than answer these questions. They were thinking of events, but the Lord had before Him His own and their sufferings and dangers in the midst of the events. Moreover, in the account given by Mark, the Lord, in harmony with the special purpose of the gospel, very specially admonishes His disciples as to their service in bearing testimony to Himself in the midst of the nation by whom He has been rejected.
To understand the warnings and instructions, it is very necessary to remember that the disciples represent the godly Jewish remnant, and therefore the ministry of which the Lord speaks is not distinctively christian ministry in connection with Christianity, though there are many principles and truths that equally apply to both God"s earthly and heavenly people. It is a ministry that was commenced by the twelve in the midst of the Jews during the Lord"s presence on earth, and, after His ascension was continued amongst the Jews until the rejection of the Holy Spirit at the stoning of Stephen. It will again be taken up by a godly remnant amongst the Jews after the Church has been caught away, and will widen out to all nations. The gospel they preached, and will yet preach, is not exactly the gospel that is preached today. It will indeed be Christ and His work that they proclaim, and the grace of God that forgives sinners on the ground of Christ"s work. But it will be the good news that He is coming to reign and that repentance and forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ is the way of entrance into the blessings of the earthly kingdom. ( Revelation 14:6-7).
(Vv5, 6). The Lord opens His discourse with five warnings. First, the disciples are warned against false Christs. Many will come in the Name of Christ; some even daring to say "I am Christ," and the Lord adds, that such will "deceive many." This warning proves how distinctly the Lord has in view the godly remnant in the midst of the Jewish nation. Christians, instructed in Christian truth, would not be deceived by a man professing to be the Christ; for they know the next time they will see Christ it will be in the clouds. The godly remnant will rightly be looking for Christ to appear on the earth, and therefore might easily be deceived by the report that He had come.
(Vv7, 8). Secondly, the disciples are warned against concluding that the end is near on account of "wars and rumours of wars." "Such things must needs be" in a world that has rejected Christ. Wars, earthquakes, famines and troubles, are the beginning of sorrows, not the end.
(Vv9-11). Thirdly, the disciples are warned that their testimony will bring them into conflict with the authorities of the world. But this persecution would be the means used of God to bring the gospel before the great ones of the earth- a "testimony to" rulers and kings (N. Tr.). Moreover, this gospel must first be preached among all nations before the end when Christ comes. In view of this testimony, and the persecution it entails, the Lord instructs His disciples not to be careful beforehand as to what they shall say when prisoners before the great ones of the earth, nor to prepare their defence. It would be given them what to say, in that hour, for they would not be the speakers, but simply the mouthpiece of the Hole Ghost.
(V:12). Fourthly, the disciples are warned that the presentation of the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit awakens such enmity in the human heart that persecution will come from natural relations, and the closer the relationship the more bitter the hatred. Brother will rise against brother, father against Song of Solomon, and children will rise up against parents, causing them even to be put to death.
(V:13). Fifthly, the disciples are warned that the persecution would not only come from those in authority, and from the closest natural relations, but, they would be hated of all men because of their confession of the Name of Christ. But he that endures to the end will be saved- whatever the end may be, whether a martyr"s death or the coming of Christ to the earth. As ever, the test of reality is continuance. There may, indeed, be failure, and even the love of many growing cold, but those that are real will endure. Peter broke down, but his faith did not fail; he continued to the end.
(Vv14-20). In the portion of the discourse that follows, the Lord passes on to speak of events that are yet future. The Church period is passed over in silence, and we learn what will take place at Jerusalem during the time of the great tribulation that will follow the Church interval. This terrible time is definitely foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, who says, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it, it is even the time of Jacob"s trouble" ( Jeremiah 30:7). Again, Daniel looks on to this time, when he says, "There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since here was a nation even to that same time" ( Daniel 12: l). So in the corresponding passage in Matthew 24:21, as well as in this discourse recorded by Mark, the Lord tells us that in the time of this great tribulation there shall be days of affliction "such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be."
The destruction of Jerusalem, with all its horrors, may have foreshadowed the future, but in nowise fulfils the prophecy of this time of trouble. We learn from this passage that immediately following the great tribulation, the Lord will come to earth. It is evident that after the destruction of Jerusalem the Lord did not come. Moreover there cannot be two times of tribulation "such as never were." Furthermore, Daniel tells us that this time of trial for the Jewish nation will take place during the reign of Antichrist, who will be received by the nation that has rejected their own Messiah ( John 5:43). During the reign of this wicked man there will be set up the most terrible form of idolatry which the Lord refers to as "the abomination of desolation." The effect will be to spread desolation in Jerusalem and Judaea.
The setting up of this abomination will be the culmination of man"s hostility to God. It will be the sign that the testimony of the godly remnant is finished, and that they are to flee from Judaea to the mountains. There has been nothing in the past, nor will there be in the future, to equal the terrible afflictions of these days. It will be so great, both for the nation and the godly remnant, that unless the Lord shortens the days no flesh will survive. For the elect"s sake the days of this great trial will be shortened.
As ever, the Lord thinks of His own in the midst of trials and afflictions. He warns them, He instructs them, and He cares for them. He thinks of the workmen in the field and the women in the home, and he is not unmindful of the weather.
(Vv21-23). The Lord warns the disciples against false hopes of deliverance; against false reports, of false Christs; against false prophets, false signs, and apparent wonders. Their safety will be in remembering the words of the Lord, "I have foretold you all things."
(Vv24, 25). "In those days"", following upon the great tribulation amongst the Jews, all established authority among the Gentiles will be overthrown. The order that God has established for the government of the world will fall into confusion. Supreme power, as figuratively set forth by the sun, is darkened. Derived authority, as figured by the moon, ceases to have any influence, and subordinate authorities, likened to the stars, lose their place and power. This dispensation, in spite of all men"s boasted progress will end in unparalleled tribulation, confusion and anarchy.
(V:26). The wickedness of Jew and Gentile having come to a head, God publicly intervenes by the coming of Christ as the Son of Man to take possession of the earth. His first coming was in circumstances of weakness and humiliation; His second coming will be in great power and glory.
(V:27). The gathering together of the elect of Israel dispersed among the Gentiles, will immediately follow the coming of the Son of Man. We know from other Scriptures, that the Church will have already been gathered to meet Christ in the air, and will appear with Him; but of this we hear nothing in this passage. The Lord is speaking to Jewish disciples, and of Jewish hopes, and does not speak of truths concerning the Church and of which His hearers, at that time, could have no knowledge.
(Vv28, 29). The fig tree putting forth its tender leaves assures us that summer is nigh. So the appearance of the godly remnant in the midst of the apostate nation of Israel will presage the near approach of the time of blessing for the nation.
(Vv30,31). The perverse and unbelieving generation of the Jews will not pass away till all these things be done. They may, indeed, be scattered among the nations, with no land of their own, but as we know they have never been absorbed by other nations. Moreover, the Lord"s words will not pass away till all these things be fulfilled. We know this must be true of all the Lord"s words; but it is specially stated in regard to His second coming because of the unbelief of our hearts as to any intervention of God in regard to the course of this world.
(Vv32-36). Of the day of His coming knoweth no Prayer of Manasseh, not even the Son who had become Man. Speaking as in the place of a Servant He could say He knows not the day. Not knowing the day, we are to "watch and pray." Christ is as one who has gone into a far country and given authority to his bondmen and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Let the Lord"s servants watch, therefore, lest coming suddenly He may find them overcome by the world, and spiritually asleep to Himself.
(V:37). The Lord"s closing words are an exhortation to all His people. All the details of the future may not have an immediate application to Christians, but the closing word to watch is for all. Believers, of every dispensation receive their authority from the Lord, and are the servants of the Lord, each having some work given to them by the Lord. Each one is to beware of falling into spiritual sleep and failing to work for the Lord.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Mark 13". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25