When Life Puts You in a Press – Mark 14:32–42

This is more or less a transcript from a Facebook Live video that I provided to my church yesterday morning. I hope you find it to be an encouragement during trying times. Bold formatting indicates main points and Scriptural quotations from the ESV.

Imagine being pressed from all sides in life, find yourself in a somewhat isolated location, have only a few people with you, and even they do not quite give the encouragement that you wish.

That’s Jesus in Gethsemane. I’m going to be speaking from Mark 14:32–42.

Mark 14:32–42 (ESV)

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Gethsemane (14:32) means “olive press” in Hebrew and was a garden just past the brook Kidron where Jesus often met with his disciples and thus known to Judas (Luke 22:39, “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives”; John 18:1–2, “…there was a garden… Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples”).

In the New Bible Dictionary, the entry for “Olive” states, “The oil was usually extracted from the berries by placing them in a shallow rock cistern and crushing them with a large upright millstone. Occasionally the berries were pounded by the feet of the harvesters (Dt. 33:24; Mi. 6:15), but this was a rather inefficient procedure. After being allowed to stand for a time the oil separated itself from foreign matter, and was then stored in jars or rock cisterns.”

Jesus was “in the press,” so to speak—this was the night before His death, and His disciples would desert Him. In Mark 14:27, referring to their response to His looming arrest, He told the twelve “You will all fall away.” Besides this, He who knew no sin would become sin for us and be separated from His Father for a time on the cross.

What might you be facing today? Has the temporary halt in our economy hit your wallet yet? Are you about to snap because of the time you’ve been sheltered in your place? Do you have other concerns that are weighing you down on top of this? Are you a single parent trying to figure out when to see your child? Are you elderly and wanting to see your grandchildren but have to wait until April 7?

Imagine this: I have a sister-in-law who is a nurse with 4 young children, and she may have to work on a floor helping those with COVID-19. If nothing else, just walking into the hospital is going to increase the risk for her (and thus her children) receiving the virus. Added to this, her husband in the army was just deployed to help our country with the situation as well.

Whatever our concerns may be, Mark 14:32–42 is an excellent passage for us today for multiple reasons:

  • We can learn from the example of Jesus how He persevered through a time of suffering.
  • In keeping with greater point of Mark, we can be encouraged as believers to remember what it was for our Savior to suffer for us.
  • For anyone who is not a Christian, this video will give you an explanation for how you can know Christ, find eternal life in Him, and know that you will one day see His face and be with Him and the Father in heaven forever.

Getting to our passage, Mark 14:32–42 records a series of “threes”: (1) Jesus tells the three (Peter, James, and John) to pray and watch with Him three times (Mark 14:34, 37, 38); (2) the three sleep three times (Mark 14:37, 40, 41); and (3) Jesus prays three times (Mark 14:35–36, 39, 41).

Let’s walk through this cycle of “threes” one by one, and we will close with some applications for our lives at the end.

Jesus prays the first time (Mark 14:32–36).

As noted, Jesus is in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32) where He took with Him only Peter and James and John, sometimes referred to as “the inner three” of the twelve disciples. They were with Him at the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:37), the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2), and, with Andrew, the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:3).

From Mark’s description of Jesus and his record of Jesus’ words, Jesus was very much “in the press.” Notice these descriptions:

  • He… began to be greatly distressed (Mark 14:33). Distressed (ekthambeō) is translated “amazed” in Mark 9:15 to describe the crowd’s reaction to Jesus. It is translated “alarmed” in Mark 16:5–6 to describe the women’s shock as they came to Jesus’ tomb and found an angel instead of Jesus. One lexicon defines ekthambeō in this way: “to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of someth. causing great surprise or perplexity, be very excited” (BDAG). In context, distressed is an appropriate translation—Jesus is intensely emotionally aroused over the thought of His coming betrayal, trial, torture, and crucifixion.
  • He… began to be… troubled (Mark 14:33). The word for troubled (adēmoneō) is used to describe how the Philippians were “distressed” that Epaphroditus was ill, almost to the point of death (Philippians 2:26–27). Comprehending His own death, Jesus was just as troubled and more.
  • My soul is very sorrowful (Mark 14:34). Sorrowful (perilupos) is a word used to describe how Herod was “exceedingly sorry” when forced to behead the imprisoned John the Baptist (Mark 6:26). The rich young ruler was “very sad” to contemplate giving up his love for riches in order to put his love and trust in Christ (Luke 18:23). As mentioned above, Jesus was sorrowful to think of what was coming His way.
  • He fell on the ground (Mark 14:35). Jesus’ posture matched His inner turmoil. He could only throw Himself down to pray.

And pray He did. Jesus prayed that the hour might pass from Him, the hour when the Father would pour out this cup of wrath against sin on Him on the cross (Mark 14:35–36). Hebrews 5:7 tells us that Jesus prayed “with loud cries and tears . . . and he was heard because of his reverence.” Nonetheless, Jesus submitted to what the Father would will, drinking from the cup as God desired, and would provide a means of salvation for you and me (Mark 14:36).

In commanding the three to remain here and watch, He was asking them to stay with Him and pray as well (Mark 14:34).

Jesus prays the second time (Mark 14:37–39).

Unfortunately, instead of heeding His command, the three were sleeping instead (Mark 14:37). Practically speaking, they had eaten a big meal in Mark 14:17–25. It was also late and when they usually slept. However, this was a special time for the willing spirit to watch and pray and thus not enter into temptation by succumbing to one’s weak flesh, that is, a tired body (Mark 14:38). This temptation for them was to fall away as Jesus prophesied earlier in Mark 14:26–31.

For a second time, Jesus prayed the same words (Mark 14:39).

Jesus prays the third time (Mark 14:40–42).

After praying, Jesus returned and again found them sleeping, with heavy eyes, unable to answer Him (Mark 14:40). That He came the third time back implies that Jesus went prayed a third time as before (Mark 14:41). At this point, the hour for Jesus as the Son of Man had come to be betrayed into the hands of sinners with the betrayer at hand (Mark 14:41–42). With this arrest, the most intense parts of the suffering of Jesus would begin.

Some Applications for Us Today

For Christians…

  • Just as Jesus did, take your trial to God in prayer. It may be that He takes it away, but we should be willing to go through the trial in order for Him to test and strengthen our faith.
  • From Jesus’ admonition to the disciples, remember that prayer is part of the means for you to persevere. They did not pray, and thus they fell away during Jesus’ hour of trial. Jesus prayed, God gave Jesus strength, and Jesus persevered.
  • Fight your flesh and persevere in prayer. It’s easy to be lazy. It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to do something else. But prayer is hard work, and we should be diligent to pray.
  • Your Father will never abandon you, even when others are inattentive at the least or flee from you at most. The disciples slept. The disciples ran away at Jesus’ arrest. But Jesus knew the Father would see Him though it all. Stay close to Him in prayer.

For everyone…

This intense time of prayer was just the beginning of what Jesus would suffer for us. He would be mocked, beaten, and eventually crucified on the cross—all within the next day. In doing so, Jesus as God and man died for the sins of you and me. And in doing so, He died sinlessly in perfect obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. Jesus did not deserve this death, so God raised Him from the grave and thereby vindicated that Jesus was true.

When we truly see our sin as God does—as something worthy of God’s wrath and eternal death—and when we see Christ as we must—as the One who paid the penalty for our sin and who provided the perfect obedience that we cannot—only then will God declare us forgiven, righteous, and holy in His sight. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and no one else for our salvation. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Salvation from eternal death is through no other Name, and no man will be in heaven with the Father apart from believing in His glorious Son.

When Jesus died, God miraculously ripped the 40-foot curtain of the Jerusalem temple from top to bottom, as if to say, “My Son has provided a new and living way for you to come to Me” (see Hebrews 10:19–22). A Roman centurion watched the curtain tear and exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:38–39). We must truly believe and say the same!

Closing Thoughts

For those of us who have echoed the centurion’s words with saving faith in Christ, we know that, whatever this world may bring our way, Christ suffered for us, and in doing so, He left us an example for how to suffer as well. If you find yourself “in the press” today, trust in Christ, take your distress to the Father in prayer, and rejoice to know that your suffering will be over when you are one day with Him.

Mark: A Lesson in Falling Down and Getting Up Again

A few passages about Mark (or John; cf. Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37) teach us a lesson about failure in ministry and then serving again thereafter.

As a young man, Mark’s home was used by the church for prayer and possibly worship (Acts 12:12). With a home large enough for a church gathering, complete with at least one servant (Acts 12:13), his family enjoyed both physical and spiritual blessings. Unsurprisingly, he was recruited for missionary ministry by Barnabas and Saul (not yet Paul) in Acts 12:25.

However, shortly after joining their missionary journey, “John left them and returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13). Though “they had John to assist them” (Acts 13:5), he became “one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). Thus, Paul distrusted him and split from Barnabas who desired Mark to join them on a later journey (Acts 15:36–41).

Why did mark abandon the work? Perhaps he did not like the team’s leadership shift from “Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13:2) to “Paul and his companions” (Acts 13:13). Perhaps the salvation of Gentiles was hard for him to accept as a Jew. Perhaps he did not enjoy the travel, threat of persecution, or distance away from home. We do not know why he abandoned the work, but we know his abandonment was a negative thing.

Thankfully, Mark made a quick recovery. If he deserted in AD 46 in Acts 13:13 but was serving with Barnabas in Acts 15:35–41 in AD 48, his failure did not last long. However, consequences remained. Paul distrusted him and refused to travel with him again.

As time went on, Paul wrote the Colossians about a dozen years later (AD 60 or 61), speaking this of Mark: “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him)” (Col 4:10). As told by Paul, Mark was to serve and be welcomed by this congregation, implying a reconciliation between Mark and Paul.

Yet later, we Mark serving with Peter (1 Pet 5:13), likely during the mid-60s AD when he wrote his Gospel. Paul’s last letter in AD 66 requested of Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim 4:11).

Mark’s desertion was disappointing and brought about the distrust of Paul and likely others. Over time, however, he persisted and regained a reputation for faithfulness. In the end, he was very useful to many and certainly the imprisoned Paul in his final days of ministry.

We all fail from time to time, and our consequences vary according to our failures. Not everyone is so fortunate as Mark to be completely restored over time to a previous position. Nonetheless, whatever our failure may be, God forgives the repentant sinner, and we can serve Him and be faithful again. May God help us towards this end.

Choke-Check: What Keeps the Word from Bearing Greater Fruit in Your Life?

18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19 ESV).

While this passage describes why some unbelievers never believe, it can be applied to believers who struggle to bear fruit because they struggle with these same thorns. Let’s examine the three thorns identified above.1

The Cares of the World: A “care” is a “worry” or “anxiety” and is related to whatever produces such a reaction. A busy schedule, grass to mow, a car to fix, a house to maintain, ―these cares of the world are not necessarily sinful. However, we carelessly increase these cares or care for them so much that we care more for them than how the Word is bearing fruit in our lives. Remember that these cares can choke the growth of the Word in your life. Care for what is necessary, and make sure that your chief care is not of this world―taking time to let God’s Word bear fruit in your life.

The Deceitfulness of Riches: If we are not careful, we can easily orient our lives towards the deceitfulness of riches. Excessive overtime, a side business, a second job, obsessively watching the stock market―we think we’ll have an edge or get ahead of the game with our money. In reality, riches are fleeting, and consuming ourselves with these activities robs us of letting God’s Word bear fruit in our lives.

The Desires for Other Things: The desires for other things are desires for things extra that are not necessary to life. “Cottages, boats, campers, time-shares, real estate, snowmobiles, new cares, new houses, new computers, new iStuff, new video games, new makeup, new DVDs, new downloads” are some examples.2 While these things are not inherently sinful and can be wisely managed, our desire for others things can move us to work for them, get them, and maintain them, taking away from the greater priority of tending the soil of our hearts so that God’s Word will bear fruit in our lives.

John Calvin exhorts, “Each of us ought to endeavor to tear the thorns out of his heart, if we do not choose that the word of God should be choked; for there is not one of us whose heart is not filled with a vast quantify, and, as I may say, a thick forest, of thorns” (emphases original).3

Be mindful of your thorns and tear them out. Order your life around what is most important. Set priorities and stick to them. Say no to the unnecessary, even when you’ve been saying yes for some time. Habits are hard to break, but fruit is hard to grow. Tend the soil of your heart and tear away what robs you from bearing fruit for God.

  1. This passage was brought to mind as I read through Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003). Anyone seeking to free up their schedule for better “fruit-bearing” would do well to read this book. He discusses this passage on pp. 28–30. []
  2. DeYoung Crazy Busy, 29–30. []
  3. John Calvin, Harmony of the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 116. DeYoung cites this quote by Calvin in part in his discussion as well. []

An Unexpected Exit in Mark 14:51–52

“And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked” (Mark 14:51–52).

Who is the naked man in Mark 14:51–52, and why did Mark include this interesting episode in his Gospel?

Similar to how the apostle John identified himself in an unnamed manner in his own gospel (cf. John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20), some suggest that Mark subtly identifies himself in Mark 15:51–52 as the young man who fled naked from the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. Though this conclusion is possible, it is speculative at best. There is simply not enough evidence to conclude the young man was Mark.

A better understanding of this episode is to conclude that we do not know who this man is because Mark did not identify who he was. Neither do the other Gospels record this story, leaving our information about him to be meager at best.

As to why Mark included this story, the context makes it clear. Just as Jesus prophesied (Mark 14:27), the disciples fled at His arrest (14:50). In fact, Mark 14:50 literally ends with the word “all” to emphasize how all had left Jesus behind. Mark 14:51–52 then records a young man being seized, leaving his linen cloth in the hands of his captors, and fleeing in desperation. Mark 14:51–52 demonstrates how chaotic the scene became and that, indeed, all fell away from Jesus at this time.

Along with the context in Mark, there may be an allusion to Amos 2:16 that helps us to better understand Mark 14:50–52 as well. Amos prophesied that God’s judgment on northern Israel would be so severe that “he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day” (Amos 2:16). Similarly, Peter and the other disciples claimed to be stout of heart in that they emphatically denied they would deny Jesus (Mark 14:29, 31). However, when God’s judgment against sin on Christ at the cross was precipitated by Christ’s betrayal and arrest, the disciples cowered and fled, and a young man was so desperate in flight that he left his clothes in the hands of his captors. If Mark intended this allusion, perhaps he subtly pointed to God’s judgment against sin that would be met in Christ’s death on the cross.1

  1. James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Mark (PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 440–41. []

From Sunday to Sunday: A Summary of the Passion Week

The Passion Week refers to the final six days of Jesus’ life before His resurrection, His one full day in the tomb, and the day of resurrection. It is called the Passion Week because the word passion comes from the Greek word pasxō, which means “to suffer.”1

Sunday: Day of Celebration

Matt 21:1–11, 14–17; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:29–44; John 12:12–19

Jesus began this day by going to Jerusalem and ended it by returning to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany. In between these times, the most notable event on this day was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Monday: Day of Confrontation

Matt 21:18–19a, 12–13; Mark 11:12–18; Luke 19:45–48; John 12:20–50

Jesus went from Bethany to the temple in Jerusalem. At the day’s end, He either stayed on the Mount of Olives or returned all the way to Bethany. He cursed the fig tree, cleansed the time, and spoke of the Son of Man being lifted up in glory.

Tuesday: Day of Controversy

Matt 21:19b–25:46; Mark 11:19–13:37; Luke 20:1Luke 21:36

Jesus again went to the temple in Jerusalem and assumedly returned to the Mount of Olives or Bethany at night. He repeatedly silenced the challenges by Israel’s leaders, rebuked them, told many parables, and taught on the end times on the Mount of Olives.

Wednesday: Day of Conspiracy

Matt 26:1–5, 14–16; Mark 14:1–2, 10–11; Luke 22:1–6

The chief priests and scribes plotted to kill Jesus. Later that day, Judas went to these leaders and promised to betray Jesus.

Thursday: Day of Consecration

Matt 26:17–35; Mark 14:12–31; Luke 22:7–38; John 13:1–17:26

Jesus and the twelve celebrated the Passover, the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and gave His “farewell discourse.” He prayed for His disciples.

Friday: Day of Consummation

Matt 26:30–27:61; Mark 14:26–15:47; Luke 22:39–23:56; John 18:1–19:42

Jesus prayed in Gethsemane where He was arrested (approx. 12–3 A.M.). He was then on trial before the Jews and denied by Peter (approx. 3–6 A.M.). Just before 6 A.M., Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin. Judas committed suicide. Jesus was on trial before the Romans and was sentenced to crucifixion (approx. 6–9 A.M.). By this point, Jesus had been flogged twice. At 9:00 A.M., Jesus went to the cross and hung there until 3 P.M. He died, was taken down, and was buried.

Saturday: Day of Cessation

Matt 27:62–66

Jesus laid in the tomb for an entire day. Soldiers appointed by Jewish leaders guarded the tomb.

Sunday: Day of Conquest

Matt 28:1–15; Mark 16:1–7; Luke 24:2–35; John 20:1–17

Jesus arose! On this day, Jesus appeared four times.

  1. The title for each day below comes from Don Howell, Jr., The Passion of the Servant: A Journey to the Cross (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2009), 272–363. For another helpful resource, see also The Final Days of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014) by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Tayler with Alexander Stuart. []

Mark 13:31 – My Words Will Not Pass Away

When Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31), was He somehow saying that the Bible would be preserved?

In context, Jesus’ words in Mark 13:31 were verifying that all that would happen in Mark 13:3–30 would actually come to pass. Even if the universe were to pass away, the content of His words on the matter would not. The end-times events that He prophesied would actually come to pass.

Since Jesus was referring to His oral words in Mark 13:31, His statement does not directly teach anything about the preservation of God’s written words in Scripture. The Bible elsewhere, however, indeed teaches that God’s written words in Scripture will endure forever (Ps 119:152, 160), that is, that they will be preserved.

An indirect way to support the preservation of Scripture comes from Matthew 5:17–18. In that passage, Jesus spoke of the Mosaic Law with the same imagery seen in Mark 13:31. Not one jot or tittle (the smallest of Hebrew letters and markings) of the Law would pass away or be altered in some way unless existence itself ceased to be (cf. also Luke 16:17). Jesus’ point in Matthew 5:17–18 is that the Law could not be changed, implying its continued presence and authority. If the Law were to have a continued presence and authority, it can safely be assumed that it would be preserved in some way.

Having considered Matthew 5:17–18, we see that Jesus’ statement on the endurance of His words in Mark 13:31 effectively placed His words on the same level of Scripture itself and thus God Himself, which is obviously fitting because Jesus is God. What Jesus said would happen would happen, and nothing could change what He had promised. Likewise, what Scripture (and God) says is so, it is so, and nothing can change what Scripture says.

In short, Mark 13:31 does not speak about the written Word of God but the oral words of Jesus recorded earlier in Mark 13. But the written Word of God and the oral words of Jesus (some of which are recorded in Scripture) are indeed the same in that they are authoritative and cannot be changed or made void in any way.

The application of Mark 13:31 to Mark 13:3–30 is that we can fully expect that the events that Jesus prophesied will surely come to pass.

How Daniel 9:24–27 Helps Us Understand Mark 13:14–23

I realize that not everyone shares my conviction of a premillennial and pretribulational understanding of what will take place in the future. I do, as does my church, and we have been working through the Olivet Discourse in Mark 13. For any curious readers, I would encourage being a Berean and looking up the verses referenced as you read through what follows below.

In Daniel’s day, Israel was being punished for 70 years by having been taken captive into Babylon (Dan 9:1–2; cf. Jer 25:11–12). This 70 years was a fitting punishment because Israel had apparently not allowed the land to rest for what would have totaled up to 70 years―a year of rest from farming every seventh year for 490 years (see 2 Chron 36:20–21 with Lev 25:1–7 and Jer 25:8–14).

In Daniel 9:3–19, Daniel repented on Israel’s behalf for the nation’s sins. In response to his prayer, God graciously sent Gabriel to give a message to Daniel about the future (Dan 9:20–23). Just as God was punishing Israel for how she had sinned for 490 years, Daniel was told of how God would deal with Israel for 490 years in the future (Dan 9:24–27). While some translations speak of “seventy weeks” in Dan 9:24 (e.g., ESV), others give the literal rendering, “seventy sevens” (e.g., NIV). The context of Daniel 9 implies that God has 490 years in view.

In Daniel 9:24–27, Gabriel announces that 490 years have been decreed to carry out six purposes that bring a definitive end to this age (Dan 9:24). He then breaks this 490 years into three sections and mentions some events that take place during their time. A “word” would come “to restore and build Jerusalem,” after which 49 years (seven “sevens”) would take place (Dan 9:25; cf. Neh 2:1–8). Then another 434 years (sixty-two “sevens”) would take place during which Israel would continue to rebuild Jerusalem (Dan 9:25). At the end of these 483 total years, there would be “the coming of the anointed one” (Dan 9:25), Jesus Christ, who would be “cut off” by His death on the cross (Dan 9:26).

Just as in Isa 9:6–7 and 61:1–2, there would be a gap in time between the events given in Daniel’s prophecy. 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy have gone by, but the final seven are yet to come, though all of these events are listed together in Daniel 9:24–27. What is yet to come is the final seven years in which the Antichrist shall come and destroy Jerusalem and its temple (Dan 9:26). Though the Antichrist actually makes a peaceful covenant with Israel at the outset of these seven years, he will break this covenant halfway through this time and terrorize Israel until these seven years end (Dan 9:27).

Dan 9:27 is the background to the parallel passages Mark 13:14 and Matt 24:15 and their prophecy of the coming “abomination of desolation.” Along with passages that prophesy the same events (2 Thess 2:3–4; Rev 13:14–15), it appears that the Antichrist will claim to be God, make a statue of himself, set it up in the temple in Jerusalem, and demand his followers to worship it. Mark 13:14–23 tells us what happens at this time.

Prophecy: To Be Continued . . .

Mark 13:11 promises that followers of Jesus will be given words by the Spirit to speak when they stand before civil and religious authorities in the context of persecution. Below is but a brief theological explanation as to why this promise is not for us today but for those in the Tribulation, a time of judgment that ends this age. A practical note is given at the end.

Jesus promised the apostles that “the Spirit of truth” would “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). In Revelation, the last book of the Bible (chronologically and canonically), John warned that God would judge the one who “takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy” (Rev 22:19), and he also warned that God would judge the one who “adds to them,” that is, “the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev 22:18). God thus effectively commanded through John that no additional prophecies were to be given, now that the canon was complete with the book of Revelation. In terms of John 16:13, “all the truth” had been given. It follows that, as the book of Revelation circulated to all the churches with its command to add no more words to its prophecy, so also did any valid claim to the reception and communication of special revelation (a.k.a., prophecy).

Dismissed by the view above are two contemporary views of “non-normative” prophecy (i.e., prophecy binding for those who receive it but not the church at large). One is that prophecy exists today, but is something less in quality than prophecy by OT prophets or the apostles. This revelation could be received without error but then errantly delivered to others. The fault here is that the end result is not revelation if it is something errant but yet from God. Another view is that the gift of tongues carries on today, whether in congregational worship (assumedly alongside the gift of interpretation), evangelism, or private prayer. But if the Spirit is at work to control the language, so also is He involved in giving the words, which is tantamount to prophecy. But if prophecy has ceased, then all gifts pertaining to tongues have ceased as well.

Concerning the Tribulation, a seven-year period of judgment that precedes the millennial reign of Christ on earth, this period is marked by prophecy throughout, an expression of God’s mercy and grace since the church and pillar of truth will have just been raptured into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Thess 4:13–5:11). Among other instances of prophecy that could be noted, it begins with the arrival of two prophets who prophesy (Rev 11:3). Followers of Jesus who are called before the authorities will be given words by the Spirit to speak at that time (Matt 10:20; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12). The Spirit is poured out on sons and daughters who shall prophesy  as well (Joel 2:28)

If a word from God is verbal or written, the authority is the same because these words are from God. A disagreement over the above, then, is to disagree on the matter of authority. Either God speaks today through His written Word, or He speaks through His written word and words He gives to others. If His Word indicates that others do not receive revelation today (as explained above), then we should not believe any claims that God has spoken beyond His written Word.

A Description of the Signs and Coming of Jesus from the Parallel Accounts of the Olivet Discourse

The parallel passages described together below are Matthew 24–25, Mark 13:1–37, and Luke 21:5–36. Matthew adds a number of parables to the section that are not recorded in Mark or Luke, and Luke gives a number of details that are not recorded in Matthew or Mark.

Matthew 24:1–3; Mark 13:1–4; Luke 21:5–7

The disciples pointed out the magnificent temple structure and its details, only to be followed by a prophecy by Jesus that it would destroyed (Matt 24:1–2; Mark 13:1–2; Luke 21:5–6). From this prophecy, Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3) assumed Jesus spoke of the end times and asked Him (1) when the destruction of the temple would take place and (2) what signs would indicate that He would come to bring these things about (Matt 24:3; Mark 13:3–4; Luke 21:7).

Matthew 24:4–8; Mark 13:5–8; Luke 21:8–11

The first sign before Jesus’ coming (when the end will take place) is that many will falsely claim to be the Christ and that the end of time is at hand (Matt 24:5; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). Jesus warned His disciples not to believe these people or follow them (Matt 24:4; Mark 13:5; Luke 21:8). The second sign will be wars and rumors of wars in a time when nations rise against nations (Matt 24:6–7; Mark 13:7–8; Luke 21:9–10). The third, fourth, and fifth signs at this time will be earthquakes, famines, and disease (Matt 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11). Jesus’ command is to not be alarmed when these things take place because the end is not yet (Matt 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9).

Matthew 24:9–14; Mark 13:9–13; Luke 21:10–19

A sixth sign would be the persecution of Christ’s followers. This persecution would be the means whereby the gospel would be proclaimed to the whole world at this time, and the Spirit would give those persecuted the words to say at this time (Matt 24:9–14; Mark 13:9–13; Luke 21:10–19). Jesus gives a sobering reminder that those who persevere in this time will be saved (Matt 24:13; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:19).

Matthew 24:15–28; Mark 13:14–23; Luke 21:20–24

A seventh sign would be the sight of Daniel’s prophesied “abomination of desolation” (likely an image of the antichrist placed in the temple of Jerusalem; cf. Dan 9:27; 12:11; Rev 13:14–15), which would signal a time of unprecedented persecution against the people of God and national Israel (Matt 24:15–28; Mark 13:14–23; Luke 21:20–24). Jerusalem will be trampled, and the end of this time will also mark the end of “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). Jesus’ commands for this time are to urgently flee and be watchful of those who claim to be Christ and even perform miracles to deceive the unbelieving (Matt 24:16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:21).

Matthew 24:29–35; Mark 13:24–31; Luke 21:11, 25–33

After this intense period of tribulation, a number of other signs take place as well. The sun and moon will be darkened (Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24–25; cf. Luke 21:11), and the seas will convulse and bring fear to the nations (Luke 21:25–26). Jesus will be seen on the clouds in the heavens, angels will be sent with a trumpet call, and the elect will be gathered together (Matt 24:30–31; Mark 13:26–27; Luke 21:27–28). Just as when a fig tree’s branches are tender and have yielded leaves, indicating the summer is near, so also these signs indicate the coming of Christ and His kingdom is near (Matt 24:32–35; Mark 13:28–31; Luke 21:29–33). It is these events in particular that would the disciples would know their “redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28; cf. Matt 24:33; Mark 13:29; Luke 21:31).

Matthew 24:36–25:30; Mark 13:32–37; Luke 21:34–36

Believers must watch carefully for this time because no one knows when it will come (Matt 24:36–25:30; Mark 13:32–37). One must watch for this time and pray for strength to escape the chaos of this time (Luke 21:34–36). Matthew gives many parables in this section not given by Mark or Luke.

An Overview of Mark 13:1–37

From Mark itself and no cross-references, here are my own notes in breaking apart and understanding Mark 13 as a whole.

Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:1–2), provoking two questions by four of the disciples about the timing of the final judgment: “when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Mark 13:4). In Mark 13:5–37, Jesus explained when the judgment would be and what sign would precede this end.

In Mark 13:5–8, Jesus stated that “the beginning of the birth pains” would include many saying, “I am he!” (i.e., the Christ). There would be wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines. Concerning the false christs, Jesus admonished, “See that no one leads you astray” (Mark 13:5). Of the catastrophes, “Do not be alarmed” (Mark 13:7).

In Mark 13:9–13, Jesus prophesied that the world would hate His followers, arrest them, beat them, and that the Spirit would give them the words to say at this time. The gospel would thus be proclaimed to the nations. In light of such danger, Jesus admonished, “Be on your guard” (13:9). Concerning the Spirit’s help, He commanded, “Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour” (Mark 13:11).

In Mark 13:14–23, the sight of “the abomination of desolation” would indicate increased danger at this time. Jesus described this time as “in those days” (Mark 13:17, 19) and “the days” (Mark 13:20, 2x) marked by “such tribulation” (Mark 13:19), that is, “that tribulation” after which other events occur (Mark 13:24; cf. 13:24–31). The commands given here tell of a time of great urgency: “let those . . . flee” (Mark 13:14); “Let the one . . . not go down, nor enter” (Mark 13:15); “let the one . . . not turn back” (13:16); “Pray that it may not happen in winter” (Mark 13:18); “do not believe it” (when someone claims to be Christ; Mark 13:21); and “be on guard” (Mark 13:23).

In Mark 13:24–31, after “that tribulation,” judgment “in those days” continues (Mark 13:24). The sun, moon, and stars are affected, and the Son of Man comes in the clouds and sends His angels to gather the elect. Just as the fig tree’s tender, leafy branch indicates summer is near, so also do these specific events indicate that Jesus “is near, at the very gates” (Mark 13:29) and will come once and for all (cf. 13:26, 35, 36). The generation of unbelieving Jews in Jesus day continues on today until His final coming takes place (Mark 13:30). No commands are given here. Jesus simply notes that “when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near” (Mark 13:29).

Finally, after detailing the many signs that would precede “when all these things are about to be accomplished” (Mark 13:4), Jesus specifically describes the timing of “these things” in Mark 13:32–37. They take place in “that day,” “that hour,” which “no one knows” and “you do not know” (Mark 13:32, 33, 35). Because we do not know, we are commanded to “Be on guard” (Mark 13:33), “keep awake” (Mark 13:33), and “stay awake” (Mark 13:35, 37).