Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

3. Prophecies concerning the kingdom of Israel, 13:1-37

ii] The desolating sacrilege


Mark continues with his little apocalypse. In a unified prophetic word, Jesus details the tribulation associated with Rome's military action against the Jewish rebellion, AD.66-70. Given the multi-layered nature of prophecy, Jesus' words also apply to the tribulation of the last days.


As the tribulation of the last days presses in upon us, a disciple must be alert, always watching to their faith.


i] Context: See 13:1-13.


ii] Structure: The passage presents as three parts: a word of exhortation / instruction for believers facing the desolating sacrilege, vv14-18; a prophecy concerning the desolating sacrilege - its severity and shortening (for the how of its shortening see v27), v19-20; a prophecy concerning the state of delusion that will confuse humanity leading up to the desolating sacrilege, v21-22. The passage concludes with a general exhortation, claimed by some commentators as redactional, ie., an editorial addition by Mark, v23.


iii] Form: A prophetic discourse; a compilation by Mark from extant sources, oral and/or written - "a composition from discrete sayings", Boring.


iv] Interpretation: Although Mark's "Prophetic Oracle for Judea in a Time of Emergency", Anderson, is somewhat visionary, even apocalyptic, most commentators read it as describing Rome's military action against Israel's rebellion. "The tribulation of Judea is described in Mark in a fantastic context, but nevertheless in terms which suggest a historical catastrophe .... a situation in which ... armies are threatening Jerusalem", Dodd, so also France, Hunter, Nineham, Gundry, Taylor, Swete, Anderson, Hurtado, Lane. In the face of the advancing Roman armies there is panic and fright as the Roman forces prepare to sack Jerusalem. Pity help those caught up in this horror; better it be summer than winter.

On the other hand, we do need to understand that prophecy is layered, and that although Jesus is addressing the now for his generation, his words also apply to the not yet, an even greater tribulation that will precede the parousia. The tribulation facing the Jewish population in 66AD serves as a mysterious paradigm for a greater tribulation in the last day. So, it seems that "neither an exclusively historical, nor an exclusively eschatological interpretation is satisfactory, and that we must allow for a double reference, for a mingling of historical and eschatological", Cranfield, so also Edwards, Evans, Marcus, Boring. See the introductory notes in Mark 13:1-13 and 28-31 for a discussion on the multi-layered nature of prophecy.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The Abomination.

Text - 13:14

The desolating sacrilege, v14a. Jesus now answers the disciples' request for the sign of "these things." What is the identifying event which heralds God's judgment upon the temple/Jerusalem? Jesus tells us that the sign is Daniel's "desolating sacrilege" which predicts a major secular desecration of the temple. Mark's readers would understand that the secular power is obviously Rome, particularly as Jesus later explains that the sacrilege will occur during the lifetime of his own generation, v30. In fact, Luke spells it out for us, "but when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you know its desolation has come near", Lk.21:20.

o{tan + subj. "when [you see]" - Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, "whenever", translated with a definite "when".

thV erhmwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "[the abomination] that causes desolation" - [the abomination / detestable] of desolation (of that which is made waste). The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "abomination"; it is a "wasted" type of "abomination", a "desolated sacrilege". Daniel is speaking of a "sacrilege" where the temple is profaned and thus "detested and rejected by God", such "that the abominable thing causes the temple to be deserted, the pious avoiding the temple on its account", Cranfield.

eJsthkota (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing" - The participle is adjectival, limiting "desolated sacrilege", "the desolating sacrilege which stands where it has no right to stand." "It" takes the masculine person which would imply that the "abomination", which is neuter, is being personified. This could well be the case since the "desolated sacrilege" alludes to the emperor and his legions moving against the apple of God's eye in the now and of the anti-Christ in the not yet. "Standing / set up" is somewhat misleading since it reflects the language of Dan.11:31 and the now fulfilment of the prophecy for Daniel as he looks to the setting up of an alter/statue of Olympian Zeus in the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168BC. So, "standing" here doesn't actually mean that the desolated sacrilege stands somewhere where it doesn't belong, rather it has come to exist, to be were it doesn't belong, eg. "usurping a place which is not his", REB.

o{pou "where" - Functioning adverbially, forming a local clause.

ou dei "it does not belong" - it is not necessary = it/he ought not. Alluding to the holiness of the temple set upon by pagan forces where they have no right to set foot.

oJ anaginwskwn (anaginwskw) pres. part. "[let] the reader [understand]" - [take note, comprehend] the one reading. The participle serves as a substantive. This parenthetical note by Mark is somewhat unclear. Is he just saying to the reader "note the importance of this"? Of course, importance of what, the desolated sacrilege, or he/it that stands where he/it aught not? And why "reader" when the reader would be reading to a congregation? Is Mark being a bit cryptic saying something like "you know what that means"? It seems very likely that Mark is prompting the reader/listener to read Daniel's prophetic imagery in terms of Luke 21:20, as above, rather than read its fulfilment in Antiochus Epiphanes, ie. Mark, and of course Jesus, understands the layered nature of a prophets words. Possibly Mark feared the Roman authorities, but it seems more likely that he is being faithful to the apocalyptic nature of the oral tradition. Jesus would certainly have used apocalyptic language in prophesying the destruction of the temple, but he would have also explained the imagery to his disciples. These words from Mark are often used to date the gospel in relation to the destruction of the temple, but the words can be used to argue a date before or after 70AD.


Advice on how to face the tribulation, v14b-23; i] Risk aversion, v14b-17.

tote "then" - Temporal; introducing the what to do instructions when faced with the sign.

oiJ "those who are [in Judea]" - The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "in Judea" into a substantival construction, subject of the verb "to flee."

feugetwsan (feugw) pres. imp. "let [those who are in Judea] flee". The evidence is that the believers in Jerusalem did just that. They left and went to Pella across the Jordan. This advice applies to the tribulation before the parousia although reading the signs is always a precarious occupation. All that we can say is that we will know the sign in that day.

eiV ta orh "to the mountains" - to the mountains. "To the hill country", TH. When faced with a marauding army it is a wise move to head for the bush.


oJ "[let no] one" - the one. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "upon the roof-top" into a substantival construction subject of the verb "to come down"; "Anyone who happens to be on the house top", Barclay.

mh katabatw (katabainw) aor. imp. "let no ...... go down" - do not come down. An imperative would normally take the present tense. This negated imperative and the following one "nor let him enter" expresses a single action, as NIV, such that there is no time to come down from the upper room of a house, usually a lightly constructed shelter / sleep out, via the outside staircase and enter the house, pack up and head off. Immediate evacuation is required.

a\rai aor. inf. "to take [anything]" - The infinitive is verbal, expressing purpose, "in order to take."

ek + gen. "out" - from [the house of him]. Expressing separation, "away from", or serving instead of a partitive genitive.


oJ "[let no] one" - The article as for v15.

eiV "in [the field]" - to, into. Here spacial, used instead of en, so "into" = "in".

mh epistreyatw (epistrefw) aor. imp. "let no [one .....] go back" - do not return. Again this verse expresses the idea of emergency evacuation. "The man in the field must not turn back to fetch his coat", Phillips.


"Pregnant and nursing mothers will have it especially hard", Peterson.

ouai "how dreadful" - woe, alas. Expressing distress.

en + dat. "in [those days]" - Temporal used of the preposition.

taiV .... exousaiV (ecw) dat. pres. part. "for pregnant women" - to the ones having [a child in the womb]. The participle serves as a substantive, as also "the ones nursing", dative of interest, disadvantage. "Alas for women with child in those days, or those who have infants at the breast", Cassirer.


ii] Faith in God's providential care of the saints during the tribulation, v18-20. Although the tribulation cannot be avoided, either prior to the destruction of the temple, or prior to the return of Christ, believers are not abandoned to blind brute force. We can know the season and avoid the worst of the cataclysm; we can also pray for divine aid in the face of the cataclysm and so avoid the worst of the circumstances. The Lord promises that "for the sake of the elect" he will aid us during that terrible day, even shorten it.

proseucesqe (prosercomai) pres. imp. "pray" - We are reminded here that "God the creator has not abandoned history, but is in control and will bring it to a worthy conclusion", Boring. In this particular circumstance, we can pray to the one who is in control knowing that he will act on our behalf, ie. this prayer falls into the category of a prayer which is according to the will of God.

iJna + subj. "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what to pray, as NIV, rather than introducing a purpose/result clause, "pray in order that / so that ..."

genhtai (gimomai) aor. subj. "this will not take place" - it may not be, become, happen. What is the subject? Probably "the desolating sacrilege", although possibly "flight".

ceimwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "in winter" - of winter. Genitive of time. A time not conducive for flight, ie. wet and muddy, "during a storm / bad weather", Marcus. This statement is often used to argue that the prophecy does not refer to the parousia, but only to the historical events associated with Rome's putting down of the Jewish rebellion. Of course, it can image the situation surrounding both events, either literally, or figuratively. Even the tribulation of the last days occurs within the framework of world history.


Jesus uses the language of the Old Testament prophets to describe the horror of the tribulation, a time of distress that precedes a divine "coming" in judgment, here the destruction of the temple, but of course also alluding to the distress that will precede the parousia, eg. Dan.12:1, Jer.30:7.

gar "because" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers need to pray for relief during the tribulation, namely, because the tribulation involves terrible distress.

qliyiV (iV ewV) "distress" - [in those days there will be] tribulation, trouble, suffering, distress. Predicate nominative.

oi{a ou gegonen toiauth "such as was not / unequaled" - of such kind has not become such as. Usual order toiauth ..... oi{a, cf. TH. "The like of which has never been", Moffatt.

apo + gen. "from [the beginning]" - from [beginning of creation]. Temporal use of the preposition.

kitsewV (iV ewV) gen. "-" - of creation. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

h}n rel. pro. "when [God created the world]" - which [God created].

e{wV + gen. "until" - Temporal construction.

tou nun "now" - the now. A genitive articular adverb serving as a substantive; "the present."

ou mh genhtai (ginomai) aor. subj. "[and] never to be equaled again" - never may be. Subjunctive of emphatic negation; "and such will never happen again", Barclay. Note how Jesus, in prophetic mode, transcends the historic event, alluding to an even greater fulfilment. So also, for example, when Ezekiel prophesies concerning the new temple; his depiction of a bricks and mortar temple is, in the end, something that cannot be built by human hand. See "prophetic perspective" in Mark 13:28-31.


ei + ind. ..... a]n + aor. "if ....." - Introducing a conditional clause 2nd. class, contrary to fact, lit., "if, as is not the case, the Lord had not shortened the days, then all flesh would not be saved"

kurioV (oV) "Lord" - Nominative subject of the verb "to shorten." Obviously here "God".

mh ekolobwsen (kolobow) "had not cut short" - had not shortened, cut off. Reduced the time of the tribulation; "had not shortened that time", NJB.

ouk a]n eswqh (swzw) aor. pas. "[no one] would survive" - [all flesh] would not have been saved. "Saved" in the sense of "survive"; "no human being could survive", Barclay.

alla "but" - adversative.

dia + acc. "for the sake of" - because of, on account of. Causal.

touV eklektouV adj. "the elect" - Adjective used as a noun. God's set-apart people, his special people, ie. believers, Christians. Membership of God's set-apart people is offered as a gift of divine grace on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ and is appropriated through the instrument of faith.

ou}V exelexato (eklegomai) aor. "whom he has chosen" - whom he chose. God's act of electing an elect people, the "whom he chose", is best viewed as a corporate electing in Christ, the elect Son of God, the membership of which is through faith in Christ. This view is counted by the calvinist view that God elects individuals for either salvation or damnation.

ekolobwsen aor. "he has shortened [them]" - he shortened [the days]. See above. "He will make the time shorter", CEV.


iii] The danger of "false christs and false prophets", v21-23. It is interesting how Jesus has repeated this warning, cf., v5, 6. It is certainly the case that in a time of distress there will emerge those who claim a secret knowledge of the times, yet it seems unlikely that the warning here is primarily concerned with the immediate circumstances of the Jewish rebellion (although Josephus does supply examples of false prophets in the latter stage of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, but that would not really affect the believers since they had long abandoned the city). Jesus is warning of the ongoing threat of those who, with charismatic powers (signs and wonders), are constantly linking the return of Christ with the current events of history. Perseverance in faith is the path for a believer, suffering as Christ suffered, with a sure reliance on the day of vindication, a vindication that will be evident to all, not just those who claim prophetic insight, cf. Boring p.370/1.

tote "at that time" - then. Temporal adverb.

ean + subj. "if [.... says]" - Forming a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition is assumed a possibility, "if, as may be the case, .... then [do not believe]."

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

ide "lo" - "Behold, [here is the messiah, behold there]."

w|de "here [is the Messiah!]" - here [the Christ]. Predicate adverb of place.


gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers should not be taken in by those who claim they know the moment of the messiah's coming.

yeudocristoi kai yeudoprofytai "false christs and false prophets" - Boring suggests that these two groups are one category representing those "who promise God's final salvation and claim to represent it." A variant actually exists without "false christs."

egerqhsontai (egeirw) fut. pas. "will appear" - will rise. "Appear on the scene", BAGD.

shmeia (on) "signs" - Marcus suggests "signs" from "demonic influence."

terata (as atoV) "miracles" - wonders, portents.

proV to apoplanan (apoplanaw) pres. inf. "to deceive [the elect]" - to lead astray. This preposition with the articular infinitive forms a purpose clause, "in order to mislead [even] the elect."

ei "if [it were possible]" - if [possible, the elect]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true; "if as is the case, it is possible, then even the elect." The elliptical nature of this phrase means that it is not clear whether the attempt by the false prophets to mislead even the elect is successful or not. Commentators divide, as do translations, eg. "the message and signs of the false prophets will be believed - they will lead many astray, even the elect", Edwards, so also Marcus, Evans, or "'if possible, the elect' at once gives a final emphasis to the danger of deception and an indication that the elect will not succumb", Gundry. Calvin would certainly approve of Gregory the Great's answer, "if they are elect, it is not possible; if it is possible, they are not elect." The answer will rest on our understanding of "the elect", see above. If the elect are the children of faith then where there is genuine faith it is impossible, but where faith has faded, it is possible, so take care!


de "so" - but, and. Here transitional; "so then."

uJmeiV "-" - you. The position is emphatic in the Gk. "As for yourselves", Cassirer.

blepete (blepw) pres. imp. "be on your guard" - beware, watch out, be watchful. "Keep watch!" "The mark of faithfulness is watchfulness", Edwards.

proeirhka (proeipon) perf. "I have told [you everything] ahead of time" - I have foretold [you everything]. "I have forewarned you of it all", REB, ie. Jesus has outlined the events leading up to the destruction of the temple, as per the disciples' question "how / what sign" such that "when they ("these things") do happen the disciples will be prepared for what follows and will not be caught unawares", France.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of indirect object.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]