A Question for Jesus
I. Jesus’ Prophecy (vv. 1-2)
1) Disciples’ Admiration of the Temple
- Jesus’ strong denunciation of the false system of worship associated with the Temple dominates all of His teaching and activity in Mark 11-12
- In spite of Jesus’ strong denunciations, His Disciples’ are still enamored by the Temple
- Temple was at the very centre of Jewish national identity and worship
- The Temple was remarkably beautiful
- Massive stones of the Temple (some over 40 feet long!) gave the false impression that it was indestructible and eternal
2) Jesus’ Stunning Prediction: Total destruction!
II. The Disciples’ Question (vv. 3-4, cf. Matthew 24:3)
1) When will the devastation happen??
- In the Disciples’ mind the destruction of the Temple would signify the end of the age (note the phrasing of the question in Matthew 24:3)
- Jesus’ answer to their question in vv. 5-37 deals with 2 different events that the Disciples saw as one single event: 1) The Destruction of the Temple; 2) The Return of Christ
2) The Challenge of Interpretation – there is tension within this passage between the imminence of Jesus’ return (ie. ‘this generation’ – v. 30), and the delay of Jesus’ return (ie. proclamation of the gospel to all nations – v. 10). This tension has resulted in two very different approaches to interpretation:
- Classic Dispensationalism/ Futurism
- Dispensationalists tend to emphasize the future orientation of this text, and thereby minimize its historical fulfillment in 70 AD.
- According to this view, most or all fulfillment of this text lies in a future 7 year period of Tribulation which will begin after the Church has been secretly ‘raptured’ out of the world
Problems: The strong Futurist approach makes this text practically irrelevant for the Church today, strains the meaning of “this generation” in v. 30, and does not have Jesus giving an answer to the Disciples’ question about the Temple’s destruction.
2. Preterism – emphasizes the historical fulfillment of Mark 13 in the events of 70 AD
Problems: Preterism has Jesus answering the Disciples’ question about the Temple, and makes good sense of the phrase “this generation” in v. 30, but seriously strains the interpretation of vv. 24-27 which seems to speak of the future return of Christ. Preterism also makes this text practically irrelevant for Christians living after the events of 70 AD.
Interpretive Approach to the Olivet Discourse:
The correct interpretation of the Olivet Discourse must recognize some level of dual fulfillment and/or prophetic telescoping. Either Jesus is speaking of two separate events that can be distinguished within the text, or He speaks primarily of the historic events of AD 70 and leaves room for a greater fulfillment yet to come.
– Don’t get discouraged by difficult parts of God’s Word: “The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.” – Alistair Begg
– The Disciples’ of Christ had their hope set on the physical Temple in Jerusalem and could hardly envision a future without it. Do you have any false hopes/ false security in the temporary things of this world which are destined to pass away?