This Generation Shall Not Pass (Mark 13:28-37)

Mark-13
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This Generation Shall Not Pass
Sunday, May 12th, 2024
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 13:24-37

24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34 It is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Prayer

Father, we ask that by the power of Your Word and Spirit, you would awaken those who are slumbering in the dark. Raise us up again to walk as children of the light, and to so let our light shine before men, that they might see our good works and glorify you O Father in heaven. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Introduction

Do you remember the very first words that came out of Jesus’ mouth when we began Mark’s gospel?

  • Within the opening 13 verses of Mark 1 we cover a lot of ground: Jesus is baptized by John, he is anointed by the Holy Spirit, he is driven into the wilderness, he is tempted by Satan and with the wild beasts, and then it says in Mark 1:14-15, “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
  • In these opening words from the mouth of Jesus he makes two definitive statements about timing. First, a certain “time is fulfilled,” and second, the kingdom of God is “at hand” (ἤγγικεν), or more literally the kingdom of God has approached/drawn nigh.
  • It is this same gospel of the kingdom that by the time we get to our text here in chapter 13, the disciples have also themselves preached. And yet still they have some lingering questions about how exactly this kingdom comes, and when exactly this kingdom comes.
    • As pious Jews they would have almost certainly known the prophecies of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.
      • It says in Daniel 2:44 referring to the days of the Roman Empire, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”
      • Likewise, it says in Daniel 7:14, that when the one like the Son of Man ascends to the Ancient of Days, “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
    • This is the kingdom the prophets foretold. This is the kingdom that the angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary in Luke 1:31-33 saying, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
    • This is the kingdom that Jesus comes preaching from the very start of Mark’s gospel, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”
  • Here in Mark 13, Jesus has been answering the disciples’ lingering questions about how and when this heavenly and everlasting kingdom of God shall arrive.
    • Just to remind you of the immediate context of our passage. It is the week of Passover. And as they leave the temple the disciples are admiring the stones, and Jesus says, “Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2).
    • They then go up to the Mount of Olives “over against the temple” (vs. 3), and the disciples ask in verse 4, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
    • And then starting in verse 5, Jesus foretells what will take place leading up to the kingdom’s arrival. Already we have covered verses 5-27 in great detail, but this morning we come to Jesus answering that original question of the disciples regarding timing. And so that will be our focus as we finish out this chapter.
  • Now the way in which Jesus answers this question about timing is curious. And so let me give you the basic outline of our text which contains his answer.

Outline of the Text

  • In verses 28-29, Jesus gives the disciples the parable of the fig tree.
  • In verses 30-32 Jesus gives them a direct and explicit time frame for the kingdom’s arrival but chooses not to tell them the exact day or hour.
  • And then in verses 33-37, he tells them how to live in the light of this immanent judgment on Jerusalem and arrival of the kingdom.
  • So with that let us turn to consider first the parable of the fig tree.

Verses 28-29

28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

  • So Jesus starts with this analogy, that just as a fig tree blooms and signifies that summer is approaching,so also when they see “these things come to pass” they can know “the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31).
  • Now the question becomes, what are the “these things” Jesus is referring to. And the most natural and logical reference is to the cosmic signs that he just described in verses 24-27.
    • Remember that Jesus began his discourse by warning them of events that are not signs of the end. He said in verses 5-8, “Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.”
    • So “wars and rumors of wars” are not the “these things” that signify the kingdom’s arrival. Famines and troubles are not the fig tree blooming in the spring, Jesus says they are just “the beginnings of the birth pains.”
      • We know from the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament that these are all events that took place in the years starting with Pentecost in 30 AD up to around 62 AD (or whenever the abomination of desolation took place).
    • So Jesus spends a good deal of time warning the disciples that the kingdom shall not come until after certain events have taken place. For example, he says in verse 10, “the gospel must first be published among all nations.” And we know from Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Colossians, that by 60 AD that taske was completed.
      • Paul could say in Colossians 1:23, that the gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven…and was “bringing forth fruit in all the world” (Col. 1:6).
  • So Jesus gives in verses 5-27, a series of events that must happen prior to the kingdom’s arrival, and this includes the beginnings of the birth pains, the spread of the gospel to all nations, the great tribulation, the abomination of desolation, and then as we saw last time, after that tribulation, the powers of heaven would be shaken, the martyred saints would ascend to heaven, and as Revelation 11 describes, it is that sounding of the 6th trumpet that signifies the seventh trumpet is near. And what happens when the seventh trumpet sounds?
    • Revelation 11:15 says, “And the seventh angel trumpeted; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
  • So the blooming of the fig tree I take as a reference to the events that take place after the great tribulation, and which are given under the various symbols and images we looked at in verses 24-27 (darkening of sun, moon, and stars, the coming of the Son of man, etc.).
  • By the way, it just so happened that Jesus’ prophecy about the temple being destroyed took place on August 4th, in 70 AD. So when Jesus gave this parable of the fig tree, it was a very literal sign about the season in which his words would be fulfilled, “When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near.”
  • So this parable establishes the general time and season for the kingdom’s arrival, and then in verses 30-31, Jesus puts a terminus or end point for when “all these things will be done.”

Verses 30-31

30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

  • So the time frame Jesus gives here is before “this generation” passes/dies. Jesus has already in Mark’s gospel talked about this generation (ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη), and has described them as a “faithless generation that seeks after a sign” (Mark 8:12, 9:19), and as an “adulterous and sinful generation” (Mark 8:38).
  • You recall in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus is pronouncing woes on the Pharisees he says, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”
  • So contrary to those who have tried to re-translate or re-interpret “this generation” (ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη), to refer to something other than that generation living in Jesus’ day, there is simply no way to take do so given the context, the Greek grammar, and the logic of the passage.
  • Jesus could not have been more clear. “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.”
    • Contrary to many well-meaning Christians who punt the contents of this chapter into our future, Jesus was not a false prophet. Jesus was not lying. All these things were fulfilled before that generation died out, just like he said they would.
  • Recall also an earlier promise that Jesus gave to his disciples in Matthew 16:27-28, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
    • As I mentioned last week, John the Apostle was one such person standing there, who lived to see Jerusalem destroyed. And according to church history John lived for another 30ish years after and died around 100 AD.
  • So Jesus gives a definitive time frame for the kingdom’s arrival: before this generation passes. Jesus was 33 years old when he made that promise, and so the disciples could expect the kingdom to arrive almost anytime over the next 30-60 years, which is a quite a long time.
  • And in case they had any doubt about Jesus’ prophesy, he adds in verse 31, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”
  • We know from the rest of the New Testament, that there were doubters, there were false teachers, there were antichrists, and as 2 Peter 3:3-4 says, “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
    • And the Peter goes on to describe the immanent passing away of heaven and earth, and how they are to live as the day of the Lord approaches. He says in 2 Peter 3:13, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
    • What promise is Peter referring to as he writes this letter around 64 AD? He’s referring to the promise Jesus gave them here in Mark 13, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”
  • Now after giving them that time frame of say 30-60 years. Jesus goes on to tell them how to live in the meantime.

Verses 32-33

32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

  • So Jesus intentionally does not specify the exact day and hour in which God’s kingdom shall arrive. This is not because he himself is ignorant of that day, for He is God and he knows all things, but rather, Jesus says, “neither the Son” to signify that He is choosing to not reveal that day and hour to them. The Son as revealer of God’s Word is concealing this from them. And the question then is, Why?
  • Well, for a few reasons:
    • First, because Jesus does not want the demons and powers of Satan to know the day of their doom. Just as he concealed his divine identity when he was born in Bethlehem, so also he is concealing the divine plan for Satan’s destruction. No good general in the army tells the enemy how and when he is going to attack them. And similarly with Christ who is even more crafty than the serpent. Jesus is the one who comes like a thief to catch and bind the great thief of this world: the devil.
    • The second reason for not revealing the exact day and hour of his coming, is because Jesus knows what is in man (John 2:25). Jesus knows human nature, and he knows how people would live if he told them the exact day and hour of his coming to destroy their world and usher in the new.
    • Just imagine for a moment that Jesus told you the exact day and hour that you were going to die. How would that affect you? We all know that we are going to die, and most of us within 30-60 years, some more some less. And yet if God told you told the exact day and hour of your death within that time frame, that is knowledge that would be hard to handle. It is also knowledge that could diminish the merit, reward, and motivation for your faithfulness.
      • If your death was scheduled for tomorrow, what would you be doing today? The true Christian would be fervent in prayer, confessing their sins, keeping watch, reading God’s word, and seeking assurance that they were ready to stand before God and give an account to Him for everything done in the body. When our death feels immanent, it clarifies what is really important. When death becomes immanent, it exposes this world and our worldly pursuits for the vanity it all is.
      • Now imagine that God told you your death was 40 years out. Would you feel the same urgency to get right with God? Would you feel the same necessity to be vigilant and watchful and faithful in the meantime?
      • Jesus knows human nature. And he knows that you are easily distracted, you procrastinate, you put things off until you really have to do them. And this is the test of living without knowing the day and hour of judgment. And it is this same test that Jesus was giving to that generation as they would undergo the greatest tribulation and time of testing this world has ever seen.
      • And therefore, like a good coach and teacher, Jesus tells them exactly how to pass the test. And what he says in essence, is that they must keep watch and be vigilant like a man who never sleeps. In verse 34 he gives them another parable/analogy.

Verses 34-37

34 It is like a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

  • So the years after Christ’s ascension to heaven, are like a man (the master of the house) taking a far journey. And the disciples, are the servants, the porters/doorkeepers, who take care of the master’s house (the church), while the master is away.
    • So the disciples have work to do in the master’s house. They are overseers/elders who must watch over God’s flock so that when the Chief Shepherd appears, they shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
    • And so Jesus charges them to be spiritually watchful like a man who never sleeps.
    • Or as Paul states more explicitly, they must “pray without ceasing.”
    • And so while no human being can survive very long without real physical sleep, it is the sleepless man who exemplifies spiritual wakefulness. And so the disciples must be vigilant to keep watch all throughout the master’s journey. He has promised to return, he has given them the general time frame, but the day and hour they know not.
  • And so Jesus gives this charge to spiritual wakefulness, not only the disciples, but as he says in verse 37, “what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”
  • This is the recurring and constant exhortation that Jesus gives all throughout Mark 13. And yet ironically, despite giving this repeated charge, we are going to see in the very next chapter, that the disciples fall asleep on the job.

Conclusion

  • In Mark 14, when Jesus is praying in Gethsemane he says, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
  • The disciples failed the Lord Jesus on the night of his passion. They failed to keep watch. They failed to stay awake. They succumbed to the weakness of their flesh. And yet what we see after Christ’s death, and resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, are eleven very different and very watchful disciples. When we read the book of Acts, and when we read their letters, we encounter disciples who are fervent in prayer, zealous for good works, genuine in love, and bold for the Lord Jesus.
  • It says in Acts 5:40-42, “And when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
  • What we learn from the disciples’ example, is that the resurrection of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit make all the difference.
  • It is not easy to keep watch and pray without ceasing. It is as easy as gravity to fall into a spiritual slumber, to forget the gospel, to forget the promises of God, to forget the glorious and future hope that awaits us.
  • And so if you and I would pass the test that is this life, not knowing the day or hour of our death, then we need the same Holy Spirit and the same means of grace, that God gave to his apostles.
  • That means, we need the church. We need one another. We need the Word of God dwelling in us richly with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We need baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We need constant and regular fellowship. We need as it says in Hebrews 3:13, “daily exhortation lest you become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
  • It says likewise in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
  • No man knows the day or hour of his death. But by the means of grace that Christ has given, we can be ready so that that day does not catch us unawares. May the Lord increase this grace among us.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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