Mark 13:14-37 | Discussion Questions

Mark 13:14-37

Preached at SoBo on September 25, NM on October 2, 2022

HEADS UP: The discussion questions for Mark 13 are very heady because of the immense difficulty of this chapter. Do your best with this D-tool, as it is challenging to produce a simple and engaging tool for such a complicated biblical text.


  • PRAYER: Begin your time in prayer, asking the Father to pour out His Spirit upon you so that you can see the Son, Jesus Christ, more clearly.
  • OPENING DISCUSSION: What do you think about the following statement: In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things charity? What does it mean? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • SNAPSHOT: Mark 13 contains what has famously been called the “Olivet Discourse” because, in it, Jesus and his disciples leave the temple and walk to the Mount of Olives (hence Olivet). Last week we looked at verses 1-13, and we saw the following: Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple (1-2); the disciples asked when the destruction of the temple would take place (3-4); Jesus listed a series of things the disciples would see and experience which would not be indicators of the temple’s destruction (5-13). In our text today (14-37), having told the disciples several things that are not signs of the temple’s imminent destruction, he now moves on to tell what signs would indicate that the temple is about to be destroyed (14-23). Then he predicts the coming of the Son of Man and assures the disciples that their “generation” would not pass away until these things happened (24-31). Finally, he ends the Olivet Discourse by exhorting the disciples to “stay awake” and be ready (32-37). 


MARK 13:14-37
14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter. 19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

Mark 13:24   “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

Mark 13:28   “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Mark 13:32   “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”


  • What are your initial impressions of this passage? What stands out? What do you notice? What seems confusing? This is a time just to be curious, notice things together, and ask questions. 1
  • Having told his disciples in verses 5-13 of many signs that would not be an indication of the temple’s imminent destruction (wars, rumors of wars, false christs, persecution, etc.), Jesus now tells them in verse 14 that when they see the “abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be,” then they know the time has come. When Jesus speaks of the “abomination of desolation,” he references prophecies in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, which predicted a day when foreign armies would invade Jerusalem, stop regular sacrifices in the temple, and set up a “desolating abomination” in the temple. Daniel’s prophecy and Jesus’ prediction came true in 70AD when the Roman General Titus invaded Jerusalem, stopped sacrifices, set up an image of the emperor in the temple, began crucifying thousands of Jews, and ultimately burned the temple to the ground.  And Jesus tells his disciples to flee to the mountains when they see these events.
    • At times Christians are called to face persecution courageously, and at other times Christians are called to flee. How do you know when it’s time to flee and when it’s time to stay? When might staying be considered foolish and fleeing be considered cowardice?
  • In verses 14-31, Jesus says that “after that tribulation,” the Son of Man will come. Some interpreters believe Jesus is suddenly jumping from predicting the temple's destruction in 70AD to the coming of the Son of Man at the end of history, i.e., the second coming of Jesus. In this interpretation, the Son of Man is coming from heaven to earth at the end of history in the final judgment. Other interpreters believe that Jesus is still talking about the destruction of the temple in 70AD, and that the coming of the Son of Man is a reference to Daniel 7:13-14 where the Son of Man comes, not to earth, but rather ascends to God where he is enthroned as King over all the nations. In this interpretation, Jesus is saying that the destruction of the temple as an act of Judgment against Israel will demonstrate that Jesus is not merely a “crucified criminal”, as most Jews viewed him, but is rather the enthroned Son of Man, seated at the right hand of God, enacting judgment upon Israel and sending his “angels” to the four corners of the earth to gather in the elect through the preaching of the gospel.
    • What do you think about these two interpretations? Which seems more plausible to you?
    • What might clues in the text suggest this refers to the coming of Jesus at the end of history? 
    • What clues might suggest that this “coming of the Son of Man” happened in the disciples' lifetime? (hint: 13:2; 13:4; 13:30)
  • In verse 32, Jesus says that not even the Son of Man knows when these things will occur. If Jesus is fully God and fully man, how do we explain this statement? 2


  • New Testament scholar D. A. Carson said, “Few chapters of the Bible have called forth more disagreement among interpreters than…Mark 13. The history of interpretation of this chapter is immensely complex.”
    • How do you generally relate to challenging passages like this? Do you like to press in and figure it out? Do you feel intimidated? Do you move on to more manageable parts of the Bible?
    • How do you think Christians should approach complex and confusing parts of Scripture?
  • Regardless of how you interpret Mark 13, the Bible is clear that Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead, to save his people, and to establish a new creation. How do you think these truths should shape your day-to-day life?


Lord Jesus, as we live between your resurrection and your return, give us a steadfast faith to trust you, an enduring hope to wait for you, and an abiding love to live for you until the day of your return. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Example Observations:
  • Verse 14 begins with the word “but” indicating a contrast with what came before. How is verse 14ff contrasting verses 5-13)
  • Jesus mentions the “abomination of desolation” and Mark adds an editorial note, “let the reader understand”. This indicates that as readers, we should know this reference. See Daniel 7:13-14.
  • Jesus says they will see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not be. Where is this?
  • Jesus instructs his disciples to flee to the hills when they see this happen (15-18)
  • Jesus uses apocalyptic language: sun darkened, moon will not give light, stars will fall.

2  An orthodox christology affirms that Jesus is one person with two distinct natures, a fully human nature and a fully divine nature. In the incarnation, the person of God the Son took on a human nature. Though each nature was united in the one person of Jesus Christ, nevertheless, each nature retained its distinctive properties. In his divine nature, Jesus possessed all the attributes of God (omniscience, omnipotence, etc.). But in his human nature, Jesus was subject to the limitations of a real human (development, aging, limited perspective, suffering, the need to learn, etc.). Paul says Philippians 2:7 that in the incarnation, the eternal Son “made himself nothing” or “emptied himself.” This does not mean that he emptied himself of his divine attributes, including omniscience. Rather, most theologians would say that in the incarnation, the eternal Son willingly surrendered the “independent use” of his divine attributes. Which means that even though Jesus was fully God and fully man, nevertheless, he surrendered the independent use of his divine attribute of omniscience. This is why Jesus can say that the Son of Man does not know when these things will happen.