Mark 13 may well be the most confusing passage in the entire book - particularly for audiences who don’t know the history. The passage begins with a discussion about the Temple in Jerusalem, in which Jesus mentions to the disciples that it would one day be destroyed. He then goes into a long series of cryptic warning about some great catastrophe. You might well wonder, what is He talking about?
While many interpret this passage as describing the End Times, it seems fairly clear that Jesus is actually describing something different - the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans. This event occurred in 70 AD, shortly after Mark was written. Jesus’ advice - to run from the city and not look back - likely saved the large Christian community in the city from being massacred by the Roman army.
This event might well have led the Jews - and the Christians who lived among them - to think that God’s plan was done! After all, the Temple - God’s Temple - had been destroyed!
But Jesus says that this catastrophe is not the end, but just the “birthpains.” In case anyone fears that this is “the end” Jesus tells them that the REAL end times will be impossible to miss: when the end times come, He says the sun will be darkened, He will return out of the clouds, angels will appear - no one will be in any doubt.
This passage is a good reminder to all of us. Even though what we are going through might feel like “the end of the world,” this too will pass. Followers of Christ have endured cities burning, temples falling, empires crumbling, plagues spreading… and the world keeps spinning, and God’s kingdom keeps growing.