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Jesus Predicts his Second Coming, Tribulation (Mark 13:24-29)

Analysis and Commentary

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Jesus Teaches

Jesus Teaches

    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.

Jesus Foretells Arriving in Power and Glory

The one section of Jesus’ predictions in chapter 13 which definitely doesn’t reflect recent events for Mark’s community is the description of his “Second Coming,” where he takes part in the apocalypse. The signs of his arrival are unlike anything that has come before, ensuring that his followers won’t mistake what is going on.

Indeed, what we have is the entire cosmic order falling apart: the sun becomes dark, the stars fall, and the “Son of man” descends on clouds. All of this occurs after the great suffering experienced by the true believers who will be gathered up and taken to heaven. From here many Christians today derive (in part) the belief of a “rapture” which transports the elect directly to heaven, although in contemporary belief this occurs prior to the “tribulation” and suffering.

All of the description is consistent with similar passages found in the Old Testament. The cosmic disasters are consistent with material found in Isaiah (13:10, 34:4) and Ezekiel (32:7-8). The appearance of the Son of man on a cloud is reminiscent of a passage in Daniel (7:13-14), although there Daniel is going to heaven rather than arriving from it.

The fig tree enters the picture once again, but this time Jesus isn’t cursing and killing it. Instead, the audience is supposed to learn something from the fig tree: just as it has a natural cycle that is predetermined by nature, the apocalypse has a predetermined course that is ordained by God. If you know how to read a fig tree, you’ll know when it will bear fruit; if you know how to read the signs around you, you’ll know when the End is approaching.

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