There are two events predicted in Mark 13:1-8, one being the great destruction of the Temple, and the other is the great deception that will be on the earth just before Christ’s Second Coming. The destruction of the Temple happened in AD 70, forty years after the Lord was crucified. The great deception is yet to come, though we are seeing something of it even now.
The rise of earthy kingdoms and empires, such as Babylon, Greece, Rome, and Great Britain are nothing in God’s eyes when compared with the Kingdom that Christ will one day establish on the earth. The victories of conquerors and armies are insignificant in comparison to the final victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
The great destruction
“And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:1-2).
The disciples were very proud of the Temple for it was Israel’s national monument. They pointed out to Jesus the wonderful architecture of the building. Josephus speaking of it remarks, “The magnificence of it all was remarkable, amazing to mind and eye” (Antiquities 20:9:7). Their visit to the Temple had filled them with religious awe. “Some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts” (Luke 21:5). Instead of going along with their enthusiasm, the Lord responded with, what must have been to their ears, a saddening answer. They saw the outward appearance of the Temple, but Christ saw the sin and sacrilege on the inside. Because of the wickedness of the Jewish nation, both it and the Temple would be utterly destroyed. Herod had begun building the Temple in 19 BC, but it was only finished in 64 AD, sixty years after his death. This meant that it was destroyed within six years after its completion.
The glory of God or of the true church does not consist of buildings or monuments, but in the godliness of those who follow the Lord. We ought to note that Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple included the Holy of Holies too. This means that He found nothing holy there. How much less does He find holiness in churches that use every worldly means to make Christianity attractive and palatable to the lost?
God has no delight in stain-glassed buildings, steeples, orchestral music, or gorgeously dressed ministers. That is all form and show to appeal to the senses. There is nothing in them to satisfy the soul and cure it of sin. The early Christians met in the catacombs, not the cathedrals of Rome. The Lord is always amongst His people, and wherever we meet “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). A building dedicated to the Lord can only be consecrated by His presence not by some ordained man.
The great deception
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And Jesus answering them began to say, 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” (Mark 13:3-8).
Along with these terrible events there will be “fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:11). These things will probably take place around the time the Antichrist reigns on the earth. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God … Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 9-10). “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men” (Revelation 13:13). Paul explains the reason why the great deception will be so effective, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
The disciple’s request for additional information received a reply that would affect every believer up until the end of the ‘Church Age’. Jesus here speaks of false doctrine, wars and natural disasters. The disciples probably still clung to the hope that the Messianic Kingdom would bring in great prosperity and peace. They did understand that His remarks were in relation to His return and the completion of all things, but no doubt thought it was all going to take place soon. “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). How many believers have followed false teachers in recent years! “Go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8), Jesus warns His church.
Very few in our churches want to hear sermons about the horrors of the Last Days. This is why there has been a rise in wealth and health preachers in the last few decades. We live in days when there are multitudes of men and ministries that claim to represent Christ, but in fact do not. “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5).
There is also the idea amongst some that the whole world is going to be converted before the Lord’s return. There is absolutely nothing in Scripture to justify such an expectation. Instead Jesus predicts that false christs, false preachers, and false doctrines will increase before He returns. Rather than peace, there will be an increase in war and unrest. Instead of prosperity, lives will be turned upside down by earthquakes and other natural disasters. Does not the Bible tell us to look for the rise of Antichrist before the true Christ appears?
There can be no universal peace and prosperity until the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) reigns on the earth. Those who predict peace are false prophets, “For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11) … “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). There will be no universal holiness until Satan is bound. Such beliefs may bring upon us the scorn and ridicule of the Biblically illiterate, but the end will prove who is right or wrong. “The prophets that have been before, prophesied war, and evil, and pestilence. The prophet which prophesieth peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him” (Jeremiah 28:8-9). Until that day we ought not to be surprised if we find that Lord’s words true, “Narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).