Mark records the conversation between the Master and the disciples as they leave the temple during His final week. However, Mark was not there. Most scholars attribute Mark's record to Peter as they were closely associated in the early days of the church. Therefore, we should look at this chapter as Peter's record of the conversation. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, Peter's recollection makes some interesting and unique points. However, the most complete version of this conversation is not found in the gospels; it is the inspired version of Matthew 24 as received by Joseph Smith. How does this apply to Mark 13? The footnote reads, "The text of JST Mark 13 is the same as JST Matthew 24."
For our purposes, we will discuss the text as it reads, pointing out salient and unique features of Mark's version as it stands. This commentary is meant to be supplementary as the doctrines are easiest to understand after a thorough study of Joseph Smith-Matthew has been completed.
Mark 13:2 there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down
"[In 70 AD] came the fall of Jerusalem. Titus laid siege to the capital, and his battering rams broke down the great walls. The Jews, who were already suffering from plunder, murder, pestilence, and famine among themselves, were easy prey for the fire and swords of the Tenth Roman Legion.
"The Master's chilling words concerning the fate of the temple in Jerusalem were completely fulfilled: 'Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' (Mark 13:2.) The building the Lord called 'my house' (Matt. 21:13) had stood on 'immense foundations of solid blocks of white marble covered with gold.' Some of the blocks were 67 1/2 feet long by 9 feet thick. The temple towered 100 feet into the air, fronted by two immense columns. The imposing structure was laid waste, with no part of the building left intact. Only a part of the original wall that had surrounded the temple mount remained.
"Jesus had given adequate warning, and those who heeded the prophecies survived, while most others perished." (George A. Horton Jr., " 'Be Ye Also Ready': The Amazing Christian Escape from the A.D. 70 Destruction of Jerusalem," Ensign, June 1989, 48)
Mark 13:4 The disciples ask two separate questions
What is not clear in the gospels, but very clear in Joseph Smith-Matthew, is that the Lord is answering two questions. Whether the disciples knew they were asking two separate questions is debatable. What is clear is that the Lord was giving answers to two questions not one. The first is "when shall these things be"-meaning when will the temple be destroyed such that no stone will be left upon another? The Master's answer comprises verses 5-20 in Mark's account. The second question is "what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled"-meaning when is the Second Coming and what will be the sign of that great event? The answer to the second question comprises verses 21-37.
While the Joseph Smith Matthew account is the most complete record of this discussion, even more information is given to us in D&C 45. In the Mark version, the disciples seem to be asking follow up questions leaving us to wonder, "was there an unrecorded discussion about the Second Coming prior to the question about the temple's construction?" This idea is confirmed by D&C 45 wherein the Lord said, "I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying: As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of heaven, to fulfill the promises that I have made unto your fathers." (D&C 45:16). The subsequent explanation from the Lord is clearly dealing with two separate concepts
And now ye behold this temple which is in Jerusalem, which ye call the house of God, and your enemies say that this house shall never fall.
But, verily I say unto you, that desolation shall come upon this generation as a thief in the night, and this people shall be destroyed and scattered among all nations.
And this temple which ye now see shall be thrown down that there shall not be left one stone upon another.
And it shall come to pass, that this generation of Jews shall not pass away until every desolation which I have told you concerning them shall come to pass.
Ye say that ye know that the end of the world cometh; ye say also that ye know that the heavens and the earth shall pass away;
And in this ye say truly, for so it is; but these things which I have told you shall not pass away until all shall be fulfilled. (D&C 45:18-23)
Mark 13:5-8 when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars... the end shall not be yet
The Master is not so much giving them the signs of the Second Coming as he is telling them what they will see long before He comes again. He speaks of false Christs and wars as signs but they are just the beginning. "The end shall not be yet," and "these are the beginnings of sorrows." In their day, there were false Christs, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and troubles, but these were the prelude. These signs, in and of themselves, don't indicate when He will come again. They were a prelude to the destruction which fell upon Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans.
Certainly, they are signs which are repeated in the dispensation of the fullness of times. Even then, they are but the beginning of the story-particularly the sign of wars and rumors of wars. The Lord clearly indicates that the wars and rumors of wars of the final dispensation begin with the American Civil War.
And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States...
And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall morn... until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations. (D&C 87:2-6)
Mark 13:9-13 take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils
Matthias F. Cowley
The vile treatment to which the ancient apostles were subjected and the martyrdom of many of them, is known to all acquainted with the history of those inspired men; and scriptural evidence as to their having been informed thereof in advance is quite abundant. The Savior says in Mark, thirteenth chapter, ninth verse: "But take heed to yourselves; for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them." Another witness to this testimony of our Savior has also left us the following: "And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends, and some of you shall they cause to be put to death."
It is a remarkable fact that, in every age of the world when the Lord has committed a dispensation of the Gospel to men upon the earth, the heavenly message has been rejected by the great majority of the human family, and the envy and hatred of many have been such as to instigate measures of violence against the humble servants of the Lord. (Cowley's Talks on Doctrine [Chattanooga: Ben. E. Rich, 1902], 17.)
Bruce R. McConkie
With two millennia to separate us from the early Christians, the agony of their sufferings, the burden of their pains, and the horrors of the persecutions heaped upon them seem to fade away. But if ever there was a dispensation of martyrdom it was in the day of Jesus and Peter and Paul. In that day to join the Church was to prepare to die. Lest we forget, let us note a few lines from the history of the past; let us view a small part of the persecutions of the saints in time's meridian. (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979-1981], 3: 427.)
Mark 13:10 the gospel must first be published among all nations
Victor L. Brown
In recent days, it has been my privilege to walk on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus, speaking to two fishermen, Simon and Andrew, said "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." (Mark 1:17.)
As I stood on the Mount of Olive looking toward Jerusalem, I recalled that on this same mount, the Master instructed Peter, James, John, and Andrew as to the future of the world, even as to his second coming. He told them of wars and rumors of wars, of terrible calamities that would befall nations, kingdoms, and peoples before the Son of Man would come in clouds of greatness, power and glory. Another statement Mark attributes to the Savior on this same occasion took on new meaning for me. He said: "And the gospel must first be published among all nations." (Mark 13:10.)
Our associates, both at home and abroad, are motivated by the desire to be anxiously engaged in this great cause as we contemplate the 90th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, 11th verse, we realize the Lord is speaking of our day. He says: "For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language. ..."
We feel this work is a literal fulfillment of prophecy. We are deeply grateful for the great privilege of being a small part in making it possible for many thousands to hear the fullness of the gospel in their own language. If I interpret the scriptures correctly all of this is to the end "that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it and be prepared for the days to come in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth." (D&C 65:5.) (Conference Report, April 1967, Afternoon Meeting 34-37)
Mark 13:14 the abomination of desolation
The abomination of desolation occurs twice. The first time was when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70 AD. The suffering of the Jews during that siege was incredible. Thousands perished by famine. The famine was so severe that mothers ate their children. Thousands died by the sword. So many were run through with the sword that blood literally ran through the streets. The temple was destroyed and defiled. The term abomination of desolation or desolation of abomination can be divided into two parts. The abomination was the defiling of the temple by a Gentile army. The desolation was the destruction of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. Josephus records that 1,100,000 were killed and 97,000 were taken captive. (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 10:1)
Elder Bruce R. Mcconkie wrote:
And now the ax was laid at the root of the rotted tree. Jerusalem was to pay the price. Daniel had foretold this hour when desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, would sweep the city. (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.) Moses had said the siege would be so severe women would eat their own children. (Deut. 28.) Jesus specified the destruction would come in the days of the disciples.
And come it did, in vengeance, without restraint. Hunger exceeded human endurance; blood flowed in the streets; destruction made desolate the temple; 1,100,000 Jews were slaughtered; Jerusalem was ploughed as a field; and a remnant of a once mighty nation was scattered to the ends of the earth. The Jewish nation died, impaled on Roman spears, at the hands of Gentile overlords.
But what of the saints who dwelt in Jerusalem in that gloomy day? They heeded Jesus' warning and fled in haste. Guided by revelation, as true saints always are, they fled to Pella in Perea and were spared. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 644.)
Jerusalem is to suffer another abomination of desolation just prior to the Lord's Second Coming. Again an army will encompass Jerusalem. The Book of Revelation records that the city will be under siege for 42 months (Rev. 13:5). Inhabitants will be killed while others are taken captive. The Jerusalem Temple, already built and in use by this time, will be defiled. The leader of the encompassing army will set himself up as a God, sitting in the temple and defiling it as Paul recorded, "so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2 Thess. 2:4, see also Daniel 11:31, 36, 37) This destruction is so great that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be wise to make a quick escape. There won't be time to go back into the house to get provisions. There won't be time to turn back to the field to grab a coat. There won't be time to wait for those who can't move quickly. Wintertime travel is not swift enough to allow escape. "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation." (v. 19)
Bruce R. McConkie
Then, speaking of the last days, of the days following the restoration of the gospel and its declaration "for a witness unto all nations," our Lord said: "And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled." (JS-Matt. 1:31-32.) That is: Jerusalem again will be under siege ("For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle"); again the severity of the siege and the extremities of brutal conflict, born of wickedness and abomination, will lead to great devastation and desolation ("and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity"). (Zech. 14.) It will be during this siege that Christ will come, the wicked will be destroyed, and the millennial era commenced. (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 12.)
Mark 13:22 false Christs and false prophets shall rise
"The scriptures warn of false Christs and false prophets. How can we know whom to trust? Where do we turn for more insight? 'We must keep our eyes fixed on those charged with the direction of this Church, the prophets, seers, and revelators of our day. What they stress in their instruction to us should be what we stress. Any who come before the Saints claiming some special insight, gift, training, or commission to elucidate detail concerning the signs of the times, beyond that which the Brethren have set forth, is suspect, and is running before his or her file leaders, their teachings are not to be trusted or received. . . .
"'With the exception of those few deluded persons who claim to be Jesus, when we speak of false Christs we speak not so much of individuals as of false spirits, false doctrines, false systems of salvation. Latter-day Saints who stick with the Brethren, who study and teach from the conference reports, the official pronouncements and proclamations, and the monthly First Presidency messages in the Ensign-these are they who treasure up the word of the Lord, who will not be deceived or led astray at the last day. . . .' (Joseph Smith -Matthew 1:37.) 'That we will follow the Brethren, search the scriptures, pray mightily for discernment and for awareness and understanding of the signs of the times, is my hope,' concluded Brother Millet. 'That we will be wise, receive the truth, take the Holy Spirit for our guide, and thereby have our lamps filled, is my prayer.'" (Modern Revelation Answers Questions of Second Coming , LDS Church News, 1996, 11/02/96)
Harold B. Lee
One of the most significant among the signs of which the Master spoke, and about which I had often wondered, was that prior to His coming there would be false Christs and false prophets who would show great signs and wonders in order to deceive the faithful who are looking forward to that glorious day when the Master will return again to the earth. We are actually seeing this present among us today, where individuals are coming forward with claims of deity for their leaders. These arch-deceivers are among us, and some have come in person claiming to be God; and we may well expect others to rise up to do likewise in fulfillment of the Master's declaration that false Christs and false prophets would come forth. (Stand Ye in Holy Places [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 86.)
Mark E. Petersen
How do these false teachers lead people astray? They do so by attacking the fundamental doctrines of the Church. They attack the Authorities of the Church. They attack the teachings of the Authorities. They seek to develop doctrinal disputes among the people to undermine their faith, and they lead people into apostasy when they do such things as that. Very often false teachers who have come among us endeavor to justify their position by claiming to have received some revelation or dream directing them, they say, in the paths which they tread.
There were disputes anciently among the Jews, over the doctrines of the church, and these disputes led people to apostasy. There were disputes among the ancient Nephites likewise, just as there are disputes among some of our people today, disputes, let me remind you, which lead to apostasy and excommunication from the Church. (Conference Report, October 1945, Afternoon Meeting 89.)
Mark 13:24 the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light
If we take a bit of liberty with the text, we might change it to read, "But in the last days, long after the tribulation of the first Abomination of Desolation, the sign of my coming will be given-the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light..." This sign is the answer to the question in verse 4, "what shall be the sign?"
For the Nephites, a sign was given of Christ's first coming. It was a day and a night and a day with no darkness (3 Ne. 1:15-19). In the Old World the sign of his birth was a new star in the heavens (Matt. 2:9-10). What is the sign of the Second Coming? It is that the sun shall be darkened, the moon will turn to blood, and the stars shall fall from the heavens. We should expect the fulfillment of this sign to be dramatic.
The scriptures speak of many signs in the heaven and on the earth, but this particular sign is different. That the sun should be darkened, the moon turned to blood, and the stars fall from the heavens is a sign that is repeated over and over in the scriptures (see Ezek. 32:7, Joel 2:31; 3:15, Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24-25, Lu. 21:25, Acts 2:20, Rev. 6:12; 8:12, DC 29:14; 34:9; 45:42; 88:87; 133:49). How many other signs or doctrines are repeated in 14 different places? Certainly, the fulfillment of this scripture will be as dramatic as anything we have ever seen, for when it occurs, "the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man" (DC 88:87).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Eventually the sun is to be turned into darkness and the moon as blood and then shall come the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Some of these signs have been given; some are yet to come. The sun has not yet been darkened. We are informed that this will be one of the last acts just preceding the coming of the Lord." (Conference Report, April 1966, First Day-Morning Meeting 13.)
Mark 13:27 his angels... shall gather together his elect from the four winds
Elder Charles A. Callis
Jesus said, speaking of His second coming: "And He shall send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Those angels have come; that mighty angel Moroni brought the Book of Mormon; and the prophets of God predicted that when this book should come forth, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, the gathering of Israel from their long dispersion would commence. In the Kirtland Temple, Moses appeared unto the Prophet Joseph Smith and delivered unto him the keys of the gathering, and the people of God are engaged in this great, this noble, this mighty work, supported by the knowledge, by the surety that this work is of God and that it is the power of God unto salvation. Look at the ministry of the elders in the field, your sons and daughters, my brethren and sisters. Truly their ministry is a miracle. (Conference Report, April 1915, Afternoon Session. 107 - 108.)
Matthias F. Cowley
From that time (April 3, 1836) the spirit of gathering has rested richly upon the saints of the Most High, and tens of thousands have gathered from many nations of the earth. The Saints will continue until they are assembled in the places designated for them to occupy. Since the date mentioned, the spirit of the gathering also has been working among the Jews, and when all things are revealed it will undoubtedly be found that the spirit of gathering is working among the ten lost tribes of Israel, looking to the restoration promised to them in the predictions of their fathers. Thus in the purpose of God will be accomplished the gathering together in one, all who will serve Him and keep His commandments, that they may "learn of His ways and walk in His paths," that the earth may be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the mighty deep, when no man shall say to his neighbor, "know ye the Lord," for all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest. (Cowley's Talks on Doctrine [Chattanooga: Ben. E. Rich, 1902], 147.)
Mark 13:32 that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels... neither the Son
"Does Christ himself know when he will come? This question comes up occasionally, perhaps because of what is stated in the Gospel of Mark: 'Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father' (Mark 13:31-32; emphasis added). The phrase 'neither the Son' is not found in Matthew nor Luke. Christ knows all things; he possesses the fulness of the glory and power of the Father (see D&C 93:16-17). Surely he knows when he will return. If he did not know the exact day or time of his return in glory when the Olivet Prophecy was uttered, then certainly after his resurrection and glorification he came to know. It is worth noting that the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse omits the disputed phrase." (Robert L. Millet, Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 556
Mark 13:33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is
M. Russell Ballard
Living in these difficult times, brothers and sisters, requires each one of us to maintain a positive, hopeful perspective about the future. Today, more so than in the past, I am asked about the signs of the times and if I think the end of the world is near. My answer is the same one that Jesus gave some two thousand years ago:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. (Mark 13:32-33.)
...Although the prophecies tell us that these things are to take place, more and more people are expressing great alarm at what appears to be an acceleration of worldwide calamity. As members of the Church, we must not forget the Savior's admonition, "Be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass." These are difficult times, when the forces of nature seem to be unleashing a flood of "famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places."
Recently I read a newspaper article that cited statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey indicating that earthquakes around the world are increasing in frequency and intensity. According to the article, only two major earthquakes (earthquakes measuring at least six on the Richter scale) occurred during the 1920s. In the 1930s the number increased to five, and then it decreased to four during the 1940s. But in the 1950s, nine major earthquakes occurred, followed by fifteen during the 1960s, forty-six during the 1970s, and fifty-two during the 1980s. Already almost as many major earthquakes have occurred during the 1990s as during the entire decade of the 1980s.
The world is experiencing violent disorders, both physical, as well as social... Political unrest, warfare, and economic chaos prevail in many parts of the world, and the plagues of pornography, drug misuse, immorality, AIDS, and child abuse become more oppressive with each passing day. The media busily satisfies an apparently insatiable appetite of audiences to witness murder, violence, nudity, sex, and profanity...
Brothers and sisters, whether or not these are indeed the last days or even "the beginning of sorrows" as the Savior foretold, some of us may find our lives laden with frustration, disappointment, and sorrow. Many feel helpless to deal with the chaos that seems to prevail in the world. Others anguish over family members who are being carried downstream in a swift, raging current of weakening values and declining moral standards. Children particularly are suffering as society drifts further and further away from the commandments of God.
Many have even resigned themselves to accept the wickedness and cruelty of the world as being irreparable. They have given up hope. They have decided to quit trying to make the world a better place in which they and their families can live. They have surrendered to despair...
My message to you today, my brothers and sisters, is simply this: the Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful to not overreact, nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope! ("The Joy of Hope Fulfilled," Ensign, Nov. 1992, 31-32)