Masterclass: The Gospel of Mark

Part 13: The Coming of the Kingdom

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Passages that address the end times are often hard to understand and difficult to apply to our daily lives. Jesus in Mark 13 tells His disciples these tough things not so they will start trying to predict when they would come, but so they would be ready when they did. Jesus is calling them to vigilant discipleship through the hard times and to be faithful ‘til the end. He encourages them to be faithful by being watchful. Watchfulness is the spiritual discipline of guarding our hearts and minds in the word, in prayer, and in community faithfully until He returns.

Understanding Biblical Genres

Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark contains teaching from Jesus’ about the End Times. Biblical descriptions of what is yet to come can be difficult to interpret. But there are some tools we can use as we dig into The Word that can help guide our understanding. Two of the biggest are genre and context.

First, let’s talk about genre. Maybe you have a favorite genre of movies: Comedy, action, western, documentary, etc. Each genre has its own set of conventions, so the viewer has particular expectations for what they’re about to see. For example, when you watch a comedy, you expect to laugh. You might not be on the edge of your seat, and there might not be a battle at high noon, and you probably won’t learn much about the real world. And that’s all by design!

If you watch a movie and don’t know what genre the story is supposed to be told in, you will probably be confused or disappointed. If you expected an engaging crime thriller, but actually are watching a comedy, you’ll be annoyed at how unserious and non-immersive the film was. But this doesn’t mean the movie was bad, it just means your framework was off. 

Did you know that the Bible has genres and subgenres, too? Wisdom literature, poetry, prophecy, history, epistle, and law are some of the bigger ones. In Mark 13, alone, there’s three distinct subgenres. One is prophecy, which, at the moment of its writing, predicts events of the future. There’s also the parable, which is a story Jesus would use to illustrate spiritual truths. And third, there’s the dialogue between the disciples and Jesus, which you might call historical narrative. If you ask yourself which genre you are reading, you can use that as a starting point for deciding how to interpret the text. 

Biblical Context and Resources For You

If you’ve ever taken something out of context in a friend’s story or in the news, you know how silly and off-base your conclusions can be. That’s why, as we read Scripture, we should test our interpretations of one particular passage against the truths we’re confident we have learned from other passages. We should also consider the different cultural moments that the Bible’s historical accounts took place during. And we should never read and interpret one verse in isolation from the text around it!

If you’re thinking, I don’t know what to look for in different Bible genres, or I don’t have too much knowledge about the culture of Biblical settings, you’re definitely not alone. These things come with time spent studying the Bible alone, with other believers, and with helpful reading resources. A study Bible and a Bible dictionary are easy to use and can be very useful.

If you call Rolling Hills home, you have free access to RightNow Media, which is a streaming service full of videos which can enrich your personal or group Bible study experience. There are resources for people of all ages and levels of Biblical understanding. This is a great resource that you can use to replace some of the time and money spent on secular streaming services, all while guarding your heart and mind, and growing in knowledge, wisdom, and love. Check out the first link in the list of resources below!

Takeaways from Mark 13 

We can’t say it enough: The Bible is the Truth. What the Word of God says will happen is what’s going to happen. The disciple had already seen countless prophecies fulfilled, and in Mark 13:1-2, Jesus predicted another as he foretold the destruction of the Temple. This was no small claim. The Temple in Jerusalem was enormous, with individual bricks as large as modern automobiles. The Temple itself was approximately the size of Nissan Stadium. It was a hub of religious activity in Jesus’ day, representing the old way of the Jews. And 40 years later, in 70 A.D., Rome indeed destroyed the temple, and Jesus was proved right. 

Jesus goes on to describe the signs of the End Times, including concepts like the Abomination of Desolation, extreme persecution, false messiahs and prophets, great distress, the darkening of the sun, and the Coming of The Son of Man. For 2,000 years, Christians have been trying to anticipate the exact timeline of these events, and what exact form they will take. There are just two things we can know for sure: these things will happen, and in the end, Jesus wins. 

So, what should we be doing, knowing that these tough times are on the way? Jesus tells us time and time again in this chapter that we need to keep watch. We need to have our guards up, because the earth we currently live on is not our home, and Satan will not stop trying to deceive and tempt us while we’re here. 

We cannot stop prophecy, even if we wanted to. We can only live knowing that we are in our Father’s hands. We need to guard our hearts and minds so that we will not be open to deception. We need to be mindful of what our children are allowed to watch. We need to spend time in prayer, and in community. And we need to do these things now, in anticipation of the Second Coming — God wants our obedience today, not our ability to predict danger tomorrow. 


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