Mark 13:24-37 (ESV)
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Jesus begins verse 24 with the word “but,” shifting the direction of his teaching to the time of his return. Before Jesus comes back, strange things will take place. For example, the sun, the moon, the stars and the powers in the heavens, that Jesus refers to will be “thrown out of whack.” He could have been referencing rulers, leaders, and authorities, whether seen or unseen, that will be brought down by God. Either way, darkness and chaos will break out on earth before Jesus returns. Jesus declared that after these things transpire, all people on earth will see the Son of Man coming in power and glory. The Old Testament prophet Daniel wrote about the Son of Man. In one of Daniel’s prophetic visions, he saw the Son of Man with the clouds before the throne of God. Jesus was the Son of Man of whom Daniel spoke. Jesus then added that the elect will be gathered from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. He used this language to explain that he will have followers from people groups who dwell all over the world. And when he returns, the redeemed will gather to him, as he is the focal point of human history.
The study of what will happen in the end is known as Eschatology. As we read about the second coming of Jesus and the events that will precede his return, we should be encouraged. One day, Jesus will come back and everything that’s currently wrong in this life will be made right. Those who love and practice evil will be judged and condemned. Those who have turned to Jesus in repentance and faith will be gathered together from all over the globe to live out eternity in a place more glorious than anything our finite minds can imagine. The disciples were going to suffer greatly for the gospel, but it would all be worth it in the end. We too must suffer for the gospel. We suffer when those who hate Christ persecute us. We also suffer when we deny the desires of our flesh, living for a kingdom that is not of this world. If you are a weary or tired follower of Jesus today, take courage. One day we will clearly see that God’s long-term plan for our lives, including every aspect of our pain, was founded in nothing less than perfect wisdom and love.