The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity — the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost — is November 14, 2021.

Readings for Year B can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Mark 13:1-8

13:1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”

13:2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

13:3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

13:4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

13:5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.

13:6 Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.

13:8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s reading was about the venal, money-grubbing hypocrisy of the Jewish hierarchy at the temple.

This week’s reading picks up from that point, with one of the disciples remarking in awe about the temple’s magnificence (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary remarks on the dichotomy between the greed the disciple had just witnessed and the splendour of what was supposed to be a holy place:

How apt many of Christ’s own disciples are to idolize things that look great, and have been long looked upon as sacred. They had heard Christ complain of those who had made the temple a den of thieves; and yet, when he quitted it, for the wickedness that remained in it, they court him to be as much in love as they were with the stately structure and adorning of it.

Unimpressed with earthly splendour, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple (verse 2), which took place in AD 70.

The temple was supposed to be indestructible, yet the Romans, unknowingly accomplishing God’s will, destroyed it. It was a judgement on the Jewish people for having rejected Jesus. With it ended the sacrificial system.

Those two verses complete the prophecy about the temple.

The next six verses — and, when one reads the full chapter, up to and including verse 13 — concern the millennia leading to Christ’s second coming.

John MacArthur summarises these 11 verses:

So, in between the first and second coming, life on this planet will be marked by relentless trouble.

Matthew and Luke’s Gospels also include this discourse from Jesus on the temple and the world.

This discourse, from whatever of the synoptic gospels one chooses, is important to know because it answers the question many agnostics and atheists have: ‘Why does God allow war and natural disasters?’

These terrible things are part of His divine plan. One day, when we are with Him in glory, we will come to understand it.

The disciples and Jesus were on their way back to Bethany for the night. They had been walking from the temple to the Mount of Olives, from which one had a magnificent view of the temple:

In the morning, when you came over the top of the Mount of Olives, you couldn’t even look at the building, because the morning sun reflected off the gold would blind one; in the evening, its glory was only slightly diminished – perhaps the most strikingly beautiful building in the ancient world.

The in-group of Apostles — Peter, James, John and Andrew (verse 3) — asked Jesus when the temple would be destroyed and what sign would there be just before the establishment of the messianic kingdom (verse 4).

MacArthur says:

their question is bigger than the destruction of the temple, because in Matthew 24:3, Matthew records that they asked about the coming of the end of the age; the coming of the end of the age, and the sign of the end of the age – and even the word coming means presence – parousia.

When will there be divine presence, the end of this age – the end of this age, if you will, of apostasy, and the fulfillment of all kingdom promise – how soon will it come? And they’re still asking this question 40 days after the resurrection, because in Acts chapter 1, after 40 days of being instructed by Jesus, they still ask the question, “Will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They think maybe all it was going to be was 40 days of wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, and earthquakes, famines, etc., etc.

Looking beyond the destruction of the temple, Jesus told them to be sure that no one led them astray (verse 5), because many would come in His name and deceive people with false prophecies (verse 6).

MacArthur gave his sermon on these verses in 2011, around the time that Harold Canning was taking the world by storm with his misguided prediction that the world was going to end that year:

If you want a name, stay away from Nostradamus, and the ilk that follow that particular genre. Don’t follow deceivers; there will be many. The latest in the moment in which we live is Harold Camping of Family Radio, who has now established another date for the coming of Christ – he already established one and that was wrong; now he’s at it again. False teachers, false prophets, false Christs will fill up the centuries, and they will make false prophecies about all kinds of things – do not be deceived, do not be misled.

How do you avoid being misled? By staying true to the Scripture. Now, these people who come along who want to convince you, some of them are even going to be so bold as to acknowledge themselves as Christ – verse 6: “Many will come in My name saying, ‘I am He,’ and mislead many.” There will be Christ figures; the bizarre kind – like Charles Manson and the People’s Temple leader, Jones – are simply illustrations of the myriad of these false Christs, these people who claim to be Jesus. They will continue to deceive; they will all have followers who will follow them, in many cases, to death.

Jesus told them not to be worried by wars and rumours of wars, because these must take place, long before the end of the world (verse 7).

MacArthur says:

Our Lord accurately foresaw the world would never know peace, never – never improve morally, never improve socially, never improve spiritually – that it would rather devolve and devolve and devolve into worse and worse condition.

Jesus said that nation would rise against nation but that there would also be earthquakes and famines, all of which are just the beginning of ‘birthpangs’ (verse 8).

MacArthur explains why Jesus used that word. Much worse will befall the world just before He returns again in glory:

It’s the nature of living in a cursed planet; it’s not yet the end. In fact, if you will look at the end of verse 8, it says they’re merely the beginning of birth pangs. That’s an analogy of a woman’s contractions – they are separated, they are mild, and they intensify and intensify and intensify to a great degree just before birth. What we’re seeing in human history is just the beginning, is just the mild contractions; wait till you see what’s going to happen just before the very end.

Two thousand years of these milder contractions will explode in the end

Henry counsels that the Lord will protect His own, provided they are not provoking these events:

The world shall be full of troubles, but be not ye troubled; without are fightings, within are fears, but fear not ye their fear.Note, The disciples of Christ, if it be not their own fault, may enjoy a holy security and serenity of mind, when all about them is in the greatest disorder.

MacArthur summarises the importance of these verses for us:

Let me just add a footnote here – this is another evidence of our Lord’s deity, because the things that He said would be true are, in fact, true. He predicted the destruction of the temple in verses 1 and 2, and it was destroyed in 70 A.D. He predicted that not one stone would be on another, and that’s exactly what happened in 70 A.D. and it’s never been rebuilt. He predicted the nature of life on a corrupt, cursed planet, and everything He said is true; and if you want to get all that He said, you put Matthew and Mark and Luke’s account together, and you get the full picture of what life is like on this planet.

All the things that He said would come to pass, have come to pass, and they are very familiar to all of us. We conclude from that – and this is an important thing to hear – the Bible always perfectly corresponds to reality. When the Bible says something will be a certain way, that is exactly how it will be; it will be what Scripture says it will be, both in general terms as well as in absolutely specific terms. You have a specific event in 70 A.D. that fulfills the words of our Lord and fulfills what the Scripture records.

And you have the very general description of time between the two comings of Christ that we obviously know is the way life really is, and in the future time of tribulation, the very specific things mentioned there concerning the abomination of desolation, and the end of that period, the sign in the sky of the return of Jesus Christ. It’ll all be exactly the way the Scripture says it will be because any examination of history and comparing history with what Scripture says always validates the Scripture.

Next Sunday — Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday — is the last in the Church calendar. Advent begins on the Sunday after that and, with it, a new liturgical year.