Chapter thirteen contains Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question about the end times. The discussion was precipitated by the disciples’ admiration of the Temple grounds (Mark 13:1-4). Jesus responded that the whole thing would be torn down, so they asked when it would happen and how they would know it was coming.
Interestingly, Jesus began his response with the warning to not be tricked when several people would claim to have revelation from God or even that they themselves were Messiah. Jesus also noted that wars and natural disasters are not signs of his return (Mark 13:5-8). Instead, Jesus turned to prophecy that was already given. While there would certainly be time of persecution before then, the key event to watch for will be the “abomination of desolation” that Daniel prophesied (Mark 13:9-23). Mark’s note, “Let the reader understand,” in Mark 13:14 shows that he was not going to comment on or explain this teaching as he had done previously in this book. It is up to the reader to study this and understand it. Jesus promised that those days will be filled with unprecedented persecution of the Jews, so much so that all would be killed if God were not controlling the situation.
The actual sign of his coming will be visible in the sky to all the earth at the moment of his return (Mark 13:24-27). When he comes, it will be in power and glory and judgment. Jesus promised that the generation which will see these signs will see the coming itself. This should be a warning to all those who teach that these signs have been going on for centuries, because Jesus said they would come quickly, in one generation. Jesus said that Israel should not allow herself to “fall asleep” waiting for his return (Mark 13:32-37). When those signs begin, they need to understand them and prepare themselves to meet him.