The Eschatological Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Definitions: Note: The "Eschatological Discourse" (Mark 13 & par.) is sometimes also called "The Apocalyptic Discourse" or "The Little Apocalypse" or "The Synoptic Apocalypse"; but these should not be confused with "The Apocalypse," which is another name for the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament (see also my page of Apocalyptic Definitions).

Overview of the Eschatological Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels:
Pericope Mark 13 Matthew 24-25 Luke 21 (& other ch.)
Introduction: Destruction of the Temple Foretold 13:1-2 24:1-2 21:5-6
Disciples' Questions: When? Sign of the End? 13:3-4 24:3 21:7
Signs on Earth: Wars, Earthquakes, Famines 13:5-8 24:4-8 21:8-11
Coming Persecutions 13:9-13 24:9-14 21:12-19
Desolating Sacrilege 13:14-20 24:15-22 21:20-24
False Messiahs and False Prophets 13:21-23 24:23-28   [17:23-24, 37b]
Signs in the Heavens: Sun, Moon, Stars 13:24-25 24:29 21:25-26
Coming of the Son of Man 13:26-27 24:30-31 21:27-28
Parable of the Fig Tree 13:28-29 24:32-33 21:29-31
Conclusion: When? No one knows! 13:30-32 24:34-36 21:32-33 (cf. Acts 1:7)
Summons to Watchfulness 13:33-37   [25:13-15] 21:34-36 (cf. 12:36-40)
Example of the Flood -- 24:37-44   [17:26-36]
Parable of Good and Wicked Slaves -- 24:45-51   [12:41-46]
Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids -- 25:1-13 --
Parable of the Talents -- 25:14-30   [19:11-27]
Parable of the Sheep and Goats -- 25:31-46 --

See the explanation of my Synoptic Coloring Scheme.  |  Click here for a parallel view of all three texts at once.

Analysis of the Eschatological Discourse in Mark's Gospel:

Mark 13 Pericope OT Citations/Allusions
Intro -
1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him,
"Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!"
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."

cf. 2 Kings 25:9 - Jerusalem Temple
burned by Babylonians, 587 BCE
13:3-4 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple,
Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,
4 "Tell us, when will this be,
and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?"
Signs on Earth -
5 Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray.
6 Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray.
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.
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 birth pangs."

Isa 19:2 - "I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, one against the other,
neighbor against neighbor, city against city,
kingdom against kingdom;" (cf. 2 Chron 15:6)
13:9-13 9 "As for yourselves, beware;
for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues;
and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them.
10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations.
11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say;
but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child,
and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
13 and you will be hated by all because of my name.
But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

Micah 7:5-6
- "Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one;
guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your embrace; /
for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
your enemies are members of your own household."


[cf. Luke 21:20-24]

14 "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up
where it ought not to be (let the reader understand),

then those in Judea must flee to the mountains;
15 the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away;
16 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat.
17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days!
18 Pray that it may not be in winter.
Dan 11:31-32 - "Forces sent by him [Antiochus IV]
shall occupy and profane the temple and fortress.
They shall abolish the regular burnt offering
and set up the abomination that makes desolate. /
He shall seduce with intrigue those who violate the covenant;
but the people who are loyal to their God
shall stand firm and take action
." (cf. Dan 9:27; 12:11)

1 Macc 1:54 - [Jerusalem, 167 BCE]
"...they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering."
13:19-20 19 For in those days there will be suffering,
such as has not been from the beginning of the creation
that God created until now, no, and never will be.
20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved;
but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days."
Dan 12:1 - "At that time Michael, the great prince,
the protector of your people, shall arise.
There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred
since nations first came into existence.
But at that time your people shall be delivered,
everyone who is found written in the book."
13:21-23 21 "And if anyone says to you at that time, 'Look! Here is the Messiah!'
or 'Look! There he is!'-- do not believe it.
22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear
and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
23 But be alert; I have already told you everything."

Deut 13:1-3
- " must not heed the words of those
[false] prophets or those who divine by dreams;
for the LORD your God is testing you,
to know whether you indeed love the LORD your God
with all your heart and soul."
Signs in Heaven -
24 "But in those days, after that suffering, 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."
Isa 13:9-10 - See, the day of the LORD comes...
/ For the stars of the heavens and
their constellations will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.
(cf. Isa 34:4; Ezek 32:7-8; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15)
13:26-27 26 "Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory.

27 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."
Dan 7:13-14 - As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him.
/ To him was given dominion and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him...

Deut 30:4
- Even if you are exiled to the ends of the world,
from there the LORD your God will gather you,
and from there he will bring you back. (cf. Zech 2:6, 10)
13:28-29 28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson:
as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth 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."
Conclusion -
30 "Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 But about that day or hour no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father

[cf. Acts 1:7 - "It is not for you to know the times or periods
that the Father has set by his own authority."
13:33-37 33 "Beware, keep alert; 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 slaves in charge, each with his work,
and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
35 Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come,
in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,
36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."


Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
  1. Why are the disciples so impressed by the Temple buildings in Mark 13:1 and par.? And why is Jesus not impressed with them?

  2. What does Jesus say about when the Temple will be destroyed?  ...when the Son of Man will come?  ...when the world will end?

  3. To what does the "desolating sacrilege" refer, which Jesus mentions in Mark 13:14?  (Hint: see Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; 1 Macc 1:54)

  4. Who is the "Son of Man"?  Where does this image come from, and what does it mean?  (Hint: see Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:7)

  5. What "lesson" is to be learned from the fig tree in Mark 13:28?  How is this related to the cursing of the fig tree in 11:12-14, 20-25?

  6. What did Jesus mean by saying that "this generation will not pass away" until everything is accomplished (Mark 13:30-31)? Was his prediction wrong?

  7. What does Jesus say about when (the exact "day and hour") all these things will occur?

  8. What is the overall point or main message of the Eschatological Discourse as recorded in Mark's Gospel? Luke's Gospel?

  9. Why did Matthew add several more parables (three from the Q-source and two of his own) at the end of the Markan discourse?

  10. How is the message of the discourse in Matthew different from Mark's version?  Are the two complimentary or contradictory?

  11. From the way each Evangelist records the words of Jesus, can you tell whether he himself (Matthew, Mark, Luke) was writing before or after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Roman army in 70 AD?

  12. Can we really know when the end of the world will occur?  If yes, then how?  If not, then why not?

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