Jesus is coming again. Personally and visibly, He is coming back. In power and glory, He will return to consummate His redemptive mission and to establish His eternal kingdom. Bible-believing Christians may disagree on some details surrounding the end times, but on this we can agree: Jesus is coming again.
This week’s Explore the Bible lesson examines Jesus’ teachings about His return in Mark 13. As we approach this passage, let’s first remind ourselves that the primary purpose of the Bible’s teachings on end time events is not merely to satisfy our curiosity. Rather, it is to reveal how to live now in light of future events.
As you read through Mark 13, look for the exhortations—watch out, be on guard, stay awake! Note especially the final verse of the chapter, where Jesus said this: “And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Be alert!” (v. 37). The Greek word translated “be alert” (“stay awake,” “watch”) is the very last word of the chapter, and Jesus’ final word on this subject in Mark’s Gospel. It is where the emphasis lies in Mark 13. The recurring theme of Scripture concerning the second coming is to be ready, and Scripture is not silent on how to prepare:
1. Live in the light of His first coming.
Do you want to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming? Then live like His first coming mattered.
Jesus spoke parables about His return. In Luke 19:11-27, He told about a nobleman who traveled to a far country to become king. This nobleman called ten of his servants, gave them each a mina (coin), and told them: “engage in my business until I come back” (v. 13). After an unspecified duration of time, the nobleman returned as king and summoned his servants to give an account of their faithfulness. The first two servants had been productive with what was entrusted to them. But another servant had done nothing. He simply wrapped his mina in a cloth and hid it. His mistake was that he didn’t act on what he professed to believe. He professed something about his master but didn’t live by his profession, and lost his reward (vv. 21-23).
Those who profess Christ as Lord and live according to their profession will receive great reward when Jesus returns.
2. Be discerning.
Twice in Mark 13 Jesus warned His disciples not to be led astray by false claim: “Watch out that no one deceives you… false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect” (vv. 5-6,21-22). Paul warned, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way” (2 Thess. 2:1-3).
The warning of Scripture is consistent: use discernment in listening to those who claim to have all the details of the end times figured out, and ignore those who resort to date setting end time events.
3. Accept the uncertainties.
“Now concerning that day or hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son—but only the Father. Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming” (Mark 13:32-33). If Jesus was content not to know the day or hour, then let’s stop speculating about it. Be content with “no one knows … only the Father.”
4. Don’t lose hope.
Paul reminded Titus that Jesus’ first coming brought salvation and it instructs us how to live “sensible, righteous, and godly” lives in this present age. It is our “blessed hope”—the expectation of Jesus’ return—that compels us to do so (Titus 2:11-13).
5. Encourage one another.
The promise that “the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is followed by a command: “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). Again, the affirmation that “the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2) is followed by the exhortation: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (v. 11).
Scripture’s teachings about the second coming are not given to satisfy our personal fascination with future events but that the body of Christ might encourage one another with the promises.
6. Live as if today was the day.
If we’re not careful, the delay in Jesus’ return will lead us to complacency. Living in the expectation that He could return today compels us to live every day for what really matters—for eternity.
7. Keep on doing the work Jesus left us to do.
Jesus warned of troubling events as we near the end of the age, including persecution of believers (Mark 13:7-9). Then He added that nothing—not even persecution—should distract us from the one necessary thing: preach to the gospel to all nations (v. 10).
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave the church its marching orders: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The very next verses report that the disciples just stood there looking up into the sky. Two angels appeared and spoke the words the church today needs to hear: Why are you standing there gazing into heaven? Jesus is coming back—so get busy! (vv. 9-11).
Mike Livingstone works at Lifeway Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.