The “Mark Dilemma” for Futurists

The Preterist position has one great strength in its favor: the gospel of Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse. Here is a summation of the last two posts on Preterism. While standing at the temple, Jesus tells the crowds and disciples that the temple will be destroyed. The crowds ask him when this will happen and Jesus gives an answer concerning Jerusalem’s desolation, the destruction of the temple, and the eventual end of the times of the Gentiles, all while standing at the temple. This answer is recorded in Luke 21. Later that evening, four disciples come to Jesus privately while on the Mount of Olives and ask Him for further clarification concerning these things, the sign of His coming, and the end of the age. Jesus addresses their questions by focusing on characteristics until the end of the age, giving them the specific sign of the abomination of desolation, and laying out the timeline of the great tribulation in relation to His Coming. This answer is recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 and does not focus on the destruction of the temple, but rather on His coming.

However, if we just read the gospel of Mark, we do not have the additional details that Matthew and Luke provide for us. If we only read the gospel of Mark, we are completely unaware of Jesus’ direct answer to the crowds in Luke, and we know nothing of the disciples’ question concerning the sign of His coming or of the end of the age. Simply put, what if someone read only Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse? They would have to take the following as the preface to Christ’s discourse on the Mount of Olives.

1 Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" 2 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?" 5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say:

This is the gospel that all Preterists start with. The Futurist is faced with a dilemma. Can the gospel of Mark be understood from a Futurist viewpoint without the aid of Matthew and Luke? Before answering that question, let’s consider a couple of other solutions.

Solution #1– God’s foreknowledge. As Mark wrote his gospel, God knew that Matthew and Luke would later write their gospels and that readers would be able to cross reference the passages to understand the entire picture. Although Mark would only give some of the details, God knew that all the details would eventually be available for a Futurist perspective as I’ve shown above.

Solution #2– Jesus ignored their inquiry of the temple and simply prophesied of future events. Since Jesus’ answer in Mark 13:5-37 contains absolutely no mention of the temple or the destruction of it, we can safely conclude that Jesus had bigger plans in mind when He gave His answer. This was typical of Jesus’ teachings. The parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t really answer the question, "Who is my neighbor?"; it redefines what it means to be a neighbor. In Luke 12:41, it seems to us like Jesus ignores Peter’s question simply continuing with the teaching that He already had in mind without Peter’s question. Jesus never really answered the question, "Lord, are there few that be saved?", Luke 13:23. If you read through the gospels, it is obvious that Jesus was always thinking on a completely different plane than the crowds, the Pharisees, and even His disciples. We could have a situation where the disciples were thinking of one situation while Jesus’ answer to the question included something different. This would not be out of character for Jesus. This would explain the "this generation" quandary quite simply. Jesus was referring to the generation that would witness the sign of His coming and would not pass away until that coming was fulfilled. "This generation" that witnesses the sign of the abomination of desolation will not pass away until the rest of the events (cosmic signs, coming of the Son of Man, gathering of the elect) are completely fulfilled.

Solution #3– Both of the above solutions do not really address the fundamental issue. The passage in Mark is prefaced by a discussion concerning the temple. Why would Mark even include such things if the destruction of the temple were not an issue? The following is a view that is not usually espoused by die hard futurists such as myself. The reason being is that once we start talking about 70 A.D. fulfillment, we have given ground to what the Preterists are proclaiming. But I believe that Jesus had the destruction of the temple in mind as He was speaking to the disciples both at the temple and on the Mount of Olives as well. Already in Luke we see the destruction of the temple (fulfilled in 70 A.D.) but much further in the future we see the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the times of the Gentiles. So in Luke we clearly have two events separated by the period of time known as the times of the Gentiles. Can we have two events in Mark separated by a great time period?

The answer lies in Prophetic Tension. In studying the Old Testament prophets, we see they had a view of God’s judgement which seemed bizarre at times. They felt that God’s judgement was imminent and preached with that in mind. Yet many times the judgement was delayed for generations. The judgement would be completely fulfilled, just not to the generation to whom Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, etc. were preaching. And other times, an invasion would occur as a sign that the prophet’s testimony was true, but the entire prophecy would not be fulfilled. Language concerning the Day of the LORD still loomed as some apocalyptic event in the future. Other times, prophets would see future events and prophesy as if they were all coming, yet not differentiate which events would happen in which order. Isaiah is written just this way. Isaiah doesn’t say, first this will happen, second this will happen, third this will happen. Isaiah prophesies thematically, weaving more of a cause and effect type of prophecy. A certain event will happen because God has a purpose to accomplish it, rather than God will bring this pass at a certain time. Prophets saw many events in the future and would give all the events woven together since they all relate in some way or another.

Let’s just say (for example’s sake) that I am a prophet. My message to you is, "You need to repent of your sins because Jesus is going to come, judge you, and throw you into hell if you don’t repent." Now all these events are related and are in the future. It is easy to group them together, but do they happen in this order in time? The person may die in their sins and go to hell, but Jesus has not yet returned. The final judgement is not until after the thousand years are expired, yet in my message I have thematically joined His coming with His judgement. This is what the prophets did. They drew on their knowledge of the future in order that they might prompt the current generation to repent. Here is a quote from Ladd’s The Presence of the Future:

The modern mind is interested in chronology, in sequence, in time. The prophetic mind usually was not concerned with such questions but took its stand in the present and viewed the future as a great canvas of God’s redemptive working in terms of height and breadth but lacking the clear dimension of depth. The prophets usually saw in the background the final eschatological visitation of God; but since they primarily concerned themselves with God’s will for his people in the present, they viewed the immediate future in terms of the ultimate future without strict chronological differentiation and thus proclaimed the ultimate will of God for his people here and now.

To bring Ladd’s thought into simple terms, the prophet was crying out, "Repent because God intends to do great things with our nation." Those great things may be delayed for centuries, but God still intends to do them. Those who would repent in any generation would be guaranteed a place in God’s ultimate plan.

Jesus as a prophet had a ministry with this exact scope. He prophesied to His generation. Yet because of the delay of God’s timing, the ultimate generation that would witness the consummation would remain in the future although many of His prophecies would be fulfilled in the lifetimes of those who heard Him speak. This leads into the next subject, Jesus pronounced judgement on His own generation. But I’ll save that for the next post.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S. I know my view may not be popular with other futurists, but how would you explain the Mark dilemma?

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One Response to The “Mark Dilemma” for Futurists

  1. Pingback: Me? A Preterist? No, No, No. | The Orange Mailman

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