Bearing Witness to Christ
“Be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.”- Mark 13:9–10
After Jesus predicted the fall of the temple in Jerusalem, the disciples asked Him when it would happen and what would be the sign that the fulfillment of His prediction was at hand (Mark 13:1–4). Christ responded with a lengthy address that has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse. What is remarkable about this address is that it actually gives an overview of church and world history from the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection in about AD 30 to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in AD 70. The events Jesus described did take place just as He foresaw, vindicating His claims to be the Son of God.
Because our Lord dealt with the entire course of history leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction, not everything He mentioned was a sign that the end of the temple was at hand even if everything He predicted finally took place. We have already seen that in our study of Mark 13:5–8, which features Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse of false messiahs, natural disasters, and wars and rumors of wars. But none of those things were the sign of Jerusalem’s imminent fall; they were only the beginning of tribulation.
Verses 9–10 include more events that would take place in that forty-year span of history from AD 30 to 70, and such events likewise were not proof of Jerusalem’s imminent end. Instead, they were part of the entire complex of things that had to happen before God’s judgment on the Holy City for its rejection of the Messiah. To see the truth of Christ’s words about being brought before councils and kings (v. 9), all we need to do is turn to the book of Acts. There we find episodes such as Peter and John’s testimony before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1–22), the Apostles’ standing before Gamaliel (5:17–42), and Stephen’s testimony in front of the high priest (6:8–7:60).
Mark 13:10 includes Jesus’ testimony that the gospel would also be “proclaimed to all nations.” This might seem to be a prediction of the evangelization of every nation on earth, but the term translated “nations” does not have to mean every nation across the globe. It can refer simply to the world that Jesus’ first audience knew, which was the Mediterranean world. That is the best way to read Jesus’ words, for Paul writes in Colossians 1:6 that the gospel had gone to the whole world in his lifetime, and he died during that forty-year period from AD 30 to AD 70. Paul could have said that only if he meant the known world of his day.
Today’s passage, while it had an immediate fulfillment two thousand years ago, continues to have relevance for us today. It shows us that faithfulness to Christ may lead to our arrest and trial before the governing authorities. Are you prepared to be faithful to Jesus even if it might mean suffering before earthly rulers?
Passages for Further Study