The Word for today:
Chapter 13 of Mark is known as the "Olivet Discourse" (1), so called because Jesus answered these questions while he was on the Mount of Olives:
Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?" (Mark 13:3-4)
Yesterday, we learned that God verified the words of his prophets with a simple test. They had to predict local current events so that the people would know they were genuine.
Isaiah, for example, told King Hezekiah that not an arrow would enter the city, even though there were 200,000 trigger-happy Assyrian soldiers surrounding the city's walls.
The prophets were to be listened to because they told the truth; the truth that would prepare the people to hear--and believe--the final messenger, Jesus Christ:
"For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10)
People ask, "Why doesn't God reveal himself today?"
Because, in the person of Jesus Christ, God put the period at the end of the sentence:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2a)
God hasn't any more to say to this world than he has said in Jesus Christ. He is God's ultimate, full, and final revelation to man. If God were to speak out of heaven at this present moment, he would just repeat himself.
As the final prophetic message of God's ultimate prophet, the Olivet Discourse completes many prophetic strands that weave their way all the way through scripture.
Even its setting has prophetic significance. The Mount of Olives is the place from which the Shekinah glory had departed, the place (unbeknownst to the disciples at the time) where Jesus would ascend, and the place to which he will return.
Furthermore, the arrivals and departures of Israel are clarified in the Olivet Discourse. Scripture prophesies three times of dispossession (when Israel would be forced to depart from the Promised Land) and three re-possessions, when they would return (2).
The first dispossession (to slavery in Egypt) was prophesied to Abraham in Genesis 15:13. The next dispossession was the Babylonian captivity, which is prophesied throughout scripture, most prominently in Jeremiah. The third dispossession is the one forced upon them by Rome, which began (just as Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse) with the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. --
"Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13:2)
Altogether, scripture prophesies three dispossessions and three returns. Of these six prophecies, five have been literally fulfilled. We can be certain that the final repossession (which may or may not be in its initial stages right now) will be just as literally fulfilled.
(1) Parallel versions of the Olivet Discourse are found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.
(2) Deuteronomy 28 gathers many of these prophecies together.