“Make sure that no one misleads you. Because many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and will deceive many. When you will hear of wars and rumors about war don’t be alarmed, for these things must occur, but this is not the end. Because nations rise against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms – and there are earthquakes in various locations; and famines and disturbances – but these begin with the pain of childbirth." (Mark 13:5-8)
Why did Jesus say this?
This statement comes after Jesus was asked a question:
As he sat down at the Mount of Olives near the Temple, Peter, James and John asked him privately: “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign indicating when all these things will take place?” (Mark 13:3-4)Why did they ask him this question? This comes after Jesus' previous statement:
“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will remain upon another that has not been torn down.” (Mark 13:2)Which was a response to a disciple asking:
Later as he left the Temple one of his disciples said to him, “Master, what kind of stones and buildings are these?” (Mark 13:1)As explained in Mark 13:2, Jesus is using a double entendre. The first lesson is that everything in the physical world - including strong-looking buildings - is temporary. Everything meets destruction in the physical world. This is combined with Jesus predicting the coming destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
This prompts the three disciples to ask Jesus when this will occur.
Who will mislead them?
Jesus first answers with a warning about not being misled. Who will mislead Jesus' disciples? Who is he warning them about?
Jesus is warning them - and all of us - about so many charlatans who were and have been predicting the end of the world. He is also speaking about those who claimed to be the Messiah in the coming years following Jesus' leaving this world.
You see, this notion that the world will end after the Messiah comes is not a new one. So many preachers have taught this over the centuries. Even when Jesus walked the earth, the prevailing temple teachers were preaching that the Messiah will come soon and after he does, the world will end.
This is why Jesus said, "but this is not the end."
Of course, this doomsday doctrine predicting end of the world has been preached for centuries that Jesus will come again and when he does, the world will end. Or the world will end and then he comes.
Yes, there are variations to this teaching. For example, the temple teachers were not saying that Jesus was the Messiah. They were still waiting for the Messiah. And of course, when Roman Catholic teachers assumed this teaching, they merely added Jesus as the Messiah, but then he had to come again.
So it is virtually the same teaching. And this is why Peter, James, and John took Jesus aside to ask this question of Jesus. Because of this long-standing doctrine, they were assuming Jesus was predicting the end of the world as so many others were at that time.
But Jesus was not doing this. He was not predicting the end of the world. This is why he was warning them about the false predictions of so many other charlatan teachers.
Is Jesus predicting the Jewish-Roman wars?
For a period of over sixty years - from about 60 A.D. to about 120 A.D. - the Romans slaughtered the Judean people in what is now referred to as the Jewish-Roman Wars.
The problem with this description is that the Jewish-Roman Wars were more genocide than warfare. The Jews had very few weapons while the Romans had legions of well-armed soldiers. The Jews were outnumbered and out-weaponized by a long shot.
But the Judean people kept rebelling against the cruel Roman rule. So whenever there was a rebellion by the Judean people, the Romans would respond by basically slaughtering that town or region. This began around 66 CE in Jerusalem.
Yes, the Romans burnt down much of Jerusalem and brought down the Temple of Jerusalem.
This is precisely what Jesus was predicting to his disciples. He warned them that they need to be prepared for this coming war.
But again, we must note that Jesus clearly states, "but this is not the end."
Why the warnings of war and natural disasters?
Notice that Jesus then speaks of nations fighting other nations and earthquakes in various places, and famines and other disturbances. What is Jesus talking about if he wasn't predicting the end of the world as many interpret even today?
We must remember that all of these disasters have happened over and over during the centuries since Jesus walked the planet. Yet still, the world has not ended. So why was it important for Jesus to state this to his disciples?
The key lies in the last statement, "but these begin with the pain of childbirth."
Jesus is teaching his students a key element of the physical world. The physical world is full of suffering. There are wars, famines, earthquakes, and so many other calamities that occur throughout the world outside of our control. Why?
The question is why is there so much suffering in the world?
Why are people always fighting each other? Why are there earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, and other natural disasters? Why is there starvation and famine?
Through simple observation, we can conclude that these natural disasters are part of the character of the physical world. They are basic elements of this world. Then, of course, there are so many human-caused disasters. So much human-caused pain and suffering. Why?
Is this our home?
Just consider the contrary. What if the physical world was perfect? What if there were no wars, no struggles, no hunger, no pain, no bugs, no natural disasters? We would be happy, right?
We would not be happy, because the physical world is not our home. Here in this world, we are away from our Best Friend and Soul Mate. Our Beloved. The Person who we can always confide in. The Person we can trust.
We are speaking of the Supreme Being. The physical world was designed for us to get away from the Supreme Being. This is a place where we are given the illusion - through the mind and the senses combined with the atoms and molecules of this space - that God is not around.
This is an illusion because the Supreme Being is always around. He never leaves any part of His creation. Yet because He wanted to grant our wish to be away from Him, He gave us this space - the physical world - and the illusion that He isn't here.
In fact, the illusion is so good that we have the opportunity to not even believe that He exists.
How does He create this illusion?
Is this a great illusion?
There are many magicians who create various illusions for their audiences. One of the best illusions is to seemingly disappear to the audience, right? This is typically called a "disappearing act."
For magicians, this illusion is typically created through misdirection and deception. The magician will get the audience to look one way while the magician does something else. They believe they are seeing one thing while something else is going on elsewhere on the stage.
For example, the magician might point out something to the audience that the audience will put their attention on, while the magician sneaks away through a trap door or something. There is no real magic - just misdirection. This creates the deception - a deceiving of the senses.
Remember that the audience has come in order to see the disappearing act, so it's not being dishonest. They wanted to be deceived.
It is the same with someone who goes to a movie theater. The theater is set up with comfy chairs and a darkened room. This allows the movie-goer to ignore reality for a while being deceived into thinking that what is going on on the screen is real. In this way, a person gets involved in the movie - crying or becoming saddened, for example. Even though the screen is simply showing moving pictures of actors in front of a fake set.
This is the same with our situation. We have voluntarily come into this physical world in order to be deceived. We wanted to be away from God to try to enjoy this world without Him. We wanted to be "king for a day," with the freedom to do whatever we want.
So the Supreme Being gives us this illusion. He provides us with a space where we can completely forget His existence for a while. Through the physical mind and the physical senses, we are given the illusion that the only things that exist are what our senses or mind perceive. This hides from our spiritual selves the entire spiritual world, even though the spiritual world exists all around us. It is like being in a prison and believing that there is no life outside of the prison walls.
Now that is the greatest illusion.
This illusion gives us the opportunity to forget God. The freedom to ignore Him. Here we can pretend that we are the center of the universe. Here we can pretend that we are the greatest.
And this is what many of us will do. We will work hard for many years in order to become the king of whatever heap we have eyed up. For some, it is being the boss at work. For others, it is being a sports star. For others, it's being a top scientist. For others, it's being a big politician. For others, it's being president or some other higher government official. And for others, it might just mean being a parent.
Any of these positions offer us the opportunity to be in charge. To theoretically tell others what to do. To be the responsible one.
But interestingly enough, these positions are also illusions. The boss at work must work hard to organize the workers and keep on top of their skills. The sports star must please the fans and work hard to keep their skills up. The politician or government worker must serve to people or lose their position of power. And the parents must take care of the kids, and work to keep them fed and safe.
So while we aim to become the boss or king of some heap, we end up being servants.
This is another illusion of the physical world. Because by nature, each of us is a servant.
This also brings us to the reason there is so much war, pain, struggle, famine and natural disasters. Because the Supreme Being wants us to return to Him, the physical world is a temporary facility. Rather, He wanted to give us a learning experience. The ability to change.
And the opportunity to realize that we will never be happy without our relationship with Him.
You see, the pains and suffering of this world are simply messages from God that we have a home elsewhere. Yes, we are on hiatus from God. But He is not forgetting us. He has not sent us to a place where we would forget Him forever.
Why do we pray when disaster hits?
Notice that whenever there is a disaster, our common response is prayer. Are we asking God to suddenly make this physical world a paradise and take away all the pain?
Perhaps, but this is not what happens. Yes, God does eventually take away our pain. But what prayer does in the meantime is that it expands our consciousness beyond the world of pain. It helps us understand that there is a greater power beyond this physical world.
Prayer effectively allows us to escape this world through our consciousness. It allows us to connect with our real position as one of God's dependents. One of God's servants.
But notice that many prayers seem to go unanswered. People will pray for a cancer patient to recover, but then they die of cancer. Does that mean that God doesn't answer our prayers?
Our prayers are always answered by God. Most of the time, the prayers are answered in His way, not the way we expect. Not the way of the physical world. For example, the cancer patient may leave their body, but they will never die. Their pain will be removed, just as prayed for.
Why is there so much pain here?
Because, again, the physical world was meant to provide us with the freedom to make choices, and to choose to love Him or not. This freedom comes with responsibility, however. This means consequences. Every decision we make comes with consequences. If He swooped in and corrected everything just by us asking Him, it would deny us our freedom not only to forget God but also to deal with the lessons and consequences of our actions in whatever way we wanted to.
Remember that freedom not only means the freedom to do things. It also means having the responsibility for the consequences of our actions. This is why it is critical that He not interfere.
But if we pray to Him, that exercise of our freedom has an effect upon our consciousness. This means that we grow closer to Him. It means that we also grow closer to the time where we can escape the physical realm and resume our natural position in the spiritual realm.