“Stay awake” – these are the last words in Mark 13. It is a dramatic chapter; Jesus tells of a time coming when “there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” (verse 19). He then speaks of how God declares through Isaiah, “My salvation will not delay, I will put salvation in Zion” (46:13).

There is no delay from God’s perspective, only from ours. So it is from God’s perspective that Jesus says, “if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (verse 20). So there will still be those whom God counts as “elect” (i.e. those he has elected, or selected, to serve Him and His son).

Only God and our Lord know who He has elected in the final traumatic days when God’s judgments are made evident in awesome fashion. At the climax of that time (our days), says Jesus, “the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect … from the ends of the earth …” (verses 25-27).

Now note the verses that follow. Jesus says, “from the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as the branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates … This generation will not pass away until all these things take place …” (verses 28-30). Israel is God’s fig tree (see Hosea 9:10; Joel 1:7); it is a clear sign that God is about to act.

The point is made in Psalm 90:10 that the normal human lifespan is 70 years. God’s fig tree came to life again as a nation in 1948, which is now more than 70 years ago. We need to be wide awake to the traumas in the Middle East and other events, that are causing great anxieties in many places.

All those who know God and truly love Him and love their Saviour, His son, will heed the final verse of today’s chapter, “And what I say to you, I say to all, stay awake”. Only God’s word enables us to do that properly.