Luke 21. God Wants Us to Know About the Future.
Key Notes: Events near the end of the Age. Destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus will return. Look up.
Evangelical Christians have a lively interest in the future, the part of theology that is called "Eschatology." The subject was popularized by dispensationalists (Darby, Scofield) more than a hundred years ago. They revived the early Church's teaching on the literal and imminent return of Christ. A dispensational view of the future is outlined in the Scofield Bible. It raises questions such as
•Will Christ come before or after the Age of Gold, the Millennium?
•Will Christ come before, after, or during the final agony, the Great Tribulation?
Although Dispesationalism has lost much of its validity, the questions remain. Today's teaching by Christ should help us to focus on things He wants us to know about the future. He may not satisfy our questions.
21:1–4 The chapter opens with the conclusion of the previous chapter. After condemning the scribes for robbing widows, Jesus looked up and saw a widow putting two tiny coins in the treasury box. He honored her contribution: it was all she had. The implication is that what we have left is more important than what we give away. For a millionaire to put a hundred dollar bill in the church offering is really a pittance.
21:5–9 A passing remark about the beauty of the Temple led Jesus to an important teaching on the future of Jerusalem and the disciples. This was the third temple: the first was built by Solomon around 950BC and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587BC. The second was built by the exiles returning from Babylon in 517BC. The second temple was a pale copy of Solomon's beautiful building. It was ruined by the Greeks. The magnificent third temple was begun by Herod the Great about 9BC and was finished in 64AD. Its gold and marble was said to be so dazzling in the morning sun that one could not look at it. Beautiful furniture was donated by politicians.
Jesus prophesied that it would be completely destroyed. When the listeners asked when, Jesus began His discourse without answering the question directly.
21:8–11 There will be false Messiahs and international conflict, famine and epidemic disease, and astronomical disturbances.
21:12–19 The believers will be subject to persecution and betrayal.
21:20–24 Jerusalem will be besieged, and the people should evacuate the city as soon as possible to avoid being slaughtered. Jerusalem would be under Gentile control until Gentile time was fulfilled.
We believe this period (until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled) is from 70AD, the Fall of Jerusalem to Titus and the Roman army, to 1948 AD, when the Jewish State of Israel was established. In’18 Britain in the Balfour Declaration said that Palestine should be a national homeland for the Jews, taking it away from the Turkish rule. The statement about the end of the time of the Gentiles is very important because it gives us a historical time-point.
21:25–28 Then the astronomical signs combined with changes in the sea will lead to panic but they are signs of the coming of Christ. He will come in a cloud with power and great glory. We should be looking up, not in fear but in anticipation.
21:29–33 The sign of His Coming are like the signs of Spring. This generation (we understand that this means the Jewish people) will not disappear until it all takes place.
21:34–36 We should not be distracted by self-indulgence, drunkenness or worry but should be watchful, praying that we can escape the troubles and stand before Jesus.
Previous prophecies about the future are numerous in Luke:
Some would see the Kingdom of God while they were still alive. 9:27
Accused Christians should not prepare testimony in advance of their trials.12:11
Jesus will come at an unexpected hour.12:39
We should learn how to interpret the present age.12:54
Israel will be desolated.13:35
The Coming of Christ will be seen universally.17:24
When Jesus comes, life will be going on as usual. 17:26
One person will be taken and another left.17:31
As Christians, we are preoccupied with questions about the details of the Last Days, the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, and whether the Millennium is past or future. However, Jesus does not give clear answers these questions, but rather focuses our attention on practical matters of our behavior:
Do not follow false Messiahs. 21:8
Do not be afraid of wars and tumultuous world conditions. 21:9–11
Do not prepare a legal defense if indicted as a believer. 21:12–16
Run away from Jerusalem if you see a siege coming. 21:20–24
When you see astronomical events, be expectant. 21:26–28
Recognize the approach of the Kingdom. 21:29–31
Jesus' words will endure. 21:33
Avoid sensuality and worldly anxiety. 21:34–36
Watch and pray for strength to stand before Christ. 21:36
We are faced with one apparent contradiction: we should be prepared because Jesus will come in a time we do not expect. And things will be going on pretty much as usual. However, He says the signs will be definite. How can both be true? I suspect that the space between events may be such that Christians will forget. For example, we may accept the idea that the Times of the Gentiles (domination over Israel) was completed in’48. But that was more than 50 years ago. We forget. We do not think that God would allow so much elapsed time. .[From the beginning of Christ's Passion, to the birth of the Church was less than two months.] We think things should go 1,2,3 once the End Times begin. Probably not.
For me, the hardest admonition to follow is not to be afraid of wars and tumultuous world conditions. I hate and fear war and violence and the waste of human lives. Further, in our Country, we feel responsible for world peace and try to help to maintain it. Hence we feel guilty if wars and tumults occur. If the President makes a hostile remark toward another country, we are very uncomfortable. How can we not be afraid if it is partly our fault?
Further, Israel's history is one in which bad things happened which were plainly their fault, and judgment fell on them for their wickedness. Israel's history is meant as a lesson to us. (ICor.10:11). But our situation is more like that of the New Testament, in which we are citizens of a secular state and not in command. Moreover, Jesus spoke to the disciples as if they are responsible primarily for themselves and not their country. Is our attempt to model ourselves after OT Israel built on a false premise? Or are we too in a state which is under covenant with God, under God's rule?
Watch, and pray for strength to stand before Christ.