Jesus Will Return

Explore the Bible Series

February 6, 2005

 

Background Passage: Luke 21:1-38

Lesson Passage: Luke 21:7-11, 25-28, 34-36

 

Introduction: Bible students must approach this passage with great humility.  Luke 21 deals with the topic of eschatology (the study of “Last Things”), and no subject, perhaps, can produce more “heat” and less “light” than this one.  Jesus’ words reveal glorious mysteries, and Christians should give diligence to understanding the Lord’s teachings; however, believers should exercise every caution in these ways.

1.      Do not press beyond the text of Scripture.  This topic energizes many hearted and unworthy debates, and, many times, these disputes grow from fanciful and elaborate interpretation that often, I fear, “stretches” the text beyond its clear meaning.

2.      Avoid forcing the text into a particular theological system.  Christians should value the work of the systematic theologian; nevertheless, some dangers attend buying into a particular system of thought.  Bring your mind and heart to the Scriptures and comply with its glorious truths.  Conform your thoughts to the Scriptures and let systems of thought be shaped by the text.

3.      Respect the mysteries of the Bible.  Not all things are equally clear in the word of God.  Bow humbly before the God who transcends our creaturely frailty.  The Scriptures have rendered a great service if they bring us to an end of ourselves and exalt the great and glorious Lord God.  If eschatology does not promote your humility, you misapprehend and misuse it.

 

I.                    The Generous Widow (Luke 21:1-4)

A.                 The connection between chapters 20 and 21: The first verse of Chapter 21 follows naturally from the material that closes the previous chapter.  Jesus scolded the scribes for their sinful disregard for the widows (20:47); then, just two verses later he commended a poor widow who gave generously despite her poverty. 

B.                 The poor woman and her gift (vv.1-2): Luke used a word here to describe the significant poverty of this woman; yet, she gave willingly and generously to the Temple treasury.  She placed two leptas (small copper coins) in the chest.  The rich patrons of the Temple gave large amounts, and Jesus did not criticize their gifts; however, he took special notice of the liberality of this dear woman. 

C.                 The lessons of the poor widow (vv. 3-4):

1.                                    Christ took note of the humble woman’s gift.  He saw her act of self-sacrifice.  Too often, we get distracted by the apparent “great things” that men do in the Kingdom of God.  The Lord, nevertheless, immortalized this woman by singling out the special character of her gift.  Take heart, humble Christian, the measure of the Kingdom does not rest in exalted office, unmeasured acclaim as a Christian celebrity, or best selling books.  The prayers, gifts, and labors of the humblest believer do not escape the notice of the Master.

2.                                    Giving to the Lord’s work is not measured by the amount given, but the sacrifice made.  This woman left the Temple with the awareness that she had to depend upon the Lord to meet her daily needs.  She gave everything she had!  How little do modern, American Christians know of this kind of giving?

 

II. The Destruction of the Temple and the Rise of False “Christs” (Luke 21:5-9)

A.     The predicted destruction of the Temple (vv. 5-7): The Gospel of Mark records the remarks of one of the disciples about the magnificence of the Temple.  Herod had spared no expense and labor to construct a wondrous building, and the disciples shared the Jewish preoccupation and pride in this great edifice.  Hendriksen noted that the Temple was vast and beautiful, far beyond the size and magnificence of Solomon’s Temple.  Jesus prediction of the destruction of the Temple must have startled his followers. Approximately forty years after Jesus spoke these words, General Titus Flavius leveled Jerusalem, and, in the process, may have slaughtered as many as a million Jews. 

B.     The questions of the disciples (vv. 7-9): The puzzled disciples did not doubt the Lord’s prediction, but they expressed an understandable curiosity about the events that would lead to this cataclysm. Jesus warned of false apocalyptic prophets who would arise to draw away the hearts of the people.  The disciples, Jesus taught, should not give heed to these false men.  Wars and violence would lead up to the Temple’s destruction, but the disciples were to remain composed and faithful in the face of these catastrophic occurrences.

 

III.   The Coming of the Times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:10-24) Note: This section  demands great care.  Basically, I see these verses as referring to the period that led up to the destruction of the Temple; however, Bible students should not discount how helpful these verse may prove in understanding the course of history during the intermediate period between Jesus first and second comings. 

A.   International conflict and violence (v. 10): The year before the Destruction of the Temple, Rome experienced considerable political intrigue and military conflict.  Indeed, from 69-70 A.D. four emperors successively rose to power (Nero died violently in 68.  Galba, Otho, and Vitellus marshaled power for short periods, but political stability was not reestablished until Vespasian, commander of the Eastern Army, began his decade-long rule in late 69). 

B.  Natural cataclysms (v.11): The Apostle Paul reminded his readers (Romans 8:19f) that sin had a significant effect on the entire created order, and creation groans under the weight of this futility and corruption.  Apocalyptic literature often includes comments similar to the words Jesus uttered in this passage.  These statements about “terrors and great signs from heaven” may very well point beyond the scope of the years preceding the destruction of Jerusalem.

C.   Persecution of the disciples (vv. 12-19): The Lord’s followers must expect the hostility of the world and vigorous persecution, for the sake of Christ.  Jesus anticipated that persecution would be the “norm” for believers.  They should anticipate these hardships, Jesus said, and not lose heart when these difficulties arise.  Their maltreatment will give opportunity for the saints to witness to the glory of Christ and his gospel.  The Lord promised that he would give his suffering people great wisdom and the words to say when they encountered hostility, and their witness would strike their persecutors speechless.  Accusations, Jesus said, would come from the closest relationships in life: parents, brothers, relatives and friends.  All kinds of men would hate God’s people, and some of the saints would even die for their faith in Christ.  Nevertheless, these hostile persons can do not real harm to the Lord’s elect (see v. 18).  Suffering saints must persevere in their faith and, in doing so, they will come to great triumph and salvation.

D.                 The attack on Jerusalem (vv. 20-24): These verses describe the conditions that Jesus anticipated concerning the final destruction of Jerusalem.  The ancient city would be surrounded by armies, and those who believed the Lord’s message must flee to the mountains for refuge (v. 21).  This terrible devastation, Jesus predicted, would serve as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (See Isaiah 63:4; Hosea 9:7; and Daniel 9:24-27).  Furthermore, Jesus foresaw the terrible suffering of the innocent and helpless and the unspeakable slaughter of the people.  The devastation would be so complete that a new era, the “times of the Gentiles”, will begin.  This period, it appears, will continue until Christ returns.

 

IV. Predictions Concerning the Second Coming (Luke 21:25-29)

A.     The time of the Gentiles will conclude with calamitous events in the heavens and dismay among the nations of the earth. 

B.     Men’s hearts will fail in the face of the glorious return of Christ.  The courage of the wicked will fail and the powers of the heavens, perhaps a reference to Satanic powers, will be shaken.  Geldenhuys believes that this statement refers to the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, and stars), but the word “powers” seems to indicate beings of dynamic power.

C.     All beings will see the glorious return of the Lord (v. 27).

D.     God’s people will meet these events with unshakable confidence (v. 28). The Second Coming of the Lord will strike terror in the hearts of the wicked, but the Lord’s people will meet his return with hopeful and expectant assurance.

 

Conclusion: Jesus ended this discourse with a simple, profound parable and a sober warning to his disciples.

A.     The Parable of the Fig Tree (vv. 29-33): Just as the husbandman knew that the budding of the fig tree foreshadowed the arrival of summer, so the appearance of these signs would signal, for the watchful and faithful servants of Christ, that the Kingdom of God was near. Verse 32 proves a very difficult passage to interpret.  J.C. Ryle gives a helpful catalog of the various options Bible students might explore concerning this troublesome text.

B.     Jesus provided a three-fold admonition for his followers as they anticipated the Second Coming.

1.      “Take heed to yourselves”: They must avoid the weight and distraction of ungodly living as they prepared for the Lord’s return.

2.      “Watch”: They must remain alert to the spiritual dangers around them and the indications that Christ’s return grew near.

3.      “Pray”: In particular, Jesus instructed them to pray for strength to escape the great calamities that would come upon the earth.