John T. Willis

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jesus Announces the Fall of Jerusalem and His Second Coming--Luke 21:5-38

Luke 20-21 contain a series of messages of Jesus while he was at the Jerusalem temple after he arrived on his long journey from Galilee. The last message appears in Luke 21:5-38, in which Jesus announces two important events for the future in his time: (1) the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple; (2) the second coming of Jesus. Naturally, Luke 21;5-38 falls into two parts.
(See further Mark 13:5-37; Matthew 24:1-36).

I. Jesus announces the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke 21:5-24.
   a. On one occasion, some of the worshippers at the Jerusalem temple were admiring the beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God. Josephus explains that the Jerusalem temple was built of hard, white stones, each about five cubits long, eight cubits high, and twelve cubits wide. Jesus' response to these observations is that the Jerusalem temple will fall: "not one stone will be left upon another." 21:5-6.
   b. The hearing worshippers responded by asking Jesus: When will this happen? What will be the sign that this is about to take place? Jesus responds: Do not be led astray; many people will come in Jesus' name and say, "I am he," and "The time is near." Do not be led astray by such people. This calls to mind Acts 5:36-37; 21:38 as examples of Theudas, Judas, and the Egyptian as false prophets which the hearers must shun or avoid. 21:7-8.
   c. Jesus then spends quite a bit of time describing situations which must occur before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This is in 21:9-19. Here are the highlights.
       1. First wars and insurrections must occur. But do not be terrified by this. 21:9.
       2. Authorities will arrest and persecute the followers of Jesus. They will hand them over to synagogues and prisons (probably Jewish persecution), and be brought before kings and governors (probably Gentile persecution) because of the name of Jesus. One thinks of Paul coming before Felix (Acts 23:24-24:27) and Festus (Acts 24:27-26:32) and Caesar. All these events will give the followers of Jesus to TESTIFY in behalf of Jesus. It is not necessary for God's people to prepare for their defense in advance. Jesus assures them that he will give them the right words and wisdom to deal with all these serious challenges. 21:12-15.
       3. Even close family members (parents and brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins) and friends will betray the followers of Jesus and will kill them. Think of the murders of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60)and James, son of Zebedee, in Acts 12:1-2. They will hate them because of Jesus' name. But not a hair of their head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. 21:16-19.
       4. Then nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Great earthquakes, famines, plagues, dreadful portents, and great signs from heaven will appear. See Isaiah 19:2; Ezekiel 38:19. 21:10-11.
   d. Finally, Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem.
       1. First, Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. Josephus describes the surrounding of Jerusalem by Titus' armies and camps. The "desolation" is a reference to Daniel 9:27; 11:31, which in that context refers to the desecration of the temple caused by the statue of Zeus Olympius erected by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BCE. Luke is indicating that that event is very similar to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, which Jesus envisions. 21:20.
       2. Then Judeans must flee to the mountains and those inside Jerusalem must leave the city and those out in the country must not enter the city, because these are "the days of vengeance" announced in the Hebrew Bible. The reference is to Hosea 9:7, in which the prophet Hosea announces that since God's people reject Yahweh, Yahweh will punish them. 21:21-22.
       3. Because of this harsh invasion ("distress on the earth and wrath against this people"), WOE will be on pregnant women and women who are nursing infants. These women and the rest of the people of Jerusalem will be killed by the sword, taken captives among all nations, and the Gentiles will trample on the people of Jerusalem. See Zechariah 12:3. Historically, the Romans overthrew Jerusalem in 70 CE. 21:23-24.

II. Jesus announces his Second Coming. Luke 21:25-38.
    a. Here Jesus connects the end of Jerusalem with the end of the world. First, he affirms that signs in the sun, moon, and stars will occur, and mighty seas will roar and distress and confuse the nations. The heavens will be shaken, and people faint from fear and foreboding of what will come on the world. See Isaiah 24:19; 34:4; Psalms 46:4; 89:10. 21:25-26.
    b. After this, "the Son of Man" will coming in a cloud with power and great glory, showing that the redemption of God's faithful people is drawing near. See Daniel 7:13. 21:27-28.
    c. Jesus then gives a parable about a fig tree that sprouts leaves indicating that the summer is already near. See Joel 2:22-23. In the same way, when God's people see the things which Jesus has just described, the kingdom of God is near. This generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." 21:29-33.
    d. Finally, Jesus admonishes his hearers to live godly lives until Jesus return. Specifically, he mentions for particulars: (1) Be one guard; Be alert at all times; (2) Do not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness; (3) Do not be weighed down with the worries of this life; (4) Pray that you may have the strength to escapes all these mundane problems. 21:34-36.
    e. Luke concludes for his audience by summarizing Jesus' teaching at the Jerusalem temple. Every day Jesus would teach at the temple. Every night he would spend the night on the Mount of Olives. Early every morning, the people would get up to listen to Jesus at the temple. 21:37-38.

Historically, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed as Jesus announced. We are still awaiting his second coming in full faith that God our Father through Jesus Christ will bring this to happen. Until then, we must live faithful lives to help needy people.

Share YOUR insights and shortcomings and fears and successes and anticipations with others. Let me hear from you.

John Willis 


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