The Gospel of Luke - Part 88
Living in the Light of the Last Times:
Be Careful — Luke 21:6-7

July 15, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


We are in Luke Chapter 21, at the point in the life of Jesus that he only has two or three days left to teach the disciples everything that they need to know before he is crucified. The time is short.

The majority of this chapter has to do with Jesus talking about the “end times”. But the focus is not just on information. Jesus’ message is that a right understanding of the end times should translate into right living right now!

Last week we studied what Jesus taught about giving, through his watching the rich give and the poor widow give. The bottom line was that God wants us to focus on Him with our life and our assets. Sacrificial giving shows that our heart and life is focused on God. Lack of sacrificial giving shows that we are focused on the world and on ourselves first. Sacrificial giving is evidence of our dependence on God to provide, instead of the world.

Sir Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give".

In "Run with the Horses", Eugene Peterson tells how he saw a family of birds teaching their young to fly. After watching the young birds learn to fly, Peterson shared these thoughts: "Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely. They can walk; they can cling. But flying is their characteristic action, and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully and beautifully. "Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth . . . Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves. We look so bedraggled and pathetic doing it, hanging on to the dead branch of a bank account for dear life, afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving. We don't think we can live generously because we have never tried. But the sooner we start, the better, for we are going to have to give up our lives finally, and the longer we wait, the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace." [Eugene Peterson]

Is your giving more like that of the rich people or the poor widow in this story?  What does your giving say about your devotion to God, your commitment to His work in the world?

Be Careful:

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” —'Luke 21:5-6
Let’s talk about the Temple.  Matthew 24 and Mark 13 record this same conversation between the disciples and Jesus, adding information to the Luke account:
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” Mark 14:1
The temple in Jerusalem was considered one of the great wonders of the Roman world. This was not Solomon’s temple which had been destroyed by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar (along with the rest of Jerusalem) in 587-586 BC. The book of Ezra records the re-building of the temple 70 years later. This temple would endure for over 500 years, still standing at the time of Jesus.

However, what made it one of the wonders of the ancient world was a major renovation and expansion by Herod the Great. This renovation/expansion began around 20 BC and had been going on for 46 years by the time of Jesus.

The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” —John 2:20
This magnificent building project would finally be finished in about 63 AD, just seven years before it would be completely destroyed by the Romans. The Jews would rebel against Rome in 66 AD. By 70 AD, the Roman armies would crush all Jewish resistance, destroying Jerusalem and the temple, and eliminating Israel as a nation.

The temple was central to the faith of the Jews. It's difficult if not impossible for us as Gentiles living in the 20th century to understand what the temple meant to these Jews living in the first century. The temple was not only a place of worship, it was the place where God dwelt among His people. The temple was the epicenter of Jewish faith.

The Temple is the focus of many New Testament events:

Maybe Jesus said what He did in Luke 21:6 because He didn't want the disciples' faith to be too centered on the temple, too dependent on worshiping there. The destruction of the temple was a tragedy, but it was something God used to keep Christians from having their devotion to God too focused on it.

Remember, too, that Jesus also taught that the temple would one day be unnecessary for the worship of God. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father ... But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. —John 4:21,23
In verses 5-6, Jesus amplifies what He told His disciples in Luke 19:41-44.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” —Luke 19:41-44
In Luke 19, He spoke of the destruction of the city; here He speaks of the destruction of the temple. This event would occur within the lifetime of many of His disciples. In 70 AD, the Roman army conquered Jerusalem and totally destroyed the temple. It has never been rebuilt since that destruction took place over 1900 years ago.
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” —Luke 21:5-7
There is considerable discussion about what Jesus is talking about in this passage.  One Bible scholar claims that this passage, as recorded in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21, “has been the subject of more scholarly debate than perhaps any other passage in the Gospels.”

The question asked here in verse 7, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” is key to understanding the rest of Chapter 21. Matthew’s record of this event is helpful here:

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” —Matthew 21:1-3

The Matthew record indicates that Jesus is answering two separate questions:
1 - When is the destruction of the temple going to occur?
2 - What will be the signs indicating that your Second Coming is imminent?

Note that The disciples’ question about the future has to do with Jesus’ Second Coming, not the Rapture. They want to know when Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth, fulfilling the many Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and Israel.

Here’s how I believe the rest of this passage breaks down:

Another way to understand this passage is to see it as speaking of the future, both near and far, throughout. Many of the events that will characterize the Tribulation period also characterized the First Century. The difference is in intensity (things will get much worse during the Tribulation) and scope (these things will occur on a global basis during the Tribulation).

Jesus' Second Coming and Earthly Reign:

And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. —Luke 21:8-11
What things mentioned here also occurred in the First Century? What events here are limited to the time of the Tribulation?

Though some of the events here — false messiahs, nations in conflict, famine — certainly occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the focus of the passage still seems to be on the Tribulation period. Remember, many of the characteristics of the Tribulation occur throughout history. The difference will be that during The Great Tribulation, these events will occur on an unprecedented scale — a difference of scope and  intensity.

Jesus describes various events that will occur immediately before His Second Coming, not the Rapture. For a summary of the events around the Second Coming, refer to the notes on Luke 17:26-37.  [That's Lesson 76 , available online -dw]

Notice some of the events listed and how they are also mentioned in Revelation:

Verse   Event   Fulfilled
  9-10   warsRevelation   6:3-4
  11   earthquakesRevelation   6:12
  11   faminesRevelation   6:8
  11   pestilenceRevelation   6:8
  12-19   persecutionRevelation   6:9
  11,25-26       signs in the heavens     Revelation   6:12-14

Verse 8 tells them and us: See that you are not led astray. Some translations say: Watch out that you are not deceived. This is the great danger. Sadly, many people have been deceived. Cults spring up making claims that some person is the Messiah or that Jesus has appeared somewhere (as the Mormons claim) and many embrace these false teachings.

Led astray, or deceived is the Greek word πλανηω [planeo] and means literally “to cause to wander”. It’s actually related to the root word for our word “planet”, which is from πλανη [plané] meaning “wandering”. The planets were seen to “wander” through the sky, compared to the stars.

This Greek word can also be translated “to go astray” and “to be misled”. There are numerous warnings like this in the New Testament. Consider Jesus’ warnings in Matthew:

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray”. —Matthew 24:4-5

And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. —Matthew 13:11

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. —Matthew 24:24
Warnings against being deceived are found throughout the New Testament:
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. —Acts 20:29-30

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. —2 Corinthians 11:3 that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. —Ephesians 4:14

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons...—1 Timothy 4:1

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. —Revelation 12:9
What can we do to avoid being deceived by false teaching?
  1. Be in the Word (read, study, memorize)
    But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” —Matthew 22:29
    The word “wrong” here is the same Greek word (planeo) used in Luke 21:8  So it also means “deceived, misled, gone astray”. Jesus said that one reason these people were “wrong, led astray” is because they did not really know and understand the Scriptures.

    Christians today are often vulnerable because they have “second-hand” knowledge and convictions. Rather than reading and studying the Bible for themselves, they rely on what they’ve been told by parents, pastors or teachers. This leads them open to be “led astray” by false teachers who claim to teach the Bible.

  2. Be in fellowship (with growing, mature believers).
    Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. —Hebrews 3:12-13
    Notice that I didn’t say “be in church” though that is certainly very helpful. But simply going to church is not enough. I need to be well-connected with mature believers who encourage me and help keep me on track. I need people around me who can help me recognize the errors of false teaching and help me know and understand the truths of the Scriptures.
In verse 9 Jesus said, “...but the end will not be at once.”   This is an important statement. Jesus warned His disciples that His return was not imminent. Today we see that nearly 2,000 years have passed since Jesus ascended into heaven. Throughout our history, Christians have misread when Jesus’ return will occur.

In verse 11 He says that there will be ...great signs from heaven.,,   This phrase must certainly be associated with the Tribulation period, not the time before the destruction of Jerusalem. The Book of Revelation goes into greater detail as to what these “signs” will be.


Next week: - we will look at the section of Luke 21 that seems to most apply to the near term, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Re-read Luke Chapter 21 to prepare.