The Gospel of Luke - Part 89
Living in the Light of the Last Times:
Jesus' Near Future and Far Future Predictions — Luke 21:8-36
July 22, 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 the destruction of the Temple and also about His Second coming. We discussed what an important place the Temple played in the life of the Jews at the time of Jesus, and what an important role it played in the life of Jesus and his followers.
Remember that at the time of Jesus, the Temple in place was the Temple that had been rebuilt after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylonia and as it has been dramatically remodeled and renovated by Herod The Great.
We were at verses 5 through 7 of Luke Chapter 21.
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 21:5-7The Matthew record of this same event indicates that Jesus is answering two separate questions:
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.
I argued that I believe the rest of Luke 21 breaks down like this:
Last week we looked at what Jesus says about the far future, the Second coming, His 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 21:8-11We focused on His admonition to not be led astray, don’t be fooled. We concluded that the only way not to be fooled is to stay in the Bible, know what it says and to stay in fellowship with mature fellow Christians.
Now let’s move on to the verses that deal with the near future for Jesus and his disciples.
The Near Future:
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:12-24Jesus starts out with: "But before all this..." This phrase leads me to think that Jesus now turns from describing events related to His Second Coming to the events that will occur before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70AD.
Notice, too, that Jesus used the words “you” and “your” 15 times in this short passage. I think the warnings here, though they apply broadly to what some Christians have experienced in every age, they apply specifically to the disciples with Jesus in the first century.
In verses 18 and 19 He says: "But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives." This is another passage that generates discussion. Since verse 16 refers to believers being put to death, it doesn’t appear that Jesus was referring to their physical well-being. These verses seem to focus on the spiritual well-being of believers in spite of the physical suffering that many Christians will experience.
In verse 24 He says: "Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." There is also debate as to what “the times of the Gentiles” refers to. It may refer to that period of history, from the Ascension to the Rapture, where God's work in the world is done primarily by Gentile believers.
If that is what He is referring to, we are living during this time.
This phrase is only found here, but there seems to be a similar reference by Paul:
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25What are some statements here that all believers can relate to and apply personally?
The Far Future:
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:25-36Jesus uses the reference to the “times of the Gentiles” being fulfilled (which extends from the first generation of believers until the Rapture) to transition back to speaking of the far future.
What stands out to you in this section? “And there will be signs...”
The signs are associated with the Tribulation period. As mentioned before, the Book of Revelation describes these in more detail.
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Luke 21:17This is a Scriptural reference by Jesus to an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah:
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. Daniel 7:13There is another reference to Jesus coming in the clouds near the end of the Bible:
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7These are not references to the Rapture but to the Second Coming. Revelation 1:7 indicates that most people will “wail” His coming because, by the end of the Tribulation period, the world will be under the dominion of the Anti-Christ.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Luke 21:32“This generation” does not refer to the disciples of Jesus’ time but to the generation of people who see the signs and events described in this passage. Many believers today believe that we are that generation that will see the return of the Lord.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Luke 21:33Since one theme of this passage is “don’t be led astray”, this statement is very relevant. Knowing and relying and God’s Word is our best hope of protection against being deceived and misled by false teaching. We need to be careful that we are not deceived. Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, Christian Science, Scientology, the list goes on and on. Cults are multiplying and growing possibly more so than at any other time. And these cults are aggressively seeking converts. The key to avoiding being deceived is given in verse 33 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away."
How do we stay on track? By being rooted in God's Word. The best protection is developing the habit of studying and applying God's Word to my life. Are you like the people Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4:14?
...so 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 4:14Or are you more like the Bereans mentioned in Acts 17:11?
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Acts 17:11Don't become too dependent on pastors or teachers for what you believe. Study the Bible for yourself!
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him. Luke 21:34-38What stands out to you from what Jesus says here? Jesus concludes His teaching with one final exhortation we need to be ready for His return. Every generation of believers needs to live as if Jesus might return at any time.
But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down... Luke 21:34Are you a "pack rat"? Some people just can't seem to throw anything away. As a result, they can get "buried" under all the stuff they try to keep track of! Or imagine a Carl Lewis trying to run the 100 meter dash with a 50 lb. pack on his back. As Christians we need to be careful that we don't let the devil weigh us down with things that take our eyes off the Lord.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus... Hebrews 12:1-2 …Jesus specifically warns us about three things that will weigh us down spiritually:
Billy Graham said of Dawson Trotman (founder of The Navigators), "His life was characterized by 'this one thing I do' not 'these many things I dabble at'."
Have you ever been driving somewhere and gotten so caught up in talking to someone that you missed your turn? As Christians, we can get so caught up in the "worries of this life" that we lose track of the things that are eternally significant.
Jesus tells us to do two things:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Remember 1 John 2:28, from the Living Bible:
And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame. 1 John 2:28It is easy to think of this end times stuff as irrelevant to how we live. But Jesus' teaching in this chapter is very important to us. One author said that the Lord wants us to "put the future in the present tense". We need to live today in light of future realities. It's like taking a class and studying day by day and week by week because you know that the day is coming when you have to take the final exam. The Lord's told us there will be a "final" but He hasn't told us when we'll have to take it!
Jesus continually demonstrated that the Scriptures were His authority in all that He did, both life and teaching. We need to follow His example in knowing the Scriptures and accepting their authority for both what we believe and how we live.
Next lesson: we will dive into Luke Chapter 22.