By Diane Caston
There is much curiosity today about future events. Things on the prophetic timetable are speeding up exponentially.
The disciples in their day were curious too. Here the Messiah was living among them, and they thought that the kingdom had come. They were confused when Jesus started talking about the fact that he had to die and be raised from the dead! They knew the scripture about the coming Messiah and his glorious kingdom, when He would reign on the earth, but they had overlooked the scriptures about him suffering!
So, they asked him to explain what is really going on, and He answered them. Now when we read His explanation today, we might also be confused like they were, because prophecy can be like a puzzle, and it takes some studying to make sense of it.
Let’s look at our text for today, Luke 21 Keep your bibles open. We are going to go through these verses bit by bit.
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple
5 Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, 6 “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”
The disciples were admiring the temple, how beautiful it was, what a glory it was to Israel. But Jesus was not impressed with a building. He is never impressed with material things like we can be. Instead, He warns them that the time will come when not one stone will be left on another. They will all be thrown down! This must have been a fantastic thought to the disciples. Do you know that today they can’t even say where the temple structure was on the temple mount? It was so utterly destroyed that there is no way to discern where it would have been on the mount.
This temple would be destroyed. This must have astounded them. What we think is glorious is just temporary to the Lord of the universe. The Lord is not interested in buildings; He is interested in men and their hearts. That is why in the opening verses of this chapter He draws attention to the poor widow’s offering.
Vs.1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
Jesus is interested in you, not how nice your house is, or your vehicles, or your toys, or your careers. These are all incidental. He is interested in your very heart, the intentions of your heart, the state of your heart, your relationship with Him. He was always seeking to turn the disciples’ eyes from the natural world to the transcendent world, to the citizenship of heaven.
So, this gets them to thinking. When is He talking about? When will the temple be destroyed? What will they be able to see to warn them?
The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age
7 So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”
Jesus begins with this explanation of the future events for the nation of Israel right up to the end. When interpreting bible prophecy, we need to examine the ways different prophecies are given in the bible. The prophecy itself often starts in a current time period and then jumps to a future one, and sometimes back to the current time. It is necessary to understand this to be able to interpret this passage of scripture.
Some examples of this type of prophecies are like Ezekiel 29 where judgement is prophesied on the nation of Egypt. Egypt at one time was the mightiest kingdom on the earth. Rich in resources with Kings and much profit from their resources. They are told exactly what God was going to do in judging them for their treatment of His nation Israel. The prophet discusses what will happen in the current time and the future time. How Nebuchadnezzar would take them captive for 40 years, and when they returned, they would be a lowly kingdom and never be wealthy again. This all came to pass. Even today Egypt is a very poor nation. This is how prophecy often works in the bible. Because the Lord says,
Isaiah 46:10 “ Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’
Because He knows all things, He can tell what will happen before it does. And often in prophecy these events are not in chronological order. Events can be near to when they are spoken and far in the same text. Some prophecies can contain history, allegory, signs. That often makes a text confusing, but with study we can determine what is being said.
We can see a dual nature of prophecy in Ezekiel 37 God declares events future to when they are spoken. We see the restoration of the nation Israel in the coming to life of the dry bones .
Ezk 37:1 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.
(Now that’s a creepy picture!) 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed, they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live? “So, I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”
This could refer to Israel’s return to Israel after the Babylonian captivity and/or after the Holocaust? Maybe both! but their dead bones would come to life again. God was referring to the nation of Israel, who had been persecuted and killed by the millions. Then Vs. 21 specifically refers to the return after the Holocaust as the Jewish people return to Israel from ALL of the nations. Ezk 37:21“Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God : “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel…
These words became true after the second world war, when no nations wanted to take the Jews fleeing from persecution throughout Europe. The Lord opened a door for the Jews went to go back to Israel. Never in history had a nation been taken from their land completely and returned to live in it again.
Then the prophecy jumps even farther into the future into the Millennial Kingdom Vs.24
Vs 24 David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them. 25 Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.
There are many examples of time shifts in prophecy throughout the Old Testament.
Now after that explanation of the nature of prophecy, lets go back to our text in Luke 21. Jesus begins to answer their questions of when and what signs.
8 And He said: “Take heed that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore, do not go after them. 9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” 10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
These verses 8-11, give a general overview from the time Jesus left the earth up to the end of the current age. They have continued from the resurrection of Jesus and will continue all the way up to His return. The signs here are repeated in Matt 24 and Mark 13. In vs. 8 Jesus refers to these signs as the beginning of sorrows or likens them to birth pangs . 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. The definition of the word sorrows in the Strong’s Concordance is, the pain of childbirth, travail pain, intolerable anguish. Now we all know birth pangs increase in frequency and intensity as birth draws near. This is what we are seeing in our days. The signs of the Lord’s return are intensifying! Deception is a key. Don’t be deceived; don’t be afraid. Right up until the end their will be false christs and false prophets up to the time when people will follow the deception of the anti-christ.. Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. That is us! We need to be awake and discerning about all that is going on around us.
Now in this same text the timing switches back to their present time. A warning of what was going to happen in the near future. The time marker is ‘before all these things’. Before the destruction of the temple, these things will happen first.
12 But before all these things, (the things He had just described) they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives, and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.
This is the natural result of being true believers of Jesus Christ. People will not like you or your message, because it causes them to face their own sin which they do not want to face. We have been fortunate to grow up in a time and live in a place where the strongest persecution is usually just people ignoring you or terminating your friendship if you become a Christian. In that day and age people gave up their lives because of their relationship with the Lord. I hate to say it, but those days are coming to us here and now. Those who hate God’s rules and don’t want to live by them are not content anymore to keep it to themselves. They want to cause us harm because we follow Jesus. Be prepared, this is coming our way when we stand for the truth. (Steve warning of persecution).
The passage goes on to declare the destruction of the temple that Jesus was talking about in the beginning of this chapter. There was a reason this happened. Just like judgement in the Old Testament, there was a price to pay for rejecting Jesus. John 1:10-11 “ 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
Matt. 23:37-38 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord !’
The Destruction of Jerusalem
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
These verses 20-24 were fulfilled in the destruction of the temple by the general Titus in 70 AD. Approximately, 1,600,000 Jews were killed during the time of persecution and in the siege and destruction of Israel told by Josephus in his writings. The people did not run to the hills to escape the city like Jesus told them to. They fled to the temple and many of them died there. The Romans were so greedy for the gold of the temple, it is written that they took the temple apart and burned much of it to collect the gold the adorned the building. Just as Jesus foretold, it happened.
Many more of the Jews were brought into captivity among the nations. Until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled or ended. There will be an end to this time, and the time of the Jews will begin again. Just the fact that the Jews are back in their homeland shows that the time of the Gentiles is nearing its end. We are on the threshold of this verse being fulfilled, and we will be taken up to be with Jesus in heaven and the 70th week of Daniel will begin and the end of the world domination by Gentiles will start.
Now with Vs. 25, Jesus switches back to the far future events. He answered question #2 first, then He went back to question #1 with the persecution of the Jews and the destruction of the temple, now returns to question #2 and the events of the end of the age. Verse 25 refers to events just before the end.
The Coming of the Son of Man
25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Before Christ’s return and His reign on the earth there will be cataclysmic events happening on the earth. This will be the period of time known as the Tribulation. These events are going to bring distress, (anguish of heart), of nations, perplexity – (men will be at their wit’s end), men’s heart failing for fear – (completely disheartened). These events are referring to the time of the tribulation, but we are seeing some of these things already aren’t we? There has been so much confusion with Covid and vaccinations, now inflation and limited transportation, schools trying to divide our children racially and corrupt them with sexual immorality, and we see government overreach to the max. We need to remind ourselves daily that God has a plan, and nothing can thwart it, and that Jesus is coming for us very soon. And no matter how difficult things become He will be with us and bring us through. We are His children, and He will not forget us.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
There is a difference of opinion on whether Jesus was using the fig tree as an analogy of the nation Israel in these verses, or this is a simple parable like when you see one thing happening you know it leads to another. Like Amir Tsarfati says, ‘when you see Christmas items in the store, you know Thanksgiving is right around the corner’. I personally believe Jesus referring to the fig tree as Israel, because throughout scripture the fig tree refers to Israel, and Jesus used it as an illustration in the fig tree that He cursed, because it was not bearing fruit Mark 11:12-14;20-22. We have seen in our generation Israel back in their land, blossoming and bearing fruit. This seems to be consistent with the illustration. What stands out to me here is the phrase this generation. The generation that sees these things happen. Are we seeing these things happening? This is the exciting part. We are that generation, and God has put us here for a reason. There has been more bible prophecy fulfilled in our lifetimes than there was in any other generation. And it continues to be fulfilled before our very eyes. Finally,
The Importance of Watching
34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Hopefully none of us are involved in drunkenness or carousing, but lots of us are weighed down with the cares of this life! Jesus intends for us to escape the judgement that is coming on the earth, but we need to be watchful and full of faith.
Be watchful, Be ready, Be intentional
2 Peter 3:10-13 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
I hate to say it, but we’ve become soft today. We have a tendency to equate Christianity with our own personal happiness. If you read the saints of old you will not find that in their outlook of being a Christ follower.
One of my favorite authors Elisabeth Elliot wrote this:
“The fact is that as believers, it is not about us. It is not about my happiness, my joy, my wellbeing. It is about the glory of God and the Kingdom of Christ. The one means to real joy and contentment is to make His glory the supreme objective of my life.”
I know that many of you have been watching the events of the war in Ukraine, and the tragedy of of people losing their homes and everything they have. Do you ever realize that this could happen to us, or we could be put in jail one day because of standing up for the gospel and its tenets? That time may come to us all.
1 Peter 4:17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? A day of judgement is coming, and God will judge men according to what they have done with His Son. This is the reason Israel was destroyed.
Rev 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
Luke 18: 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” This is a question that unsettles me. Will the Lord find faith in me? Have I truly trusted Him? It stirs me up to be seeking Him and relying on Him in all things.
2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”
1 Peter 4:7-8 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
These warnings compel us to be watchful, to be aware of the times we are living in. Love one another! These times set us up for division, and we need to remember the love that moved Jesus to give His life for us. We are to do the same for each other. Jesus didn’t say things were going to get better before He came. He mentioned birth pangs, remember? He told evil men would wax worse and worse in I Tim 3:13. There will be deception. There will be confusion. We are seeing all of this today. Now don’t be alarmed. Be watchful. Don’t let Satan rip you off. The fact that we can have peace and not fear, that we can have love and not hate, that we can have joy instead of anguish will be a witness to the people around us who need the peace of God.
We have the promises of God. The best days of our lives are ahead of us. We will live forever in our heavenly home with our precious Savior. Col 1: 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Amen!