Luke 21 Bible Teaching

I plan to deliver this teaching Tuesday November 2nd to a group of about 15-20 men over lunch:

Luke 21:1-38

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

5 And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, 6 “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” 7 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

8 And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. 9 When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

16 But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.

23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; 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 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

34 Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. 38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him. NASB

Now let’s go through this section by section:

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

Jesus notices what we contribute to the work of God in the world, whether it be time, talent or treasure, He notices.

5 And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, 6 “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” 7 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

Regarding v6, R.C. Sproul says:

Jesus had just uttered THE most astonishing prophecy recorded of all time!  He says, “Do you realize how radical that prediction was? “ This temple (Herod’s temple) was majestic!  The most glorious building on the face of the earth (at that time):

  1. Its “vastness” – 1,000 feet square.  Herod chose single stones quarried that were 67 feet long, 7 feet high, 9 feet wide, made of pure white marble!
  2. He adorned the building with jewels and gold.  The outer portion of the temple was covered with layers/sheets of gold.  It was so brilliant that when the sun came up, people couldn’t look directly at the walls of the temple, otherwise they would be blinded – they had to look away.

This building was one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Jerusalem the city and its temple were considered to be “impregnable”.  In the eyes of the Jewish people, these were completely and totally indestructible, but Jesus said they were going away, ending in desolation and destruction when God responds to the unbelief of His people and visits His people in what Luke calls “the days of vengeance” (v22).  When Jesus said that, no one could believe it.  Yet, if there’s anything that proves the truth of the Bible and the truth of Jesus’s claims, it would be this singular prophecy that was fulfilled in 70AD when the Romans came and annihilated Jerusalem and the temple.

8 And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them. 9 When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

Of course there have been many failed predictions given about the end of the world or the return of Christ by false prophets.  For example:

In 2001, Harold Camping claimed that the Rapture and Judgment Day would occur on May 21, 2011, and predicted the end of the world would arrive in five months later, on October 21, 2011.

12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.

This happened when Paul appeared before Felix, Agrippa and Festus in the book of Acts:

Acts 23:24 – Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.

Acts 24:24-27 – Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

Acts 26:1-3 – Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.”

Acts 26:24-25 – At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.”

13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.

R.C. Sproul once said, “Your personal testimony, however meaningful it is, is not the Gospel.

14 So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

Let’s be clear that v14 isn’t saying we’re to avoid preparation to defend our faith (apologetics).  Peter makes it clear in his 1st epistle that we are to “always” be prepared to make a defense for what we believe:

1 Peter 3:15 – but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

Peter’s instruction here is given to all believers.  The phrase “being prepared” (Hetoimos) indicates study, preparation and readiness ahead of time for any possible encounter the Lord may bring our way.  The word “reason” in this verse is the Greek word “Logos”. With respect to speech or discourse, Logos can mean an “aphorism, a weighty saying, reason, the faculty of thinking, skill and practice in speaking”.

Since we know from the clear passage in 1st Peter that we are supposed to be prepared to defend our faith, it is clear that Jesus was not telling us not to prepare to defend our faith.  He was telling the disciples (and believers after them), who would be facing persecution, not to prepare beforehand to defend themselves, but rather to let the Lord supply them with the words they will say at the time.

16 But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name.

Jesus warns the disciples (and believers after them) they were going to face severe persecution and even death – most did…  Here is a graphic summarizing the fate of the disciples:

18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Q: Considering the fate of the disciples depicted above, how can vv18-19 be accurate? (See Resource #10 at end)

20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

From R.C. Sproul: That critical word there – until – means, “up to this point”, then it stops.  Jesus is saying this – the city will be destroyed, the temple will be destroyed, the Jewish people will be sent into dispersion throughout all the world until a point in time where that vengeance will end.

25 There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; 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 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

From J.C. Ryle: If the hardy Roman soldiers “became as dead men,” when an angel rolled the stone away and Christ rose again — then how much greater will the terror be when Christ shall return to judge the world. No wonder that Paul said, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.”  The thoughtless and impenitent man may well tremble, when he hears of this second coming of Christ. What will he do when worldly business is suddenly stopped, and the precious things of the world are made worthless? What will he do when the graves on every side are opening, and the trumpet is summoning men to judgment? What will he do when that same Jesus whose Gospel he has so shamefully neglected — shall appear in the clouds of Heaven, and put down every enemy under His feet? Surely he will call on the rocks to fall on him, and on the hills to cover him. (Hosea 10:8.) But he will call in vain for help, if he has never called on Christ before. Happy will they be in that day — who have fled beforehand from the wrath to come, and been washed in the blood of the Lamb!

29 Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

From R.C. Sproul: He points out how emphatic verse 32 is, saying this statement is “problematic”.  Bertrand Russell quoted this passage in his little book, “Why I’m Not a Christian”, in which he said that among those things that Jesus predicted in this passage were:

  1. The destruction of Jerusalem, which certainly had taken place
  2. The destruction of the temple, which certainly had taken place
  3. The dispersion of the Jews, which certainly had taken place
  4. Jesus’ prediction of His own return (Jesus said that He would return within that generation)

Bertrand Russell says this proves that Jesus was wrong – though He did some good guessing, & some extraordinary predictions, but His prophecy failed, the Bible failed, & therefore, cannot be trusted.

R.C. Sproul vs. John MacArthur on v32 and Eschatology

R.C. Sproul is identified by commentators (and R.C. himself) as a limited/partial/moderate “preterist”:

R.C. says that the word “generation” (v32) can mean more than one thing, such as a type of person – Jesus uses the phrase “a wicked and perverse generation”.  Many commentators conclude that there will be unbelieving, wicked and perverse “generation” of people until the time of Christ’s return.

Also, the “generation” that was contemporary with Jesus was described as wicked, because they rejected Him.  As Scripture says, “He came to His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11).

However, the word generation in Scripture does not typically refer to a type of person, but rather to an age group – typically about 40 years.  According to this definition, Jesus is saying that all the events described in vv20-27 will be fulfilled while the current generation (in 1st century Palestine) is still alive.

In the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, Jesus speaks about the coming of the Son of Man:

Matthew 24:36-39 – But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Some try to get Jesus “off the hook” by saying He really didn’t predict a timeframe for His return.

R.C. Sproul doesn’t think Jesus was talking about His ultimate 2nd coming.  Rather, He was talking about the “days of vengeance” (v22), His coming in judgment on the nation of Israel.  That was fulfilled “on steroids” in 70AD.  This was when the “age of the Gentiles” began, where the church was now established, not simply as a Jewish community, but was expanded to the whole world.  He says there were astronomical signs in 70AD.  According to Josephus, people looked into the sky and saw chariots in the air and heard voices out of the heavens saying “We are departing, hence”:

“Indeed, what I am about to relate would, I imagine, have been deemed a fable, were it not for the narratives of eyewitnesses and for the subsequent calamities which deserved to be so signalized. For before sunset, throughout all parts of the country, chariots were seen in the air and armed battalions hurtling through the clouds and encompassing the cities. Moreover, at the feast which is called Pentecost, the priests on entering the inner court of the temple by night, as their custom was in the discharge of their ministrations, reported that they were conscious, first of a commotion and a din, and after that of a voice as of a host, ‘We are departing hence’.”

John MacArthur lists several (incorrect) views on what “this generation” means in verse 32:

  1. The events describe what happened in 70AD and the people of “this generation” are either His disciples OR all the people alive in Jerusalem at that time
  2. The Jewish race – the view says that the Jewish race will survive until the end and the return of the Messiah.
  3. The generation that sees Israel re-established as a nation, which occurred in 1948 (Hal Lindsey – the Late Great Planet Earth)

He says those are wrong.  He says the answer is very simple.  “This generation” means the generation that sees all those things talked about in the passage.  The antecedent of “this” is the “you” in verse 31, which refers to the people alive at the time when all the signs described in vv20-27 are happening.  They who see the signs will be alive when the Son of Man returns at the end of the great tribulation.  To be clear, according to MacArthur, since the church will be raptured before the great tribulation, “this generation” referred to in v32 will be those that are converted during the great evangelistic effort after the church is gone.  If they survive the persecution, they will see the King come and establish His kingdom. MacArthur then goes on to describe his reasons for holding to the view of a pre-trib rapture:

  1. The Church in Revelation:
    1. Rev. 1, 2, 3 are heavy on the church, but after chapter 3, no reference to the church
    1. In Revelation 4-5, the 24 elders (Rev 4:4) are best understood as the glorified church in heaven (one reason given is that they have crowns, which are promised to the church)
    1. Tribulation breaks out on earth in Revelation 6
    1. Revelation 19, Christ comes back w/ saints “…clothed in white and fine linen”
  2. No warnings/instruction given to church how to endure the great tribulation
  3. The Rapture defined in 3 places – church taken to heaven, Christ doesn’t come to earth:
    1. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53
    1. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-5:11
    1. John 14:1-3
  4. Revelation 3:10 contains a promise to the church:
    Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

According to John MacArthur:

Only those who know Him will be taken to heaven (in the Rapture). It could happen at any moment. It is a signless, imminent event. It is the next thing; no signs necessary.

Jesus goes on to instruct His followers how to live, in light of all the weighty prophecies He’d just delivered to them:

34 Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

37 Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. 38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him.

Resources Used in Preparing this Teaching

  1. MacArthur Study Bible
  2. John MacArthur sermon “The Final Generation of the Future Judgment” (Luke 21:29-33): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbdRgl-JH0o
  3. Other MacArthur sermons on Luke 21:
    1. The Terrors of the Great Tribulation, Part 1 (Luke 21:20-24) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItrOporfMG8 
    1. The Terrors of the Great Tribulation, Part 2 (Luke 21:20-24) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjUG5aArz1g
    1. Celestial Signs of the Coming Savior (Luke 21:25-26) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5721kFg2xQ
  4. R.C. Sproul sermons on Luke 21 from ligonier.org: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/generation-will-not-pass-away https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/destruction-jerusalem
  5. J.C. Ryle’s Commentary on Luke 21: https://gracegems.org/Ryle/l21.htm
  6. Top End Time Predictions And Return Of Jesus That Failed: https://www.booboone.com/end-time-predictions-and-return-of-jesus/
  7. What Happened to the Apostles and Where are Their Remains Today? https://catholic-link.org/images/infographic-what-happened-to-the-apostles-and/
  8. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? Thomas D. Icehttps://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1095&context=pretrib_arch
  9. The 7 Signs of Josephus Reveal End Time Destruction: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/keithgiles/2018/02/7-signs-josephus-reveal-end-times-destruction/
  10. https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/28869/how-does-one-reconcile-luke-2116-18
  11. Bible Hub commentary on Luke 21:18: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/21-18.htm

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