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Nov 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 13, 2011

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. Luke 21:8 (read vv. 5-38)

INTRO: What’s your gut reaction when you hear, someone say, “We’re coming close to the end”?

Or, “These are the last days”?
– it seems that there is  always someone announcing the end of the world
– of course, not all of the the doomsday people are Christians

  • Do we see more stability, less violence, or improved international ties in the Arab countries where dictatorships have recently been toppled?
  • Do the current financial crises in Greece and Italy improve our outlook on the world economy?
  • Does the fact that Iran has nuclear weapons capability help us sleep better at night?

We can agree with the “End Times” enthusiasts at least on one point: we face an uncertain future

In Luke 21, Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem and his coming “with power and great glory”
– as we enter the text, we immediately come to two challenges that need to be resolved:

  1. To clearly understand as precisely as possible what Jesus is saying
  2. To fit the teaching of this chapter into the rest of his teaching and ministry
    – in other words, into the context of the whole story

Vv. 5-7, What turned Jesus’ teaching this direction

People coming from Galilee would have never seen a building like the temple
– Jesus saw what they did, but more
– his prediction of its destruction sparked their curiosity, so they asked a question with two parts:
(1) When will these things happen?
(2) What signs will indicate these things are about to happen?

In his answer, Jesus will describe two separate events and it is important to keep them distinct

Vv. 8-9, Jesus’ first words – maybe the most important words on the subject

Don’t be misled – it happens constantly and it is widespread

Don’t be misled by people
– most Christian teachers who tend to focus exclusively on biblical prophecy are wrong
– it makes no difference how bright or knowledgeable they are in other fields — interpretation of prophecy requires more than intelligence (1 Cor. 2:6-8)
– biblical prophecy is one of those subjects that is easier to get wrong than it is to get it right

Regarding people, Jesus’ instruction or counsel is, “Do not go after them”
– do not travel behind them, do not attach your spiritual journey to their teaching

Don’t be misled by events – political unrest does not signal the end

Jesus’ counsel regarding tumultuous events is, “Do not be terrified”
– if you are flying cross country and your plane runs into turbulence, it is extremely comforting if someone sitting near you, who has made the same trip many times, turns to you and says, “Don’t worry; this is normal”

Vv. 10-11, The real thing will be impossible to miss

It’s like everything explodes at once — nations, nature, disease, and drought
– while this is going on, internally people will experience unnatural “terrors” (“from heaven”)

The word great is used in these verses to describe two events:
– “earthquakes” and “terrors and signs from heaven”
– earth and heaven form one of the themes that runs through biblical prophecy and will appear again in this chapter
– in a way, prophecy is all about the ultimate reconciliation of earth and heaven

At this point, Jesus breaks off his thought, as if to say, “But I’m getting ahead of myself”

Vv. 12-24, What the disciples can expect to see in their lifetime

First, they can expect three personal challenges: persecution, betrayal, and hatred

The disciples’ role is mostly passive in these verses – things done to them — “. . . lay their hands on you . . . persecute you delivering you . . . bringing you . . . you will be betrayed . . . etc.
– in fact, they do not even need to prepare a legal defense speech (vv. 13-15)

Jesus is stressing the fact that this isn’t our battle
– this future is not in our hands, but God’s

There is an active role for disciples

  • persecution will create opportunity
    – they have to make up their mind before that time comes
    – it would be rather scary to not prepare your own defense
  • when betrayed and hated, they would have to endure
    – to endure does not merely mean to survive
    – it means to make it through all the hardships with their faith intact
    – to not give up the life they have with God in Jesus

Notice how this section begins in verse 12 and ends in verse 17 with, “My name”
It is their relationship with Jesus that throws them into all of this persecution

Secondly, the disciples could expect to see one very clear sign — Jerusalem surrounded by armies
– in verses 21-22 Jesus tells them what they must do and gives them an explanation (“days of vengeance”)
– in verse 23 Jesus pronounces a “woe” and gives them an explanation (parallel to the previous explanation: “distress” on the land and “wrath” on the people)
24, Jerusalem’s fate

This passage answers both of the questions the disciples asked in verse 7 and it was all fulfilled in 70 ACE (AD)
– but it concludes with a reference to an indefinite period of time that will have a definite end
“Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”

Vv. 25-28, More signs, but of a different event

Jesus returns to what he started in verses 10 & 11
– he takes us back to cataclysms in heaven and earth again
– caught in the disruption between the two realms, humans are thrown into dismay, perplexity, and fear

People will realize these disasters are only the prelude, that they are building up to something
– “the expectation of the things which are coming”

Precisely at the moment of agonizing suspense, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming . . .”

The disciples do not have to be caught up in mass hysteria
– it’s their time, not to panic, but lift up their heads
– “straighten up” – the same Greek word was used of the woman bent over for eighteen years who straightened up when Jesus healed her  (ch. 13)

Vv. 29-33, A parable that connects the signs to the events

The analogy connects “you see” and “you know” the flow of time in nature to “you see” and “you know” in the flow of prophetic time
– you see springtime leaves and you know summer is near
– you see these things happening, you know the kingdom of God is near

  • Jesus does not say one word regarding what the kingdom of God will be like
  • he does not provide any detailed pictures of paradise or its pleasures

If he had, we would most likely become obsessed with streets of gold, fountains of diamonds, pearly gates . . .
– and none of that is what heaven is about
– heaven is the “Son of Man” – paradise is defined by Jesus’ words, “with Me” (Lk. 23:43)

Jesus makes comparisons of things that pass away and things that do not pass away
– “this generation will not pass away”
– in Luke, this term has not been used of an age cohort, but for a segment of society, a specific group
– “heaven and earth will pass away”
– “My words will not pass away” – in the chaos and uncertainty that will come, Jesus provides a bedrock on which we can build a stable and enduring life (6:47ff)

Vv. 34-36, Jesus last word to the disciples about these things

Be on guard” – hold out, focus mind
– heart needs to be protected (dissipation means something like “hangover”)
– addictions and worries

Keep on the alert” – sleepless, stay awake — some people sleep their way through life
– Jesus connects alertness or attentiveness to prayer
– the goal is “to escape” and “to stand”

CONC: Vv. 37-38,  Jesus’ agenda in his last week of ministry

“Early” indicates their eagerness to hear him
– but the most important words in chapter are “to Him”

If heaven and earth will pass away, then we do not have to take the world so seriously
– biblical prophecy takes us beyond our world the small lives we live in it
– the world is not ultimate, so we can be less anxious about the whole thing

God forms the future – he makes it what it will be
– we don’t have a role in those things
– but knowing the future, we are shaped by it
– we go into it, relying on the words of Jesus
– we are not being propelled into the chaos of a dark tomorrow
– we are eagerly running to him – our Companion, our hope, our Savior

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