Not Yet The End
November 13, 2022 |Not Yet the End | Luke 21:5-19
Last week we began looking at Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. He is teaching daily in the temple and constantly confounding the religious leaders.
Today is an interesting point in the story.
His ministry in Jerusalem this final week has revolved around the temple.
He began by cleansing it (Luke 19:45-48) Luke adds this note- ‘he was teaching daily in the temple’
It was in the temple that the chief priests, scribes, and elders challenged his authority to do and teach these things.
It was in the temple that they sent spies to try and trip him up and get him in trouble with Rome.
It was in the temple that the Sadducees sought to raise what they thought was inconsistency with God’s law and the reality of the resurrection.
It was in the temple that he commended the poor widow’s offering compared to the abundance of the religious and societal elite’s offerings.
Our text today finds Jesus leaving the temple after teaching and what follows is a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. It is just one of the moments we get to peak behind the curtain as Jesus instructs his closest followers in his final days.
One of the things that makes what he says so compelling to us is that this is his last recorded visit to the temple. It is time for him to celebrate passover, be betrayed, tried, and ultimately crucified. He is close to fulfilling his purpose and as he walks away from the temple this final time, he says something so radical and so disturbing that his disciples are left with all kinds of questions.
Let’s start with what prompted this pastoral and prophetic moment between Jesus and his disciples.
Luke 21:5 (ESV) 5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said,
Now, this is one of the events that is recorded in all three synoptic gospels and Matthew and Mark offer a few additional details.
Matthew 24:1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
Mark 13:1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
We are not told what prompted the disciples to point out these things to Jesus. Maybe they sensed his resignation as he left the temple that he would not return to it. Maybe he said as much, but for whatever reason, his disciples pointed out to him the beauty of the temple.
Lest we miss the magnitude of his coming statements, let’s stop and wrap our minds around, as 21st century Christians what the temple in Jesus’s day was like.
According to the historian Josephus (Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) The whole of the outer works of the temple was in the highest degree worthy of admiration; for it was completely covered with gold plates, which, when the sun was shining on them, glittered so dazzlingly that they blinded the eyes of the beholders not less than when one gazed at the sun’s rays themselves. And on the other sides, where there was no gold, the blocks of marble were of such a pure white that to strangers who had never previously seen them (from a distance) they looked like a mountain of snow.
It was the largest structure in all of Jerusalem and by Jesus’s day had been under construction for almost 50 years.
There was a common saying in that day that said ‘whoever had not seen the Temple of Herod had never seen a beautiful building.’ The full temple mount was 40 acres. It was dominant, it was impressive, it was beautiful, and it was central to Jewish identity and faith.
So the disciples are pointing out some of the more beautiful aspects of the temple to Jesus and rather than joining them in admiring its beauty, he says something altogether surprising.
Luke 21:6 (ESV) 6 “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.”
In our text here in Luke, it can seem like the disciples immediately asked him questions in response to his statement. Again, here is where cross referencing the gospels can be helpful.
Matthew tells us that it was when they had gotten to the mount of olives and Jesus had sat down, the disciples came to him privately and asked him about it, Mark further details it for us by telling us it was when he sat on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew came to him and asked him privately.
Jesus makes this startling statement and they make their way to the Mount of Olives opposite the temple mount and Jesus sits down, his closest disciples come to him and ask him about what he said.
Luke 21:7 (ESV) 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
In Matthew we read ‘and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”’
The disciples tied the destruction of the temple, the end of the world, and Jesus coming into power as all being together. In his much debated answer, he separates out these events for them.
Christians have long argued over whether all of what Jesus says here in the Olivet Discourse pertains to the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, whether it all pertains to the future when he returns, or like I ascribe to, that Jesus reveals information about both, the destruction of the temple and judgment of the nation of Israel and the destruction and final judgment on the world.
This morning we are going to limit our discussion to what Jesus says here that seems to deal directly with the coming destruction of the temple and what he teaches his disciples concerning it.
In doing so, we see that although the disciples asked him when and what, as Jesus often did, he answered a more pertinent question than the one they asked.
His answer, both pastoral and prophetic, deals more with the question- how should we conduct ourselves in light of the coming judgment?
“The disciples- and believers since- want to know the future, but Jesus directs them unflinchingly to the present”-James Edwards
This morning we will attempt to examine what Jesus said to his disciples concerning their situation and then what lessons there are for us to learn from it that we can apply to our own life and times.
We are going to look at his answer under two primary exhortations based on Jesus’s response in teaching his disciples about the coming judgment.
Let’s read his answer together and then we will dive into it, piece by piece.
Luke 21:8-19 (ESV) 8 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. 9 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.”
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 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. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Two exhortations based on Jesus’s response to his disciples. Exhortation #1
Ground yourself in truth (vs 8-9)
See that your are not led astray
Led astray- deceived, led away from the truth and into error
Jesus begins with a stern warning to his disciples.
After his ascension, there would arise false teachers and men who claimed to be the messiah, or that would make claims that he had returned and they knew where he was.
Jesus’s exhortation? Don’t go after them.
For many will come in my name, saying
I am he- John 8:21-30 (ESV)
The time is at hand- Mark 1:14-15 (ESV)
Do not go after them- do not follow them
It is interesting that Jesus uses these two expressions, because these are two things he himself said in his own ministry.
John 8:21-30 (ESV) 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
These false prophets and messiahs would say some of the same things, they would be convincing, people would follow them, but Jesus reminded the disciples that they already knew the truth.
The disciples knew the truth, Jesus had told them and would tell them everything they needed to know about the kingdom, its arrival and consummation, as well as his second coming.
But as we know, Jesus did not tell them everything. They wanted to know specifics about when it would happen and what to expect before it did, and Jesus left much of those questions unanswered. Sinful men would seize the opportunity to fill in the blanks and draw followers with clever arguments or well sounding teachings and by following them they would be led into error.
Many otherwise intelligent and faithful people have been drawn into theological nonsense to try and tie current political climates to end times prophecy or to try and chart out the end times definitively.
There is great danger in worrying too much about the when and what signs accompany the coming judgment. Many otherwise intelligent and faithful people have been drawn into theological nonsense to try and tie current political climates to end times prophecy, to try and chart out the end times definitively. Then you have the ones who regularly predict the end times based on their mathematical evaluation of historical events, or their view of astronomical events like this recent blood moon mess from 2015. For some reason, even though these people are repeatedly proven to be wrong, their next book, their next prediction, is scooped up and people follow them into this foolishness.
How do we keep from being led astray? We ground ourselves in what we know to be true of Jesus through God’s revealed word. Jesus has told us everything we need to know about the end and his second coming, to attempt to pull from these pages anything beyond is simply at best unwise, and at worst, wicked.
Why do people get wrapped up with these false teachers? Sometimes it is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what will happen when. Which is what Jesus moves to next.
And when you hear of wars and tumults
Wars- battles, strife
Tumults- disorder, instability, confusion
Do not be terrified
Be terrified- frighten, to fall or to fly away
These things must take place, but the end will not be at once
Must- it is necessary
The end- the limit at which a thing ceases to be
At once- immediately
Jesus’s answer for not being led astray and not being terrified are the same. Stay grounded in the truth. When wars and battles began in and around Jerusalem, when disorder and instability was the norm, the disciples were told, do not be afraid, not only is this what is supposed to happen, it doesn't mean it is the end. The disciples had previously thought that if the temple fell, it must mean the end of the world. Jesus tells them, not only will the temple fall, not only will there be false messiahs and prophets, there will be wars and tumults, and not only should they not be afraid, they should understand that this wasn’t the end.
Right before Jesus prays his great priestly prayer as recorded in John in the final hours of his life before he is betrayed, he says. John 16:31-33 (ESV) “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Jesus told his disciples that they didn’t have to fear because not only did God know about the wars, strifes, etc… he has said that they are necessary before the end. In Mark, he records Jesus' words as, “do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.”
The truth is, we don’t know how bad it is going to get before the end. We know that much of what Jesus warns his disciples here will probably apply to our time, but beyond that, all we can do is speculate. It is a far better strategy to trust in what Jesus has said, stay grounded in the truth and face each day as it comes. Not only will we be able to stand firm and not be led astray, we will not be terrified by what is happening around us until Jesus returns or we leave this place to meet him.
This leads us to our next exhortation based on what Jesus taught. Exhortation #2
Endure to the end (vs 10-19)
This exhortation is based on what Jesus says in verse 19. Luke 21:19 (ESV) 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
Before we get there, let’s back up and look at the three different areas Jesus said we will need to endure starting at verse 10.
Jesus talks about tribulations at a national level, a natural level, and a personal level.
Nationally- vs 10
Nation will rise against nation Nation- a people group, a race
Kingdoms against kingdoms Kingdoms- a group of people gathered under a ruler
This goes with his previous statement about wars and tumults. As long as there have been men on this planet, there has been war. No amount of societal advancement, technological achievement, or governmental intervention has lessened the amount of war our world sees.
Whether or not our generation ever sees war in the United States of America it is a present reality for many Christians, and has been throughout history. The most recent example of this has been what is happening in Ukraine. As we see images and videos of places bombed to pieces, of people injured, starving, and barely holding on. As we hear stories of the atrocities that have taken place, it is not hard to imagine struggling with our faith in such a time and place. This is the reality that Jesus wants the disciples to know. When they are surrounded by wars and rumors of wars, keep the faith, trust in God, and endure.
This was certainly a reality with the disciples. Within their lifetimes, there would be civil war within Roman powers, the Jews themselves would rise up, following a false messiah figure and overthrow Roman control of Jerusalem, until Rome surrounded them in AD70 and Jesus’s words were fulfilled when they completely destroyed and dismantled the temple stone by stone.
Naturally- vs 11
Great earthquakes, famines, pestilences (Affects the earth, the harvest, and the plant life)
Terrors and great signs from heaven
Terrors- a frightening thing, fearful sight
Great signs- unusual occurrence
Heaven- sky, space (the upward expanse as opposed to the earth)
Recent hurricanes have devastated areas of Florida, not too long in our recent history we saw New Orleans destroyed by storms. When these things happen, it is natural for people to ask, why did God let this happen, or where is God in this? Jesus tells the disciples these things will happen and they do not mean God has forgotten his people, that he is not in control, or that this is the end, simply that these things are going to happen. They are to continue trusting and enduring. Then Jesus moves to a much more personal area with his disciples. Yes, there will be national wars and strife, yes, there will be natural disasters and disturbances, but in addition the disciples would face personal tribulations before those things even happened.
Personally- vs 12 But before all this they will…
Lay their hands on you, persecute you, delivering you up, brought before...
For my name’s sake- on account of Jesus
The very people they were trying to share the good news of Jesus with, the very people who ought to be celebrating with them in the name of Jesus, the very institutions that should welcome them would become places of trial and tribulation. They would be brought to the synagogues, brought before magistrates, turned in by their own families, their own friends because of their faith in and dedication to Jesus. But rather than be afraid, they should realize that God is going to work this for good.
Jesus says, this will be your opportunity to bear witness.
Opportunity- the outcome, result, to turn out
Bear witness- testimony
The result of this will be you will get to testify about me, about your faith, and about the gospel. How should they prepare for these monumental moments? Jesus says by trusting him.
14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
Settle it therefore in your minds- vs 14
Settle it- to set, fix establish
Therefore- these things being so
Not to meditate beforehand how to answer-
Meditate beforehand- two words 1. Before 2. to devise, contrive
How to answer- to defend a person or a thing; to give a full account of
Jesus makes a promise of presence here for his disciples.
When they found themselves delivered by their closest relations, imprisoned, brought before rulers, charged and examined for their devotion to Jesus, facing persecution and even death, THEY WOULD NOT BE ALONE.
Jesus says I will give you a mouth and wisdom. Here, Jesus, as he does in much of this teaching, references a familiar Old Testament passage. In Exodus 4 God tells Moses, as he is sending him to go before Pharaoh, that he will be with Moses’ mouth and he will teach him what to say and do.
Jesus says that he will work through them in such a way that their adversaries will not be able to resist or argue against them. Amazingly, in the book of Acts we see Peter and John in this very situation. Brought before the Sanhedrin, examined, and the council is unable to say anything in response to their declarations, and after threatening them, let them go.
But because of their testimony, they will be hated, and some will be put to death.
Here is the question. If they are arrested because of their faith, betrayed by their own families, imprisoned and brought before the judges, if Jesus does what he said he would do and gives them the wisdom and words to refute their charges and clearly proclaim the good news, and they get put to death anyway, has God failed them? If being put to death is a very real possibility, why would anyone continue to endure? What possible reason does the Christian have to endure wars, to endure natural disasters, personal persecution?
When they found themselves delivered by their closest relations, imprisoned, brought before rulers, charged and examined for their devotion to Jesus, facing persecution and even death, THEY WOULD NOT BE ALONE.
Because Jesus makes an incredible statement here that we need to stop and unpack.
Luke 21:16-18 (ESV) …some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name's sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish.
Some of you they will be put to death, but not a hair of your head will perish.
If perish here means die, then what we have is a contradictory statement from Jesus and we have to wonder why we are exhorted to persevere if Jesus does not promise to keep us from death.
But if we understand that perish here doesn’t mean die, but rather it carries a deeper meaning akin to being destroyed fully, or to be lost, then the picture starts to come together.
Jesus points us back here to the resurrection of the dead and the promise of everlasting life to those who follow him.
John 10:28-30 (ESV) 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Those who Jesus gives eternal life will never perish. Death is not the final word, the grave is not our final destination. Not for those who endure.
19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
We know scripturally Jesus is not saying by our works we can earn eternal life, but what he is saying is that by enduring to the very end, not matter what we face, we prove that we are his and if we are his we can be sure that eternal life waits on the other side of death.
The author of Hebrews echoes these words in Hebrews 10.
Hebrews 10:36-39 (ESV) 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
The apostle John would say it like this. 1 John 2:19 (ESV) 9 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Jesus promises us not only his presence but preservation. If we continue in him we will not be lost.
The disciples were worried about when and how the world would come to an end. When would the temple be destroyed?
We could easily ask a similar question. The Bible says this world will one day be destroyed in judgment at the end of this age. When will it happen? What signs should we be looking for as it approaches.
And Jesus would point us to the same place he pointed his disciples.
Ground yourself in my truth and Endure until the end.
Do that and you will not be led astray, you will not need to be terrified, and you do not even need to fear death at the hands of your enemies, because you are mine.
How does that statement resonate within you this morning?
When you think about all the things you could face in your lifetime.
Wars, famine, economic crashes, natural disasters, betrayal, disease, even imprisonment for your faith, does your heart beat faster, do you begin to feel fear creep in? Do you worry about tomorrow?
Or do you know that you know that Jesus is your Lord and there is nothing that could separate you from his love? You have endured and will endure whatever comes, keeping your faith firmly placed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.