THE WIDOW'S TWO MITES
The first four verses are a continuation of the sublect of Chapter 20. If the scribes had no regard for widows, God takes full account of them. Rich men may donate large sums to the temple service and yet make no real sacrifice at all, however much it may impress others. The Lord of glory sees and discerns the motives of every heart as well as the actual gifts given. The poor widow, putting in only two mites, is commended above all the rich men, for she gave virtually all her living. If she had only given one mite, this would have been unusually generous, but her love toward the God of Israel was unreserved. Scribes had ways of prying money from the people, just as do many preachers today, but the widow was giving as to God an offering acceptable, well pleasing to Him; and she will not lack a full reward from God.
THE TEMPLE'S DESTRUCTION AND SIGNS OF THE TIMES
The natural, earthbound thoughts of men then come out in another direction. Some drew attention to the adornments of the temple with its attractive and expensive stones and decorations. How little man sees as God does! The temple was God's house, but men gave more honor to the house than to its Lord: in fact it had become virtually their house (Matthew 23:38). The Lord pronounced solemn judgment upon it: there would not be left one stone upon another (v.6).
The fact of this coming destruction indicates clearly that Christ had not come to establish His kingdom. But He was asked as to when these things will take place. People commonly want to understand the chronological order of events while not being concerned about the moral issues connected with such events. They asked for a sign, little realizing that present moral and spiritual conditions are the most significant factors in reference to the future judgments of God.
The Lord did not satisfy mere curiosity, but admonished them to be careful not to be deceived. For as to prophecy there are innumerable deceptions, but if we are deceived, we are to blame, for God is not deceived, and honest communion with Him in subjection to His Word will preserve us. We have surely witnessed in our days the truth of what the Lord says, that many would come in His name, claiming to be the Messiah (v.8), and thousands have been deceived by them in spite of the Lord's plain warning.
The Lord gave forewarnings of things in the end time, many of which we see today. Wars and commotions would come (v.9), as they have, but this is not enough to signify the end. Nations and kingdoms being at enmity with one another indicates there would be no gradual change for the better in the world by means of the gospel, as some have fondly imagined. Instead there would be a marked increase in alarming signs -- earthquakes, famines, pestilences, -- all of which we have known to have escalated in relatively recent years. Fearful sights, such as men's cruel atrocities on a large scale, the murder of millions of Jews in Germany, the massacre of great numbers who followed Jim Jones to Guyana, massacres more recently in China, in Iraq and among the Serbs and Croatians, in Zaire, and many other dreadful occasions, have shocked the world. Great signs from heaven are evident - changing weather patterns, hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. How well the Lord knew and fully declared that the gospel would not convert the world. His words here are a rebuke to those who have cherished such futile hopes.
But previous to these the disciples would be subjected to bitter persecution, as a result of the enmity of religious Jews. The disciples would be imprisoned and brought before Gentile kings and rulers for the sake of the name of Christ. This became true very soon after the Lord Jesus returned to Glory. But the Lord used this persecution in a way that men did not expect, for a testimony to Himself and to the gospel of His grace. Also, the disciples were to depend completely upon His own power and wisdom when these things occurred, not considering beforehand as to what to say, for His superior power would intervene and give the words to speak that would silence the opposition of their adversaries. We see this in Peter and John (Acts 4:13-14); in Stephen (Acts 6:8-10; Acts 7:1-60); and in Paul on various occasions (Acts 22:1-21; Acts 24:24-25; Acts 26:1-31).
The deep pain and trial also of betrayal by even close relatives would be the experience of many of them, and some would suffer death as martyrs. The disciples of the Lord Jesus would in fact be the object of the hatred of all mankind generally. How contrary to their expectations of the advent of the kingdom! Yet in the face of such dreadful affliction He told them not a hair of their heads would (eternally) perish. The eternal end was secure, though this does not mean that none of them would die, for the Lord said some would die as martyrs (v.16). In fact, since then all the disciples have died, but they were to have no fear of the most bitter persecution.
THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
Verse 20 refers to the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD, with its ensuing great distress for the Jews, which has continued for centuries. There are things here very similar to the description of the sorrows of the Great Tribulation as seen in Matthew 24:15-21; but that will be more dreadful than the Roman destruction of Jerusalem here in Luke 21:1-38. Those in Judea are told to flee to the mountains, for Jerusalem would be totally desolated, as it was by the Romans armies under Titus. For those were days of vengeance because of Israel's rejection of their Messiah, fulfilling Israel's prophetic scriptures (v.22).
The Lord deeply felt what Israel was bringing upon herself (v.23). Though it was men -- the religious leaders -- directly responsible for killing their Messiah, yet it was their women with child who would greatly suffer. How careless are men in realizing that their ungodliness causes those who are dependent on them to suffer! The distress would be great, for God's wrath would be upon Israel. Many should fall by the sword, and many carried captive in every direction (v.24). So it has been while "the times of the Gentiles" run their course. Israel for centuries was a people without a country. The fact that in 1948 they regained a country for themselves after centuries of dispersion signifies that the times of the Gentiles are nearly fulfilled.
THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN
Verse 25 now goes on to the time of the end. There will be signs literally in the sun, the moon and the stars, though the spiritual significance of these is the most important. The supreme light of the knowledge of God will be darkened through widespread apostasy -- a complete turning away from the Lord. Reflected light (the moon, symbolical of Israel) will be greatly affected; and stars will fall, that is personal apostasy will become rampant. Nations on earth will be torn by distress, with perplexity, and the evidence of this has already begun in our day. The troubled sea and roaring waves speak of the troubled state of all nations, each fighting for what it considers its own rights.
While these things, and verse 26, refer directly to what will be seen in the future 7-year tribulation period, yet the similarity of conditions today tend to persuade us that that time must be very near. The hearts of many are failing them for fear now, seen for example in the great fright over the possibility of a nuclear holocaust and terrorism, and the alarm over certain nations becoming militarily strong and bold. The expression "the powers of the heavens shall be shaken" appears to infer man's discovering the power of the atom, which God has used for man's benefit, but man shaking those powers in a way that is harmful. The Greek word for heavens is ouranos from which the word uranium comes. Whether there is a direct connection here with man's splitting of the atom may be questionable, but while God has for ages been using nuclear power in the sun for the great blessing of mankind, when man got possession of a little measure of that power, he immediately used it for destruction!
At any rate, there is a direct connection between the powers of the heavens being shaken and the Son of Man coming in power and glory. This is not His coming for the saints at the Rapture, but at least seven years later, at the end of the Great Tribulation, when He will subdue all nations under Him.
Verse 28 can have its application both to the believing remnant of Israel in the time of the tribulation and to ourselves now. For the first application, their redemption will be the liberating power of the Son of Man in setting Israel free from her ages of bondage. In the second case (taking place earlier) our redemption will be of our bodies at the Rapture (Romans 8:23). We already see the beginning of such signs as mentioned in verses 25 and 26, therefore let us look up.
THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE
Then in verses 29-31 the Lord spoke the parable of the fig tree, typical of Israel, and all the trees symbolizing other nations. When the trees begin to blossom, it is the evidence that summer is near. In fact, even before the Rapture we see the beginning of the signs of the Lord's coming in glory, which will be later than the Rapture. For Israel has once again become a nation possessing her own land. Other nations surrounding her, having been for years almost unheard of and of little significance, have become militant and are pressing to the front for recognition. This great resurgence of national ambition tells us that the kingdom of God is near. If the millennial kingdom is near, the coming of the Lord for the Church (the Rapture) is at least seven years nearer.
Verse 32 may infer that the generation that sees the beginning of these things will also see the end of them. If so, the end is very near indeed! But the word "generation" is also used by the Lord in a moral sense, as for example, "an evil and adulterous generation" (Matthew 12:34); or "faithless generation" (Mark 9:19); so the implication may be in this case that men would not so change in character that their faith would bring in the kingdom, but rather, that the kingdom would cause the evil generation to pass. Or it may be that both applications are correct.
Verse 33 goes far beyond the kingdom to the passing away of heaven and earth at the time of the Great White Throne, some 1000 years later (Revelation 20:11). The words of the Lord Jesus will never pass away.
Then verses 34 to 36 press upon us the moral character suitable to the truth of these great future events. Verse 34 is negative, dealing with things that are the most common detriments to a walk with God -- the undue emphasis put on eating and drinking and the cares of this life. How easily we slip into a state that seeks only the satisfaction of our own appetites, while matters of intense, eternal importance are left knocking at the door! Of course eating and drinking are necessary, but is it that for which we live? Should the cares of this life, the many details of living, so occupy us that we are loaded down with them? Where is the faith that looks out from all this in vibrant expectation of something infinitely better?
The warnings against carousing, drunkenness and cares of this life apply directly to those going through the future tribulation. They are to watch and pray always that they might be counted worthy to escape the things that threaten all around them, and at the end to stand before the Son of Man. At that time those believers will be kept through the tribulation, while the Church will be kept out of the hour of it (Revelation 3:10). No reference is made in this chapter to the Lord's coming for the Church, but rather to His coming in power and glory as the Son of Man at the end of the tribulation period.
The Lord spent the last few days of His life on earth teaching in the temple (v.27), but His nights were spent on the mount of Olives. The power of the Spirit of God moved the people to come early in the mornings to the temple to hear Him. How the people could so soon change from hearers to persecutors crying out for His crucifixion may seem astounding to us, but such is the sad fickleness of the crowd of those who are hearers only, and not doers of the Word of God. They were curious, but unsaved, without true knowledge as to who the Lord really is.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 21". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany