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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
Luke 21

 

 

Verses 1-4

The Widow's Gift.

v. 1 And He looked up and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

v. 2. And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

v. 3. And He said, Of a truth I say unto you that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all;

v. 4. for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury hath cast in an the living that she had.

Jesus had probably delivered His last discourse in the Court of Women, where there were situated the thirteen trumpet-shaped treasure-chests, or collection boxes, of the Temple. Looking up now, He saw something which not only did not insult His holy eyes, but filled Him with joy. His looking was not a casual, momentary glance, but He scrutinized the people intently for some time, deliberately taking note of their coming and the size of their gifts. The rich people put in large gifts, which was an easy matter for them to do. Gifts of a comparatively large size represented no sacrifice for them. But then the Lord's attention was drawn to a widow, a miserably poor and needy woman. Going up to one of the chests, this woman deposited therein two mites. "Another coin, translated mite, is in Greek lepton, 'the small one,' or the 'bit. ' It was two of these that the widow cast into the treasury. Two of them equaled a quadrans. The mite was, then, of the value of 1/8 of a cent. It was doubtless the smallest coin in circulation. " This act of real love and sacrifice made a deep impression upon Christ. With warm feeling He told His disciples: Truly I say to you that this poor widow cast in more than all the others. The actual amount was, of course, much smaller than the gifts of the rich. But in proportion to the ability of the others her simple gift stood so far ahead of the rest that there was no comparison possible. The others had given of their superfluity: they did not even feel the giving of the amount they cast into the chest. But this widow might have been expected to beg rather than to be giving to the Temple treasury. And yet out of her want, when she was deprived of practically all her living, she had given her last quarter of a cent to the Lord, all that she had to sustain life. True love and real sacrifice are here exemplified, and this is the attitude in which all work for the Lord and all gifts for His "kingdom should be given. See Mar_12:41-44.


Verses 5-7

The Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the World.

The beginning of the discourse:

v. 5. And as some spake of the Temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said,

v. 6. As for these things which ye behold, the days will come in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.

v. 7. And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be, and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?

The evening was drawing near, and Jesus was on the point of leaving the Temple for Bethany, where He lodged with friends. But while they were walking out through the courts, some of His disciples remarked in admiration on the Temple itself, on its various buildings, porticoes, halls, and chambers, and especially did they mention the beautiful stones, the huge marble monoliths, which formed the Corinthian columns, and the gifts that were consecrated to the Lord, the many articles of adornment which were so conspicuous throughout the Temple. Among the votive gifts of the Temple were some very costly ones, such as a table from King Ptolemy of Egypt, a chain from Herod Agrippa, a golden vine from Herod the Great, which made the Temple famous for its wealth as far as Rome. But Jesus told them: As to all these things which ye see, the enormous wealth, the gorgeous beauty of the Temple, the days will come in which not one stone will remain upon the other that would not be utterly cast down in the general destruction. It was an announcement which must have filled the disciples with the greatest consternation and surprise. They may now have thought the matter over or discussed it among themselves for a part of the trip across the valley of the Kidron and up the slope of Mount Olivet. But when Jesus had then sat down opposite the city, where He and His disciples had a full view of the wonderful edifice, which, by Christ's word, was marked for destruction, some of the disciples approached Him with a double question. They wanted to know the precise time, and also to recognize the special tokens of the approaching catastrophe. In their question they connected the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple with the end of the world. And this is altogether in accordance with the prophecies which make the judgment upon Jerusalem the beginning and the introduction of the judgment of the world. Mat_16:27-28; 1Th_2:16.


Verses 8-11

Tokens of the end:

v. 8. And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived; for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near; go ye not therefore after them.

v. 9. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified; for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.

v. 10. Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;

v. 11. and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.

It is a characteristic of prophecy that there is rarely an exact division of time according to human standards, for there is no time before the eternal, omniscient God. Whether things will happen a thousand years hence or within a few years does not influence the Lord's time. For all things before Him are happening and taking place in the great present. And so in this case the Lord speaks of the two impending catastrophes, the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, in almost the same breath, connecting them in such a way that the signs foretelling the one must be taken in a measure to refer to the other also. The Lord's first warning is against deception. In the days before the calamity which wiped out Jerusalem, false Christs arose, and in the name of the true Christ, the Messiah, at that. Deceivers of that kind appeared often in the decades after Christ's ascension, and always did they find people willing to listen to them and to cast their fortunes with that of the fraudulent impersonator. Even so the false Christs and false prophets of our days are multiplying with great rapidity; in Eddyism, in Russellism, in Dowieism, and in scores of minor sects they arise to deceive the people of God. Their call and promise invariably is: Here is Christ; here is the full truth; the time is near. They have even, repeatedly, fixed the date of Christ's coming to Judgment. But the believers should pay no attention to them nor follow after them as their disciples, for they are deceivers. As in the days before the destruction of Jerusalem there were wars and uprisings throughout the Roman Empire, but especially in Palestine, so the terrible World War of these last days and the uprisings throughout the world are speaking a strong language to them that heed. As in those days people rose against people and kingdom against kingdom, making it necessary for the Roman legions to be on the move continually, so, while the world stands, neither the most rosy nor the most practical dreams of diplomats will succeed in eliminating war. At the very moment when they are shouting peace with a voice calculated to drown opposition, they are trying to hide the selfishness of their plans which will plunge the world into further wars. As there were great earthquakes in many parts of the world in those days, in Asia Minor, in Italy, in Syria, so the recent terrible catastrophes in Italy, in Alaska, in Java, in Central America have filled the world with horrified astonishment. As great famines and pestilences visited various countries, especially Palestine, in those days, so the pestilence which recently swept the world and even now baffles science in certain of its aspects, and so the famines that have been reported from large areas of Europe and Asia, are God's reminders of the end. As there were terrifying phenomena and fearful portents from heaven in those days, some of which are told by Josephus, so the science of astronomy is unable to account for many things out in the universe today and will be utterly helpless before the manifestations of the last great day.


Verses 12-19

Earlier signs:

v. 12. But before all these they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake.

v. 13. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

v. 14. Settle it therefore in your hearts not to meditate before what ye shall answer;

v. 15. for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

v. 16. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

v. 17. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake.

v. 18. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

v. 19. In your patience possess ye your souls.

Here are some of the signs which concern the disciples of Christ in the interval between His ascension and the destruction of Jerusalem in particular, but which find their application to the treatment and fate of the believers of all times. The enemies would lay their hands upon them and persecute them, as was done to the apostles almost from the beginning, James being the first one out of their midst to suffer martyrdom; and Stephen had been stoned even before that. They would be delivered to the councils of the synagogues for judgment, whose sentence would commit them to prison, as in the persecution in which the unconverted Paul was so active. They would use the legal machinery to have the confessors of Christ hauled before kings and rulers on account of the name of Christ which they confessed, Paul himself experiencing this several times, before Felix, before Festus, before Agrippa and Bernice, before Nero. The history of the early Church is full of stories which fully substantiate every word of the prophecy of the Lord. And that the hearts of the enemies of the Gospel today are no different than at that time has been shown during recent developments, where attacks were not directed against a language, but against the confession of faith. But Christ's comfort stands today as it did then. All these things turn out for a testimony in favor of the believers and the truth which they profess. Not only do they receive credit and honor for their fearless confession of Christ, but their testimony has the effect which the proclamation of the Word of God always has: it influences the hearts and minds of men. To His disciples the Lord therefore gave instructions not to premeditate, to work out carefully in advance, their apology or defense. The best and highest efforts of mere human wisdom and skill will avail nothing unless the Lord Himself opens the mouth of His confessors and believers and gives them the proper wisdom from on high. Jesus and His Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, they are the invincible allies of all true believers, with whose aid they can cheerfully take up the apparently unequal battle against the powers of darkness in the persons of the enemies and detractors of the pure Gospel. More than once, as the example of John and Peter, of Paul, of Polycarp, of Luther, and of others show, the enemies have not been able either to withstand. or to contradict the testimony of the servants of Christ. All that make it their aim to oppose the preaching of the Gospel-truth may be overcome and silenced by a simple and unequivocal confession of the truth of the Gospel as it is contained in the Word of God. The disciples should therefore not be deterred or discouraged even by the fact that there will be dissension in families, that the bonds of both relationship and the nearest friendship will be torn asunder by questions concerning the Gospel. Parents, brothers and sisters, near relatives friends: they all will forget the duties and obligations of their station in their hatred of the Word of Salvation; they will deliver the Christians into the hands of their enemies, and in some cases they will not rest until they have caused them to be put to death. The believers will, in fact, be continually hated of all men on account of their confession of Christ's name. This is the cross of the Christians, the prospect which they must face. There is neither compromise nor mitigation. And yet, in the midst of these prophecies which might well make the stoutest heart quail, the Lord promises His disciples that not a hair of their heads should perish without His will, Mat_10:30. So long as the Christians are necessary for the service of the Lord, their bodies. are inviolable, the enemies dare not touch them. They may, therefore, in their patience possess their souls. By faithful perseverance, by undaunted continuance in the confession of Christ's Word and doctrine, they will preserve their souls. Even if they should lose the life of their mortal body, they will save their true life, that of the soul, by such faithfulness to the end. Their soul, and the eternal life of their soul, will then be for them a glorious prize or treasure, which they will carry off for eternal enjoyment in heaven.


Verses 20-24

A special prophecy concerning Jerusalem:

v. 20. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

v. 21. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.

v. 22. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

v. 23. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.

v. 24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

Here is valuable advice for the Christians of Judea at the time of the great catastrophe, which they should heed and follow to the letter. The armies of the Romans would surround the city, coming upon her from all sides. And. this should be the final point of time for the believers to escape out of the city, since this would be at least one of the manifestations of the abomination of desolation. See Mat_24:15-21; Mar_13:14-19. The fact of the presence of the armies in the act of surrounding the city would be the last definite sign of her desolation and destruction, including the ruin of the Temple. At that time those that were in Judea, the believers that lived in this country, should flee to the mountains, for flight was the only means of their deliverance. In the hiding-places of the mountains, in the insignificant villages that were hidden away far from the beaten paths, there would be an opportunity for saving their lives. For those that were in the city of Jerusalem precipitate flight would also be a necessity; for they should not depend upon the strength of its walls or defenses. Those people also that lived in the suburban district or within easy reach of the capital should not be tempted to take refuge within the city to escape the invaders. For such precautions would prove utterly useless in this emergency. For the days that the Lord refers to are the days of vengeance of the Judge of the world. The many warnings that had been sounded by the prophets of old, the repeated admonitions by the preachers of righteousness, had not been heeded, and so the vial of the wrath of God would be poured out in full measure. The stamp of divine retribution was impressed upon the fate of Jerusalem and the Temple, even for heathen eyes. It was a case of the mill's grinding slowly, but with such terrible thoroughness that not one guilty one escaped. But alas for those that are about to become or have just become mothers! Bitterly the Lord laments their fate, for their condition at that time will not provoke compassion, neither on the part of their friends that might help them to escape, nor on that of the enemies, for they would destroy without mercy. Distress in great measure would be upon the whole land, since everything suffers under the ravages of an invasion; but the wrath of God would strike the people without mercy. His patience was exhausted, and the full bitterness of His just sentence would be carried out upon a foolish and gainsaying generation. The Lord tells exactly how the wrath of God would be manifested. Some of them would fall by the edge, literally, by the mouth of the sword, which would pounce upon them to devour them. Others would be led into captivity among all nations, for a reproach and shame to them until the end of time. According to the account of Josephus, over a million Jews were slaughtered during the siege of Jerusalem and after its fall, and 97,000 were dragged into the provinces as prisoners, mainly into Egypt and Italy. It was a judgment of God without parallel in the history of the world. And Jerusalem, the glory of Israel, was occupied by Gentiles at that time, and has been trodden under foot by strangers to this day. And this will remain so until the times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled, until the full number of the elect from the great mass of the heathen has been gained, until the end of time. The Zionist movement of our days is not taken seriously even by the Jews themselves. The Word of God must stand true. Note: The destruction of Jerusalem by the Gentiles is a type of the attempted destruction of the Church of God by the Antichrist. The Antichrist, the Roman Catholic Pope, has been revealed. He has rendered desolate the temple of God, the Church of Christ, by abrogating true worship, by establishing various kinds of idolatry, by filling the Church with many abominations and offenses, and by shedding the blood of thousands of confessors of Christ. But he has now been set forth in his true colors; the Church has been purged of his errors by the work of the great Reformer, Martin Luther.


Verses 25-27

Signs which will accompany the coming of Christ:

v. 25. And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

v. 26. men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

v. 27. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Here some of,. the signs that will usher in the great Day of Judgment are enumerated. The laws of nature, which have been fixed by the Creator, will be repealed, and in consequence the universe will dissolve in chaos. Unusual, unheard-of signs will take place in sun, moon, and stars, not those of the regular eclipses or similar phenomena which are governed by fixed laws, but such as will cause fearful consternation from the start, and oppressive distress experienced by the people of the world, together with a helpless perplexity, caused in part also by the noise and billows of the sea. So indescribably dreadful will be the dissolution of the bonds that hold the universe together that the hearts of men will fail them, will be taken out of their bodies for fear and for expectation of the things that are coming and are threatening to engulf the world; for the very powers of the heavens that hold the machinery of the vast sky in place will be moved and shaken. And then, in the midst of all this turmoil, while the cataclysmic disturbances are tossing the world and the entire universe about in utter helplessness, then they, all men, will see the Son of Man, the great Judge of the earth, coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. The despised and rejected, the meek and humble Prophet of Galilee will then have stripped off all evidences of the former humiliation, and all men will be forced to recognize Him as the Lord of all.


Verses 28-33

The comfort of the believers:

v. 28. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

v. 29. And He spake to them a parable: Behold the fig-tree and all the trees;

v. 30. when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.

v. 31. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

v. 32. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.

v. 33. Heaven and earth shall pass away; but My words shall not pass away.

When there is a beginning of all these things, when these tokens begin to be fulfilled. The events upon which the children of the world will gaze with helpless terror should be for the believers a voice awakening in their hearts the most joyful hope and expectation. The heads which have so often been bowed under all manner of misery and persecution should now be lifted up in happy anticipation of the final, glorious deliverance. This admonition Jesus tries to impress by means of a parable. No matter what tree may be chosen for an example, for instance, the fig-tree, the same truth holds good of all of them. When they put forth their leaves, all ordinary people that are acquainted with trees at all immediately known, without further demonstration, that summer must be near. In the same way the believers, seeing these signs which are to precede the coming of Christ to judgment fulfilled, conclude and know at once that the kingdom of God is near, that the final revelation of the Church of Christ in the glories of heaven will take place, that the believers in Him will enter, from the trials and tribulations of the Church Militant into the everlasting bliss of the Church Triumphant. "Therefore let us also learn this art and new language and become accustomed to it, that we may be able to picture these signs before us in such a comforting way, and look upon them and judge them according to the Word. For if we follow our reason and wisdom, we can do nothing but become terrified and flee before them. For our reason does not like to see things appear dark and unpleasant, that it lightens and thunders, that it roars and is noisy, as though everything would be turned topsy-turvy. But a Christian should pay no attention to that, but take hold of the Word, with which He wants to open our eyes and explain how He means it, as though we were approaching the beautiful summer-time, and as though there were nothing but beautiful roses and lilies that bloom to delight the eye, and that nothing but joy and delight will come after this abominably evil way and misfortune in which we now are " And He gives them a further sign, namely, that this generation, the race of the Jews, will not pass away, will not lose its identity as a separate race, but retain its characteristics among the nations and in their very midst, in spite of all persecutions, until the end of time, until the great Day of Judgment. And so far as the whole discourse is concerned, with its threats and warnings, as well as with its comforting promises, it is true what, the Lord claims for His Word as a whole: Heaven and earth will pass away rather than that a single word of the Lord remain unfulfilled or fall to the ground. In the midst of the return of primeval chaos, in the midst of the destruction of worlds and the very universe itself, the Word of the Lord will stand in eternity as a rock of trust and confidence for all believers.


Verses 34-38

A final warning:

v. 34. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.

v. 35. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.

v. 36. Watch ye therefore and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

v. 37. And in the daytime He was teaching in the Temple; and at night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives.

v. 38. And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the Temple for to hear Him.

It is not an easy matter to remain steadfast in the Word and faith under the conditions as pictured here by Christ; in fact, no person could hope to stand firm and brave all dangers to the end. But by following the Lord's admonition here given, the impossible becomes possible, and we shall be able to stand against all our enemies and against all the temptations of the latter days. We should take heed, watch ourselves very carefully, not permit our flesh and its lusts to gain the ascendancy. We should not weigh down our hearts with the burden of gluttony and drunkenness, for this causes headache and stupidity, and makes the Christian unfit for the battle with the powers of darkness. His heart and mind must be clear as a bell at all times, in order that he may recognize the dangers described in Scriptures and fight them with the weapons suggested by the Lord. But just as dangerous for true Christian watchfulness are the cares of this life, the anxiety and concern for the future which always threatens to fill our hearts and to drive out all trust in the Lord and His gracious providence. Where care becomes supreme, there faith cannot exist, but is invariably suffocated. With such a lack of proper preparation, the coming of the last day will prove a calamity and will catch even those that professed Christianity unawares. For just as a snare falls down over the head of the unsuspecting animal that is not ever on the alert for signs of danger, so will the day of the Lord come upon all those that dwell upon the face of the earth. And therefore the Lord once more, in conclusion, urges watchfulness, tireless vigilance at all times, with unceasing prayer to the Lord, in order that the Christians may be enabled to escape from all the terrible punishments that await the unbelievers and scoffers, and to stand before the Son of Man on that last great day with cheerful trust. This is not a matter of individual worthiness, but of being declared worthy through the blood and merits of Jesus Christ the Savior. "For the godless and unbelievers He will come as a Judge and punish them as His own enemies and those of His Christians. But for the believers and Christians He will come as their Savior. This we should firmly believe and joyfully look forward to His advent, and see to it that we, when He comes, as St. Peter says, be found in faith and holy life and in peace, without spot, and blameless before Him. " Luke adds a final note as to the way in which Jesus spent His last days. All day long He was teaching in the Temple, but night after night He went out and lodged in Bethany, which was on the southeastern slope of Mount Olivet. There was no need of His sleeping in the open air, as some commentators think, for He had His friends in Bethany, but a short distance from the city. However, in the morning He was always in the city betimes; not too soon, however, for the people, for they surged to Him early in the morning, earnestly desiring to hear the Word of Grace from His lips. Note: Many a Christian of our days might learn a lesson from these people that got up unusually early and thronged to the Temple to hear the Lord, whereas many in our days act as though they were conferring a favor upon the Lord by appearing at His house some half hour after service has begun.

Summary.Jesus commends the poor widow for her love in giving her last mite to the Lord, and gives a long discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, with warnings and admonitions that are in full force in our days.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 21:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/luke-21.html. 1921-23.

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