Understanding An Uncertain Future—Part One
November 01, 2020 | Randy Smith
Understanding An Uncertain Future – Part One
Sunday, November 1, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
Unless you just came out of a coma, we have a major Presidential election coming up in two days. It’s been said regardless of who wins, our country will never be the same. People are expecting more unrest and division. Many are concerned. There is a lot we can fear, but possibly nothing is more fearful than uncertain events in the future.
As you know, we have taken a lengthy break from our study in Luke’s Gospel. I am happy to announce our return this morning. And I am happy to begin where we left off on May 17th. It’s very appropriate as we are approaching what Bible students call the “Olivet Discourse.” It’s one of our Lord major sermons and it’s repeated in both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. It’s commonly known as the sermon where Jesus discusses how the world as we know it will end just prior to His long-awaited Second Coming. Theologians can this aspect of theology, “Eschatology” or in other words, the study of the “last things. I originally planned to cover chapter 21 in two sermons. Due to our circumstances and further thought, I believe it will take four.
Yet before we begin, permit me to make some general remarks that will be profitable to get the most out of these sermons.
One, as for the “big picture,” it is best to outline verses 5-38 into two specific sections prefaced by the two questions posed to Jesus in verse 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?’” Matthew 24:3 states the questions a little more specifically: “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” So, what Jesus will do is first deal with the future destruction of Jerusalem (Lk. 21:8-24) and then the future destruction of the world (Lk. 21:25-38).
Second, while most people come to the Olivet Discourse with their charts and timelines and personal predications, this section is intended to be primarily pastoral. Just as Paul did in 1 Thessalonians 4 (4:18 – “Therefore, comfort one another with these words”), our Lord’s primary goal in discussing these things is to spiritually prepare the church. We love to focus on the “birth pangs,” and signs in the heavens and the antichrist, but the goal in all this is not cerebral, but rather practical in how we successfully live out our Christian lives. The focus in verses 8-24 (our next two sermon) is how to rightly understand and persevere through persecution. In the second section (verses 25-38), the focus is on righteous living. Yet it’s easier to make charts than deal with both of these issues!
So, if you are expecting the stuff (the speculation, the wild theories, the bold predictions) that often accompanies the study of this chapter, you might be disappointed. Our goal will focus on the godly living that Jesus calls for and the loud clarion call that should bring His people their greatest encouragement. We might not know exactly when, but we can have the utmost confidence that Jesus will return – to glorify Himself by judging evil and rescuing His people. And thus, we should always be ready with godly conduct.
So, in a sense, this chapter is not unlike the rest of the Bible. We live continually for the Lord’s sake whether He comes in a thousand years or comes tomorrow. But when we understand His victorious end plan, we are encouraged and inspired in that regard. And we face not only the end of the world, but our personal struggles we deal with in our “tomorrows” with great preparation, resolve, hope, peace and steadfastness.
So, with that stated, let’s begin this morning in these first of two sections (verses 5-24), before we break for the Lord’s Table. I have four subpoints included in your sermon notes (we’ll get through two of them). Again, this section deals with the answer to the first of two questions asked of Jesus – When will the temple be destroyed. Let’s look at that question now found in verses 5-7.
Curiosity (verses 5–7)
Here with go with the first point, “Curiosity.”
Verse 5, “And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts.” Stop right there. Some quick and essential background.
As we know from Old Testament history, God met with His people in a special building. First, there was the tabernacle with the instructions given to Moses. Then Solomon constructed the first temple around 969 BC. It was completed seven years later. That temple was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonian when they also destroyed Jerusalem. God’s Spirit had already departed (Eze. 10), never to return until Jesus walked in. Yet when the people returned to the Promised Land after captivity, some fifty years later, they immediately constructed a new temple, but it was far less impressive. The “old timers” wept when they saw it. This temple was plundered and desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes in 186 BC, yet the temple was not destroyed completely. Finally, in 19 BC, King Herod enlarged the temple complex and expanded and beautified the temple so it could in a sense be called a new temple. This temple was nearing completion when Jesus was on the scene. It is known as “Herod’s temple.” And it was, according to historical reports, absolutely beautiful.
Listen to the historian Josephus, “The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays.”
So, as we see in verse 5, people (the disciples included) were talking about the beauty of the temple like a bunch of tourists. The temple was indeed a physical spectacle – nothing but the best in materials, architecture and craftsmanship. They were impressed, but Jesus was not. He always saw things not from a physical perspective, but rather a spiritual one (c.f. 1 Sam. 16:7). The temple was spiritually dead.
He said, (verse 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.” Folks, says Jesus, that temple will be utterly destroyed.
We coved this already, so only a brief review. Look at chapter 19, beginning in verse 41. “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’”
So, the prediction has already been made. The temple will be destroyed. The reason was already given. They did not recognize and receive God’s love gift in Jesus Christ – their “visitation” (verse 44). They rejected God and judgment will arrive. Jesus taught and verified His deity with miracles. He even “cleaned the temple” twice. And the next event will see the Jewish leaders with the approval of the nations, murder the Son of God through crucifixion.
Here’s the story. Jesus was crucified in AD 33. In the fall of AD 66 the Jews combined in revolt, expelled the Romans from Jerusalem. A revolutionary government was then set up and extended its influence throughout the whole country. Vespasian was dispatched by the Roman emperor Nero to crush the rebellion. He was joined by Titus, and together the Roman armies entered Galilee with severe countermeasures. The people fled to Jerusalem for protection. The city was surrounded and forced into submission as the people starved. In August AD 70; Jerusalem fell, the Temple was burned, and the Jewish state collapsed. It is reported that over one-million Jews were killed.
True to Jesus’ words (19:44; 21:6), historians tell us the Roman military pried the burned stones apart to collect the gold that was lodged in-between them.
The destruction of the temple – the building that stood for their favored status with God, their history, their security and their hope – was unthinkable. It is only natural that the questions would immediately be offered in verse 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?’”
Jesus now addresses those questions by focusing on the attitude His people should have – warning and encouraging – and informing the people that the destruction of the temple and the end of the world are two separate events but are (as we will see over the next three weeks) in many ways connected.
Conflict (verses 8–11)
Let’s briefly cover the second point, “Conflict.”
Verse 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.’” Since this is addressed to His disciples, we are taking about false-Christs<. We are talking about people who will profess to be the Messiah.
Verse 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.” Wars will happen. History tells us there was great conflict the thirty-seven years between Jesus’ death and resurrection and the destruction of the temple.
Verse 10, “Then He continued by saying to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.’” More conflict, specially here a nation (Israel) against a nation (Rome).
Verse 11, “And there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. Natural disasters, epidemics and celestial events (comets, meteorites, eclipses, etc.).
Now, let’s interpret this. Jesus does not say these things will specifically signify the destruction of Jerusalem. He just says they will take place prior to the fall of Jerusalem. And if we compare this Scripture with other Scripture, they will also take place before His Return and the end of the age (“birth pangs”). Perhaps they will happen in greater frequency and intensity, but these events have happened basically since creation. Yet as they foreshadowed the destruction of Jerusalem, they will also foreshadow the destruction of the world. The first smaller prophecy is a foreshadowing of the second larger prophecy on a more extensive and intensive scale, from local to global and no longer temporary, but eternal.
So, the end of the temple will happen before the end of the world. Both events are a result of God’s promised judgment upon those who have rejected Him – first a nation and then a world.
We need to leave it here for now, but as the Lord permits next week we’ll see more about this judgment and the spiritual implication we can draw for our own lives as it pertains to persecution. For those in Christ, there will be instruction and great hope. For those without Christ, there will be a promised wrath that far exceeds what the Jew experienced in AD 70.