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  • Pastor Brett

Signposts on the Road to Victory (#2 of 3)

Luke 21:5-38

https://www.behance.net/gallery/110813615/Sermon-Illustrations-2022

REVIEW:

1. The context of Jesus’ “Last Days” teaching.

2. Signpost #1: FALSE CHRISTS will appear.

NEW:

Every time we approach the Bible to study it for theological information, we must study first, to understand the text as the original readers/hearers understood it. To do that with this passage, I remind you the temple in Jerusalem is the both the scene and the subject of this teaching. Let’s take a moment to read a description of the temple by an eyewitness, the ancient Jewish historian Josephus.

“The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s mind or their eyes, for it was covered all over with plates of gold of very great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendour, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But the Temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.” (The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, section 5)

The disciples of Jesus who, in verse five, pointed out the majesty of the structure, were justifiably proud of this greatest national landmark. Jesus surprised His followers and aroused His enemies with His bold prediction that even that impressive structure would not last forever.

Jesus’ prophecy would come to pass in 70 AD. After a lengthy siege of Jerusalem that resulted in the deaths of over a million Jews and the enslavement of thousands more, the Roman General Titus made the temple’s destruction his personal project. Here’s how John MacArthur describes it:

“Titus...built large wooden scaffolds around the walls of the temple buildings, piled them high with wood and other flammable items, and set them ablaze. The heat from the fires was so intense that the stones crumbled. The rubble was then sifted to retrieve the melted gold, and the remaining ruins were thrown down into the Kidron Valley.” (One Perfect Life, p. 383)

The Kidron Valley was the city’s garbage dump, an unclean place. This was the worst insult, a final act of desecration.

From that stunning launch point, Jesus went into an extended teaching on the events the destruction of the temple would set into motion. I mention all this because I believe we need to approach this passage with the same horror and shock Jesus’ original hearers felt. Otherwise, it can be too impersonal, too academic to appreciate what Jesus is predicting here.

The Last Days require faith, not fear.

3. Signpost #2: Violence will occur.

The first of four kinds of violence Jesus described was violence against humanity. (9-10, 25) He warned His disciples they would hear about WARS AND INSURRECTIONS. (9-10) NATIONS WILL BE IN TURMOIL, partly from the conflicts and partly from the strange happenings in nature. (25)

Our reaction to this violence and all the other forms of violence is summed up in Jesus’ command, “DON’T PANIC.” (9) Why not panic? These are scary things, after all. Because this is one of the first signs, not the last. (9) Because these acts of violence in the world are a sign there is time remaining: “THESE THINGS MUST TAKE PLACE FIRST,” Jesus said, and added, “THE END WON’T FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY.” This means we should NOT compile numbers of WARS and disasters to build a case for the end of the age coming at a time we can predict. Jesus’ emphasis in this passage – especially where signpost #2 is concerned – is to prepare His FOLLOWERS for the difficulties they will face prior to His Second Coming.

The second kind of violence will be violence in nature. (11, 25-26) Nature will turn on humanity. (11) Natural disasters will claim many lives. As Revelation depicts, these disasters will happen as God directs. Jesus gave three examples of death-dealing events in nature.

- EARTHQUAKES are, in the Bible, frequently used as a sign of God’s immanent appearance.

- FAMINES were, in Jesus’ day, a result of imbalanced weather or other natural disasters.

- PLAGUES used to be aberrations of the natural order. These days, we create them.

Jesus warned that nature will turn on itself. There will be GREAT MIRACULOUS SIGNS FROM HEAVEN and STRANGE SIGNS IN THE SUN, MOON, AND STARS. On earth and in the heavens, unnatural things will happen as warnings of God’s impending judgment. Now is the time to repent.

Unbelievers will react fearfully to these. Believers should react faithfully, looking for Jesus as they know the true Cause of these SIGNS and His reason for enacting them. To the unbelieving, these events, unnatural in their scope and/or frequency, will be TERRIFYING. They will be PERPLEXED BY THE ROARING SEAS AND THE STRANGE TIDES, for example. These PEOPLE WILL BE TERRIFIED because they don’t know why these things are happening on EARTH and in the HEAVENS.

We are told Jesus will appear in the clouds when He comes again. (27) This passage makes it clear that people will already be looking to the skies because of these supernatural occurrences.

The third kind of violence will be against the Church. (12-19) Jesus warned of a TIME OF GREAT PERSECUTION. (12) Notice that the GREAT PERSECUTION will precede the WARS, etc., as Jesus said in verse twelve, “BEFORE ALL THIS OCCURS.”

Prior to His Second Coming, both religious and civil leaders will use their authority to persecute Jesus’ FOLLOWERS. (12) The word DRAGGED is translated as BETRAYED in 9:44, in reference to Jesus being betrayed into the hands of the Jews.

Family members will turn against Jesus’ followers. (16) This may be the most emotionally painful aspect of persecution. Jesus’ followers may be betrayed to death, which seems to contradict verse eighteen, except that verse is, as we shall see, a promise of deliverance to eternal life.

EVERYONE WILL HATE YOU because they hate Jesus. (17) Jesus gave this warning several times (Matthew 10:23; Mark 13:9; John 15:20; 16:2).

As dark as these predictions are, as threatening as they feel, every believer’s reaction is to be characterized by faith, not fear. Faith in persecution is manifest in at least four ways:

- Utilize persecution as an opportunity to witness about Jesus. (13)

- Don’t worry about winning arguments; trust God to supply the WISDOM you need. (14-15)

- Don’t worry about your survival; you will NOT PERISH. (18) This is a figure of speech for spiritual survival. Though some of Jesus’ followers will lose their lives (the martyrs), what matters is their salvation to eternal life.

- God will save those who STAND FIRM in their faith. (19)

Instead of fear or reliance on any earthly thing, we are to trust God and take hope: He will work everything out for our salvation. In His Parable of the Soils, Jesus made a similar-sounding promise:

“AND THE SEEDS THAT FELL ON THE GOOD SOIL REPRESENT HONEST, GOOD-HEARTED PEOPLE WHO HEAR GOD’S WORD, CLING TO IT, AND PATIENTLY PRODUCE A HUGE HARVEST.” (Luke 8:15)

As this verse says, there’s no need to complicate what Jesus made simple: be HONEST and GOOD-HEARTED. With patience, a HUGE HARVEST will be produced when our Righteous Judge appears at the end of this age.

We do not stand in our own strength, but in the strength God provides: 1 Peter 1:5 =

AND THROUGH YOUR FAITH, GOD IS PROTECTING YOU BY HIS POWER UNTIL YOU RECEIVE THIS SALVATION, WHICH IS READY TO BE REVEALED ON THE LAST DAY FOR ALL TO SEE.

The Last Days require faith, not fear.

Of the violent signposts we have observed today, we have seen in history that the Church has been, and will continue to be, persecuted. We have seen and will continue to see, acts of violence perpetrated by human beings against one another. (Most of it senseless; almost none of it actually perpetrated for “religious reasons” as atheists allege.) We have experienced some of the violence of nature but not the signs in the heavens Jesus said would immediately precede His Second Coming.

This means that as of right now, there is time left. When we ask, “Is Jesus coming soon?” we’re asking the wrong question. We should be asking, “What can I do in the time I have left?” Whether it is death or the Second Coming that brings our time in the world to a close, our chief concern should be to make the very best use of TODAY.

We look to the past for context. We look to the future for hope. But we live in the present. Allow these provocative, stunning words of Jesus to shock you out of indifference or shame you out of disconnection so that you can put each day to its very best use. May God’s Spirit work today make us better prepared for Jesus’ coming.


RESOURCES:

Message #1297

Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 12, The Gospel of Luke, 2006, Allison A. Trites

The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels, 2002, Darrell L. Bock

One Perfect Life, 2012, John MacArthur

Josephus quote from The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Luke, 1975, William Barclay

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