Saturday, July 24, 2021

2021.07.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 21:20–36

Read Luke 21:20–36

Questions from the Scripture text: What will apostles see where (Luke 21:20)? What will they know? Where will some of them be at the time (Luke 21:21a)? What should they do? And where will others be (verse 21b)? What should they do? What shouldn’t those who are out in the country do (verse 21c)? What days will those be (Luke 21:22)? As part of fulfilling what? What will make it much harder (Luke 21:23a)? Upon what people will there be great wrath (verse 23b)? What will happen to that people (Luke 21:24a)? And what will happen to what city (verse 24b)? Until what time? What happens at the fulfillment (Luke 21:25)? And how will men respond (Luke 21:26)? What will they see in this fear (Luke 21:27)? But how will believers respond (Luke 21:28)? Then what does He start speaking to them in Luke 21:29? With what command does He begin this parable? What are they able to tell from all the trees (Luke 21:30)? What primary thing that He told them that they would see (Luke 21:31a, cf. Luke 21:20a), and what would this mean is near (Luke 21:31b, cf. end of Luke 21:24)? By when should they expect all things they are told to see to take place (Luke 21:32)? What will pass away (Luke 21:33)? What won’t? In light of all this information, to what must they take heed (Luke 21:34)? To avoid being weighed down with which three things? If they are weighed down by those things, what would come upon them suddenly? Who will not be able to escape that moment (Luke 21:35)? What two things must they do (Luke 21:36)? At what times? By what does escape come? For what else would they be “counted worthy” (cf. Luke 20:35)? 

In the previous passage, the Lord Jesus had given the apostles some non-signs of the non-end (Luke 21:8-11), while redirecting their attention to what they were going to suffer (Luke 21:12Luke 21:16-17), and what they were to accomplish (Luke 21:13Luke 21:18-19), and how they were to prepare for it (Luke 21:14-15). Things turned out exactly as He had prophesied. The apostolic ministry was successful, their testimony was secured and preserved, and the church was established.

Now, in Luke 21:20-24, the Lord Jesus gives them a sure sign of a non-end. It’s important that the word “surrounded” in our translation is a present participle, i.e., “being surrounded.” That would be key in believers’ ability to follow His instruction in Luke 21:21. The Roman noose around Jerusalem closed slowly from a.d. 66 to a.d. 70, but when it closed, it closed. As the final siege began, it took the Romans took just three days to encircle the entire city with a stone wall, and no one who was in the city at that point survived.

Long before that, however, history records an exodus of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem and the establishment of a colony of former-Jerusalemite Christians about fifty miles away, outside Judea, beyond Samaria, and into the region of the Decapolis. With special care for believers (and even particularly special care for the pregnant, the nursing, and their infants, Luke 21:23), Jesus gave specific instructions to save His people from a day of Roman and divine (cf. Luke 19:41–44) wrath (Luke 21:22Luke 21:23b). The heart of the church would move out of Jerusalem and even Judea and Samaria; the times of the nations (“Gentiles”) will have arrived (Luke 21:24b). Once again, the Lord Jesus gave His people specific instruction, His prophecy was fulfilled, and His people were sustained by His Word.

The reference to the completion of the times of the Gentiles in verse 24b leads into Jesus’s discussion of “the end” (Luke 21:9b) about which they had assumed that He was speaking in Luke 21:7. This would not be like the Romans encircling Jerusalem. By the time the terrifying signs of Luke 21:25-26 arrive, so will Jesus Himself (Luke 21:27). Luke 21:27-28 and Luke 21:30-31 speak of arrival and being at hand, not a “nearness” of “close but not there yet.” 

There won’t be advance notice; it will snap suddenly upon everyone on the whole earth (Luke 21:35). There’s no one who can escape, and there’s nowhere to escape to. The only thing to do is to be part of a group for whom Christ’s return is a day of redemption (Luke 21:28) not a day of vengeance like the fall of Jerusalem had been. If you thought the Roman armies forewarned something horrible for Christ’s enemies in Jerusalem, what will that day be which arrives with sudden unraveling of all creation (Luke 21:25-26)?

Whether “this generation” in Luke 21:32 is a time-reference to the example of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 or a moral reference to those who have resisted Christ and His prophets as elsewhere in Luke (cf. Luke 11:47–51; Matthew 23:29–39), the point is the same: Christ’s words will absolutely hold true (Luke 21:33), and at the time of His return the earth will still be full of enemies in the same vein as those who have been killing those whom He sends throughout human history.

How can you tell the difference between those for whom Jesus’s return is a day of vengeance, and those for whom it is a day of redemption? Those who belong to Jesus believe His words and heed His warnings. As did the apostles, by whose testimony the Lord Jesus established the church. As did the Jerusalem church, which was delivered as the Decapolis church by heeding Him.

Jesus warns us not to tie our hearts down to earth by carousing (a life wasted in self-indulgence), by drunkenness, or even by anxieties. The only way to be prepared for something that will spring suddenly and inescapably is to always be prepared (“watching out at all times in praying so that you may be counted worthy to escape” the vengeance and instead stand in the day of the Son of Man (Luke 21:36). 

It’s so easy to waste our lives in pleasure-seeking, or in distractions that numb us from reality, or in worrying over the things that face us every day. Where can we get ability to find our pleasure in the Lord and in serving Him? Or the ability to deal levelly with whatever comes in God’s providence and persist in service and obedience? Or the ability to maintain joyfulness and peacefulness through it all? God’s ability, in the place of our inability, is called grace (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10); and, the Lord Jesus tells us here that grace-dependent watchfulness operates by a continual looking to God for it in prayer.

The point of these passages is to watch and pray unto a life of holiness, in the midst of a world that is at enmity with Christ. While it is folly to think that we can predict His return, it is a greater folly to be living in any different than we will wish we had been when He appears. The Lord Jesus is your Prophet, and He has prophesied and commanded these things in order to spare you.

To which are you more prone: pleasure-seeking, life-evading, or hand-wringing? How are you going about watching and praying for God’s grace against these? 

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song ” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

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