This is an exposition of Luke 21:5-36. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, November 12, 2017.
I’m one of those people who likes things simple. I like things to be yes or no. I like certainty – uncertainty drives me crazy. That’s why I hate going to a doctor and he says, “Well the test show things are clear.” I respond, “Good so there’s nothing wrong.” “Well I wouldn’t say that.” Or you’re setting in a classroom and the teacher asks a question.
One of the class answers and the teacher says, “That’s a very good answer.” You make sure you write that answer down since it is the “right” answer and then the teacher says, “Would someone else like to try and answer the question.” What do you mean? You just said that was a very good answer! What’s with this try another answer bit? Either it is the answer or it is not.
It is my dislike for uncertainty that makes me uncomfortable in dealing with certain passages of Scripture. One of the reasons I preach through books is that it forces me to deal with passages I wouldn’t deal with if I had the choice. One area of difficulty in biblical interpretation is the area of eschatology or last things. There are some things that are absolutely certain. Jesus is coming again. He is coming visibly, physically to this earth. Of that there is no question. The details and events surrounding that return are not so clear. I think one point of confusion is that we think of “last things” only in terms of the return of Christ. Actually the “last days” began with the ascension of Christ. From the time he was received into the cloud the church has anticipated his return. We are living in the last days…and we have been for the past 2000 years!
Contrary to some popular preachers and writers, the interpretation of prophecy is not an exact science. The Scriptures are infallible, interpreters are not. We are all influenced by various biases and prejudices as we approach any given text. Any time we approach a text we bring to it certain assumptions and it is extremely difficult to hold those assumptions at arm’s length and allow the text to stand on its own. I have done a lot of reading through the years as I’ve tried to sort out my views. At various times I’ve found myself in agreement with most of the major millennial views. I’m still, to this day, not certain as to which pigeonhole I should be put in. I’m not as concerned about which view I hold, as I am about whether I properly understand whatever text I’m working with. I’m not interested in defending a particular view or proving one over the other. I am interested in hearing from God on the subject.
I think it just might be possible that in our zeal to understand the details surrounding the return of Christ we’ve lost sight of the message. After all if a passage is dealing with the return of Jesus does that mean it has nothing to say to those believers who lived and died before his return?
As we are walking through Luke’s Gospel we come this morning to Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse. The Olivet discourse is found in Luke 21, Mark 13 and in Matthew 24-25. This passage is one of the most talked about and disputed passages in all the Gospels. When seeking to unravel the message of this passage one has to deal with events reaching from the first century to the end of time. Did the disciples ask one question? Two? Or perhaps even three questions? Is Luke 21 Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse or is it simply related material? What is meant by “this generation” in this passage? These are but a few of the questions scholars have debated through the centuries. With all that in mind let’s turn to John 3:16 and deal with something less controversial! I’m kidding our text this morning is found in Luke 21:5-36.
Text: Luke 21:5-36
Luke is dealing with the events of the Passion Week.
That final week in the earthly life and ministry of our Lord.
He entered the city in triumph.
He cleansed the temple and assumed his rightful place as Lord of the temple.
He was teaching the people (the temple’s greatest glory).
He met his enemies face to face in the temple as they sought to trap him.
He silenced them with his great wisdom.
Now Jesus and his disciples are leaving the city of Jerusalem and his disciples look back at the temple and marvel at its beauty. Jesus’ simple, direct statement shook them to the very core of their being. And prompted them to ask him a question that serves as the backdrop of our text.
I’m convinced this is central to understanding what Jesus is saying in this text.
The question is specific.
There are two parts but they are dealing with the same thing.
Mark 13 records the question the same way Luke does.
Matthew’s version is slightly different.
He adds, “…and what will be the sign of the end of the age or the end of the world?”
One of the difficulties in interpreting this passage is its use of apocalyptic language.
Apocalyptic language is cartoon or figurative language.
There are images in this text that mirror certain OT passages dealing with the “day of the Lord.”
Jesus is predicting the future in this passage. He is declaring in advance certain things that are going to take place in the future. While I believe this prophecy deals specifically with the destruction of Jerusalem, I also believe aspects of it speak to the return of Christ at the end of world history.
There is a “telescoping” of ideas in the passage. Language that speaks specifically to a certain event but also to an event beyond that time. Here is my concern. It is possible to get so involved in arguing the details you miss the message. In seeking to catalogue the individual trees you fail to notice the forest. Let’s back off just a bit and see if we can take a wider view and grasp a principle to live by. If we take that approach I think we can see that:
Thesis: In the midst of tumultuous times believers are made sober by the terror of God’s judgement, while at the same time, they are comforted by the tenderness of Christ’s loving concern.
I’m convinced these two elements are essential to understanding our Lord’s intent.
Both aspects are true; there is coming a judgement and Christ lovingly warns of the dangers to come.
There are two things I want to call your attention to out of our text.
- As the righteous judge, the Lord Jesus sovereignly declares the coming judgement.
- As the gracious Savior, the Lord Jesus prepares his followers for the horrors to come.
Are we living in the last days? Yes!
When will Christ return? I have no idea.
What about all the unrest in the world – changing weather, disasters – are they signs of his coming? Yeah just as they have been for 2000 years.
It closer today then it was back then!
It may be tonight or it may be 1000 years away.
The message of the Scripture is clear – “No man knows the day or hour – therefore live each day in anticipation of his return.”
Wake up and realize that judgement is coming.
Be encourage by the fact that Christ has prepared us for his return.
How are we to live? 21:34-36.
“Take heed, watch and pray.”