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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Luke 21

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Jesus Warns of Jerusalem's Fall and His Return

A. A widow's sacrificial gift.

1. (Luk 21:1-2) Jesus observes the widow's giving.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.

a. He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites: This poor widow must have been a welcome sight to a weary Jesus, who endured a storm of questions from His enemies.

i. Jesus looks at us when we give. He notices how much we give, but is far more interested in what that amount says about our hearts than anything else.

b. Two mites: According to Poole's calculations, the value of a mite can be determined like this: a denarii is one day's wage, and equals six meahs; one meah equals two pondions; one pondion equals two issarines; one issarine equals eight mites. When you figure it all out, two mites is 1% of a denarii-1% of a day's wage.

c. She gave two mites, not just one. The widow might have kept one coin for herself, and who would blame her if she did? Giving one meant giving half of all her money. But in giving two mites, her giving has a certain recklessness about it.

2. (Luk 21:3-4) Jesus assesses the widow's gift.

So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."

a. This poor widow has put in more than all: Jesus did not say that she put in more than any one of them. He said that she put in more than all of them-all of them put together! How could it possibly be said that she put in more than all? Because all the others gave out of their abundance; she gave sacrificially, out of her poverty.

b. This means that the poor man can serve and please God just as much as a rich man. It doesn't matter if you are poor in influence, in gifts, or in money; if you sacrificially give to God what you have, He sees it and is pleased.

c. Jesus had just criticized the scribes as those who devour widow's houses (Luke 20:47). Now a lone widow makes a spectacular contribution-had her house been devoured by a scribe?

3. What, in God's eyes, determines the value of a gift?

a. Remember that God does not need our money-it is our privilege to give to Him; giving is necessary for our sake, not for God's sake.

b. A gift's value is determined by the spirit in which it is given. God doesn't want grudgingly given money, or guilt money-God loves the cheerful giver.

c. The value of a gift is determined by what it cost the giver; this is what made the widow's gift so valuable. David refused to give God that which cost me nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).

B. Jesus speaks of future events.

1. (Luk 21:5-6) Jesus makes an amazing prediction concerning the temple.

Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, "These things which you see; the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down."

a. As some spoke of the temple: This temple was originally rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15), but greatly expanded and improved by Herod. It was the center of Jewish life for almost a thousand years -so much so, that it was customary to swear by the temple (Matthew 23:16), and speaking against the temple could be considered blasphemy (Acts 6:13).

i. After Herod, the temple was huge-nearly 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. Herod's rebuilding work started in 19 B.C., and was only completed in 63 A.D., taking more than eighty years. It was finished only seven years before it was destroyed.

b. How it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations: The temple wasn't just big, it was also beautiful. The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple was covered on the outside with gold plates, that were so brilliant that when the sun shone on them, it was blinding to look at. Where there was no gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that strangers, from a distance, thought there was snow on the temple.

i. As great as the temple was, Jesus never hesitated to claim that He was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:5). For man Jews of that day, the temple had become an idol-it subtly began to mean more to the people than God Himself did. God has a habit of destroying our idols.

ii. Good things can become the worst idols; and sometimes God sours even good things that we have allowed to become our idols

c. Not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down: Some 40 years after Jesus said this, there was a widespread Jewish revolution against the Romans in Palestine, and they enjoyed many early successes. But ultimately, Rome crushed the rebels; Jerusalem was leveled, including the temple-just as Jesus said.

i. It is said that at the fall of Jerusalem, the last surviving Jews of the city fled to the temple, because it was the strongest, most secure building in the city. Roman soldiers surrounded it, and one drunken soldier started a fire that soon engulfed the whole building. Ornate gold detail work in the roof melted down in the cracks between the stone walls of the temple, and to retrieve the gold, the Roman commander ordered that the temple be dismantled stone by stone. The destruction was so complete that today, they have true difficulty learning exactly where the temple was.

2. (Luk 21:7) His listeners ask about the events connected with the temple's destruction.

So they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"

a. Teacher, but when will these things be? Jesus will tell them about the fate of the temple, but also about the fate of the whole world.

b. "Most divines think that God in the destruction of Jerusalem intended to give a specimen of the general conflagration, and ruin of the world at the last day; so as the signs of the same kind with those seen before Jerusalem was destroyed, shall be seen before the great and terrible day of our Lord's coming to judge the world." (Poole)

3. (Luk 21:8) To walk in these dangerous times, do not follow false leaders.

And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them."

a. For many will come in My name: Jesus knew that many would arise more than willing to assume the role of political messiah for Israel. One striking example of this was a man named Bar Kokhba, who 100 years after Jesus was considered by many Jews to be the Messiah. He started a widespread revolution against the Romans and enjoyed early success, but was soon crushed.

b. Therefore do not go after them: These people who rejected Jesus when He came to them as Messiah ended up falling for false messiahs who led them into nothing but death and destruction. If we don't stand on the truth, we may fall for anything.

4. (Luk 21:9-11) To walk in these dangerous times, do not be frightened by catastrophes commonly associated with the end times.

"But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately." Then He said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven."

a. When you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified: All these things preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. Were there wars? The Romans were frequently at war with the Jews, the Samaritans, the Syrians, and others during this period. Were there earthquakes? Historians tell us of great earthquakes in the Roman Empire before Jerusalem was destroyed. Were there famines? Acts 11:28 tells of one in this period. Were there fearful sights? Pompeii blew its top just seven years before Jerusalem was destroyed. Were there signs in the heavens? Not long before Jerusalem was destroyed, a comet that looked like a sword hung over the city by night for a year.

b. Yet, Jesus also speaks of general conditions that will precede His second coming. The world has seen incredible catastrophe since the time of Jesus. Even in our century we have seen genocide on an unimaginable scale, world wide war, and whole continents given over to disease and famine; yet these things in themselves are not the signs of Jesus' coming.

5. (Luk 21:12-15) To walk in these dangerous times, do not worry about your legal defense when you are persecuted and face charges because of your Christian witness.

"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist."

a. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake: Our greatest occasions for testimony come when we are "on trial" before others, either in a formal or an informal sense. We can trust Jesus that He will do as He promised: give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

6. (Luk 21:16-19) To walk in these dangerous times, when all others turn against you, persevere and take a firm stand.

"You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls."

a. By your patience possess your souls: The word for patience here is the great Greek word hupomone. It speaks of a strong endurance, not a passive waiting. Our souls will be kept by the strong endurance that the Lord works into us.

7. (20-24a) To walk in these dangerous times, flee Jerusalem when armies begin to surround it.

"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations."

a. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies: Most Jews expected the Messiah to return in glory when hostile Gentile armies surrounded Jerusalem. When the Romans circled the city in 70 A.D., there was a sense of rejoicing among many of the Jews.

b. Let those who are in Judea: However, Christians in Jerusalem knew what Jesus had said and they obeyed Him, fleeing across the Jordan River to a city named Pella. No Christians perished in the fall of Jerusalem.

c. For these are the days of vengeance: But 1.1 million Jews were killed; and another 97,000 were taken captive in one of the worst calamities ever to strike the Jewish people. Jesus warned them to avoid it.

i. When the Romans were done with Jerusalem in 70 A.D., not a single Jew was left alive in the city. The Romans eventually renamed the city Aelia Capitolina, and for many years would not allow a Jew to even enter what was formerly known as Jerusalem, except on one day a year-the anniversary of the fall of the city and the destruction of the temple, when Jews were invited to come and mourn bitterly.

ii. Truly Jesus meant it when He said these are the days of vengeance. This is why He wept over Jerusalem in 19:41-44, because He could see the massive devastation that was coming upon this city He loved-and why He warned all who would listen how they could flee from the coming destruction.

8. (24b) Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are over.

"And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

a. Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles: The Israelis took possession of Jerusalem in 1968, but the holy mount is still Arab property, under Arab rule. As far as God is concerned, the most important piece of real estate in Jerusalem-and prophetically speaking, the most important in the world-is still trampled by Gentiles.

b. Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled: What happens when the times of the Gentiles are over? Then, His particular dealings with Israel begin again, and the last seven-year period of Daniel 9 begins. The calamities described in following verses will come in this period.

9. (Luk 21:25-28) When the final period of calamity hits the world, look up-your redemption is on the way.

"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

a. Signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity: This kind of total chaos and calamity is described in horrific detail in Revelation 6, 8-9, and 15-18. All this will culminate in the dramatic, spectacular return of Jesus, coming with His church to this earth.

b. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near: The things that will begin to happen are described in Luke 21:25-27. Jesus assures believers who are on the earth at that time to be ready, because the time of great tribulation they are experiencing will not last forever, but Jesus will return in glory soon.

10. (Luk 21:29-33) When you see these signs (spoken of in Luke 21:25-26), you know that the end is very near.

Then He spoke to them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away."

a. Look at the fig tree: The fig tree is just one example of a tree that buds before summer; no special reference to Israel seems to be intended (and all the trees). The idea is that when a fig tree buds, there is an inevitable result-summer is near, and fruit is coming. In the same way, when these signs are seen, the coming of Jesus in glory, with His church, to this world will inevitably follow.

i. The generation that sees those signs will also see the very end. God will not prolong the Great Tribulation forever.

b. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away: No mere man could truthfully say this. Jesus claims that His words are the very words of God-and they are.

11. (Luk 21:34-38) How to live in the last days.

"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.

a. We must take heed because there are certain things that will make one unprepared-carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life. Each of these things can make us unprepared for the day of Jesus' return.

i. Carousing literally refers to the hangover that comes after a time of intoxication.

b. Watch therefore: We must watch. Anyone who watches will never be caught in a snare-our failure to watch keeps us from being ready.

c. We must pray always, that we may be found worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass. The good news in Jesus is that we don't have to go through this calamity that is coming. He will take as many as are ready before this calamity begins.

i. Regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, those who listened to and obeyed Jesus escaped the horrible destruction that came upon the city.

ii. Regarding the far greater destruction that is coming upon the whole earth, those who listen to and obey Jesus can escape the horrible destruction that will come.

© 2000 David Guzik-No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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