Luke 21
Luke 21 Kingcomments Bible Studies

The Offering of the Widow

When the Lord looks up, He sees that rich people put their gifts into the treasury. He knows every giver of every gift and knows whether they are rich or poor. He also knows how much they give and also how they give, from which mind. He observes and notices that a poor widow puts two small copper coins into the treasury. Perhaps it is one of those widows about whom He has just spoken, at the end of the previous chapter, a widow whose house is eaten. Instead of complaining about it, she brings her last money to the treasury as a gift to God, for the maintenance of the temple, God’s house (cf. 2Kgs 12:9).

Isn’t it a useless gift, since the temple will be destroyed, as we see in the following verses? No, for she does not give to a temple that is about to be destroyed, but to God, and He appreciates every gift that comes from a completely dedicated heart.

A gift may be small or even negligible in amount, but the true value lies in the motive of giving. That may also be a great comfort for us. The Lord praises the poor widow for her gift. According to His appreciation, she has put in more than all the rich together have put in. He knows that all the rich have put in from their abundance and that their abundance has not decreased by their gift. He also knows that the poor widow did not give a little from her lack, but everything she had.

She has had nothing left for herself. She has even, as the Lord has said, given “all that she had to live on“, that is, she has given herself. This means that she has given in the full confidence that God will take care of her (Jer 49:11). That is giving according to the heart of God. True disciples give like this widow.

Luke writes more about widows than the other evangelists (Lk 2:36-38; Lk 4:26; Lk 7:11-17; Lk 18:1-8; Lk 21:1-4). He presents the Lord Jesus as a Man Who was born, lived and died in poverty. The Lord pays special attention to these women. That must be the case with us too. It is even an important expression of pure and undefiled religion (Jam 1:27).

Signs of the End Time

After the Lord’s teaching about giving, in which He has focused the attention of His disciples on a poor widow, the disciples’ eyes wander to the temple building. Some disciples express their feelings of admiration for that building. They are impressed by what they see with their eyes. Beautiful, as the temple is standing there.

They have forgotten how this building was actually made to a house of commerce by the apostate people and that it is no longer the house of God, but a house of men. Only for faith does it retain its value, as the poor widow has shown. The disciples, as always, are concerned with outward glory. Therefore they are blind to the inner reality of corruption.

The Lord responds to their remark and speaks about what will soon be happening with everything they too are so attached to. His speech about the future of the temple, the city and the people will have been very sobering for them. He says that the things they see with admiration will be completely destroyed. By this He refers to the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70. The disciples want to know more about that. They ask Him about the time it will happen and by what things they can know that this time has come.

The Lord gives as the first characteristic of that time that there will be deceivers. People will present themselves under His Name, people who present themselves as Messiah. They will use the same words He has used in saying that the time is near. They should not follow these deceivers. Besides deceivers, there will also be wars and disturbances. If they hear about it, they don’t have to become terrified. These are things that have to take place first, but do not yet herald the end. Everything the Lord says here relates to the time after His ascension and the formation of the church.

The Lord continues with His teaching on coming events. He does not predict a time of peace, but of great unrest. Nations will fight each other and kingdoms will take up arms against each other. Creation does not fail to express itself either. The earth will be moved by great earthquakes. Natural disasters will cause famines and terrible diseases. Heaven will also speak. At the firmament, terrible things will happen that make a big impression. Great signs from heaven will be seen on earth.

Persecution and Endurance

Before the events of which the Lord speaks in the previous verses take place, the disciples will be the targets of people’s hatred. They will be taken prisoner and to this end being prosecuted. Then they will be delivered to religious leaders in the synagogues and brought before worldly authorities, as happened to the Lord Jesus. It also happens because they are connected to Him, it is for the sake of His Name. We see this happening in the book of Acts (Acts 4:3; Acts 5:17-18; Acts 6:8-12).

The Lord encourages them by telling them that it will be a testimony to them instead of destroying their testimony. He reassures them that they do not need to prepare beforehand how to account for their actions. They may rely on Him in this. We also find this regularly in the book of Acts (Acts 4:8; 19; Acts 5:29). Every speech we have there cannot be prepared because they will suddenly be forced to.

He will give them the words in their mouths. They will show wisdom that will silence their opponents (Acts 6:10). Their opponents will not be able to offer reasonable resistance. So they will fall into unreasonable, cruel reactions. Their opponents will not only be the religious leaders or the secular authorities, but even in relations where security and safety should be expected and which they have always enjoyed until then.

Thus, the members of the family they belong to will turn against them and also other family members. Also their friends, people with whom you share everything and who are there for you in times of need, will reveal themselves as opponents. The only reason for this massive, general hatred is the Name of the Lord Jesus. Choosing Him will result in a radical change in all existing relationships. The hearts of all will turn against them.

The Lord also has the encouragement for them that nothing will be lost of what they have received, even, so to speak, not a single hair of their head. This does not mean that they cannot be killed (Lk 21:16), but He says that even if they were to be killed, all will be made right in the resurrection. This is pointed out in Lk 21:19.

In all distress and suffering it comes down to endurance. By endurance they will gain their lives. This does not mean that it comes down to doing it in own strength. It means that the true faith in the Lord Jesus is shown by endurance and not succumbing under the pressure. In order to endure, they may seek their strength from the Lord.

Fulfillment of the Times of the Gentiles

The siege of Jerusalem to which the Lord refers cannot be the siege that has taken place in recent days by the armies of the Assyrians led by the king of the North. The Lord speaks here of the siege with the subsequent destruction that will happen by the Romans in the year 70. It proves that it are “the times of the Gentiles“ (Lk 21:24) that started with Nebuchadnezzar, but that will also one day be “fulfilled”. During the times of the Gentiles Jerusalem is trampled under foot by the nations. This shows that the Lord Jesus speaks of the present time. The times of the Gentiles will come to an end when He returns to earth.

What the Lord describes with respect to the situation that arises when the Romans rise up against Jerusalem, does have the same character as the siege of Jerusalem in the last days. In the last days Jerusalem will also be trampled under foot and destroyed, but shortly thereafter saved from distress by the coming of Christ from heaven on earth. Then He will destroy His enemies with the sword coming out of His mouth (Rev 19:15).

The destruction that Luke writes down from the Lord’s mouth cannot be an end-time event. The destruction was followed by the humiliation of the Jewish capital, which was then occupied by one nation after another. This continues until the term God has set for the domination of the Gentiles has come to an end. This is typically something for our evangelist. Matthew and Mark speak of “the abomination of desolation“ (Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14), which can only be about the last crisis. Although the circumstances are like those “on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Lk 17:30), here it is about an imminent event.

That there are certainly similarities is shown by the Lord’s warnings. As in view of the last days, the Lord warns here not to lose any time and to flee from the advancing enemy (cf. Lk 17:31). Wherever they are, they have to make sure they are away from Jerusalem. It is folly to believe out of an unhealthy love for the city that something valuable can be taken away from it, or even to think that it would make sense to defend the city. God’s judgment comes on the city. Therefore it is not only unwise, but also disobedient to be guided by any connection with the city.

God fulfills the word He has spoken. He has said that if the city continues to resist Him, He will destroy it. The Lord Jesus foretold it (Lk 20:16). Revenge will strike all life, even in its earliest stages. The need will be great in the land because of the wrath that God must bring on “this” people, that is the people of Israel that killed Christ. Any resistance is meaningless. The enemy is supreme. Many inhabitants will be killed by the sword. Others will be captured and taken to all nations.

That doesn't happen in the end time, but in the year 70. Then Jerusalem will lose its glory and independence. It will not so much be a subdued city, but a despised city on that the nations will trample on. This is how it was until 1948, when Israel became an independent state again. Yet even today it is still a land that exists by the grace of certain powerful nations and at the same time is despised and seen with the greatest enmity by the surrounding nations.

“The times of the Gentiles” is the period when world domination is given to the Gentiles. We see that this is expressed in the rule by the four world empires about which we read in the book of Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar received from God world domination including authority over Israel, the times of the Gentiles began (Dan 2:37-40; Dan 7:2-7; 17).

But there is an “until”. This word indicates that this situation is coming to an end. The end of the domination and the trampling under foot of Jerusalem by the nations is heralded by signs that will appear in sun and moon and stars. These signs in heaven are accompanied by dismay among the nations and not only in Israel. There will be an increasing fear among the nations of terrible things, of threats of disasters of all kinds. The nations are in perplexity.

At the moment I write this (March 2008), in the Netherlands the movie ‘Fitna’ by the politician Geert Wilders about islam is one of the boosters of this general feeling of fear. Climate change, for example, also causes panic. The fact that people’s leaders speak soothingly about such signals or claim to have things under control with grandiloquent speech does not take anything away from the fear that people feel in their innermost being.

The fear will be so great, that people will faint. They see the threat of doom growing ever greater. They will try to do everything to turn the tide, but it will turn out to be useless. They have to do with forces in the heavens, spiritual forces. People have surrendered themselves to them because they have excluded God.

The greatest disaster that will strike them is the coming of the Son of Man. They will see Him come in a cloud (Dan 7:13), the sign of His glory. He will then reveal power and great glory. They despised the Baby in the manger, wrapped in cloths. They did not want Him, and rejected Him, and killed Him. Then they will stand face to face with Him (Rev 1:7) and will not escape.

The Fig Tree and All the Trees

What is a horror for the world is an encouragement for the disciples. They may know that their redemption is drawing near when these things begin to take place. In the same way, instead of worrying about the developments in the world, we too should be encouraged by these developments, because thereby we know that our redemption is near. To the people of Israel, redemption means that the Lord Jesus comes to redeem them from their enemies by judging their enemies. To us as members of the church, redemption means that Christ comes to take us out of the world, from among our enemies. In our days we see the omens of everything He has said. It is therefore important to pay attention to the signs of the times.

To help us with this, the Lord tells us a parable with which He illustrates His teaching. With this He shows us how we can recognize the things that begin to take place even more clear. We have to behold the fig tree and all the trees. It is again characteristic of Luke that he not only speaks about the fig tree, but also about all the trees. The fig tree is a picture of Israel and all the trees are a picture of the nations around Israel. It shows again how much Luke is the evangelist for the Gentiles, the nations. When we see that these trees put forth leaves, we know that winter is over and summer is near. The putting forth leaves of the trees indicates new life.

We recognize this picture in the beginning of the restoration of Israel as a nation. After being trampled on and despised by the nations for a long time – and this is still the case – we have seen since 1948 that Israel is once again a state. Life begins to come into it (cf. Eze 37:1-8). It is not yet summer, but we can see the first signs of the people’s restoration.

The nations around Israel also come to life. The nations spoken of by the prophets, will make themselves heard again after many centuries. We could think, for example, of Syria and Egypt, but also of the restoration of the Roman empire that we are seeing taking shape again in the Europe Union. They are trees putting forth leaves. With this we see the signs of the times presenting themselves. By observing these developments the disciples, and we too, know that the kingdom of God has come near. Summer is coming.

The Lord Jesus, when He was on earth, preached the kingdom of God as having come near. Then it did not come because He was rejected, but it will not pass away. He will not be rejected again. When He comes, He will establish it in public glory. What we see happening in the Middle East indicates that the kingdom of God, in terms of its public form, has come near again in our days and will soon actually be established.

The Lord adds to His example the assurance that “this generation” will experience everything He has painted. This generation is the kind of people living around Him at that moment, the kind that brings Him to the cross. The same kind is still present, for He is still the rejected One and the world still has no place for Him.

The certainty of His words – “My words”, the words of the Lord Jesus – is more certain than heaven and earth. Heaven and the earth will pass away and instead a new heaven and a new earth will come (2Pet 3:11-13). Such a change His words does not know. He is God and His words are God’s words. What is true of God’s Word applies to His words in the same way (Lk 16:17; 1Pet 1:25).

Alertness Required

The Lord concludes His temple teaching with an emphatic appeal to His disciples to keep on the alert. He imposes on them the responsibility to hold on to what He has told them as a guideline for their life. They must not forget His warnings, which can easily happen when they let their hearts be weighted down by what life offers. If they don’t stay sober, but are influenced by worldly thinking, they become dissipated. Dissipation is a condition resulting from excessive wine consumption that causes drowsiness.

Drunkenness goes a step further. Someone who is drunk is also unable to think soberly, but nevertheless believes that he is still in complete control of the matter, while he utters nonsensical language and swings back and forth. By associating with the world and being integrated into the world, someone completely loses sight of reality. The worries of life can also take up so much of a person’s mind that he no longer thinks of the coming of the Lord Jesus.

For such people who once professed to be Christians, but who have not continued to look forward to the coming of Christ in their hearts, that day comes like a trap. The same goes for people who see life only as a party or for people who only see the worries. They do not lift up their heads, but look down to the earth. It turns out that they belong to the earth.

The day of the Lord comes like a trap for all who dwell on the face of all the earth. This kind of people is regularly mentioned in the book of Revelation as people who claim life on earth and live in revolt against God and are judged for it (Rev 8:13; Rev 11:10; Rev 13:8; 12; 14). They see the earth as their home and live for everything there is on earth. They don’t think of heaven, it doesn’t exist for them. Therefore it will come on them suddenly when they see that heaven opens (Rev 19:11). They never thought about it and when they heard about it, they rejected it as ridiculous.

The disciples are warned not to resemble them. Hence the Lord says once again that they must keep on the alert at all times. They should not think that they will be able to resist all deception in their own strength. He therefore urges them to pray at all times, that is to say to constantly turn to God and ask Him for help to keep them from all dangers of deviation. Only then will they be able to escape the things He has described.

Only in this way will they also be able to stand before the Son of Man when He comes in His glory. When the Son of Man comes, He will consume those who have shown that they have no life of God. This is evident from the fact that they did not look forward to Him. All who have life of God will continue to look forward to Him praying and will be allowed to share in His glory. There is no judgment for them; for He bore it in their stead on the cross.

The Lord Continues to Teach In the Temple

In this last week of His life on earth before the cross, the Lord teaches the Word of God during the day. He continues until the end, tirelessly. He spends the night on Mount Olivet because He has no house, but especially because He separates Himself from the guilty and condemned city. Mount Olivet is also the mountain of the future.

The nights are not long for the Lord. Early in the morning all the people come to Him again in the temple. They want to hear His words because they are hungry for them. And the Lord teaches, however much He knows that, under the influence of the religious leaders, in a few days’ time they will cry: “Crucify Him.” What a grace!

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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