About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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The This - Chapter 21

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The Widow’s Offering (ch.21:1 - 4)


We all know this story of the poor widow who donated the last coins that she had to live on.  Luke tells us that “Jesus looked up” and saw all the rich people giving gifts at the temple .  Jesus spent most of His time at the temple during this last week. 


I think that we should recognize that Jesus is going through an extremely emotional time during this past week. He knows what is lying ahead of Him.  You can see that these emotions are heightened from the throwing over of the money changers tables.  I believe He was very reflective during this last week as well.  Maybe He was thinking much of the last three years of ministry. 


Jesus could have been simply sitting down, gazing at the ground in one of these reflective moments when He “looked up” and saw this woman.  This struck a chord in His heart and told those around Him that this woman, although she gave very little, actually gave more than “all” the others in the eyes of God because she gave all she had.


We should note that Jesus didn’t stop her from giving.  He didn’t suggest that the next time she shouldn’t give.  He just let her give.  You can see two things here.  You see Jesus’ heart for the poor.  You can also see how Jesus feels about giving, and that is, even the poor should give. Poverty does not restrict a person from giving.


Signs Of The End Of The Age  (ch. 21:5 - 37)


This chapter is basically divided into five parts after Jesus warns His disciples in verse 8.  These parts are;  1 – signs that run through the course of time (verses 9 - 11), 2 - near future of the disciples (verses12 - 19 ),  3 – destruction of the Temple , Jerusalem ,  and the disbursement of the Jews (verses 20 - 24), 4 – second return of Jesus (verses 25 - 33), 5 – an admonition (verses 34 - 36).    


We learn from Matthew and Mark that Jesus was now leaving the temple.  It was most likely on Tuesday.  Mark actually tells us that  the following took place at the Mount of Olives.  As they sat down and overlooked the city they’d see the temple and this would be the reason for the following dialogue.  The disciples  commented on how magnificent of a structure the remple was.  The Jews did a great job in building this temple to the Lord.  But once again, I’m sure that Jesus was saddened by the thought of this glorious structure.  Yes, it was a marvel to behold, but the hearts of those busy in the temple were far from the God it was dedicated to. 


In verse 6 Jesus responded by saying, “as for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left upon another; everyone of them will be thrown down”.  You just know that the disciples must have been perplexed by Jesus’ words, thus the reason for their questions.


We need to note that the disciples did not ask one question but two.  They were, “when will these things happen”, and “what will the sign when they are about to take place”?     We need to look at Matt. 24:3 and note what questions the disciples asked according to Matthew. They asked, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age”. 


We should also note Mark 13:4 where Mark records these questions.  The disciples asked according to Mark, “when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled.”


In all three accounts there are two questions asked, yet Matthew’s account is a little different.  Luke and Mark are similar.  Both Luke and Mark ask “when will these things take place, and what will be the signs”.  Matthew ask, “when will these things take place and what will be the sign of your coming again”.  Do you see the difference”? 


If you combine all three versions of these questions you can easily say that the disciples asked these two questions.  Question  one would be, “when will these things happen, as in when will none of these stones remain in place in the temple”.  Question two would be, “when will you return, and what signs will there be before your return.”. 


These questions are important to the rest of the chapter because it is these questions that Jesus is answering. It will help us to understand the rest of this chapter when we know what verses apply to what question is asked.  Some have confused the issue by thinking that this whole chapter refers to the end of the age when Jesus returns, but that is clearly not the case.  Some of what Jesus speaks about refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple because that is the first question.  


In verse 8 Jesus begins to respond to the first question as to “when will these things take place”, meaning when will the temple be destroyed?  The first thing Jesus mentions is a warning against false Christs  saying, “many will come in my name”, and “the time is near”.  Two points to be made here.  Point one is that the disciples would face the teaching from false Christs.  That they did.  Most of the writings of Paul is in response to false teaching, some concerning false Christs.  The second point is that these false Christs or teachers will say that “the time is near”.  Jesus said, “do not follow them”.  Jesus is clearly saying that there will be false teachers, and that they will say the end is near, but the disciples are not to believe either claim. 


It is interesting to note that Jesus told the disciples not to think that the time of the end was near, for indeed it was not near for them.  Certain things had to take place. One thing that had to happen first was that the disciples would hear of wars and revolutions.  Jesus told the disciples “not to be afraid, these things must happen first, but the end will not come right away”.  Once again, Jesus said that the end “would not come right away”.  The disciples were told very clearly that the end of the age would not come soon. Some might say that the word “soon” is a relative word, but I think that Jesus meant that the end would not come in their life time.


False teachers began to appear very early in church history and have been around ever since.  Yet in this context, Jesus is speaking of false teachers that will come in the days of the disciples, not in our day, even though there are false teachers today


Jesus goes on to say that “nations will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”.  Then He goes on to say that there will “be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences   in various places”.  This verse is often misquoted.  Many say that there will be more earthquakes and other such things the closer we get to the end.  Jesus does not say that.  He merely says that there will be earthquakes, famines and pestilences in a variety of places, meaning, all over the place. He doesn’t say there will be more of them.


Beyond these things Jesus says that “fearful events and great signs from Heaven” will take place.  What fearful things, and what signs He is talking about, we can only speculate.  But they will cause men to be very afraid. 


The earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful events and signs from Heaven will not merely take place in the days of the disciples.  When Jesus said these words He is speaking of the time of the whole age, right up until the end.  The reason why I say this is because of the next verse, verse 12.  In verse 12 Jesus said, “but before all this, they will lay hands on you…”   Before these major events happened, the disciples would be arrested, (have hands laid on them) for their faith. 


So far we have the following sequence – false Christs come in the life time of  disciples – wars in their life time -  great earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful events, and signs from Heaven in their life time and beyond – the arrest of the disciples for their faith.


Jesus told the disciples that “they will lay hands on you …

they will persecute you … they will deliver you to synagogues and prison … you will be delivered to kings and governors”.  Who are “they”?  They are the Jewish leaders.  The Jewish leaders (the Sanhedrin) will try to persuade the disciples to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. When this won’t work, they deliver them to “kings and governors”, meaning Gentile kings and governors, as we also see in the book of Acts.  The Sanhedrin could not have these men tried and hung.  Only the Romans had such authority. 


All these things will happen to the disciples for “the sake of Jesus”.  Their association with Jesus will cause these things to happen to them.  Verse 13 says that “this will result in you being a witness to them”.  Who is “them”.  “Them” are the Jewish leaders, and the Gentile kings and governors. 


The result of their being arrested is that their arrests will “be a witness” to those who arrest them.  Jesus, in Acts 1:8 told His disciples that they’d receive power to be witnesses.  Our English word “martyr”  comes from the Greek word that is translated as “witness”.  Literally speaking, Jesus is telling His followers that their arrest and subsequent death will be a witness, a testimony of Jesus to the world.  You would think that preaching of the gospel would be a good way to witness to the world, but Jesus told these men that their arrest and death would be the real witness.  And so it has been the case over the centuries.  Persecution of the church has done much to spread the gospel of Jesus around the world.


Jesus then told His disciples not to worry about these things.  Of course as soon as Jesus mentioned this to His followers, the tendency would be to worry.  He told them that when the time comes, He (Holy Spirit) would help them to defend themselves.  You don’t have to rehearse what you will say when they bring you before the courts of the land.


Jesus told His disciples that “their adversaries would not be able to resist or contradict” them.  They would have all the wisdom of God when standing before their  enemies.  Yet even with this wisdom, Jesus does not promise they won’t go through hard times.  We know well that most of these disciples were killed for their faith, even with all of the wisdom of God on their side.


Verse 16 says this very clearly.  Jesus came right out and said that “some of them will be put to death”.  The sad part is that those who oppose them are their brothers, parents and friends.  This must have been a hard thing for the disciples to understand. 


Concerning family and friends betraying us because of our faith, we need to understand that we stand on the side of truth, and not on the side of relationships, as important as they are.   When a brother, or a parent opposes you because of your faith, it is a real test, especially if the opposition leads to your death.  But this is what being a Christian is all about.  It is about putting Jesus first in all things and not caving into the pressures that may come your way, even from your family.


In verse 17 Jesus said that “all men would hate” the disciples because of their association with Him  This is a warning to the followers of Jesus to expect hardship.  Jesus also told them that “not a hair of their head would perish”.  This is an interesting statement in light of the fact that some of these disciples would be put to death for their faith.  Yet in the killing process, their hair would stay in tact. 


It is interesting to note that even with Jesus helping the disciples with their defense, such good defense did not save them from death.  The power of the Holy Spirit would be present as these men spoke.  The words would be a testimony.  They would pierce the heart’s of their accusers, and as the disciples would die, the Holy Spirit would convict those who killed them.  Thus in this way, the gospel message would be preached in a most powerful way.  The strength of the disciples in the last moments of their lives, along with the spoken gospel would be a great testimony.


Concerning not loosing one hair at the point of death.  I think that Jesus meant these words to be a word of comfort.  Even though they’d be killed, Jesus would be with them by His Spirit looking after them.  Jesus can look after us in great detail, even caring for one individual hair of your head. Jesus cares for us when we are on our death bed, especially if our death is a result of persecution.


There are a few things I need to point out before I go further.  Concerning the wars, the earthquakes, the pestilences, and the signs in the heavens, Luke says that before these things take place the disciples will be persecuted.  If you read Matthew's account in Matthew 24, he seems to say these things will take place and  then the disciples will be persecuted and the end will come.  There seems to be an apparent difference in the time line between these two accounts.  I believe both aspects of end time thinking is correct.  The first generation Christians did go through the persecution that Jesus predicted.  I also see Matthews point coming true as well concerning Christians being persecuted at the end of this age. 


It is interesting to note that Matthew says there will be rumors of wars.  The Greek word translated as "rumors" can also be translated as "reports", which is a better word for our day.  We hear and see of reports of war on TV, radio and on the internet.  These reports aren't rumors, as in things we can't trust.  We see them with our very eyes. 


We should also note that Matthews says "such things" must happen.  The words "such things" refers to the "reports  of war".  He adds a couple more things to his list, and they are, famines and earthquakes.  Note that Luke adds a couple more things to the list.  They are revolutions, pestilences, and signs in the heavens.  I think we could add even more to this list.


I'd like to point out that the Greek word translated as "revolutions" can easily be translated as civil unrest and instability, or, confusion.  If you look at the nations surrounding Israel right now, in 2011, you will see these nations experiencing civil unrest and instability.  Such things are necessary Luke and Matthew state.  They are necessary because in themselves they are preliminary things that lead to other events that will end this age.                


In verse 20 Jesus begins to predict once again the destruction of Jerusalem .  He said, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you know that its desolation is near”.  Jesus proceeded to say that if you are in Jerusalem at that time, then get out.  If you are in Judea (the province where Jerusalem is located) then flee to the mountains.  And if you are in the country side, you should flee as well.  The point is simple.  Just get as far away from Jerusalem as possible.


It is interesting to note that history tells us that the Jews did just the opposite to what Jesus said.  When the Roman armies began to surround Jerusalem there was a great influx of Jews into the city which made the disaster worse than it could have been.


Historical tradition also tells us that Christians did follow Jesus’ words and left the city.  It is also understood from historical writings (Eusebius 3, 5) that certain men (or man) had a revelation from God at the time to depart from the city, which they did.


Verse 22 says that this event “is a time of punishment” and is completely fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament.  God was punishing Israel for its unbelief and constant rejection of Him and His messengers which   culminated in the killing of Jesus.  God was judging Israel. 


As a secondary note, I would suggest that if God judged  Israel in this present age without waiting to the end of this age, He could do the same to other nations as well. Some might argue this point saying that Israel was a special situation, especially because it was fulfilling prophecy.  Other nations are not so special, especially in the light of prophetic Scripture, so other nations will be judged at the end of this age. 


In verse 23 Jesus said, “how dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and  nursing mothers”.  Jesus’ heart goes out to the women who will need to flee.  How hard this will be on them if they are pregnant and if they are carrying babies in their arms.


Jesus goes on to say that “there will be great anguish”.  It is a fact of history that the sacking of Jerusalem was one of the most violent attacks in world history, at least to that date, and well beyond.


Jesus continued by saying that this great destruction is God’s “wrath against this people”.  For those who believe that God is a loving God and would not harm a flee, this Scripture is definite proof that this is not the case.  God is just and He will judge, and His judgement can be very severe as demonstrated in this time of terror.


Verse 24 says, “they will fall by the sward and be taken as prisoners to all the nations”.  Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the first century states that there were 1,100,000 Jews killed during this attack and 97,000 Jews taken as prisoners. 


The attack ironically took place at Passover when Jews would be coming into the city to participate in Passover.  There could have been upward to 3,000,000 Jews in Jerusalem at the time.  I say “ironically” because the Passover was a celebration to remember God freeing  the Jews  from Egyptian captivity, and now He does just the opposite and destroys them as they remember His goodness. But most likely, like many Christians today, the celebration was not a matter of the heart any longer. For the Romans, this would be the best time to destroy Jerusalem and the Jews since so many were in the city at the time. 


The next statement Jesus made is very interesting and has been commented on by many over the years.  He said, “ Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. 


First of all, the verb “trampled” in the Greek tense means, “continually trampled”.  It is not just trampled on once, but over the centuries would be trampled on again and again by the Gentiles.  This would take place “until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled”.  Note the word “times”, as in more than one time.  This is an accurate prophetic statement.  Jerusalem has been trampled on many times, by many Gentile nations since its destruction. This would suggest that Jerusalem would at some point be given back to the Jews, that is, after the times of the Gentiles were over.  Some say this took place in 1967 when Israel captured Jerusalem for themselves, although many Palestinians still live in Jerusalem and still have the most holy site for their place of worship.


What I have just said is but one way of thinking concerning the phrase “times of the Gentiles”.  Others suggest that this phrase is speaking about the times of the Gentiles as in when the Gentiles were given the gospel.  The Jews rejected the gospel.  It was given to the Gentiles.  Paul was the great apostle to the Gentiles.  God’s people became more Gentile orientated  than Jew orientated, that is to say, the church looks more Gentile like than Jewish.  But this period of time would someday come to an end and the Jews would come back into the fold.  Paul seems to suggest this in his discourse on the subject in Romans 9 through 11. 


So there are two main ways of looking at this statement, one physical, and one spiritual.  Some, like Derek Prince have actually combined the two together.  He has said that when something important takes place in Jewish history, something important takes place in the church – that the two run side by side.  So both aspects of thinking will take place at the same time.


Depending on how you view these few words, “time of the Gentiles” will determine much of your eschatology (study of end times). 


Verse 25 begins with events that happen at the end of this age, when the ” times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. However you interpret those words it makes little difference. When these times are up “there will be signs in the sun moon and stars”.  Matthew speaks of the sun and moon darkening. How and why this happens we don’t know.  Could it be a natural phenomena or could it be the result of some man made disaster like an atomic bomb shading the light of the sun.  It is hard to say.  We will know when it happens.


Jesus goes on to say that “nations will be in perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea”.  For one reason or another, nature will be going through a major upheaval.  Men and nations will not know how to handle the situation.  These words suggest natural disaster that increase in frequency at the end. 


Jesus said that men will “faint with terror” because of all this upheaval, both in the skies and on earth. Then the end is now almost at hand when these things take place.


When these things happen, when the whole universe is in upheaval, possibly re-assembling itself to the way it was before the fall of man, the whole world will see the return of Christ.  Some have suggested that because of modern technology the whole round world will see His return on TV.  I don’t think so.  Jesus said He will return in the clouds, and like lightening flashing from one end of the sky to the other.  He will encircle the whole earth many times in a matter of moments.  There will be no TV satellite signal for a TV to receive.  My guess is that the universal upheaval will have knocked out all electricity, all radio and satellite transmissions.  Besides, Jesus told the disciples to “straighten up and lift their heads”, to look up in the sky, “for their redemption is near”. There is no hint of seeing these things on TV.


In verse 29 and 30 Jesus told a little parable.  He said that when you see a fig tree (usually symbolic of Israel) and all the other trees (usually symbolic of the Gentiles) greening up and shooting forth fruit, you know that summer is near.  Jesus is simply saying that we can read the signs of the times, what season it is by looking at the trees.  By the same reasoning we should be able to read the signs of the times concerning the end of this age.


Jesus said that “when you see these thing happen, you know the Kingdom of God is near”.  This is obviously not the present day Kingdom of God, but the futuristic Kingdom of God, when that Kingdom which is now spiritual will become physical here on earth.


Verse 32 is another one of those heavily debated verses.  If you understand the “times of the Gentiles” to be the physical occupation of Jerusalem by Gentile nations, then you are likely to interpret this verse by saying that when the times of Gentile rule are up in Jerusalem, and when the Jews regain their city, then that generation of people will not pass away until Jesus returns as ruler of an earthly Kingdom. Thus many view the 1967 war where Israel regained Jerusalem as important.  They say that the generation of Jews alive at that time constitutes “this generation” in verse 31.  They then try to calculate what a generation is and guess the return of Jesus. 


At this point I'd like to insert an article I wrote to further explain my position concerning verse 32 and the term "this generation".


  The Generation That Ends This Age


I was 15 years old when Happy Together by the Turtles was a hit song in what pop culture called the "Summer Of Love".  One of my favourite songs in the summer of 1967 was "Windy" by the Association.  I liked the "59th Street Bridge Song", otherwise known as "Feeling Groovy".  It was recorded by Harpers Bizarre, but it sure sounded like Simon and Garfunkel who originally wrote and recorded the song.  America's manufactured response to the Beatles was the Monkees, who conscripted Glen Campbell and others on their earlier albums to improve their sound.  I liked Glen Campbell's guitar solo on Valarie.  The big album that summer was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".  It put the Beatles on a new musical path, or should I say, took them on a "Magical Mystery Tour", if you catch my drift.  


Every July our family attended the Free Methodist Camp just north of Brighton, Ontario, Canada, and the summer of 1967 was no exception.  While listening to songs like "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" by Procol Harum, which I'm sure wasn't acceptable at a church camp, I overheard the adults talking about the end of the world.  Such talk was scary for us teenagers.  We weren't into free love so we sure didn't want Jesus to return before we got to experience the joys of our wedding night. 


The reason for all the end time talk was because of the Six Day War in June of 1967 and how it might relate to Matthew 24.  Jesus told His disciples that when the branches of the fig tree get tender, summer is near.  He then said that in like fashion when you see the things He predicted being fulfilled; know that the end is near.  "This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened". (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32) 


There has been much controversy and confusion over the words "this generation" in Matthew 24:34.  Some say the word "this" in "this generation" refers specifically to an Israeli generation.  Others say it refers to all ethnic generations.  Many understand "this generation" to be a generation lasting a certain length of time, anywhere from 20 to 120 years.  Then there's the debate over when "this generation" begins.  If you can figure out when this generation begins and how long it lasts, you'd have a good idea when the end will come. 


Most Prophetic Futurists understand the fig tree in this passage to be Israel.  This makes Israel becoming a nation in 1948 key to understanding the passage.  No matter whom you think "this generation" refers to, if you begin the  countdown to the end in 1948, the generation alive in 1948 will be alive at the end.  Others suggest the countdown should begin at the Six Day War in 1967, thus the reason for all the talk of the end of the world in the Summer Of Love.  All these differing opinions on how long a Biblical generation is, when it starts, and to whom it refers, is indeed confusing.


After getting serious about Jesus in 1970 my heart's desire was to know the Bible.  That's why I ended up at Elim Bible Institute, in Lima , New York , in 1975.  Prior to my Elim days my two favourite Bible teachers were Derek Prince and Malcolm Smith.  These two men were miles apart in their eschatology, especially in relation to Israel.  Smith taught that the church replaced Israel in prophetic history, making Israel of absolutely no significance when it comes to end time events.  Prince taught that  Israel was the key to prophetic history right up to the end of the age, something my dad also believed.   


My dad often talked to me about Israel's place in prophetic history.  I'd often respond by saying, "but dad, there is another way to think about these things".  My dad would have nothing to do with my "but dads".  Back then I was trapped between two prophetic scenarios, between Smith and Prince, with seemingly no way to untangle myself from this perplexing prophetic web.  I wish my father was alive today to see that I did finally fall onto his side of the fence.   Since untangling myself from the various prophetic scenarios I think I see something we might have missed.  I suggest the following for your consideration. 


The Greek word "genea" is translated as "generation" in Matthew 24:34.  "Genea" means "to become", as in "to become a human", or, "to become a race of people".  For example, Abraham became a human being and his descendents became a race of people known as Israelis.  Because "genea" can legitimately be translated a "race of people" many credible Bible translators translate Matthew 24:34 this way.  "This race of people will not pass away until all these things have happened".  Note that the NIV Bible has a footnote for Matthew 24:34 that states this translation to be an acceptable alternate rendering.


Matthew 24:34 means something quite different when you think in terms of a generation as a race of people instead of a generation lasting a certain number of years.  No longer do you have to smash your head against the wall to figure out how long a Biblical generation lasts. 


With this in mind, I refer you to Amos 9:14 – 15.  "I will bring back my exiled people Israel ; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.  They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.  I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God".  Amos prophesied around 750 to 730 B C.  In 586 B C the last vestige of national Israel came to an end with the final Babylonian attack.  It took more than 2500 years, but in 1948 Amos' prophecy began to be fulfilled when Israel once again became a nation.  They have rebuilt their cities.  They drink their wine and eat their fruit from their miraculous agricultural successes. 


The important part of Amos' prophecy for my present purpose is the prediction that once Israelis return to their land, they would never be uprooted from it again.  Despite present pressures on Israel, know for a fact that Israel will never cease to exist.  Israelis will never be uprooted again.   Here's my point.  Whether it takes 7 years or 70 years for the end to come, the distinct national race of Israelis who came into existence in 1948 will not pass away until all prophecies are fulfilled.  I propose that it's not a matter of how many years a Biblical generation is.  It's not a matter of certain individuals who were alive in 1948 or 1967.  It's a matter of a race of people.  It's a matter of the present day national race of Israelis that came into existence in 1948.  It's Israel that will be in existence when Jesus returns to secure her rightful place among the nations of the world.  This is what I believe Amos means when he predicted that Israelis would never be uprooted again.         


Back in the Summer Of Love my dad's generation thought they might be the last generation because they understood "this generation" to be a 20 to 40 year period of time.  Well, most of that generation has since departed.  If I had have known back then what I think I know now, maybe I could have suggested another way to think, but why would they have listened to a kid blasting out "Judy In The Sky With Diamonds" by the Beatles on his 6 transistor radio.


I now return to my commentary on Luke 21.


Yet if you interpreted the “times of the Gentiles’ as being the time when the gospel was given to the Gentiles then you’d think differently about this verse. When the last Gentile becomes a Christian and when the Jews return to their God in Jesus’ name, then that generation will not pass until the end comes.


Then Jesus added, since He was speaking about things passing away, that heaven and earth would pass away, but His words would never pass away.  What He had told His followers over the last three years would never pass away.  They were truth for eternity and everyone should pay serious attention to His words.


What did Jesus mean when He said that heaven and earth would pass away?  Did He mean complete annihilation, leaving nothing at all?  No.  There are sufficient Scriptures that tell us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  The universe and all there is in it will return to its pre-fall condition.  Nothing will be out of whack as it presently is.  What this will look like is beyond our ability to really  know since we are so depraved and fallen.  But the change will be so different, so drastic, so new, because the heaven and earth will pass away and a new one take its place.   


From verse 34 on is Jesus’ admonishes His disciples.  This is the last section of this chapter as I mentioned earlier.   


Jesus said, “be careful or your heart’s will be weighed down with dissipation…”  “Dissipation” basically means a life of wastefulness, often associated with excess of drinking.  Jesus does continue by using the word “drunkenness”.  You’d wonder why Jesus would have to say such things to His disciples.  You’d think that they’d come far enough not to be involved in such a lifestyle.  But Jesus most likely understood the fallen nature of man, and that man’s tendency is constantly towards decline unless one is actively involved in allowing Jesus to help him out of His depravity.  I’m also sure that Jesus understood that people like you and I would be reading these words some day.


Jesus also mentioned the “anxieties of life” of which there are a number. “Anxieties of life” are one thing that really keeps us from growing as a Christian.  We tend to let these anxieties dictate our life and our faith, instead of our faith dictating our anxieties.


The reason why Jesus spoke these words to His disciples was so the day of His return would not spring on them “like a trap”.  If we are ready and watching, the day of Jesus' return may well be surprising, but it will not be as a trap that devastates us.  We mentioned before that it is Jesus was telling His disciples that His return would not be in their life time.  These particular words then, although spoken to the disciples were meant for those in a future generation.  


Verse 35 is interesting.  Jesus told the disciples first of all to watch and pray.  There is nothing  wrong with anticipating the return of the Lord.  Some suggest that people who watch are no earthly good because they have their hearts and minds constantly on Christ’s return.  The truth of the matter is that one can watch for His return and still do the work of the Lord that is needed at the same time.  We should not neglect one at the expense of the other.


Jesus specifically said what we should pray for.  He told us to pray that we can “escape” all the things that are happening on the earth prior to His return.  Those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture point to this verse as one of their proof text.  They say that Jesus taught a pre-trib rapture, or else He would not have told us to pray that we could escape.  I can understand how these people could interpret that verse to mean what they believe, yet on the other hand, Jesus is not clear on just what He means by “escape”.  It could possibly mean “escape from harm”, not “escape from the world”. 


One reason why I say that Jesus might have meant “escape the harm caused by the things happening on earth” is because of the last phrase of this verse.  It says, “that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”.  One possible interpretation of this is that we must go through trials, and be tested, in order to be able to stand before the Son of Man.  If we fail, we will not be able to stand. 


To put this another way is to say that we will not be overtaken by these terrible things that are happening on the earth, but that we could escape the tendency to drown ourselves in alcohol, drugs and other things the world uses to escape from these problems.  We have Jesus to give us the strength to escape the negative responses that the world would use to try to calm their spirits.


Those who cave in, give themselves to drunkenness will be snared and trapped, and will not be able to stand on that day.  They will be caught in a trap as an animal is caught in a trap that has been set by a trapper.    


The last verse of this chapter tells us that “each day” Jesus spent teaching in the Temple .  This means, “each day of this last week” before His death.  Then in the evening He would retire to the Mount of Olives , most likely to pray and to sleep.  One might wonder what went through Jesus’ mind as He spent the quiet of the evening on the Mount of Olives . 


The chapter closes with the point that all the people came to the Temple first thing in the morning to hear what Jesus had to say and teach.  The crowd must have been very large at this point, especially if there were about three million people in the city.


The gospels don’t give us any further teaching that Jesus gave.  The teaching on His return appears to be the last thing that Jesus taught, although this is speculative since this argument is based on silence.  Yet if this is the case, it only makes sense that the last public thing that Jesus taught was concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the fate of the disciples, the last days, and His return. 


Next Section - Chapter 22

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