Signs of the End of the Age (part 1)
[Luke chapter 21, verses 1-19]
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Last week when we finished chapter 20 of Luke’s gospel, our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ had just left his critics dumbfounded by his response to yet another of their ‘trick questions’. Today as we move on to chapter 21, as they are about to leave the Temple at Jerusalem Jesus makes an observation about the religious practices of that day. We find Jesus, the Twelve, and a throng of his followers moving on from this scene to one that was more private soon after. So let’s begin today’s analysis of Luke chapter 21 at verse one.
“As he looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth’, he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these other people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’ Some of the apostles were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on top of another; every one of them will be thrown down.’ ‘Teacher’, they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’ He replied, ‘Watch out that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he’, and ‘The time is near’. Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’ “ (Luke 21, verses 1–11)
As chapter 21 begins, we find the apostle Luke adding yet another shining example of Jesus’ contempt for the rich – those who line their pockets, their wallets and their closets full of as much cash, expensive merchandise and the very finest of everything all the time that they can! As you see from Luke’s testimony, greedy and materialistic people will never see the Kingdom of God, nor will the vast majority of them be able to enter heaven when their lives are over, although there will be at least a few exceptions. The rich tithed their 10% effortlessly. It was no strain on their budget at all. But the poor widow who put the two copper coins in the offering put in all she had. She left the worship service more justified in the sight of God than the person who put in the largest offering that day! God doesn’t honor what we possess. He honors those who give away what they have. It’s exactly the opposite of our world today. Everyone is obsessed with how much they can accumulate, but our eternity depends on the legacy we leave behind.
In the following verses, Jesus relates how the Temple at Jerusalem will be torn down, with not a single stone atop another. This actually occurred in 70AD, when the Roman armies conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple there, approximately 37-38 years after Jesus uttered those words. But Jesus’ response to the apostle’s questions about the End Times are telling: “Watch out that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he’, and ‘The time is near’. Do not follow them.” We have already seen some of this in the last 150 years here in America, with the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses being two of the most prominent examples. The conflagration of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas back in the 1990’s is yet another example, and with horrific consequences. That was, in short, a sign of the impending End Times in which we are living.
“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” As before, this is precisely what is occurring today. We have had 2 world wars, with a third threatening to break out over the Korean peninsula, and with Russia and China signing a sweeping military and economic cooperation agreement that effectively forms an alliance against North America. As I have written previously, this new pact between the 2 largest Asian countries will ultimately climax in a preemptive strike on the United States (see Ezekiel 7 & Revelation 18), the exact nature of which remains unknown. I know, I know, this is not exactly a popular thing to say or write, and there are at least a few who have questioned my patriotism over the years. But I’m a man commissioned to speak and write the truth who also happens to love his country and to care greatly about her future. So to me, I would be remiss to fail to warn my countrymen – and the rest of the world – of the dangers that lie ahead. But if we pray and ask God to forgive us for our sins and our country of its sins, and then turn away and repent of those sins, God will hear our prayers, and will forgive us and heal our land. An now let’s move on to the rest of today’s Biblical study beginning at verse 12.
“Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation; and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.’” (Luke 21, verses 12-19)
So we can infer from the first 2 or 3 verses that before the time of the end – when nations and kingdoms rise up against one another and “fearful events”, a possible reference to the atomic age, as well as “great signs from heaven”, such as the total eclipse of the sun that was seen across North America earlier this year, occur – that those who are counted as believers and followers of Christ Jesus will endure considerable persecution for their faith. This is the proof many are seeking as to the timing of the ‘rapture’ of the Church (see 1st Thessalonians 4: 13-18 and chapter 5 verses 1-3), but in fact it shows that we will have to endure persecution for our faith, implying that we will all still be here for the first part of the ‘tribulation’ period, the word used in Matthew chapter 24, which parallels this account of the apostle Luke’s. Nobody knows for sure when we are going to be ‘taken up’ by Christ just prior to the last part of the 7-year (see Daniel chapter 9) ‘tribulation’ period in Scriptural prophecy. So this is proof that those who argue in favor of a “pre-tribulation” or a “mid-tribulation” as opposed to a “post tribulation” ‘rapture’ are only guessing at best, and stirring up confusion at worst, within the Body of Believers known as the Bride! This has simply got to stop! Remember what Jesus said to his apostles, “He who does not gather with me, scatters.”
“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them.” This quotation was not talking about the early Christians being fed to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome. Jesus was prophesying about our time, about the here and now! Our faith is going to be tested to the utmost extreme during the reign of the world dictator called the “Antichrist”, as the apostle John calls him (see 1st John 2, verses 18-27). Although a lot of people currently don’t believe this, there will be persecution and even prosecutions of Christians right here in the United States in the not-too-distant future, and Jesus knew that. But God will take what was intended for evil and turn it into an opportunity for those being prosecuted to do some good for the cause of Christ. “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” That’s the good news about this trying time to come from our Lord and Savior himself. None of us will need lawyers, presumably because none will be provided. This can only mean the US Constitution will be suspended at best or done away with at worst, implying martial law or its equivalent. Clearly this will be a bad situation for everyone. But if we prepare ourselves we will fulfill our missions for the Lord, and we will be rewarded accordingly.
“You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” Some of us will have to die for our faith, there’s no doubt about it. The way I see it, Jesus loved us all so much he gave his life for us by dying on the cross. It seems only natural – from a Christian vantage point – to be quite willing to return the favor if given the opportunity to do so. This doesn’t mean we’re all going to have to get ourselves killed to get to heaven, but it does mean we should have as much passion for serving Christ as he did for being our Savior and Kinsman Redeemer. It will cost us some friends and some will find themselves estranged from their families on account of their faith. This is similar to my own life. The family that I grew up with are all Catholics. I am a nondenominational Protestant. I was a foster kid who found Christ later in life (I was in my thirties when I gave myself to Jesus in 1992), I have had no contact with them since, and I’m OK with that. They know where I live if they want to contact me. So if you are a person who is estranged from your family for religious reasons, or if you have no family for whatever the reason, take heart! You have gotten God’s attention because it’s people like ourselves who make the best servants. Having ‘lost’ our families, we are all now part of the ‘family of God’, the largest one of all! And next week we’ll explore the 2nd half of Luke chapter 21.