“Things to Come”: (Luke 21:5-19) Part 1.
One of the spiritually deceptive strategies Satan uses against the people of God is to get them to trust in their religious buildings or denominational structures. To the Jews in the time of the Messiah our Lord Jesus the people at Jerusalem and throughout Israel had their trust in the Temple structures and felt secure and did not even think that the Temple could ever be destroyed even though the Babylonians had destroyed it in 586BC. Even the disciples were enamoured by the magnificent structure of the Temple and its precincts. As the Lord Jesus and His disciples were walking away from the Temple the disciples were discussing about the Temple. Now let’s look at what the Lord Jesus said to them.
Luke 21:5-19: Exposition
(Vs.5-6) “Some of His disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with 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 another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
There is no doubt that the Temple worship was quite enamouring and impressive with its singers and loud praises and prayers and that it looked magnificent and gave the worshippers a sense of security. Added to this, there was no shortage of money or expenditure spared where it came to adorning the Temple with precious stones and with gifts supposedly offered to God. Of course the Pharisees enjoyed the ‘perks’ and availed themselves of the donations and offerings. However, the Living Temple of God had already come to Israel and the religious leaders and the people for the most part had rejected Him. The physical temple was all about the Lord Jesus.
Today we see multitudes of Churches in the western democracies with their beautiful buildings and with their heady and euphoric worship and overly loud amplified music that enamours those who attend the services. We see money flowing into the coffers of these mega-churches and for the most part going into the pockets of the hirelings who profess to care for the sheep. Added to this, there is no shortage of prophets telling the people what they want to hear accompanied by all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. False prophets with a false message were in abundance in Jerusalem before the conquest of the Babylonians in 586 BC and again in Israel before the conquest of Jerusalem by the armies of Rome in 70 AD.
Knowing their thoughts and listening to their conversations the Lord Jesus made a statement that shocked the disciples! He told them in no uncertain terms that the entire Temple and the splendour and grandeur it exuberated would be completely destroyed and that there would not be one stone left upon another, but that all of them would be thrown down. In 70AD this happened when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and burned the Temple with fire and levelled it. It was recorded in history that the heat was so fierce that the gold in the Temple melted and ran down between the stones of the temple. Also we know that it was primarily the Arab auxiliaries of Rome that with vehemence and severe ferocity set fire to the Temple in their hatred for the Jews. Having heard what the Lord Jesus had said the disciples wanted to know more.
(Vs.7-8) “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.”
The first thing the Lord Jesus warns them about was spiritual deception, a conspicuous feature of the very last of the last days. Since the first century there were many false Messiahs that came to the Jewish people. Having said this specifically the Lord Jesus says that many will come in His name claiming that they are from Him. They will have a false anointing. The word “messiah” means “an anointed one” or “one anointed by the Holy Spirit.” From the first century to this present day there have been unnumbered false prophets and teachers with a false anointing within wider Christendom. Satan himself is an expert in working all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and these will precede the coming of the man of sin and deceive those who are spiritually dying because they have refused to love the truth in order to be saved. Because they do not love the truth or believe it, God Himself will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie that it is okay not to love the truth and as a result no longer able to receive the love of the truth even when they hear it. They have in fact delighted in wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
This is why we must believe and receive the love of the truth as it is revealed in the Word of God. Those who are in the world are already deceived. The Lord Jesus is not speaking about the unsaved but about those who profess to be saved. Not all supernatural miracles, signs and wonders are from God, neither are those claiming to work them. When Moses and Aaron were confronted by the Egyptian magicians these practitioners of the occult were able up to a point to duplicate the miracles that were performed by God’s power operating through Moses and Aaron, however in the end Moses and Aaron won! Occult power will never prevail over the power of God (2 Timothy 3:8-9) (Acts 19:16-20).
Satan’s power will be so prevalent in the last days that even the very elect saints of God will be in danger of spiritual deception (Matthew 24:23-25). This is why the gifts of the Holy Spirit are vital for the end-time Body of Messiah. The contest between the followers of the Messiah with the followers of Satan will be primarily in the area of spiritual power, not primarily doctrine although this also will be an important factor. What we really believe deep down on the inside will affect our outward words and actions. As it is written; “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23). As the Lord Jesus also said; “For each tree is known by its own fruit. Indeed, figs are not gathered from thornbushes, or grapes from brambles. The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart, for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:44-45).
In Matthew chapter 24, a parallel passage of Luke chapter 21, the Lord Jesus warns about spiritual deception at least four times. As the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus gets closer spiritual deception within wider Christendom will increase in frequency and intensity and become an infestation. There will be those who will not want to put up with sound Biblical doctrine but instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a wide variety of teachers to tell them what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths or to stories that people have made up (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
We see this sort of thing today with grave soaking, destiny tarot cards, gold dust floating down, smoke machines, laughing and hysterics, rolling on the floor, auditoriums with strobe lighting and heady and loud rock music and people gyrating in some cases out of control, mesmerised by the music and by the string of prophecies of all kinds following one after another. As for exposition of the Word of God, those who are leaders in these mega-meetings have no ability whatsoever to rightly divide the Word of Truth and no interest in doing so. The Lord Jesus was saying that when we see these things multiplying and spreading like gangrene through the Body of Messiah that the time of the end is near and not to follow them. And then He continued…
(Vs.9-11) “When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” 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.”
Wars and revolutions are prevalent in today’s world and these are causing many to fear even within the Body of Messiah however, the Lord Jesus said that when these things happen not to be alarmed because these things must happen. Birth pains come just before the baby is born. They start and then stop and then become more frequent and intense, and when they are coming one upon another you know that the baby is about to be born. These ‘birth pains’ are mentioned in Matthew chapter 24 (Matthew 24:4-8) and in Mark chapter 13 (Mark 13:5-8). These ‘birth pains’ are also mentioned here in Luke chapter 21. “Nation against nation” speaks about ethnic conflict within nations where you have civil wars, as people of the same nation fight each other, or where you have people of different nationalities or ethnic backgrounds fighting each other in the same nation. Then you have “kingdom against kingdom” that speaks of international wars between nations such as we have seen down through history since the first century even to the present day. We have already had two world wars and a third is to come. This war will be as a result of God’s judgement on unrepentant nations in rebellion against God (Revelation 9:13-21)
The Lord Jesus went on to mention that there would be “great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Already we see an increase in earthquakes, famine, disease in various places and fearful events and ecological disasters of one sort or another increasing on earth and even in the heavens there will be unusual occurrences. Ultimately the constellations themselves will be shaken (Revelation 8:11-12) (Revelation 16:21) (Isaiah 30:30). It is so easy even as New Covenant believers in the Messiah Jesus to be fearful of these ‘birth pains’, and they are painful, however, all of us who belong to the LORD need to keep our eyes fixed, not on the ‘birth pains’, but on ‘the birth’ of God’s Messianic kingdom on earth, which the Messiah our Lord Jesus will inaugurate after He has returned and eradicated all opposition. Once ‘the baby’ is born who remembers ‘the contractions’ in the euphoria of the new baby?
As the apostle Paul wrote; “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). This is what our ancient forefathers in the faith were noted for (Hebrews chapter 11).
So these ‘birth pains’ must happen to bring about the birth of the Messianic kingdom of God on earth, and in light of this we are told not to be alarmed as if God is not in control. These things must happen. Our Triune God is most certainly in control and nothing happens in the heavens, on earth and under the earth, and in the unseen spiritual realm without His permission. Everything in the whole universe is upheld and kept intact by the Word Himself the risen Messiah our Lord Jesus. (Hebrews 1:3). If we want to be spiritually upheld then we need to be reading and studying and seeking to obey the Word of God and to keep walking by faith and in step with the Holy Spirit. As the late David Wilkerson used to say; “God still has everything under control!” and He does you know! Having said these things the Lord Jesus then addressed the truth concerning the persecution of His followers which would happen even before the ‘birth pains’ had started.
(Vs.12) “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.”
Today, more than at any other time since the first century, persecution is being experienced by unnumbered multitudes of believers in Islamic countries, in China, in Russia and in North Korea. As yet all-out persecution has not come to the western democracies traditionally and historically connected to Biblical Judeo-Biblical Christianity, however, it is coming, especially when the beast empire of the Antichrist is permitted by God to rule over his vast empire of global proportions for three and a half years at the end of this present age (Revelation 13:5-7). Persecution cannot be avoided in today’s world if we are followers of the Lord Jesus and those He is training to be His disciples. One of the reasons the Lord allows trials and tests and difficulties into our lives is not necessarily because we have disobeyed Him, but to strengthen us and to help us to trust Him to prepare us for the persecution to come. As the apostle James wrote; “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:1-4).
Our Lord Jesus was persecuted and said that those who follow Him would also be persecuted. He said; ““If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).
In the western democracies we can have a Bible study at Church or in a home and not have to worry about being arrested, however, for most of the Body of Messiah living in Islamic and communist countries engaging in a home Bible study is a precarious activity because at any moment the door could be kicked in and arrests made. In these countries the believers will spend several hours around the Word of God because they often do not own Bibles for themselves. In the western churches for the most part this kind of thirst for the Word of God does not exist. The Lord Jesus was saying that even before the ‘birth pains’ really kick in that persecution will be a daily reality for His Body the faithful Assembly (Church) corporately. After this He described what the persecution would be like…
(Vs.13-15) “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.”
He said that His followers would be delivered up to religious persecution by those who wanted to kill them thinking they were actually doing God’s will, something we see happening in Islam. The Lord Jesus also said in the gospel of John; “They will put you out of the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2). In the first century the Jewish religious hierarchy actually thought they were doing God’s will in persecuting and even killing followers of “The Way” as New Covenant Messianic believers in the Lord Jesus were called before they were labelled “Christians” first at Antioch (Acts 9:1-2; 11:26). When He mentioned synagogues He had primarily in view administration centres or community centres affiliated with the Jewish synagogues or with religious institutions and in many cases throughout the Roman Empire with connections to secular government where government legislation and policy had pre-eminency over religious law and customs.
Now persecution of faithful Bible centred believers has always been a conspicuous mark within the system of apostate Judeo-Christianity. In the first century it was the Jewish religious leaders that persecuted the followers of the Lord Jesus and scripture and first century historical documents attest to this fact. Many faithful followers of the Lord Jesus were thrown into prisons as we see happening today on a global scale unequalled in past history. The Lord Jesus knew that His disciples would face this challenge to their faith and that they would be brought before kings and governors all on account of His name, which we see recorded in the Book of Acts and in the epistles. This in itself would provide a God-given opportunity to witness to those persecuting them.
In many cases in the time of the apostles the Jewish hierarchical religious establishment was in league with the secular authorities and they collaborated together to persecute faithful New Covenant believers in the Messiah. When the Lord Jesus was speaking about being dragged before kings and governors He was not just speaking about His disciples only, but also telescoping prophetically into the future even to the last days when the time would come when faithful believers on a global scale would suffer persecution including martyrdom. Down through history for several hundred years we saw the Roman Catholic Church persecuting Bible believing followers of the Lord Jesus. The Popes and prelates and the priests, especially the Jesuit order, actually thought this was pleasing to God and they even did terrible gynaecological experiments on women. Today we see this same thing happening on a global scale throughout the Muslim world. In Communist countries there are so called community centres or places where local government enforce government policy and where those who do not submit are persecuted or imprisoned and in many cases actually killed.
All of the apostles, except John, were all killed for their faith in, and for their loyalty to, the Messiah our Lord Jesus. Of course this did not include Judas Iscariot who committed suicide after He had betrayed the Lord Jesus, and Judas we are told in God’s Word went to his own place as the son of perdition or eternal damnation, a term also attributed to the Antichrist or the man of sin (John 17:12) (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Knowing the propensity within every human being to avoid persecution and suffering and this included His disciples and all who would follow after them, He also told them that when they were dragged before unsaved religious leaders or before hostile pagan rulers and secular authorities that they were not to worry or try to make up their mind what to say beforehand how to defend themselves, but that He himself would impart to them by the supernatural power of His Holy Spirit the wisdom they would need to confound their adversaries who would not be able to refute their testimony or contradict them.
For example we see this happen when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1-22). Stephen also had the same powerful testimony just before he was actually killed (Acts 7:51-60). The apostle Paul also appeared before religious and secular courts and gave a powerful testimony to the Lord Jesus and the salvation only found in Him alone. The apostle Peter also wrote; “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Messiah’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Messiah, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14). Now often our tendency within the wider western Body of Messiah to relegate persecution from secular authority or from those who are openly opposed to Christianity and from other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and for the most part Islam. However, the Lord Jesus told us that persecution would also come from our own family members and close friends. Let’s look at this…
(Vs.16) “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.”
This fact or principle was seen in what happened to the Lord Jesus. The same crowd that welcomed Him into Jerusalem as He rode on the back of the donkey turned on Him at His trial and cried out for His crucifixion. This was foreshadowed by what happened to Joseph in the Old Testament. He was betrayed by his brothers and left for dead. In the time when the Seleucid Greek despot Antiochus Epiphanies invaded Israel and killed many Jews, desecrated the Temple, stopped the temple sacrifices and forbade the reading of Torah many Jews who sided with the Greeks joined themselves to the Maccabee patriots and resistance fighters with the intent of betraying them to the Greeks. Daniel records this (Daniel 11:31-35).
Antiochus Epiphanies, whose name meant “god-manifest,” was a major type of the Antichrist to come, and what he did in Israel teaches us about what the Antichrist will do in Israel in the future. Within his empire, and during his reign, not only will believers be betrayed by fellow believers but also by their immediate family members. In Communist countries children at school are instructed to tell their teachers if they see their parents reading a Bible at home. In Islam when many Muslims becomes believers in the Lord Jesus they expect to be persecuted, disowned, disinherited and even killed. Even among some Jewish Orthodox families a son or daughter who become Messianic believers are disinherited and disowned by their own parents and relatives.
This sort of thing as yet has not come to Judeo- Christian western churches but things are changing and this betrayal of true believers by fellow professing believers, by parents, brothers, relatives and friends and being delivered up to be killed will happen as we see western democracy and Judeo-Christendom being eroded and rejected by secular governments enforcing their ungodly legislation on those over whom they govern. This will affect families. While the Gospel unites families and friends it can also divide families and friends when one accepts the gospel while their family members and friends reject it.
Our Lord Jesus also said; “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. “Do not think that I came to [d]bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:32-39).
Now it is God’s will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance, and that He wants to save families (2 Peter 3:9) (Acts 16:31-32). However, the Lord Jesus knew that in many cases when a family member was saved that it would mean rejection by their families. As New Covenant believers we are to love and care for our family members, especially for those that are not saved. However, if ones love for their family becomes more important than one’s love for God, then there will be a spiritual problem in that the LORD will not be first in that believer’s life. A husband, a wife, a son or a daughter, a mother, a father and even other relatives and even a boy or girl friend must not become more important than one’s love for the LORD. If a believer really loves the LORD, and the love of God has been shed abroad in their heart by the Holy Spirit, then He will give them the capacity to love their family members as God intends them to be loved and to know how to put the LORD first in their life while loving those closest to them (Romans 5:5). However, for many faithful New Covenant believers in the Messiah our Lord Jesus they will be rejected by their family and friends because they have taken up the cross to follow the Lord Jesus, and being crucified to the world with its lures, its ambitions, its passions and pursuits become aliens and strangers in this fallen world, and suffer rejection by their unsaved family members who are opposed to the gospel or do not want to know.
For example a young man having a very fruitful career in the secular business world wants to go to the mission field, having been called by God to go, but his family are unsaved and seek to stop him from going. At this point he must take up his cross, even if it means going against the families wishes. In western secular society, in communist and Islamic countries today, and even in other religions, this is a reality for those who take up their cross, appointed by the Lord Jesus for their life and ministry to follow after Him. May God give us all who follow the Messiah our Lord Jesus the grace to always put Him first as this will being us everything we will ever need in this age for life and godliness and an eternal family and eternal reward in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:29) (Matthew 6:33) (Mark 10:29-31) (Luke 18:29-30) (2 Peter 1;3). The time will come, and is now rapidly approaching, when New Covenant believers in every nation will be persecuted. He spoke about three more things that needed to be said.
(Vs.17-19) “All men will hate you because of Me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.
Firstly; He said that “All men will hate you because of Me.” Why will we be hated? Because our lives are being conformed to the image and likeness of the Messiah our Lord Jesus, God’s beloved Son which goes directly opposite to the lifestyle of the unsaved world. His character will be reflected in us if we are saved and walking in step with the Holy Spirit moment by moment by faith. Our life and testimony for the Lord Jesus will expose the unfruitful works of darkness in the minds and hearts of the unsaved. Many will not come to the light because they love darkness and do not want God to expose their wicked lifestyles; neither do they want to repent. As the Lord Jesus also said; “This is the judgment, that the Light (Jesus) has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21). The time will come when in every nation we will be hated because we confess the Lord Jesus before men.
Secondly; He said; “But not a hair of your head will perish.” While we may suffer persecution or even martyrdom in this life we will not die but be very much alive and with the Lord Jesus in heaven. Did not the apostle Paul himself say that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD (2 Corinthians 5:8). One of the great truths that sustained persecuted saints down through the ages is the hope of the resurrection of our bodies. If we die, our spirit and soul goes to be with the LORD while our body is buried or decays or is destroyed. However, we will not be dead but very much alive in the presence of our Triune God and when Jesus comes back we will receive brand new immortal indestructible glorified bodies the same as our Lord Jesus has (1 John 3:2) (Philippians 3:21). So in this sense not even a hair on our head will perish.
Thirdly; “By standing firm you will gain life.” To “stand firm” is to have “a patient, steadfast waiting for an ultimate event” namely the rapture and resurrection followed by the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus. It is to have an expectancy that is strengthened by “a patient enduring, sustaining perseverance even under pressure when the desire is to get oneself out from under it but chooses to remain under it.” This is only possible of course by the power of the Holy Spirit living deep down on the inside of the one standing firm. Through this perseverance even under pressure the end result will be that the soul will be completely flooded with the light, the awesomeness, and the glory of God, being the indestructible immortal divine life of the Lord Jesus who is our very life if we belong to Him. What is this life span compared with eternity? Did not the apostle Paul say; “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). In the days to come this truth will become a reality for all of us who belong to the Lord Jesus.
As He Himself said; ““If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me” (John 15:18-21). He also said; “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). If the same divine life that overcame the world that was in Him dwells in us then we too like Him will be empowered to overcome whatever the world, the flesh and the devil throws our way, because greater is He in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).