Luke 21:1-6. And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but like of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
This was literally true of the temple at Jerusalem; and today there remains nothing of it. It is also true of all earthly buildings and of all earthly things. However firm they appear to be, as though they might outlast the centuries themselves, yet the things which are seen are temporal, and like the baseless fabric of a vision, they shall all melt into thin air, and pass away. “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Luke 21:7. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
Those questions are always being asked, they are being asked at this very day about Christ’s second coming. They shall have no answer, for Christ himself assures us that, as the Son of man, he knew not the day nor the hour of his own coming. As the Son of God he knew all things; but as a man like ourselves, he was willing to be a know-nothing upon that point.
Luke 21:8. And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and the time draw near: go ye not therefore after them.
This passage refers, in the first place, to the siege of Jerusalem and in its second and yet fuller meaning, to the coming of the Lord. It looks to me that our Lord regarded the destruction of Jerusalem as “the beginning of the end,” the great type and anticipation of all that will take place when he himself shall stand in the latter day upon the earth. And, as before the destruction of Jerusalem there were many false christs, so will there be the more of them the nearer the end of the world shall be. This shall be to us one of the tokens of our Lord’s speedy appearing, but we shall not be deceived thereby. “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draw near: go ye not therefore after them.”
Luke 21:9. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified; for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
Everywhere throughout the Scriptures there is this double message of our Lord, — “Watch, for I may come at any moment. Expect me to come, and to come soon; yet never be terrified as though the time were immediately at hand, for there are certain events which must occur before my advent.” How to reconcile these two thoughts, I do not know, and I do not care to know. I would like to be found in that condition which consists in part of watching and in the other part of patiently waiting and working till Christ appears.
Luke 21:10-11. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
Someone says, perhaps, “All this we have had, times without number; yet Christ has not come.” Just so, for these signs are not sent to minister to our curiosity, but to keep us always on the watch; and whenever we mark these earthquakes, and wars, and famines, and pestilences, then are we to think, “Behold, he cometh,” and watch the more earnestly. You know how it is often with the man who is very sick. It is reported that he cannot last long; you call many times, yet he is still living, do you therefore conclude that he will not die? No, but you the more certainly expect that he will soon be gone. So is it with Christ’s second advent. He bids us note the signs of his coming, and yet, when some of those signs appear, he does not come, all this is to keep us still on the alert watching for him. Even in his own day, when he so spoke that his servants expected him to come at once, yet he also added words from which they might fairly judge that he would not come directly.
Luke 21:12-16. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
Nowadays, the fashion is always to meditate, and think, and excogitate a gospel for yourself. To be a thinker, — that is the very crown of perfection to some minds, but it is not so according to our Master’s mind. His servants are to speak, not their own thoughts, but his thoughts. If they will keep to his gospel, he will give them a mouth and wisdom, which all their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. We are to be the repeaters of a message which is given to us, not the manufacturers of tidings. There is to be an exhibitions of inventions very soon, and it is quite right and proper that there should be; but I pray that none of us may ever be the inventors of a new gospel, or of new doctrines, or of new systems of theology, but, on the contrary, let us settle it in our hearts that we will speak Christ’s Word all our days; and if thereby we are brought into trouble, we will depend upon him to give us a mouth and wisdom, which all our adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
Luke 21:16. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
How true that has been many a time! For how long a period the saints were martyred! And the days of martyrdom are not yet over.
Luke 21:17-18. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
During all the terrible siege of Jerusalem, it is believed that not one Christian perished, for God took special care of the followers of his Son. They were the most hated of all men, yet nobody could touch them. None of them took up arms, for it was contrary to their religion; as, indeed, if we are Christians, it is contrary to our religion to resist evil, but we are to bear and endure. The early Christians did so; and because of their very defencelessness, they were safe under the guardian care of the Lord their God.
Luke 21:19-24. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter there into. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
And it is so even to this day. Here is another instance in which the Lord bade his people expect his coming, and yet at the same time told them that he would not come so long as Jerusalem should be trodden down of the Gentiles. “Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” means the time when the Messiah shall gather in those Gentiles unto himself; for, when he shall appear, they shall look on him whom they have despised, and turn to him whom they have so long rejected.
Luke 21:25. And there shall be signs in the sun —
As there were at the destruction of Jerusalem, and as there will be at the second coming of Christ. We have had a rehearsal of that coming in the destruction of the favoured city; but the grand event itself, who shall rightly speak of it?
Luke 21:25-27. And in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see —
Whether they wish to see him or not, “then shall they see” —
Luke 21:27-32. The Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draw nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
As I understand it, for the first time; and afterwards it shall be fulfilled again. It is a prophecy that bears two meanings, an outer and an inner; it has been fulfilled once, and it shall soon be fulfilled again.
Luke 21:33-34. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, —
Please notice that “cares of this life” are put down with over-eating and over-drinking, for men can be intoxicated and surfeited with care, either the care of getting, or the care of keeping, or the care of spending, or the care of losing. Any of these cares may cause a surfeit and a drunkenness wherefore, “take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life,” —
Luke 21:34. And so that day come upon you unawares.
All that you can see in this world, you are to regard as being doomed to destruction; that destruction commenced, so to speak, when Jerusalem fell beneath the Roman sword. Everything earthly is doomed. You are living, not in your eternal mansions but you are living a makeshift life; you are passing through a wilderness, you are pilgrims, you are sojourners; this is not your rest. Do not get to love this world, or to be taken up with it. Do not strike your roots into it; you are not to dwell here, and to live here always. You are walking among shadows; regard them as such. Hug them not to your bosom; feed not your souls upon them, lest, when that day comes, before whose coming all of them shall melt away, you shall be filled with amazement and shame.
Luke 21:35-37. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
You know what he did there, for —
“Cold mountains and the midnight air,
Witnessed the fervour of his prayer.”
Jesus ever practised what he preached. He said to his disciples, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always,” so he himself both watched and prayed.
Luke 21:38. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.
May we all be willing, not only to hear him, but also to heed what he says! Amen.