Luke 17 and 21 - The Last Days

In Luke 17 we have a version of what we call the Olivet discourse - because in Matthew's version Jesus is sitting with His disciples on the Mount of Olives when He gives this lesson.

[Slide]
This account is found in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew 24 - Mark 13
Luke 17 and 21.

- - - - -

Luke actually covers this discourse twice:
in chapter 17 and again in chapter 21.

Jesus is answering a question about when the kingdom of God would happen.

Normally if someone is going to study this text they would use Matthew 24 - it is longer and has more details.

I read all three versions in preparation...
At first I thought I would use Matthew for the same reasons everybody else does.

But I want to stay faithful to Luke's account this morning,
so I will use both chapters 17 and 21 AND insert comments from Matthew and Mark along the way.

[Slide]
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied,

The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,
21 nor will people say,
"Here it is," or "There it is,"
because the kingdom of God is in your midst.

- - - - -
The question is simple:
When will the kingdom come?

The answer Jesus gives is not so easy...
and this is one reason why there are so many positions on what we call the Last Days.

I looked at dozens of academic papers on these texts...they were all trying to figure out the theology of the End Times.

I have come to see that Jesus is rarely talking about theological positions...or trying to give us the "correct" timeline on the End Times.

In His answer it appears that Jesus gives two scenarios:

1. He predicts the attack of Rome on Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.

This happens around 37 years later.

2. But He also seems to be talking about what we now call The Second Coming of Christ...

The End of this Age.
The End of the World and the coming judgement.

I am not going to try to explain all of this,
quite frankly I do not pretend to fully understand it all.

[Slide]
Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus saying,
"Nobody knows the day or hour when this will happen, not even the Son...only the Father knows."

But Jesus does make some things very clear.
And that is what I want to focus on this morning.

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PRAYER
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[7 min]

The whole discussion begins at the Temple.

Jesus clearly says that the Temple will be destroyed...
"Not one stone will be left on another."

In Luke 17 he leaves the destruction of the Temple out of His account.

But then he seems to repeat the story in Ch 21 and includes the destruction of the Temple.

Some scholars argue that the three gospels were written AFTER the year 70 - they do not believe that Jesus predicted this event.

They claim that the gospel writers put the words in the mouth of Jesus AFTER the fact.

Let me show why I think it is fuzzy logic to assume that Jesus could not "see" this happening in the future.

My first thought is that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, can easily predict...prophesy the future.

Scholars who do not think this do not seem to believe in the supernatural.

I certainly DO.

But let me paint a picture of HOW Jesus could be "seeing" these events in the future without using His supernatural abilities.

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We are in a very strange place in our nation right now.

There is a growing sense across America that a day of reckoning is coming.

Many think we could sink into chaos and anarchy...
Empty shelves in grocery stores...
Gas prices so high that people cannot afford to drive.

Many people think all of this could lead to violence and chaos in the streets.

Many think we could slide into something like another Civil War with citizens openly killing each other in the streets.

It could be that NONE of this happens.
Or it could be that it DOES happen...40 years from now after many of us over 50 are dead and gone.

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Why do I bring all of this up in our study?

It does not take a miracle for Jesus to predict that Rome would attack Jerusalem and destroy the Temple.

This has already happened twice in Israel's history.

550 years before Jesus makes this prediction the Babylonians attacked Israel and destroyed their Temple...

They killed hundreds of Jews and carried thousands of Jews off into captivity...many would live like slaves.

Around 160 years later...after the Babylonian Empire was defeated by the Persian Empire,

The Temple was rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Then a little over 200 years later Alexander the Great took over the known world...

Alexander the Great spared Israel and the Temple, giving them freedom.

But after his death his two generals divided the Greek Empire and their sons fought each other for power.

Around 170 years before Jesus was born the Seleucid Empire in Syria...one of the kingdoms left from the reign of Alexander the Great,

attacked Israel and the Temple.

The Temple was defiled. It became known as the "abomination" - Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid King, erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple...
then ordered a pig to be killed on the altar of incense...in the Holy Place.

This attack led to the great Maccabean Wars where Israelis formed small armies and using guerilla warfare tactics regained the freedom of Israel...again.

This freedom lasted around 100 years...
and now the Romans are in power and use Israel as a client-state.

They allow Israel to run their own government, but they have troops present to keep the peace...

and to discourage any other growing empire from trying to come in and take the important land in the Middle East.

I think by the first century Egypt produces around 50% of the grain that feeds the entire Roman Empire.

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WELL...Jesus knows all this history...He knows how the Jews cannot stand having Roman soldiers in their land.

He is fully aware of the Zealots...and their plans to fight the Romans.

Jesus knows full well how the community around the Dead Sea are planning...and praying for a Messiah to make war against ALL of Israel's enemies.

And He knows that WHEN the Jews rebel, the Romans will react with overwhelming force.

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[18 min]

So tells His disciples to be ready for persecution.

Be ready to testify about Him before the Jewish rulers and to be "flogged in their synagogues."

He does NOT want His followers to join in any armed rebellion...not against the Jewish leadership,
and not against Rome....

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That is the first part of the address.
In all three gospels Jesus seems to move to a different event...later...after the Temple is destroyed.

Jesus will come on the clouds...
He will be seen "like lightning flashing across the sky."

Jesus uses an allusion to a few famous texts from the prophets Daniel and Zechariah.

These texts are made more famous because John uses them at the beginning of the Revelation.
[Slide]
Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him,
and all peoples on earth will mourn because of him.
Rev 1:7
- - - - -
Now...Remember...
Jesus is clear that
"NOBODY knows the day, nor the hour..."

But He is also clear that when that Day comes,
it will come suddenly.

Jesus says it will be like the days of Noah and the flood...
AND like the days of Lot with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Both of these OT events were judgements of destruction from God.

Everyone will be going about their daily business as if nothing is really going to happen...then it will come "like a thief in the night."

This reminds me of how Russia attacked Ukraine.

IF you were following the news, you saw it coming.

Russia amassed an army on the border...
Reporters were on the ground in Ukraine saying that the people were just going about their business....

It was as if Russia was really not going to attack...
Until it happened.

I would imagine that the Christians living in Ukraine "feel" like they are in the End of the Age.

My guess is that Christians living in Russia when Stahlin was purging the population must have felt like the End of the Age had come.

Estimates are that close to 1 million people were taken into the woods...and executed.

Several million people were put into the Soviet Gulags...prisons where at least 1 million people died.

At least another 5 million people died from starvation as the new "Communist" plan was to force the citizens to only exist from being fed by the government.

85% of the Christian pastors and leaders were also executed - they needed to get religion out of the way.

When the Communists took over China it looked pretty much the same...
My guess is that Christians in China felt like the End of the Age had come.

I knew a man who was a pastor in Cuba when the Communists took over.

They were rounding up pastors in the middle of night, dragging them from their homes, beating them and throwing them into prison.

Many died.
Pedro Nunez told me it felt like surely the End of Time had come.

Jesus says when the end comes people will be going about their daily business as if nothing is really going to happen.

[Slide] - Luke 21
34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down
with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life,

and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.

35 For it will come on everyone alive.
36 Always be on watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen,
that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

- - - - - -

Jesus was asked WHEN all of this would happen...
But figuring out WHEN it's going to happen is not what Jesus is teaching.

Jesus is urging us to live our lives FOR HIM,
so when the time comes we will be found,
NOT consumed with THIS life,
but ready to face the next life.

We are not to be afraid.
We are not supposed to live in fear.

But we are also not supposed to be living for THIS life.

We have to work a job...
We have to pay our bills...
We need to be thinking about how we will live 20 years from now.

There is nothing wrong with having savings...
and preparing for retirement.

But we need to be living FOR HIM...RIGHT NOW.

The point Jesus is making...
You cannot wait until the END is upon you to decide to live for the kingdom of God.

That is a decision you need make while everything is going well.

When things start going bad you are more likely to compromise away from what He wants...

IF you have not been thinking about what He wants from you all along.

So Jesus is saying "Be Ready."
Be prepared.
Do not be taken by surprise.

That is how I read the Bible when it comes to the Second Coming of Christ.

Figuring it all out is not our job.

Being ready for it IS our job.

Let's PRAY --- THEN SHARE.


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Troy Community Church
Christian Fellowship
1300 Henderson Highway
Troy, AL 36079