Luke 21:5-19: “False Christs, Frightening Signs, and Frequent Harassment”
“Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, ‘These things which you see – the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.’ So, they asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?’
“And He said, ‘Take heed that you be not deceived, for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore, do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified, for these things must come to pass, but the end will not come immediately.’ Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences, and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
“But before all these things, they will lay hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore, settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will be lost. By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:5-19, NKJV).
Up to this time, the Lord Jesus has used an opportunity to present a perplexing question to the very Pharisees and others who have been trying to catch Him off guard and discredit Him before the people. He asks how the Messiah can be the son of David, when David himself calls the Messiah, “LORD” (Psalm 110:1). Shortly after this encounter, He turns His attention to the deeds of the scribes and religious officials and condemns them for their hypocrisy and behavior that shows their true nature. He has also watched a poor widow essentially condemn herself to death by giving her last two coins to the temple treasury. This is not a lesson in sacrificial giving as some would like to believe but is a testimony to the damning power false religion can have over someone.
This was to be the final day of Jesus’ public ministry as He and His disciples left the temple for what was to be His last time. The entire system had become apostate, heretical and a symbol of hypocrisy that benefited no one and had turned what was the house of God into just another religious structure with no heart or sense of holiness.
The group was on the Mount of Olives looking down upon Jerusalem, and the glow of the temple’s gold and treasure was reflected by the sun. In Jesus’ sight, it amounted to nothing. What He was about to reveal would totally catch the disciples off guard and make them to see that the world they knew was about to drastically change, and not for the better. He told them that the temple would be destroyed in such a manner that after it happened, one would not be able to determine if such a building had ever existed.
Forty years later, this prophecy came to pass when the armies of Rome put down the revolt by the Jews, starting in 66 A.D. and ending with the capture of Masada, the fortress city built by Herod the Great and the site of the mass suicide by the remaining Jewish fighters in 73 A.D., who killed themselves and their families rather than become slaves of the Roman Empire. This startling revelation from Jesus was a shock to the disciples who saw the temple as the perfect symbol of what was unique about their faith as well as their belief in the God of Israel and His covenant with His chosen people.
The disciples now questioned Jesus on when all these events were to take place. Jesus told them that one of the signs to watch for was false Christs claiming to be Him, each bringing with them a “new revelation,” or “special word from the LORD,” or that salvation comes from both Jesus and self-effort, or adherence to certain laws and rituals, or by the works of the impostors that are “additional teachings” to the authority of the Scriptures.
If you believe that people and trends like this are sure signs of end-time deception (Mormonism, SDA, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Word of Faith, cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones whose hold on their followers cost them their lives, Scientology, New Age, non-Biblical charismatic practices, Eastern religions), the fact is that the early church had to fight heresies and false teachings since Jesus’ return to heaven (Acts 1:1-11, 20:28-30; Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians; 1 and 2 Timothy; 1 and 2 Peter; 1,2, 3 John; and Jude).
Pollsters in the United States that examine religious beliefs and spiritual convictions have seen a sharp decline in church attendance, abandonment of the Christian faith by young people, an absence of biblical literacy, and the growth of Americans who profess no faith at all, with atheism and agnosticism growing at a rapid pace. Many people tend to adapt a blend of religious teachings and personal interpretations and call themselves “spiritual” but not so much a “religious” practitioner. The few who are active, professing followers of Jesus Christ and see the world in terms of Biblical absolutes are perhaps less than 9% of the country’s population, and we wonder why we do not see any type of revival or awakening for which we had hoped.
The Scriptures foretell a rise of wickedness, rebellion, hatred of God and Jesus Christ, and a rejection of any type of moral or ethical standard based on Judeo-Christian thought and practice by the majority of those living on Earth at the time of the end (Romans 1:18-32, 3:10-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Timothy 3:1-8, 4:1-4; Revelation).
When there is no peace in the souls of people nor in the world in which they live, the reality of war always comes into play. Wars between nations, empires, kingdoms, and ideas have been part of the story of civilization since the Fall of man in Eden (Genesis 3). Every era of history has experienced times of warfare and conflict, lasting anywhere from a few days to several years and beyond.
Historians are quick to agree that the twentieth century saw more acts of war and bloodshed than any other time. It is estimated that between World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), Korea (1950-1953), Vietnam (1959-1975), the Gulf War (1991) and genocidal actions by Communist leaders such as Joseph Stalin (1879-1953) of the USSR, Chairman Mao of China (1892-1976), and the Jewish holocaust under Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), more than 150 million or more people died either from warfare or its aftermath.
Natural disasters are on the rise, such as an increase in hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, massive flooding, landslides, mudslides, tornadoes, massive wildfires, insect plagues that have wiped out entire harvests in southcentral Africa and the Far East, huge numbers of animal die-offs around the world, the rise in diseases such as COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, poxes, plagues, and viruses with no treatments or antibiotics available. And the question of vaccines is being debated and challenged by both public officials and private citizens as to enforcement, vaccine ingredients, and a growing skepticism on the actual number of genuine infections and patient deaths. These situations are only going to get more intense and increase, with no viable solution or relief in sight save for the intervention of God.
The people of God are not going to get by without experiencing troubles and persecutions for their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Everything from imprisonment to betrayal to being put to death awaits those who stand for Him in an increasingly evil and savage world.
Radical Islamic groups such as ISIS killed or enslaved an estimated 100,00-300,00 Christians in Iraq and Syria from 2013-2016 with little if any help or condemnation from the United States and other countries. More Christians have been put to death for their faith in Christ in the last century and the start of the 21st than at any other time. We are witnessing blatant attacks on pastors and churches by government officials by threatening to close them down, place excessive fines on them if they defy orders to stay closed (such as in California and New York), or have them arrested and properties seized, along with a growing hatred for anything to do with God by an increasing number of American citizens and alien residents.
Persecution will intensify and so will the call to have Christianity made illegal through “hate speech” laws or classified as “domestic terrorism” by government agencies and leaders. Jesus tells His flock that He would give them the words to say by Divine means for the purpose of their defense and as a witness to the power of the Gospel before their accusers. He is always with us and He has already won the war, but He needs to show them that more trouble is to come, and the time to get right with God is now.