The Gospel According to Luke: Part 61 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

An Exposition

Luke 21:20-24: “The Terrifying Future for Jerusalem”

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Jerusalem flee to the mountains, let those who are amid her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-24, NKJV).

Prophecy can be defined as the history of humanity yet to be written but already known to some. If the Sovereign Lord, Who is above all space, time, and limit, set out to design all of what we see and do not see – put into a specific place within the universe and here on Earth, with exact measurement and precision, whether mobile or stable, with the structure, formulas, measurements, logic and rationality that allows for nothing extra nor wasted – to use for our benefit as His gift of mercy, grace, and love for us, then should He not control the progression of history as He knows it could, will, and shall be for the same mercy, grace, and love?

The God Who is There, as the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) entitled one of his books defending the Christian faith against the tide of skepticism that he observed in his time, is not a mere indifferent spectator Who put everything into place and then left it all up to us to handle. When we read the Scriptures, we read of a God Who is personal, attentive, disciplinary, caring, a defender of His people, a gracious Savior from our sins, One Who comforts, reassures, Who wipes away tears, and has all things under control and will have everything come to a final conclusion for His grace and glory. We are no mere specks or flukes of some cosmological indifference or random shot of extraterrestrial sperm from passing alien forces, as some theorize as a means by which life came to this world.

I attended public schools and took several science courses. I heard about the evolutionary theory of Darwin, and I was also exposed to the story of the Biblical account of the creation, both by reading and listening to teachers and pundits in classrooms, pulpits, and television hammer out their ideas and discoveries. And even when I was not a Christian, I could not put my mind around some of the topics I had heard in terms of “random selection” and the “survival of the fittest.” It seemed so directionless and without purpose or meaning.

To combine Darwinist thought and its disbelief in design with purpose as a prime source for a discipline like history and then believe that the life we live here in this world is nothing more than a game of chance would be sheer madness. Why do anything for anybody for any kind of benefit if it amounts to nothing more than a mere flick of protoplasm that ends up in a grave somewhere, leading to oblivion and nothingness? It does explain why ancient civilizations such as the Greeks developed the philosophies of Stoicism and Epicureanism as a way of coping with the world. Either you took your lumps and dealt with it, or you partied and played until death took you. If there was nothing of which to look forward to such as an afterlife, or rewards, or favor with the deities, then what was the point?

These two pagan philosophies would have suited the Sadducees, the more “liberal” followers of God in Jewish society. They saw no life beyond this one, with no angels, resurrection, or any rewards from God save for what they achieved while they were here. The Pharisees embraced the idea of a resurrection and an afterlife with reward and accountability, but the Scripture lets us see that they were just as earthly-minded in terms of keeping a tight rein on their system and essentially micromanaging the people’s religious patterns and rituals that posed for worship of the living God.

Both sides were missing the big picture in terms of how God was governing the affairs of humanity and how it would end. The people were under a bondage to formality and rank apostate faith. They had become uncertain of what God expected of them and whether He would restore the nation again free from Rome or any other pagan rule. The vices of the Greeks and the Romans had permeated the land with idolatry, perversions, and arrogance from years of conquest and domination.

The men and women who had been following the Lord Jesus up to that point had clung to a remnant of true worship and devotion to God as best as they could understand it. Jesus had made many things clear about the love, grace, and mercy of the Father to them and others hungry for hope and truth. His teachings were a breath of fresh air and free from any self-developed theory or interpretation based on another teacher’s observations and rituals, as was the case with the Pharisees. When Jesus taught, it was on the sure foundation of the Scriptures that He Himself had inspired the prophets and statesmen of Israel to compose and teach to the following generations.

His teaching was not only for the growth of our minds and souls as His children and heirs, but as a hard shot of reality that was to come upon them in the days ahead and to prepare them. There was to be no dreamy idealism or sense of comfort in this world for His followers. There was to be no self-styled Hebrew “utopia” and freedom from Rome as many were expecting from Him and their misguided beliefs in how they saw the role of the “Messiah” as promised in Scripture. The prophecies that Jesus was presenting to His little group were to show His group that Jerusalem was to be invaded and torn apart by the very Romans they desired to see either leave the land or be crushed by God.

Jerusalem had been destroyed by a pagan kingdom before. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded and destroyed the city. He led the last king of Judah and his people to the Babylonian Empire, where they would stay for seventy years as a punishment for their idolatry, wickedness, and rebellion against God and the prophets who warned them of the judgments to come. God has not and will never tolerate any kind of disobedience and rebellion from anyone or any nation. He merits out punishment and demands accountability from all people, and His chosen nation of Israel was not an exception as we read the Old Testament.

Now, Israel had shut their national eyes and ears to the claims and proof provided by the Lord Jesus that He was and is the Promised Messiah of His people as foretold in the prophets. The hatred and slander thrown at Him by the religious officials and their influence on much of the public had taken effect, and they rejected Him. Once again, God’s chosen people refused to obey Him by deciding to turn their backs on Jesus and the promises of God for no other reason than He did not fit their preconceived ideas and expectations. When Jesus had left the temple for good that day, He closed the door on the apostate religion it now represented and consigned the city and people He loved to another excursion of heartache that would last for over two thousand years and more.

Jesus describes the coming destruction of the city in full detail, sparing nothing in getting His followers to understand that it is not worth one’s life to come back home and get anything. Get out while possible, and do not look back. Pregnant women and new mothers will have a hard time escaping, and many citizens will be brutally executed by the swords of the Roman soldiers who, under the command of Vespasian in A.D. 70, completely eliminate the city of Jerusalem from existence, with the temple burned to the ground and torn apart for the gold and jewels that will be sent back to Rome, along with the surviving Jewish population as slaves. Any Jews who had fled beforehand were now in hiding and without a city or nation for themselves.

The Jewish people will undergo numerous persecutions and be without a home until May 14, 1948, when the nation of Israel is born from the ashes of the Holocaust survivors of Europe and the worldwide Jewish population’s desire to reclaim their land. This establishment of Israel is in itself a sign from God that He will never abandon His chosen people and that their enemies are His. He will be the victor over all of them, with Israel receiving their Messiah Jesus and be the governing nation of the coming New Heavens and Earth as promised by the LORD in His word. The Lord will go on to show that the troubles are just getting underway, but He is on His way as well and will put everything in its final and perfect order for all time. Amen to that.