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Jesus Reveals the Future II

Luke 21:8-11-  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 11, 2015.

As we look at this prophetic section, we should do so with the knowledge that revealing the future is a signature characteristic of God.  He is not like some giant computer that can crunch an infinite amount of data in order to predict what will happen.  Rather, as the Creator of the space-time continuum, all of time (past, present, and future) is laid out before Him.  Thus the things in the Bible are not mere educated guesses.  But, instead they are God letting us know what He already sees.  When God does reveal the future, He does so in a way that sheds light and yet still requires us to trust Him.  He never reveals in order to remove any need for faith.

The common attempt by scholars to fit all that is revealed into a timeline often relies on human reasoning that goes beyond what we are told.  Thus it should be expected that they will have areas that will be found to be in error.  I believe it is more important for believers to pay attention to the main points that such revelations emphasize rather than attempting to map out the future in great detail.  We need to heed those warnings and commands that our Lord gives to his disciples. 

In our passage today Jesus begins his answer to the questions his disciples asked him:  when will the temple be destroyed, and what will be the sign that it is about to happen and that you are going to come back and begin the new age of the Kingdom of God.  These questions clearly jumble together several important events that we now know would not be happening at the same time.  Jesus does not separate the questions or berate them.  Instead, he gives them a look at the future ahead along with certain warnings and commands.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

In verses 8-11 Jesus describes many different things that must come to pass before the End of the Age.  Now in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 we have the parallel accounts of this same discussion.  They describes these very same things as being The Beginning of Sorrows.  This phrase, and the list that Jesus gives, makes it clear to his disciples that they are not entering into a time of peace.  The time ahead will be a time of sorrows.  Although the sorrows are not defined, two other places use this word of sorrow.  Acts 2:24 is a passage regarding the sorrows of death or dying.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:13, Paul reveals that the last days will come upon the world like the sorrows of labor coming upon a woman.  Thus this time ahead would be filled with things that involve physical and emotional sorrows.  Notice that Jesus makes it clear that he is not giving us a list of signs of the end.  Rather, that these things must come to pass first.  You could say that they are a sign of the times that we live in rather than a sign that the end of this age is at hand.  So what are these signs of the age?

False Christs.  Jesus first warns his disciples that many people will come in His name, which means they are claiming to be him.  He also reveals another claim they will make, the time (of the end) has drawn near.  It makes sense that in a time of sorrow deluded and deceiving men would step forward and claim to be able to bring it to an end.  Something that is implicit in this is to notice that in order for this to happen Jesus must be gone.  He had told his disciples that he was leaving.  This is why they were seeking a sign for when he would come back.  Thus the Beginning of Sorrows would start with the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  We could say that there has been an increase in people claiming to be Jesus in the last century compared to the centuries before.  However, our ability to hear about and catalog such claims is greatly increased.  Suffice it to say that Jesus doesn’t claim it will get worse.  He simply warns that this age of sorrows will be characterized by people claiming to be him. 

Now there is something flattering about the idea that Jesus has not only come back, but is also talking with me.  But Jesus clearly warns his followers, don’t be deceived.  Whether the person is deceived themselves, or they are intentionally trying to delude people is immaterial.  No matter how sincere they are we are not to believe them.  Imagine the situation the disciples were in.  They had lived with Jesus for over three years.  When they had questions they could ask him and receive a concrete answer.  But in the future they would have to learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit.  Jesus would not physically be there.  They would be susceptible to an inward pressure to leave the more difficult situation of discerning the will of God through His Word and Spirit, in order to go towards the easier situation of having a person tell us what it is.

This leads to the second imperative regarding false Christs.  Don’t follow them.  Deception starts in the mind, but them moves into our life.  We are supposed to follow Jesus alone.  But when someone comes claiming to be Jesus we might be conflicted.  Jesus has already given us the right way we are to live and believe.  If another comes in his name he is false and only trying to lead us away from the path of Truth and onto the many paths of deception.  Christians need to stay the course that Jesus has put us on rather than being led off on side roads that promise an end of the age, but, in the end, lead to wickedness and a perversion of the truth.  Notice in verse 27 that Jesus helps us to understand why we should believe it.  Jesus says that when he does come back it will be on the clouds in power and great glory.  Matthew adds to this that it will be as visible to the whole world as lightening that flashes from the east to the west.  Jesus is basically telling us that when he comes back it will be seen by the whole world.  No one will have to tell you.  Jesus is not hiding on a mountain in Tibet waiting for the world to be open to his coming.  So don’t be deceived and follow those charlatans that make the claim he has come.

Wars and Turmoil.  Of course the world’s history is a series of wars with relatively few times of peace.  Jesus tells them that there are wars and commotions ahead.  Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom makes it clear that this is about more than just Israel and Rome.  The age of sorrows will be characterized by political turmoil.  This revelation is not meant to wow us.  Sure anyone could guess that there would be wars ahead because mankind has always been warring.  Yet, Jesus is not trying to wow us with this prediction.  Rather, he is trying to prepare us.  The times will not be peaceful religiously, spiritually, and politically.  This leads to the command to not be terrified.  This word has in its meaning “crying out and wailing.”  Many people throughout the world know what it is like to live in a war zone.  It is many things including terrifying.  The despair that comes from such fearful experiences can easily take over.  The chaotic effects of war and political turmoil threaten those who find themselves in such times.  Yet, Jesus lets us know that these are to be expected.  They are not catching God by surprise.  When the believer feels terror and mourning surging up within them, they must be quick to turn to God’s Word and to fellow believers for encouragement and strength.  Christians are called to be emotionally strong, and yet not in themselves.  Jesus is not telling us to never have an emotion.  Rather he is telling us not to let those emotions overwhelm us and define our life.

Great Earthquakes.   The next thing Jesus reveals is great earthquakes.  Earthquakes are always happening and can be very terrifying when they do.  Great earthquakes often have high death tolls and heavy destruction of buildings.  Just like war becomes a threat to our ability to follow Jesus, so natural disasters can paralyze us from following Christ, or can cause us to let self preservation become the rule that we live by.  This is not following Christ.  His disciples would need to experience many kinds of sorrow and yet continue to believe and follow Him alone.

Famines & Pestilences.  These two are often listed like partners in crime throughout the Bible.  Jesus warns that famines and pestilence would characterize the days ahead.  A famine is literally a scarcity of food for any reason.  Thus lack of rain, war, and devastation could all be a cause of famine.  Often following on the heels of famine are pests, plagues, and diseases that rule in the wake of these things.  We have seen the effects of war, famine and plagues upon the whole continent of Africa as well as elsewhere.

Fearful Sights & Great Heavenly Signs.  Lastly, for today, Jesus warns of fearful sights.  This is a very general phrase that can cover the eruptions of volcanoes (like Vesuvius) or horrible and destructive storms.  Along with this would come great, heavenly signs.  They would have understood this to be things like comets, solar eclipses, and lunar eclipses.  Great comets that are visible even in the day are not as common and were seen as a heavenly body that has left its orbit and threatens earth.  Thus comets are a symbol of Satan and those fallen angels who reject the path God has given them.

So, did all these things happen in the first century leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD?  The short answer is yes.  The first century believers over the next 40 years saw these kinds of things happening.  It was important for them to keep their heads and obey the commands of Christ.  They had to beware spiritual deception and they had to guard their hearts from giving into terror and fear.  In fact the Jewish historian Josephus (who was not a Christian and had no reason to support these things) recorded many different things that happened in Jerusalem and in the skies that were seen as evil portends for Jerusalem and its people.  However, the Christians who heeded the words of Jesus were prepared for the events of 70AD and for everything after it.

So I ask you a question.  Did these things stop in 70 AD?  Did we leave behind an age of sorrows at that time and enter into something that cannot be described as sorrows?  I would say that we are still in the time of sorrows.  Jesus has not come back yet and the end of the age has not occurred.  Yes, Jerusalem and Israel as a nation were destroyed.  But the followers of Jesus have still needed these instructions for the last 2,000 years.  We must beware deceivers who come claiming to be Jesus.  We need to guard our hearts from being tossed to and fro from terror and fear.  Let us take these things to heart today as we experience them in our own day.  God has not been caught by surprise and He has revealed these things to us in advance so that we may not be either.

Jesus Reveals Future II audio