Be Not Deceived
As we move into Luke 21 Jesus has ceased His public preaching ministry. He has cleansed the temple, gotten rid of the sacrificial animals and has closed down operations there. As He dies on the cross in a day or two, the divine hands of God will wrent in two from top to bottom the heavy veil hanging before the Holy of Holies, showing that the way into that sacred dwelling place of God has been made available to anyone who trusts the shed blood of Christ for salvation. See Mark 15:37-38 for a record of this amazing miracle. See Hebrews 10:`9-10 for the doctrinal implication of this miracle.
Jesus’ enemies have quit asking Him any more questions. They have been silenced by His answers. Jesus had asked the scribes a penetrating question concerning King David’s Lord and Son. Of course, that Lord and Son is none other than Jesus Himself. The scribes, rejecting Jesus, gave Him no answer. The conversations with His enemies has ceased.
As we come to Luke 21 we see a poor widow being observed by Jesus as she casts her last two cents into the temple treasury and He hears the people marveling at the beauty and grandeur of the Temple.
With that, Jesus prophesies the total destruction of the temple. He then walks a short way with His Disciples from the temple to the Mount of Olives where He often resorted to talk to His Heavenly Father. There He begins what is known as His Olivet Discourse with His disciples. Three accounts of the Olivet Discourse are found, not only in Luke 21, but also in Mark 13 and Matthew 24-25, where we find the most complete account.
Jesus’ explanation to His Disciples and to us concerning the course of the Church Age is outlined in this conversation. It was initiated, Mark 13 tells us, by the question of Peter, James, John and Andrew, “Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
Jesus’ answer beginning with Luke 21:8 is primarily a warning to not be deceived. Then He fills them in on the disastrous events yet to come before Christ returns to reign on this earth.
Though Jesus is with His disciples at the time of this conversation, the disciples are asking when He will be appearing. The Greek word is parousia, a word that has the idea of His appearing to judge and rule the world. Those who knew their Old Testament, were aware of the many prophecies of Messiah’s coming to reign on the earth, but they thought it might happen while He was still on this earth. So they were looking for signs that Jesus would launch His Kingdom.
Note, that Jesus does not mention the Rapture of the Church, for the Church has not yet begun. That will take place at Pentecost after Jesus has ascended back to Heaven. The Church will begin as the promised Gift of the Holy Spirit descends on His little band of followers including His Disciples to unite them into one Body and empower them for service.
Although in the Upper Room, Jesus will promises His Disciples in John 13-17 that He will return for them and take them to His Home in Heaven; the truth of the Rapture will be fully taught by the Apostle Paul, who at this time is still Saul of Tarsus, an enemy of Christ. That teaching concerning the rapture is found primarily in I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4, as well as from the very lips of Jesus in John 14:3.
But for now, Jesus, speaking on the Mount of Olives, outlines for His Disciples the events that must take place before He returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom. As we read this long list, it is quite evident that there is a long period of time and many events that must take place in the interim. So far, that period has stretched into 2000 years.
In Matthew 24 Jesus begins His Olivet Discourse. Now note the question of the Disciples as they came to Him privately as recorded in Matthew 24:3, “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the signs of Thy coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus’ immediate and primary answer to His Disciples and to us is, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Then He begins to list a long string of events that must take place before He will return to reign, events that most of us have witnessed or heard about in our lifetime. It has only been in the past century that there has been an increased preaching and writing concerning the return of Christ. Why is that? Because of the events that are increasing before our eyes. Surely, the coming of the Lord is drawing nigh. Listen to Mark 13:29 “When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it (His Coming) is nigh, even at the doors.” Does that excite you? It surely excites me!
Note in Luke 13:35 that Jesus gave basically the same warning concerning the Fall of Jerusalem several months earlier. In that warning is a promise at the very end of the verse. “Ye shall not see Me until the time come when ye shall say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” There Jesus promises that one day Israel will receive Him as their Messiah and Saviour.
Let’s think for a moment about this temple Jesus prophesied would be utterly destroyed. There had been two earlier temples. First, was Solomon’s temple. It had been grand and beautiful, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians when Judah went into captivity. Then there was a second temple built by Zerubbabel while Judah was still in captivity to Persia, following the Babylonian captivity. This temple was not quite as grand as Solomon’s.
The temple standing at the time of Christ, had been built by Herod and was also built on a grand scale. It took over many years to build. It’s massive walls were built of beautiful white stone in that area. When cut and polished it was as beautiful as marble. The eastern walls were plated with gold and were dazzling in the morning sunlight. The walls were imbedded with beautiful precious stones and gifts given by the people.
The temple sparkled with the glory of these material things, but inwardly the glory had departed., and the people went about their religious ritual oblivious to God’s departed glory. Their religion was a counterfeit, outward show, as is so much of Christianity today.
That’s why Jesus pronounced judgment on it all, even as He does today. Any of those Jews then or now could read of all of this coming judgment, and future salvation of Israel, by reading their prophet Zechariah who prophesied it all in Zechariah 12-14.
SIGNS OF THE END OF THE AGE
The Disciple’s concern in Luke 21:7 and Matthew 24:3 is all about WHEN? When will this wicked world be judged? When will Christ Jesus return to usher in His Millennial Kingdom?
Again, I remind you, Jesus primary answer is “Don’t be deceived!” Lots of events will happen first. His Kingdom will not come for a long time. The question I would like to ask those who believe we are presently living in Christ’s Kingdom today is, If Jesus returned to establish His Kingdom in 70 AD, how do all these other events fit in that Jesus said would precede His return to reign? Jesus said that not only would Jerusalem be destroyed, as it was in 70 AD, but in addition there would be
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. Nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms
3. Famines, pestilences, earthquakes all over the world
4. Ongoing persecution of Christians; not just in the first century.
5. Great tribulation in the world, not seen since the beginning of time.
6. Finally, the return of Christ would be seen as a flash of lightening that streaks across the horizon of the whole world.
7. All Israel is to be converted to Christ before He begins His reign. That has not happened yet.
8. Satan will be bound for 1000 years during Christ’s Kingdom. Satan is not presently bound. He is more active than ever today.
9. Earth’s conditions are not changed, as described in Isaiah 11 and 35, which describe life during the Kingdom Age.
Israel waited through 400 years of silence from God from the time of the last of the Old Testament prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi until Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Now she has waited for 2000 more years for their Messiah to appear. Time means nothing to God. A thousand years is as one day and one day is as a thousand years.
I don’t know when Jesus is returning to establish His Kingdom. I think it[s soon. So did the Apostle Paul expect Jesus to return in His lifetime. He wrote, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” I Thessalonians 4:15. Preachers, especially in the past two hundred years, have increasingly preached the blessed hope of Christ’s soon return.
Let me close with a repeated warning, an encouragement from Jesus and a prayer, the very last prayer in the Bible.
Warning: Let no man deceive you concerning the return of Christ. Luke 21:8
Encouragement: Jesus has promised to come back for us. John 14:1-6
Prayer: Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20
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