Lukeby Mike Raiter
The ancient world had seven wonders, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes. Only one of them, the Great Pyramid of Giza, remains. Another great ancient building was the Temple of Jerusalem. It, too, has been destroyed. Nothing man-made is permanent.
In this passage, Jesus prophesies the terrible destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. He teaches that the judgment that will shortly come upon Jerusalem is a mirror of the greater judgment that will come upon the whole earth at His return.
When the disciples ask Jesus when this will take place (v. 7), he first gives them the long view of human history. What Jesus says here applies to all disciples, not just those in the first century. Throughout history, many false Messiahs will come (v. 8) and there will be wars (vv. 9–10), natural disasters (v. 11), and the persecution of Christians (vv. 12–19). Both governing authorities and family members will turn against God’s people, but we should not fear because while they may kill us (v. 16), Jesus assures us that “not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). Or, as He has already said, “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more . . . [for] the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:4–7). God knowing the hairs of our head is a picture of our eternal security.
Then Jesus addresses the more immediate question of the fall of Jerusalem (vv. 20–24). The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, claimed that one million died in the destruction of the city. It will be so terrible that Jesus warns people to flee. However, this destruction is a picture on a small scale of “what is coming on the world” when Jesus returns (v. 26). Just as Jesus’ words were fulfilled in 70 AD, we can be sure that His prophecy for the final judgment will come to pass.
The call for Jesus’ disciples in every age is not to be seduced into ungodly activities or to be so anxious about life’s problems that we stop living in expectation of that day. It will come upon us suddenly and so we must remain faithful, that we “may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (v. 36).
Every day, our newspapers report wars and tragedies. Remember that these “signs”, our world’s death throes, are the necessary precursors for the greatest and final event in human history, the coming of the Son of Man.
“Everyone will hate you because of me” (v. 17). Why does the world hate Jesus and His followers? What should our response be when we are attacked?
Why is being seduced by worldly pleasures or weighed down by life’s anxieties such a spiritual danger for us (v. 34)?