Summary: Are we in the last days? What did the disciples think about it then? What about our times now? Understand critical components to the end times in this message from Luke 21.
“Now and Then”
Welcome to Thanksgiving Sunday at First Family Church.
Today’s text is not an easy one to dissect…it has caused much debate and discussion. A variety of questions surround these verses and this topic. In fact, lots of different opinions exist regarding the topic of end times and last things, which is the primary subject of these verses in Luke 21.
And that shouldn’t surprise us – the disciples themselves, who were with Jesus physically, had questions; Luke 21:7 indicates they were wondering about the end of things, the kingdom, and the temple. So you’re in good company if you have questions and often feel somewhat confused about the topic of end times and last things.
But that wasn’t Christ’s desire for his followers then or now. And it’s not my desire for you, either. So I’ll make you a guarantee this morning: no confusion from me, okay? It is not my intention this morning to be so complicated that you leave wondering what’s going to happen. Instead, I want to make sure you leave with confidence, assurance, and hope – challenged to live differently because you know what is going to happen.
To help make sure this occurs, we’re going to have a Q and A time at the end this morning – so write down your questions, jot down any thoughts; and then in a few minutes we’ll take some of those from the floor and do all we can to bring as much clarity as possible to this issue and this text.
Granted – you may not agree; you may even find yourself with a different view point. But at least you’ll leave with clarity, not confusion. And that’s our goal this morning.
So let’s take our Bibles and turn to Luke 21. And the first thing I want to do is …
1) Divide the text.
5-24 seem to talking about the end of Jerusalem
This was their main question – the temple and Jerusalem? Jesus said the sign was the surrounding of Jerusalem (v. 20). There is debate over this, but this is how I see it.
Josephus says that in the raid on Jerusalem by Tiberius, over 1 million were killed, imprisoned, etc…I think you can make a strong case for verses 5-24 being fulfilled in 70 AD.
Bottom line? Jerusalem and the nation of Israel were trampled on. God’s people were dispersed, distressed, and dismayed. What he started with Abraham seems to be disintegrating. When will he restore his people to the land and to the place of peace that was promised them? Well, that’s what he talks about next.
25-36 seem to be talking about the end of this age and the coming of the Son of Man.
Suddenly he seems to move forward in time and be talking about his return to the earth (not the church’s rapture). Remember – the kingdom is what the disciples were waiting for – “let’s roll out the red carpet and set up the thrones!” they shouted. But since he was rejected by his own people and they did not accept him as the Messiah (John 1:12), that kingdom would now be set up at a later time – when he returns!
Based on the text, what is sandwiched in between these two events is the “times of the Gentiles.” This time is an interlude – almost an interruption – a “parenthetical phrase” in the history of time that is almost like a hidden piece of time. This is why most of the prophets and even apostles refer to it as a “mystery.” (Eph ). Many scholars call it the church age, or the church dispensation. I’m not big on those names, but I do believe that this time we’re in is a sovereign time in which God has elected to work with through a people comprised of many races, nations, and languages (i.e., the church made up of Jews and Gentiles), as opposed to primarily one race as in the Old Testament (i.e., the Hebrews).
You see, what was really happening in this time was not a disintegration of God’s original people, but an integration of God’s original people. Yes, God began creating a new race of people – his church! In this new race “there is neither Jew not Greek, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all.” That’s why we’re called CHRISTIANS. Truth is, we’re not first Americans or Latin or African; those who believe are first CHRISTIAN. Then we’re other things. But our first identity in this new race God is creating is CHRSTIAN!
That’s why I see the phrase “times of the Gentiles” as a very key element in understanding this text. It is the bridge between the two events descried in this chapter and is a key to understanding the totality of our text.