Luke 21

Luke 21  •  21 min. read  •  grade level: 10
1LUKE again is, with Mark in giving the story of the widow poor but rich, and this doubtless for reasons analogous to their report of the exposure of the proud and empty scribes; Matthew has it not at all. For far different was the Israel of the then day, and with this he is occupied, the judgment coming on Jerusalem, rich but poor, with which the Lord concludes His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.
“And he looked up and saw the rich casting their gifts into the treasury, but he saw also a certain poor widow casting into it two mites. And he, said, Verily I say unto you, that this poor woman hath cast in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have cast into the gifts2 but she out of her need hath cast in all the living which she had.” It is a lovely picture of devotedness in the widow; how much lovelier to behold Him, who gave her the faith and drew out her love, admiring and so richly appreciating the fruit of His own grace! May He have so to speak of our Wealth toward God in the day that approaches, when mammon and every false estimate shall have disappeared forever!511
Luke alone of the Evangelists notices the fact that the disciples spoke to the Lord about the votive offerings with which the temple was adorned; all three speak of its goodly stones or buildings. But this does not warrant the inference that the prophetic discourse which follows512 belongs to those in the temple, rather than those on the Mount of Olives. It has been properly remarked that the questions are distinct from the Lord’s solemn answer to the admiration expressed, and may well have been to the chosen four on retiring thither as we are told He did by night at the end of our chapter.
“And as some512a spoke of the temple that it was adorned with goodly stones and consecrated offerings, he said, [As for] these things which ye are beholding, days are coming in which stone shall not be left upon stone which shall not be thrown down.” On the other hand it is surely without justification to assume that Luke could not have omitted the change of scene and auditory if aware of it. On both sides such reasoning leaves out the Spirit of God, and His having a purpose by each which alone accounts for differences on the basis of His own perfect knowledge of all, not of the writer’s ignorance.
“And they asked him saying, Teacher, when then shall these things be? and what [is] the sign when these things are going to take place? And he said, See that ye be not misled. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am [he]; and the time is drawn nigh: go ye not3 after them. And when ye shall hear of wars and tumults be not terrified; for these things must first take place,513 but the end [is] not immediately.” It will be observed that the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to drop the question respecting the coming of the Son of man and the completion of the age. As with Mark, they ask when the destruction of the temple shall be, and the sign of its commencement. The Lord fully replies, but as usual gives much more. But there is neither the completeness of dispensational information right through, nor details as to the consummation of the age, found in the Gospel of Matthew. On the other hand, here only are we given distinct light on the coming siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, here only its subsequent ignominious subjection till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Other peculiarities of Luke we may see as we proceed through the chapter. The question of the disciples goes no farther than the demolition the Lord spoke of, the Spirit having reserved for Matthew the parabolic history of the course, conduct, and judgment of Christendom as well as the special account of the Jews at the end of the age. and of all the Gentiles gathered before the throne of the Son of man when He is come. The early warning that follows the inquiry here refers to what soon ensued. There may be analogous deceits in the last days; but I apprehend that here we are in view of what has been. If it were the closing scenes, where would be the propriety of assuring the disciples that the end is not immediately? Matthew may take in what, soon followed; but the characteristic feature with him is the end of the age, first in general, then specifically, with its shadows before.
Then said he to them,4 Nation shall rise, up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: there shall be both great earthquakes in different places and pestilences and famines,5 and there shall be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things514 they shall lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering up to synagogues and prisons, bringing before kings and governors on account of my name; but it shall turn out515 to you for a testimony. Settle therefore in your hearts not to meditate beforehand [your] defense; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist or reply unto6/515a Moreover ye will be delivered up even by parents and brethren and relations and friends, and they shall put to death [some] from among you, and ye will be hated by all516 on account of my name; and a hair of your head shall in no wise perish. By your patient endurance gain7 your souls.” The strict application of all this the state of things, whether in the world or among the disciples, before the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans must evident to every unprejudiced mind. Luke alone sets forth the grace of the Lord in giving His own a mouth and wisdom beyond the craft and power of all adversaries. In Mark they are to speak “whatsoever shall be given you; for not ye are the speakers but the Holy Spirit.” Luke also puts in broad terms the consequences of their testimony, which would be true in the highest sense for heaven if they were slain.517
Next we have a graphic picture of the crisis for Jerusalem under Titus. “But when ye see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that its desolation518 is drawn nigh. Then let those who are in Judea flee unto the mountains,519 and those in the midst of it depart out, and those in the fields not enter into it. For these are days of vengeance,520 that all the things written may be accomplished. Woe8 to them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days; for there shall be great distress521 upon the land and wrath upon this people. And, they shall fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by [the] nations522 until [the] times of [the] nations522a be fulfilled.” Here there can be no misunderstanding unless for a preoccupied mind. The siege with its consequences described by our Lord cannot be a future event because it is followed by the humiliating possession of the Jewish capital by one nation after another till the allotted seasons of Gentile supremacy terminate. This is peculiar to our Evangelist, who accordingly speaks of armies encompassing the city, which was true then, not like Matthew and Mark of the abomination of desolation, which Call only be verified in its closing throes. Hence, too, the reader may notice that, in spite of a considerable measure of analogy (for there will be a future siege, and even a twofold attack, one of which will be partially successful, the other to the ruin of their enemies, Isaiah 28; 29,from Zechariah 14), there ore the strangest contrasts in the issue; for the future siege will be closed by Jehovah’s deliverance and reign, as the past was in the capture and destruction of the people dispersed ever since till the times of the Gentiles are full. Accordingly we hear nothing in this Gospel of the abomination of desolation nor of the time of tribulation beyond all that was or shall be; we hear of both in Matthew and Mark, where the Spirit contemplates the last days. Here we are told of great distress on the land and wrath on the Jewish people, as indeed there was. The notion that Luke’s variation is designed as a paraphrase of Matthew and Mark, a simpler expression in his Gospel for one more obscure in theirs, is moat unworthy of the Holy Ghost and destructive of the truth in the first two Gospels if not in the third. There is fresh truth, and not a sacred comment on what the others said.
In verse 25 and onward we are naturally carried onto the conclusion of the Gentile times. “And there shall be signs523 in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity, for at the roar9 of the sea and rolling waves, men ready to die through fear and expectation of the things coming on the habitable earth; for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming524 in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draweth nigh.” It is Luke only who mentions the moral signs of men’s anguish: spite of the deceits and pretensions of that day. No doubt there will be strong delusion and the belief of falsehood; but for this very reason there is no rest nor contentment, for only the grace and truth of God in Christ can give peaceful enjoyment with a good conscience. Hence God will know how to trouble men’s dreams and to break up Satan’s ease, their horror culminating at the sight of the rejected Lord, the Son of man, coming in a cloud with power and glory. But there will be those then on earth, disciples tried by the evils of that day, for whom even the beginning of these troubles and tχορhe tokens of change for the world will be the sure harbinger of deliverance.
“And he spoke a parable to them, Behold the fig-tree and all the trees: when they already sprout, by looking ye know of your own selves that already summer is near. So also when ye see these things take place, know that the kingdom of God is near.525 Verily I say unto you that this generation shall in no wise pass away until all come to pass. The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall in no wit, pass away. But take heed to yourselves lest possibly your hearts be weighed down with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of life, and that day come upon you suddenly unawares, for as snare10 it will come upon all that are settled down upon the face of the whole earth. But watch,11 at every season praying that ye may be deemed worthy12 to escape all these things that are, about to come to pass. and to stand before the Son of man.” We have here an instance of the exceeding accuracy of Scripture even in figures. Who but God could have thought of giving only the fig-tree in Matthew, speaking of Israel, the fig-tree and all the trees in Luke where the Gentiles ace mixed up with the troubles of Israel?
But this is not the only point of interest in this appendix to the prophecy. For the Lord has given us the positive proof, by the way which verse 32 stands here, that “this generation” cannot mean a mere chronological space of thirty or even one hundred years, for it is brought in after the running out of Gentile times and the coming of the Son of man with power and glory, events still unfulfilled. Its force is moral; not exactly the nation of Israel but that Christ-rejecting race which then refused their Messiah as they do still. This will go on till all these solemn threats of judgment are accomplished. It is profitable to remark that here, not in doctrine or in practice only, but in these unfoldings of the future, the Lord pledges the impossibility of failing in His words. The Lord does not say that “this generation” shall not pass away till he temple is destroyed or the city taken, but till all be fulfilled. brow, He had introduced the subsequent treading down of Jerusalem to the end of Israel’s trials at His appearing, and He declares that this generation shall not pass away till then; as indeed it is only then grace will form a new generation, the generation to come. The more we hold fast the continuity of the stream of the prophecy, as distinguished from the crisis in Matthew and Mark, the greater bell be seen to be the importance of this remark.526
Notice the strongly moral tone in which the dangers and snares of the days before the Son of man appears are touched by the Lord, an often-recurring characteristic of our Evangelist.527
The concluding verses are a summary of our Lord’s manner or habit at this time, the nights spent on the Mount of Olivet, and by day teaching in the temple, whither all the people came early to hear Him. It was this which led several copyists to insert here the paragraph from John 7:5353And every man went unto his own house. (John 7:53) to 8:11; but there is no real ground for such a transposition, any more than for denying it to be the genuine writing of the last Evangelist, in spite of allege difficulties.
511 Verses 1-4. “The Widow with the Two Mites” is the subject of Whyte’s discourse LXXXIII., in “Bible Characters,”
512 Verses 5-36. — On Messianic prophecy, see Edersheim, Warburton Lectures (“Prophecy mid History in Relation to the Messiah”), and as to the prophecy on Olivet in particular, Stuart, pp. 238-246; also note 120 on Mark. Jewish opinion may be learned from Abrahams’ recent interesting book in Constable’s series (chapter 7)
For comparison with Matt. 24 and Mark 13, chapter 3 of a recent unpretentious but instructive little book, “The Time of the End, but the End not yet,” by E. J. Thomas (Weston, 53, Paternoster Row), would be found helpful.
512a Verse 5f. “Some.” Wellhausen rightly calls at attention to the fact that as it appears in Luke’s Gospel, proceeded from a wider circle than the disciples merely. This is borne out by verse 7, where the Lord is addressed as “Teacher” (διδάσκαλε), whilst the disciples in Luke’s Gospel regularly use (κύρ), or “Master” (ἐπιστάτα). Cf. note 119 above.
513 Verse 9. — Down to verse 11 we have what Matthew and Mark describe as ἀρχή ὠδίνων, “beginning of throes.” As to these “sorrows Messiah,” so-called, see Edersheim op. cit., p. 247. Tacitus supplies information about such events, here referred to, in his History, 1:2, 1.
515a Verse 15. — Robert South preached from this verse.
517 Verse 19.― Cf. 17:33, and see Dean Vaughan, “Authorized or Revised?” p. 67.
518 Verse 20. — “Desolation.” Schmiedel (§ 153) represents Luke as identifying, in the Evangelist’s own mind, Titus’ desolation of Jerusalem with Daniel’s “abomination,” which does but evidence that critic’s ignorance of the scheme of Old Testament Prophecy. As the Expositor shows, it is characteristic of Luke that our Evangelist distinguished them.
519 Verse 21. — “Flee to the mountains.” Wellhausen, as others, speaks of Luke’s bringing the prophecy “up to date.” But some date for it before 70 finds support from these words, because the historical flight was to fella, in the Jordan valley.
521 Verse 23. — “Distress,” ἐκδίκησις (cf. 1 Cor. 7:66But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. (1 Corinthians 7:6)). It is the θλίψις of Matthew and Mark.
522 Verse 24.― “Trodden down,” etc., by Romans, Saracens, Franks, etc., in succession.
522a The “times of the nations” run from Nebuchadnezzar to the Apocalyptic head of the revived Roman empire (Rev. 13:1-101And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 2And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? 5And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. 6And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9If any man have an ear, let him hear. 10He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:1‑10)). It is a phrase to be distinguished from “fullness of the Gentiles” in Rom. 11:2525For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (Romans 11:25), which rufous to the completion of the Church. In Tobit 14:5 we meet with the “times of that age” the similarity of αἰώνων and ἐθνῶν in MSS. (e.g., Rev. 15:33And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. (Revelation 15:3)), see Nestle, in Expository Times, March, 1909.
523 Verse 25. — “And there shall be signs,” i.e., of the ἀποκάλψις of Christ’s Presence (παρουσία, Matthew, cf. next note): cf. Rev. 8:1212And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. (Revelation 8:12). The “and,” introducing a detached narration, is analogous to a peculiarity of the conjunction (υαυ), of which Isa. 61:22To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; (Isaiah 61:2) affords one of the most striking illustrations in Old Testament Scripture. That passage was used by our Lord on the occasion spoken of in 4:16-19 of this Gospel. He stopped before the words, “and the day of vengeance,” etc. (cf. Zech. 9:99Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)f.). “Rejoice... the foal of an ass,” and then abruptly, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim,” etc. A long space of time may intervene between the respective incidents of such seemingly disjointed passages or portions of them and so here, between verses 24 and 25.
To understand verses 25-33, it is necessary to see that here is taken up that which was suspended with verse 11. Cf. 17:22-37, which was anticipatory of the section now reached.
524 Verse 27 (cf. note 498). — “Coming,” ἐρχόμενον: cf. 2 John 77For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7). This is, doubtless, the same coming as in Rev. 1:77Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7), referred to by Westcott (“Historic Faith,” Lecture VII, p. 41), but the “Manifestation” and the “Presence” are not equivalent expressions; for Paul speaks of the ἐπιφάνεια of the παρουσία (2 Thess. 2:88And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thessalonians 2:8)), showing that the παρ. is at first secret: cf. Ps. 27:5. In the last-cited New Testament passage, “brightness” has in the hands of the Revv. given place to the true rendering.
The word παρουσία was used in everyday Greek of the time for the visit of a prince to any locality, so as to mean where the “Court” was (Deissmann, op. cit., pp. 269-273).
Charles, after H. Holtzmann and Wendt, writes: “That JESUS expected to return during the existing generation is proved beyond question by the universal hopes of the apostolic age” (“Encyclopædia Britannica,” art. “Eschatology,” col. 1373). As the Fourth Evangelist belonged to that age, which closed with his death, are we to suppose that he conceived that the Master was mistaken?
Montefiore here has a good note on the Jewish and the Christian conceptions of Messiah.
525 Verse 31f. — A comparison of verse 27f. sets Matthew’s “Son of Mon coming in His Kingdom” (16:28) in solid connection with Luke’s record bore of the: future manifestation of the Kingdom.
526 “This generation.” Cf. note above on 16:8, and notes 135, 136 on Mark. For the Jewish, “moral” connection of the word, cf. Old Testament passages, such as Gen. 7:11And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. (Genesis 7:1) and Ps. 12:8; in particular, Deut. 32. verses 5 and 20, besides, in Lucan writings, Acts 2:4040And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:40). The Deuteronomic references seem not to have been duly weighed, with regard to their marked difference in time, by Zahn; they do not hear out his note on Matt. 24:3434Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. (Matthew 24:34). Cf. Jer. 7:8, 8:3, in the LXX. For Gentile connection, see, e.g., Phil. 2:1515That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (Philippians 2:15), cited by Hahn. The successive races of men since the Flood are in this light regarded by scripture as one generation.
The word as used in this Synoptic connection has “a nearer and a further meaning” (Farrar).
Cremer and Hahn regard the αὔτη, “this,” as explained by verse 28. In any ease, the words come in the future part of Luke’s record.
There are some excellent remarks on the whole subject in Jowett’s essay, “On Belief in the Coming of Christ.” As to “that day” in Mark 13:3232But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32), the writer asks: “Is it reverent or irreverent to say that Christ knew what He Himself declared that He did not know” (p. 88 of recent reprint). Cf. Horton, on the moral beauty of Mark’s report, which commands adhesion to what the Lord said from His actual knowledge while on earth.
With regard to Charles’s statement (supra), may it not be that the Lord’s words about “that day” recorded by Mark of themselves suggest that it would not fall in the near future? They rebut critic’s fancy that there is “confusion” in that Evangelist’s record, by alleging which they do but create an inconsistency on his part.
Verse 32 is only difficult to reconcile with verse 24 for those who take “generation” to mean a period elapsing between father and son, a sense it might indeed have borne had it occurred in the same context as 23:38 “weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Neander (p. 130, followed by various English writers down to Selbie) says that the early disciples were mistaken in their view. Rather, they did not fully apprehend the Lord’s meaning: it was not intended that they should do so (1 Cor. 13:99For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (1 Corinthians 13:9)).
The whole question is trenchantly discussed by B. W. Newton in his “Prophecy of the Lord Jesus in Matt. 24. f. Considered,” pp. 39-79 (3rd ed., 1879)., As to the bearing of verse 32 on the question of the date of this Gospel, see note 2 above, ad fin.
527 Verse 36. — “Praying ... may be deemed worthy” (or, reading as Revv., κατίσχυσητε, “may be strong”) “ ... to stand (be set) before the Son of Man.” see note on 20:35, and for “to be set” (σταθῆναι), cf. Ps. 1:5 (note 370) Wisdom of Solomon 5:1. Resurrection is affirmed in the Hebrew of the Psalm: cf. note 108 on John, and see also Mal. 3:22But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: (Malachi 3:2). This is not a judgment in the sense of John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24) (cf. Ps. 143:2), but the occasion of our Lord’s assigning reward or loss (1 Cor. 3:13-1513Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13‑15)) to those of the House of God (1 Pet. 4:1717For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)), when He holds His first inquest, reviewing the life of each disciple as such.
1. Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” p. 372-375, and “Elements of Prophecy,” chapter 9
2. After “gifts,” ADGΓΔΛΠ, nearly all cursives (33, 69), Syrpesch Old Lat add “of God,” which Edd. as אBLX, 1, syrrcu sin hier Memph.
3. AΓΔΛΠ, etc. most cursives (1, 33, 69), Amiat., here add “therefore.” Edd. omit, according to BDLX, Syrrcu sin Old Lat. Aeth. Arm.
4. “Then said he to them.” These words, omitted by Blass (as in D with some Latt. Syrrcu sin), are retained by other Edd.
5. The critical text connects “in different place” with “famines” and in different places famines.”
6. “To resist or reply unto”: such is the order of the verbs in אBL, 69 (Edd.), instead of “gainsay or resist.”
7. “Gain”: κτήσασθε, after Tisch., from אDLRXΓ, etc. Other Edd. (Revv.) adopt κτήσεσθε “ye shall gain,” as in AB, Syrrcu pesch hcl Latt. Aeth. Arm. Tertullian, Origen. A reading at least questionable. AB are a slender authority for a difference of only one letter. (B.T.)
8. “But” before this “woe,” is in אAC, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrrcu sin Memph. It is not in BDL or most Old Latin and is rejected by Edd.
9. “In perplexity... roar”: so Tisch., W. H., etc., with אABCLM, 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch hcl. Old Lat. Memph. Arm. (Edd.). The text underlying A.V. has the support of DΓΔΛΠ, etc., most cursives, Old Lat. Blass reads: “in perplexity, roar (ᾖ) as (ώρ) of” etc.” So Syrrcu sin, the latter without “as” (i.e. “the voice of the sea and shaking”).
10. “That day come upon you suddenly; for as a snare”: so Blass, as Wordsworth, Milligan, McClellan, after AC, later uncials and most cursives, Syrrcu pesch hel hier Arm. (Euseb. Basil). Other Edd. (Alford and Revv.) follow אBDL, Old Lat. Memph. “come upon you suddenly as a snare; for it shall come.”
11. “But watch”: as Edd. with אBD. “Watch therefore” of T. R. is as ACRL, etc., Syrcu Amiat., Aeth. Memph. Arm.
12. “May be deemed worthy”: so Blass, with ACDR and all later uncials, most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Arm. Tertullian. Tisch., W. H., etc., adopt “may have strength” (R.V. “prevail”), following אBLX, 1, 33, Memph.