“And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.
“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”Luke 21:20-28
We saw in Bible Gem 1182 that there have been many times when Jerusalem has been surrounded by armies. So which time is being meant here? Is it the immediate future which the disciples will experience or is it for a time in the distant future? While the periphrastic future construction referring to armies surrounding Jerusalem does indeed carry the sense of ongoing repeated occurrences, the tone of this section is reference to something which will happen in the disciples lifetime. The phrasing makes it clear this will happen in the listeners’ lifetime. The current situation at the time, was that Jerusalem was surrounded by the encampments of soldiers . That is what happens when a city is occupied, as Jerusalem was at the time Jesus made this statement. You see soldiers all around you now but you are going to be encircled by them. It will get a whole lot worse. The thing that is coming is not new, it has been announced before by the prophets of old. When you see the events escalating, you will know the time of Jerusalem’s destruction is near. It has been prophesied and the words of Scripture will be fulfilled.
So which words of Scripture are being referred to here? Interestingly, there are a number to choose from. Such as the early statements related to the fall of Jerusalem before the Babylonian Exile (e.g., 1 Kings 9:6-9). Or the verses from Isaiah referring to the first fall of Jerusalem, but more especially focused on the fall of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, rather than the Southern Kingdom, Judah (Isaiah 7). This segment has been applied in multiple situations, but initially was about a change of events that would happen preceding the fall of Israel in 721 BC. But as I told you earlier, prophecies can have multiple applications. So it is possible that prophecies which initially were intended to point to the fall of Israel, can later be used to refer to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, then also be applied to Jerusalem at a later date. However, there are also prophecies which were written by the post–exilic prophets which can’t be applied to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. These include passages such as Daniel 9:26, Micah 3:12, Zechariah 14:2, 11:4-14, Malachi 3:1, 4:1, among others. These all point to God’s judgment on the nation and on Jerusalem specifically.
The reference in Luke 21:22 indicates that we ought to interpret these events as being God’s vengeance. What will happen to Jerusalem is in accord with the judgment of God upon the nation and on its capital. This fulfils what He said He would do to punish the sins of the leaders and the people. Events are taking place according to plan. Don’t seek refuge in the glory and power associated with Jerusalem. She will fall. When these things happen, don’t go running to the city to save you. If you are in the city when the events start, get out quickly. Your salvation is not to be found within the city walls. If you are trapped outside the city walls or in the rural hinterland (Judea) don’t run into the city. Rather, run away from it. Head for the hills.
Jesus then makes comment about the women and children. The focus of the statement is not about mothers who are still breast feeding their babies. The statement is made to contrast the turmoil and terror of the moment, of the coming destruction by the Roman army with the plight of men, women and children involved. Imagine the situation of people trapped in the midst of an invading army destroying the city and raping and killing the inhabitants. If you think that is bad, imagine how it would be for a mother who has a young child she is still breast feeding. Just imagine the distress of the moment. Women and children trapped in the horror. People being slain by the sword and the city destroyed around them. Pity them, indeed. That is the natural human reaction. We do the same when we see the TV coverage in the world news, of some political coup or country that is being invaded in this day and age. When we see women and children involved, it somehow brings the horror of it all closer to home. That is Jesus’ point in referring to the nursing mother and the child in this passage. It is to heighten the reality of something like this happening. We humans have a capacity to be able to keep shocking news at arms length when it is not personal. But when we see a child the same age as a child or grandchild of ours, then the whole scene takes on a personal connection.
There is one more aspect in this section I wish to comment on. That is the reference: “Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.” After this statement, something strange happens to this passage. We are suddenly transported into End Times statements.
- “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.
- People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
- Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory.
- So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”
Why is that? How could a passage that was focused on the things that would happen after the departure of Jesus, so quickly turn to His coming again in the clouds? Is there not a mismatch here? Am I missing something? Why has the focus related to what would soon happen in Jerusalem in 70 AD, so quickly switched to focus on Jesus Second Coming? The coming of the Son of Man in the clouds is clearly a reference to Christ’s Second Coming. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles or the time of the Gentiles comes to an end.
We will investigate this concept in the next Gems and why the sudden leap to End Times from 70 AD?
When you think you get it, God has a way of sending angels to tell you, you don’t get it.Paul Scanlon
God never starts something that He can’t finish. He wouldn’t give you a promise unless He had a plan to bring it to pass.Joel Osteen
I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.Thomas Edison
Tough times don’t last, tough people do.