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LIFT UP YOUR HEADS (Signs of the End Times)

Luke 21:5-21:38
Key Verse: 21:28

This passage is known as ‘Olivet Discourse’ because Jesus taught his disciples in the Mount of Olives looking at Jerusalem Temple. This event is also written in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Now it is only three days away from Jesus’ death on the cross. Through this passage, Jesus reveals God’s redemptive plan which will be consummated through his glorious return, and also gives us a clear signs and the words of encouragement concerning the end times. May God bless us to put our hope in Jesus through the word of God.

We will think about this passage in three parts.

1. Not one stone will be left on another (5-24)

2. Stand up and life up your heads (25-28)

3. Be always on the watch and pray (29-38)

First, “Not one stone will be left on another (5-23). This part is mainly Jesus prediction about the destruction of Jerusalem and her temple. Look at verse 5. “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gift dedicated to God.” This temple was called Herod’s temple because it was being built by the king Herod. There had been several temples in Jerusalem. First one was Solomon’s temple which was built by the king Solomon, David’s son. This temple was destroyed at the time of Babylonian invasion. Second temple was Zerubbabel’s temple which was built by Zerubbabel the Governor after returning from Babylonian captivity. Now Herod had been building this temple by renovating Zerubbabel’s temple, investing his great wealth in order to gain attention from the Jews. It was completed at AD 63. This temple was covered on the outside with gold plates which were glittering when the sun shone on them. And the temple was decorated with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. (Show Picture) The disciples were marvelled the magnificent appearance of the temple. But what did Jesus say? Look at verse 6. “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” What a shocking words! ‘Not one stone will be left on another.’ It implies the complete desolation without even a trace. The disciples might have thought that this temple would stand firm even when everything under the heaven falls down.

So they came to Jesus asked Jesus with great shocking and curiosity. Look at verse 7. “Teacher,” they asked. “When will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take places?” They asked about the time and signs of this event. From verse 8 to 11, Jesus told them the signs that are about to take place and warned them in two ways. First, watch out for deception. Look at verse 8. “He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and ‘the time if near.” Many will come in the name of Jesus, and claim that they are the Messiahs, and try to deceive people to follow them. Second, Do not be frightened. Look at verse 9. “When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These thing must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Also, Jesus said in verse 10 and 11. “Then he said to them: Nations will rise against nations, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs.” Here we can learn that deception and fear are the things that should be watched. In Matthew 24:8, Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” These human and natural disasters has been there since the beginning of the history until now. But these things will happen in greater intensity and frequency like birth pain.

Not only that, there will be another sign that will take place for believers. Look at verse 12. “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.” There would be great persecution that would take place against believers. When we read the book of Acts, this persecution came from both the Jews and the Gentiles. What they should do when these things happen? Look at verse 13. “This will result in your being witnesses to them.” In ESV Bible, it says, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” So the believers must take this trial as an opportunity to become witnesses of Jesus. This is what happened in Acts 8:1. “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Christians in Jerusalem church were scattered all over the country and then in Roman Empire. Wherever they went, they took this opportunity to preach the gospel. Look at verse 14 and 15. “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” They do not need to worry because Jesus himself will give them words and wisdom to bear witness. This is the Holy Spirt, the Spirit of Jesus living with them and in them. The Risen Jesus gave the promise to his disciples in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So the Holy Spirit will help them to be Jesus’ witnesses. Look at verse 16 to 17. “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me.” When this great persecution comes, believers must know that people’s hatred comes from their hatred against Jesus. They hated Jesus to the point that they crucified him. In the same way, people will hate Jesus’ disciples and his believers. But when that happens, what should the believers remember? “Look at verse 18 and 19. “But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm and you will gain life.” Jesus promised the perfect protection. They may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul. Jesus will protect his people perfectly in such a time of persecution. Therefore, stand firm, and you will gain life.

But the greatest sign of the destruction of Jerusalem temple comes from verse 20. Let’s read verse 20 together. “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.” This verse refers to the Roman besiege of Jerusalem at AD 70. Because of Jewish rebellions, Roman army came and besieged Jerusalem. (Show the table) What was Jesus’ warning for those in Jerusalem? Look at verse 21 and 22. “Then let those who are in Jerusalem flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” All Christians in Jerusalem left the city and fled to the Gentile city called Pella in response to what was told by Jesus. But those who ignored Jesus’ word remained in the city. Especially, it was during the time of the Passover, and millions of the Jews were in the city. They fought against the Roman armies, and eventually, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the temple was order to be demolished completely until not one stone was left on another. The severity of this event was so great that it was said in verse 23 and 24a. “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all nations.” Josephus a Jewish historian who witnessed this event recorded it in great detail in his book ‘The Jewish War’. History records that 1.1 million Jews were killed by Roman armies, and 97,000 people were taken as captives, exactly as Jesus predicted.

How could this happen? Jerusalem was known as the city of God in the mount Zion. And the temple of God was in the center of Jerusalem. How could this city of God be destroyed completely and the temple of God demolished until not one stone was left on another? We can find the answer in verse 22. “For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” This is because of the sin of God’s people. Jerusalem was built by the king David. God chose Jerusalem as the city of God and as the center of his redemptive plan. And the temple of God was built in Jerusalem. God had a great plan and purpose for Jerusalem. But Jerusalem became proud, and they depended on the invincible fortress. They turned away from God and became worshippers of idols. They persecuted prophets and even killed them. Once Jesus lamented over Jerusalem in Luke 13:34 and 35. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Jesus rebuked the religious leaders and warned them so that they might repent and return to God, but eventually they killed even Jesus the Son of God. After this event at AD 70, Jerusalem was gone from history as well as the nation of Israel. But that is not all. Look at verse 21:24b. “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” This verse gives us the insight about God’s great plan of world salvation and the sign of end times. Jerusalem has been trampled by the Gentile for the last almost 2000 years. But God planned to restore Jerusalem when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And this restoration of Jerusalem is the very sign of the end times. The end will come after the full restoration of Jerusalem. We can understand where we are now in the history of God when we see what is going on in Jerusalem. As you know, Jewish people have been wandering around the whole world, but in 1948, they declared independence in their own land after the World War II. Then after 1968, they began to control Jerusalem. So Jerusalem is now being restored. According to Romans 11, Paul had a great agony because of his own people Israel. He said in Romans 11:25b “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” He believed that God would restore Israel when the full number of the Gentiles has come in. Now in Israel there are about 50,000 Messianic Jews who believe that Jess is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. And God is working powerfully in them through the Holy Spirit.

Second, “Stand up and lift up your heads. (25-28). Look at verse 25 and 26. “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” The signs of the end times will be in the universal scale. People will faint from terror due to natural disasters. Here the roaring and tossing of the sea refers to Tsunami. And the heavenly bodies will be shaken. When we see these signs we must know that the end is near. Look at verse 27 and 28. “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” History is not going nowhere, but moving towards the end, and that end is the second coming of Jesus. The day of Jesus’ second coming is the glorious and victorious day for the believers.

Then what does it mean to stand up and lift up our heads? Firstly, we must life up our heads and put our hope in Jesus and his glorious second coming because his coming is the day of redemption. The redemptive work of God will be consummated, and our own redemption will be completed. How grateful we are for what God has done through Jesus Christ! Is there any greater things than the redemption given to us through Jesus Christ? Early this morning, M. Tim Park passed away due to his Leukemia after 5 years of fighting. But we thank God who redeemed him through Jesus and took him to heaven for eternal rest. Therefore there is nothing to be afraid of or scared of or sad about at the end times. Instead, we must stand up and lift up our heads. Secondly, we must lift up our head and see Gods’ vision. Peter said in Acts 2:17, quoting the prophecy of Joel. “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” God would pour out the Holy Spirit on all people. Young men will see vision. This is the time we must be filled with the Holy Spirit and see God’s vision. We must see the vision of the Word of God covering the whole world as the water covers the sea. We must see the vision of young people growing as disciples of Jesus and men and women of God’s mission. Young men must be captured by God’s vision and attempt great things for God. Thirdly, we must be victorious. Defeated and discouraged people put down their heads. But Jesus wants us to lift up our heads because it is the time of great victory. We may lost small battles, but we will win the war. Therefore, in any circumstances, we must be victorious. We must rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks to God in all circumstances, because our redemption is drawing near.

Third, “Be always on the watch and pray.” (29-38) Look at verse 29 to 31. “He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” When we see all these signs, what should we know. The kingdom of God is near. Look at verse 32 and 33. “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Jesus who is the Word came and gave us the Word of God. We learned that Jesus’ prediction about Jerusalem was exactly fulfilled as he said. All these signs of end times and the second coming of Jesus will take place because his word will never pass away. In light of all these, what should we do at this end times? Look at verse 34. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.” We must be careful because our hearts can be weighed by many things of this life. And our hearts become so dull that we do not know what’s going on until the day will close on you suddenly like a trap. It is like the time of Noah. In the time of Noah, people did not know what’s going on. They ignored God’s warning and all the signs and live as if nothing would happen until the flood came down from heaven. The day of the coming of the Son of Man will be the same as the time of Noah. Look at verse 36. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” We may not have spiritual sleeping but be always watch with clear mindedness. We must study the Bible diligently and have prophetic insight and God’s wisdom to see what’s going in this generation and to know what to do with our precious life. We must pray constantly so that we may not only overcome all these trials but also be able to stand before the Son of Man. Look at verses 37 and 38. “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out spending the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.” Jesus himself showed us the example of life. His time of crucifixion was three days away. At this important time of his life, Jesus fully dedicated himself to teaching the Word of God and praying from early morning till night.

May God bless us to have ears to listen to Jesus’ teaching about the signs of the end times. May God help us to be filled with Holy Spirit and God’s vision. May God help us to be clear-minded and pray constantly and prepare ourselves for the glorious and victorious day of the coming of the Son of Man.

(Written by James Lee)

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