A friend of mine, who holds to the idea of modern interpretation of prophesy, had asked me some time ago what I thought of current events, as to how they might be leading to the fulfillment of the prophecies of Jesus in Luke 21 (and the companion passage in Matthew 24 and 25). What follows is an edited version of the first part of the response.
I would suggest that all of Luke chapter 21 is Jesus’ answer to the question the disciples asked of him in verse 7.
As they had been walking through the Temple grounds someone had noted how grand Herod’s Temple was. Then the Lord said that none of it would survive for very long.
“Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, he said, ‘As for these things which you see, the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.’
“And they asked him, saying, ‘Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?'”
The question has two parts: first, when will “these things” you just described take place (when this great building with these huge stones so beautifully adorned will be torn down or disassembled); and second, what sign will precede the event?
As I understand it, Jesus answered exactly what had been asked.
“And he said: ‘Take heed that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name saying ‘I am he;’ and ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”’
He was addressing that there would be pretenders, false messiahs, and false prophets all claiming to be “the one,” to know everything, and to be telling the truth; but that the disciples should not be confused, that they should not listen to them, follow them, or be moved. This single piece of advice is clear evidence that he was referencing events that would soon begin to transpire. And the things being forecast concerning Jerusalem and still some time in the future, would not happen without being preceded by the types of events he just mentioned. That such things as these (false Christ’s, calamities and such) happened prior to and following his death we know from both scripture and history. We also know that there were false apostles and disciples.
“Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.'”
This is a reasonable point for a reminder of a basic rule of composition. When second person pronouns are found in written communications the persons identified by the pronouns may be absent from the speaker. However, when the same pronouns are found in quotations or direct speech those being addressed through the pronouns must be present with the speaker.
Jesus therefore addressed the persons present when the remarks were being made. The things said were stated to a particular and present group when the words were initially uttered and later recorded, and the text is a record of those conversations. If he had been speaking to persons not present, the appropriate usage would be the corresponding pronoun “they.”
Notice again that Jesus said, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you,” etc. etc.
Therefore, the disciples being addressed (which certainly included the twelve and may even have been limited to them) were going to go through persecutions, to end up being brought before the synagogues, rulers and kings, etc. etc. and all this must happen prior to “…not one stone being left upon another” in the destruction of the Temple.
That ought to be enough on this good day to engender some study. We’ll take up the rest of the arguments in these texts in succeeding posts.