2015-9-13 Warning Signs

LUKE 21:5-24                                                                                  SEPTEMBER 13, 2015


In 1986 I traveled to Nicaragua with a group of Presbyterians helping build homes for Habitat for Humanity. It was an eye-opening experience for me as I had never been out of the country. One day our group took a day off from building homes and went to the Pacific Ocean on an outing. While we were at the beach I saw a sign posted on the beach. I took the time to use my very poor grasp of the Spanish language to discern what was posted. It said: “Warning, this beach has been mined!” After my heart started working again I realized that it was an old sign that had not been taken down and was no longer valid. When should we pay heed to warning signs?

Jesus spoke to his disciples to prepare them for his imminent departure. Luke records the prophetic words of Jesus. “A prophet could speak about the short term fulfillment or the long term, or both at the same time.” (NIV Application Commentary) As we examine the prophetic words of Jesus we will see that he spoke about short term fulfillment of what was to come, as well as what would come to fulfillment in the future. Today we will examine what Jesus said would take place in the near term. Next Sunday we will look at Luke 21:25-38 and the future events.

The conversation began with the disciples discussing about how beautiful the Temple was. Luke 21:5 (NIV) 5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.” The Temple was a massive structure. The huge white stones that were used in the construction of the Temple measured anywhere from 37 feet long to 68 feet. The Temple mount appeared from a distance to be covered with snow because of the white stone. King Herod had been enlarging the Temple for over fifty years. The Jewish people were proud of this building built in honor of their God!

Luke 21:6 (NIV)  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.” The words of Jesus would have come like a bolt of lightning, shocking the disciples. This prophetic word was one of warning and of total destruction. Jesus had already announced the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. Luke 19:41-44 (NIV) 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” We must understand that God is a God of Judgment and that there are consequences for rejecting Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior.

It is not surprising that the disciples asked when all this would occur. Luke 21:7 (NIV) 7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” We still want to know what lies ahead and when Jesus is returning.

Notice the warning that Jesus gave to his followers. Luke 21:8 (NIV) 8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” Jesus did not want his disciples to be led astray by false teachers and people claiming to be the returning Lord. The warning still holds true that we must beware of not allowing ourselves to be deceived or misled.

Luke 21:9-11 (NIV) 9 When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” 10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” For the last two thousand years these verses have held true in that war, earthquakes, pestilence, and famines have occurred with great frequency. All of these events have created trials and hardships for the Church. (The church is all those who believe in Jesus. I am not speaking about buildings or denominations.)

Jesus also spoke of the persecution of the Church. Luke 21:12-17 (NIV) 12 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me.” We have had it easy in our country because freedom of religion was a part of our country’s constitution. However, times have changed and the persecution that the rest of the world has endured is now facing us. Jesus calls us to support one another and to be his witnesses. Why are we so surprised when people hate us because of our faith in Jesus? Did he warn us that they would hate us? Yes!

I admire the county clerk in Kentucky who stood up for what she believed and then gave a good reason for her actions. She witnessed for Jesus. She has been attacked for her biblical stand. This is the point of his telling us what is coming! We must not despair and take our eyes of faith off of Jesus. We must maintain our trust in our God and be his faithful witnesses.

How did Jesus assure his disciples and give them hope? Jesus said in Luke 21:18-19 (NIV) 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By standing firm you will gain life.” Did Jesus mean that we would not suffer or even face death? NO! He means that no one or nothing can take away our eternal life. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) 1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”Romans 8:35-39 (NIV) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Can the swords of ISIS keep us from going to heaven?

Jesus returned to warning the first disciples of the coming judgment of God that was coming upon Jerusalem. Luke 21:20-24 (NIV) 20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 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. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” People usually fled to a fortress when invading armies came. But the early church listened to the warning by Jesus and they fled across the Jordan River and went to the Greek cities located there. Israel was judged for rejecting Jesus and Jerusalem was destroyed.

The early church listened to Jesus and so should we. The language used in verse 9c“but the end will not come right awayand in verse 12,“But before all this, indicate that these verses were prophetic words that would take place shortly. These verses that we have looked at today (verses 5-24) found their fulfillment in the first century and down through the ages.

Verse 24 is key to understanding the timing of what takes place when. “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”There is debate on what this verse means about the time of the Gentiles. Jerusalem had been under the control of the Gentiles until the modern nation of Israel took over full control of Jerusalem in 1967. It is also believed that Jesus will not return until the Jewish nation turns to Jesus and acknowledges him as the Lord God.

What we do know is that God remains in control of all things: including individuals and nations. God judges all nations and God is going to bring his wrath upon all the nations, including the United States of America. We, as a nation, have rejected the clear guidance of scripture contained in his laws and principles; and we will suffer the consequences of our sins unless this country repents and turns to Jesus, the only hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. It is time for all who have ears to hear to repent of their sins and get right with God and we must preach the gospel to all peoples.

Let us pray.