Luke 21:5-36 – Prophecies of Destruction and Hardship
SummaryJesus foretells the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, providing him an occasion to speak about other future events and the sufferings that will mark the lives of his followers.
AnalysisJesus speaks about many events and eras in these verses. He does not suggest that he is providing a specific timeline or road map of the end of the world. There is no clear temporal or causal relationship among the various things he describes. Much of what he discusses are more general states of affairs than discrete events. What is clear and consistent here is the call to faithfulness and watchfulness (compare 17:20-37). Although the time between Jesus' words about the temple and his return is characterized as one full of violence and discord, nevertheless the passage insists that God's people are not forgotten.
The passage begins with mention of deceivers, wars, and natural calamities (vv. 8-11). Obviously, the death and resurrection of Jesus will not transform the world into a safe place. Jesus also speaks of a time marked by persecution, testimony, and endurance (vv. 12-19). The conditions he describes likely reflect the experiences of Luke's earliest audiences. Likewise, the Acts of the Apostles depicts Jesus' followers living in circumstances like these. The next section (vv. 20-24) speaks about the violent ruin of Jerusalem. The images of the city besieged resemble other historical accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 C.E. Luke's first readers would have understood these events as already having occurred in their experience. After these verses, Jesus talks of an atmosphere of chaos and the return of the Son of Man (vv. 25-28). This section concludes with exhortations to Jesus' listeners (vv. 29-36), calling them to remain faithful and alert. With these words, Jesus equips his followers to be faithful and persevering witnesses in a hostile world.