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Luke 21:5-36 – Prophecies of Destruction and Hardship


Jesus 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.


Jesus 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.

Luke 21:5-36

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

Signs and Persecutions

They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!”* and, “The time is near!”* Do not go after them.

‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; 15for I will give you words* and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

The Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold

20 ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.* 21Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; 22for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. 23Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; 24they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Exhortation to Watch

34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

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