The Coming of the Lord, part 2

James shifts focus in verses 7ff. The previous section was directed toward the rich of the world who are not Christians. The rest of the epistle is addressed to “my brothers” (v.12, 19) or simply “brothers” (v.7, 9, 10). As is characteristic of this epistle, the pastoral heart of James is evident as he exhorts and encourages his brethren to patience (7-12) and prayer (13-20).

James 5.7-12

7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Concerning Grit (7-8)

Exhortation (7a). “Therefore” points us back to the preceding context about the mistreatment from the rich and the miseries in store for them. Since all these things “are coming” upon them, that is, since judgment is coming for the rich from the Lord of Hosts, God’s people (“brothers”) must “be patient.” Brave perseverance is what James is calling his brethren to. The word itself (Gk. makrothumesate) carries the idea of having a “big thermometer” – in other words, withstand the heat of persecution when it comes. Why be patient? The Lord is coming and he will bring deliverance to the righteous.

The Lord is coming to execute judgment upon the wicked also. We, in the religious realm, often speak of the “coming of the Lord” as though it is a one time event. Indeed, Robertson in his commentary notes that what is in view here is the second coming of Christ. On the contrary, Scriptures often speak of the coming of the Lord and you can read about the many times God has come in judgment (Psa 22.19, on enemies; Psa 50.3; Isa 13.9, on Babylon; Isa 19.1, against Egypt; Isa 26.21, inhabitants of the earth (not final judgment); Jer. 4.13, against his people Judah and specifically Jerusalem; et al.). Here is another instance of God coming in judgment on the wickedness of man in history. Granted, the word used here (Gk. parousias) can be used in connection with the final coming of Christ. Jesus Himself used it to speak of judgment coming in history upon wicked men, specifically upon Jerusalem (see Matthew 24.3, 27, 37, 39). Perhaps James has this same coming judgment in mind (i.e. AD 70). James saying that the coming of the Lord is “at hand” or “near” (v.8b) only works to support the idea that this judgment coming would happen soon, even during the lives of those first century readers of this letter.

Example (7b-8a). James points his readers to a very common and relevant example of patience from the agrarian culture. The farmer plants his seed and “waits for the precious fruit of the earth.” Expectation and anticipation are coupled in this example of the farmer. Time must pass before the crop which is useful to beast and man can be reaped following the early and late rains. Although “rains” is not in the text, the implication is heavy that what are in view are the rainy seasons in late Autumn and early Spring (Moo 168). In the farmer is an example of patience. The seed of divine judgment has been planted. These Christians are waiting for the harvest of deliverance to come from the Lord. In the same way the farmer is patient for his crops, “You also, be patient.”

Encouragement (8b). With the pastoral care of a shepherd James offers another word of encouragement. “Establish your hearts” while you wait for “the coming of the Lord” which is “at hand.” These Christians are to firmly ground their faith in anticipation of the coming judgment. Earlier James addressed the man wavering in faith who prays and how this individual is “unstable in all his ways” (1.8). Here is the opposite of this unstable one. A heart that is established is a stable heart, strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13.9). Since the Lord’s coming is so near, these Christians need to firmly adhere to the faith. Adam Clarke captures the nearness factor perfectly when he writes, “He is already on his way to destroy this wicked people, to raze their city and temple, and to destroy their polity for ever; and this judgment will soon take place.”

Concerning Grumbling (9-11)

Exhortation (9). A cleaver way of understanding the imperative in verse 9 is as follows: Do not grudge that you be not judged. If grudge takes its archaic meaning of “murmuring” then this captures the thrust of James’ exhortation to his brethren. The connection of this command to the preceding context seems to be that grumbling because of unjust circumstances is the opposite of patient endurance of trials and mistreatment. The question is why these Christians were grumbling (or complaining) against one another? Perhaps after a long day of injustice from the rich, they would come home to friends and family or come into the assembly and take out their frustration on those around them. Another idea is that these brethren were complaining to their brethren about how bad they were mistreated. Or maybe these Christians were blaming each other for their persecution. Whatever the reason, these Christians were complaining and grumbling against (lit. finding fault with) one another and James has to say cut it out.

Why stop your complaining? “So that you may not be judged.” The judgment of God is at hand and very near, so near in fact that James says “The Judge is standing at the door.” Whether the “standing” is a perfect or imperfect tense verb can be debated by scholars, but the fact of a very real and immanent judgment from the Judge is undeniable. There is no doubt that James is very deliberate in the language he uses to exhort his brethren. It conjures up images of Israel murmuring in the wilderness and alludes to the question of Abraham: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18.25). If that were not enough, perhaps a verse of the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 is alluded to also. God knew His people would grumble against Him in the wilderness and “the time when their foot shall slip” was going to come (verse 35). Therefore Moses says, “The Lord (i.e. YHWH) will judge his people” (32.36, NIV). Over and over God is pictured as Judge of those who grumble. How much more will He judge those who grumble against their own brethren?

Examples (10-11). Two examples of patience are used by James to further strengthen his case and to encourage his brethren to cease and desist in grumbling against one another. These examples are intended to be instructive, like a copy used for imitation. First, he points to the prophets who endured suffering (physical pain and hardship) yet were patient (same word as verse 7, 8). They spoke “in the name of” (Gk. en to onomati) the Lord and were mistreated. Perhaps a contrast is painted here: these Christians are maltreated over their work in the world but the prophets were maltreated over their work in the Word. Yet the prophets did not grumble but entrusted their souls to their faithful God. They remained steadfast in their faith and mission. James reminds his brethren of what he has already written about earlier in the epistle (1.12; see also Daniel 12.12) about the beatitude of the steadfast. Those remaining steadfast enjoy the bliss of God.

Second, James points his readers to Job. Like the prophets he remained steadfast during severe trials. Up to this point, James has spoken of “patience” (Gk. makrothumia). Now he writes concerning the “steadfastness” (Gk. hupomone) of Job. There are those who find subtle differences between these terms. Lenski says the former is patience when people abuse us and the latter is brave perseverance under things which distress us. Moo says the former is long-suffering with a loving attitude toward others and the latter is a strong and determined attitude with which we face difficulty. Perhaps there is a difference but it would seem James uses them somewhat interchangeably, almost as synonyms. Nevertheless, Job presents an interesting case for steadfastness. Did he not grumble against God concerning his affliction? While he did complain, Job never renounced God nor abandoned his faith. He clung to God and continued in hope.

No doubt this was a familiar example for James says, “You have heard.” Not only that, James says, “You have seen the purpose of the Lord.” Seen here is used in the sense that God has shown it through His revealed word. The “purpose” (or end) of the Lord has to do with how he dealt with Job, that is with compassion and mercy. Most commentators point to the end of Job (42.12-13) where the property and family Job lost is restored to him and long life is granted to him. “Certainly, James does not mean that patience in suffering will always be rewarded by material prosperity; too many examples , the Old Testament (Jeremiah!) and the New, prove this wrong” (Moo 172). Rather he seeks by this allusion to the Old Testament character Job to encourage and assure his readers “the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (see Exodus 34.6; Psalm 103.8).

Concerning Giving Your Word (12)

Verse 12 is clearly a restatement or at least an allusion of the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5.33-37). James reminds his readers of what Jesus has said which seems to indicate that this teaching (if not the passage itself) was evidently present to James’ thoughts. Coming out of Judaism which taught “a man might swear with his lips, and annul in his heart; and then the oath was not binding” (see Clarke concerning Rabbi Akiba), these Christians were perhaps a bit hasty in their oath taking. So prevalent was swearing in the Jewish culture (and the Oriental culture in general) that Aben Ezra says, “Men swear daily countless times, and then swear that they have not sworn!” (Pulpit Commentary 70) Though Jesus’ teaching was available, either these Christians were lax in keeping His word or had not been instructed concerning oaths. Perhaps like Peter the night Jesus was betrayed these Christians had relapsed into behavior of their former life (see Matthew 26.72, 74). James leaves them without excuse. The oath taking usually involved invocation of a divine being or in this case invoking heaven or earth or some other oath to execute judgment upon a person if the statement or obligation made were not true or kept. James says not to do this. Burton Coffman notes, “It was a common sin of that day to punctuate ordinary conversation with all kinds of imprecations and oaths used as a device for establishing credibility.” Instead, Christians should be so truthful that when they say “yes” or when they say “no” there is no need for an oath or swearing or “pinky promise” – Christians keep their word. To fail to keep your word is to fall under the judgment of the Judge.

How this fits in context is difficult. Adam Clarke is outright in saying he cannot figure out why this is here and prefers to think of it as separate and final advice for James’ readers. Robertson likewise states there is no connection to the preceding context. That this verse is connected with the previous context of attitude, behavior, and demeanor of those looking forward to the coming of the Lord is certain – “above all” coupled with de (Eng. but or and) indicates this.[1] Since swearing or making oaths is so foreign to the enduring and patient Christian, it is “above all” to be avoided, especially in light of the Lord’s teaching. Just because a Christian has turned to the one true and only God does not give him/her the right to invoke God in oaths and somehow strengthen your word. It doesn’t work that way. Rather, because a Christian has trusted in the only true and living God, he should speak truth to all, especially in light of the coming of the Lord.


[1] There are those who see pro tanton de as introductory of the end of the epistle, similar to Paul’s “finally” (Gk. loipon) in his epistles or Peter’s “above all” (Gk. pro tanton) in 1 Peter 4.8.

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The Crucifixion, pt.1

Recently, a televangelist told his audience of thousands (possibly millions across the country and around the world) that Jesus never told His disciples he was going to die on a cross, i.e. by crucifixion. What a monstrous display of biblical illiteracy! And this from a guy who has his own television broadcast seen world wide!! This particular pastor (Fred Price Jr., son of Apostle Frederick K. C. Price, pastors of the Crenshaw Christian Center) even had the audacity to claim he had researched this and would not say this if he had not researched it. My advise to this ignorant pastor: read your Bible.

For if you read your Bible, even just a cursory reading of the gospel accounts will tell you otherwise. On multiple occasions Jesus has pointed His disciples to even to the mode of death, crucifixion (See Matt 16.21, 24; 20.19; Luke 9.22-23; 24.6-7; cf. Mark 8.31, 34; 9.31; 10.33-34; Luke 18.32-33, et al). Further, even if Jesus was silent about the specifics of His death, God was not silent and prophecied centuries before crucifixion was invented in the mind of man as a torturous mode of death and nearly a millenium before Jesus ever walked the earth that Messiah would die by crucifixion (see Psalm 22.16). Again, to all the televangelists: read your Bible.

No, Jesus has been predicting exactly what will happen to Him in Jerusalem by the Jewish and Roman authorities: He would be crucified. Luke records this dreadful deed in 23.26-43. First, in verses 26-31, we run into several people on the way to the crucifixion site.

The Man

We meet a man named Simon of Cyrene, a town in North Africa. This man is a long way from home, no doubt one of the Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Feast. There is precious little we know about this man and what happened to him once he finished carrying the cross to the site. Mark tells us he was father to two sons, “Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15.21). Most scholars believe that Mark wrote his gospel, aided by the apostle Peter (an eyewitness) and the Holy Spirit, to or for the church in Rome. Hence, Mark includes this specific detail about Simon of Cyrene being the father of Alexander and Rufus as if to say, “If you have any questions, just ask these men who’s dad was there and actually carried the cross.” It is interesting that in Romans 16.13 Paul greets a man in the Roman church named Rufus and his mother. Is this the same Rufus? It is possible, but any attempts to draw a hard line connecting them is purely speculation. Nevertheless, if nothing else, it would seem that Simon’s sons went on to be leaders in the early church. Were they influenced by their father, himself impacted by what he experienced when he carried the cross of a condemned man named Jesus?

Simon was coming in from the country. It seems that Jerusalem, crowded with Jews from all over the Empire, yet again has no room in the inn for anyone, Simon of Cyrene included. Hence, he forced to lodge outside the city in a nearby village and “commutes” as it were to Jerusalem for the Feast. Perhaps on this occasion he was on his way to the Temple or to the Cyrenian synagogue, which Jerusalem had. Cyrene was an important city with a large number of Jewish residents. So when they had to come from Cyrene to Jerusalem for the various feasts, they had a place to gather.

Simon is “seized” by the Romans and “compelled” to carry the cross of Christ. Jesus has been weakened by the last 24 hours and perhaps especially the scourging He has endured has taken its toll. So the soldiers lay hold of Simon had force him to go “the extra mile” as it were. The cross is laid on him and he follows Jesus as Jesus walks. Scholars reading from historians of antiquity say that the condemned often had a white sign hung about their necks which read their charges and what they had been condemned of. Perhaps Jesus has a similar sign and this is what is affixed later to the cross.

The Maidens

Luke is careful to note that this whole episode was not done in secret where no one could see; in fact, when Jesus is before Pilate there are substantial crowds of people (23.4, 13) present. Here again we see there is “a great multitue of the people” who are following along this deadly processional to Golgotha. But Luke, as he has done throughout this gospel account (1.39-52; 2.36-38; 7.11-15, 37-50; 8.1-3; 10.38-42; 11.27; 13.11-16), highlights some women who are walking along with Jesus. These women are crying out, wailing loudly, beating their breasts or smiting themselves as they go. Perhaps He sees the faces of some of the women He has known during His ministry: Mary and Martha, Joanna, Mary Magdalene. Did He see His mother’s face in the crowd? She was present at the cross (John 19.25-27).

Nevertheless, Jesus sees these women and turns to them, a dramatic gesture in the midst of chaos, and imparts some teaching about what is to come. First, He says stop weeping for Him. What? But Jesus is one His way to death. True, but Jesus knows something even worse is yet to come. Stop weeping for Jesus. Second, start weeping for yourselves and your children. When I was little if I cried over something I wanted but did not get, my dad would tell me to “dry it up or I will give you something to cry about!” Jesus does something similar; He tells them exactly what to cry about. Third, He explains why: There are some bad, terrible, horrible things come down Jerusalem’s way. In fact, it will be a blessing to have been barren and not had children when this time comes. People will be calling for mountains and hills to fall and cover them from the terror and horror of what is coming. “They” in v.29-30 seems to be the people who have called for the death of Jesus – the religious leaders and other various people of Jerusalem, the crowds. And all the judgment coming upon them would spill over onto all of Jerusalem. Hence, these “Daughters of Jerusalem” who belong to Jerusalem proper do have something to weep, lament, and beat their breasts over: the coming destruction of Jerusalem, heaven’s exclamation point on the grand scheme of redemption.

Finally, there is this cryptic word from Jesus in v.31: “For if they do these when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” What’s this all about? It seems to be a common proverb used as an explanation of what Jesus has just said. Various interpretations abound. Leon Morris in his commentary on Luke offers several which all seem plausible. Morris writes: “If the innocent Jesus suffered thus, what will the fate of the guilty Jews? If the Romans treat thus One whom they admit to be innocent, what will they do to the guilty? If the Jews treat like this Jesus who had come to bring salvation, what will be their punishment for destroying him? If the Jews behave like this before their wickedness reaches its consummation, what will they be like when it does? If grief is aroursed by the present events, what will it be when the subsequent disaster strikes?” Farrar adds: “If they act thus to me, the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false.” Inasmuch as Jesus addressed these Jewish women and it was the Jewish who so vehemently sought his death, this proverb from Jesus seems targeted for the Jews. The “wood” when he spoke this proverb is “green,” that is hard to burn. But its drying. Even as Jesus marches to Golgotha, the wood is drying. And when it is dry, what will happen? We, looking back into history, know exactly what happen when Jerusalem’s time in AD 70.

Jesus at World’s End, pt.4

As we approach Luke 21.29-38, we see the final words of Jesus concerning His coming in judgment on Jerusalem. As we have seen in part 1, part 2, and part 3, Jesus is warning his disciples about the impending doom yet to come upon the Jews for their continued rebellion toward God. He concludes His warning with a parable, a favorite tool for teaching of Jesus.

A Fig Tree

The fig tree is a plant indigenous to Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Its blooms appear before the leaves do in the spring. Jesus uses this example from the creation in order to drive his point home: Just as certain as summer follows spring, the season when the fig tree puts forth its leaves, so also you may be certain that “when you see these things taking place” (all the things in v.10-28) you can know the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish world is right at the door. Jesus, in v.31, says the kingdom of God is near. That is, the rule and reign of God, His sovereignty over nations and peoples to bring them up and tear them down. What you see in the destruction of Jerusalem is an exercise of God’s sovereignty in human history.

Jesus reiterates His point in case anyone missed it: this thing is going to happen soon; so soon that the present generation (those people alive in the first century, some of them standing in front of Him) would not die until it had taken place (v.32). Hence, those expositors and commentators who try to shove this passage (and it’s parallel passages) into the future do so erroneously. Jesus is not talking about something millenia in the future; this is something right at the door for the first century disciples. If this has not yet been fulfilled, either Jesus lied (since that generation passed away without this prophecy fulfilled) or we should still have 2000 year old people walking around still waiting for the fulfillment. Neither of these is a reality nor possible – hence, Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled just as he described in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Indeed, Jesus makes this very point in v.33 when in essence he says “No word of mine will ever pass away unfulfilled.”  

A Final Tip

Jesus wraps up this discourse with a final warning and exhortation to His disciples. “Watch yourselves” (v.34) and “stay awake” (v.36). First, watch yourselves, especially in regards to their hearts. Something big and bad is coming down the pike…and now is not the time to mess with their Christian walk. Jesus mentions some very specific activities to avoid. “Dissipation” which has to do with drinking (alcohol) and the unrestraint behavior that usually accompanies that activity. How many people know the results and consequences of excessive alcohol consumption? Judgment and morality fly out the window and that is what Jesus is addressing. Avoid this. Next, “drunkeness” which is alcoholic intoxication. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing with abstinence from alcohol. And finally, the “cares of this life” are those things which divide our alligence to Christ and God. They pull us from being worshippers to being worriers. Jesus’ word to His disciples is guard yourself from these things. If you do not, “that day” (the day of destruction reserved for Jerusalem) will come upon them “suddenly like a trap.” I believe the imagry is self-evident.

Jesus further explains why they should watch themselves in verse 35. Many will use this verse in order to shove this whole context into the future. Indeed, it can present some difficulty. “For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Well, this would pretty well point to the scope of this judgment being universal, right? Not necessarily when you consider that the world for “earth” can (and in this context should) be translated “land.” Hence, all those who dwell in the land of Judea will suffer this judgment of God. Young’s Literal Translation provides this translation and Adam Clarke in his commentary makes mention of this point.

The next warning is stay awake at all times. In other words, keep yours eyes open and be on watch. What should a watchful disciple be doing in anticipation of this coming day? Pray. For what? Strength to escape all the horrible, terrible things that are coming which Jesus has just predicted. Indeed, it will get very bad. But also, pray that they would be able to stand before the Son of Man. The coming judgment is upon wicked Jerusalem. They will not be able to stand in judgment. But the disciple ought to be able to stand blameless at the coming of the Son of Man. They would then be free from the coming calamity.

One day He’s coming back. We often talk about the “second coming of Christ;” perhaps it is better called the “final coming of Christ.” One day he come back for the final time for final judgment. Ought we to listen to the words of the Master? He predicted physically judgment to be poured out in human history and told His disciples how they can prepare themselves for that day. Much more should we prepare for the Day when Christ will proclaim spiritual judgment upon all men and women. Ought also to stay awake and watch ourselves lest we fall into dissipation, drunkeness, and/or the cares of life? Our alligence must be wholeheartedly to the Son of Man if we would stand in final judgment.

The Faithful Teacher

Luke gives us a glimpse into the life of Jesus in v.37-38. Every day Jesus is teaching in the temple. We have seen Him sere before (see Luke 19.47). No doubt His message is still the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4.17).  He is still teaching during the day, but at night He’s sleeping on the mountains, the Mount of Olives. Mountains appear to be a special place for Jesus. They seemed to be His place of prayer and renewal (see Luke 6.12; 9.28). What’s Jesus every night before he turns in? Probably praying. His time is drawing ever closer and he needs the strength to carry out the mission. We’ve just seen Him warn His disciples to pray for strength; certainly the teacher is modelling for his students what this looks like. But you know where to find Jesus the next morning. Early in the morning He’s back at it, in the temple teaching all the people who came to hear Him.

Jesus at World’s End, pt.3

I continue to marvel at the fantastic intrpretations men have come up with concerning this passage. Albeit, I can understand their efforts; this is a text which is somewhat confusing since it is prophetic and therefore Jesus borrows from the language of the prophets of the Old Testament to convey this prophecy. But if we understand that concept, that this is highly symbolic prophetic language even in the vein of the prophets of old, and keep that ever before us, it will help in understanding this passage.

We now hit the meat of this text where Jesus specifically mentions the fearful fate of Jerusalem. It will be a very ugly end, an horrific sight which is recorded for us in history. Nevertheless, Jesus explains why it must be so: “these are days of vengence” (v.22) brought about by the “God of vengence” (Psalm 94.1). Israel, the Jews are filling to the brim the cup of God’s wrath (see Isa 51.17; Rev 16.19) and the execution of God’s Son will fill it yet fuller. Finally, in AD 70 (just decades away from when Jesus speaks this), God’s wrath will spill over into the land and God will punish them using the Romans (in this context, the “nations” or “Gentiles” of v.24).

The Approaching Disaster

Jesus begins to enumerate the signs that would signal to his disciples that the end of the Jewish age is right at the door. First, Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies. These are the armies of Roman led by Titus. They would encircle Jerusalem and lay seige to it beginning in AD 68. It would take two years, but eventually Jerusalem will fall. Hence, that seems to be why Jesus is very specific: you see the armies of Rome and that means “desolation has come near.” It is not yet fully upon them until the end of the seige.

Jesus’ disciples are warned, then, that Jerusalem is going to be desolated, laid to waste by foreign armies. What should they do? Jesus gives guidance to them in v.21-23. If the are in Judea, run to the hills, the mountains. If they’re in the city, flee the city. And if they’re outside the city, stay out. Again, these are warnings to the disciples of Jesus and warnings for the early church. Would they listen? Indeed, not a single Christian lost their life during the Roman sack of Jerusalem. Eusebius, an early church historian, records that Christians fled to the city of Pella south of Galilee. Here is validation of the words of Jesus.

All this is happening because it is the will of God. Jesus says as much in v.22: God is pouring out his vengeance on His people for their continued unfaithfulness to Him. Where and whom has predicted this particular destruction of Jerusalem? Of course, all prophecy goes back to the mind of God, but these were uttered by Daniel in Daniel 9.26-27. I believe it is safe to make this conclusion (that Daniel is speaking of this event) because Matthew borrows the very language of that passage when in Matthew 24 he details the coming event (Matthew 24 is a parallel passage of Luke 21). Also, Barnes in his commentary cites Zechariah 14.1-2 as speaking to this time. Again, all this to say that this was according to the will of God as he serves His unfaithful people what they deserve for their evil deeds.

We catch a glimpse of the heart of Jesus as He laments for the pregnant woman and the nursing infants during this time. I wonder if he knew…I wonder if he knew just how bad it was going to get. Josephus records for us just severe the famine was going to be during this seige. In War of the Jews he details how people, young and old, father and mother, child were all scrambling for the last bits of food. Mothers snatched from the lips of their children even the tiniest morsels. Old men were beaten if they clung to any food (War 5.10.3). Josephus also records a horrific tale of a mother named Mary, a prominent woman who was daily taken advantage of by the soldiers in Jerusalem; any food she had they came and stole. One day, she had had enough and took her child, killed it, roasted it and ate half before the soldiers came. They smelled the stench and came in, hungry for anything. She uncovered the rest of her meal and these soldiers, in shock and sickness, left this woman alone (War 6.3.4). Again, I wonder if Jesus knew…

This was going to be a horror like never before. News of this would be all over the earth causing distress as God poured forth His fierce anger on “this people.” Verse 24, in the briefest of statements, sums up the carnage: many would be killed, many taken captive to “all nations,” and Jerusalem would no longer be the Jews possession. Josephus tallies the final number of the slaughtered at around 1.1 million people and another 97,000 taken captive. The nations would walk on or over. In other words, Jerusalem, the holy city, would be made common. But isn’t that the message to the Jews – God is telling them in this act, “I don’t live here anymore.” Indeed, in the church age God makes his dwelling with men (cf. Rev 21.3). Its a massive message to Jewish Christians and to Jews that this city, this temple is no longer the sole place of the presence of God. Isn’t that how this conversation got started? The disciples pointed out the temple’s beauty and Jesus uses that say, “There’s coming a time when this will no longer be important, in fact God is going to hand it over to the nations so they can walk all over it to try to get that point across.”

Scholars want to spend so much time on the last part of v.24: “until the time of the Gentiles (or nations) are fulfilled” (ESV). They say that points to 1900 years in the future when the Jews become a nation again and when Jerusalem is theirs again. Ugh. Actually, it seems like Jesus is pointing to the fact that even though the nations (Romans) would walk all over Jerusalem, eventually their time will run out too. They have a purpose to accomplish, a very dubious purpose, but once it is fulfilled, God will punish them, too. History bears this out: Rome loses steam and eventually collapses (it limps along until the 1400s in the East but it is effectively over by the 400s) and the Muslims take over Jerusalem…then back and forth with the Crusades…then the Turks…then the British…my point is that scholars prove too much with their explanations.

The next sign is in v.25 which presents a unique difficulty. Some want to take the first part of this verse and say its literal but the second part of the verse is figurative (of the Romans). Others shove it into the future as yet to happen (that comes from the faulty interpretation of v.24 mentioned above.) However, v.24 runs right into v.25 and seems to be Jesus borrowing from the language of the prophets to communicate a sobering message to his followers. I think verses 25-27 are highly figurative (prophetic) language used by Jesus to say, “Something terrible is about to happen.” In Matthew 24.29, more detail is given about the moon and sun will not give their light and stars will fall out the sky. This is the language of the prophets (see Joel 2.10, 31; 3.15 – these passages are said to be fulfilled in Acts 2.16ff. Peter, an inspired apostle, says that what Joel prophecied was taking place in what he and the rest of the twelve were doing).

The whole earth will be in turmoil because of the sea and roaring waves. The sea in propehcy usually refers to nations, so in this case it would seem the Romans are causing the people of earth (the Jewish world?) to be in a state of total calamity and worry. Fear and foreboding enter the hearts of the Jewish people because of what is happening to the Jewish world. Truly, what must have the Jewish heart thought of all this! All three gospels record about the shaking of the heavens. In other words, this is going to rock the world of the Jew. There will be nothing solid, nothing firm for them to grab hold of. All this to mark the coming of the Son of Man. This is a term found in the Old Testament in Daniel 7.13-14 who is given the same attributes and authority as the Ancient of Days. Folks, this is Jesus, the glorified Christ who has taken his position with the Father on the throne, coming in judgment on the Jews. He had power, indeed, the same power as Jehovah God. He has great glory, indeed, the glory he suspended so he could dwell among us. And he is coming on the clouds. In prophecy, clouds are the war wagons of God (see Deut 33.26; Psa 104.3; Isa 19.1, and cf. Psa 18.7-12; 97.2). When we think of clouds, we think nice little puffs of water vapor; but when used in prophecy and poetry concerning the judgment of God, they are a terrible sight. Think dark clouds, black clouds, ready to burst with rain. Here is Jehovah God and the Son of Man when they come in judgment on men. It is a powerful sight and a glorious sight.

The Appearing Deliverer

Jesus tells his disciples that when they see all this (these signs signalling the coming of the Son of Man in judgment upon Jerusalem), stand tall.  Straighten up and raise your heads. What’s implied is that they were bowed down, both body and head. And certainly with the sorrow and turmoil, heartache and heartbreak they would be down cast. But Jesus says there will be a time to rejoice as the deliverer, the redeemer has come. They can now look up “because your redemption is drawing near.” What does that mean?

First, redemption is a buying back. It carries the meaning of rescue by ransom; that is, a price is paid and a slave is set free. So it is deliverance (of some kind) that is drawing near. Second, redemption from what? Most want to shove this into the future and say it is the second coming of Jesus – that will be the full realization of redemption. I believe this is contextually dishonest. Jesus has been talking about a very specfic event (the coming destruction of Jerusalem) to a very specific audience (his disciples, the Twelve). To rip this statement from its given context and somehow apply it to a yet future event is an injustice to the text. No, Jesus says, “your redemption is drawing near” speaking specifically to those Twelve disciples standing before Him. Jesus is specfically talking about the deliverance of the Twelve (indeed, those who would also believe based on them, i.e. the Church) from the bitter and constant hostility of the Jews. Previous to AD 70, Christianity’s spread is somewhat slow, hindered by the constant persecution from the Jews. But following AD 70, Christianity faces next to no resistance from the Jewish crowd and growth is far more rapid. Therefore, Jesus’ words to his disciples are words to bolster their faith as well. Although the end is coming for the Jewish order, the deliverance of the Christian order is ready to be right at the door.

Jesus at World’s End, pt.2

Once more, I reiterate what has already been established in part 1: Jesus is addressing His disciples concerning events and destruction that was going to be coming in their lifetime. This entire context (Luke 21.5-26) is pointing to AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem. Unforutnately, scholars and theologians have tried to make this text say something it does not say. In fact, one writer says that Jesus “intermingles” discourse about the destruction of Jerusalem and the tribulation and second coming, as though Jesus is so scatter brained He cannot entertain one thought for too long. Jesus is addressing one question from his disciples (v.4) concering the coming end of the Jewish world.

This is an important point: the Jewish world (as they knew) was nigh unto coming to a close. Their quasi-theocracy, their entire system for worship, indeed, their very world was about to come crashing down around them when Rome came in conquest. And Jesus uses very specific langauge (prophetic and apocalyptic langauge) which the Jewish mind would be familiar with in order to drive His point home to a Jewish audience. So we continue to examine Jesus’ warnings to His disciples concerning the coming calamity in Jerusalem.

Conflict Nationally

In v.10, Jesus talks about conflict among nations. Indeed, this plays out in history just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews (nationally) revolt against their rulers, the Romans (a nation). So you have the assumed kingdom of God (although by the late 60’s of the first century the kingdom of God was now in the hearts and minds of men, see Col 1.13-14) and THE kingdom of the world, Rome. It will be Rome who rises and squashes this revolt with an iron fist. The devestation is horrific and Jerusalem suffers a seige from Rome. There is starvation and bloodshed in the city, and then the Romans breach Jerusalem.

Conflict Geographically

In v.11, Jesus talks about earthquakes and famine, pestilence and signs from heaven. What’s that all about? Some interpret these signs as figurative, apocalyptic in nature. It is simply Jesus’ way of saying, “Your world is coming to an end.” Others point to history. Josephus, in his The Wars of the Jews, records accounts of earthquakes. In fact, in 1.19.3, there is a very great earthquake which swallows many cattle and 30,000 men. Adam Clarke in his commentary on Matthew states about earthquakes that there was “one at Crete in the reign of Claudius, one at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos.” Also in Josephus are famines that constantly came upon the Jews. In fact, so severe was the famine in Jerusalem that the Jews actually invented terrible methods of torture to discover the location of food. And don’t forget the famine predicted by Agabus (Acts 11.28).

Because of these famines, pestilence also followed. A general term for frightening things that were to come is used by Jesus. Indeed, how terrifying would all these things. But then great signs in the sky. This is an interesting one. But diving into history we find Josephus, that great historian, in his WOTJ explains manifold signs (and terrors) which took place before the rebellion of the Jews (see 6.5.3). All the predictions of our Lord Jesus, then, are finding their fulfillment in human history.

Conflict Locally

Next Jesus address conflict which the disciples will experience from their own people. He explains that they will be handed over to authorities for persecution before all the tumult and turmoil just described. Before conflict nationally and geographically, the disciples will experience conflict locally. Indeed, this is detailed and documented in the book of Acts. Luke records those events of intense persecution, first from Saul of Tarsus, then the persecution from Rome (directed both at Jews and Christians), and also the persecution of the church from Jews, esp. that persecution endured by the apostle Paul (formerly Saul). Indeed, in this history we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ words here as Christians are delivered to synagogues and prisons, brought before kings and govenors all for Jesus’ sake (see Acts 8.1-4; 12.1-4; 14.19-22; 16.19-24; et al concerning the early church and persecution).

How should a Christian view what would appear to be negative circumstances? Jesus tells us in v.13: this is an opportunity to bear witness. Indeed, here before Jesus are the eyewitnesses themselves – the Twelve who had been with Jesus. Whether in prison or before kings, view it as an open door for the gospel. Jesus further explains they have nothing to worry about once in that particular situation. In v.14-15, he promises to give them the message, a mouth and wisdom, which no one will be able to speak against. “Don’t meditate before hand” – in other words there is no need to sit down and write up your speech. Indeed, there is no need. Jesus promises his apostles elsewhere (John 14.26; 15.26; 16.13) that he would send them the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all knowledge concerning salvation. Of course, this explains why no one can contradict it; it is from God, the source of all knowledge. The enemy may not like, may not accept, may try to kill them, may hate them for it, but they will not be able to withstand or contradict this wisdom and understanding.

The disciple must be warned, though, that though he is given the words he needs in the time he needs it, it does not mean that the road will be easy. In v.16, Jesus tells His disciples whom it will be that betrays them into the hands of the authorities: parents, brothers, relatives, friends. Notice the pattern. Those people that were closest to the disciples, even these would betray them and turn them in. Jesus has already addressed this idea previously in Luke (12.49-53). Families will be divided and that because of Christ. Tragically, even at the hands of their own countrymen, the disicples will even be killed for Christ’s sake. Jesus punctuates this with v.17: the disciples will be hated by all because of Jesus.

Comfort Internally

In Jesus’ own words, He details just how bad it is going to get. Conflict from every side. Persecution from everywhere. Ah, but the disciple has a comforting word from His Lord. However, this promise seems contradictory to what Jesus just said in v.16: how can Jesus promise that not a hair on their heads will perish when he just explicated to them that they will be killed? Here Jesus is pointing them back to who is in control in the midst of what appears to chaos: God. God is over all, through all and in all. He is in absolute sovereign control of the lives of this small band of brothers. This is a call to faithfulness to the sovereign God even through the most difficult of circumstances. “By your endurance you will gain your lives.” Although you may lose you life in this world, you gain your life in eternity (see 9.24). What is important is not what this world can do to the body, but what God can do to the soul. Truly, that was the message of the apostles. Don’t worry about anything but be prayerfully expectant of His final return.

Jesus at World’s End, pt.1

There is so much talk right now about the end of the world. Have you noticed? Have you noticed the Discovery Channel and History Channel running specials on 2012 and the Mayan calendar and the apocalypse? Have you noticed doing their best to play off this interest for profit with the blockbuster “2012” and before that “Knowing”? Even the SyFy channel got in on this with a special about 2012 and the Mayan calendar. It seems like it is everywhere. 

With all the hype and hoopla surrounding 2012 and the Mayan calendar, it is good to see what Jesus about His coming. Notice, I did not say second coming. We need to understand that God (and Christ according to this passage [Luke 21.25-27] and Matthew 24) has come in the past. We, in the religious realm, often speak of the “coming of the Lord” as though it is a one time event. On the contrary, Scriptures often speak of the coming of the Lord and you can read about the many times God has come in judgment (Psa 22.19, on enemies; Psa 50.3; Isa 13.9, on Babylon; Isa 19.1, against Egypt; Isa 26.21, inhabitants of the earth (not final judgment); Jer. 4.13, against his people Judah and specifically Jerusalem; et al.). It should not surprise us that what Jesus is talking about in Luke 21.5-36 is all about his coming in judgment on the Jews and espcially Jerusalem (see v.20). The question we need to concern ourselves with is not “What will we do” but “How should we prepare” for when God/Christ come in judgment (be it in history on a particular nation or in the final judgment).

The Background

In paralell accounts (Matthew 24, Mark 13), Jesus and his disciples are leaving the temple. No doubt this is the same setting for Luke. According to historians, this temple, which Herod had built, was made of exceedingly white stones. In fact, Josephus said it resembled a mountain covered with snow. So brilliant was this display, that should the sun reflect off of it at just the right angle, the onlooker would have to turn away for its brilliance. There were costly gifts and the spoils of war in it. It was a very rich setting.

The disciples are all alive with conversation about this beautiful building and its “noble stones and offerings” and how it was adorned. In Mark, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful things!” (Mark 13.1) They are impressed. Jesus is not and let’s them know as much in his answer (v.6).

The Bombshell

Jesus explains that there is coming a day when not one stone will be left upon another, indeed all the stones, and therefore the building itself, will be thrown down. Can you imagine the shock on these disciples? Jews, all of them. And here is Jesus (a Jew himself) saying the center for Jewish religion and worship would be utter destroyed. It was all they had known and, in their thinking, the only system they would ever know. It was, not in the least, their whole world. Yet here is Jesus saying all that is going to pass away. Their shocked disbelief prompts a question: When? So human, their reply. When will our world end? We want a time frame. Perhaps that is why the Mayan calendar is so intrigue to some; it gives a time frame for “the end”  corresponding to our year 2012. What signs will there be so that we can see and know the time is near? All of these typical questions humans ask. We want a time frame and indeed we need a time frame so that we can schedule our lives around it or (more like) it around our lives.

The Behest

Jesus has a personal charge for his band of believers, a warning about what’s on the horizon for them. Here is a key to understanding this entire passage: Jesus was not talking to you, he was talking to “you.” In this context, “you” are his twelve disciples (sustained by the use of the plural throughout), not you (singular) two thousand years later. It is his twelve who will see many come in His name, who hear of wars, who will be persecuted (v.12) and bearing witness (v.13). It is the twleve who will be hated (v.14) and who will see Jerusalem surrounded by armies (v.20). This was spoken in a very specific context to a specific group of men about a specific coming event, namely the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans.

To his twelve he warns that many will come, even in Jesus’ name, and claim to be him or will be setting dates for “the time.” Jesus warns his disciples “do not go after them.” Many people concerned about the coming end will be afraid and that is a perfect opportunity for racketeers to come in and take advantage (like Hollywood). In the disciples time, they would come and play on people’s fears and lead them astray. That is the first admonition: be on guard for false Christs or anti-Christs. Second, do not be afraid. In other words, fear not. Wars and tumult may come but it must be so. These happen first. But “the end” is different. This can be understood as stuff must happen first, then comes the end. This should not be interpretted to mean that His coming is postponed 2000 years. It simply means that some things “must take place first” and then “the end” will come. But the disciple need not fear. Why? God is in control.

That’s why these date setters and propaganda artists ought to be ashamed of themselves. Whether Hollywood or the History Channel or Family Radio in Oakland, CA (which says the end of the world is not 2012, but actually Oct 21, 2011), to you, devoted reader, I say what Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not go after them.” Don’t you believe it/them for a moment! Jesus does not give a precise time for when Jerusalem would be destroyed and God has not given a precise time for when this world will end. The message has aways been “You don’t know and won’t know the exact time, but you can be ready and should prepare yourself spiritually for it.”

Jesus Wept

It has been a long journey. It began in Luke 9.51 when Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And now finally, Jesus crests one final hill and the holy city is in full view. To be sure, glimpses of it have been seen in the preceding passage (v.37, he was coming down the mount of Olives) and also Jesus has gone up each year for different feasts (see John 7.1ff), but this time it’s different. This time there’s…

Pain

We see the pain of our Lord in v.41: “…he wept over [the city]…” As Jerusalem comes into full view, Jesus’ heart is broken. Previously in Luke, Jesus lamented over Jerusalem’s rejection of the prophets and pointed to his coming rejection when he will arrive at Jerusalem. But now his heart is broken because this city, it people have something very bad coming, even, the judgment of God is coming upon them. And this is not quiet weeping…not the Greek word is that of loud wailing and crying out with audible noice. Here is the Master’s heart, broken over the unfaithfulness of his people.

Prediction

Out of the pain is a prediction. I believe this is a slight play on words which Jesus takes advantage when he talks about the “the things that make for peace.” Jerusalem means “city of peace.” Yet, only hostility awaits them. The Jews have shut their eyes and ears to the message of peace found in the gospel. And because their is open hostility toward God, the know not peace. In addition, there is coming a day when the Romans will come against Jerusalem. V.42 mentions what is on the horizon. The Roman army with come and beseige Jerusalem. This involved surrounding the city with pointed stakes to ensure no one got in or out. All the way around will Jerusalem be surrounded. Once the Romans have seiged Jerusalem and breached her walls, then they will level the city.

In another place and speaking of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus says, “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matt 24.2, ESV). Indeed, the entire city will be utterly destroyed. Josephus documents this tragic event in Jewish history in his “The Wars of the Jews” (see “The Wars of the Jews” 6.8.1, 4 concerning the surrounding of Jerusalem with ramps [fulfilling v.43] and 6.9.2 for the slaying that takes place when Jerusalem falls [fulfillment of v.44]). In “The Wars of the Jews,” the scene of carnage is depicted as the Roman soldiers (who are already tired of all the killing they have endured during the entire seige of Jerusalem) “slew the aged and the infirm.” The rest of the people are taken into captivity. Truly, the devastation of Jerusalem was total, both city and people.

And what is to blame for this grand tragedy which will take place in AD 70? Jesus says, “you did not know the time of your visitation.” In a word – ignorance. For stubborn rebellion and refusing to listen to God’s prophets and God’s Son, Jerusalem will face the coming wrath of God when he “visits” them in AD 70. We, in the religious realm, often speak of the “coming of the Lord” as though it is a one time event. On the contrary, Scriptures often speak of the coming of the Lord and you can read about the many times God has come in judgment (Psa 22.19, on enemies; Psa 50.3; Isa 13.9, on Babylon; Isa 19.1, against Egypt; Isa 26.21, inhabitants of the earth (not final judgment); Jer. 4.13, against his people Judah and specifically Jerusalem; et al.)

I believe it is Jesus’ knowledge of His people’s stubbornness and refusal of the grace of God which causes him to weep and wail over Jerusalem. In addition, Jesus himself is a Jew and knows the true significance of this city: it is the center of Judaism and worship to Jehovah. I believe his heart is broken over the coming desvastation and destruction that the city and the people will endure for their continued ignorance. Truly, even today, Jesus knows the coming wrath of God for those who continue in open rebellion to God and His commands. Only in Christ do we have the blessed assurance that there is no condemnation (Romans 8.1) and it is only by baptism that we enter into Christ (Romans 6.3). I urge all to make peace with God (Romans 5.1, 9; 6.3-5; Acts 2.38, 42).