Jesus assures his disciples that Jerusalem would be destroyed but provides hope for his people through his own person and work
Luke 21:20 – 24
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 fulfilment 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.
So far in this teaching of Jesus, he has spoken about the struggles of his people to serve him in a hostile world. He now returns to where it began. He had spoken of the destruction of the temple and now talks of the larger picture, the destruction of Jerusalem.
He assures them firstly that it will happen. When they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they are to know that its desolation is near. That this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 is reinforced by Jesus presenting this as a warning to either flee from it or if outside to keep away from it.
Secondly, he assures them that it will be terrible. His comments about the hardships of pregnant women and mothers with babies highlight that it would be a time of heart-rending hardship.
Thirdly, he makes it clear that it would be a time of judgement from God. It would be a time of trouble but also of wrath to the people. It would be days of vengeance fulfilling what had been written. The city would be rejected by God because it had rejected his Messiah. The city itself is under judgement as it is trampled by the nations.
All of this had vital significance at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Christians who listened to Jesus fled but that is not the end of the importance of this passage.
Jesus concludes this by saying that the city would be trampled on by the nations “until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” The time of Gentiles began when Jesus died, and the temple curtain was torn. People from all tribes and nations had access to God through Jesus. This time of the Gentiles will have its conclusion when Christ returns. It is therefore a vivid statement about the coming mission to the world.
All of this may seem to provide only satisfaction to historical curiosity. It does do that, but it also shows us that the era of God’s people focused on Jerusalem and its temple had passed away and that focus from then would be on Christ himself. It also serves as a reminder to us that people and churches must maintain that focus on Jesus and be faithful to him.
Later in the New Testament, Jesus wrote his letters to the seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. There we read of Churches being rejected by him because they failed to cling to him in faith. Therefore, because the Messiah has come and the good news concerning him is proclaimed there is no excuse, all must acknowledge him as Lord and trust in him for their salvation.
Head: it is important for all people to understand that ongoing defiance of God makes judgement inevitable.
Heart: Christians must turn aside from attachment to the things of this world and find all hope in Christ.
Hands: Christians must continue to cling to Christ by faith and serve him.
Prayer: Father, for our sin we deserve to be condemned and rejected by you. Thank you that the saving work of Christ is enough to ensure that, as we rest in him, we have peace with you our God. Help us to maintain our focus on Jesus. In his name. Amen.
A song to listen to: Glory in the Darkest Place
Living Church – Creek Road