Introduction: There was an article this week with the headline: “How Computers Will Soon Get Under Our Skin.” The story described ultra-thin, flexible electronic circuits that are almost invisible, which can easily be implanted beneath a person’s skin. It’s called an “Epidermal Electronic System.” It’s about the size of a postage stamp and as thin as a human hair. It’s weightless, wireless, and inconspicuous. The developers say that it could be used for everything from medical purposes to covert military operations. Yes, and I can think of other applications that are frightening. What a frightening tool in the hands of a global superman. It seems to me that all the pieces are coming together for the rapture of the church, the emergence of the antichrist, and the mark of the beast. Tonight we’re going to talk about the Signs of the Times as Jesus described them in Luke 21, beginning with verse 5.
V. 5: We have a fuller context in Matthew 24. Jesus and His disciples had left the Temple compound, trekked down one side of the Kidron Valley and up the other side, and were on the slopes of the Mount of Olives with a fabulous view of the buildings of the Temple, perhaps as the sun was setting behind it. The disciples commented on the scene.
V. 6: Jesus predicted a day would come when not one stone will be left on top of another. This was perfectly fulfilled a generation later when the armies of Rome under General Titus destroyed Jerusalem. But that was only the initial fulfillment of the prophecy. Many Bible scholars hold what is often called the “double fulfillment” of prophecy: A prediction is made and fulfilled in an immediate and lesser way; and that immediate fulfillment becomes a “type” for an ultimate fulfillment later on. For example, the Lord promised David that his son would sit on the throne of Israel and reign over a period of peace. This was fulfilled immediately in Solomon, but it was pointing to an ultimate fulfillment by the Messiah. In this case, the city was destroyed in AD 70, but I believe it was simply pointing toward the events of the Last Days.
V. 7: The disciples asked for more details.
The Rumblings of History (v. 8-11)
V. 8-11: In this passage Jesus gave what we call the Signs of the Times. He listed 8 of them:
1) Many false Christs will come – v. 8
2) Wars and rumors of war – v. 9
3) Worldwide conflict – v. 10. It seems to me the Rapture of the church fits at the beginning of v. 10 or between v. 10 and 11. Verse 11 sounds an awfully lot like the book of Revelation.
4) Great earthquakes – v. 11
5) Famines (v. 11)
6) Pestilences in various places – v. 11
7) Fearful events – v. 11
8) Great signs from heaven – v. 11
The Coming Persecution (V. 12-19)
V. 11-12: Notice the words “But before all this.” Something is going to happen all along the way – persecution: “They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My Name.” A recent report of the Pew Foundation found that found persecution is currently being waged against Christians in 130 nations of the world. Jesus devoted verses 12-19, a substantial portion of this sermon, to the subject of persecution.
V. 13: Jesus said, “This will result in your being witnesses to them.” It isn’t wasted persecution. Persecution simply results in additional opportunities of sharing Christ.
V. 14-15: Here is our Lord’s advice regarding persecution.
V. 16: Jesus warned that this persecution would be personal and deadly.
V. 17: This is perhaps the Bible’s ultimate verse about persecution: “All men will hate you because of Me.” It’s remarkable and inexplicable that we are despised and hated and hunt down and slain just because of our simple faith in the resurrection of Christ. That message doesn’t hurt anyone, but it does good for everyone. That message brings hope to the world and it sustains us through the valleys of life. That anyone would hate us to the point of death—over that!—can only be explained by the fact that a spiritual dynamic is at work. Satan is behind it. He hates God. He hates Christ. He hates Christians. There’s no other explanation.
V. 19: Our job—stand firm.
The Great Tribulation (V. 20-26)
V. 20: After that extended parenthesis about persecution Jesus returned to the main subject, the destruction of Jerusalem; and He continued His description of the Great Tribulation. “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies (the armies of the antichrist, headquartered in the northern plains of the Valley of Megiddo or Armageddon), you will know that its desolation is near.”
V. 21-24: This is a terrifying description of the final battle, of which the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 was only a preview. It’s called a time of great distress (or Great Tribulation) that will be the “fulfillment of all that has been written.” Jerusalem will be “tramped on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
V. 25-26: This is a two-verse preview of Revelation 6 through 18.
The Return of Christ (v. 27)
V. 27: Then suddenly everything will be over—Jesus will return!
The Faithful Followers (v. 28-36)
V. 28: Jesus gave us a germane word for our own times: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
V. 29-31: Our used a fig tree to illustration the obvious nature of the coming signs. When a fig tree buds, it’s a sign summer is near. When these things happen, the end is near.
V. 32-33: Scholars have puzzled over the word “generation” here – “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” As I said earlier, I think there’s a double fulfillment to this word. In the immediate sense, Jesus was speaking of His disciples’ generation. The destruction of Jerusalem happened within the lifetime of some of the apostles. But when the Great Tribulation occurs, this verse will also be true. “Even so, when you see these things happening (the signs in the sun and moon and stars, nations in anguish, great tribulation, heavenly bodies shaken) lift up your heads… this (that) generation will not pass away until these things have happened). In verse 33, Jesus attested to the authority of His words: “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away.”
V. 34-35: Jesus warned that three things could distract us from concentrating on His return: “dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.”
V. 36: “Be always on watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you will be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Conclusion: All of us are looking at the world financial markets with growing apprehension. There was an article this week in the Wall Street Journal about the possibility of a chain reaction of economic disasters starting in Europe and spreading like dominoes around the world. The article said, in part:
U.S. and European leaders Friday scrambled to stem a growing sovereign debt crisis, fearing the euro zone is on the brink of escalating into another global financial meltdown…. All bets are off with Italy next on the chopping block, but many European lawmakers are on vacation while the global economy is being pushed to the edge by the debt crisis. If Italy falls to the same fate as other failed peripheral economies, Spain will probably go too, setting off a chain reaction across the global financial markets…. Italy is Europe’s fourth largest economy with more than $2 trillion in debt. “Then I think the likelihood of a euro break up is very high, because Italy cannot be helped, they cannot be saved,” (one economist) said. If contagion spreads to Italy, “it would generate a financial earthquake,” said…an economist at the Brookings Institution. The ramifications are so potentially large, “it would be close to impossible to manage that crisis,” he said…. If Europe doesn’t act expediently to douse the sovereign debt flames licking at Italy and Spain, it may be too late.
The world economy is a house of cards, and if it collapsed the world would need a cunning global superman to step in and take the reigns of the world government. I don’t know that we’re at that point, but I don’t know that we aren’t. Our Lord’s words are coming true, as He said: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”