Study 26 - Luke 21:5-38
The fall of Jerusalem and the End of the Age
First: some introduction. A quick google shows 9 occasions in which there was a major siege and capture of Jerusalem, from that by the Babylonians in 586 BC to one by the British in AD 1917. This chapter is very similar to Mk 13 and Matt 24 (many think Mark’ gospel was a major source of Luke’s information). Matt 24, in particular, is worth reading to note the additional information it contains. These chapters are concerned with Jesus’ prophecies of the important siege and sack of Jerusalem in AD 70. This was carried out by the Romans in reaction to a rebellion of the Jews within the Roman Empire about 40 years after the death of Jesus (probably about the time Luke wrote his gospel).
But these are notoriously difficult chapters to understand, mainly because the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem act in part as a foreshadowing and illustration of what is still to happen at the end of the age. The fall of Jerusalem was immediately catastrophic for the Jews but even more important for the Christians who understood it to be the final act of the OT approach to God, completely clearing the way for the Kingdom Age introduced by Jesus.
Even the phrase ‘end of the age’ is difficult. Some argue that from the perspective of a Jew in AD 60 that would mean no more than the end of their life, society and culture, which did indeed occur in AD 70, landing them into a totally different age. However it seems to have at least some reference to the Day of the Lord, which is still in front of us nearly 2000 years later.
Question 1: Which of the following verses is about the Fall of Jerusalem, which is about the end of the age, and which cannot be clearly assigned solely to either of these? v6–9; v24b; v25 & 27; v34b-35
The fall of Jerusalem was horrendous by any standards. According to Josephus, a Jewish historian working for the Romans, about 1.1 million people (he is known to exaggerate!) were killed, many because different factions of the Jews fought each other within the walls while the Romans watched in amazement from outside. The temple was then totally destroyed by the Romans but the city did continue for a further 65 years until AD 135 when a further revolt so infuriated Hadrian, the Emperor at that time, that he had it completely razed to the ground and rebuilt as a Roman city called Aelia Capitolina.
Question 2: Is there any reason to think that the problems of v 9, 10, 25 and 26 were any worse in the 1st century than previously? Or are any worse in the 21st century?
A matter of opinion – but I don’t think there is much difference. With the vast improvement in communication technology we know far more about what is happening on the other side of the world than they used to do.
Read Daniel 7:1–3, 7–14, 19–22, 27. The hearers of Jesus will have known this prophecy of Daniel well.
Question 3: What then will they have understood him to mean by the reference to the Son of Man in Luke 21: 27? In particular what encouragement will they have got from what he said?
They will have been encouraged not only by the promise that Jesus will return in great power and glory but that the figure in Daniel is representative of the people of God. They will have taken this to mean that their position would improve greatly in the age to come.
Question 4: What encouragement should persecuted Christians in one of the difficult countries of the world get from what Jesus said?
Question 5: If, on the other hand, we are in one of the easier countries in the world to be a Christian what encouragement should we get from this chapter?
It is strange that Luke does not use what Mark records in Mk 13:32–36.
Question 6: What are the motives of those who ignore those verses and make confident but erroneous predictions? How should we react to such things?