THE SON OF MAN’S ARRIVAL - IN POWER AND GLORY
Luke 21:1-38, Key Verse 21:27
“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory.”
In this passage we learn about being ready for the Second Coming of Jesus. The first time Jesus came to this world he was a humble servant, but in his Second Coming his full power and glory as God will be revealed. In the gospels Jesus calls himself repeatedly the Son of Man, with Son and Man capitalized. It is a reference to the Book of Daniel which describes an exalted deity who has the appearance of a person, but he is actually God in human form. In this passage we learn that his arrival will be marked by many key events and signs, and he tells us what these signs are so we can be ready. There will be much faith and spiritual preparation required on our part. May God help us to hear Jesus’ words in this passage and be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus.
First, The Poor Widow’s Faith
In the first part of this passage Jesus observes two kinds of people giving their offerings at the main temple in Jerusalem. He first saw rich people making their offerings. They were noticeably rich, probably because of their clothes and outward appearance. Usually rich people like to have something that says “I’m rich and you are not” and among themselves they have a hierarchy of who is more rich. These days you hear of the size of a celebrity’s yacht often mentioned, Connor McGregor has a 300 foot yacht, and Jeff Bezos’ yacht is 415 feet long. So Jeff Bezos defeats Connor McGregor by 115 feet. The rich people in this passage probably felt good making their offering publicly, so there was somewhat of a display of wealth. While Jesus was watching, a widow was there approaching the temple treasury. She was “poor”, as the Bible describes her. She looked out of place because she had a simple and plain appearance she was not rich. The amount of money that was in her hand was visible too. Just as the widow looked different, the amount of money in her hand looked different. It was only two copper coin. Verse 2 says these two coins were “very small.” These small copper coins were a form of currency used by Jewish people at the time called a lepton. They were different from other coins that were made of silver called a denarius. A denarius was a days wages and worth more than a hundred of the small copper coins (lepton).
The character of this widow was remarkable, she was poor, living on her own with a fixed amount of money and yet she gave what little she had. She overcame public humiliation to make a small offering. The small copper coins only made a small clinking noise, instead of a big clinking noise like the larger ones given by rich people. Because of her circumstances she could have had a reason to think negatively, or to think like a victim, but she didn’t. She could have thought the temple should take care of her, but instead she gave her small offering which was all she had. This woman appeared small and her coins were small, but her heart was big. Jesus took notice of her and commended her because she was actually very generous. In proportion what she gave was greater than what the rich people gave.
It is interesting that Jesus was watching the people who were giving their offerings, and even looking at their hands to see the amount of money they were about to donate. To some it would seem Jesus should be minding his own business. But because Jesus is our Lord and our Savior, everything we do is his business. He is watching our actions and looking at our hearts too. Our actions reveal what is in our hearts. Generous hearts will have generous actions, and vice versa, stingy hearts will have stingy actions. God loves it when we give to him like this widow, without reservation or calculation, and beyond pragmatic thinking. Faith is actually the opposite of pragmatic, and it is not logical either. Why? As Hebrews Chapter 11 verse 1 says, faith is being sure we will receive what we do not see. To give our time, effort and money to build God’s church or God’s temple is a way to live a blessed life, and this takes faith. And we know, from hundreds of stories in the Bible, that faith is required to come to God. Jesus takes notice of you when you have faith and he is pleased, like he was pleased with this widow. If you want to please God, give even when you feel you cannot give. Step out in faith. You will become what you believe, if you believe you are blessed, you will be blessed. Amen
Second, Signs of the End Times and Warnings
As we saw in Luke chapter 19 Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem and the people lined the roads and praised him. They welcomed him to the city, and said “Welcome Jesus.” The disciples were from Galilee a rustic area 40 miles north, a very far distance to walk on foot. So they did not see Jerusalem often or some perhaps had never seen it. Matthew’s gospel also covers this passage and says they were fascinated by buildings in Jerusalem. They probably felt like suburban people feel when they walk down Michigan Avenue or when they take the architectural boat tour on the Chicago River, “that’s the Wrigley Building.” The disciples looked like tourists taking lots of pictures wearing Burmuda shorts and knee high socks while walking in this cosmopolitan area. Then their eyes became fixated on the main temple. The temple in Jerusalem was adorned with beautiful architecture and some of it had gold decorations glittering in the sun. It’s construction was amazing, it’s largest stone was 45 feet long, 11 feet wide, and weighed 600 tons. I’m glad our Bible house renovation did not involve moving stones like that. While they stood in awe, the disciples might have forgot why Jesus brought them to Jerusalem in the first place. Their focus was on the material world and they got a little distracted. The temple might have looked beautiful, but we know that Jesus revealed it’s corruption when he cleansed the temple and drove out corrupt businessmen that he compared to “robbers.” So it was all a venier, a mirage, an illusion, or “deception” might even be a good word too.
How easy it is to be fascinated by things of the world and forget about godly things. This longing for something awesome, something lasting, and permanent is actually our underlying desire for the kingdom of God. Yet we still get distracted by other things, other than God’s kingdom. Some are in awe of large church buildings that are commonly called “mega churches” that have everything, they even have coffee shops inside. They do good things to share the gospel however the focus of a person should not be on the physical building itself. The very first worship service of Jesus was held Christmas Day in a manger, on a cold night, with farm animals nearby. So we know that physical things and their appearance do not matter so much to God.
At this moment, Jesus helped his distracted disciples and said to them, “the time will come when not one stone will be left upon another. Every one of them will be thrown down.” This was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the temple and the city of Jerusalem. The people of Israel tried to rebel against Rome and they were crushed. According to Roman historian Josephus, over one million people were killed and another 100,000 enslaved. The temple of Jerusalem was completely destroyed as well. Jesus words tell us a spiritual truth, that nothing in this physical world lasts forever. Not even granite stone which comes from majestic mountains. It is often used for monuments, statues, and for making long lasting buildings. One day it will all be gone, even the granite mountains they came from will be gone. Likewise, one day all traces of everything we had or everything we accomplished will no longer be here. Even our Facebook pictures of how young we looked ten years ago will also be gone, sadly. So we should not be distracted by things that do not last. Jesus’ words “the time will come when not one stone will be left upon another” turns our attention to the permanence of God and his kingdom, which lasts forever. This is what we really long for and what we should seek.
The disciples wanted to know when these things would happen, and what would be the signs they are about to occur? In other words they wanted a heads up so they could be ready in their own way. Maybe they wanted to pack their bug out bags and start doomsday preparations. At that time the destruction of the Jewish temple was regarded as the end of the world, so to them it was very serious to talk about the destruction of the temple. Jesus answered their question and intertwined his answer concerning the temple’s destruction with the final end times for the entire world which is written about in Revelations. There are common themes for both of these historical events. The answer given here is a little complex so we must study it carefully. Jesus wants his disciples, and ourselves to have a sense of history. To look at the past and what has been fulfilled, and know that more prophecies will be fulfilled in the future. If we know this we can be prepared. What some call doomsday preparations is a little different than what some might think based on this passage, and requires spiritual preparation. Let’s see what Jesus says to his disciples and to us about these very significant historical events and how to prepare for them.
In verse 8, we learn that during the end times there will be false Messiah’s looking to deceive God’s people. Many will claim they are Christ but they are really leading others to destruction. The book of Revelations says the anti-Christ will deceive many. In other words, what this false Christ teaches will sound good, to many. It won’t sound bad, it will sound good. It might even sound peaceful, practical, tolerant, liberating, etc, all good things from a common sense point of view. But underneath these teachings will be markedly anti-Christian teachings also. We see today there are secular philosophies which claim to have peace and unity and love, and yet have an undertone of extreme hatred for God and Christianity. Anything that gives a false promise of solving all the worlds problems and at the same time is against the Word of God is lie. People who follow this will be easily misled by false teachings in the end times and they will not be following Christ. This is a warning from Jesus, not to be deceived.
In verses 9-11 we find mention of wars, uprisings, conflicts, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and extreme suffering of displaced and needy people and many will die. We are on the brink of the largest global conflict the world has seen in 80 years with Russia who has invaded Ukraine in a large scale battle. Some say we are now a hair trigger away from World War III. And alliances are forming of nations that want the destruction of Israel, in particular middle eastern countries such as Iran who have powerful alliances. Some Biblical scholars believe this is the ancient land of Gog and Magog mentioned in the Bible that seeks to destroy God’s people, but this is speculation. We only know for sure that these hostile armies are east of Israel, and they are called “kings of the East” and will be part of a massive global war which will result in the destruction of a third of the population of the world. At this time we must pray first of all pray for peace and an immediate end to all conflict in the world. But yet we must also be cautious of the possibility of many ominous prophecies being fulfilled so we can be spiritually ready.
Jesus warns his disciples in verses 12-19 about persecution. He warned them they would be persecuted, and even put in prison because of Jesus’ name (11-12). This persecution comes from religious and political sources, as well as through close relationships. The disciples would be betrayed even by their parents, brothers and sisters, and friends (16a). It would be so severe that some of them would be put to death. Persecution will characterize the end times as well. The main instigator of persecution and false accusations against us is Satan, and he is described in the Bible as a constant menace, but he is finally defeated by Jesus. Revelations 12:10a says, “the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” There will be great tribulation for believers whose faith will be tested. But those who hold firm to their testimony about Jesus will overcome. They should not worry about what to say because God will give them words to say which no one can contradict. Those who are firm in their testimony will have victory, Revelations 12:11 says “They triumphed …by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” Persecution appears bad but it is at that time God will use our testimony for good purposes. Just as the early church grew a lot after the persecution of Stephen in the Book of Acts. What is your testimony about Jesus? Do you believe in Jesus as your Savior? I hope so. If you do, you must hold firm to it even during the time of persecution and God will give you victory.
Third, the Son of Man in Power and Glory (20-38).
After predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus expanded his scope to describe the signs that would precede his coming again. These are not local signs, but cosmic signs in the sun moon and stars that cause irreversible destruction. When these signs happen, it means the end has come.
Look at verse 27. “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Jesus came into the world the first time, he was quiet and humble. He was born as a baby and laid in a manger. He was despised, rejected and at the end, even crucified. After he died, people thought they would never see him again. But by the power of God he was raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. And he will come again. This time, he will come in power and great glory. Luke 19 tells us that that whole world will see him at once and it will be a spectacular event. In verse 27 Jesus is telling us who he is, that he is God. Jesus will give us a crown of righteousness, glory and life, and we will be with Jesus forever. What a glorious event! This is the hope of believers. This hope will not disappoint us. This hope gives us inner strength to endure all kinds of hardships while we live in this world.
When we see these signs, what should we do? Jesus said, “…stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (28). At times we may want to have our head down with feelings of despair. But Jesus urges us, “…stand up, lift up your heads…” When we have Jesus’ hope in our hearts, even in the midst of trouble and hardship, we can live with a sense of victory in this world.
In conclusion Jesus tells a parable and gives some final warnings. The parable of the fig tree indicates that when we see sprouting leaves we know that summer is near (30). Likewise with discerning hearts we can know when these things will happen and we can be ready. We can be ready by focusing on living a godly life, repenting of sins, serving Christ, and through prayer and especially Bible study. Not by living a party lifestyle which makes people anxious and distracted. May God help each of us to be discerning servants of God who are ready.