In Luke chapter 21 we have Jesus speaking to his followers giving is farewell address. Jesus knows his time to be with them is coming to an end, so like all great leaders he wants to give them some final instructions.
12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me.
Jesus lets his followers know they will be persecuted because they follow him. I don’t think we want to make the assumption that God is the one causing the persecution. Rather we might acknowledge Jesus divinity to know the heart of humanity and know what lies ahead for his followers. More importantly I would like to point out Jesus point that his followers will be persecuted. Often we assume because we follow Jesus our lives are suppose to be free from persecution or struggle. Jesus never promised his followers freedom from difficulty, he promised he would be with them in that difficulty.
14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
Here is some good advice. Make up your mind before trouble times where you will put your faith, and who you will trust.
You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.
Here we need to acknowledge some will hate us simply because we believe in Jesus. However, we must be careful not to hate them back. Jesus says they will put some of his followers to death, but, not a hair on their head will perish. This life is not the end game. There is an existence beyond this life that makes this life pale in comparison. This is the great hope Jesus gives. We may have trouble in this life, but this life is temporary and there is a life beyond this temporary existence that is eternal and glorious. So, stand firm, and you will win!
20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 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. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 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. 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.
Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem which happened in 70 A.D. forty years after Jesus ascension. Jesus was warning his followers of some very dark times lie ahead for the city of Jerusalem.
Jesus statement in verse 22 is hard to hear. “For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”
What does Jesus mean by “time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written”?
There was much written by the latter prophets concerning God’s judgement upon Jerusalem. Here are some thoughts:
The destruction of Jerusalem was foretold as the end of the sacrificial system.
In the Old Testament God established a covenant with Abraham (Ge 15) which included his descendants. The custom of covenants in ancient times was a blood covenant or contract. In that covenant it would be established if the lesser party broke the covenant they would pay a price, often times was death. However, when God established his covenant with Abraham he declared if Abraham’s descendants (humanity) break the terms of the covenant that God himself would pay the price. Throughout the Old Testament God established animal sacrifice as payment for breaking the covenant. The animal sacrifices accomplished two purposes - 1) They fulfilled the covenant terms, 2) They were a sign pointing to Jesus sacrifice on the cross.
Jesus death on the cross was a fulfillment of scripture and the last and final sacrifice. God destroyed the Temple area so animal sacrifices can no longer be offered. There hasn’t been an animal sacrifice in Jerusalem since 70 A.D. The only way the Jewish people could begin to offer animal sacrifices again is to rebuild the Temple. However, there is an Islamic mosque built on the old foundation of the Temple. God has ensured the Temple will not be rebuild and animal sacrifices will not be offered again. The punishment Jesus speaks of is a judgement upon the old sacrificial system. Here, the word punishment refers to coming to an end.
2. The destruction of Jerusalem was God stating He is inclusive not exclusive.
God never meant for his people to exclude other nations. He wanted his people to be different and welcome strangers. However, the Jewish people in biblical times failed to embrace the gentiles, (non-Jewish people). The Jewish people of the Bible acted like they had a monopoly on God and that God only cared for them. Jerusalem was the city of God, and the destruction of Jerusalem was God rejecting their exclusive behavior and stating to the Gentile nations (world) you are included.
Here we are 2000 years after Jesus message and many christians struggle like the Jewish people of old to be inclusive. Jesus made it clear in his teachings that we are not to exclude. We are not capable of making the judgement of who is in and who is out. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to welcome ALL into our fellowship.
3. The destruction of Jerusalem could be God bringing judgement upon a nation.
I’m not qualified to speak on God’s judgement upon nations, but there are examples in scripture were God brought judgement upon nations for the evil they imposed upon other nations and people. These judgements came only after decades of grace and warning.
When we witness atrocities like what we are seeing in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Ukraine one often ask, “God when are you going to do something?” When leaders like Putin invade a sovereign nation killing its citizens wanting to rule over them against their will that is a crime against God and against humanity. We might be asking, God when are you going to stop Putin? God’s answer might be when you stand in the gap to stop him.