by Bill Spaans:
In chapter 21 Dr. Luke records a lengthy prophetic proclamation by Jesus that we earlier skipped over. It is fitting that we end our consideration of Luke’s gospel by looking at what Jesus said about the future.
As is the case for most prophetic statements in the Bible, there was a “near future” application of Jesus’ words and a “far future” application. So, for example, the prophet Daniel lived from 620–538 B.C (remember we are counting backwards here, moving towards the birth of Christ). He prophesized a “desolating sacrilege” in the Temple, which in fact did occur in 167 B.C. In that year Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of Syria, desecrated the Temple by sacrificing pigs on an altar to Zeus. Daniel prophesied the defeat of this Syrian empire, which also occurred. So, Daniel’s prophesies had a “near future” application. In addition, however, the prophecies of Daniel are also reflected in the Revelation of John, which describes what will happen at Jesus’ second coming, a “far future” application of events still
So too Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple, which was soon to come. We read (vs5,6 & 32)
“Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’”
“Truly I tell you; this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”
History records that the temple was in fact destroyed in 70 AD when many of the disciples were still alive. This was the “near future” application of Jesus’ prophecies. These events ushered in the age of the Gentiles. As we read in (vs.24)
“Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
A consequence of the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem was that the followers of Christ were scattered across the Mediterranean, and with them they took the good news of the gospel. When Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” He really meant it! And the destruction of Jerusalem ensured that it would happen.
But what about the “far future” application of Jesus’ prophetic statements? Jesus said (vs 27&28)
“At that they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
This part of the prophecy has not yet come about. When will this happen? Jesus says (vs29-31)
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
The Bible frequently uses the symbol of the fig tree to represent the nation of Israel. And we know that the nation of Israel was again re established in 1948. So, are we now in the end times? There has been much speculation about when and how that will ultimately occur. But Jesus said (Matt. 24:36) “about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
So, when will Jesus finally return? The truth is we do not really know. In the meantime, however we do have His directive – to go and make disciples. May He find us faithful in doing so when He does return. And to God be the glory, great things He has done!