The Book of Luke
James J. Barker
THE OLIVET DISCOURSE Part 3
- The Olivet Discourse covers most of Luke 21 (vss. 5—38). It is also found in Matthew 24, 25 and Mark 13.
- We will pick up tonight at verse 29, and we see that the discourse changes its focus at this point. Here our Lord gives a parable followed by an exhortation (21:29-36).
- Jesus draws a comparison with a fig tree “and all the trees” beginning to bud. In the Bible, the fig tree represents Israel.
- When the trees begin to show shoots and leaves, it is the sign “that summer is now nigh at hand” (21:30).
- And so it will be at the time of the second coming of Christ. Our Lord said that “when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”
- When these various signs are displayed, Christians can be certain that the end is near. When the Olivet Discourse is studied carefully, the fall of Jerusalem is the key that our Lord will come very soon (21:20, 24).
- Recently, Mr. Trump has named the new ambassador to Israel, a lawyer, by the name of David Friedman. While making the announcement, Mr. Trump pledged that the diplomat would work in the “eternal capital” of Jerusalem instead of in Tel Aviv.
- “Behold the fig tree…” (21:29).
- WATCH THE FIG TREE AND ALL THE TREES (21:29)
- WATCH YOURSELVES (21:34)
- WATCH AND PRAY ALWAYS (21:36)
WATCH THE FIG TREE AND ALL THE TREES (21:29).
- In the Bible, the fig tree represents Israel. On His way toward Jerusalem, our Lord cursed a barren fig tree that bore nothing but leaves.
- Matthew 21:19 says, “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”
- The rebudding of the fig tree is a sign that the Lord’s return is near (cf. Matthew 24:32-35).
- The rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948 is an indication that the fig tree is beginning to show shoots and leaves.
- Jesus said in Luke 21:32, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” There has been some debate and disagreement over what our Lord meant by the word “generation.”
- Hal Lindsey published his book on Bible prophecy, The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970. In his book, Lindsey wrote, “A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. Many scholars who have studied Bible prophecy all their lives believe that this is so.”
- Forty years have come and gone. The modern nation of Israel was established 68 years ago, so of course, Hal Lindsey was mistaken. A generation in the Bible is not necessarily “something like forty years.”
- Some people believe our Lord was referring to the generation of His day. But one cannot take Bible prophecy literally and believe that all of these signs have already been fulfilled (cf. Luke 21:25-28).
- Furthermore, when Luke wrote his Gospel (between 63-68 AD according to Scofield), more than thirty years had already passed, so that generation was passing away even as Luke wrote. So, a reference to the generation of our Lord’s day would be impossible.
- Often the term “generation” has a negative implication, meaning the current generation is evil. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached, “Save yourselves from this untoward (crooked and wicked) generation” (Acts 2:40).
- The Scofield Study Bible says, the primary definition of “generation” is “race, kind, family, stock, breed.”
- John Phillips believes that a “generation” does refer to a period of time. He says, “A ‘generation’ is not a hard and fast unit for measuring the passing of time, such as an hour, a day, a month, or a year; it is flexible. The generation that witnessed the demise of the nation of Israel ran from the time Christ spoke to A.D. 135 (approximately one hundred years). The Lord never intended us to use a generation as a means of dating His coming for the church. The date for the rapture of the church is settled in heaven, but it is a secret date. All speculations and guesses as to that date and hour are doomed to fail” (Exploring the Gospel of Luke).
- The term might simply refer to the generation of the end times.
- Jesus said in Mark 13:8, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows (literally, “birth pangs”).
- In other words, once the beginning of the birth pangs start, the Lord will soon return before that generation passes away. The same group that sees the beginnings of sorrows will see all of the prophecies fulfilled.
- Our Lord’s statement in verses 32 and 33 emphasizes that Jerusalem's destruction and His return, along with all of the cosmic signs that accompany it, are more certain than the permanence of heaven and earth.
- In the meantime, date setting is unwise. Too many Christians are looking for signs. Vance Havner was a great Baptist evangelist. He said, “I’m not looking for signs; I’m listening for a sound.”
- Vance Havner was referring to I Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.”
- Vance Havner also said, “Every time you see a scoffer who says there are no signs of His coming, you’ve just seen another sign.”
- The focus in Bible prophecy is on Israel. Jeremiah 30:7 says the tribulation period is “the time of Jacob's trouble.”
- The Lord Jesus Christ will return to Israel. He will descend upon the Mount of Olives, and He will establish His throne in Jerusalem.
- Jesus also added, “and all the trees” (Luke 21:29b). So we must keep an eye on Israel, but we should also keep an eye on Russia, and China, and Egypt, and all of the other nations.
- It is fascinating to “behold” (Luke 21:29). On the one hand, there is this big push for a one-world government as represented by the United Nations.
- But on the other hand, there has been a world-wide surge of nationalism. We saw it right here in our own recent election in November, where many voters said they have had enough globalism.
- And before that, we saw it when the UK left the European Union (“Brexit”).
- We saw it when the old Soviet Union broke up back in 1991.
- All over the worlds, scores of little nations are asserting themselves.
- Sudan, once one of the largest countries in Africa, split into two countries in 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence. The mainly Christian people in southern Sudan had been struggling for many years against rule by the Muslims (Arabs) in the north.
- Recently, President-elect Donald Trump spoke with the President of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations on his victory. They discussed the close economic, political, and security ties between the two countries, and this conversation has stirred up anger from communist China, which considers Taiwan a part of China.
- “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees” (Luke 21:29).
- All of Israel’s ancient foes are ready and waiting for an opportunity to destroy Israel (cf. Psalm 83).
- According to Ezekiel 38 and 39, “Gog (Russia), the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” will invade Israel, along with many of the Muslim countries.
- “Persia (Iran), Ethiopia, and Libya” are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:5 as part of the alliance.
WATCH YOURSELVES (21:34)
- “And take heed to yourselves…” (21:34). Our Lord’s admonition means to be alert. It means not to be caught off guard. It means not to be caught unprepared.
- It means not to be taken by surprise like the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25. The foolish virgins said to the wise virgins, “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.”
- “But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:9-13).
- “Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting (carousing), and drunkenness” (21:34) does not sound like the kind of thing Christians should be getting mixed up in! But sadly, many Christians these days think that it is perfectly acceptable to drink and dance and carry on like the worldly crowd.
- But the Bible says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1:16).
- Our Lord goes on to say, “and cares of this life,” and unfortunately many Christians are weighed down with the “cares of this life.”
- I have seen many believers start out very earnest and zealous for the Lord, but then start to backslide. They become cold and careless and worldly, and soon you start to wonder if they were ever really saved in the first place (cf. Luke 8:11-15). “And take heed to yourselves…” (Luke 21:34).
WATCH AND PRAY ALWAYS (21:36).
- The Lord Jesus has told us to be ready, and He told us to watch “and pray always” (21:36).
- Watching and praying lead to endurance. Watching means that our eyes are expectant and looking for the Lord's return, focused on the fact that he has promised to return and bring us to himself.
- Our Lord said in John 14:3, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
- Praying means we are depending on God. We are looking to Him to give us the strength to walk in faithfulness. No matter what comes our way – religious deceivers, wars and commotions, earthquakes, and famines, and pestilences, and persecution – we know that the Lord is coming back and that He will take care of us.
- Luke 21 ends with Jesus continuing to teach in the temple. And at night He went out, and abode in the mount of Olives (21:37).
- Verse 38 says, “And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.” But just a few days later, they would demand that He be crucified (22:1-6; 23:18-21).
“For some reason the first coming of the Lord Jesus is politically correct, at least to some extent, although our society is whittling away at it. However, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is not politically correct. It is popular to sentimentalize the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not popular to proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The world is very eager to embrace a baby in a manger, but not at all interested in embracing a sovereign Lord coming in power and glory out of the sky to judge the world. And yet, when our Lord was ready to leave this earth, He said, ‘I will come again,’ physically, literally, historically just as He came the first time. The first time He came as a baby to save sinners. The second time He comes in full deity and glory to judge sinners and to establish His kingdom.” John MacArthur