Then He looked up, and here were some of these rich men
ostentatiously casting their money into the temple treasury, and
amongst them came a poor widow casting in her two mites. We must not
allow the break of the chapters to divorce in our minds these opening
verses from the closing two of Luke 20. The widow was presumably one of
those whose "house" had been devoured, yet instead of repining, she
cast her last two mites into the temple treasury. Under these
circumstances her gift was truly a great one, and the Lord pronounced
it to be so. She went to the utmost limit; casting in her all.
Nor must we divorce this touching incident from the verses that
follow, particularly verse 6. The widow expressed her devotion to God
by casting her two mites into the collection for the upkeep of the
temple fabric; yet the Lord proceeds to foretell its total destruction.
Already it was displaced by the presence of the Lord. God was in
Christ, not in Herod's temple. In her understanding the widow was, as
we should say, behind the times; yet this did not mar the Lord's
approval of her gift. Whole-hearted devotion He does appreciate, even
if the expression of it is not marked by complete intelligence. This
should be a great comfort to us.
Luke now gives us the Lord's prophetic discourse, putting on record
that part of it which specially answered the disciples' question, as
recorded in verse 7. As Matthew's account shows, both their question
and the Lord's answer contained in them a good deal more than Luke puts
on record. Here the question is as to the time of the overthrow of the
temple, and the sign of it. The answer divides itself into two parts:
verses 8-24, events that led up to the destruction and treading down of
Jerusalem by the Romans, verses 25-33, the appearing of the Son of Man
at the end of the age.
It is very noticeable how the Lord presents the whole matter not as
a mass of details, appealing to our curiosity, but as predictions which
sound a note of warning, and convey instructions of the utmost
importance to His disciples. Everything is stated in a way to appeal to
our consciences and not our curiosity.
The first part of the discourse, verses 8-19, is occupied with very
personal instructions to the disciples. The Lord does indeed make
predictions. He foretells (1) the rising up of false Christs, (2) wars
and commotions, together with abnormal happenings in the physical world
around, (3) the coming of bitter opposition and persecution, even unto
death. But in each case His disciples are to be forearmed by His
warnings. They are not for one moment to be deceived by false Christs,
or follow them. They are not to be afraid of the violent movements of
men, nor imagine that these convulsions mean that the end is coming
immediately-for that is what "by and by" means here. They are to accept
the persecution as an occasion for testimony, and in testifying are not
to rely on a prepared defence but on supernatural wisdom to be granted
to them when the moment arrives.
Verse 18 is evidently intended to convey the personal and intimate
way in which God would care for them. The closing words of verse 16
show it does not mean that all of them would escape; but even if death
claimed them, all would be made good in resurrection. By patient
endurance they would win through, whether in life or in death. This
seems to be the meaning of verse 19. We can see in the Acts how these
things were fulfilled in the Apostles.
Then, verses 20-24, He predicts the desolation of Jerusalem. No word
appears here as to the setting up of "the abomination of desolation,"
for that is only to happen at the end of the times of the Gentiles: all
the things the Lord specifies were fulfilled when Jerusalem was
destroyed by the Romans. Then the city was compassed with armies. Then
those who believed the words of Jesus did flee to the mountains, and so
escaped the horrors of the siege. Then there commenced "days of
vengeance" for the Jew, which will not cease for them until all that is
predicted is fulfilled. Then started the long captivity which has
persisted, and will persist, with Jerusalem under the feet of the
nations, until the times of the Gentiles are ended. Those times began
when God raised up Nebuchadnezzar, who dispossessed the last king of
David's line, and they will be ended by the crushing of Gentile
dominion at the appearing of Christ.
Consequently verse 25 carries us right on to the time of the end,
and speaks of things which will just precede His advent. There will be
signs in the heavenly regions, and on earth distress and perplexity;
"sea and waves" being expressions figurative of the masses of mankind
in a state of violent unrest and agitation. In result men will be
"ready to die through fear and expectation of what is coming" (N.Tr.).
In view of the state of things that prevails on earth as we write, it
is not difficult for us to conceive the condition of things which the
Lord thus predicts.
This is the moment when God is going to shake the heavens as well as
the earth, as Haggai predicted; and when only things which cannot be
shaken will remain. All will lead up to the public appearing of the Son
of Man in power and great glory. The day of His poverty will be over,
as well as the day of His patience; and the day of His power, of which
Psalm 110 speaks, will have fully arrived. Previous to His coming, the
hearts of unconverted men will be filled with fear: when He has come,
their worst fears will be realized, and "all kindreds of the earth
shall wail because of Him" (Rev. 1: 7).
But to His saints His coming will wear another aspect, as verse 28
makes happily manifest. For them it means a final redemption, when all
creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption. That being
so, the first signs of His advent are to fill us with glad
anticipation. We are to "look up," for the next movement that really
counts is to come from the right hand of God, where He sits. We are to
"lift up our heads," the opposite of hanging them down in depression or
fear. The very things that frighten the world are to fill the believer
with the optimism of holy expectation.
Next comes the short parable of the fig tree. It is said to be "a
parable," you notice, not a mere illustration. The fig tree stands for
the Jew nationally. For centuries he has been dead nationally, and when
at last there are signs of national reviving with them, and signs of
reviving too with other "trees," of ancient nationalities, we may know
that the millennial "summer" is near. Until that time comes there shall
be no passing away of "this generation"-by this term the Lord
indicated, we believe, that "froward generation . . . in whom is no
faith," of which Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 32: 5, 20. When the kingdom
is established, that generation will be gone.
Luke's short account of the Lord's prophecy ends with the solemn
words in which He asserted the truth and reliability of His words.
Every word of His lips has something in it, something to be fulfilled,
and is more stable than the heavens and the earth. Thus verse 33
furnishes the striking thought that the words of His lips are more
enduring than the works of His fingers.
He closed with another appeal to the consciences of His disciples,
and our consciences as well. No doubt those three verses, 34, 35, 36,
have special application to saints who will be on earth just before His
appearing, but they have a great voice for the believer today. A
multiplicity of pleasures surrounds us, and we may easily become
over-charged with a surfeit of them. On the other hand, there were
never more and greater dangers on the horizon, and our hearts may be
laden with forebodings, so that we lose sight of the day that is
coming. It is very possible to be occupied so much with the doings of
dictators and the progress of world movements that the coming of the
Lord is obscured in our minds. The word for us is, "Watch ye therefore,
and pray always." Then shall we be thoroughly awake, and ready to greet
the Lord when He comes.
In the closing verses of the chapter, Luke reminds us that He, who
thus foretold His coming again, was still the rejected One. By day
during that last week, He diligently uttered the word of God: at night,
having no home, He abode on the Mount of Olives.