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“And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And He said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” —Luke 21:1-24.
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And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.” There are two important things which we learn from a consideration of this incident. The first is that our blessed Lord is deeply interested in what we give to God. Sometimes there is a tendency, even on the part of Christians, to belittle the importance of giving; and there is a repugnance to taking up offerings in Christian services, as though it savors too much of worldly commercialism. But we need to remember that all through the history of God’s dealings with His people, He has looked to them to give of their substance for the carrying on of His work. It is a recognition of our discipleship if we bring our offerings to Him from time to time. It was so in Israel of old; it has been so all through the centuries. Our Lord was sitting over against the treasury, taking note of what the people contributed. He is still observant of what His people give to Him; He knows whether or not it is out of love to Him that we give; He knows whether or not those who give do so sacrificially and with real self-denial.
In the second place, we learn from this passage that heaven’s arithmetic—heaven’s method of bookkeeping—is altogether different from ours. We generally judge people by the amount of money they give. If a rich man gives a large sum we say he has given much; but if one brings in little we may pay scant attention to it. God’s way of reckoning is quite otherwise. He takes note, not so much of the amount given, as of what is left. A rich man might give thousands and have hundreds of thousands left; another person, in lowly circumstances, might give a very small amount, but because he had very little left for himself it would go down as a large contribution. The Lord Jesus saw the poor widow casting in two mites, a very small sum. Two mites, we are told, amount to a farthing, a very infinitesimal coin, even of less value than a British farthing. Yet Jesus said, “Of truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” I take it that was her whole day’s pay. She worked all day and this was all she had for it, and she put it all into the treasury of the Lord. No one giving thus to God ever suffers because of it. God will reimburse him in His own way and time. He will be no one’s debtor; He will make it up in some way for whatever we give to Him.
We must next turn to consider Luke’s account of our Lord’s great prophetic discourse: “And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts.” At that time Jerusalem was a great city, as cities were in the Orient. It was surrounded by a strong wall. Its large buildings were beautiful, particularly the glorious temple on which Herod had spent millions of dollars in his endeavor to make it as grand as the temple of Solomon before that was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Naturally, the Jews were very proud of the temple and the other buildings; and the apostles evidenced the same spirit as they turned to Jesus and sought to impress Him with their architectural magnificence. But He saw it all with prophetic eyes in a way they could not see. He saw what was going to happen to these buildings. He declared, “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” It must have appeared most unlikely that such words would ever be fulfilled. Yet within the next forty years the great temple and all the other buildings of the city were leveled to the ground. Every prophecy of Scripture either has been or will be fulfilled literally as written or spoken. When the Lord Jesus told His disciples ,of these things to come they were amazed, and they asked Him, saying, “Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” In order to get His complete answer we need to read the report of this entire discourse as given in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and here in Luke 21. Luke gives an account of the circumstances which should take place before and leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem; Matthew deals particularly with what was to take place afterward, leading on to the second coming of Christ. Luke tells us something of that, but does not give us nearly as full and complete a report as Matthew does. Mark’s account is very much like that of Matthew’s, though not quite so full. In the threefold report of these words from the lips of the Lord, we have a remarkable prophecy of the things that will take place after His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. The destruction of Jerusalem, the state of the world during all the present age, and the conditions that will prevail in the time of the end—the last unfulfilled seventieth week of Daniel (chapter 9)—and the second advent in glory, are all graphically portrayed. There is nothing here about the Church, the Body of Christ, or the rapture. These were truths yet to be revealed.
“And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” History tells us that there were many deceivers who rose up in Israel, making Messianic claims, during the forty years that elapsed after the cross. The true Messiah had been rejected. The greater part of Jerusalem refused to believe that Jesus was the promised One, and so they fell readily under the influence of these false prophets. Jesus gave a general description of conditions that would prevail in the world before Jerusalem met its doom. “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.” “By and by” is one word in the Greek original, translated into three words, and is generally rendered “immediately” or “forthwith.” So what our Lord was saying is this: “There will be wars and rumors of wars, but you are not to be disturbed, because these things must happen and will happen, but the end is not yet.” It is clear from a careful study of Matthew’s report that such conditions will prevail until Christ comes back. But He never gives us these things as definite signs of the coming of the end; they are simply the natural result of the rejection of the Prince of Peace.
The better acquainted with history we become, the more we realize how literally fulfilled were the words of our Lord during that forty-year period. Then He said, “Before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.” We need only to read the Book ,of Acts to see how this prophecy had its fulfilment in connection with the early disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuted by the Jews in the synagogues and also by the Gentiles; many were put to death for His name’s sake. The Lord encouraged the disciples by assuring them that they did not need to fear: their foes could not really harm them. At the worst they could but send the disciples home to the Father’s house. Death is not evil for a child of God. They need not fear their adversaries. “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” Again we need but to turn to the Book of Acts and read how marvelously Peter, Stephen, and Paul were enabled to make their defence. We realize that the Lord Jesus did give them help by enabling them to speak just the right words at the right time under all circumstances. “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake.” In those days people looked with more suspicion upon the Christian Church and individual Christians than upon any other institution or group of people in the world. Believers were thought of as the bitterest enemies of mankind, and yet they were the representatives of the God who so loved men that He gave His only Son to be their Saviour. “But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” Did they not die? Yes. Did they not perish? No! For the moment that death came they were absent from the body and present with the Lord. So they lost nothing by being killed by their enemies; rather, death ushered them into the joys for which they had waited in hope. “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Or it might be stated, “In patience win your souls”: that is, in enduring persecution, in going through suffering for Christ’s sake they would become stronger disciples. Growth in grace comes in times of persecution and severe trial.
Next He came directly to the question as to when these things should be of which He had spoken. When would Jerusalem be destroyed and its buildings cast down? These events occurred about A.D. 70. He foresaw all this and said, “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” Many who were living when He spoke these words would see the armies of Titus beleaguering the city. Jesus gave instruction to them: “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.” Josephus is the authority for the statement that when the Christians saw Jerusalem compassed with armies they remembered the words of the Lord, and they left Jerusalem and fled to the city of Pella, where they were protected by the Roman Government, so that they did not have to endure the judgment that came upon Jerusalem and its guilty people who “knew not the time of their visitation.”
“For these be days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” See how clearly our blessed Lord looked down through the centuries and observed what would take place in connection with Israel, God’s earthly people, and their city, Jerusalem. The city was destroyed. Thousands upon thousands were slaughtered; the most awful condition imaginable prevailed in Jerusalem during the time of the Roman siege. And when at last the armies of Titus entered the city—although he, himself, gave the command that the temple was not to be destroyed—we are told by Josephus that a drunken soldier flung a lighted torch into the temple area and within a little while the temple burst into flames, and it was destroyed completely. Today where that temple once stood there is a mosque; where the smoke of sacrifice once ascended to Jehohah, Mohammedans meet to join in the praise of their false prophet.
Those of the Jews who were not destroyed were led away captives into all nations. Moses long before had predicted that they should be sold into slavery to the Gentiles, until “no man shall buy you” (Deut. 28:68); and history tells us that many thousands of Jews were thus sold. The slave-markets of the world were glutted; and strong able-bodied Jewish men were offered for sale in the great cities of the Roman Empire, in Alexandria, Corinth, Rome itself, and other cities, at prices so low that it was almost impossible to make a profit on them.
Jesus declared, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Notice, there is a limit to Jerusalem’s degradation. The city shall not be trodden down forever; but just until the times of the Gentiles be completed. The expression “the times of the Gentiles,” found only here, covers the entire period during which the Jews—Jerusalem and the land of Palestine—are under Gentile domination. This began with Nebuchadnezzar, about 606 B.C. It will go on until the Lord Jesus comes again to deliver His earthly election, at the close of the great tribulation. Meantime, the truth of the Church as the Body of Christ has been revealed; and while Israel is rejected nationally and their holy city dominated by the Gentiles, God is taking out from Jew and Gentile a people for His name. These constitute the Church of God, the fellowship of His Son, and must be removed from the earth ere the time of Jacob’s trouble, the great tribulation, begins.