Luke 21:1-38

This chapter contains predictive prophecy. It tells us about things that God is going to do in the future. We are going to see prophecies of the destruction of the temple, of wars and rumors of wars, or tribulations and famines and false messiahs. Finally, we are going to see a promise of the second coming of the Son.

Some of the prophecies have already come to pass. Some of them are being fulfilled today. And some are yet to be fulfilled. This entire panorama begins with something that seems at first glance to be out of place. It begins with a woman’s gift.



And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. (Luke 21:1).

The Temple was organized into a series of courts. As you initially entered the Temple area, you found find yourself in the Court of the Gentiles. This was a vast area the size of several football fields. This was the place where the buying and selling and the money changing took place that Jesus had disrupted on the previous day.

Surrounding the Court of the Gentiles were a series of "porches" or cloisters through which ran double rows of Corinthian pillars, each cut from marble and measuring 37 feet in height and covered by a flat roof. The entire court was paved with marble. The southern of these porches was known as "Solomon’s Porch" (Acts 3:11).

This court derived its name from the fact that Gentiles were permitted into this area provided they conducted themselves in a reverent manner.

A low wall ran completely around the Temple structure. It had periodic gates and an stone inscription located at each gate. Archaeologists have discovered two of these inscriptions and they read as follows:

No outsider shall enter the protective enclosure around the sanctuary. And whoever is caught will only have himself to blame for the ensuing death.

Beyond the Dividing Wall was a flight of 14 steps that led up to a terrace on which stood the inner wall of the Temple. This inner wall had a number of gates, but the main gate was located on the eastern side. This was the "Beautiful Gate" (Acts 3:2). There were 12 steps leading up to this gate. The doors of the gate were made of Corinthian brass and mounted on massive hinges. Entering through this gate brought one into the Court of the Women.

The Court of the Women was not exclusive to women. It was called this because this was as far within the Temple as women were permitted to enter. The court was surrounded by colonnades. Along the walls there were thirteen jars which served as receptacles for various offerings. Worshipers would come in and drop their offering into one of the jars.

Offerings which were mandated


The Half-shekel tribute

Offerings left over from sacrifices


Sin offering



Trespass offering


Turtledove offering

Voluntary Offerings


Offerings of birds


Pigeon offering


Nazarite offerings




Cleansed leper




General voluntary offering


Golden vessels

As our passage opens, Jesus is in this area of the Court of the Women known as the Treasury. He is near to these jars where worshipers would come to make their offerings. He was watching the offerings and, in particular, he was watching the rich bring their offerings.

Why is this significant? It is significant by what Luke wrote in the previous verses. They are the closing verses of Luke 20.

And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows' houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." (Luke 20:45-47).

There were those who made a great show of their goodness and their spiritual authority. They sought honor and prestige. The scribes were in that category, but they were not the only ones. There was also a temptation for the rich to engage in this sort of activity. In contrast, there came a woman to present her offering.

1. The True.

And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." (Luke 21:2-4).

It is bad in any era to be a widow. I can think of fewer things more tragic than the death of a mate. But to be a widow in that day was even worse. And to be a poor widow was a situation in which there was little hope. Widows had little financial recourse and a poor widow was often reduced to begging.

Here was a poor widow who had only two copper coins to her name. But she determined to give them to the Lord. The result was that it was accounted of the Lord as though she had given a vast sum.

2. The Temporary

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, 6 "As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down." (Luke 21:5-6).

The words of Jesus regarding the Temple ring out as a contrast to what has just happened. A poor widow woman comes and brings her tiny gift that has eternal consequences. Over against this is the magnificent splendor of the Temple that will be so dismantled that scholars will engage in speculation as to exactly where it was located.

The Widow Woman

The Temple

So poor that she had only two copper coins

Luke points of that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts

Her gift was of great merit

It will be completely destroyed

Jesus was impressed with the beauty of her gift

The disciples were impressed with the beauty of the architecture

We tend to be impressed with splendor and majesty and beauty. But all earthly things filled with splendor and majesty and beauty are destined for destruction. Only that which is spiritually approved shall last forever.

The words of Jesus were literally and dramatically fulfilled within that very generation. The Jews revolted in A.D. 66 and were initially successful in completely routing the Roman legion that was sent to quell the uprising. It was not long after this that the Roman general Vespasian landed in Palestine with two legions while his son, Titus, marched up from Egypt with a third legion. The next three years were spent in bitter warfare all throughout Israel. When Vespasian was recalled to Rome to become the new emperor, he left Titus in charge of all of the Roman armies.

In January of A.D. 70, Titus marched on Jerusalem and surrounded the city. The Romans erected a siege wall around the entire city so that no one could escape. Anyone who was caught was crucified atop the wall. It was said that on any given day the wall was ringed with crosses of those being executed. The Romans finally broke into the city in August and took the Temple Mount. After entering the Temple and the Holy of Holies, Titus had the Temple burnt to the ground and the entire outlying structure demolished. There was literally not one stone left standing upon another.

There is no trace left today of the Temple. It has been so obliterated that archaeologists and scholars debate over exactly where it was located.



And they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, when therefore will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" (Luke 21:7).

The words of Jesus must have come as a complete shock. Do you remember the shock you felt on September 11, 2001 when you saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center fall to the ground? It was with no less shock that the disciples heard the words of Jesus. They ask two questions.

1. Question #1: "Teacher, when therefore will these things be?"

This first question is going to be answered in verses 8-11 when Jesus says that the end does not follow immediately (21:9). He will then go on to describe some of the events that will lead up to the fulfillment of His words as well as some of the things that will follow after.

2. Question #2: "What will be the sign when these things are about to take place?"

They ask for the single sign, but Jesus is going to give them a number of signs. Have you ever been given directions on how to get somewhere and the person gave you such detailed directions as to tell you things that you would see on the way? Why did they do that? It was to let you know that you were still on the right path. Jesus does the same thing here. He will give a number of signs so that He followers will know that they have not missed anything and that all the things that are happening along the way are supposed to be happening.



And He said, "See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is at hand’; do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately."

Then He continued by saying to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11).

The point here is that there are going to be a lot of things that are going to happen that might make it look as though the end is about to come, but in the words of verse 9, "The end does not follow immediately."

You have only to walk into any Christian bookstore in America and you will find hoards of books pointing out the signs of the soon coming of the end. But Jesus says, "When you see wars and disturbances and earthquakes and plagues and famines and terrors and even what look to be heavenly signs, don’t you be shaken because all of those things are going to come and go before the coming of the end."

When I was a youngster in Bible college, I saw the best-seller by Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth in which he pointed out all of the wars and all of the earthquakes and plagues and famines and other perceived signs and he said that Christ must be coming back real soon.

More recently, we have seen terror and terrorists and skyscrapers falling to the ground and the threat of plagues and other horrors. In the face of all of these "signs" we need to take the words of Jesus to heart that "these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately."

Here is the point. Every one of those things described by Jesus was fulfilled in the first century. And every one of those things has been fulfilled within our last century. And they are being fulfilled today just as promised.

What is to be our reaction to these things? Jesus mentions two: "See to it that you be not misled." It is possible to look at earth-shattering events and to be misled by them, thinking that this is it, that the end has come. Are these events significant? Certainly. But they are only signposts along the way telling us that we are on the right track. As we see these come and go, Jesus exhorts us, "Do not be terrified." The reason you do not have to fear is because God is in control.



"But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

"But you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all on account of My name. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:12-18).

We saw in the preceding verses that God is in control in the face of national and natural calamities. Now we see also that God is in control even in the face of persecution of His people.

Notice that this persecution is described as taking place before all these things (21:12). Before the coming of false messiahs or wars and rumors of wars or plagues or famines, there would first come persecution of the people of God. Luke himself testifies to the realization of this prophecy when we read through the book of Acts. The story of the early church is a story of persecution.

The key word in the book of Acts is the word "witness." It is seen in Acts 1:8 when Jesus says to His disciples, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My WITNESSES both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." When you think of a witness, your mind takes you to a courtroom. It is not mere happenstance that a great deal of the book of Acts deals with judicial proceedings. This book is nothing less than an official record of the witnesses for the defense in the case of the world versus Jesus.

The same word that is translated WITNESSES in Acts 1:8 is found here in Luke. Jesus says that it will lead to an opportunity for your TESTIMONY.


"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

"Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:20-24).

When Titus came to Jerusalem at the beginning of A.D. 70, the Jews from the surrounding countryside took refuge within the city. It was packed with refugees and there was not enough food to feed them all. Starvation ensued during the siege because the people had ignored the warnings of Jesus to flee the city.

The warnings of Jesus now move from the general to the specific. This specific warning deals with the city of Jerusalem. There would come a time when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies. That would serve as the signal that the destruction of the city was at hand. This would take place in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled (21:22).

This brings us to a question. Are we to view ALL of the prophecies of the Bible as having been fulfilled in the events of A.D. 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem? There are those who believe this is the case. Their doctrinal system is known as PRETERISM. Let me go on record by stating that I am not a Preterist. I do not feel that all of the prophecies of the Bible or even all of the prophecies of this particular chapter were completely fulfilled and finished in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

How do I know that this is the case? I know it because of the words of verse 24. That verse gives me a prophecy that extends beyond the events of A.D. 70. It tells of how Jerusalem will fall and its inhabitants shall be led away into captivity and then it goes on to tell us that Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

What is this "times of the Gentiles?" It is seen in contrast to the earlier age when the focus of heaven was upon the Jews. It is that time when the gospel is not limited to Jerusalem and Israel, but when it is going out to all the world. It is the days in which we are living today.

Notice that Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Jerusalem is still under the foot of the Gentiles today. But there is coming a day when that will no longer be the case. There is coming a day when the King is going to return and when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that a Jewish carpenter is Lord.



"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

"But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:25-28).

The Preterist looks at these verses and postulates a reference to something that God did in A.D. 70. Can this refer only to the 70 A.D. event? Is this vision of the Son of Man coming in a cloud only symbolic of His act of judgment against Jerusalem? I do not believe so.

When Paul describes the "coming of the Lord" in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, he uses several of the same terms as are found here and in the parallel passages of Matthew 24 and Mark 13.

Matthew 24

Mark 13

Luke 21

1 Thessalonians 4

They shall see the Son of man coming (24:30; 13:26; 21:27)

The Lord Himself will descend from heaven (4:16)

...with a great trumpet (24:31)


With the trumpet of God (4:16)

On the clouds of the sky (24:30)

In the clouds (13:26)

In a cloud (21:27)

We... shall be caught up together with them in the clouds (4:17)

He will send forth his angels... and they will gather together His elect (24:31)

He will send forth His angels, and will gather together His elect (13:27)


We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord (4:17)

Do you see it? Paul uses the very language which Jesus used as he sets forth the truth of the Second Coming. This is an indication that Paul is there speaking of the same event of which Jesus is speaking here in Luke 21.

To be sure, there is a sense in which the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 prefigures the final judgment that is to come at the end of the age. In this sense, the destruction of Jerusalem can be regarded as a type and a shadow that pictures the end of the world.



And He told them a parable: "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 Even so you, too, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Luke 21:29-33).

It is often held that the fig tree is a symbol for Israel. From this it is often maintained that the parable of the fig tree is pointing to a future regathering of Israel. The problem with such a view is that, while such a symbol could have been used in ancient times, the Scriptures are noteably lacking in making such a connection. Furthermore, Jesus does not limit Himself to the fig tree in this parable. He points to the fig tree and ALL the trees. The point is not to necessarily single out the fig tree or one particular sign. It is all the signs that are in view.

Here is the principle. When you see the signs, you know that the fulfillment is close by. By the same token, Jesus says that when you see the signs of which He has been speaking, you know that something significant is about to take place regarding the kingdom.

The words of Jesus in verse 32 have been the subject of some controversy: This generation will not pass away until all things take place. Of what is this speaking? Several interpretations have been suggested.

"Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation." (Matthew 23:34-36).

Notice that the people of "this generation" seem to include those who put Zechariah to death in the days of the Old Testament.

Which of these is the correct view? I do not know. They each have strengths and weaknesses. I am personally inclined to hold to the first view with the understanding that the A.D. 70 event was merely an initial fulfillment of the prophecy which would be ultimately concluded in a future day.



"Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36).

Why did Jesus give all of this information about the fall of Jerusalem and about the end of the world? It wasn’t so that we could argue eschatology or draw up our timelines and charts to beat each other over the head with them. Rather it was so that we could be ready.

I know all about readiness. I’ve made a career out of readiness. In the fire department, we have a book of preplans. These are written plans containing information on how we have planned to fight a fire in a particular area. Prophecy is like that. It tells you things about the future to prepare you.

"But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them..." (John 16:4).

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).

The point is that, if you are ready for the "tribulation" that Christ says we have in this world, then it will not take you be surprise.

* * * * *

Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. 38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him. (Luke 21:37-38).

During the week that Jesus is in Jerusalem, the point is made that he was not actually residing within the city, but instead that he was spending each night on the Mount of Olives. Why is this significant? Perhaps it is because He is the king who never actually came to reside within His city. He was even crucified outside the city. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.

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