LUKE 21:20-28

Is it not surprising to you that Christmas caught the world by surprise?  Is it not startling that even the Jewish
people were not looking for the advent of their Messiah?  They had received promises concerning the advent of
the Messiah for a period of almost 4000 years.  Across those years of recorded history the human family had a
promise that a Messiah was coming.  Yet, His appearance caught His world by surprise.

Even Bethlehem, which had been designated by the prophet Micah as the sight of the Messiah’s birth, was
caught by surprise.  They had known that they were to be the birth city of the Messiah for 800 years.  You would
have thought every new baby born in Bethlehem would have been scrutinized to make sure as to whether or not
He could be the Messiah.   But there is no evidence in the inspired record that there was anyone in Bethlehem
anticipating the birth of the Messiah.

Even Jerusalem was caught by surprise.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem knew the prophetic details
concerning the coming of the Messiah, but it had not motivated them to anticipate His coming.  They were rather
confident in telling the wise men from the East about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, but as far as we
know not one of them accompanied the wise men to Bethlehem to check out the birth of the new born king.  This
continued to be true through out His years of ministry.  

What did they miss?  There must have been some things that God put in their way that if they had considered
them would have caused them to anticipate the birth of the Messiah.  And there were.  The ministry of John the
Baptist was one sure sign.  They recognized John as being an unusual messenger from God, but the nation as
a whole, and in particular the religious leaders of the nation, didn’t see the sign.

Based on prophetic scriptures found in the book of Daniel, a careful study would have given them a fairly exact
date on which the Messiah was to be born.  I am confident that they studied the book of Daniel, but they did not
become personal in the application of that book and missed the time.  Bethlehem should have been a clue to
everyone.  The prophesy of Micah was so specific where the Messiah would be born, but they missed it.  

As we anticipate the second advent of our Savior, are we missing some signs?   We are part of a generation in
which most Christians accept the premise that Jesus is coming again, but it never occurs to them that He might
come during their lifetime, even that He might come soon.  It is something that they hold intellectually, but it has
never become a motivational force in their lives.  Simeon and Anna stand out as the exceptions in the Christmas
story.  These two not only knew the facts, but they had allowed the facts to mold the way they lived day by day.  
They were ready when the Messiah came to the temple.  

From the last sermon Jesus gave to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, we can pick up at least three
significant signs of the nearness of the coming of the Lord.  These things will be true in the period immediately
preceding His second advent.  You find an inspired record of that discourse in Matthew, Mark, and the Luke.  
We will focus most of our attention on Luke’s account of that discourse, even though we do reach back to
Matthew’s account for one significant statement.  What are the signs?  Is there any reason to believe that they
could be indicating that the coming of Jesus is near at hand?  

In the gospel of Matthew we have a lengthy account of our Lord’s Olivet Address.  It was given in response to a
specific question asked by one of His disciples.  The question was, “Tell us when will this happen, what will be
the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3).  The question was prompted by a statement
on His part that the beautiful temple that Herod had just finished was to be utterly destroyed.  The disciples
wanted to know when this would happen and what would be the sign concerning the end of the age.  

In response to that question Jesus gave a series of things that would happen before the fall of Jerusalem.  
These have often been focused upon and seen as the sign of the second coming of Christ.  Matthew begins his
account in verse 4 of chapter 24 and recounts these one after another.  They include the appearance of false
Messiahs and deceivers, rumors of war and wars, nation rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms,
famines and earthquakes all over the earth, Jesus called these “the beginning of birth pains.”  He then included
severe persecution upon His disciples and the increase of wickedness in the earth.  Actually, all of those things
happened before Jerusalem fell in 70AD before the onslaught of the Roman General Titus.   But in the
conclusion of that series of things that would not indicate the end, Jesus included this statement:  “And the
gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will
come” (Matt. 24:14).  This statement indicates that a conclusive sign concerning the coming of the Lord will be
the spread of the gospel “to all nations.”  

In recent years scholars have come to a new understanding of this expression “all nations.”  They have come to
understand that the word used by the Lord Jesus in this context is not thinking about nations as political entities,
but rather as tribal or ethical groupings of peoples.  The most accepted term for understanding in our day is
“people groups.”  You can have a significant people group within a nation.  In fact, our International Mission
Board has begun to strategize around people groups rather than around national entities.

In the last two decades there has been a heightened interest in getting the gospel to every people group on the
earth.  Significant progress is being made in that direction.  Evangelical Christians around the world are joining
hands and resources in a strategy to penetrate every people group on the earth with the gospel in our lifetime.  
When this has been accomplished, then this prophetic word of Jesus will have been accomplished.  

This does not mean that every person on the earth has to become a Christian before He can come nor does it
mean that every person on the earth has to hear the gospel before He can come.  It does mean that the gospel
as a witness is to penetrate every national group, every people group on the earth, and then the end will come.

One group that has been unusually effective in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the Christian and
Missionary Alliance group.  This denominational group grew out of the ministry of Dr. A. B. Simpson.  Years ago
he was being interviewed by a news correspondent who wanted to learn the explanation of their great zeal for
missions.  The correspondents said to Dr. Simpson, “The members of your group are people of average
income, yet they give large sums of money to send missionaries in to far away places.  What is the explanation?  
Also tell me how you know when Christ will come again?”  

Dr. Simpson answered the news reporter, “I’ll answer your second question first and this will tell you why our
people are so zealous to give the gospel to all the world as quickly as possible.  Put this down just as I say it:  
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all the nations; and then
shall the end come”  (Matt. 24:14).  Have you written down the reference?”  

“Yes, what more?” asked the reporter.  “Nothing more!”  replied Dr. Simpson.  “Do you mean to say that you
believe that when the gospel has been preached to all nations Jesus will return?” asked the reporter.  “Just
that,” said Dr. Simpson.  “Then,” replied the reporter, “I think I now see the motive and the motive power for this
movement!”  Dr. Simpson said, “Then you see more than most of the doctors of divinity!”

To understand the significance of the world mission strategy to get the gospel to every people group becomes a
tremendous motivation for missions.

There is measurable, creditable evidence that this sign is being fulfilled in our day as it has not been fulfilled
since the Lord Jesus left the earth.

In Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse he includes a statement that the other two gospels did not include.  In
a rather strong description of the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in 70 A.D., Jesus added this word,
“They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all nations” (that happened just as Jesus said it.) “
Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).  This last
statement has intrigued the students of the New Testament across the ages.  It is rather obvious that Jesus was
describing the fate of the city of Jerusalem.  It would no longer be inhabited by or controlled by the  sons of
Abraham.  Instead “the Gentiles would trample it under foot.  I think by this we are to understand that the
Gentiles would control it.  Gentiles in this context means non-Jewish people, other nations.  This has been true
until this good hour.

But what did Jesus mean by this statement, “Unto the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled?”  Scholars have not
been in agreement as to the significance of this statement.  It is the only time Jesus ever used such an
expression.  At least these things are clearly indicated by the statement. First there will be a limit upon the day of
opportunity given to the nations.  Second, it seems to have a strong implication that there will be a time when the
Gentiles will no longer control Jerusalem.  There is no clear statement in the text that the Jews will once again
control the city of Jerusalem, but there is at least a strong indication of it in this text.  When you put this
prophetic statement into the context of Old Testament prophecies and the extended prophetic word of the
Apostle Paul in Romans 9-11, You can conclude that Jesus is saying that there will be a day in which the nation
of Israel is restored and they once again occupy the city of Jerusalem.  

Much has been written about the prophetic significance of the formation of the nation of Israel in 1948.  
However, it is significant to keep in mind that even though a nation of Israel now controls much of the land that
was once occupied by the nation of Israel, they still do not control the heart of the city of Jerusalem.  Temple
Mount has to be the heart of the city of Jerusalem.  On top of Temple Mount today there is an Islamic Mosque.  If
you go to the top of the Mount where the temple once set you do not find a Jewish altar and Jewish worship.  
Rather you find the things that accompany the worship of Allah and the religion of Islam.  There has been much
speculation about when the Jews will try to occupy that area.  It is my own deep conviction that, when that
comes, the end of the age of the Gentiles will have come and it will be time for the Lord Jesus to come in all of
His glory.  Given the climate of the Middle East and the political leadership that Israel has today, this event could
take place without any warning.  It could happen any day.

I think you can go to an extreme in looking for prophetic signs, but you are not an extremist when you keep an
eye focused on the events surrounding the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus could be coming

Jesus gave yet another word which Luke records in His gospel.  It is in language much like the language of the
apocalyptic sections of the Old Testament, “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars.  On the earth
nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  Men will faint from terror,
apprehensive of what is coming, on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.  At that time 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” (Luke 21:25-28).  

When you seek to interpret this passage you have two possible ways to approach it.  You can approach it very
literalistically and look for heavenly phenomena, unusual happenings in the skies, in the heavens.  Or, you can
understand the passage as utilizing apocalyptic language and thus speaking in symbols.  It may well be a
combination of both, but I find myself leaning toward the apocalyptic nature of the statement.  In prophetic
passages in the Old Testament the heavenly bodies were used as symbols of earthly rulers.  The seas were
used as symbols for nations.  Could it not be what Jesus is talking about is world conditions becoming so
turbulent, so unsettled, so fearful, that they cause men to become apprehensive.  They cause the world to be
enveloped in a dread and atmosphere of concern about the destiny of the world.  If this be true, then Jesus is
indicating that the period just before the coming of the Son of Man will be one of unusual world turbulence.

If you have done any careful consideration of the condition of our world politically and economically, you know
that there are very few settled and calm and peaceful places on the earth.  Whether you go to the far East,
Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America or North America, you will find the same story.  There is a terrible
sense of insecurity in the human family.  There is hardly any stability anywhere in our world.  We have the kind
of international turmoil and confusion that could welcome an anti-Christ personality who would come with great
display and great claims.  All of this is involved in that complex of end events that are to be a part of the world
just before Jesus comes.  It would seem that these scriptures could give us encouragement to believe that our
redemption draws nigh.  So, lift up your head and anticipate that your redeemer is coming soon.  

In the concluding word of this great discourse as Luke reports it there are three strong admonition to us.  We
need to hear them as we celebrate the first advent and anticipate the second advent.  Jesus said, “Be careful or
your hearts will be weighted down with disappaciation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will
come on you unexpectedly like a trap.”  Then He admonished, “Be always on the watch and pray that you may
be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke
21:34-36).  So, we should be careful, be watchful, and be prayerful!  The day of our redemption draweth nigh.  
Anticipate that Jesus may come today.