We’ve been in the Gospel of Luke, looking at Jesus teaching His disciples about the end-times. Having warned them of what they were about to face, the Lord now answers their original question that started it all (Luke 21:7).
He tells them the signs that signal the approach of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Because we live on this side of the historical event, it’s easier to look back and interpret the Lord’s words.
“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.”
Luke 21:20-21 NIV
Jesus is referring to a prophecy from the book of Daniel. He makes mention of the desolation of Jerusalem. Daniel calls it the detestable thing that causes the city to be laid waste.
I know a lot of Bible teachers who say that this is a future event, and they have a variety of teachings and beliefs on this subject. I ask you to please read the Scripture without preconceived ideas about what’s being said. Put yourself in the place of the disciples who are hearing this for the first time.
The reaction of the disciples must have been one of surprise. This is because every God-fearing Jew knew that the reference Jesus gave them from the book of Daniel had ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED.
Around 170 BC there was a Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV. He was so full of himself that he gave himself the title “Epiphanes,” which means “the manifest god”. As many emperors did, he forced those around him to worship him.
Antiochus Epiphanes led his army to successfully conquer Israel. On December 15, 168 BC, he set up the image of Zeus on an altar in the Temple of Jerusalem. Ten days later, he dedicated it by sacrificing a pig in the Temple.
Heathen altars were then erected throughout Israel, their celebrations being compulsory. Any Jew would receive the death penalty if found in possession of the Torah. Observing the Sabbath and circumcision were forbidden. Because of their faithfulness to the Law of God, many Jews were killed in those days.
As the disciples heard Jesus speak about Daniel’s prophecy, they must have also thought about the reign of Antiochus. Now they’re hearing from the Lord that it will be fulfilled again. This was a new concept for them to grasp – the fact that a prophetic Scripture could have two fulfillments.
“For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Luke 21:22-24 NIV
This sounds all too familiar to the disciples. Throughout history, the Jews had been conquered again and again. Now one of the worst chapters in their history was going to repeat itself. All they could do was listen and be prepared.
I think the Lord is obviously talking about the times that the disciples were living in. He says that the Jews would be dispersed among the nations. However, there would be a time-limit on how long the Gentiles would be in control of the Holy Land.
We’ve seen this in our generation. Israel has once again returned to their homeland. And, by God’s power, they have once again become a sovereign nation. God is always confirming that His Word is true.
This should encourage us. I believe that this is how the Holy Spirit operates. If we’re listening, the Spirit will always prepare us for what’s ahead in our future. We need to continue developing our spiritual sensitivity to hear His voice.
Question: Why does the Holy Spirit want to reveal the future to us?
© 2022 Nick Zaccardi