Luke 21:5-19; 27

  • 15 November 2022
  • Stuart Robinson

SHAP. November 13, 2022.

Is this world in freefall – with its threats of nuclear war, ongoing pandemics, and plagues (and did you know that there is an Ebola outbreak in Uganda – and several health care workers have already died), climate change, and dark geopolitical manoeuvrings? 

Are we heading for the precipice?

The short answer is that nothing takes God by surprise, and there is an end in view. 

Let me pray and then we’ll look at today’s gospel reading; it addresses these concerns, in part.

Lord, may we leave our time of worship today with a clearer sense of your sovereignty and power, and a prayerful resolve to conform to your will and purposes.


Next week, next Sunday, is the end of the church year – the feast of Christ the King, and the following week, we enter the season of Advent – November 27th.

To be sure, Advent is a celebration of Jesus’ first coming – his ‘incarnation’ – but it is more than that.

Advent anticipates Jesus’ second coming.

And the passage before us gives us a broad ‘roadmap’ as to the signs and the events that will take place prior to Jesus’ return.

Now, this might be new information for some of us, the return of Jesus. 

Yes, not only did Jesus speak about his return – here is Matthew 16: 27, but the Son of Man will also come again in his Father’s glory with his angels…’, but the very last and direct ‘divine instruction’ that the disciples received – after Jesus had ascended into heaven, were these words – recorded by Luke in Acts 1:11 and spoken by two angelic heralds, 

Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you have seen him go into heaven’.

In the gospel reading set down for today – Jesus gives us a starting point for the aforementioned ‘roadmap’.

It beings with a violent removal of religious symbols, and its end point is the victorious return of the risen Son.

Jesus kindly lays all this before us so that we’ll be ready for what lies ahead, and so we will -as per v. 19, ‘stand firm’. 

Did you know – that according to the first century historian Josephus (a Jewish person who became a Roman citizen), more than a million people perished in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD (CE) 70? 

And Jesus predicted it and the destruction of the Temple, the very heart of Jewish culture and identity (at the time), 34 years earlier.

It’s right here Luke 21:5-6. 

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

And three decades on, that is exactly what happened.

The unthinkable took place.

The external symbols of Jewish religion – temple, priests, and sacrifices were violently torn down by Roman aggressors – never to be restored (at least not in that mode).

And when asked by his friends (in verse 7) what the timetable for this ongoing conflagration might be, Jesus explained that it was part of a larger schema leading up to a final, or closing and terminal sign, the return of the Son of Man. 

He said,

27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

So, if the first sign was the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the final sign – as we noted, is Christ’s return, what are the intervening signs?

What does that roadmap look like, and how might it apply to us?

Form this text there are least 5 further ‘signs’ about which we need to be aware.

And as this is looking dangerously like a five-point sermon, I’ll be brief:

Sign #2, the first being the destruction of the temple in AD 70, is that many false Messiah’s and teachers, and prophets, and religious leaders will present themselves as agents of light and truth. 

‘Do not be deceived’, Jesus said there in verse 8. 

And you may recall Jesus’ categorical assertion recorded by his friend John, and spoken to his friend Thomas, when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me”.

Do not be deceived. 

Sign #3. Localised wars, uprisings, changes of governments and the like – verse 9. 

Sounds familiar?

And this simply means we are, albeit tragically, ‘on course’, says Jesus. 

Do not be afraid – verse 9.

Sign #4. Global conflict; nations and kingdoms fighting against one another – verse 10. 

This does not surprise us, does it?

Did you know that in the 20th century,14 million people died in the Russian civil war, 20 million died in the WWI, and 78 million died in WWII? 

That is more than 100 million war dead in just one century; a century that many of us still remember.

Sign #5. Natural disasters, famines, pestilence, and pandemics – verse 11. 

As we speak, parts of our State are reeling from flooding, crops are failing, and livelihoods are being lost. 

And I referenced the current ‘global pandemic’ when I began; as we brace for a new wave of COVID, we note with horror that globally, more than 600 million people have contracted the virus (some of us two or three times), and more than 6.5 million people have died from COVID 19…a relatively small number compared with the estimated 50 million deaths resulting from the 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic.

Sign #6. Believers will be arrested, persecuted, and betrayed by authorities, family, and friends.

And some of Jesus’ followers, will be put to death for their witness to his lordship and rule – verses 12-18.

The news service, ‘Christianity Today’ (The 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus in… | News & Reporting | Christianity Today) reports that this year 2022, I,000 more Christians were killed for their faith in Jesus than were killed in 2021;1,000 more people were detained than last year; and more than 600 churches were attacked or closed this year, than were shuttered in 2021.

Overall, 360 million Christians live in nations with high levels of persecution or discrimination. 

That’s 1 in 7 Christians worldwide, including 1 in 5 believers in Africa, 2 in 5 in Asia, and 1 in 15 in Latin America. 

The top ten places of persecution (from Open Doors) comprise:

North Korea

The Open Doors organisation further observe that while Islamic extremism continues to create the most persecution, COVID-19 restrictions “have become an easy way to tighten control and surveillance over religious minorities and worship services” in China and other nations. 

Researchers also found that persecution is increasingly displacing Christians from their communities, with tens of thousands—especially from Myanmar—becoming refugees in other nations.

Any wonder people cry out for Christ’s return – the 7th and final sign.

In and through this great season of turmoil prior to his second advent, Jesus gives his friends (that includes you and me) four anchor points in the gale:

First – in the face of adversity and trial we are to speak of the hope we have in Jesus – verse 13. 

We are to bear ‘testimony’ to Jesus…and we’ll do that in our words and in our actions – especially as we pray for, financially support, and physically uphold refugees and persecuted believers.

Second – We are not to be fearful. 

Jesus will speak though our words and our actions such that our adversaries will be confounded and please, God, converted – verse 15.

Third – Nothing can happen to us outside God’s good purposes and design – ‘not a hair of your head will perish…’ – verse 18. 

Now, Jesus has just said that some, many perhaps, will die because of their witness to Christ – so the not ‘perishing’ in verse 18 has the two-fold meaning of ‘no harm will come to us outside of God’s sovereign purposes’…and none will, ‘perish’ in the sense of John 3:16, where those who are Christ’s will not perish, will not be lost to him, but will share in the eternal life his death secures.

Fourth – ‘stand firm’ and ‘win life’ – verse 18; the ‘redemption’ which is ours in Christ, verse 28.

This underscores the previous point.

Trust Jesus, and share in the eternity which his life, death, resurrection, ascension, rule, and return secures for all who believe.

Standing firm means 

  • living peaceably and harmoniously in your community – even blessing and praying for your persecutors – Romans 12: 14,16,18.
  • speaking clearly and graciously of your trust in Jesus when asked to give an account of your faith – I Peter 3:15
  • longing for Jesus’ appearing; his second coming. 

St Paul put it so beautifully in II Timothy 4:8 and with these words I close,

And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.


Latest Sermons