The account of the destruction of Jerusalem contained in this chapter has been fully considered in the notes at Luke 21:9
Commotions - Insurrections. Subjects rising against their rulers.
Fearful sights - See Matthew 24:7.
Luke 21:12, Luke 21:13
Synagogues, and into prisons - See the notes at Mark 13:9-10.
Settle it, therefore, in your hearts - Fix it firmly in your minds - so firmly as to become a settled principle - that you are always to depend on God for aid in all your trials. See Mark 13:11.
A mouth - Eloquence, ability to speak as the case may demand. Compare Exodus 4:11.
Gainsay - Speak against. They will not be able to “reply” to it, or to “resist” the force of what you shall say.
A hair of your head perish - This is a proverbial expression, denoting that they should not suffer any essential injury. This was strikingly fulfilled in the fact that in the calamities of Jerusalem there is reason to believe that no Christian suffered. Before those calamities came on the city they had fled to “Pella,” a city on the east of the Jordan. See the notes at Matthew 24:18.
In your patience - Rather by your perseverance. The word “patience” here means constancy or perseverance in sustaining afflictions.
Possess ye your souls - Some read here the “future” instead of the “present” of the verb rendered “possess.” The word “possess” means here to “preserve” or keep, and the word “souls” means “lives.” This passage may be thus translated: By persevering in bearing these trials you “will” save your lives, or you will be safe; or, by persevering “preserve” your lives; that is, do not yield to these calamities, but bear up under them, for he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. Compare Matthew 24:13.
All things which are written may be fulfilled - Judgment had been threatened by almost all the prophets against that wicked city. They had spoken of its crimes and threatened its ruin. Once God had destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people to Babylon; but their crimes had been repeated when they returned, and God had again threatened their ruin. Particularly was this very destruction foretold by Daniel, Daniel 9:26-27; “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” See the notes at that passage.
Shall fall - No less than one million one hundred thousand perished in the siege of Jerusalem.
Shall be led away captive - More than 90,000 were led into captivity. See the notes at Joshua 10:24; 2 Samuel 22:41; Ezekiel 21:29. The bondage of Jerusalem has been long and very oppressive. It was for a long time under the dominion of the Romans, then of the Saracens, and is now of the Turks, and is aptly represented by a captive stretched on the ground whose neck is “trodden” by the foot of the conqueror.
Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled - This passage has been understood very differently by different expositors. Some refer it to the time which the Romans who conquered it had dominion over it, as signifying that “they” should keep possession of it until a part of the pagans should be converged, when it should be rebuilt. Thus it was rebuilt by the Emperor Adrian. Others suppose that it refers to the end of the world, when all the Gentiles shall be converted, and they shall “cease” to be Gentiles by becoming Christians, meaning that it should “always” be desolate. Others, that Christ meant to say that in the times of the millennium, when the gospel should spread universally, he would reign personally on the earth, and that the “Jews” would return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. This is the opinion of the Jews and of many Christians. The meaning of the passage clearly is,
1.That Jerusalem would be completely destroyed.
2.That this would be done by Gentiles - that is, by the Roman armies.
3.That this desolation would continue as long as God should judge it proper in a fit manner to express his abhorrence of the crimes of the nation - that is, until the times allotted to “them” by God for this desolation should be accomplished, without specifying how long that would be, or what would occur to the city after that.
It “may” be rebuilt, and inhabited by converted Jews. Such a thing is “possible,” and the Jews naturally seek that as their home; but whether this be so or not, the time when the “Gentiles,” as such, shall have dominion over the city is limited. Like all other cities on the earth, it will yet be brought under the influence of the gospel, and will be inhabited by the true friends of God. Pagan, infidel, anti-Christian dominion shall cease there, and it will be again a place where God will be worshipped in sincerity - a place “even then” of special interest from the recollection of the events which have occurred there. “How long” it is to be before this occurs is known only to Him “who hath put the times and seasons in his own power,” Acts 1:7.
See the notes at Matthew 24:29.
Upon the earth distress of nations - Some have proposed to render the word “earth” by “land,” confining it to Judea. It often has this meaning, and there seems some propriety in so using it here. The word translated “distress” denotes anxiety of mind - such an anxiety as people have when they do not know what to do to free themselves from calamities; and it means here that the calamities would be so great and overwhelming that they would not know what to do to escape. There would be a want of counsel, and deep anxiety at the impending evils.
With perplexity - Rather “on account” of their perplexity, or the desperate state of their affairs. The Syriac has it, “perplexity or wringing of hands,” which is a sign of deep distress and horror.
The sea and the waves roaring - This is not to be understood literally, but as an image of great distress. Probably it is designed to denote that these calamities would come upon them like a deluge. As when in a storm the ocean roars, and wave rolls on wave and dashes against the shore, and each succeeding surge is more violent than the one that preceded it, so would the calamities come upon Judea. They would roll over the whole land, and each wave of trouble would be more violent than the one that preceded it, until the whole country would be desolate. The same image is also used in Isaiah 8:7-8, and Revelation 18:15.
Men‘s hearts failing them - This is an expression denoting the highest terror. The word rendered “failing” commonly denotes to “die,” and here it means that the terror would be so great that people would faint and be ready to die in view of the approaching calamities. And if this was true in respect to the judgments about to come upon Judea, how much more so will it be in the day of judgment, when the wicked will be arraigned before the Son of God, and when they shall have before them the prospect of the awful sufferings of hell - the pains and woes which shall continue forever! It will be no wonder, then, if they call on the rocks and mountains to hide them from the face of God, and if their hearts sink within them at the prospect of eternal suffering.
Your redemption draweth nigh - See the notes at Matthew 24:33. This is expressed in Luke 21:31 thus: “the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” - that is, from that time God will signally build up his kingdom. It shall be fully established when the Jewish policy shall come to an end; when the temple shall be destroyed, and the Jews scattered abroad. Then the power of the Jews shall be at an end; they shall no longer be able to persecute you, and you shall be completely delivered from all these trials and calamities in Judea.
Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged - The meaning of this verse is, “Be continually expecting these things. Do not forget them, and do not be “secure” and satisfied with this life and the good things which it furnishes. Do not suffer yourselves to be drawn into the fashions of the world; to be conformed to its customs; to partake of its feasts and revelry; and so these calamities shall come upon you when you least expect them.” And from this we may learn - what alas! we may from the “lives” of many professing Christians - that there is need of cautioning the disciples of Jesus now that they do not indulge in the festivities of this life, and “forget” that they are to die and come to judgment. How many, alas! who bear the Christian name, have forgotten this caution of the Saviour, and live as if their lives were secure; as if they feared not death; as if there were no heaven and no judgment! Christians should feel that they are soon to die, and that their portion is not in this life; and, feeling this, they should be “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.”
Overcharged - Literally, “be made heavy,” as is the case with those who have eaten and drunken too much.
Surfeiting - Excessive eating and drinking, so as to oppress the body; indulgence in the pleasures of the table. This word does not include “intoxication,” but merely indulgence in food and drink, though the food and drink should be in themselves lawful.
Drunkenness - Intoxication, intemperance in drinking. The ancients were not acquainted with the poison that we chiefly use on which to become drunk. They had no distilled spirits. They became intoxicated on wine, and strong drink made of a mixture of dates, honey, etc. All nations have contrived some way to become intoxicated - to bring in folly, and disease, and poverty, and death, by drunkenness; and in nothing is the depravity of men more manifest than in thus endeavoring to hasten the ravages of crime and death.
As a snare - In Matthew and Mark Jesus compares the suddenness with which these calamities would come to the deluge coming in the days of Noah. Here he likens it to a snare. Birds are caught by a snare or net. It is sprung on them quickly, and when they are not expecting it. So, says he, shall these troubles come upon Judea. The figure is often used to denote the suddenness of calamities, Psalm 69:22; Romans 11:9; Psalm 124:7; Isaiah 24:17.
To stand before the Son of man - These approaching calamities are represented as the “coming of the Son of man” to judge Jerusalem for its crimes. Its inhabitants were so wicked that they were not worthy to stand before him and would be condemned, and the city would be overthrown. To “stand before him” here denotes approbation, acquittal, favor, and is equivalent to saying that “they” would be free from these calamities, while they should come upon others. See Romans 14:4; Psalm 1:5; Psalm 130:3; Revelation 6:17. Perhaps, also, there is a reference here to the day of judgment. See the notes at Matthew 24.
We are living in the closing scenes of these perilous times. The Lord foresaw the unbelief that now prevails respecting His coming; and again and again He has given warning in His word that this event will be unexpected. The great day will come as a snare “on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Luke 21:35. But there are two classes. To one the apostle gives these encouraging words: “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4. Some will be ready when the Bridegroom comes, and will go in with Him to the marriage. How precious is this thought to those who are waiting and watching for His appearing! Christ “loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27. Those whom God loves enjoy this favor because they are lovely in character. 6T 129.1
The great, grand work of bringing out a people who will have Christlike characters, and who will be able to stand in the day of the Lord, is to be accomplished. As long as we sail with the current of the world we need neither canvas nor oar. It is when we turn squarely about to stem the current that our labors begin. Satan will bring in every kind of theory to pervert the truth. The work will go hard, for since the fall of Adam it has been the fashion of the world to sin. But Christ is on the field of action. The Holy Spirit is at work. Divine agencies are combining with the human in reshaping the character according to the perfect pattern, and man is to work out that which God works in. Will we as a people do this God-given work? Will we carefully heed all the light that has been given, keeping constantly before us the one object of fitting students for the kingdom of God? If by faith we advance step by step in the right way, following the Great Leader, light will shine along our pathway; and circumstances will occur to remove the difficulties. The approval of God will give hope, and ministering angels will co-operate with us, bringing light and grace, and courage and gladness. 6T 129.2
Then let no more time be lost in dwelling on the many things which are not essential and which have no bearing upon the present necessities of God's people. Let no more time be lost in exalting men who know not the truth, “for the time is at hand.” There is no time now to fill the mind with theories of what is popularly called “higher education.” The time devoted to that which does not tend to assimilate the soul to the likeness of Christ is so much time lost for eternity. This we cannot afford, for every moment is freighted with eternal interests. Now, when the great work of judging the living is about to begin, shall we allow unsanctified ambition to take possession of the heart and lead us to neglect the education required to meet the needs in this day of peril? 6T 130.1Read in context »
Now, dear brother, you must make a most earnest, persevering effort to dislodge the enemy and assert your liberty; for he has made you a slave to this world until your love of gain has become a ruling passion. Your example to others has been bad; selfish interests have been prominent. By profession you say to the world: My citizenship is not here, but above; while your works decidedly say that you are a dweller on the earth. As a snare shall the day of judgment come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth. Your profession is only a hindrance to souls. You have not corresponding works. “I know thy works” (not thy profession), says the True Witness. God is now sifting His people, testing their purposes and their motives. Many will be but as chaff—no wheat, no value in them. 4T 51.1
Christ has committed to your trust talents of means and of influence, and He has said to you: Improve these till I come. When the Master cometh and reckoneth with His servants, and all are called to the strictest account as to how they have used the talents entrusted to them, how will you, my dear brother, bear the investigation? Will you be prepared to return to the Master His talents doubled, laying before Him both principal and interest, showing that you have been a judicious as well as faithful and persevering worker in His service? Brother E, if you follow the course that you have pursued for years, your case will be correctly represented by the servant who wrapped his talent in a napkin and buried it in the earth, that is, hid it in the world. Those to whom talents were entrusted, received reward for the labor expended in exact proportion to the fidelity, perseverance, and earnest effort made in trading with their Lord's goods. 4T 51.2
God holds you as His debtor, and also as debtor to your fellow men who have not the light and truth. God has given you light, not to hide under a bushel, but to set on a candlestick that all in the house may be benefited. Your light should shine to others to enlighten souls for whom Christ died. The grace of God ruling in your heart, and bringing your mind and thoughts into subjection to Jesus, would make you a powerful man on the side of Christ and the truth. 4T 52.1Read in context »
We are not of that class who define the exact period of time that shall elapse before the coming of Jesus the second time with power and great glory. Some have set a time, and when that has passed, their presumptuous spirits have not accepted rebuke, but they have set another and another time; but many successive failures have stamped them as false prophets. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Notwithstanding the fact that there are false prophets, there are also those who are preaching the truth as pointed out in the Scriptures. With deep earnestness, with honest faith, prompted by the Holy Spirit, they are stirring minds and hearts by showing them that we are living near the second coming of Christ, but the day and hour of His appearing are beyond the ken of man; for “of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” FE 335.1
But there is a day that God hath appointed for the close of this world's history. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Prophecy is fast fulfilling. More, much more, should be said about these tremendously important subjects. The day is at hand when the destiny of every soul will be fixed forever. This day of the Lord hastens on apace. The false watchmen are raising the cry, “All is well”; but the day of God is rapidly approaching. Its footsteps are so muffled that it does not arouse the world from the deathlike slumber into which it has fallen. While the watchmen cry, “Peace and safety,” “sudden destruction cometh upon them,” “and they shall not escape”; “for as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” It overtakes the pleasure-lover and the sinful man as a thief in the night. When all is apparently secure, and men retire to contented rest, then the prowling, stealthy, midnight thief steals upon his prey. When it is too late to prevent the evil, it is discovered that some door or window was not secured. “Be ye also ready: for in an such hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” People are now settling to rest, imagining themselves secure under the popular churches; but let all beware, lest there is a place left open for the enemy to gain an entrance. Great pains should be taken to keep this subject before the people. The solemn fact is to be kept not only before the people of the world, but before our own churches also, that the day of the Lord will come suddenly, unexpectedly. The fearful warning of the prophecy is addressed to every soul. Let no one feel that he is secure from the danger of being surprised. Let no one's interpretation of prophecy rob you of the conviction of the knowledge of events which show that this great event is near at hand. FE 335.2Read in context »
Come when it may, the advent of Christ will surprise the false teachers who are saying, “Peace and safety;” “all things continue as they were from the beginning.” Thus saith the word of Inspiration, “Sudden destruction cometh upon them.” The day of God shall come as a snare upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. It comes to them as a prowling thief. “If the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” Habitual watching is our only safety. We must be ever ready, that that day may not overtake us as a thief. TM 233.1
Let everyone who loves God consider that now while it is day is the time to work, not among the sheep already in the fold, but to go out in search of the lost and perishing ones. These need to have special help to bring them back to the fold. Now is the time for the careless to arouse from their slumber. Now is the time to entreat that souls shall not only hear the word of God, but without delay secure oil in their vessels with their lamps. That oil is the righteousness of Christ. It represents character, and character is not transferable. No man can secure it for another. Each must obtain for himself a character purified from every stain of sin. TM 233.2
The Lord is coming in power and great glory. It will then be His work to make a complete separation between the righteous and the wicked. But the oil cannot then be transferred to the vessels of those who have it not. Then shall be fulfilled the words of Christ: “Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” The righteous and the wicked are to be associated together in the work of life. But the Lord reads the character; He discerns who are obedient children, who respect and love His commandments. TM 234.1Read in context »