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Clarifying God’s Judgment of Israel

August 29, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Judgement Verse: Luke 21:5–21:9

Theme: The rejection of Christ brings certain doom.

Introduction: It is clear that the heart of God is to redeem sinners and deliver them from the consequences of their sin. His mercy is wide toward anyone who would turn to Him in repentance and faith, trusting the work of Jesus Christ to save them from their sin. Jesus Himself declared that He came to “seek and to save that which is lost.” His name is Savior, Lord, Redeemer, Messiah, who Himself became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Any sinner who turns to Him, regardless of how egregious, heinous, and vile their sin might be, His blood is sufficient to cleanse them from all unrighteousness and reconcile them to a holy God.

Yet, as merciful and gracious that God is toward any sinner who would turn from their sin to confess Him, He is merciless and filled with wrath toward those who reject Him. Throughout the earthly ministry of Jesus, He repeatedly preached the mercy of God and the need for men to repent and believe in Him. Yet, despite having come to His own people Israel, his own did not receive Him – but rejected Him, ultimately crucifying Him in hostility, contempt, and mockery. In our text, we see the result of such rejection – and the certain judgment that falls upon people who choose their own way over the single way provided by God through Christ. …

I. The Impressiveness of Human Accomplishment – 21:5

A. The Impressive Construction 

  • The sad event occurs as Jesus turns away from the religious leaders and the people under their influences and departs from the Temple.
  • Mark informs us that as they are leaving the temple, the disciples call Jesus’ attention to the “wonderful buildings” – cp. Mark 13:1.
  • Luke comments: “And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones,..’”
  • “adorned” [κοσμέω] – a word from which we get our word “cosmetics” – refers to something that is put in order as to appear neat, decorated or made attractive.
  • At this time, the temple of Jerusalem was one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world – a breath-taking edifice of massive stones, polished and gilded with gold on various surfaces.
  • This was a building that was supposed to reflect the glory of God as a testimony to men all over the world of the worthiness of God.
  • However, instead it had become little more than a mausoleum of legalism, damning religious formalism, and hypocrisy.

B. The Impressive Contributions 

  • Additionally, the was “adorned with … votive gifts” – that is, things wealthy benefactors had contributed to enhance the space.
  • “Votive gifts” [ἀνάθημα] - were things that were given as offerings by people who were making a vow the symbolize their commitment.
  • It was something given in dedication to the Lord and were often magnificent as people sought to have the greatest evidence of dedication.
  • One of these “votive gifts” was said to be a massive, six-foot golden vine adorned with golden grapes – reputedly donated to the temple by Herod.
  • They took the form of plaques, sculptures and various treasures that would reflect upon the one donating them as an expression of the level of devotion they possessed to the Lord.
  • These were magnificent and beautiful tributes to the piety, sanctimony, and self-promotion of the donors that were strewn through the temple mount.
  • The emphasis of both the beauty of the buildings and the compliments of the “votive gifts” was the accomplishments of men in self-promotion, self-exaltation, and self-righteousness.   

II. The Indictment of Human Assurances– 21:6

A. The Delighting in Human Assurances

  • Given what Jesus had just experienced in the rejection of Israel, Jesus didn’t see the temple as magnificent, but as putrescent – they weren’t sacred to Him, but sacrilege.
  • As a result, “He said, ‘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.’”
  • The disciples were clearly enthralled with the magnificence of these buildings.
  • They were looking at them with an element of pride, satisfaction, and wonder in Israel’s treasure in the Temple.
  • Their sentiments seemed to be that all that was holy was represented in these buildings – that as long as the temple stood, God’s blessing was with Israel.
  • The achievement of building these buildings had absolutely nothing to do with the righteousness that characterized the kingdom of God.
  • It seemed inconceivable to the disciples that anything could possibly be greater than this – these magnificent structures was the apex of religious accomplishment.
  • They may have possessed a measure of incredulity that Jesus had talked about the “house of Israel” being left desolate and thinking how absurd such a thought seemed – cp. Matthew 23:38.

B. The Destruction of Human Assurances

  • The assurances that people took in God’s good pleasure with a people who would construct such a grand exhibition of their devotion were offensive to God when such “devotion” was offered out of wickedness and self-righteousness – cp. Proverbs 21:27.
  • The wicked, irrational rejection of the Messiah by Israel was something that certified their judgment by God – and Jesus promises “… the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”
  • Jesus’ immediate reference in this verse is the events of 70 AD when the Roman general Titus would come through and act as a tool in the hand of God to destroy the Temple.
  • The temple had come to represent reprobation and not righteousness – as a result, the very edifice designed to bring Him glory as an object of His derision and wrath.
  • This immediate fulfillment would picture and foreshadow the terrible tribulation that would characterize the coming “Day of the Lord.”
  • The disciples’ jaws probably dropped with excitement, thinking this must be all part of the scenario where the city of Jerusalem is purified and renovated after the destruction of the nations that gather to oppose Christ – cp. Zechariah 14:2-3.

III. The Intervals in Human Accountability – 21:7-9

A. The Eagerness for Justice – v 7

  • They immediately concluded that their understanding of prophetic events meant that these comments signaled that Jesus was about to initiate the establishment of the Kingdom – cp. Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6.
  • Hence, “they questioned Him …” [Ἐπηρώτησαν] – to interrogate as in an investigation or cross-examination.
  • They said, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
  • It is necessary to understand the question before you can properly understand the answer – what does “these things” refer to?
  • The destruction of the Temple was not their focus – it is merely a single step in a string of rapidly unfolding events that end up with the establishment of the kingdom and the justice that the Messiah would produce – the real focus of their interest.
  • They had absolutely no comprehension that a perpetuated state of abandonment would occur until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled and Israel is once again restored at the end of the Tribulation Period.
  • Jesus takes the opportunity to answer the question that deals with the establishment of the Kingdom – the events that take us up to the very “end.”
  • Their questions regarding His coming and the End of the Age could be paraphrased: “What will be the sign of the manifesting Yourself in Your full, permanent presence as Messiah and King?” … and “What will be the sign that you are going to bring all things to completion and judge the wicked and reward the righteous?

B. The Escalation of Judgment – vv. 8-9

  • Jesus responds by addressing their confusion – He realizes that they cannot distinguish between His two advents.
  • Their expectation that He will immediately establish the kingdom will produce additional confusion as the interval occurs between the immediate judgment of Israel in the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the greater judgment that will come at the end of the age.
  • Jesus “said, ‘See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, “I am He,” and, “The time is near.” Do not go after them.’”
  • The judgment of Israel that begins in 70 AD will last a long time – and is still occurring, and will until Christ’s Second Advent.
  • Because there would be a sustained yearning for Jesus to return after His ascension, Jesus knew that believers would be susceptible to various claims that He had returned – “see to it that you are not misled.”
  • The long parade of frauds claiming to be the Christ will culminate in the ultimate deceiving false messiah, the Antichrist.
  • Nevertheless, believers were to be constantly awaiting, expectantly watching for the Lord’s return – cp. Luke 12:35-36, 40.
  • During this time of waiting for the Lord’s return – especially in the immediate future of these disciples as Rome would come and destroy Israel – there would be an ever-increasing escalation of deceivers, disasters, and distresses for Israel – “When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first …”
  • Jesus prophesies that during what we know to be the Church Age, there will be a prolonged time of “wars and disturbances” [ἀκαταστασία] - tumult caused by a constant disorder or rebellion against established authorities.
  • Throughout this time, men will degenerate from bad to worse – 2 Timothy 3:13; yet it will be a time of tarrying by the Lord so that the Gospel can be proclaimed, and sinners saved – cp. 2 Peter 3:3, 9. 
  • Jesus states this interval will be a time of escalating judgment but what will occur at “the end” will be immeasurably worse than anything they experience in the meantime – including the destruction of 70 AD, the Crusades, and even the Holocaust – “… but the end does not follow immediately.”
  • Like ever-increasing distresses of labor approaching birth, the current age will unfold with an intensifying severity until after the Rapture, the Antichrist will unleash a hostility such as has never been known or ever will again - cp. Matthew 24:5-8, 21.
  • Jesus will come to establish the kingdom only after these events.

 

So What?

The distractions of “goodness” will not influence God away from judging our sins – they must be avenged.

Jesus came in order to save us from our sins – only He can make a difference in God’s attitude toward us.

God does not have to wait until we die to punish sin – we can know God’s wrath during our lives as the “way of the transgressor is hard.” 

God expects believers to be eager to see Christ – always remaining ready for His return.

As we observe the historic afflictions of the Jewish people, we need to be sensitized to the reality of sin’s consequences lest we ourselves fall from a steadfast submission to Christ.