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The Travail of the End Times

September 12, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Prophecy Verse: Luke 21:10–21:19

Theme: The grace of God sustains believers through the travails of persecution.


Introduction: One of the characteristics of many biblical prophecies is the near/far fulfillment of those prophecies.  

I. The Prophecy of God’s Fury – 21:10-11

A. The Withdrawal of God’s Restraint – v. 10 

  • As Jesus prepares to die, He desires to provide a map of how things would go between His departure to glory and His return to the earth in glory.
  • In the previous verse (9), Jesus indicated that there would be a temptation to jump to conclusions about “the end” as things degenerate and believers face difficulties while awaiting Christ’s Return.
  • Jesus continues to provide them the preview of what will be a “crescendoing” intensity of His fury being revealed against sin and sinners – cp. Romans 1:18.
  • As God’s hand of restraint is removed, hostilities between men will continue to intensify – “Then He continued by saying to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom’ …”
  • The hostility between men, groups, nations and kingdoms tells the story of humanity ever since Cain slew Abel; but innumerable wars have occurred since the time of Christ – with millions of people killed in armed conflicts.
  • However, all the wars that have occurred during the Church Age combined are not as severe as the devastating conflicts that will occur during the Tribulation when unprecedented conflicts occur – cp. Revelation 6:3-4.
  • These constant and intensifying conflicts result from greater latitude granted by God for the envious, selfish hearts of sinners to lash out against one another and against God Himself – cp. James 4:1.

B. The Witness of God’s Retribution – v. 11 

  • Not only does hostility intensify preceding the coming of Christ, the wrath of God is also displayed through His use of natural disasters – “… and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.”
  • Although there have been horrible natural disasters in the past and continue even through the current day, these “earthquakes … plagues and famines … terrors and great signs from heaven” cannot compare with what will occur during the Tribulation when God pours out His wrath upon “those who dwell upon the earth” – cp. Revelation 6:12-14; 16:18-20.
  1. plagues” [λοιμός] – diseases or plagues such as bubonic plague, SARS, AIDS, and COVID which illustrate what will be incomparably worse afflictions in the Tribulation – cp. Revelation 15:1.
  2. famines” [λιμός] – lit. “hunger” or “starvation” – and refers to the condition causing that – the lack of food – Revelation 6:8.
  3. terrors” [φόβητρον] – from “fear-producing” – frightening events causing horror.
  4. great signs from heaven” [σημεῖον] – indications of what is to come; portents that point to supernatural involvement – cp. Revelation 8:12; Isaiah 13:9-10.
  • These are direct acts of God whereby His wrath is poured out upon those who are in rebellion against Him.   

II. The Persecutions by God’s Foes – 21:12-17

A. The Activity of God’s Foes – v. 12

  • Again, as in v. 9, Jesus states that prior to the ultimate fulfillment of these dramatic indications of God’s wrath being expressed against “those who dwell on the earth,” He says: “But before all these things …”
  • That is, before the powerful works of God’s wrath, God is going to remove His restraining hands even further from those who hate Him.
  • Their hostility toward God will result in activities designed to rid themselves of their enemies – “… they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.”
  • Their opposition will be powerful – “they will lay their hands on you …” – 
  • Their opposition will be punitive – “… delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, …”
  • Their opposition will be political – “… bringing you before kings and governors …”
  • Their opposition will be personal – “… for My name’s sake.”

B. The Answering of God’s Foes – vv. 13-15

  • Jesus views such persecution differently than we would think – cp. Matthew 5:11-12.
  • He sees it as the opportunity to provide a witness to the saving grace of God in Christ – “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.”
  • The broader priority is not to evade persecution, but to use persecution opportunistically to spread the Gospel – “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves …”
  • This is not a suggestion that believers “wing it,” that is, fail to think through their responses to various accusations.
  • Rather, it is an admonition to see “self-defense” as an inferior motivation than the greater good of testifying about God and His glorious Gospel.
  • Rather, we are to anticipate God’s willingness to use us to deliver His message of the Gospel – “… for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.”
  • This essentially describes the extemporaneous explanation of what Jesus has personally done for you in delivering you from your sin – a personal “testimony” [μαρτύριον] – the same word from where we get our English word “martyr.”

C. The Animosity of God’s Foes – vv. 16-17

  • The animosity will grow so fierce that “… you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends …”
  • The deepest wounds one can know are made by those who are closest to them.
  • Here we see that natural and even biological affinities will be sacrificed out of hatred for the things of Christ Jesus and those who serve Him.
  • Nevertheless, even as loved ones would rather not be in a relationship with a Christian, a Christian would prefer Christ over any other relationship.
  • The foundation of it all is the animosity that unbelievers will have for Christ – “… and you will be hated by all because of My name” – cresting in murder - cp. Mark 13:12-13; John 15:18.

III. The Promise of God’s Favor – 21:18-19

A. The Preserving Grace of God – v. 18

  • During such difficult days as will characterize the church leading up to the “end of the age,” there will be a sentiment by believers of “who will be able to stand.”
  • Of course, many of us boldly assert that we will be faithful – as if our own resolve was sufficient – cp. Peter’s assertion – Luke 22:33.
  • Jesus, however, states that it will not be your own resolve that will keep you faithful, but His grace will sustain you and your faith – “Yet not a hair of your head will perish.”
  • This statement is a proverbial saying describing the safety that He Himself guarantees for those who trust Him – cp. 1 Samuel 14:45; Acts 27:34.
  • This statement obviously cannot mean that you will be physically safe – as he just mentioned that “they will put some of you to death” – cp. v. 16.
  • perish” [ἀπόλλυμι] – is a term that spiritually can focus on eternal destruction or judgment – cp. John 3:16.
  • Jesus is here saying the same as He said to Martha in describing His power to deliver from death spiritually even when one dies physically – cp. John 11:25-26.
  • Despite horrible persecution and even martyrdom, believers need not fear their eternal destiny – God will preserve us blameless through it all to the end – 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

B. The Persevering Faith of the Godly – v. 19

  • As we are preserved by grace, our faith remains fixed on Christ Jesus and thereby demonstrates the reality of our faith – “By your endurance, you will gain your lives.”
  • This does not describe how to earn salvation, as the rest of Scripture denounces such a thought; but, it describes how our salvation is certified through perseverance – cp. Matthew 10:22; 24:13.
  • Such believers are kept by the power of God and His grace – cp. Hebrews 10:39; Jude 24.

So What?

The world is not randomly reeling out of control but is rather unfolding according to God’s purpose and plan.

God promises to avenge Himself against the wicked.

The world takes out its frustrations with God against the followers of Christ Jesus. 

As life becomes difficult for believers, it is all the more important that our lives display the power of God’s grace to produce faithfulness.

The authenticity of faith is clarified as believers are called upon to pay the price of being a follower of Christ – those truly saved will persevere through it all.