Luke 21: It’s the end of the world as we know it

Reposted from Pastor McKinley

(38 verses, 4:39 to read)


What I am about to READ

  • Jesus observed and commented on a widow’s offering and then teaches His disciples about the great tribulation, culminating in His return to judge the quick and the dead.


  • In vv. 1-4, Jesus teaches what it is to trust in God, using the example of a faithful widow.
  • In vv. 5-19, Jesus warned about what Christians can expect in the time between His ascension and return in judgment.
  • In vv. 20-24, Jesus prophesies about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.
  • In vv. 25-33, Jesus points Christians to more signs of the coming judgment.
  • In vv. 34-35, Jesus urges Christians to remain alert to His coming.
  • In vv. 37-38, St. Luke provides a summary of Jesus’ activities during Holy Week.


  • It’s probably tempting for prosperity Gospel types to use the widow’s offering as a way of supporting their theology. “If you just send your seed money in, God will multiply what you have!” This section is unique to Mark and Luke (which is interesting, consider Mark follows Matthew very closely in the last several chapters of his Gospel), but neither gives any indication that the woman indeed did receive some sort of temporal blessing from God. Instead, this section stands to teach us that Christ is the one Who gives us everything that we need to support this body and life. This means that even in our lack, our Lord is enough for us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shows that God does indeed know what we need. This is true because He created us, and because Christ became just like us. God will give us what we need. If we don’t have it, we can be confident that God will still provide for us, even if it is not in this life. This also gives the Church a wonderful opportunity to engage in acts of mercy on behalf of those who are unable to provide for themselves basic needs of clothing, food, and shelter.
  • The subject quickly changes, though, to more eternal matters. Tumultuous times are ahead for the Church. This included the destruction of the temple (c. 70 A.D.), which our Lord foretells here. The destruction of the Jerusalem temple will also make room for false prophets to come in to entice Christians away from the true faith. Wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and persecution will also mark the last days. But haven’t these things been present for centuries? Indeed, we have been living in the last says since our Lord’s ascension into heaven.
  • Notice, however, that Jesus brings comfort: “Do not be terrified” (v. 9) and “But not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). Jesus doesn’t say these things to frighten the faithful. Jesus says in His farewell discourse in John (13-17), “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” When these things Jesus said come about, it will confirm again that Jesus speaks the truth about who He is. This also means that what He says to comfort us is most certainly true.
  • V. 19 says, “By your endurance you will gain your lives.” Jesus is not teaching here that by our suffering we gain eternal life. All of this is in the context of the Lord’s coming. This is a call to faithfulness in His Word and promises. Through these things, Jesus holds onto us and strengthens us for the struggles that He has warned us about.
  • Again, Jesus pointedly speaks about the fall of Jerusalem, which will happen in connection to the destruction of the temple. This would have been unthinkable for early first century Jews. But again, this shows that Jesus is truly the one He claims to be. This also serves as a warning to us. Jerusalem falls because of the unfaithfulness of the Jews, which God had warned in Deuteronomy 28. If we forsake the promises of the Gospel, we will also bring the curses of the law upon our own heads.
  • Finally, after all the signs of the times are fulfilled, Jesus will return. Again, this is not something that we can discern. “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). But even this coming in judgment is something we can look forward to. Jesus is coming with our redemption (v. 28).
  • The way the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to arrange this chapter is helpful for us who are living in these last days. After Jesus foretells his coming, He goes back to telling them to look at signs (the fig tree) and to avoid spiritual slothfulness. It is tempting to think that the end is upon us every time we hear about some great disaster, manmade or natural. When things calm down again, we may become less alert to the signs around us. Jesus is returning, and we ought constantly be on the lookout for it, through hearing the Word and prayer.
  • What is “this generation” in v. 32? Here, Jesus is not speaking of the people standing in front of Him, but to all the people who are living in the last days before His coming.
  • The conclusion of this chapter is important. Jesus’ movements and teachings are public. During His trial, Jesus criticizes the Jews for not confronting Him during those times. If Jesus were really guilty of anything, why didn’t they simply arrest Him publicly, rather than in secret and at night? St. Luke emphasizes the innocence of Jesus, who is the spotless lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.


  • Prayer: Oh, grant that in Thy holy Word we here may live and die, dear Lord; and when our journey endeth here, receive us into glory there. Amen. (TLH 292)

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group:

-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN

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