“When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5-6)
The beauty that comes from this world does not last. Possessions and ornamentation do not last. Structures, architecture, and infrastructures do not last either. All the things that are made by humanity, ultimately, do not last.
Now these people could have accepted this philosophical statement, but for their own reasons, they did not. Maybe they we aghast that such destruction would come upon the temple. Or maybe they wanted to know in order to protect the temple. Or maybe they were testing Jesus, to see how far he would go with it. Whatever the reason, they did not let the statement rest.
“They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.” (Verse 8)
This starting to sound more like end time predictions rather than just the end of the temple. Maybe the end of the temple felt like it would be end time predictions. Jesus continues with this line of thought; and for generations to follow, this becomes the template for what the end times will be like.
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” (Verse 9)
There was the World War, because never before had the entire world been at war – on nation against another. And that became World War I, because the world became at war again. What followed were “smaller wars”, but no less devastating to humanity. Jesus says to expect these things to come; but it does not signal the end. Humanity has come to know that tragic lesson, and now “wars and rumors of wars” no longer raises the alarm nor the eyebrow.
“Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.” (Verses 10 – 11)
I wonder if by this time Jesus’ listeners were becoming nervous. They had experienced wars and the consequences of those wars. They were devastating to the nations of Israel and Judah. And there had been famines and plagues, portents and signs of the things to come. So yes, I am sure they were becoming afraid.
But we, beloved reader, have the advantage of knowing that humanity has lived through all that, and survived to look back and tell and retell the stories that have come out of those times. In brief, the portents and signs have not been great enough or dreadful enough to mean the end is coming. But what might come from heaven? That we do not know as yet.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.” (Verses 12 – 17)
And suddenly, when our imaginations were spiraling out of control . . . we are grounded again by the realization that Jesus is not talking to us in the present, but to the people gathered around him – his disciples and others. Yes, there are those whose belief in Jesus and the Lord God who sent Jesus have resulted in arrest, persecution, and prosecution. They were targeted because of their beliefs. And they have been put to death. But the important aspect of these believers, the vital-ness of their lives, was never lost.
So what is the greater importance? That the artifacts and edifices of humanity will not last? That the world will come to an end? Or that the things that are most important about us, as people, as believers – will be preserved. Selah!