Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Two Enemies to Growth in Christ
People love to talk about the End Times. And people hate to talk about the End Times. I remember earlier in my walk with Christ there was tremendous excitement that Jesus would return nearly any day. There were prophecy updates and lots of books written about how all the signs were in place and it just has to be almost nearly the day so why worry about things like jobs or how much credit card debt I amass? Today the excitement has died down quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean we should no longer pay attention to the signs of the times. And today as we study Luke’s gospel, Jesus gives us a preview of coming attractions and some suggestions on how we ought to live our lives while we wait for Him to return and set up His kingdom on earth.
In the first part of Chapter 21 Jesus outlined what the Jews and Christians should look for when Jerusalem and the temple were about to be destroyed. That happened in 70 A.D. But Jesus did not return in 70 A.D. Between then and now a similar set of political, human, natural and cosmic calamities seek to draw us off from our primary mission: to be transformed into God’s image and be used to bring the gospel into the lives of many.
25 – 26
Jesus begins with “then”. It seems He is referring to the “times of the Gentiles” being fulfilled. Many scholars feel this refers to the period of time in which we live, when the Gentiles are being welcomed into God’s kingdom by becoming disciples of Jesus. Paul talks about this in Romans 11. He speaks of Israel being “cut off” from the Olive tree and us Gentiles being “grafted in”. When the last person bows their heart to receive Jesus as Lord, the “time of the Gentiles” will be complete.
It is at that time, I believe, that Jesus comes back for His church. This is what is known as the Rapture of the Church. Paul outlines it in his 1st letter to the Thessalonians:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (HCSB) We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. 15 For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
We get the word “rapture” from the Greek “caught up”. In Greek the word is “harpadzo” which means “to pluck”. This word translated into Latin is “rapturo”. So we get “rapture” from that Latin word.
We meet the Lord in the clouds, and I believe the next seven years will literally be hell on earth as Jesus prepares to take possession of the title deed of Planet Earth (Revelation 5:1) and the enemy fights tooth and nail to hold on but is ultimately defeated. During this time, I am of the opinion that we attend the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). Then we after the seven years of tribulation, we return with Him to set up His kingdom (Revelation 19:14).
So what happens on earth leading up to His return is in focus here. Primarily then, I think these words are more applicable to those left on earth after the Rapture and most especially the nation of Israel.
Last week Jesus told His disciples not to be distracted by the disasters around them but to continue to preach the gospel (Luke 21:9). But during the Tribulation the events on and surrounding earth will be so intense that God actually provides a timetable and tells His people, those who call on the name of Jesus during that time, to look up and know He is coming soon.
The “signs” He talks about in verse 25 are probably from Joel:
Joel 2:30-32 (HCSB) I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the LORD comes. 32 Then everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the LORD promised, among the survivors the LORD calls.
All of these signs are picked up in other prophecies and in the book of the Revelation (Revelation 6:12, 9:18, 19:18).
He describes the emotion of those living on earth as “anguish”, “bewilderment”, “fainting”, and “fear and expectation”. Revelation 6:15-17 details some of this same emotion. People will be so worried that they will call on the rocks to hide them from the face of the Lamb, whose wrath is being poured out on a rebellious planet.
After all this, the coming of Jesus will be unmistakable.
27 – 28
The times will be so bad that people will give up hope. Matthew 24:22 (HCSB) Unless those days were limited, no one would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect.
But Jesus says to look up and get ready for Him to come back. This echoes the prophecy of Daniel:
Daniel 7:13 (HCSB) I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him.
Jesus also said that His coming will be unmistakable.
Luke 17:24 (HCSB) For as the lightning flashes from horizon to horizon and lights up the sky, so the Son of Man will be in His day.
So Jesus wants them to know that if they can count days (Revelation 11) and have eyes and ears, they can hold on during the toughest of possible times, waiting and longing for Him to come.
29 – 33
So Jesus uses the idea of a tree. When the trees start to leaf out in the spring, summer can’t be far behind (except maybe in Oregon). So too—when these terrible events happen they should know for certain that Jesus is coming soon so hang on! The idea of “generation” in verse 32 is from the word ghene-ah which can mean “age”. It can also mean generation or nation. It will seem to those alive that earth will not survive what’s taking place. Jesus says in fact that earth and heaven will pass away (2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1-2) but His promise of redemption will not fail NO MATTER WHAT! So the promise is that the generation of those alive when these signs take place will not pass away before His return.
So what to do with this?
34 – 36
Verses 34 through 36 are ones each person should take to heart. The goal is to 1) escape these things if possible and 2) be in a good place to stand before the Lord. We will all have to give an account to Him (Romans 14:10) where He will evaluate how we did in this life (2 Corinthians 5:10). To escape the things of the Tribulation, give your heart to Jesus today. Living through that time will take great perseverance. You don’t want to be there, and you don’t have to be. To stand before Jesus in the best place possible, follow what He says here.
Jesus says to “be on guard”. The Greek word means to fully engage the mind. In another place the Apostle Peter tells us to be “sober” and “prayerful” in our approach to life (1 Peter 4:7). That echoes Jesus’ admonition here. Jesus says in verse 36 to be “alert” and in prayer “at all times”. The word “alert” means to stay sleepless. It’s the opposite of the condition He describes in verse 34.
There are two enemies to a growing Christian: the intoxicants and the anxiety of this age. The idea of being “dulled” is to literally have your heart weighed down—stopping you from living a dynamic Christian life but stuck. You get that way when the temptations of this age intoxicate you to the point of a hangover (literally that’s what “carousing” means, and “drunkenness” means: intoxicants). The “cares” of this life are the distractions (that’s what the Greek word merimnah means).
Temptations pull your mind away from being alert to the schemes of the enemy and distractions push your mind away from being stayed on the Lord.
This reminds me of: Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
The temptations and distractions of this age are a “trap” Jesus says. The enemy’s goal in your life, if he can’t stop you from falling in love with Jesus, is to make you ineffective in your walk and work for Him. But we don’t have to fall for his devices.
2 Corinthians 2:11 (KJV) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
The remedy to temptation and distraction is alertness and prayer. So these are my two suggestions from what Jesus says here:
- Have spiritual situational awareness and
- Have an open mic to the Lord.
37 – 38
Luke concludes the chapter by showing Jesus’ pattern during this last week. He’d show up in the temple complex and find people waiting for Him to teach, then at the end of the day retreat across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. This pattern ends up providing an opportunity for His betrayal. If He’d stay in Jerusalem the crowds would not allow Him to be arrested, but going to the Mount of Olives, and specifically to the Garden of Gethsemane opens Him up to a private arrest—which is exactly what He wants.
- Jesus is the only constant
The world will be in turmoil. Your life might be in turmoil. You aren’t going to find real security and constancy in this age or in any relationship outside of Jesus. If you belong to Him you will not only survive the turmoil but you can thrive in the midst of it.
- Life is a minefield so have your mine-detectors going at all times
Know yourself and your weaknesses. Know your enemy and his unfair tactics to bring you into temptation or despair. The battle is real but your God is more powerful and can lead you successfully through those minefields if you stay alert and stay connected to Him.