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Luke 21:5-35

Context
The Signs of the End of the Age

21:5 Now 1  while some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned 2  with beautiful stones and offerings, 3  Jesus 4  said, 21:6 “As for these things that you are gazing at, the days will come when not one stone will be left on another. 5  All will be torn down!” 6  21:7 So 7  they asked him, 8  “Teacher, when will these things 9  happen? And what will be the sign that 10  these things are about to take place?” 21:8 He 11  said, “Watch out 12  that you are not misled. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ 13  and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them! 21:9 And when you hear of wars and rebellions, 14  do not be afraid. 15  For these things must happen first, but the end will not come at once.” 16 

Persecution of Disciples

21:10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise up in arms 17  against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, and famines 18  and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights 19  and great signs 20  from heaven. 21:12 But before all this, 21  they will seize 22  you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues 23  and prisons. You 24  will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 21:13 This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses. 25  21:14 Therefore be resolved 26  not to rehearse 27  ahead of time how to make your defense. 21:15 For I will give you the words 28  along with the wisdom 29  that none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 21:16 You will be betrayed even by parents, 30  brothers, relatives, 31  and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. 21:17 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. 32  21:18 Yet 33  not a hair of your head will perish. 34  21:19 By your endurance 35  you will gain 36  your lives. 37 

The Desolation of Jerusalem

21:20 “But when you see Jerusalem 38  surrounded 39  by armies, then know that its 40  desolation 41  has come near. 21:21 Then those who are in Judea must flee 42  to the mountains. Those 43  who are inside the city must depart. Those 44  who are out in the country must not enter it, 21:22 because these are days of vengeance, 45  to fulfill 46  all that is written. 21:23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress 47  on the earth and wrath against this people. 21:24 They 48  will fall by the edge 49  of the sword and be led away as captives 50  among all nations. Jerusalem 51  will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. 52 

The Arrival of the Son of Man

21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, 53  and on the earth nations will be in distress, 54  anxious 55  over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves. 21:26 People will be fainting from fear 56  and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 57  21:27 Then 58  they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud 59  with power and great glory. 21:28 But when these things 60  begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption 61  is drawing near.”

The Parable of the Fig Tree

21:29 Then 62  he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the other trees. 63  21:30 When they sprout leaves, you see 64  for yourselves and know that summer is now near. 21:31 So also you, when you see these things happening, know 65  that the kingdom of God 66  is near. 21:32 I tell you the truth, 67  this generation 68  will not pass away until all these things take place. 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 69 

Be Ready!

21:34 “But be on your guard 70  so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap. 71  21:35 For 72  it will overtake 73  all who live on the face of the whole earth. 74 

1 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “now” to indicate the transition to a new topic.

2 sn The Jerusalem temple was widely admired around the world. See Josephus, Ant. 15.11 (15.380-425); J. W. 5.5 (5.184-227) and Tacitus, History 5.8, who called it “immensely opulent.” Josephus compared it to a beautiful snowcapped mountain.

3 tn For the translation of ἀνάθημα (anaqhma) as “offering” see L&N 53.18.

4 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 sn With the statement days will come when not one stone will be left on another Jesus predicted the total destruction of the temple, something that did occur in a.d. 70.

6 tn Grk “the days will come when not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down.”

7 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of Jesus’ comments about the temple’s future destruction.

8 tn Grk “asked him, saying.” The participle λέγοντες (legontes) is redundant in English and has not been translated.

9 sn Both references to these things are plural, so more than the temple’s destruction is in view. The question may presuppose that such a catastrophe signals the end.

10 tn Grk “when.”

11 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

12 tn Or “Be on guard.”

13 tn That is, “I am the Messiah.”

14 tn Social and political chaos also precedes the end. This term refers to revolutions (L&N 39.34).

15 tn This is not the usual term for fear, but refers to a deep sense of terror and emotional distress (Luke 24:37; BDAG 895 s.v. πτοέω).

16 sn The end will not come at once. This remark about timing not only indicates that there will be events before the end, but that some time will also pass before it comes.

17 tn For the translation “rise up in arms” see L&N 55.2.

18 sn See Isa 5:13-14; 13:6-16; Hag 2:6-7; Zech 14:4.

19 tn This term, φόβητρον (fobhtron), occurs only here in the NT. It could refer to an object, event, or condition that causes fear, but in the context it is linked with great signs from heaven, so the translation “sights” was preferred.

20 sn See Jer 4:13-22; 14:12; 21:6-7.

21 sn But before all this. Another note of timing is present, this one especially important in understanding the sequence in the discourse. Before the things noted in vv. 8-11 are the events of vv. 12-19.

22 tn Grk “will lay their hands on you.”

23 sn Some of the persecution is of Jewish origin (the synagogues). Some fulfillment of this can be seen in Acts. See the note on synagogues in 4:15.

24 tn Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

25 tn Grk “This will turn out to you for [a] testimony.”

26 tn Grk “determine in your hearts.”

27 tn This term could refer to rehearsing a speech or a dance. On its syntax, see BDF §392.2.

28 tn Grk “a mouth.” It is a metonymy and refers to the reply the Lord will give to them.

29 tn Grk “and wisdom.”

30 sn To confess Christ might well mean rejection by one’s own family, even by parents.

31 tn Grk “and brothers and relatives,” but καί (kai) has not been translated twice here since English normally uses a coordinating conjunction only between the last two elements in a series of three or more.

32 sn See Luke 6:22, 27; 1 Cor 1:25-31.

33 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “yet” to indicate the contrast present in this context.

34 sn Given v. 16, the expression not a hair of your head will perish must be taken figuratively and refer to living ultimately in the presence of God.

35 sn By your endurance is a call to remain faithful, because trusting in Jesus is the means to life.

36 tc Some important Greek witnesses plus the majority of mss (א D L W Ψ Ë1 Ï) read the aorist imperative κτήσασθε (kthsasqe) here, though some mss (A B Θ Ë13 33 pc lat sa) read the future indicative κτήσεσθε (kthsesqe). A decision is difficult because the evidence is so evenly balanced, but the aorist imperative is the harder reading and better explains the rise of the other. J. A. Fitzmyer assesses the translation options this way: “In English one has to use something similar [i.e., a future indicative], even if one follows the [aorist imperative]” (Luke [AB], 2:1341); in the same vein, although this translation follows the aorist imperative, because of English requirements it has been translated as though it were a future indicative.

37 tn Grk “your souls,” but ψυχή (yuch) is frequently used of one’s physical life. In light of v. 16 that does not seem to be the case here. The entire phrase could be taken as an idiom meaning “you will save yourselves” (L&N 21.20), or (as in v. 18) this could refer to living ultimately in the presence of God.

38 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

39 sn See Luke 19:41-44. This passage refers to the events associated with the fall of Jerusalem, when the city is surrounded by armies.

40 tn Grk “her,” referring to the city of Jerusalem (the name “Jerusalem” in Greek is a feminine noun).

41 sn The phrase its desolation is a reference to the fall of the city, which is the only antecedent present in Luke’s account. The parallels to this in Matt 24:15 and Mark 13:14 refer to the temple’s desolation, though Matthew’s allusion is clearer. They focus on the parallel events of the end, not on the short term realization in a.d. 70. The entire passage has a prophetic “two events in one” typology, where the near term destruction (a.d. 70) is like the end. So the evangelists could choose to focus on the near time realization (Luke) or on its long term fulfillment, which mirrors it (Matthew, Mark).

42 sn Fleeing to the mountains is a key OT image: Gen 19:17; Judg 6:2; Isa 15:5; Jer 16:16; Zech 14:5.

43 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

44 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

45 tn Or “of punishment.” This is a time of judgment.

46 tn The passive construction with the infinitive πλησθῆναι (plhsqhnai) has been translated as an active construction for simplicity, in keeping with contemporary English style.

47 sn Great distress means that this is a period of great judgment.

48 tn Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

49 tn Grk “by the mouth of the sword” (an idiom for the edge of a sword).

50 sn Here is the predicted judgment against the nation until the time of Gentile rule has passed: Its people will be led away as captives.

51 tn Grk “And Jerusalem.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

52 sn Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled implies a time when Israel again has a central role in God’s plan.

53 sn Signs in the sun and moon and stars are cosmic signs that turn our attention to the end and the Son of Man’s return for the righteous. OT imagery is present: See Isa 13:9-10; 24:18-20; 34:4; Ezek 32:7-8; Joel 2:1, 30-31; 3:15.

54 tn Grk “distress of nations.”

55 tn Or “in consternation” (L&N 32.9).

56 tn According to L&N 23.184 this could be mainly a psychological experience rather than actual loss of consciousness. It could also refer to complete discouragement because of fear, leading people to give up hope (L&N 25.293).

57 sn An allusion to Isa 34:4. The heavens were seen as the abode of heavenly forces, so their shaking indicates distress in the spiritual realm. Although some take the powers as a reference to bodies in the heavens (like stars and planets, “the heavenly bodies,” NIV) this is not as likely.

58 tn Grk “And then” (καὶ τότε, kai tote). Here καί has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

59 sn An allusion to Dan 7:13. Here is Jesus returning with full judging authority.

60 sn These things are all the events of vv. 8-27. Disciples represent the righteous here. The events surrounding the fall of the nation are a down payment on a fuller judgment to come on all humanity. The presence of one guarantees the other.

61 sn With Jesus’ return comes the manifestation of judgment and final salvation (redemption).

62 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

63 tn Grk “all the trees.”

64 tn Grk “seeing for yourselves, you know.” The participle βλέποντες (bleponte") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

65 tn The verb γινώσκετε (ginwskete, “know”) can be parsed as either present indicative or present imperative. In this context the imperative fits better, since the movement is from analogy (trees and seasons) to the future (the signs of the coming of the kingdom) and since the emphasis is on preparation for this event.

66 sn The kingdom of God refers here to the kingdom in all its power. See Luke 17:20-37.

67 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.”

68 sn This is one of the hardest verses in the gospels to interpret. Various views exist for what generation means. (1) Some take it as meaning “race” and thus as an assurance that the Jewish race (nation) will not pass away. But it is very questionable that the Greek term γενεά (genea) can have this meaning. Two other options are possible. (2) Generation might mean “this type of generation” and refer to the generation of wicked humanity. Then the point is that humanity will not perish, because God will redeem it. Or (3) generation may refer to “the generation that sees the signs of the end” (vv. 25-26), who will also see the end itself. In other words, once the movement to the return of Christ starts, all the events connected with it happen very quickly, in rapid succession.

69 sn The words that Jesus predicts here will never pass away. They are more stable and lasting than creation itself. For this kind of image, see Isa 40:8; 55:10-11.

70 tn Grk “watch out for yourselves.”

sn Disciples are to watch out. If they are too absorbed into everyday life, they will stop watching and living faithfully.

71 sn Or like a thief, see Luke 12:39-40. The metaphor of a trap is a vivid one. Most modern English translations traditionally place the words “like a trap” at the end of v. 34, completing the metaphor. In the Greek text (and in the NRSV and REB) the words “like a trap” are placed at the beginning of v. 35. This does not affect the meaning.

72 tn There is debate in the textual tradition about the position of γάρ (gar) and whether v. 35 looks back to v. 34 or is independent. The textual evidence does slightly favor placing γάρ after the verb and thus linking it back to v. 34. The other reading looks like Isa 24:17. However, the construction is harsh and the translation prefers for stylistic reasons to start a new English sentence here.

73 tn Or “come upon.”

74 sn This judgment involves everyone: all who live on the face of the whole earth. No one will escape this evaluation.



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