5Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6"As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down."
7"Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"
8He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not follow them. 9When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."
10Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.
12"But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17All men will hate you because of me. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By standing firm you will gain life.
Main Ideas to Glean from This Passage
1. Not even the greatest institutions and powers will last forever.
"not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down."
From one angle, Jesus is simply predicting the fall of Jerusalem. That the fall happened in A.D 70 confirms the fact that the Lord is true to his word. From another angle however, the statement reminds us of words of warning - in other places of Scripture - that the world - with all of its landmarks, institutions, and powers - will be destroyed as we know it (1 Jn 2:17; 2 Pe 3:10).
2. Jesus begins his prophecy by reminding His disciples how important it is to not lose sight of him or his words.
Attention given to false prophets and false prophecies can undermine the disciples' reception of the very message Jesus is trying to make.
"Watch out that you are not deceived....do not follow them" - similar to Paul's warning to the Roman church in Rom 16:17: "I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them."
Reflection question: Where do I find the false prophets and prophecies that I have to guard myself against today? In what areas of their teaching do they reveal themselves to be opposed to Christ, the gospel and/or Scripture?
3. Some signs that seem to suggest the world's ongoing nature will, ironically, confirm the LORD's final appearing.
"wars and revolutions....these things must happen....nation will rise against nation....famines and pestilences....fearful events..." - These are things that have always happened in a fallen world. So much so, that they give enemies of the faith reason to scoff, as 2 Peter 3 shows: They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (verse 4).
By mentioning these signs, Jesus implied to his disciples that much time would need to pass before He comes in final judgment, and by doing so, he invalidates their (likely) idea that He will set Himself up as King at that very time (see Acts 1:6).
4. Persecution and opposition bring opportunities to testify to others about Christ.
"they will lay hands on you and persecute you....They will deliver you to....and you will be brought before......This will result in your being witnesses to them."
Even though it is not wrong to pray that those who are persecuted be delivered from their persecutors (even Paul asks for this in 2 Thes 3:2), we should not underestimate what the LORD can do through them, as they faithfully speak of His grace.
5. Jesus will enable His people to persevere in times of opposition; yet, they are still called to persevere.
Compare v. 15 ("For I will give you words of wisdom...") with v. 19 ("by standing firm..."). Perseverance to the end is necessary for our final salvation (this kind of warning prevents us from becoming slack and presumptuous); yet the LORD will provide us with everything we need (this kind of assurance prevents us from despair).