The Nature of the Tribulation

Luke 21 SCC 7/31/16


The occasion for this chapter is given in the last two verses of this chapter (21:37-38). In v 5 it is toward evening when He began to leave the temple. Apparently some pointed out the decorations of the temple and the disciples especially pointed out the temple buildings. Then as they moved toward the Mt of Olives we have the “Olivet Discourse” (Mathew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21:5ff).



Jesus said this widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on. Apparently giving is measured by what you have left to live on.

·       And rewards are based on inequality in this life. This life owed this widow something, and God is a God of justice. Leave this life having given more than you receive.

·       Most giving is done out of surplus, and Jesus is not condemning that. Most giving done to Jesus and the apostles was seemingly done out of surplus.

·       Jesus is here saying like everything else there is greater and lesser giving. The more the giving eats in to your life style, the greater it is.



The Jerusalem Temple will be destroyed

In response to admiration for the temple Jesus said, there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down v 6. This was fulfilled by Titus and the Roman army in A.D. 70. But it launched a discussion on end times prophesy, which was apparently Jesus’ purpose v 7. Several things force that conclusion: 1. The catastrophic events described in v 11 did not happen before 70 AD. These cosmic events have not happened throughout history. 2. The command to make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves v 14 does not sound like the advice the apostles gave to the church for confronting the enemies of this age (1Pet 3:15 be ready; 2 Tim 2:15 be diligent).


The Time Before the Second Coming of Christ

The disciples then asked Jesus about the timing of these things and the sign when these things are about to take place v 7. Jesus just answered the question about the signs, because only God the Father knows the timing (Matt 24:36). Christ then commented on the seven-year tribulation until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled v 24. Notice: (1) The word You and your in v 8-20 is not just these disciples but future disciples during the entire age into the tribulation. (2) Things like false teacher’s v 8, war v 9-10, earthquakes v 11, famine v 11, believer persecutions v 12, and family betrayal v 16-17 have gone on all through the centuries but they are all on the increase today, and they will all be amplified to global proportions and disastrous consequences during the tribulation period. (3) Jesus said, there will be great earthquakes, in various places plagues and famines; terrors and great signs from heaven. These things did not take place before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 therefore Jesus was also talking about a future great tribulation. There are three parts to the Tribulation Period:


1. Preceding the Tribulation (Matt 24) v 8-9. So what is common, or repeated for this pre-tribulation age, is false prophets/teachers, localized wars and conflicts/ disturbances.


2. The tribulation period or possibly the first half of the tribulation. Then He continued by saying to them ten things: (1) Nation will rise against nation v 10, this has go on all through history with the 1900s the bloodies century of all in terms of war. (2) and there will be great earthquakes v 11, these are actually increasing, not just the recording of them (every 38 yrs. since 1863-1976 12, 53, 71 EQ’s. Last 38 nearly 180). (3) and in various places plagues and (4) famines apparently unprecedented ones (5) there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. Don’t know what that is, but it is not a regular historic event, as the first four. (6) they will lay hands on you will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake v 12. Persecution will be against those who say, there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (7) It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony v 13. (8) But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends, they will put some of you to death v 16. (9) and you will be hated by all because of My name v 17. This is true of all true believers but it is part of the next prediction. (10) Yet not a hair of your head will perish v 18.

NB: Some believers will have an opportunity to testify, some will be betrayed by parents, some will be put to death, some will endure v 19 through to the second coming even though hated by all.


3. The end of the tribulation. First, v 20 when Jerusalem surrounded by armies, recognize her desolation is near. This sounds more like that gatherings of the armies before Armageddon than the single Roman army in 70 AD. Second, v 21-22 those in Judea must flee to the mountains, those in the midst of the city must leave, those in the country must not enter the city; these are days of vengeance, so all things which are written will be fulfilled. This sounds like it fulfills many OT predictions about the tribulation and the second coming. There are no OT predictions about the siege of 70 AD. Third, v 23-24 Woe to the pregnant, nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land wrath to this people; they will fall by the sword, led captive into all the nations; Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The times of the Gentiles is described in the statue of Dan 2; the beasts of Dan 7. It is the period of Gentile domination of Jerusalem, which began under Nebuchadnezzar (587 B.C.), and continues through the Trib and ends with the second coming of Christ. The vengeance of v 22 and the wrath of v 23 and not characteristic of this church age but belong to the day of the Lord beginning with the tribulation period (2 Thess 2:1-4).


The Second Coming of Christ

Jesus included cosmic events that make the second coming a public, global, catastrophic occurrence, which no one can ignore. It is not just the second coming itself that will be a global media event but the signs leading up to a global panic due to (1) signs in sun and moon and stars v 25, and (2) on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, (3) men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world v 26; for (4) the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then Jesus describes His second coming v 27-28. Notice this is a different event from the rapture of the Church (1 Thess 4:16-18). How will disciples react to this event? Lift up their heads rather than cower as the nations v 28. The end is near!


The Example of the Fig Tree

These signs are like the leaves on the fig tree his coming is near v 31. (1) Jesus said His coming would be sudden and unexpected like the flood in the days of Noah, yet here is says it comes with many warnings, signs revealed in the scriptures and began to show up in current events. It is unexpected in the sense that it is not a gradual change of events which the world can predict. The kingdom of God is not something gradually brought in by political or social change. (2) The Second Coming is not an imminent event. It will not happen today or real soon because none of these things have happened, but remember the rapture could happen any time. (3) It seems as the world moves closer to the Second Coming there is less people being saved and no appeal for the gospel. That appeal seems to end altogether in the middle of the tribulation. This generation v 32 [which observes the tribulation] will not pass away until all things take place. In v 33 Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away (Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17). Here Jesus gave two important principles: (1) This creation will pass away, not be re-made into some kingdom or utopia on this earth which many groups, probably most Christian groups, are working toward today. And (2) His words are the inerrant word of God and will never pass away. 


In v 34 there are three things Jesus mentions that will keep people from being on guard. “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with (1) dissipation and (2) drunkenness and (3) the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap. All of this is preoccupation with life on this side of the grave—the temporal, the earthly—the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. No thought of concern for the eternal. Eat, drink, and be merry.



1. Christlike leadership spells out the details of the future given in the Bible.

2. Christlike leaders should spell out details of future events as Jesus did but by using revelation already given in the Bible.

3. The purpose for teaching prophecy is not to predict the future but to explain its biblical details so that when it comes to pass, it will confirm biblical revelation.