For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

21:1.  “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.”

Their can be little question that the rich practiced the same ostentation in connection with the presentation of their offerings, as in everything else they did.  All was for the eye of man, and for the purpose of fostering pride, and this in spite of the Lord’s exhortation, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them ... do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the street, that they may have glory of men.... But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly,” Mt 6:1-4.

21:2.  “And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.”

21:3.  “And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:”

It is not the amount we give that matters, but the relationship it bears to what we keep.  It is possible to be giving what seems like a lot, and still be withholding from God what is His due; and while in this age of grace, no percentage is specified, it is emphasized that it is to be in proportion to what God has given, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him,” 1 Co 16:2.  In the OT age the amount was ten percent of a man’s income, plus other mandatory offerings, over and above which were the voluntary offerings that might be offered as impelled simply by love and gratitude to God.  Surely we who are the recipients of greater blessings than those bestowed on the saints of the OT age, ought not to give less than they!

It is further written concerning giving, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.  Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver,” 2 Co 9:6-7.  The recompense of each man’s giving will be at the Bema.  Our “reaping” there will be in proportion to our “sowing” here on earth.

It is often forgotten that that widow could have given just one mite, and she would proportionately still have been giving more than the rich men, for she would have been giving half of all she possessed.

21:4.  “For all of these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: But she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

Even our most liberal giving falls far short of this.  We would do well to remember that all we have, has been entrusted to us as stewards by God, and that at the Bema we will have to render an account of our stewardship.

21:5.  “And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,”

21:6.  “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

It is not unlikely that many of the things mentioned had been given by those who hoped thereby to place on permanent display the evidence of their lavish giving.  Their folly is revealed in that within thirty-eight years (in AD 70) the whole magnificent edifice would be a pile of rubble.  He is a wise man who gives in such a spirit as will ensure the eternal preservation of the record.  

21:7.  “And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?”

Most of them probably refused to believe the Lord, for the temple wasn’t even complete at the time, and it must have been unthinkable to them that its destruction could have been in the foreseeable future.  That the destruction was near declares the instability of everything earthly, and the folly of building our hopes upon anything in a place of such impermanence.  Abraham, the great man of faith, looked for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and so should every man of faith.

21:8.  “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.”

Clearly the Lord’s words embraced, not only the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but the destruction which is still future: that which will occur near the end of the Tribulation.  Prior to both occasions there would appear false Christs, but it won’t be until the Tribulation that the Antichrist will appear.

21:9.  “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass: but the end is not by and by (coming immediately).”

There would also be wars and commotions (revolutions) both before the destruction that would come in AD 70, and that which would come before the final destruction at the end of the then far off Tribulation.  The intimation that the prophecy extended to the Tribulation era is given in the words “but the end is not by and by (coming immediately).”

21:10.  “Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:”

This obviously applies exclusively to the coming Tribulation, for no such wide scale wars occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

21:11.  “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.”

This also relates to the Tribulation, for no such phenomena preceded the destruction of AD 70.  The cosmic disturbances (the earthquake and darkness) at the time of the Lord’s death did not meet the criteria listed here.

21:12.  “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.”

The introductory words “But before all these” make it clear that this particular part of the warning related specifically to what would occur between the time the Lord was speaking and the year AD 70, though certainly the warning applies also to the Tribulation period.  The thirty-eight years between AD 32 and AD 70 saw the fulfillment of the prophecy relative to the foretold persecutions; and the almost two thousand years since then have been witness to the continuation of those persecutions, the Tribulation era intensifying them in a more terrible degree just prior to the Lord’s second advent.

21:13.  “And it shall turn to you for a testimony.”

This assurance puts everything in perspective.  Persecution tests the reality of one’s profession, and affords opportunity to win the martyr’s crown. 

21:14.  “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:”

21:15.  “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”

This gives the further assurance that there is no need for a persecuted believer to worry about what defense to offer when he is brought before tribunals.  The Lord Himself will give His own not only the necessary wisdom, but also the language in which to present their defense, though it is to be remembered that the assurance doesn’t extend to guaranteeing preservation from death.

The fate of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, warns against making such an assumption.  The Lord’s encouragement to His own is not preservation from death, but that to be absent from the body is to be present with Him, which is far better.  His promise to give His own wisdom and words which their enemies will be unable to refute may not be taken to imply that their enemies’ inability to reply will render those foes also unable to act.  On the contrary, their very frustration will often be itself the impetus to silence the testimony by killing the witness.

21:16.  “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.”

History bears eloquent testimony to the accuracy of the Lord’s words.  Many a believer has found that confession of faith in Christ has converted friends into foes, and relatives into bitter antagonists.  The history of the Inquisition records the death of many believers as the direct result of charges made by parents and siblings.

21:17.  “And ye shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake.”

If we find ourselves enjoying a cozy relationship with unconverted family members and friends, or any unconverted person, it is time to examine the reality of our conversion.  The verse we are now considering declares the impossibility of such a relationship existing between faith and unbelief.  Experience shows, in fact, that such a relationship can exist only when the professed believer fails to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.

As noted already, however, the bitterest enemy of faith is not the professedly unconverted, but rather those who mask their hatred of God and His people under the guise of religion.

21:18.  “But there shall not an hair of your head perish.”

This in no way contradicts the truth of the two preceding verses, but rather assures the believer that at the resurrection of the just, see Ac 24:15, the life laid down for Christ’s sake, will be taken upon again in power and immortality, revealing the wisdom of having been willing to die for the sake of the One Who Himself died to redeem our souls.

21:19.  “In your patience possess ye your souls.”

This verse might be paraphrased, “By steadfast endurance you will secure your lives,” and may not be taken to imply that one can be saved by works, but rather that such endurance is one of the evidences of a genuine conversion.

21:20.  “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”

It is generally agreed that this warning relates specifically to the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, though that doesn’t exclude its having reference also to what will be in the Tribulation.  The desolation refers to the almost two thousand years during which the city and land have languished under Gentile domination, without a temple for the worship of Jehovah, and with God’s earthly people scattered amongst the Gentiles.

21:21.  “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.”

It may well be asked how anyone could either leave or enter the city when it was besieged by the Roman armies, but history records that for a brief time the siege was lifted, affording opportunity for the wise to realize that it was but a temporary respite given by God so that they could escape; the believers outside having the wisdom not to return to the city during that interlude. 

Those who refused to believe the Lord’s words, imagining that the lifting of the siege was permanent, failed to flee, while unbelievers outside entered the city, both to their own destruction.

Many of those who fled Jerusalem went to the old abandoned Edomite rock city of Pella or Petra, and many competent students of prophecy believe that that same city will again afford refuge for the Jews during the siege of Jerusalem in the Tribulation, see Isa 16:1-4, and Ps 60:9.

21:22.  “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”

The application is both to the thirty-eight years which followed the Lord’s death and resurrection, and to the coming Tribulation; and in this connection it must be remembered that the two thousand years of this present Church age form a parenthesis in the continuity of God’s program for the restoration of Israel, and the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.  When the Church age is recognized as such a parenthesis, there is no difficulty in seeing the close relationship between the events of two thousand years ago, and what will be in the impending Tribulation era.

21:23.  “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.”

Apart from the obvious difficulties for pregnant women and nursing mothers under such conditions as are described here, it isn’t clear why these women should be specially mentioned, for the same difficulties would apply to the aged, the sick, and the infirm, etc.

“Wrath upon this people” declares that the judgment of AD 70, and that yet to come in the Tribulation, are God’s visitation on rebellious Israel, but other Scriptures, the book of Revelation, for example, make it clear that in the Tribulation the judgment will be directed also against the equally rebellious Gentiles.

21:24.  “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

Thousands of Jews fell by the sword in AD 70, and since then Jerusalem has been under Gentile dominion, but a worse slaughter will come in the Tribulation, and Gentile control of Jerusalem will continue until Christ’s second advent.  The times of the Gentiles began when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city, and carried the Jews captive into Babylon; and will not end until Christ returns in power and glory to end the Tribulation, and establish His millennial kingdom.

21:25.  “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;”

During the past two thousand years there have been unusual cosmic phenomena, distress among the nations, and destructive tidal waves, etc., leading many to believe that the end of the world was near, but the passage of time has proved all such conclusions wrong.  It is to be remembered that all of these signs relate to the Jewish age, not to the intervening Church age.

The three hours of darkness at the time of the Lord’s crucifixion, the earthquake, the rending of the Temple vail, etc., were all part of the signs to warn the people that the end of the Jewish age was near.  Had they as a nation believed, there would have followed the seven years of the Tribulation, which would have ended with the Lord’s return in power and glory, and the inauguration of the new age, the Millennium.  But Israel wouldn’t believe, with the result that the offer of the kingdom was suspended in AD 70, and won’t be renewed until after the rapture of the Church, and the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week, the seven years of the Tribulation, which will end the 490 years represented by Daniel’s seventy weeks.  The gap between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week portrays the two thousand year parenthesis of the Church age.  In that seventieth week, the Tribulation era, there will be again cosmic disturbances, distress among the nations, and unusual activity of the oceans.

We must realize, however, that above and beyond the literal, the signs may also have symbolic meaning.  For example, the book of Revelation makes it clear that the darkening of the sun goes beyond the literal, and points to the darkening or reduction of the knowledge of Christ during the reign of the Roman beast; while the bloody moon depicts the slaughter of those who will comprise the true Israel during that era; and the falling of the stars, points to the killing of individual believers because of their testimony to Christ.  The agitation of the sea speaks of the anarchical turmoil among the Tribulation-age nations.  A fuller treatment of this subject is given in the book Revelation, the Epilogue to Daniel by the present writer and also available on this web site.

21:26.  “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

The terror that will grip men’s hearts as a result of the terrible Tribulation judgments, will be compounded by the dissolution of the whole fabric of society, and the collapse of government as portrayed in the words, “the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”  The heavens are the source of all earthly rule, see Dan 4:17,26; Ro 13:1-7, so that the shaking of the powers of heaven speaks clearly of the removal of all stable government.

21:27.  “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

This carries us to the end of the Tribulation, and the Lord’s return to establish His millennial kingdom.

21:28.  “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

This encouragement is for the Tribulation-age believers, not for the saints of the Church age.  We look for the Lord to come to the air and catch us up to heaven: the believers of the Tribulation age will look for His coming to deliver them from suffering, and to lead them into the enjoyment of the millennial kingdom.  We look for Him to come as the bright and morning star (Re 22:16); they, for Him to come as the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings (Mal 4:2).

21:29.  “And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;”

21:30.  “When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.”

21:31.  “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

The same parable is recorded in Mt 24 and Mk 13, but with the mention of the fig tree only; and since the fig tree represents Israel, the other trees here appear to represent the Gentile nations.  (The vine, incidentally, represents Israel in the past; the fig, Israel during this present Church age; and the olive, Israel in the Millennium). It is easy to see in the budding of the fig tree the symbolic portrait of Israel’s national resurrection and the restoration of here autonomy; and in the budding of the other trees the revival of the old Roman Empire in its new form as the ten kingdom coalition over which the beast will rule in the Tribulation. 

The admonition continues to be to Israel, not to the Church, though unquestionably we who are living in what are clearly the closing days of the Church age, can discern the imminence of these things which will occur after the rapture of the Church.

The same period of Israel’s history is also described symbolically in the Lord’s cursing the barren fig tree in Mt 21 and Mk 11.  There, the fig tree covered with leaves, but without fruit, represents Israel with much profession, but without any fruit of righteousness.  Its withering and dying following the Lord’s cursing it portrays the state of Israel since AD 70 until the present.

21:32.  “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.”

While the application may be to that generation then living,  in the context of the additional details given by Matthew and Mark, however, it is clear that “this generation” refers to those who will be living at or near the end of the Church age.  For example, the reinstatement of Jewish autonomy in 1948 was the budding of the long dead “fig tree,” and the continuing regathering of the Jews into Palestine, inform all but the spiritually blind that the Tribulation and the Millennium are very near.  We are the generation witnessing the fulfillment of the Lord’s prediction.

21:33.  “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”

This declares the immutability of God’s Word.  The present earth and aerial heavens will be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth, but the Word of God will endure eternally, its every pronouncement being brought to pass.

21:34.  “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”

This warning was never more needed than today.  A pleasure crazed world is continually seeking to entice the believer to abandon the path of virtue and duty, and to join its thoughtless multitudes in the pursuit of its fleeting pleasures; nor is it any less persistent in its attempted seduction through the cares of everyday living.  Its success may be measured in the rampant carnality displayed by the number of professed believers who are better acquainted with the data of the world of sport, theater, and business, than with the contents of the Bible.  There is very great need to be on constant guard against the wiles of Satan.

The speed with which that day of the Lord’s advent will come (first to rapture the Church, and then to inaugurate the millennial kingdom) is declared in that the word “unawares” is related to the sudden springing of a trap.  We should remember, however, that every day multitudes are ushered into eternity with the same unexpectedness, the unbelievers discovering with horror that they have lost their souls; and carnal believers, that they have lost the reward reserved for faithful service to Christ.

21:35.  “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”

The warning here is related to the sudden descent of the fowler’s net upon an unwary bird; and again while the primary application is to the suddenness of the Lord’s coming, it relates also to the abruptness with which many are called into eternity.

21:36.  “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

The warning continues to be primarily to those in danger of being caught in the catastrophe of AD 70, and in that which will come in the Tribulation, but in its broader sense it relates to all men in every age to be prepared to meet the Lord.  Only those who have trusted Him as Savior will stand in His presence acquitted: all others will stand there condemned and to be banished into the awful eternal torment of the lake of fire.

21:37.  “And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.”

The night hours spent on the mount of Olives were undoubtedly the secret of the power that accompanied the Lord’s words when He taught in the temple during the day: He held communion with His Father there away from the crowds to whom He ministered tirelessly during the day.  He who would speak with power must also reserve time to be alone with God.

21:38.  “And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.”

Why did the people flock to the temple early in the morning to hear this Jesus Whom their leaders despised and hated?  The answer is furnished by the officers when explaining their failure to arrest Him, “Never man spake like this man,” Jn 7:46.  How could it be otherwise?  He Who spoke was the living Word as described in Jn 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

[Luke 22]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough