Luke

21:29-38

The culmination of Messiah's mission, 19:45-24:53

1. The Messiah and the Temple, 19:45-24:53

vi] Signs of the new age and the end times. 21:5-38

b) Your liberation is near

Synopsis

Jesus is still addressing the question posed by his disciples concerning the destruction of the Temple; "When will this be and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" Jesus now relates the parable of the fig tree and concludes his oracle with a set of sayings.

 
Teaching

In the face of the coming kingdom a disciple must constantly watch to their faith.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 21:5-28.

 

ii] Structure: Your liberation is near:

Setting, v5-6:

The disciples' question, v7:

The signs of the age, v8-28:

Parable, v29-31:

The parable of the fig tree;

Sayings, 32-36:

Oracle, v32-33:

"this generation will certainly not pass away until ......"

Oracle, v34-35:

"that day will close on you suddenly like a trap ....."

Exhortation, v36:

"be always on the watch, and pray that ......"

Jesus teaching in the temple, v37-38.

 

iii] Interpretation:

Jesus now calls for a proper response to his oracle / prophecy concerning the destruction of the temple / Jerusalem - watch to the end, watch to your faith, and watch in prayer. For The eschatology of Jesus, see "Background", 17:20-37.

 

The parable of the fig tree, v29-31. The sense of the parable / illustration is drawn out in v31. This allegorised interpretation is found in all three synoptic gospels, although Luke's "you know that the kingdom of God is near", instead of Mark and Matthew's "you know he is near", is somewhat confusing. Given the context, the "he is near" refers to the coming of the Son of Man, a coming in judgment, which at that moment in time specifically concerned divine judgment upon religious Israel at the hand of Rome. A coming kingdom / reign of God is a broader concept, but certainly includes judgment. It is possible that the original parable was a kingdom / crisis parable heralding the coming kingdom, and that later it was given a more specific use in relation to Jesus' oracle concerning God's judgment upon the temple / Jerusalem. If this is so, then Luke's wording is possibly closer to the original.

Either way, the issue is, what are the tauta, "these things", the signs which herald that divine judgment is at hand? Proposed options often include the preliminary signs, the wars and rumours of wars etc., but it is likely that the tauta are the events surrounding the erhmwiV, "desolation", the desolating sacrilege, which Luke specifies as "Jerusalem being surrounded by armies." So, for Luke's generation, it was the preparation for a siege.

As already indicated, Jesus' prophetic words draw on the imagery of the profanation of God's own people in the past (eg., the destruction of the temple / Jerusalem by the Babylonians), applying them to his own generation, and doing so in a way that they also serve as a paradigm for the end of the age; See The Prophetic Perspective, 21:5-28. On the last day, the Beast from the Bog will set upon the apple of God's eye in a final desolating sacrilege, and when that day comes, Jesus' words imply that the faithful will easily read the signs. We can probably expect that the persecution of God's people will be at the heart of it, but persecution, as such, is not confined to the end.

 

"This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place", v32-33. Jesus states clearly that his own generation will witness the erhmwiV, "desolation" (the siege of Jerusalem and desecration of the temple), v20-24, and that they will also witness the signs in the sun, moon and stars, v25-26, and the coming of the Son of Man, v27. As already indicated in "Interpretation",v5-28, all three elements reveal different aspects of the one event, namely the destruction of Jerusalem, and all three elements serve as a paradigm for the end of the of the age. The disciples asked "when" the temple would be destroyed, and so Jesus now tells them that that it will be within their own generation. Of course, such a straightforward reading of Jesus' words is not widely accepted because the shaking of the sun, moon and stars, and the coming of the Son of Man are often read as futuristic, rather than aspects of the "desolation". As already noted, Jesus' prophetic words must be read as layered - they address the present and the future; See The Prophetic Perspective, 21:5-28.

Suggested interpretations of Jesus words that hJ genea auth, "this generation", will not pass away before these things occur.

iJesus' words are multi-layered such that his words apply to his own generation and all generations through to the end of the age, ie., Jesus' oracle serves as a paradigm ("type", Plummer) for the end of the age. See Mattill, Luke and the Last Things, Dillsboro, 1979.

iJesus assumed that his own generation would see the end of the age before it died out, ie., Jesus was mistaken. This mistaken view is evident in Paul's early epistles, ie., Paul thought he would be alive for the return of Christ.

iLuke is referring to his own generation, ie., Luke was mistaken.

iJesus is referring to humans in general, the human race will not die out before seeing all this fulfilled.

iThe word genea refers to the Jewish race; they will not die out before the end of the age, so Lenski.

i The consummation of these events is in mind, so Geldenhuys. "The last events have begun and will be brought to a consummation", Marshall.

iJesus' words are addressed to the end-times generation, ie., 70AD to the end of the age, the last generation of history, so Ellis and Fitzmyer.

 

iv] Synoptics:

See 21:5-28. The order of all three synoptic gospels continues with the parable of the fig tree, Mark 13:28-29 and Matthew 24:32-33. Small differences are evident, as usual, with Luke replacing "He is near" with "the kingdom of God is near", v31.

The first of the three concluding sayings also aligns with the other synoptic gospels, Mark 13:30-31 and Matthew 24:34-35. Interestingly, Luke does not include the following saying found in both Mark v32 and Matthew v36, namely that not even the Son knows "the day or the hour", only the Father. Fitzmyer suggests that Luke is not willing to admit that Jesus was ignorant of "that day." Luke is possibly suspicious of the validity of his received tradition at this point.

Luke's concluding sayings reflect Mark 13:33 / 37 and Matthew 24:42, but are much more fulsome. They are usually assigned to an L source, with some commentators suggesting that they are a Lucan creation, cf., Creed.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
v29

iv] The parable of the fig tree, v29-31. As new sprouts on the fig tree tell us that summer is near, so the presence of these signs tell us that God's eternal reign is bursting in upon us. The early Christians witnessed Jerusalem surrounded by armies and they knew well that the end of the restored kingdom of Israel was at hand. History tells us that the believers fled Jerusalem before the Roman legions laid siege to the city. Similar signs will herald the end of our age and the realisation of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus encourages his disciples to read the evident signs and not be caught out.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [and he said a parable] to them. Dative of indirect object.

parabolhn (h) "this parable" - a parable. Accusative direct object of the verb "to say." Parable in the sense of illustration, rather than riddle, ie., this is a teaching parable, even though originally it may have been a kingdom parable. The "lesson" supports Jesus' teaching that the signs of the coming "desolation" will be easily understood, namely Jerusalem under siege. "He told them a lesson from nature", Bock.

idete (eidon) aor. imp. "look at" - behold, see, look at [the fig tree and all the trees]. Mark has "learn from" and this is probably the sense Luke intends by his "look at." The addition of "and all the trees" generalises the illustration; this is not just about fig trees. "Look at a fig tree, or any tree for that matter."

 
v30

oJtan + subj. "when" - whenever [already they sprout]. Technically introducing an indefinite temporal clause, "whenever", although usually translated, "when", as NIV. The adverb "already" = "as soon as", is usually left untranslated. Its double use in the verse serves to emphasise immediacy.

bleponteV (blepw) pres. part. "you can see" - seeing. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to sprout"; "when already they sprout and you see this."

apo "for" - [you know] from [yourselves]. Expressing source / origin; "you are able to work out for yourselves without anyone telling you."

oJti "that" - that [summer is near already]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what we can know; "the fact that." "Summer is now near", NJB.

 
v31

ouJtwV adv."[even] so" - thus [and = also]. Here both with an inferential and comparative sense "so in the same way"; "in the same way also, you, when you see these things happening", Nolland.

uJmeiV "you" - you. Nominative subject of the verb "to know", emphatic by use. Who, the disciples or the crowd? Most likely the disciples are intended.

oJtan + subj. "when" - whenever [you see]. Again introducing an indefinite temporal clause, but as above, "when", rather than "whenever."

tauta "these things" - these things. Accusative object of the verb "to see." The events associated with the destruction of the temple, particularly the siege of Jerusalem.

ginomena (ginomai) pres. part. "happening" - becoming = taking place. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "these things", standing in a double accusative construction and stating a fact about the object.

oJti "that" - [you know] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "you know".

hJ basileia "the kingdom" - the kingdom. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Note Mark "know that he/it is near, at [the] doors", referring to the coming of the Son of Man, his coming to reign, which reign includes judgment. Luke's use of "the kingdom of God" similarly refers to the consummation of the kingdom, its realisation in the eternal reign in Christ. Of course, the kingdom can be "already" with us, in the sense of inaugurated, a now reality, and also a future hope, a not-yet reality. As already noted, the problem we face with a now / not-yet kingdom, packaged within created time, is not faced in the heavenly domain which lies outside of time. So, in eternal terms, the kingdom is already consummated, Christ has come into his heavenly domain, such that even now God has "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus", Eph.2:6-7. This dichotomy is but a moment within God's sovereign grace, 2Pet.3:8.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but possibly verbal, subjective. See tou qeou, 4:43.

egguV adv." near" - [is] near. "Near" in temporal terms. The same thought is in Mark, "at the door."

 
v32

v] Sayings, v32-36: a) Oracle, v32-33. Jesus finally answers the disciples' question "when", namely "this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." The apostles did indeed witness the fulfilment of Jesus' words, but so also will the generation alive on the last day; see above.

amhn legw uJmin "I tell you the truth" - truly i say to you. Always a reinforcing statement. The dative uJmin, "to you", serves as a dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech stating what Jesus says to them, namely an important truth.

hJ genea "generation" - [this] generation. Nominative subject of the verb "to pass away." "This generation" simply means Jesus' contemporaries; see above.

ou mh + subj. "certainly not" - not not = definitely not [may pass away, cease to exist]. A subjunctive of emphatic negation reinforcing Jesus' statement. Expressed positively, "these things will certainly happen within the life-time of this generation", Barclay.

eJwV an + subj. "until" - until [may occur]. Serving to introduce an indefinite temporal clause, future time.

panta "all these things" - all these things. The "these things" is assumed, and properly so since Mark has "all these things", but we are again left wondering what makes up the "all". Presumably it is again the events associated with the siege of Jerusalem, which event prefigures the "dreadful commotions" "before the end of the age."

 
v33

de "but" - [heaven and earth will pass away] but/and. Here adversative / contrastive, as NIV.

mou gen. pro. "my" - [the words] of me. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but possibly verbal, subjective, eg., "the words announced by me".

ou mh + fut. "[will] never" - not not = by no means [will pass away]. Double negative again reinforcing Jesus' words; used here with the future tense instead of a subjunctive. Expressed positively, "the sky and the earth won't last for ever, but my word's will", CEV.

 
v34

b) Oracle, v34-35. Jesus warns his disciples to stay alert. A disciple must not get caught up in worldly interests that undermine their faith. The last days (the interim before the last day) will be a time of trouble, devoid of faith, and many believers will be carried away with the cares of the world. It is easy to slip into the business of daily living and drift in faith and so fail to join with the Son of Man on the day of glory. So, a disciple must persevere in faith, for the end comes life a thief in the night - unexpectedly.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to the next saying.

prosecete (prosecw) pres. imp. "be careful" - pay attention to, keep on the lookout for, be alert for, be on guard against. The present tense expressing the idea of a constant state of alertness.

eJautoiV dat. ref. pro. "your" - to yourselves. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to pay attention to"; "but watch yourselves", ESV.

mhpote + subj. "or" - lest. Introducing a negated final clause expressing purpose.

barhqwsin (barew) aor. pas. subj. "will be weighed down" - [the hearts of you] may be burdened. Futuristic subjunctive. The sense is of our minds ("hearts") becoming insensitive, such that spiritual insight is dulled. "Be careful not to let your minds be dulled", Barclay.

en + dat. "with" - in. Instrumental, expressing means; "by".

biwtikaiV adj. "of life" - [dissipation and drunkenness and worries, anxieties] pertaining to life. Attributive adjective limiting "worries". An obstacle of spiritual insight, Rom.13:13, Gal.5:21.

ef (epi) + acc. "on]" - [and that day may come] upon [you]. With the accusative the preposition may express "the action of a superior force or agency"*; "to set upon you, to catch you out." "Will suddenly catch you like a trap", CEV.

aifnidioV adj. "suddenly" - sudden. The adjective serves as an adverb, probably here with the sense "unexpectedly".

wV "like" - as [a trap]. Comparative. Many translations attach this phrase from the beginning of v35 to the end of this verse, as NIV.

 
v35

gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why it is necessary to "be careful", namely, "because" the coming terrible day will engulf the whole world. This sense follows the text where the postpositive gar follows the verb epeiseleusetai, "will come." A variant exists where gar follows wJV pagiV, "as a trap", giving the sense "for as a snare it will come upon all who dwell on the earth", ie., all people face the trap. Most translations follow the reading where the postpositive gar follows the verb "will come", as NIV. "Trap" is then read with verse 34. The sense is then that the "day" comes on all people, but it will only trap / snare those believers who have failed to remain alert. Of course, this translation raises questions on the issue of the perseverance of the saints.

epeiseleusetai (epeisercomai) fut. "it will come" - it will close/fall [upon]. "For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth", NAB.

touV kaqhmenouV (kaqhmai) pres. part. "those who live" - [all] the ones sitting. The participle serves as a substantive.

thV ghV (h) "of the [whole] earth" - [upon face] of [all] the earth. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative.

 
v36

c) Exhortation, v36: We need to pray that God will give us clear insight such that we are not lead us away from Christ. In the end, only those who continue to watch to their faith in the Son of Man will stand with him in the last day.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to the next saying.

agrupneite (agrupnew) pres. imp. "be [always] on the watch" - be alert, stay awake, be watchful, be vigilant. Along with the phrase "in every moment (always)", this imperative underlines the idea of "constant watchfulness", in the sense of a sentry on guard in a watchtower who is always alert. Note, it is possible that "always" modifies "pray", so "always praying", Williams, but constant watchfulness, as NIV, seems best. Watching for what? Often understood as watchful for the signs of the end times, but a watching to our faith is more likely; "remain faithful", Thompson.

en + dat. "always" - in [all time]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal, as NIV.

deomenoi (deomai) pres. pas. part. "praying" - praying. The participle is possibly modal, expressing manner, how a person should keep alert; "be on the alert, praying at all times ..", REB, or possibly expressing purpose, "stay awake in order to pray", Nolland, or simply attendant, "watch and pray."

iJna + subj. "that" - that. Serving either to introduce a dependent statement expressing the content of the prayer, or a final clause, "in order that", expressing the purpose of the prayer. Content seems best.

katiscushte (katiscuw) aor. subj. "you may be able" - you may have strength = be able [to escape, pass through safely]. Possibly "strong enough to come through", Barclay, but "able", as NIV, is better - praying for the ability to recognise the signs. The infinitive "to escape" is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to have strength."

panta "all" - all [these] things. Again, "these things" are likely to be the events associated with the destruction of the temple / final tribulation, rather than "all these dangers", Moffatt.

ta mellonta "that is about" - being about. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "all these things"; "which are going to take place." The substantive participle with the infinitive may express a simple future tense, "to come", Moffatt; "that you may be able to recognise these future signs."

ginesqai (gimomai) pres. inf. "to happen" - to happen. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the participle "being about."

staqhnai (iJsthmi) aor. pas. inf. "to stand" - [and that you may be able] to stand. The aorist is possibly ingressive, where the emphasis is on the beginning of the action, so "take your stand." Again the infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of "you may be able."

emprosqen "before" - before, in front of. Spatial. Often viewed as a negative image, ie., standing in the dock ready to be judged, but the image can also be a positive one. It can denote a believer's "successful negotiation of the trials of the eschatological period and safe arrival at the place of abiding security", Nolland / standing with a "favourable verdict", Marshall. "In the presence of the Son of Man", Barclay.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "of Man" - [the son] of man. The genitive is adjectival, relational; see oJ ouJoV tou anqrwpou, 5:24.

 
v37

vi] Jesus teaching in the temple, v37-38. In an account not found in the other synoptic gospels, Luke transitions to Jesus' passion by providing a general overview of Jesus' Temple ministry. Luke tells us that Jesus teaches in the temple during the day and spends the night at the Mount of Olives (Mark mentions Bethany). In this period of quiet before the storm, Jesus is warmly received by the people - they arrive early at the Temple to hear him speak.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

taV hJmeraV (a) acc. "each day" - days. Taking the accusative as adverbial, extent of time, we have "he spent days in the temple ...."

didaskwn (didaskw) pres. part. "teaching" - [he was] teaching. The present participle with the imperfect verb to-be forms an imperfect periphrastic construction, probably used to emphasise aspect; day-by-day Jesus was teaching in the temple.

en + dat. "at" - in [the temple]. Local, expressing space.

taV ... nuktaV (x ktoV) acc. "each morning" - [but/and] nights. Again, an accusative of time, "during the night he went out and lodged at the Mount of Olives."

exercomenoV (exercomai) pres. mid. part. "he went out" - going out [he lodged]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to lodge"; "he went out and lodged"

to kaloumenon (kalew) pres. mid. part. "called" - [into = in/on the mountain] the one being called. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "mountain"; "the hill which is called."

Elaiwn (a) "Olives" - of olives. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / identification, limiting by identifying "the hill" in mind (the technical repetition of "hill" is assumed); "the hill which is called the hill of = known as Olives."

 
v38

wrqrizen (orqrizw) imperf. "came early in the morning" - [and all the people] were rising and coming early [toward him in the temple]. The imperfect is probably seeking to express habitual action. This verb expresses the action of rising early and moving to a particular destination. The use of the preposition proV, "toward", reinforces movement toward.

akouein (akouw) pres. inf. "to hear" - to hear. The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "in order to hear."

autou gen. pro. "him" - of him. The genitive may be viewed as adjectival, verbal, objective, or ablative, source / origin, "from him", although the verb "to hear" naturally takes a genitive of persons / genitive of direct object when the sense is "listen to"; "people came early in the morning to listen to him."

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

Exegetical Commentaries

 

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