mite02Luke 21

1. And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury,

Though we did not learn earlier where the spies who came to question Him first encountered the Lord, and where this contest between them took place, now we discover that the location was in the temple, and that they were near the place where men brought their gifts to the treasury. It seems the Lord pauses His teaching for a bit and watches as the rich bring their gifts. It is thought that the custom of these men was to bring their gifts in coin, and to give as much of this coin as possible so it made a great noise as they poured it in abundance into the box used for collecting it. Those who stood by would hear this great noise, and would be impressed with the giver’s generosity. However, this seems to fit right in with the kind of hypocritical showmanship that the Lord was just condemning in the previous two verses.

2. And He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.

As Christ continues to watch the gifts coming into the treasury, He observes a certain poor widow giving her gift of two mites. “Poor” here means she worked daily for her food, basically what we would call “living hand-to-mouth” (only much more literally than we probably use this phrase to mean!) The mites, the Greek lepta, were two copper coins similar to our pennies (or at least, what our pennies used to be.) Mites were therefore low denomination coins. We imagine that these little coins hardly made a “tink” as they fell into the box on top of the great piles of coins that had been so liberally donated by the rich.

Here we have just the contrast that the Lord was speaking of in the last two verses of chapter 20: the rich and honorable, and a poor widow.

3. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all;

Now the Lord speaks, and He says something quite astonishing. He tells His disciples that this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others! As I said, all could hear the relative size of the gifts being given, and so what the Lord says seems to clash with reality. Everyone knew that this widow had put nothing into the treasury to compare with the vast sums cast there by the rich!

4. “For all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

The Lord reveals the truth of His odd statement, and how He viewed these gifts. The searching eyes of God saw behind both the careless bequeathments of the rich and the loving sacrifice of this poor widow. The one group gives what to them was little without a second thought (except if it be to see who is watching them give,) whereas the widow humbly and without expecting any praise for doing so gives to God what to her is the great sum of all she has to live on. She could have used that money to buy at least a small meal, or perhaps to rent a sheltered corner where she could spend the night. Instead, she has given these two coins, which represented all she had to live on, as a gift to her God. The Lord watches this and is suitably impressed with the gift that really meant something to the giver. As the LORD said in I Samuel 16:7b, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God’s reckoning system is indeed far different from ours!

5. Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said,

This temple, originally built by Zerubbabel back in the time period covered by the book of Ezra hundreds of years before, had been restored and greatly expanded by Herod not too long before this time. Herod had done many impressive things with the temple campus, including adorning it with beautiful stones. Many donations had also been made by Herod and other people to adorn the temple courts and to make them very impressive looking indeed.

Perhaps some brought this up to argue with the Lord’s statement in the last verse. It was all very well and good to talk about heart and intentions and giving all you had. Yet it was not miniscule little gifts like the one this widow had given that had built a great and impressive temple like this. There would have been no beautiful adornment and precious stones without the large and generous gifts of the rich in Israel. Though this widow might mean well, gifts like hers do not build great temples!

6. “These things which you see–the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

It seems it would have been good for them not to be too caught up in the beauty of this building, for Christ predicts that not one stone of it will be left on another. This actually took place in about 70 A.D., when the Roman general Titus took the city and not only destroyed the temple, but leveled the city. His intention seems to have been to destroy it so completely that no one would ever want to come and build it and live there again.

Now some people point to the fabled “wailing wall” as actually being part of the ancient temple that remains. However, this was no part of any of the temple buildings, but was actually just a retaining wall that ran around the temple mount, much as a fence runs around a yard, and yet forms no part of the buildings therein. No, these things were destroyed, and not too long after our Lord made these statements.

7. So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”

This statement of the Lord’s interests those who are listening to Him. They question Him as to when these things will be, and what sign there will be when they are about to take place?

Notice the difference between these questions and those of Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:4. This is not the same question, nor is the reply Christ gives the same reply, as that recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. In those passages someone commented on the beauty of the temple as they were leaving it, and the further question about when these things will be was asked of the Lord by the disciples later as they were on the Mount of Olives. This account in Luke, however, records similar but different events, all of which took place while they were still in the temple. Thus the question asked, the identity of the questioners, and Christ’s answer are all different in this book. This is not a contradiction caused by error in the memories of the writers, but rather in harmony with the truth of what the Lord spoke on these two different occasions.

8. And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.

The Lord starts to speak, but what He tells them is not of the destruction of the temple that was soon to come. Instead, He takes them far into the future, into the later stages of the kingdom of God.

Christ begins first with a warning. He knows that His disciples will be rulers with very high position and privileges in the kingdom. Many people will listen to them, and rightfully so, for they will be the Lord’s representatives. Therefore, it is most important that these men not be deceived. If they allow themselves to be deceived, what will happen to the people who follow them?

He warns them that many will come in His name. He explains what He means when He tells them that these will say, “I Am.” There is no word for “He” here. Basically, these people will be claiming to be the “I Am,” that is, God Himself. Since all will know in that day that Jesus Christ is God, these people basically will be claiming to be Christ. They will tell the disciples that the time has drawn near. The time they will be referring to is the time of the parousia of Jesus Christ, when He comes to earth to dwell among His people. While it will be true that the time is near, these men are saying this to try to get the disciples to follow them. Where they are trying to lead them Christ does not say. He only warns them that they are not to go after them, for they are deceivers.

There are many in our day who likewise claim to be Christ Himself. Yet these are not those spoken of here, for those will attempt to lead astray the disciples themselves.  This can only take place after the disciples are raised from the dead, and have taken their place as rulers in God’s government.

9. “But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”

Many point to the wars and commotions of today as proof that these words of the Lord are coming to pass. Yet these show little reflection in claiming this, for things like wars and commotions have always been taking place. Since the earliest history of mankind, we have known wars and commotions. How are these, then, to be a sign?

The fact is that commonplace things are not a sign of anything. You could not point to people eating food as a sign of something, for this is a commonplace event, and people have always eaten food and must always eat food in order to live. Though war is not essential to life like food, it is a part of life, and will continue until God works to bring a stop to it. There is nothing significant in our world today about wars and commotions.

The fact is that wars and commotions can only be a sign of the times Christ was speaking of if they have previously stopped for some period of time. This is what I believe will take place. There will be a time when these things are no longer the experience of mankind upon the earth. Wars will cease to the ends of the earth, and the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. This will all take place in the kingdom of God, which precedes the events mentioned here.

Another important fact to note here is that the Lord is speaking of these things as if the disciples themselves will experience them. We know that these men have been dead for nearly two thousand years by this time. How can they experience the events the Lord is speaking of here? There can be only one answer to this: they must be raised from the dead. There is no room for such a resurrection in the prophetic schemes of most, but an understanding of the pre-millennial kingdom provides us with a place for this important resurrection to take place.

When these wars and commotions come, the Lord advises these men, do not be terrified. We can imagine how frightening it might be to those who have not seen war for hundreds of years to see these things starting again. Yet the disciples are not to be terrified, as if everything is going wrong. This is all part of the plan, the Lord assures them. These things have to happen first, but the end will not come immediately.

10. Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

The Lord continues with signs of the nearness of these end times events. Nation will rise against nation, he tells them, and government against government. We know that when nations rise against each other, there is open warfare. When governments rise against each other, however, it is a different matter. We had a recent example of this when the United States and her allies challenged Russia and her allies in the “Cold War.”

Again, these are things that have been happening throughout recorded history. However, the key here is that they begin again after a long period of peace in the kingdom of God. For many of those living at the time, these things will be strange and new.

11. “And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

At the same time, nature will again begin to show signs of going out of control. Throughout the time period of the kingdom of God, things like earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and fearful sights will not have taken place. Yet in the time Christ speaks of, all these things will reappear on the scene.

These things sound terrible, and indeed they will be to those going through them. These things are not so unusual in our day, for we are used to disasters like this occurring, and yet it is still an awful thing to go through them. Yet when the things Christ lists here take place, it will not be in a time of God’s silence as we have it today. We read of “great signs from heaven” that will take place then to point men to the truth at that time. These will not be little things that are common today, like comets and shooting stars, but rather great signs to show men that history is reaching a great climax. Those who see these things and yet who refuse to follow the Lord regardless will be without excuse!

12. “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.

This takes place “before all these things.” It is one of the first things that happens to disturb the peacefulness of the kingdom. Notice again that these disciples will be there, raised from the dead. They will be judges in the kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and so will be among the first to feel the wrath of the rebels when the revolt against the kingdom comes. They will arrest these disciples and persecute them. They will be delivered up to synagogues and prisons. They will be brought before kings, that is, supreme rulers, and also before lower rulers. This will all be because of their association with Jesus Christ, and their connection to Him and His name.

We might be asked concerning the mention of synagogues here. Does this not indicate that this prophecy must have been fulfilled in the past? Indeed, during the Acts period many things like those described here took place. These disciples were arrested and persecuted, delivered to the judgment of synagogues, put in prison, and tried before rulers both high and low. Yet understand that synagogues were community gathering places. There is no reason to think there will not be such things in the kingdom of God. This prophecy might have been echoed in events that took place in the past, but it will also have a more complete fulfillment in that future Day.

The events being described here are similar to what is being described in Psalm 83. There, we read of this revolt.

1. Do not keep silent, O God!
Do not hold Your peace,
And do not be still, O God!

The psalmist asks God to go into action because of what is taking place.

2. For behold, Your enemies make a tumult;
And those who hate You have lifted up their head.

The reason is that God’s enemies and those who hate Him have gone into action and are causing problems.

3. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,
And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.

They have taken counsel together against God’s people of Israel and His sheltered ones within Israel. These sheltered ones are Israel’s rulers as they will be in the kingdom of God. Often the fastest way to harm a nation is to go after its rulers.

4. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,
That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”

The plan of these rebels is to cut off Israel from being a nation, so that they will be no longer remembered. We can see that those with this kind of attitude would be dead set against men like the twelve, who will have such a high position in the government of Israel at that time. This is what is going on in Christ’s prophecy is Luke 21.

13. “But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.

Though being put on trial would not be a pleasant experience, the ultimate outcome of this for these men will be that they get an occasion to testify. The words they will be able to speak in these situations will provide a warning to those who have foolishly chosen to defy God. This testimony is something that God wants them to receive. Therefore, the disciples should look at their persecutions in this positive light, and not just from the unpleasantness of what they are experiencing.

14. “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer;

They are to settle something in their hearts before this ever happens. We would put it “make up your mind beforehand.” The “heart” is the innermost being of a person, so this speaks of making a settled decision from the core of your being. This decision is not to meditate beforehand on what they will answer to these synagogues, kings, and rulers when they are brought before them. This would seem a most foolish course of action to us, and it would be in our day. When one is on trial for his faith, he had best give careful thought as to what he is going to say to answer his accusers, lest he make Christ look foolish by ill-conceived words. Yet these words are not for today, but for that future day, and not for us, but for the Lord’s disciples to whom He was speaking.

15. “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

Now we learn why it is not necessary for them to meditate on what they are going to say. They will be given a mouth (meaning the words spoken by the mouth) and wisdom that all their adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. This will be nothing short of Divine inspiration. God Himself will provide them with the words to say in these difficult situations. These inspired words will then carry the very weight of Scripture itself, being God’s words just as much as the Bible we are studying is. This will be a very great help indeed for these men as they face this future revolt. Their enemies may be able to harm them, but at least they will not be able to outsmart them in their words.

In the Acts period, we see this same sort of thing happening. The book of Acts was the beginning stages of the kingdom of God, and as such God had chosen these men as rulers, and they were facing persecution from some of the rulers of this world. Yet though the Acts period was similar to this, the final fulfillment awaits the revolt against the kingdom that is yet future.

In our day no such promise as this can apply. We may think that God helps us from time to time to speak to the best of our ability, but that still is a far cry from being inspired by God. As I said, if we face a trial for our faith, we had best consider carefully what we should say in advance.

16. “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.

These disciples at that time will even be betrayed by some close to them, such as parents and brothers, relatives and friends. Some of them will even be put to death. This might have happened in the Acts period, but we have no record of it. Yet again this will find its final fulfillment in the tribulation period.

If these men will be put to death in the tribulation, that would mean that they die after they were raised from the dead to live in the kingdom. This would mean that even resurrected men can die. Does this not make sense, since they will have physical bodies, even as we do today? But this may not be something that happens during the greater part of the kingdom of God. This might only be allowed during this short yet eventful time in history. We cannot believe that God will allow His resurrected leaders to die under normal circumstances in His kingdom.

17. “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.

They will be hated by all for the Lord’s name’s sake. I do not believe that “all” here means all men, but rather all those who will be betraying them and putting them to death, as we saw it in the previous verse. They will be among the most hated men on the part of the rebels against God’s kingdom, though they will be among the most loved men on the part of those who remain loyal to the Lord and His government.

Notice again that the reason they are hated by these rebels is because of their relationship with Christ, and their identification with His name. Believers who are persecuted today can surely identify with that!

18. “But not a hair of your head shall be lost.

Yet in all this, He promises them that not a hair of their heads shall be lost. Remember, though, that two verses earlier He has just said that some of them will be delivered to be killed! Thus this promise can only be fulfilled by resurrection. Though wicked men might harm them in many ways and ultimately kill them, not a hair will be missing or out of place when God raises them again from the dead once all these troubles are over.

19. “By your patience possess your souls.

This difficult time will indeed be a time for demonstrating patience. How difficult it will be to see all these evil things taking place! Yet the assurance that God will soon bring a stop to it should keep the disciples going at this difficult time.

The word for “possess,” ktaomai, has to do with purchasing a thing or with possessing it as one’s own. The concept of possessing your soul might be a difficult one. We know that the soul has to do with the emotions and desires of a man, and it can also be put for the things that will satisfy those desires, like the comforts of life. In this bizarre situation, the disciples will have to do without the comforts that they have enjoyed so freely under God’s government. At this time, then, they must possess their souls with patience, knowing that for now they may be undergoing discomfort, but that this situation is temporary, and the glory of the parousia is yet to follow.