Luke 21:20-28 – Destruction of Jerusalem and Second Coming (Nov. 19th)

**Note: The curriculum notes will not cover all the same verses as the Sunday sermon. Since this is a 3-week series, the curriculum notes are broken down in a way that allows leaders to focus more on the pericopes in  Luke, rather than just focusing on what is covered during the sermon.

Message Notes:  Signs of the End Nov 19


Ask your group members what they learned in last week’s study on the destruction of the temple and the persecution believers were going to face. Spend time recapping the major themes that were mentioned and how we can understand the events of that time period as compared to today’s events. In today’s passage, Jesus provides more information on the future destruction Jerusalem and how it will usher in the second coming of the Son of Man. 


Synopsis:  The siege of Jerusalem will lead up to a terrifying climax when the final authority of the Son will be established.

Having described in 21:5–19 what must take place before the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke then described the destruction itself.  Luke sought to assist his readers in sorting out the sayings of Jesus concerning Jerusalem’s fall and the end time. Up to this point in the chapter, he intended for his readers to understand that these traditions did not talk about the final consummation when the Son of Man returns but rather about Jerusalem’s fall and the events associated with it. Properly understood the return of the Son of Man had nothing to do with the events surrounding a.d. 70. Thus there should have been no disappointment or confusion concerning a “delay” and no following after false prophets. What would precede the final consummation Luke would describe next, but first he wanted to distinguish those events associated with a.d. 70. Having distinguished between those events associated with Jerusalem’s fall and the consummation of all things, he now introduced Jesus’ teaching concerning the latter. The return of the Son of Man in power and glory (21:25–27).


  • The siege of Jerusalem will lead up to a terrifying climax.
  • Then the final authority of the Son of Man will be established.

  • Disciples need to keep alert and pay attention, so as to be ready for the sudden climax.


READ Luke 21:20-28 and answer the questions below:

What did Jesus say will happen to Jerusalem in v. 20 and 24?

What will happen to the people living in the city, as well the region of Judea?

Who will happen to the world?

What will the people see after all of these things take place, according to v. 27?

What does Jesus tell his disciples to do when all of this begins to take place?

Jesus then returned to the disciples’ original question about when the temple would be destroyed. In these five verses, He noted that Gentile domination included the destruction of Jerusalem which would come about when the city was surrounded by armies. Gentile domination would continue until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (v. 24). The times of the Gentiles’ domination over Jerusalem actually began when the Babylonians took the city and the nation into Captivity in 586 b.c. Jerusalem will again fall under Gentile domination in the Tribulation (Zech. 14:1–2) just before the Messiah returns to restore Jerusalem. It is that restoration of which Jesus spoke next (Luke 21:25–28).

Here Jesus first noted that cosmic signs will precede the coming of the Son of Man and will cause people to be terrified. The sun, moon, and stars … will be shaken, and the sea will roar and toss, signifying that the world will be in a chaotic state, out of control. Second, Jesus told about the coming of the Son of Man Himself. He drew His terminology from Daniel 7:13–14, in which Daniel saw “one like a Son of Man” coming with clouds and glory and receiving the kingdom from the Ancient of Days (i.e., God the Father). Jesus’ point was that the Son of Man will come to receive the kingdom—the same kingdom He had been proclaiming since the beginning of His ministry. When these things begin to occur, His followers will lift up their heads, a symbol of rejoicing, because their redemption (i.e., safety in the kingdom brought by the returning King) will be drawing near.


Use the information from the text and the commentary notes below to help discern responses to the following questions. 

  • Why do you think Jesus foretold of the destruction of Jerusalem to his disciples?
  • Why do you think Jesus told them who be driven out of the land by the Gentiles?  
  • What do you think Jesus told his disciples to “straighten up and raise your heads” regarding their redemption?

The return of the Son of Man in power and glory (21:25–27, 36) will bring about the final consummation (21:31). In order not to confuse his readers, Luke omitted the parallel material in Mark 13:21–23; Matt 24:23–24 because he had dealt with this earlier (cf. Luke 17:23–24; 21:8). He also omitted Mark’s “but in those days” (Mark 13:24) because he did not want to connect what follows (the consummation) with the preceding material (Jerusalem’s fall). Whereas the portrayal of Jerusalem’s fall involved historical-prophetic descriptions (“great signs from heaven [Luke 21:11]” are the one exception), the Son of Man’s return involves cosmic-apocalyptic descriptions (“world” [21:26], “heavenly bodies” [21:26], “whole earth” [21:35]). This further helps to keep these two events separate. Preceded by apocalyptic events, the Son of Man will return in great glory and power to bring about his people’s redemption.

Cultural/Historical Background

The meteorological and astronomical upheaval described in 21:25-26 recalls several of the Old Testament prophets who used similar metaphorical language to describe the destruction of earthly political powers, especially foreign nations such as Babylon (e.g., Isa. 13:10; 34:4, the passages more explicitly alluded to in the parallel Mark 13:24-25).


What can we learn from this passage and apply to our lives today?

In v.25-26, Christ told his listeners about some major terrifying things that will come upon the world? What can we learn about these events and how do they teach us to prepare for the return of Christ?

Are you living with a sense of urgency that Christ is going to return soon? When you hear about all the terrible things in the world that are happening, does it make you think that the end of the world is actually coming? How are you preparing for the return of Christ? What do you need to begin (continue) doing to be ready for his return?


21:20 When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. Compare 19:43. “Armies” can also mean camps, and Josephus so used the word. Josephus also described Jerusalem’s encirclement by the armies of Rome. Luke may have been reporting Jesus’ words here from a post-a.d. 70 perspective. For “surrounded” cf. Tacitus, Historiae 5.11. For related OT imagery cf. Isa 29:3; 37:33; Jer 34:1; 52:7. The present participle (“being surrounded”) may refer to the time when escape was still possible because the wall the Romans built around the city had not been completed. You will know. The “when” of Luke 21:7 is now realized. That its desolation. Compare 13:35. Luke reworded “abomination of desolation” (Mark 13:14; Matt 24:15) in order to keep his readers from confusing the fall of Jerusalem with the end time. Is near. What had arrived was not what the false prophets had been proclaiming, i.e., the final consummation that will bring history to its close (Luke 21:8), but rather Jerusalem’s destruction predicted by Jesus and what was asked in 21:7.

21:21 Then. This refers to the “when” of 21:7. The following advice clearly involves behavior at Jerusalem’s destruction and not at the consummation of all things, for such flight would be useless when the Son of Man returns. Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Those living in the villages and cities should flee to the more remote mountainous areas of Judah, which would provide a better chance for survival. Compare Gen 19:17–19; Ps 11:1. Since the Roman armies marched slowly and methodically, there would be time for such flight. Let those in the city get out. During the siege that would follow, Jerusalem would be the worst place to be. And let those in the country not enter the city. Along with the first two commands in this verse, this forms a three-member example of synonymous parallelism.

21:22 For this is the time of punishment. Ekdikēseōs can refer to punishment or vengeance. The latter is clearly meant in Rom 12:19 and here is so translated by the RSV, NASB, and NRSV. This refers not to Roman vengeance but to God’s. Luke wanted his readers to understand that Jerusalem’s desolation was not simply a tragedy or a wretched twist of fate. It is the result of God’s wrath. The Roman army under Vespasian and Titus, like the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar, was God’s instrument to bring his judgment upon official Israel. Luke assumed that his readers would remember such earlier passages as 19:27 and 20:16. In fulfillment of all that has been written. For the phraseology cf. 18:31; 24:44; Acts 13:29. Luke may have been thinking of such OT prophecies that speak of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem due to its sins such as Jer 6:1–8; 26:1–6; Mic 3:12; cf. also 1 Kgs 9:6–9. Whereas the OT prophecies would speak of Jerusalem’s judgment as due to its sins, what those sins entailed is found in Luke-Acts. They involve oppressing the poor (Luke 18:7; 20:47); rejecting its Messiah (13:33–34; 20:13–18); not recognizing the time when God visited and the kingdom was offered to it (19:44); rejecting the gospel message (Acts 13:46–48; 18:5–6; 28:25–28); but above all official Israel’s involvement in the death of God’s Son. At this point Luke omitted Mark 13:15–16; Matt 24:17–18 because he referred to something similar in Luke 17:31.

21:23 How dreadful it will be in those days! “Those days” are the days of Jerusalem’s destruction in a.d. 70. Compare 23:29. Pregnant women and nursing mothers! Upon such people “total war” is always more severe. Whether their condition is a hindrance to their fleeing Jerusalem (21:21) or to survival in Jerusalem’s siege is uncertain, but ultimately this makes little difference with respect to their unfortunate condition. What was normally seen as a blessing and joy (pregnancy and nursing one’s children) was now a curse. At this point Luke omitted Mark 13:18; Matt 24:20, which refer to praying that this flight not be in the winter. Luke probably omitted it, however, because he knew that Jerusalem’s siege lasted from April to late August, and the reference to winter would not fit. There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. The term “land” can be translated “earth” (cf. RSV), but in the present setting in Luke it refers to the land, i.e., Judea (Luke 21:21; cf. 4:25). Luke changed Mark 13:19; Matt 24:21 (“those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning … until now”) in order to avoid confusing Jerusalem’s destruction, which he was describing, with the final tribulation that precedes the return of the Son of Man, which Mark and Matthew were describing.

21:24 They will fall by the sword. “The sword” is literally the mouth of the sword. Compare Heb 11:34; Sir 28:18; Jer 21:7. Josephus gave the total of those killed in Jerusalem’s destruction as 1,100,000. Even allowing for exaggeration, the number is enormous. And will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Josephus numbered the captives at 97,000. Compare Deut 28:64; Zech 7:14. Jerusalem will be trampled on. Compare Zech 12:3 (LXX); Isa 63:18; Ps 79:1; Dan 8:10, 13; Rev 11:2. Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. “Until” may suggest that there is a time coming when Jerusalem/Israel will be restored. Israel’s judgment may not be final. There may even be a promise here. From the time of the fall until “that” time, the time of Gentiles will take place. At this point Luke omitted Mark 13:20; Matt 24:22 because the “elect” were not involved in Jerusalem’s destruction in a.d. 70.

21:25 There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. This metaphorical imagery is frequently found in the OT. Such impressionistic language reveals that God is about to enter world history either for blessing or woe or for both. Again the signs associated with the Son of Man’s coming are cosmic, whereas those associated with Jerusalem’s fall are terrestrial, so that Luke kept these two events distinct. For Luke these “signs” and the ones that follow do not provide a clock or timetable by which one is able to know the “times or dates” (Acts 1:7) of the Son of Man’s coming. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity. For similar imagery cf. Isa 3:24–4:1; 33:9; 34:1–15; Jer 4:23–26; Nah 1:4–5.

21:26 Men will faint from terror. By this addition to the tradition (cf. the parallels in Mark 13:25; Matt 24:29) Luke heightened the despair of the last days. The result of the anguish and perplexity of Luke 21:25 is terror. Apprehensive of what is coming on the world. Luke now enlarged the scene to include not just the “land” (21:23) or “Jerusalem” (21:20) but the “world” (oikoumenē; cf. “ecumenical”). For the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Compare Isa 13:13; 34:4; Dan 8:10; Hag 2:21. All these passages refer to the overthrow in history of earthly nations and empires. The prophets frequently understood such cosmic imagery as metaphorical rather than literal.

21:27 At that time. This is the time of the Son of Man’s coming, not “the time” referred to in Luke 21:6–7. They will see. In light of Acts 1:11, it is clear that Luke envisioned a visible body-like return of the Son of Man in which he will be seen returning in similar fashion as he was seen ascending into heaven. The Son of Man coming. The parallel in Acts 1:11 prohibits an allegorical interpretation of this event as referring to Jerusalem’s fall or the Spirit’s coming in Acts 2. Luke understood this as the literal return of Jesus, the Son of Man. In a cloud. Whereas Mark 13:26 and Matt 24:30 refer to “clouds,” Luke used the singular (cf. also the singular in Acts 1:9). This may be due to the use of the singular “cloud” in the transfiguration account. There is a clear allusion here to the “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” in Dan 7:13. With power. “Power” is associated with Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:35), his ministry, his coming as the Son of Man, and the life of the church (Acts 1:8). And great glory. The “glory” of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of Man is a Lukan emphasis. See comments on 9:26. For Luke’s fondness for this word, see comments on 4:6.

21:28 When these things begin to take place. “These things” are those associated with the Son of Man’s coming (21:25–27), not the “things” associated with Jerusalem’s fall in a.d. 70 (21:5–24). Stand up and lift up your heads. For this as a sign of hope and confidence, cf. Judg 8:28; Job 10:15; Pss 24:7, 9; 83:2. In the midst of crisis, when things are as bad as they can be (Luke 21:25–26), Christians can take heart. The Lord is at hand. It cannot be much longer. Even in the midst of lesser times of crisis (21:10–19), believers are assured that their Lord is near (21:14–15), for he has promised to be with them always (cf. Matt 28:20). In that day, however, they can be even more encouraged because the glorious consummation is at hand. Their “redemption” is coming. Because your redemption is drawing near. This is the reason for being able to stand up and lift up their heads. “Redemption” (apolytrōsis) is found only this one time in Luke-Acts, but Luke probably meant the consummation of the hopes and promises for God’s people. Luke’s readers would no doubt think of this redemption as involving salvation in its fullest sense.

Posted in Group Notes, Luke 14, Luke: A Jesus for Everyone