Luke 21:20-24: Fulfilled or Future? (Part 2)

By Mike Coldagelli

In the first part of this discussion I laid out why I believe Luke 21:20-24 is future and not descriptive of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. I explained why I believe the discourse in Luke is the Olivet discourse with details not included in the other Synoptic accounts. I also examined desolations of Jerusalem in Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-24 ESV)

Those who see a dual fulfillment in the above passage fail to take the words of the passage at face value. As stated in my first article the centerpiece of Luke’s account, as in Matthew and Mark, is the Son of Man coming in a cloud (Luke 21:27, Matthew 24:30, Mark 13:26).

Is there a way to view the above five verses that puts them exclusively in the eschaton by linking them to the coming of the Son of Man in verse 27? A close examination of the words, “vengeance,” “wrath,” and “all nations” to determine the full weight of their meaning will reveal that Luke 21:27 must occur within the time frame established in Luke 21:20-24. An expansion on verse 27 will help to develop its close relationship to verses 20-24.

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:27 ESV)

What is the purpose for the Son of Man coming? Simply put, he is coming to bring the kingdom of God to the earth (Revelation 11:15). Central to that goal is his breaking the nations (Psalm 2:9) and restoring the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Does he come at a time of his own choosing? No, he comes at his Father’s command. In speaking of his coming Jesus tells his disciples that he does not know when.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:36-37 ESV)

The Apostles remain curious about when. Remember, “when?” was the animating question of the discourse in all three synoptics. At the ascension of Jesus into heaven to receive dominion from his Father (Daniel 7:13-14), they ask again. Is this the time?

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? ”He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (Acts 1:6-7 NIV)

They are told again that it is not for them to know the time that his father has set for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. What we are to glean from this verse is that a time has been set. Paul, speaking in Acts, says God has fixed a day.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31 ESV)

The man appointed to judge on this fixed day is Jesus, the Son of Man. The fixed day is the day on which he comes (Luke 21:27). But, Jesus has said that he does not know the day of his coming. Only the Father does (Matthew 24:36). When Jesus comes it will be at the direction of the Father (Psalm 110:1).

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1 ESV)

When Jesus ascends (Acts 1:9, Daniel 7:13-14) into heaven he goes to receive dominion. His Father says to him, “Sit at my right hand, until…” At the time fixed by the Father, Jesus will leave his position at the Father’s right hand. It will be at this moment that he will appear, coming on the clouds. At his coming he will crush his enemies, because the Father has made them his footstool. Jesus will come to exercise his dominion with wrath on his enemies. Who exactly are they? They are the Gentile nations (Psalm 2:9, 110:5-6). An illustrative account of God’s wrath and vengeful judgement on the nations, which will be executed by Jesus, is found in chapter 34 of Isaiah. Another account of the vengeful Son of Man appears in Isaiah 63:1-6, a clear referent for Revelation 19:11-16. The Son of Man’s fight is with the Gentile nations. Why is this important for our discussion of Luke 21:20-24? Verse 22 in our passage locks in the chronological parameters.

for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. (Luke 21:22 ESV)

The vengeance and wrath against Jerusalem and “this people” are obvious. They are surrounded by armies, killed by the sword, and led captive into exile. Jerusalem is trampled. However, is that all that this verse implies? The days in question are of vengeance that fulfills or fills up all that is written. What preterists and dual fulfillment advocates forget is that this fulfilling vengeance must include all the vengeance written of by the prophets. The days of vengeance must include the Son of Man’s coming in verse 27 and his vengeance. His coming is a vengeful coming. The Son of Man’s vengeance is required to fill up “all that is written,”  because it is subsequent to Jerusalem’s desolation and written of.

Furthermore, there are two distinct agents of wrath. First we see the armies (verse 20) around Jerusalem. They are made up of “all nations” and described as the Gentiles(verse 24), a redundancy in Hebrew and Greek. The time from the desolation of Jerusalem (verse 20) until “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (verse 24) is only three and a half years. Jesus, in our passage, outlines the time, times, and half a time of Daniel 12:7 and fleshes out the “shattering” of the holy people in that verse. The Hebrew word, naphats, used in Daniel 12:7 can mean “shatter” or “scatter.” Both meanings are applicable of Luke 21:24. Jerusalem will be shattered, i.e., “fall by the edge of the sword,” and scattered, i.e., “be led captive among all nations.”

Jesus draws from Daniel, just as in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. The agent of wrath in Daniel is the willful king of Daniel 11:36. He shatters and scatters the holy people. It is also he who commands the armies of Luke 21:20. He has authority over every nation (Revelation 13:7). The willful king (also known as: the little horn or little king of Daniel 7:8, the coming prince of Daniel 9:26, the man of lawless and the son of destruction of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, antichrist of 1 John 2:18, and the beast of Revelation 17:16) is the one coming against Jerusalem in Luke 21:20-24. He is the first agent of wrath.

The second agent of wrath is Jesus.

Both move at the behest of the Father. Both carry out his purpose. Both execute wrath and judgment. It is obvious that Jesus acts in accord with his Father’s will. But the beast? The antichrist?

Let us look at the “all nations” or “all the nations” appellation. Roman emperors did not command all nations. Authority over the whole world (all nations) will be given to only two people, the son of destruction (antichrist/beast) and the Son of Man (true Christ). The son of destruction will possess it for forty-two months, but the Son of Man will possess it forever. So, we need to understand when this term, all nations, is used to represent the beast and understand how God is directing him.

I will cite three examples. First, Zechariah 14:2.

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Zechariah 14:2 ESV)

This is the same plundering of Jerusalem as in Luke 21:20-24. The only king to rule over all nations, other than Jesus, will be the beast. But God says that he, “will gather all the nations against Jerusalem.” God gathers “all the nations” under the beast’s all nation authority. If God directs those nations, God directs the beast.* Zechariah in an indirect way is saying that God will bring the beast and all the Gentiles of the earth against Jerusalem.

The second example is taken out of Amos 9.

“For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’ (Amos 9:9-10 ESV)

In this passage it is God who commands that Israel be shaken among all the nations. This verse is a parallel to Zechariah 14:2. And it is descriptive of the holy people’s shattering in Daniel 12:7 and Luke 21:20-24 at the hand of the beast. But the nations do not escape the sieve.

His battle cry overwhelms like a flooding river that reaches one’s neck. He shakes the nations in a sieve that isolates the chaff; he puts a bit into the mouth of the nations and leads them to destruction. (Isaiah 30:28 NET)

Through the coming of the Son of Man the nations will be shaken. First, the house of Israel is shaken by the nations (Luke 21:20-24). Then the nations are shaken by the Son of Man (Luke 21:27).

Our third example comes out of Jeremiah 30 and the commonly referred to “time of Jacob’s trouble.” Jesus in our passage in Luke not only refers to the three and a half years of Daniel 12:7, but also the time of Jacob’s trouble. They are the same.

Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. (Jeremiah 30:7-8 ESV)

Jacob will go through an unparalleled time of distress. It will be Jacob’s last time of trouble for “there is none like it.” This time of trouble will not be surpassed. The passage reveals that God “will break his yoke,” off Jacob’s neck ending his trouble. Whose yoke? Who applies the yoke to Jacob? He can only be understood to be the beast.

The “yoke” and “bonds” that bind Jacob force him to serve “foreigners” or “strangers,” who should be understood as the Gentile nations. When the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, Jerusalem will be trampled no more. The yoke on God’s people will be broken and Jacob will serve Gentiles no more. But how do we know that “foreigners” represent the nations, the Gentiles?

For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. (Jeremiah 30:11 ESV)

This verse should give us insight into Luke 21:20-24 and to who “the foreigners” are. The vengeance and wrath, against “this people” in verses 22 and 23 of Luke 21, are the punishment of Jacob referred to in this verse in Jeremiah. God “will make a full end of all the nations” where “I scattered you.” Jeremiah is not talking about some nations where Jacob was scattered, but all Gentile nations. The time of Jacob’s trouble is unparalleled and eschatological so “all the nations” are in view. In Luke 21:24 inhabitants of Jerusalem are “led captive among all nations,” where God scatters them. But just as God predicts in Zechariah 14:3, he will go out and fight against those nations. He will send his Son on the clouds. The “full end of all the nations” is the vengeful wrath, that Jesus will dispense at his coming (Luke 21:27). Notice the difference of degree. The nations receive a full end, Jacob does not.

(Other verses with the “full end” concept using the Hebrew word, kalah, are Isaiah 10:23, Daniel 9:27, and Zephaniah 1:18)

Conclusion

And so we see the nations, directed by God and led by the beast, moving against Israel and Jerusalem, her capital. This is the punishment of Israel to finish transgression, to put an end to rebellion (Daniel 9:24). “It is for a time, times, and half a time. Then, when the power of the one who shatters the holy people has been exhausted, all these things will be finished.” (Daniel 12:7 NET) The last forty-two months of Daniel’s 490 years finishes Israel’s transgression and ends Israel’s rebellion. God does not punish Israel directly through his Son, but with foreign or Gentile nations, as is the case historically.

Then we see the Son of Man sent from the right hand of the Father, coming on the clouds. He comes to shatter the nations (all the nations, Zechariah 14:2) that come against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:3), gather his people (Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27, Luke 21:28), and restore the kingdom to Israel. He comes as Conqueror, the Lion of Judah, devouring his enemies. The people of the nations will call for the mountains to fall on them because the wrath of the Lamb is go great (Revelation 6:16-17). As King of Israel, he will also be King of Kings. He will forever have authority and dominion over all nations. He will rule from “the great city,” the city that has dominion over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18). The Lamb crucified, mockingly called “The King of the Jews,” will reign over both Israel and the nations, the Jews and the Gentiles.

Preterists and dual fulfillment proponents with an overarching desire to see fulfillment in the destruction of the second temple completely miss the two staged vengeance of Luke 21:22. The time lapse between Jerusalem’s desolation and the coming of the Son of Man, unknown except to the Father, will be within the 42 month parameters outlined over and over in Daniel and Revelation. Two objects of vengeance, two agents of wrath combine in the days of Luke 21:22. Thus verse 22 links verses 20-24 to verse 27 in time and purpose. A contrived two thousand year gap between verses 24 and 25 need not destroy the unity of the discourse.

Luke 21 provides more detail than Matthew 24 and Mark 13 on the plight of Jerusalem during Jacob’s trouble. And, though the trouble is given detail by Luke, detail of Jesus’ return with all that it implies is not cataloged. Luke leaves that to the prophets and all they have written. They should not be overlooked.

What Jesus bookends in Luke 21:20-24 is: the time, times, and half a time of Daniel 7:25 and 12:7, the last half of a seven in Daniel 9:27, the time of indignation (wrath) in Daniel 11:36, the trampling of Jerusalem in Revelation 11:2, and the period of authority for the beast in Revelation 13:5. At an unknown point in time during those three and a half years will come the appointed moment, the moment fixed in advance, when the “Most High” (the possessor of heaven and earth, Genesis 19:19) will send from heaven the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32) to redeem the earth for “the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:27) and restore the kingdom to Israel. Israel through her king will rule the nations. The times of the Gentiles will be over.

*This idea may be difficult for some to accept — see Revelation 17:16-17 which states that it is God’s purpose to complete the beast’s “all nation” authority and for the beast to hate the harlot, i.e., Jerusalem. Thus God “gathers all nations against Jerusalem” by providing him the means, the power and authority of the ten horns. Prior to God creating a change of heart in the ten horns they are in an illicit love affair with the harlot. It is God who purposes that they hate her.