Saturday, April 8, 2017

Understanding Luke 21:22 and the Fulfillment of All Things

because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”

by Michael J. Vlach

With this post I comment on Jesus’ statement in Luke 21:22: “because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” My focus is on what Jesus meant when He declared the fulfillment of all things that are written.

This verse comes in the context of Luke 21:20-24 where Jesus predicted the coming A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the “times of the Gentiles” (21:24) in which Jerusalem will continue to be under Gentile power. With verses 20-21 Jesus says:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city.”

Then comes the statement that “these are days of vengeance so that all things which are written will be fulfilled” (21:22).

Jesus’ words here directly relate to the judgment of Israel involving Jerusalem and its temple because of Israel’s rejection of Jesus the Messiah. Earlier with Luke 19:41-44 Jesus predicted the coming destruction of Jerusalem because Israel missed the “time of your visitation.” In short, Israel would face “vengeance” for rejecting Jesus the Messiah. With Matthew 24:29-31 and Luke 21:27-28 Jesus will discuss a future rescue of Israel in connection with His second coming to earth at the end of the future Tribulation Period, but in Luke 21:20-24 the focus is on “wrath” for rejecting their Messiah.

Thus, the “fulfillment of all things that were written” in Luke 21:22 is related specifically to judgement for Israel, a judgment that occurred in A.D. 70. The view of some (usually full preterists) that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 goes way beyond the context here which is focused on “days of vengeance” for Israel in the first century.

But which Bible passages predicted this vengeance so they can be fulfilled? Many rightly mention passages like Deuteronomy 28:15-68 and Leviticus 26:14-39 where God’s judgment of Israel for national disobedience was predicted. Yet I think Jesus also had a more specific text in mind. Daniel 9:26 explicitly foretold the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem in connection with the killing of the Messiah. The verse reads:

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

While there is much to unpack with this verse and the broader context of Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel 9:26 predicted two events after the sixty-ninth week of Daniel (7+62) but before the seventieth week of 9:27—the cutting off (i.e. killing) of the Messiah, and the destroying of Jerusalem and the temple. Daniel 9:27 will discuss a later desolation of the Jerusalem temple in connection with the seventieth week of Daniel, but 9:26 is an explicit prediction of the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.

So I think Daniel 9:26 was primary in Jesus’ mind when He declared, “so that all things which are written will be fulfilled,” in Luke 21:22. Another reason for holding this view is that in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse Jesus explicitly referenced Daniel 9:27 when He said, “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matt. 24:15). This affirms that Daniel 9:24-27 was on Jesus’ mind in the Olivet Discourse.

While my focus here has been on the connection between Luke 21:22 and Daniel 9:26 I want to make another observation. Luke 21:22 shows that Jesus expected the details of Old Testament prophecies to be fulfilled literally even after His first coming to earth. There is much talk today that Old Testament promises to Israel have been fulfilled with Jesus in such a way that the details of these prophecies do not need to be literally fulfilled. While all should agree that Jesus brings the Old Testament to fulfillment (see Matt. 5:17-18), we should not hold that the Old Testament promises were absorbed into Jesus in such a way that nullifies a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. On many occasions Jesus expected literal fulfillment of future events beyond His first coming (Matt. 23:39; 24:15, 29-31). And Luke 21:22 is one text that shows Jesus expected the details of Old Testament prophecies to happen just as predicted. 

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