“Son of man” appears 25 times in Luke, a copy (c. 800) shown here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Up through verse 24, most of chapter 21 is pretty easy to understand, and most people get it. But enter verse 25, and the wheels start to come off for a lot of commentators. In fairness, verses 25-28 are among the most difficult verses to understand when it comes to Jesus’ quotations. And it is verse 27 that creates the confusion. As always, context is everything. So let us first back up and remember what the preceding verses are about.
Verses 5-24 are clearly about the coming destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem itself in 70 A.D. Now let’s just take verses 25-26 by themselves:
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
These two verses align perfectly with the signs and the upheaval that Jesus describes in verses 20-24. Now verses 27-28:
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Sounds like Jesus is talking about His own second coming, right? Well, not so fast… Let’s continue on, as Jesus immediately tells them the parable of the fig tree in verses 29-30. Then in verse 32, He says “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.“ Wait a minute, there will still be people of that generation that are still living when all of this happens! He has to be still talking about the signs and the upheaval surrounding the events of A.D. 70.
But what about “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory?” Think of it as similar to “the day of the Lord.” We see those words often, especially in the Old Testament, and it always signifies a time when God will take decisive action – when some sort of judgment will come to people for their actions. But not all decisive action is of the end time – not all judgment is “the final judgment.”
The figurative language used in verse 27 is much like what we see in Isaiah 19:1:
An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, Oil on canvas, 1850 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In this case, the Son of Man (Jesus) will have already ascended to heaven. Now it is His turn for judgment. Remember in Luke 19:41-44, when Jesus was weeping for Jerusalem as He entered? He was talking about the destruction that would come: “And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” The judgment is coming this time because of their rejection of the Son of God.
OK, so what about the part that says “your redemption is drawing near?” Let’s look at the parable of the fig tree:
“Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
As Adam Clarke put it, “After the destruction of the Jewish state, the doctrine of Christ crucified shall be preached every where, and every where prevail.”
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.