Doesn’t Luke 21 assure the church they will escape the Great Tribulation?

This is an argument made from the pre-tribulation perspective. The pre-tribulation rapture perspective involves multiple presuppositions and is built upon many layers of understanding. However, it’s not necessary to dig through all their multiple layers in order to understand the intended teaching of Christ provided in Luke 21. When viewed through the context of the chapter, Christ’s instruction to his disciples is consistent with the gospel message they committed their very lives to. Keep in mind they each continued the work they were given while they were alive, yet they all died in their covenant with Christ.

If you’d like to dig deeper into key presuppositions which support the pre-tribulation rapture, I address five of them in my recent book . . .

The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View

You are not of this world

The escape being addressed in the question is derived from Christ’s instruction to his disciples found in Luke 21:36. Rather than start there, let’s broaden the context slightly and begin earlier where Christ is instructing them on how they’re to respond to persecution certain to come from the world.

Luke 21:12-19
12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

My observations:

  • Jesus instructs his disciples on how to respond to those who persecute them.
  • Their suffering will bear opportunity to witness to authorities.
  • The Lord will instruct them in these difficult times.
  • Those who deliver you will be your own friends and relatives, thinking they do God a service.
  • Patient endurance, based on trust in God, ensures your life is secure in Christ even if you lose it.

Christ is revealing an underlying concept regarding suffering for righteousness sake (his name’s sake). Just as he will suffer for the benefit of the world, he’s asking his disciples to be willing to suffer as well. Christ’s promise is that it will produce fruit in ways we can’t account for or calculate; fruit for others, and fruit for our lives also.

Not once is his focus on escape; in the sense of expecting to be removed from the persecution. Instead his focus is on patient endurance and trust in him. This is a consistent theme throughout the scriptures. In the next few verses of Luke’s account, Christ continues to warn them of events they’ll face in their lifetime.

Luke 21:20-24
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 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, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 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. 24 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.

My observations:

  • Christ forewarns them of the pending destruction of the temple and Jerusalem so that they won’t be caught unaware (Mark 13:23).
  • He warns of great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people (the Jews) as a fulfillment of scripture (Jeremiah 30:8-17).
  • This wrath and distress will continue until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

To learn about the time of the Gentiles and when it ends. Read more.

Let’s continue in Luke’s account as Christ continues to describe events even farther into the future when the Son of Man returns.

Luke 21:25-28
25 “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, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

My observations:

  • Even though Christ knows they won’t survive to see this future event, he wants to assure those with him then that their redemption is secure in the future.
  • For those who are alive when these events occur – your redemption draws near when you see these heavenly signs. Again a forewarning.

Having established the chapter context, we can now look at the subject scripture with a clearer idea of what the author is trying to convey.

Luke 21:34-36
34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

My observations:

  • Again Christ instructs his disciples on how they should respond to the things going on around them.
    • Discipline yourselves and stay focused
    • Don’t be caught off guard. We’re to continue as the “children of light” in a world of darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
    • Pray for strength to escape through endurance just as Christ did. He didn’t pray for his escape or yours, but for the Father’s will. (Hebrews 5:7-8; FG 17:11-18)
    • It is through endurance that you will stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:19)

 Don’t take them out of the world

Luke’s account is not a singular expression of Christ’s instruction to remain faithful unto death. A theme throughout the New Testament is the believer’s willingness to take up your cross and follow Christ, even unto death.

Fourth Gospel 17:14-18 – They are not of the world, don’t take them out of it
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

1 Peter 1:3-9 – The result of our faith in Christ is manifest at his appearing
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 – The wrath and salvation which comes when the Lord returns, occurs after much tribulation. This places the church in the tribulation.
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

Conclusions

As we reviewed in Luke 21, verse 36 doesn’t offer the escape from tribulation as some might imagine. This escape is achieved by remaining faithful and focused on our Lord through the turbulence that will be in the world. How can we have courage (mentioned in verse 28) in the midst of this upheaval? Because we’ll be expecting the revealing of our Lord and the salvation he brings with him. Faith means nothing unless tested and proven. Our lives in Christ are an example of this, and God highly values such sacrifice.

To discover more about the plans and timing Christ has for his body of believers, read my recent book . . .

The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View

There is much more to learn about each of these topics, and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.

Presuppositions

At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.

  1. Faith, which is a gift of God, is the basis of the hope of salvation for all those committed to the Lord (Romans 11; 1 Peter 1; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Jude 3)
  2. The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
  3. Christ’s work results in a new creation (Fourth Gospel 3:1-21; Romans 8:28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 6:14-18)
  4. The Day of the Lord is a distinct and separate time than the Great Tribulation. See a related article for more details – Why would Christ return to cut short the great tribulation – isn’t that part of God’s wrath?

Published by GMajella

Husband, father, and author on theological topics, with a focus on the underlying presuppositions which either cloud or enhance our view of reality. My focus is to challenge and guide fellow Christians into a deeper knowledge of God; his work, his will, and his overall purpose. My primary methods will be through books, blogs, and virtual or personal events.

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