“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” Luke 21:34-36.
There is always something fresh in God’s Word, something not particularly noted before!
Yesterday morning I read Luke 21 as part of my daily Bible reading. I don’t believe I ever before noted the words of verse 35.
“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
This chapter deals with events about which the Saviour was warning His disciples to watch out for. He did so in response to what they were seeking to show Him. “And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,” verse 5. This is the parallel of Matthew 24:1. “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.”
The Saviour is quick to inform His disciples that that which they so admired would soon be utterly destroyed. That destruction took place in AD 70, when the Roman armies destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple. Luke 21:2-24 deals with this period. Then the Saviour moves from AD 70 to the yet future times surrounding His second coming.
Many mistakenly believe that all the verses 2-28 relate to AD 70. However, we should carefully note the words of verse 24. “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Following the fall and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, there began the time of Israel’s subjection under the Gentiles. “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Jerusalem is still subject to Gentile interference, despite the restitution of the Jewish nation in 1948. It was only as a result of their 1967 victory in the war against their Arab neighbours, that the Jews once more controlled their ancient capitol. Of course, there is an ongoing dispute about its sovereignty and that will continue until the end of the ‘times of the Gentiles’. This statement by the Saviour clearly indicates that there is a prolonged period after the destruction of Jerusalem, referred to in verse 6, whereas prophecy tells us that following the future destruction of Jerusalem by the Antichrist, the Saviour’s return immediately takes place, Zechariah 12:1-14, 14:1-4.
From verse 25 of Luke 21, the Saviour turns His attention from AD 70 and begins to refer to the signs that will signal the approach of His return. It is important to note this division. I might add that the word ‘generation’ in verse 32 is a translation of a word which may also be translated ‘nation’. It is so translated in Philippians 2:15. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”
The Lord was referring in verse 32 to the continuation of the Jewish nation until the time of His return. He was not, I believe, saying that the ‘generation’ alive on the earth in His day would see the fulfilling of all the signs He was stating would take place.
Let us now turn to the verses quoted at the beginning of the article.
What I had impressed upon my heart and mind as I read these three verses was the picture of the universal ’snare’ that would come upon all “them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” in the final days of this age. The scene the Saviour refers to is people being “overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life”.
I. THIS SNARE WILL ENTRAP ALL THEM THAT DWELL ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH IN THE VERY LAST DAYS
That is plainly what the Saviour says here. “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” This is a trap from which man cannot escape. It is a device contrived by the devil! This entrapment will cross national borders and boundaries and be seen in every society and culture.
I would suggest that we see a universality of iniquity today. Often in the past, by the merciful kindness of the Lord, there were nations which were not tainted with depravity to the degree that others were. The presence of the witness of gospel truth kept such nations relatively pure. That is not the case today. The United Kingdom and the United States, both with wonderful histories of gospel blessings, are today steeped in the most wicked perversions, which have become the norm, while gospel purity is scorned, mocked and nigh on outlawed. Those once ‘exalted to heaven’ by gospel mercies are now, like Sodom of old, dashed to the gates of hell by the forces of apostasy and the powers of darkness. Every sphere of religious, political and business life is corrupted by the thinking and life-style of antichristianity. Surely we see the truth of what Isaiah said in Isaiah 59:14 of his prophecy. “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity (uprightness) cannot enter.” There is no ‘uprightness’ in today’s society within these islands and much further abroad!
II. THE CHARACTER OF THIS SNARE WE ARE WARNED OF BY THE LORD
“Surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life.”
The Saviour says we must not be ‘overcharged’ with these things. The word means ‘weighed down’. These things, far from providing the joys that men attribute to them, become a heavy burden. This is a day of ‘mental health’ problems and suicide. I believe that the words of the Saviour would suggest a cause of such distress.
These three things are very evident today and are the norm in the lives of most people.
“Surfeiting” is an old word meaning “the giddiness and headache caused by drinking wine to excess.” The Greek word, ‘kraipale’, thus translated appears only here in the New Testament. That would suggest that such a condition proves to be unique. Yes, there have ever been cases of men and nations being giddy and suffering the after effects of drinking wine to excess. I don’t think, however, that there ever was a time of such a ‘universal’ condition!
The recent world football antics illustrated that even in Muslim countries, where alcohol is supposedly banned, ways can be found to indulge the thirst for such a beverage!
“Drunkenness”, the word appears in very bad ‘company’! It is referred to by Paul as one of the works of darkness.
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying,” Romans 13:12-13. It is not surprising that such behaviour should rise to the surface since this is a time of great ‘darkness’. A time when the creatures of the night go forth to hunt their prey. “Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God,” Psalm 104:20-21. It is a time where everything that is evil has emerged. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1:5. This truly is a ‘godless’ time!
Paul refers to drunkenness in his epistle to the Galatians. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” Galatians 5:19-21.
This sin of ‘drunkenness’ is a bar to heaven, yet how drunkenness is casually considered as something completely acceptable today and never more so than at this time of the year! It is an ‘essential’ part of the world’s ‘festivity’ on December 25th.
“Cares of this life”. This is an ‘over anxiety regarding the things pertaining to the affairs of this life’. For the unconverted man, nothing else really exists other than the ‘affairs of this life’. He gives no thought to eternity, nor ever can. The Christian on the other hand has considered eternal matters. He has endeavoured to heed the words of the Lord Jesus Christ on this matter. “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matthew 6:28-33.
Indeed, for the devout believer, the affairs of this world are of comparatively little importance. Paul sets the standard for us.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:7-12.
III. HERE IS A SNARE THAT MAY ENTRAP EVEN THE BELIEVER
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be . . . ”
How careful the Christian must be in these days. As one commentator noted: “And from this we may learn —what alas! we may from the lives of many professing Christians —that there is need of cautioning the disciples of Jesus now that they do not indulge in the festivities of this life, and forget that they are to die and come to judgment. How many, alas! who bear the Christian name, have forgotten this caution of the Saviour, and live as if their lives were secure; as if they feared not death; as if there were no heaven and no judgment! Christians should feel that they are soon to die, and that their portion is not in this life; and, feeling this, they should be looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” (Albert Barnes).
There is a need for the Christian to guard against such snares. Basically what the Saviour is saying is: “Be not overpowered by temptations, nor betrayed by your own corruptions.” The danger springs up from within us as well as from outside influences. David fell victim to a snare that had its roots in his own being. In his prayer of repentance he lays the fault at his own door. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest . . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” Psalm 51:4, 10. We must “take heed” to ourselves.
But also to the temptations that surface from without, the world around and the devil, of whom it is said he ‘beguiled’ Eve while she was yet without sin! How much more easily will we, sinners by nature and practice, not fall victim to his guiles if we do watch.
It is something which may overtake us at anytime. David and his backsliding is a solemn reminder of this, as are so many other examples of backsliding recorded in the Bible. The flesh and the devil may strike the believer at any time and in any place. Even in the company of the Lord Jesus, Peter was deceived and spoke as the devil, earning for himself that memorable rebuke from the Lord. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men,” Matthew 16:23.
In truth, there is nowhere safe from temptation. We must ever harbour within our hearts and minds a right pondering of the return of Christ. We must never forget or put aside the truth that “the fashion of this world passeth away,” 1 Corinthians 7:31.
No businessman will invest in a company which has all the marks of dying! This world and all that is in it is dying. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever,” 1 John 2:17. While living and working in this world and in a legitimate manner, engaging in the affairs of the world, we must ever bear in mind the apostle’s words: “And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away,” 1 Corinthians 7:31.
At all times we are to remain aloof and separated from the ways and habits of the world. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” Romans 12:2.
The Word of God will keep us right for it sets forth the will of God by which we are to live.
We must resort constantly to prayer. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always.” Those who are ever in a spirit of prayer and speaking with the Lord and listening to the Word, will be less likely to be snared by the words of the devil and ways of the flesh. It is for this reason that we “ought always to pray, and not to faint,” Luke 18:1.
Escape from such entrapment is possible and will result in us triumphantly standing before the Son of man. How important it is, how vital to our spiritual wellbeing, to ever keep before us the coming again of the Lord Jesus! The ‘virgins’ of Matthew 25:1-13, forgot about the returning bridegroom while they ‘slumbered and slept’! The true believers are represented as being in the same frame of mind as the false and deceived professing believers.
How tragic that is!
The Saviour shows just what is the chief outcome of this snare. It will result in “that day” coming “upon you unawares.” The day spoken of is the greatest day in the experience of the people of God. The day when rewards shall be distributed to the faithful people of God.
Paul speaks of it so: “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing,” 2 Timothy 4:8.
Today, the professing church is sadly asleep concerning the return of Christ. It is beset by indifference regarding it, shamefully ignorant of the extensive teaching of the prophecies in the Word of God about it or mislead by false views of that glorious event.
Whatever the reason, none can challenge the statement that a spirit of slumber is abroad throughout the ranks of God’s people today.
May it please the Lord to awaken His people as the parable of the ‘wise and foolish virgins’ teaches will take place.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
8th December 2022