Luke 21:25
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
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(25-33) And there shall be signs in the sun.—See Notes on Matthew 24:29-35, Mark 13:24-31, where the “signs” are defined as the “sun being darkened, and the moon not giving her light.”

Distress of nations.—The Greek for the first noun means literally, constraint, the sense of being hemmed in, as when we say “in great straits.” It is used by St. Paul in 2Corinthians 2:4, and not elsewhere in the New Testament. The word for “perplexity” is used by St. Luke only.

The sea and the waves roaring.—The better MSS. give a different punctuation and reading, with perplexity from the roar of the sea, and of the surge, or wave. In the common reading we have another instance of agreement with St. Paul, in 1Corinthians 13:1, where the word is rendered “tinkling”—better, echoing, or resounding. Assuming, as has been suggested above, that St. Luke’s report is of the nature of a paraphrase, we may, perhaps, connect this feature in it with his own experience. To one who had known the perils of waters narrated in Acts 27, no picture of the more dread phenomena of nature could be complete without “the sea and the waves roaring.”

Luke 21:25-26. There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, &c. — These seem to be highly figurative expressions, signifying the decaying of all the glory, excellence, and prosperity of the nation; and the prevalence of universal sadness, misery, and confusion. And upon the earth — Or, upon the land, as the words may be rendered; distress of nations with perplexity — The Jewish tetrarchies shall be distressed and perplexed: the sea and the waves roaring — The roaring of the sea and the waves may be a metaphorical expression; for, in the first clause of this verse, the signs in the sun and the moon and the stars are plainly so, answering to what by Mark is expressed thus: The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall. For, though the darkening of the sun and the moon may be intepreted literally of eclipses, no reader can understand the falling of the stars literally. See on Mark 13:24-26, and Matthew 24:29-31. Men’s hearts failing them for fear — Greek, αποψυχοντων ανθρωπων απο φοβου, literally, men expiring through fear; and for looking after those things — Those dreadful calamities; which are coming on the earth — Or, on the land. For the powers of heaven shall be shaken — For this shall not be like former invasions, or captivities, which only produced some transient disorders in the state, or at most an interruption in the government for a few years; but it shall be attended with a total subversion of it; even of the whole Jewish polity, laws, and religion, which were the work of heaven, or which, containing in them the light of truth, are signified by the sun, moon, and stars in the preceding verse; and therefore might in this be called the powers of heaven. The consequence shall be such vast, extensive, and lasting ruin, that it shall be a most lively emblem of the desolation of the whole world at the last day. The above is the exposition commonly given of these verses, compared with the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. And in consistency therewith, επι της γης, which our translation renders, upon the earth, is thought to be only intended of the land of Judea and Samaria. But Dr. Campbell thinks the prophecy is not to be confined to that country, and therefore he prefers the common version, for which he assigns the following reasons: “First, though what preceded seems peculiarly to concern the Jews, what follows appears to have a more extensive object, and to relate to the nations and the inhabitable earth in general. There we hear of συνοχη εθνων, distress, or anguish of nations, and of the things, επερχομενων τη οικουμενη, coming upon the habitable world; not to mention what immediately follows, to wit, that the Son of man shall be seen coming in a cloud, with great glory and power. Nor is it all probable that, by the term, εθνων, nations, used thrice in the preceding verse, manifestly for Gentiles, are meant in this verse only Jews and Samaritans. Secondly, the prediction which the verse under examination introduces, is accurately distinguished by the historian, as not commencing till after the completion of the former. It was not till after the calamities which were to befall the Jews should be ended; after their capital and temple, their last resource, should be invested and taken, and the wretched inhabitants destroyed, or carried captive into all nations; after Jerusalem should be trodden by the Gentiles; nay, and after the triumph of the Gentiles should be brought to a period; that the prophecy contained in this and the two subsequent verses should begin to take effect. The judicious reader, to be convinced of this, needs only give the passage an attentive perusal.”

21:5-28 With much curiosity those about Christ ask as to the time when the great desolation should be. He answers with clearness and fulness, as far as was necessary to teach them their duty; for all knowledge is desirable as far as it is in order to practice. Though spiritual judgements are the most common in gospel times, yet God makes use of temporal judgments also. Christ tells them what hard things they should suffer for his name's sake, and encourages them to bear up under their trials, and to go on in their work, notwithstanding the opposition they would meet with. God will stand by you, and own you, and assist you. This was remarkably fulfilled after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples wisdom and utterance. Though we may be losers for Christ, we shall not, we cannot be losers by him, in the end. It is our duty and interest at all times, especially in perilous, trying times, to secure the safety of our own souls. It is by Christian patience we keep possession of our own souls, and keep out all those impressions which would put us out of temper. We may view the prophecy before us much as those Old Testament prophecies, which, together with their great object, embrace, or glance at some nearer object of importance to the church. Having given an idea of the times for about thirty-eight years next to come, Christ shows what all those things would end in, namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter dispersion of the Jewish nation; which would be a type and figure of Christ's second coming. The scattered Jews around us preach the truth of Christianity; and prove, that though heaven and earth shall pass away, the words of Jesus shall not pass away. They also remind us to pray for those times when neither the real, nor the spiritual Jerusalem, shall any longer be trodden down by the Gentiles, and when both Jews and Gentiles shall be turned to the Lord. When Christ came to destroy the Jews, he came to redeem the Christians that were persecuted and oppressed by them; and then had the churches rest. When he comes to judge the world, he will redeem all that are his from their troubles. So fully did the Divine judgements come upon the Jews, that their city is set as an example before us, to show that sins will not pass unpunished; and that the terrors of the Lord, and his threatenings against impenitent sinners, will all come to pass, even as his word was true, and his wrath great upon Jerusalem.See the notes at Matthew 24:29.

Upon the earth distress of nations - Some have proposed to render the word "earth" by "land," confining it to Judea. It often has this meaning, and there seems some propriety in so using it here. The word translated "distress" denotes anxiety of mind - such an anxiety as people have when they do not know what to do to free themselves from calamities; and it means here that the calamities would be so great and overwhelming that they would not know what to do to escape. There would be a want of counsel, and deep anxiety at the impending evils.

With perplexity - Rather "on account" of their perplexity, or the desperate state of their affairs. The Syriac has it, "perplexity or wringing of hands," which is a sign of deep distress and horror.

The sea and the waves roaring - This is not to be understood literally, but as an image of great distress. Probably it is designed to denote that these calamities would come upon them like a deluge. As when in a storm the ocean roars, and wave rolls on wave and dashes against the shore, and each succeeding surge is more violent than the one that preceded it, so would the calamities come upon Judea. They would roll over the whole land, and each wave of trouble would be more violent than the one that preceded it, until the whole country would be desolate. The same image is also used in Isaiah 8:7-8, and Revelation 18:15.

25-28. signs, &c.—Though the grandeur of this language carries the mind over the head of all periods but that of Christ's second coming, nearly every expression will be found used of the Lord's coming in terrible national judgments, as of Babylon, &c.; and from Lu 21:28, 32, it seems undeniable that its immediate reference was to the destruction of Jerusalem, though its ultimate reference beyond doubt is to Christ's final coming.Ver. 25,26. We may easily imagine, that this was eminently fulfilled in the siege of Jerusalem, that men’s hearts failed them for fear; and for prodigies, we are told of enough, both by Josephus and Tacitus, the latter tells us, that armies were seen fighting in the air with glistering armour, and the temple seemed all as on fire with lightning; he also tells us of the voice heard, and throwing open of the doors of the temple, before mentioned; but tells us few were affected, but built hopes upon a tradition they had, That now was the time ut valesceret Oriens; which was true enough, but not in their sense. But what is spoken here certainly relates to the day of judgment, before which prodigious things will be seen, 2 Peter 3:10,12; and it follows, (see Luke 21:27,28).

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon,.... They shall be darkened, and suffer very strange and surprising eclipses:

and in the stars; they shall fall from heaven, as in Matthew 24:29 and so the Ethiopic version reads here: all which, as it may be understood in a literal sense, so it may likewise in figurative and mystical one, and be interpreted of the changes there should be in the Jewish state; See Gill on Matthew 24:29. So the Jewish writers (h) interpret the sun, the light, the moon, and stars, in Ecclesiastes 12:2. By the "sun" they understand the kingdom of the house of David; by "the light", the law; by "the moon", the sanhedrim; and by the stars, the Rabbins; and the same seem to be designed by the stars here:

and upon the earth distress of nations; upon the land of Israel; in the several nations and countries belonging to it; as Galilee of the nations, Judea, and the region beyond Jordan, shall be in great distress:

with perplexity; of mind, not knowing what to do, which way to go, or step to take; the Syriac version, instead of it, reads "clapping, or pressing of the hands"; which is done by persons, when in an agony and great distress:

the sea and the waves roaring; which design some unusual and extraordinary storms and tempests, and inundations in the sea of Galilee, or Tiberias, which would be so very terrible, as to cause great uneasiness, distress, and perplexity; and so some versions render it, "because of the sea", &c.

(h) In Prefat. Echa Rabbati, fol. 38. 4. Jarchi in Ecclesiastes 12.2.

{g} And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

(g) When the times have expired which are appointed for the salvation of the Gentiles and the punishment of the Jews: And so he changes topics from the destruction of Jerusalem to the history of the latter judgment.

Luke 21:25-26. There now follows what should come to pass at the end of the said times of the Gentiles before the Parousia. Since Luke, writing in the time in which such καιροὶ ἐθνῶν are still passing, has adopted these also into the prophecy from the tradition expanded ex eventu, the Parousia in his statement could not be immediately linked on to the destruction of Jerusalem, as was the case in Mark 13:24, and still more definitely by means of εὐθέως in Matthew 24:29. In the midst between these two catastrophes actually already came those καιροί.

συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν κ.τ.λ.] Distress (2 Corinthians 2:4) of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the seas and waves. Luke alone has this fearful feature. The genitive ἠχοῦς[246] (see the critical remarks) indicates that to which the ἀπορία refers. Comp. Herod. iv. 83: τῶν Σκυθέων τὴν ἀπορίην; Herodian, iv. 14. 1 : ἘΝἈΠΟΡΊᾼ ΤΟῦ ΠΡΑΚΤΈΟΥ. Groundlessly Bornemann conjectures ἘΝ ἈΠΕΙΡΊᾼ. The ΚΑΊ “vocem angustiorem (ΣΆΛΟς, breakers) annectit latiori,” Kypke.

Luke 21:26. ἀποψυχ. ἀνθρώπ.] while men give up the ghost (Thuc. i. 134. 3; Bion, i. 9; Alciphr. Ep. iii. 72; 4Ma 15:15) for fear, etc. It might be taken, moreover, of mere faintness (Hom. Od. xxiv. 348), but the stronger expression corresponds more to the progressive colouring of the description.

αἱ γὰρ δυνάμ. κ.τ.λ.] not a clause limping after (de Wette), but an energetic declaration coming in at the close as to the cause of these phenomena. See, besides, on Matthew 24:29.

[246] From the nominative ἠχώ (not ἦχος); hence not to be accented ἤχους, but ἠχοῦς.

Luke 21:25-28. Signs of the advent (Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27).

25. signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars] The articles should be omitted. These signs are mainly metaphorical—the eclipse of nations and the downfall of potentates—though there may be literal fulfilments also. The language is that of the ancient prophets, Amos 8:9; Joel 2:30-31; Ezekiel 32:7-8, as in Revelation 6:12-14.

distress of nations] Synoche, xii. 50 and 2 Corinthians 2:4.

the sea and the waves roaring
] The true reading is probably ἤχους and the translation, “in perplexity at the roar of the sea and surge.” Comp. Psalm 46:4.“In that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea,” Isaiah 5:30. The raging sea is the sea of nations, Jdg 1:13; Revelation 17:15.

Luke 21:25. Σημεῖα, signs) different from those of which Luke 21:11 speaks.—ἐν ἡλίῳ, in the sun) The language is to be taken literally (not figuratively): because the earth, sea, and heaven (sky), are distinctly enumerated. [Those things (objects in nature) which are made mention of in the first days of Creation, are here set down in an inverted order: 1. The sun and the moon with the stars; 2. The earth and the sea; 3. The heaven.—V. g.]—[ἐπὶ τῆε γῆς, upon the earth) See Luke 21:26; Luke 21:35.—V. g.]—συνοχὴ, ἀπορία, ἀποψυχόντων) distress, perplexity, fainting, form an ascending climax.—ἐθνῶν) of all nations: to which are opposed individual men, including also Jews. See following verse.—ἤχους) The common reading is ἠχούσης.[228] But the idea expressed is not that the sea and the agitated water or waves roar; but there is an ἦχος, roaring, of the sea, and a σάλος (salum), agitation of the water, whereby the ear and also the eye are struck. Comp. Psalm 46:4 (3), ἤχησαν καὶ ἐταράχθησαν τὰ ὓδατα αὐτῶν, their waters roared and were troubled. Ἦχος is neuter also, as well as masculine, as we have shown in the Appar. Crit., p. 546 [Ed. ii., p. 208]. There are four clauses, all alike having the idea of terror connected with them: ΚΑῚ ἜΣΤΑΙ ΣΗΜΕΙΑ ἘΝ ἩΛΊῼ ΚΑῚ ΣΕΛΉΙῌ ΚΑῚ ἌΣΤΡΟΙς· ΚΑῚ ἘΠῚ Τῆς Γῆς ΣΥΝΟΧΗ ἘΘΝῶΝ· ἘΝ ΑΠΟΡΙΑ ἬΧΟΥς ΘΑΛΆΣΣΗς ΚΑῚ ΣΆΛΟΥ· ΑΠΟΨΥΧΟΝΤΩΝ ἈΝΘΡΏΠΩΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The words ἘΝ ἈΠΟΡΊᾼ are more closely connected with the words immediately following, than with those which go before, whether ἬΧΟΥς ΚΑῚ ΣΆΛΟΥ be the Genitive of the object, or the Genitive of time [with perplexity by reason of the roar and agitation of the sea; or else, with perplexity during the time that (whilst) the sea is roaring, and is agitated]. The Genitive of the object may seem, no doubt, in this passage to give an unusual and forced (strained) construction, because ἀπορία, if it denotes want [as here, want of means of escape, and of knowledge what to do], is wont to have the Genitive of the subject-matter [the object of the want], as ἀπορία σίτου, χρημάτων, κ.τ.λ.; but there is no deficiency of analogous phrases, such as, Ἡ ἘΞΟΥΣΊΑ ὙΜῶΝ, “power over you,” 1 Corinthians 9:12; τὸ ὑμέτερον ἔλεος, the mercy shown towards you, Romans 11:31; ὁ φόβος τῶν Ἰουδαίων, fear arising from the Jews, John 7:13; ταραχαὶ σκιᾶς θανάτου, Job 24:17, in which passage the word ΤΑΡΑΧΑῚ [ΤΆΡΑΧΟς in the Vatican MS.] answers to בלהות, as בהלה is rendered by ἈΠΟΡΊΑ in Leviticus 26:16. If this be not deemed a satisfactory explanation, ἬΧΟΥς ΚΑῚ ΣΆΛΟΥ ought to be taken as expressing the Genitive of time, as ΧΕΙΜῶΝΟς, ΝΥΚΤῸς, ΣΑΒΒΆΤΟΥ, are used.—[ΘΑΛΆΣΣΗς, of the sea) by reason of joy. Psalm 96:11-13 [“Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof—Before the Lord, for He cometh”], Psalm 98:7-9.—V. g.]

[228] D supports, as Rec. Text, ἠχούσης. But ABCLX read ἤχους; a, ‘sonus;’ c, ‘sonitus, and so the Vulg. “præ confusione sonitus’ [et (in some copies)] maris et fluctuum.”—E. and T.

Verses 25-27. - The prophecy of the coming of the Son of man in glory. The signs which shall precede this advent. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. The Lord continues his solemn prophecy respecting things to come. Now, the question of the four disciples - to Which this great discourse was the answer - was, When were they to look for that awful ruin of city and temple of which their loved Master spoke? But they, it must be remembered, in their own minds closely connected the temple's fall with some glorious epiphany of their Master, in which they should share. He answers generally their formal question as to the temple, describing to them the very signs they are to look for as heralding the temple's fall. He now proceeds to reply to their real query respecting the glorious epiphany. The temple's ruin, that belonged to the period in which they were living; but the glorious epiphany, that lay in a far distance. "See," he said, "city and temple will be destroyed; this catastrophe some of you will live to see. The ruin will be irreparable; a new epoch will set in, an epoch I call 'the times of the Gentiles.' These once despised peoples will have their turn, for I shall be their Light. Ages will pass before these 'times of the Gentiles' shall be fulfilled, but the end will come, and then, and not till then, will the Son of man come in glory. Listen; these shall be the signs which shall herald this glorious advent: Signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars." St. Matthew (Matthew 24:29) supplies more details concerning these "signs." The sun would be darkened, and the moon would not give her light; the stars would fall from heaven. These words are evidently a memory of language used by the Hebrew prophets to express figuratively the downfall of kingdoms. So Isaiah (Isaiah 13:10)speaks thus of the destruction of Babylon, and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 32:7) of the fall of Egypt (see too Isaiah 34:4). It is, however, probable that our Lord, while using language and figures familiar to Hebrew thought, foreshadowed a literal fulfillment of his words. So Godet, who picturesquely likens our globe just before the second advent to "a ship creaking in every timber at the moment of its going to pieces." He suggests that "our whole solar system shall then undergo unusual commotions. The moving forces (δυνάμεις), regular in their action tilt then, shall be, as it were, set free from their laws by an unknown power, and, at the end of this violent but short distress, the world shall see him appear" (see 2 Peter 3:10-12, where it is plainly foretold that tremendous physical disturbances shall precede the second coming of the Lord). The Son of man coming in a cloud. The same luminous cloud we read of so often in the Pentateuch: the flames of the desert-wanderings; the pillar of cloud and fire; the same bright cloud enveloped the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration; it received him as he was taken up (Acts 1:9). Nothing is said in this place as to any millennial reign of Christ on earth. The description is that of a transitory appearance destined to effect the work upon quick and dead - an appear-ante defined more particularly by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:23 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. Luke 21:25Signs (σημεῖα)

See on Matthew 24:24.

Distress (συνοχὴ)

Only here and 2 Corinthians 2:4. Kindred with συνεχομένη, taken (Luke 4:38), on which see note. The original idea of the word is being held in a tight grasp.

With perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring

The A. V. follows the reading ἠχούσης, the participle, roaring. The proper reading is ἠχοῦς the noun, the roaring. Render perplexity for the roaring of the sea, etc. Ἠχώ, roaring, is properly a returned sound, an echo. Generally a ringing sound, as of the blows on an anvil.

Waves (σάλου)

Only here in New Testament. The radical notion of the word is unsteady motion, especially the rolling swell of the sea. Rev., better, billows.

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