Repent or Perish
Aug 12, 2014
The advice Jesus gave in Luke 12:58 about agreeing out of court with one’s adversary is then illustrated by two examples in Luke 13:1-6. Verse 1 says,
1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
This does not mean that Pilate literally went to the temple and mingled human blood with the daily sacrifices. It is an expression that means people had been killed as they came to offer sacrifice at the temple. No doubt this was one of many occasions where the people had rioted, and Pilate had responded with the order to use force to quell the riot.
There is little doubt that these Galileans had stirred up trouble and thus had brought this slaughter upon themselves. Galilee was a hotbed of nationalism and insurrection. Pilate’s duty was to maintain law and order, and it was unlikely that this would have happened without provocation. Even so, Herod became angry with Pilate over this incident, for Herod ruled Galilee at the time. They did not reconcile until just before Jesus was crucified (Luke 23:12).
The biggest problem of the day was the people’s dissatisfaction with God’s sentence upon them. Though the book of Daniel had clearly prophesied four beast empires, including Rome, who had been given the divine mandate to rule, it would seem that Daniel’s writings were seldom studied in the synagogues. Likewise, the people had little or no understanding of Jeremiah’s advice to the captives in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:4-7), nor did they believe that they were “evil figs” (Jeremiah 24) for rebelling against this divine judgment.
Jesus’ response shifts the focus to the deeper problem that was common to most of the people. Yet He also implies that the Galileans who had been killed at the temple were at fault. Luke 13:2 says,
2 And He answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?”
The Emphatic Diaglott renders it this way:
2 And he answering said to them, “Do you think that those Galileans were the greatest transgressors in all Galilee, because they suffered such things?”
Jesus did not blame Pilate, nor did He call Pilate a sinner for his actions. No doubt the one who had brought up this incident wanted Jesus to take the side of the insurgents and issue some sort of warning against Pilate—and by extension, a warning to Rome itself. But Jesus did no such thing, for He expected the people to obey the law and prophets by accepting Rome’s dominion as a judgment of God.
Here again we see how Luke was revealing the fundamental problem that would later kindle the revolt against Rome in 66-73 A.D. The problem was NOT with the Roman government but the refusal of the Galileans and Judeans to repent, alter their thinking, and submit to divine judgment administered by Rome. This was very difficult for them to understand, for they were blinded by nationalism and by the idea that it was God’s will for them to be free and independent. They ignored the laws of Tribulation, thinking that the judgments of God in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 did not apply to them.
But Jesus laid responsibility directly upon the people themselves, saying in Luke 13:3,
3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Most Bible teachers relate this only to the final judgment at the Great White Throne. While this passage may apply in that way, Jesus was warning them that if they did not repent of their refusal to abide by the decision of the Divine Court, they would all perish in a coming war with Rome.
In other words, the incident with Pilate was just a preview of coming events, when the full power of Rome would put down the Jewish revolt. History shows that the church in Jerusalem took heed to Jesus’ words and fled the city before it was destroyed in 70 A.D. We find also that in the second revolt under the false messiah, Bar-Cochba (132-135 A.D.), the Christians were persecuted for not assisting in at revolt.
Professor Graetz speaks of the Jewish hatred against Christians during that revolt:
“Notwithstanding the deep hatred entertained by the Jews for their enemies, they did not avenge themselves upon such as fell into their hands. It was only against the Jewish Christians who lived in Judea that Bar-Cochba displayed his hostility, because they were considered as blasphemers and spies. This hatred against the Jewish Christians was increased because they refused to take part in the national war, and were the only idle lookers-on at the fearful spectacle.” [History of the Jews, Vol. II, pp. 411, 412]
The full story can be read in Volume II of my book, Lessons from Church History.
The Tower of Siloam
Jesus then gives us a second example. While the first example focused on those who were actively involved in the spirit of insurrection, the second example focuses on innocent victims. Luke 13:4, 5 says,
4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
The eighteen innocent victims “on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them” was thus another preview of the greater slaughter of innocent people in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.
Ancient historians do not tell us about this tower or its collapse, nor does Luke offer any details. Nothing was known about this tower until it was discovered in 1920. Even then, it remained essentially an unidentified “circular structure” until later excavations.
“These are only the remnants of a much more complete recovery in 1920 by the archeologist, Raymond Weill. Weill, however, identified these ruins as constituting only ‘a circular structure.’ It was not until the old wall was discovered in relationship to this structure that it was identified as the Tower of Siloam.”
This Tower was near the pool of Siloam on the south side of the temple. The priests took water from that pool to pour out as a drink offering on one side of the altar while pouring out the sacrificial blood on the other side.
How this tower fell is not known, but we know it was rebuilt, because the archeologists found the rebuilt foundation of the Tower.
The Parable of the Vineyard
Jesus then tells the people a parable which explains the reason behind the coming destruction of Jerusalem—which the two smaller incidents foreshadowed. Luke 13:6-9 says,
6 And He began telling this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down’.”
I showed earlier in Book 1, page 105, how John the Baptist had been called to initiate a four-year Divine Visitation to see if the people were bearing the fruit of repentance. Was the judgment of God bringing correction to the people (Jeremiah 2:19), or were they still maintaining their innocence (Jeremiah 2:35)?
In Luke 19:44 this investigation is called a “visitation.” It began with John in Luke 3:9, where he said,
9 And also the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
When John was executed after just one year of ministry, Jesus continued the investigation for the next three years. Just before He went to Jerusalem to be crucified, He told this parable of the vineyard, which stated that He (and John) had been looking for fruit for the past three years. Apparently, this investigation was to be given one final year to see if fertilizer would help the fig tree (Judah) to bear fruit.
At the end of the final year, Jesus reveals that the fertilizer did little or nothing, for the tree was still barren. Luke 19:41-44 gives the result of the visitation and prophesies the destruction of the city. Matthew 21:18, 19 tells us of Jesus’ curse upon the fruitless fig tree, and the next parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-44 gives the religious leaders the opportunity to determine the level of mercy that they might have been shown in the coming judgment. Because they showed no mercy, the kingdom of God was to be taken from them and given to another nation (Matthew 21:43).
This divine judgment fell upon Jerusalem in 70 A.D. However, because the city was rebuilt afterward, we know that the prophecy in Jeremiah 19:11 has a future fulfillment, after which time the city will never again be rebuilt. The coming destruction in our own time is revealed in Jesus’ final verdict in Matthew 21:44,
44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.
This is a reference to King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, wherein he saw an image with a head of gold, arms of silver, belly of bronze, and legs of iron. He then saw a stone strike the image on its feet (Daniel 2:34, 35), which crushed the entire image to powder. The image was ground to powder “and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found” (Daniel 2:35).
Jesus was warning the people that the city would be destroyed completely when the time came for the Stone Kingdom to rise up, which is the Kingdom of God. Obviously, this would have to occur some time after the iron kingdom of Rome had completed its time of dominion, as well as the “little horn” that was to extend Rome’s dominance through a religious system that was based in Rome.
We have the benefit of looking back on history and seeing how the little horn of Rome has misruled the earth. Yet we live in the time of the end, when the “stone” is even now rising up and starting to grind the empires to powder. These are also pictured in Daniel 7 as “beast” empires, and these are now about to lose the dominion mandate.
Along with the overthrow of Mystery Babylon, which is the final form of godless empire, that is, the “feet” of the image, we find Jerusalem and its people sitting on the feet of this image. Hence, they are in danger, as Jesus prophesied, of being ground to powder and scattered like dust when the stone falls upon the feet of Mystery Babylon.
Jesus’ words gave them warning, not only of the disaster in 70 A.D., but also of the soon-coming destruction in our own time. The overall warning is: Repent or Perish.
This is the seventieth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.