Luke 21:11-15

Luke 21:11 (KJB)
And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.

Earthquakes in divers places - Josephus, Tacitus, Seneca and other historians record earthquakes in many different places such as Rome (51 A.D.), Crete (46-47 A.D.), Laodicea (60 A.D.) , Campania (62 A.D. - a region in southern Italy which contains the city of Naples and Salerno. It is also a very densely populated area.), Apamaea in Phrygia (53 A.D.) There are earthquake zones in the Mediterranean Sea and throughout the middle east. These earthquakes would not just be in Israel but would be in many different places.

Famines - During the reign of Claudius Caesar who reigned from 41-54 B.C. (Acts 11:28 KJV) And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. In fact the historical record states that there were four major famines during this 13 year period. Both Josephus and Tacitus record these famines.

Pestilences - Tacitus and Suetonius record that in 39 A.D. that over 30,000 people had perished from a plague.

Fearful Sights - There were some strange events which occurred in Jerusalem at this time. The brazen gate of the temple opened by itself which normally took 20 men to open them. A flame was seen in the temple which brightened the eastern part. All of these strange occurrences are written in Josephus and Tacitus.

Great Signs shall be from Heaven - Then there was a star which hung over Jerusalem with the appearance of a comet for an entire year which is written of by Josephus. There were also longer than normal winters and they were colder than normal. There may have been many others which were not recorded from antiquity.

Luke 21:12 (KJB)
But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake.

Not only would their be natural calamities and wars but there would be persecution on an individual basis. The Jewish leaders would bring the followers of Jesus into the synagogues and question them. Then they would find them guilty and would have them lashed 39 times. (Acts 5:40-41 KJV) And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. {41} And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. The followers of Jesus would enter times of tribulation which would lead to their martyrdom. Stephen and James were two of the earliest martyrs. Persecution and hatred of the Christian would finally escalate into a full blown pogrom by the Roman Empire. It would start in Jerusalem with the Sanhedrin desiring to kill all Christians and would culminate in ten major Roman persecutions ending around 330 A.D.. The first one began in 64 A.D. with Nero. The Apostle Paul had died in this first persecution. The Roman Empire had stretched to Northern Europe, North Africa, and Asia. This vast area contained many small countries and provinces where Christians were persecuted. Jesus wants His followers to be ready for the coming persecutions and He wants them to use it as a testimony against their detractors. When these evil rulers stand before the Lord on Judgment day, they will have no defense against what they did because they will have been told the truth.

Luke 21:13 (KJB)
And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

The persecutions and arrests would make a good opportunity to witness the true Gospel to their captors. Once they were questioned about their beliefs and practices, the door for a testimony of the true Gospel would be available. When Luke penned the book of Acts, he gave many examples of this.

(Acts 4:18-20 KJV) And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. {19} But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. {20} For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

(Acts 26:28 KJV) Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

(Acts 24:24-25 KJV) And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. {25} And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

Luke 21:14 (KJB)
Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:

Here Jesus gives instruction how to handle those times when Christians will be delivered up. They must not give any thought before hand to what they are going to say. The admonition not to premeditate or study before hand to give an answer is important because they would not know what the accusations would be or the central theme beforehand. The answers were to be given to them by the Holy Spirit at the moment they needed it so they could take no credit for the answers. The answers given will be fit perfectly for the accusations. This admonition is not to discourage proper Bible study but it is for those extreme times of trial when God promises a proper answer to those who come against the believer. The believer will also be given boldness at that time to give an answer to their accusers. This verse should never be taken as an excuse why one should not study the Bible. I was in a church once where a person who believed in charismatic theology was preaching. He did not study and thought that he was going to be given words at the moment he started preaching. Well guess what? He flopped and as he tried to speak and he made no sense whatsoever. In fact, the more of the Bible you study, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with and can give you much more testimony at the time needed.

Luke 21:15 (KJB)
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

Two of the examples who were given what to say right at the proper moment were Stephen who had gone over the entire history of Israel but at the end told them that they had slain all the prophets, they did not obey the law they were given, and that they have resisted the Holy Ghost to the point they rejected their own Messiah. The other example was Paul who a number of times was allowed to defend himself and went right into a defense of the Gospel which was specifically for each audience. He defended at Ephesus, Phillipi, before Lysias, Felix, Festus, and King Agrippa. Paul gave a strong defense at all his confrontations. In fact, Paul gave such a strong defense in front of King Agrippa that Paul almost persuaded him to be a Christian.