I was reading in Luke 17 and felt to exegete a passage from that chapter that is what I believe to be accurate to the text. It has to do with the coming Kingdom of God and what it takes to get there from here. Jesus spoke these words over 2000 years ago and they seem more relevant today than ever before. May the Lord bless the reading and study of His Word.
In this setting Jesus is talking with His disciples and other followers who were present, including some of the Pharisees. As we begin this passage the Pharisees are asking Jesus about the coming kingdom of God.
“Now when He (Jesus) was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you (in your midst).” – Luke 17:20,21
Jesus is telling the Pharisees (and us) that the kingdom of God isn’t so much a place as it is a presence. This presence with within us who have received the salvation of our Lord. The Holy Spirit lives within every saved person and His presence also represents God’s kingdom, or put more appropriately, God’s rule. The rule of God is within us when we have invited the Lord to be our God. His Word and His Spirit speak to us and compel us to obey Him as we move through life toward the coming Kingdom of God that will be manifest in Heaven and on earth when the Lord returns to set up His millennial kingdom.
Jesus is telling those who have spiritual ears to hear, because He is in our midst, and so is the kingdom of God.
“Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” – (vs.22-25)
Jesus told His followers that a day is coming when He will no longer be on the earth in His physical form. When He leaves, others will come claiming to be the true way; we call these false religions or cults. Jesus warns His readers that we are not to ‘go after them or follow them.’ Over the past centuries way too many people have fallen prey to false religions and have lost their souls to false teachers and belief systems that take them nowhere but into Hell when they die. I still remember when the US military pulled out of Afghanistan and these precious Afghan people were clinging to the exterior C-140 transport planes and subsequently falling to their deaths. God showed me that when they fell, then fell straight into Hell. They didn’t have Jesus and they attempted to save their physical lives but perished in the process. So it is with all who die without Jesus. People need the Lord, we all need to be saved because we will all one day die.
Jesus went on to say that He will one day show Himself strong and true when He is glorified ‘in His day.’ That day, the Lord’s day, would be a future day when He returns for His Church, judges the world in the seven-year tribulation, and returns afterward with His Church to set up His millennial kingdom on the earth. Before any of that can happen, the Christ ‘must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.’
The phrase, ‘this generation’ was the generation that was alive when Jesus was walking the earth. They were the ones who crucified the Christ and they were the ones He was speaking to live. That which was recorded in the sacred text of scripture is now communicated to our generation. Even then Jesus was foretelling of His future glory that would be revealed in the last days. Jesus went on to articulate what He meant.
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” – (vs.26-30)
The days of Noah were days of debauchery and degradation and only Noah and his family were found righteous in God’s sight; the rest of the world was lost in their sin. While Noah preached to them, he built an ark and platformed his ministry with warnings of a coming flood and judgment of God, but the people would not listen. This is what we are seeing today. God’s people are warning the masses of the coming judgment and compelling people to get saved; some do, most don’t, and their coming fate will be similar to those people in Noah’s day.
Notice how Jesus reveals what the lifestyle of the day would be like just prior to the flood; they were eating, drinking, they married wives and were given in marriage (betrothed). This was a ‘business as usual’ mindset with no regard for righteousness or holy living. This was a wicked and perverse generation that invoked God’s judgement; but not Noah, he was righteous in God’s sight. To further illustrate this, the year that Methuselah died was the year that God sent the flood. Methuselah was a righteous man, the oldest man to live, yet God would not bring the flood until he passed. This speaks to God’s grace and longsuffering for people to repent.
Jesus also gave the example of Lot and his day where people also ‘ate, drank, bought, sold, planted, and built.’ Unlike Noah, Lot’s judgment was local where Noah’s was global. We see a similar lifestyle in Lot’s day where it was also a ‘business as usual’ mindset just before the judgment of God was unleashed. In both these scenarios, an event took place that stopped the partying and business as usual routine and changed it to God’s judgment. It was on the day that Noah entered the ark that the partying stopped and on the day that Lot went out of Sodom that God rained down His judgment. If ever there were a strong care for a pre-tribulation Rapture it would be here.
Jesus then fast forwards the scene to a future event that would qualify as ‘in that day;’ it’s what we call the last days; the days just prior to the Rapture.
“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods (possessions) are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – (vs.31-33)
While many theologians have associated this ‘not going back to get goods’ and such with the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD, it also applies to what will happen when the Lord returns for His Church. The setting is Israel because this was Jesus target audience. In the Jewish culture, people would patio atop their roofs and could see an approaching army, like they did in 70 AD; so it will be just prior to the Rapture. As I am writing this blog, Iran, Turkey, and Russian troops are amassing along Israel’s norther border. They are staging for an invasion but are waiting for something significant to occur first. Israel is poised for this invasion, flying stealth sorties and hitting specific military targets in an effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, however, some strategists claim that they are already nuclear capable. The Lord’s warning for modern day Israelis is for them to flee when the armies invade, because their enemy is coming with a vengeance. While it’s true that God will protect His people, it’s equally true that they need to be ready for a fight, a judgment, and to meet their Maker. The only way for them, or anyone of us, to do this is to be truly saved by grace, born again by God’s grace through Jesus. It takes a prayer of faith to the Lord and a confession that Jesus is Lord to make it happen.
The Lord provides some identifiers in this passage and the next as to the time of year that this will occur, it’s during the Fall when ‘one is in the field.’ The phrase, ‘Remember Lot’s wife’ speaks to a person who is in the process of fleeing from God’s judgment, but who also looked back. Some Bible scholars claim that Lot’s wife not only looked back, but began to go back, most likely in an attempt to save her other offspring. While this may be a noble cause, the relevant take away here is that you can’t save others, only Jesus can do that. You can’t choose for others to serve the Lord, they have to choose the Lord for themselves. You can only choose for yourself. Lot’s wife looked back and saw the judgment of God manifested in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by the thundering fire and brimstone from the sky. She was looking in the wrong direction and it cost her her life. How like today too many people who are looking to escape the coming judgment of God are still looking back, still longing for the things of this world that are as fleeting as they are temporal.
Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” The idea here is that the only real way to prepare for the coming tribulation to get saved. I am a prepper, I have canned food, emergency rations, water, weapons, and other resources associated with survival in a hostile environment, however, all of that is more about prudence than it is surviving the apocalypse. I believe with all of my heart that we will be raptured off the planet before the tribulation begins, however, we may see some preshow events that may disrupt the supply chain and that is what I am prepped for. I am fully aware that there will be people who will access my home and benefit from my prepper disciplines, but my life is not saved by food, water and weapons; it’s saved by God’s grace and my faith in Jesus. I have given my life to the Lord and as such, I too have been crucified with Christ. If you have given you life to Jesus, than you are saved too, but if you think that you can survive what’s coming on your own, think again; God’s judgment is pending for us all – get saved today!
Jesus goes on to say,
“I tell you, in that night there will be two men (people) in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.
35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” – (vs.34-37)
This is a picture of the Rapture. While there are those who would claim otherwise, I beg to disagree. It’s business as usual up until the moment the Lord catches His bride away. One person is asleep and they are caught up right out of their sleep. One woman is grinding with her friend and she is caught away instantly into Heaven. One man is working in the field and he is caught up off the earth. While others who are left behind will see the evidence of these global disappearances, they will also know they didn’t get raptured.
Jesus teaching here no doubt shocked the disciples as they listened to Jesus explain this phenomenal event. The relevant question the disciples asked is where will these people who are taken, be taken to? Jesus gives them a simple answer, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” So where do eagles gather together? In the sky! That’s where these people, where we will be taken. They are taken into the sky, more specifically, to Heaven.
As I write this blog I sense the nearness of the Lord’s return and the need to compel people to be in a state of readiness for this blessed event. If you are not walking right with the Lord, please get your heart right with Jesus. If you are walking right with the Lord, share you faith with others in relevant and practical ways. God will honor you for it. His Holy Spirit will prompt you in your witness of the Lord and in your holy living. I want to encourage you to remain faithful, stand fast, and watch for the soon return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Be encouraged in your faith and keep on doing the work the Lord has commanded you to do. We are to be a people who are about the Master’s business, but who are also longing for His return.
Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Southern Missouri. He lives with his wife of 32-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren). Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate. He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry.