Luke 17 Part 3
22. 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.
The Lord has finished speaking to the Pharisees. He did not answer their question, as we noticed above, but He did tell them what they needed to know. Now, He turns to His disciples to teach them a truth. He tells them the days will come when they will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man. I believe that these days are the days of the kingdom of God on earth, the days when He will rule from heaven, and when His great display of righteousness and truth and government is poured out to the world. These men were about to enter into the Acts period, wherein they would often be persecuted, hated, and ridiculed. Because of these hardships, the longing would certainly come into their hearts for the days when the Son of Man will rule all things on earth after the council of His Own will, and everything will be done righteously and in truth. Yet their longing would not be fulfilled, for they were not to see one of those days without first experiencing death and resurrection.
23. “And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.
He warns the disciples that some will try to deceive them in that day. They want them to look here or there to find the solution. This no doubt especially occurred once the Acts period had run its course, and the dispensation of grace had come in. Those who were disappointed to see the kingdom go might have tried to deceive themselves as to where it might yet be found on earth. Yet the disciples are warned in advance not to believe those who claim to have found the continuation of the kingdom in some out-of-the-way place. They are not to go after them or follow them. Their paths only lead to deception.
We too in our day need to be careful not to look for God’s kingdom anywhere on earth today. Some are always trying to find the continuation of the Acts period here or there, in this church or in that group or in this organization. God is always moving in some place that you have not found yet, but if you will just attend some service or join some group, you will find yourself in the kingdom of God. We, too, need to take this warning to heart. This world does not contain the solutions to our problems. God’s government is not yet upon the earth. It has withdrawn, and we are commanded in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” This would not have been good advice in the Acts period, for God had a great kingdom work He was then doing upon the earth. Yet now the kingdom has withdrawn, and there is no kingdom of God on the earth. Thus, we are to think of the things above, where Christ is, for that is where the kingdom now resides. Only in time to come when God sends it forth at last will the kingdom again be found on this earth. Thus we should not follow after this one or that one who claims to have found it today.
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.
This is why we must not deceive ourselves that the day of the Son of Man may have already come, or the kingdom might be found here or there on earth. When that day comes, the Lord tells us, it will be like lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven and shines to the other part. The whole sky is thus lit up by the lightning. In the same way, when the kingdom comes and the Son of Man begins His day, it will be known instantly around the earth, and there is no place in the world where the advent of that great kingdom will not be known. No one will miss it. It will not happen quietly or in secret. All will know that a great change has taken place, and that God is acting in unprecedented ways to bring about the day of the Son of Man.
Now this same figure of the lightning is used of the parousia of the Son of Man in Matthew 24:27. This should not confuse us. Many things could be illustrated by lightning. The fact is that when the kingdom comes and God takes control of the governments of this earth, it will be known across the world in a moment, and when the parousia occurs and the Son of Man comes to the earth to be personally present, it will likewise be known across the world. Yet this does not mean that we should get these two things mixed up. Just because the same figure is used to describe both does not mean that they are the same thing. They are similar, yet just in this one respect.
25. “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Before those days of the Son of Man come, however, the Lord tells them that first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. By saying this, Christ was again predicting His upcoming death, or at least the persecution He was to undergo.
Now many would try to use this passage to suggest that the entire generation of Jews in which Christ lived rejected Him and were responsible for Him being hung on the cross. This idea is patently absurd, since the vast majority of Jews did not know what was happening to the Lord, and many of them were living outside the land and had perhaps barely even heard of the Lord when this took place. Yet passages like these are constantly appealed to in support of the anti-Israelite sentiments of many in traditional church theology.
Yet we need not be troubled by this, for the Lord has elsewhere told us clearly who it was who rejected Him. We can see this first of all in Matthew 16:21.
21. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Here, the Lord clearly declares who it is who will reject Him: the elders and chief priests and scribes. He claims no such thing regarding the common people of Israel, however. The same is true in Mark 8:31.
31. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Again He clearly declares that it is the elders and chief priests and scribes who will reject Him. And we have already seen the same thing in Luke, when we read in 9:22:
22. saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Thus we can clearly see that it was the elders and chief priests and scribes who rejected Him, not all the Israelites living on earth at that time. In fact, the majority of Israelites who came in contact with the Lord did not reject Him. Mark 12:37b declares, “And the common people heard Him gladly.” Thus we can say with confidence here that the “generation” He was referring to were the religious leaders who were standing by when He said this.
Why would a group of religious leaders be called a “generation”? There can be no doubt that this word is the proper translation of the Greek word genea. This word does mean “generation.” Yet to understand why the elders, chief priests, and scribes are here called this, we have to think a bit about our English word “generation.” We often do not reflect much about our own words or what they mean. If we would think for a bit about this word “generation,” we would realize that it comes from a family of words based on the verb “to generate.” A thing that generates is called a generator. And it logically follows that what is generated could be called a generation. Yet though we speak of generating power or generating excitement or generating sales, we do not usually call power, excitement, or sales “generations.”
We have specialized this word “generation” to the point where it almost exclusively refers to people. Technically, we use it for people of a certain age, generated by their parents and the times in which they live. A generation is said to be about the average length of time between when a person is born and when his children are born, which averages to about 25 years. Some in our day want to shorten this, and it seems sometimes that younger siblings want to identify themselves as a different “generation” than their older siblings, but this is not really the way generations work. You and your parents and you and your children are really a generation apart, and siblings are of the same generation, no matter how many years might intervene in between births.
Yet though we have specialized this word in this way, this does not mean that it could not be used of other things that are generated. Though we do not call power or excitement or sales a “generation,” the fact is that these things are generated, and therefore could properly be called “generations.” Moreover, the Biblical use of the word “generation” does seem to take on this kind of meaning in multiple passages, of which this one is one example.
There is no reason to believe, for example, that when Christ spoke of “this wicked generation” in Matthew 12:45, that the generation in which Christ lived was more wicked than the generation in which His parents lived, or the generation of the children of those who lived in Christ’s generation. The Lord’s parents and their contemporaries were not righteous, then the Lord’s contemporaries were wicked, and then the children of the Lord’s contemporaries were more righteous again. When the Lord used this term, He was not speaking of all the people of a certain age living on the earth at that time. Rather, in Matthew 16:4, He refers to the Pharisees and Sadducees as a “wicked and adulterous generation.” They were the generation He referred to and castigated. This had nothing to do with the common people.
So why are the religious leaders called by the Lord a “generation”? Remember the basic meaning of this word that we discussed above. We know that these men were generated by something, and what that something was we can determine. They were generated by the teachings, the traditions, the principles, and the practices of the religious orders to which they belonged, passed down to them by their fathers and the traditions they promoted. These things generated the wicked and adulterous men who were such enemies of the Lord, and who He condemned so many times and in so many ways. These men were the wicked generation. They are what He is referring to here.
26. “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
We read that the days of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. Some jump the gun at this verse. They do not examine the passage to see how exactly these two days will be alike. Instead, they leap to the first conclusion that comes to their minds, and declare that in order for the Lord to come back, first men must get to be as wicked as men were in the days of Noah. Yet this is a premature conclusion, as Christ has not yet told us how the days of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. For that, we must go on to the next verse. How many errors could be avoided if men would not stop thinking just because they come upon a period!
Notice here that we in the Lord’s prophecy are now in the days of the Son of Man, not waiting for them. We have gone from waiting for these days, to being in these days and waiting for the parousia of Jesus Christ.
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.
This verse reveals how the days of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. Men in the days of Noah were going about business as usual: eating, drinking, marrying wives, and giving away daughters in marriage. There was nothing unusual and nothing peculiar about that time that they could see. Yet while they were going about their everyday lives, seemingly as they always had before, suddenly and unexpectedly the flood came and destroyed them all. They knew nothing of it beforehand, and yet it came upon them regardless. This is how they were like those in the days of the Son of Man. They too will be going about the normal business of life in the kingdom of God, suspecting nothing, when suddenly those days come upon them, perhaps in the middle of a sentence, perhaps in the midst of taking a step.
28. “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;
The Lord now makes the same parallel with the condition of things in Sodom and Gomorrah before the Lord rained fire upon those cities. Again this emphasizes that life was going on as usual in Sodom and Gomorrah when that day came. This repetition of everyday events: eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building, is a figure of speech for going about your everyday business. This is not saying that they will be doing the same things, or that they will be committing the same kind of wickedness in the days of the Son of Man. All it is saying is that they will be going about their everyday lives up to the end.
29. “But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
Like in the days of Noah, in the same way unlooked-for and sudden judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet these verses have nothing to say about the level of wickedness in those days. Those who are living at that time might have been far better or far worse than those judged in the past. This is saying nothing about their righteousness or their wickedness.
30. “Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
The day when the Son of Man is revealed will be the same as the days of Noah’s flood or Sodom’s destruction. Men will be going about their daily lives, and suddenly and unexpectedly His revelation will come.
The word “revealed” here is a form of apokalupto, which means to unveil or to make manifest. This is the day when the Son of Man is made manifest from heaven. This same day is spoken of in II Thessalonians 1:7-8, where we read:
7. and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8. in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word “revealed” in II Thessalonians 1:7 is the Greek word apokalupsis, which is the noun form of apokalupto. It means an unveiling, and it is same event as we are considering here. This event will come suddenly and unexpectedly upon men, particularly upon those who are failing the test in the tribulation.
31. “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods 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.
The Lord gives instructions to men in that day. There are similar instructions given to men when the abomination that causes desolation is revealed, saying that they are to flee to the mountains and not to go into their houses, as we read in Matthew 24:16-18. Yet we have already pointed out that the same figure can be used in two different situations. In this situation, the reference seems to be to when the Lord’s second coming takes place. Men are to be eager to welcome Him, so eager that they are willing to leave everything behind. One who fears to entrust his goods into the hands of the Son of Man might find that he loses not just his goods, but also his life as well. Thus men are to respond to His coming with absolute and wholehearted obedience.
It may be that this is particularly instructions for those righteous men who are living among wicked men whom the Lord has come to destroy. They are to come out from them, and to go back to bring nothing with them. If they do anything else, they may themselves be caught up in the destruction of the wicked.
32. “Remember Lot’s wife.
All who have studied Genesis will be familiar with the story of Lot’s wife, who looked back regretfully at Sodom while the Lord was destroying it, and immediately was turned into a pillar of salt. She disobeyed the Lord’s instructions not to look back. So, these future men must flee as Lot did without looking back, or else they too will end up like Lot’s wife.
33. “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
When we read this verse in context we realize that it does not have the connotation that some would make it have when they quote it without its context. Those people who return to their homes against God’s command to attempt to save their “lives” (that is their possessions) will end up losing their lives, whereas those who give up their “lives” (all such possessions) and flee will preserve their lives by their obedience to God’s orders.
The word for “life” here is the Greek word psuche, which means “soul.” Your “soul” is your emotions and desires. Here, the “soul” is put for the goods and possessions that fulfill the soul’s desires by bringing comfort and ease to a soul. Those who seek to preserve these will lose their souls altogether, whereas those who give them up will ultimately find comfort and ease in the parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ.
34. “I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.
The Lord presents this picture of two men together in one bed. This is not a picture of homosexual relationship. Beds were often shared in that day. In fact, one family would often have one bed, and the children would sleep in the bed with their parents. Having your own bed was a comfort they could hardly have dreamed of in that day. Yet without a doubt there is some level of nearness to sharing the same bed, and yet of these men in the same bed one of them is taken and the other left.
The question arises as to who is the preferred one, the one taken or the one left? Some have suggested that the one taken is the unlucky one being taken to be punished. They would suggest that this is the same fate as those who were taken by the flood or by the fire that came down on Sodom. Yet this is not correct. The Greek word for “taken” here is paralambano, and it is not used for those destroyed by the flood or by fire, nor would it be. This word means to take to oneself for blessing. It is the word used by Christ in John 14:3, when He said,
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
The word “receive” here in this verse is paralambano. This is a taking for blessing, not a taking for punishment. Thus the desirable thing in Luke 17:34 is to be the one taken, not the one left. The word “left” is the Greek aphiemi. It means to let go, to send away, or to leave. Those who are left in this verse are actually rejected.
35. “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.
At another place women will be working. If one wonders why some might be in bed while others are working, remember that these people might be spread apart in different time zones on the earth, one where it is day and another where it is night. If these are close together, however, it could also be early in the morning, and some might still be in bed while others are already up grinding grain, for that was often an early morning activity. These two women thus are working, grinding grain together. Again, one of them is received for blessing, and the other is left behind.
36. “Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
Two men are out working together in the field. Again, one of them is received for blessing, and the other is rejected and not received. The picture is that these people are going about their daily business, as Christ indicated earlier, when judgment falls upon them and some are taken and others 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.”
Some like to interpret this passage as being talking about those who are left. In other words, the disciples ask the Lord where they are left. Yet this seems a rather foolish question to me. Obviously, the man not taken from his bed was left there. The woman not taken from grinding was left at the mill. The man not taken from the field was left in the field. This question is clearly asking where those taken were taken to be blessed, not where the others were left.
Some try to make this passage to be speaking of the rapture, and claim that those who are taken are taken to heaven to be rewarded. Yet when the disciples asked, “Where, Lord,” (meaning “Where will they be taken?”) Christ answered, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” The eagles are the carrion birds, and so the body mentioned here must be a dead body, what we would call a carcass. If this describes heaven, then it is a strange description indeed.
We must keep in mind what exactly is going on when the second coming of the Lord takes place. The faithful ones in Judea have fled to the mountains in obedience to the Lord’s command in Matthew 24. They are there for about three and one-half years, until the anti-Christ gets up the courage to go after them. Then, a vast army of the rebellious come after them to destroy them. The Lord’s faithful are chased until they are backed up against the Mount of Olives. The Lord descends, however, and when His feet touch the mountain, it splits in half, and his people flee through the valley and meet Him on the other side. He empowers them and turns them around to go with Him to slaughter their enemies. Then the wicked army of the man of sin is destroyed utterly, and only the anti-Christ and his false prophet are taken alive to be further judged. We read about all this in Zechariah 12-14.
Now when the Lord comes back, there will be a great gathering of the faithful to Him. In Matthew 24:31 we read of this.
31. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Thus His people are gathered to Him as He returns. Where do they meet Him, then? Nowhere else but at the valley where He and His people are to slaughter the nations that have joined in rebellion with the anti-Christ. Thus they are gathered together to the slaughter. Remember, He comes “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Thessalonians 1:8)
Thus those taken to the Lord’s side for blessing meet Him at the place of slaughter. They are pictured like vultures gathering around the dead body. That is where they are taken, and those who are taken are blessed indeed, for though they may have an unpleasant task to do, they are doing it by the Lord’s side. And after it is done, they have the joy of being forever with the Lord to look forward to. What could be a greater blessing than that?