|Two Women at the Mill (James Tissot)|
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Christ’s Return.
Pray and Read: Luke 17:20-37
Throughout his Gospel, Luke emphasizes the importance of walking in faith and avoiding unbelief. He has made it clear that every individual who meets Jesus Christ must make a decision about Him. Christ must be received or rejected. His claims must be believed or denied. When the Gospel shifts gears at Luke 9:51, Luke urges us to prioritize faith over unbelief (Luke 10:1-11:36) and warning us to trust the Lord rather than ourselves (Luke 11:37-12:59).
Christ then calls us to a Kingdom marked by grace (Luke 13:1-21), repentance (Luke 13:22-35), provision (Luke 14), and redemption of the lost (Luke 15), and warns us to prepare for the next world by responding to God’s Word with repentance (Luke 16) and to guard against sin with faithful obedience to forgiveness resulting in thankfulness (Luke 17:1-19).
In the passage before us, a question raised by the Pharisees about the coming kingdom of God stimulates Christ’s instruction to the disciples to wait for His Return with a steadfast commitment to serving (Luke 17:20-37).
1. Stay obedient and faithful until He Comes (Luke 17:20-25)
2. Stay focused and free until He Comes (Luke 17:26-37)
Exposition: Note well,
1. STAY OBEDIENT AND FAITHFUL UNTIL HE COMES (Luke 17:20-25)
a. Notice that though Jesus has not yet endured his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, His eyes are focused beyond that to His Second Coming (Heb 12:1-3). Jesus answers a question about the Second Coming (Luke 17:20-21), deals with the fictional rumors about the Second Coming (Luke 17:22-23) and the facts (Luke 17:24). He then provides a prerequ+isite for the Second Coming (Luke 17:25).
b. Luke 17:20-21 – Not visibly/does not come with observation: With Jesus just before miraculously healing ten lepers, it’s kind of ironic that the Pharisees ask the question about the coming of the kingdom. So Jesus points out the obvious. Still, his answer has confused many. This Greek phrase is better translated “with signs predicting its arrival,” in other words, with dramatic heavenly signs common in the end-time literature of his day. Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about the Coming of the Kingdom by telling them, “The Kingdom of God is already among/with you.” Jesus’ point is that the Pharisees are missing the kingdom’s manifestation through Jesus. Jesus is also handling a healthy tension with the way he answers the question, because the Kingdom of God has present and a future components. Jesus deals with the present component in his answer to the Pharisees, explaining that the Kingdom will not come at first in an outward visible form, but rather through Jesus’ own ministry.
c. The Pharisees, Luke has shown in Luke 16, are materialists. The only kingdom they cared about was the kingdom to be established in this world at history’s end. Oddly, though, they also had a strong expectation of the reestablishment of God’s kingdom on earth through a Davidic Messiah. But in this present age we are called to experience an already here, but not yet fully complete Kingdom of God – not pseudo-kingdoms that human beings imagine or dream about saying, “There he is.”
d. APPLICATION: Though the everydayness of life doesn’t seem obvious or exciting, God’s power and presence has continued to be in your midst. God is with us, and He is at work!
e. Luke 17:22-25 - Turning to his disciples, Jesus affirms that the kingdom will come in a dramatic and cataclysmic manner when He – the Son of Man – returns. When Christ returns in the days of the Son of Man (Luke 14:22, 24; Isaiah 13:6), His presence will be visible and unmistakable. Until then, we must focus on serving in that partially formed Kingdom Christ establishes in the hearts of believers. There will be false Messiahs (Luke 17:23). But first, He must be rejected by his own people, suffer, and die (Luke 17:25). During the interim period that follows, his disciples do not need to look for hidden signs or chase rumors of his coming, because it will be evident to everyone when it comes. (See Daniel 7:13-14).
f. APPLICATION: Although waiting for the breakthrough may seem like wasting time and effort, trust God’s plan. It is unfolding for your best interest – and for His glory.
2. STAY FOCUSED AND FREE UNTIL HE COMES (Luke 17:26-37)
a. Now Jesus tells the conditions prevailing at the Second Coming (Luke 17:26-28), a time of great judgment against those who have turned from God (Luke 17:29-30). Then Jesus gives a warning (Luke 17:31-33), explaining the coming judgment (Luke 17:34-37).
b. Luke 17:26-28 – The days of Noah and Lot: (Gen 6-9; 18:16-19:29). Noah and Lot were considered righteous men (2 Peter 2:7), but the generations of Noah and Lot were identified together in Judaism as symbols of great wickedness and examples of God’s judgment. Both Lot and Noah warned their generation of coming judgment, but no one paid attention (Gene 18:17-21). When judgment fell, they were totally unprepared (Gen 19:4-9, 24-25). One’s judgment was flood, one was fire. (2 Peter 3:3-4).
c. Luke 17:30 – the day the Son of Man is revealed: The word is apokalupsis, the name of the last book of the Bible. It is used here of the visible unveiling of reality at history’s end, to be seen by all. Christ will break into the material world, but when He does, it will be first to judge and only then to establish a visible kingdom here.
d. Luke 17:31 – on the roof: People used the flat roofs of their homes as living space accessed by external staircases. Jesus is saying there will be no time to go inside and retrieve possessions.
e. Luke 17:32 – Remember Lot’s wife: Remember she became a pillar of salt when she looked back at Sodom’s destruction (Gen 19:24-26), an example of unbelief. Lot’s wife thought real life was tied up in her house, her standing in the community, her standard of living. She looked back, clinging to her way of life, and she lost it all.
f. APPLICATION: The principle is this: Hold everything loosely. It is the best option because God takes no pleasure in our clinging to things rather to Him. He kind of views that as idolatry.
g. Luke 17:34-35 – One will be taken, the other left: Judgment will involve separation, one to salvation, one to judgment. Your eschatology determines if one is taken or left for judgment or salvation. Just as salvation is individual, judgment is individual as well.
h. Luke 17:37 – dead body, vultures: Jesus’ puzzling response to the disciples’ question, “Where Lord?” seems to mean that the place of judgment will be evident to all (and as gruesome) as a dead body around which the vultures gather (Ezekiel 32:4-6; 39:17-20). Some see this as Jesus prophesying judgment on Israel which began in A.D. 70 (and the eagles –KJV as Roman standards) and will continue until the final judgment at the Second Coming.
i. APPLICATION: So what do we do about all this? In view of coming events, God’s people must stay focused on his priorities, forsaking all to follow him.