Luke 17 – Duty, Thankfulness and the Kingdom
A. Forgiveness, faith and duty.
1. (1-2) The danger of stumbling another.
Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”
a. Then He said to the disciples: Jesus, through the account of Lazarus and the rich man, has made it clear that eternity is for real, and no one from beyond will come back to warn us. It is all the more imperative how we live and show Jesus to others on this side of eternity, because right now counts forever.
b. It is impossible: It is inevitable that people be offended, but woe to the person through whom those offenses come. It is important to understand what Jesus meant when He spoke of offenses.
i. The ancient Greek word used here for offenses is skandalon, and it comes from the word for a bent-stick – the stick that springs the trap or sets the bait. It also was used for a stumbling block, something that people trip over.
ii. In the Bible sometimes a skandalon is good – such as the way that people “trip” over Jesus, and are offended at the gospel (Romans 9:33, 1 Corinthians 1:23, Galatians 5:11).
iii. But among brothers in Jesus, a skandalon is bad. It can be false counsel (Matthew 16:23), and it can be leading a brother into sin by your “liberty” (Romans 14:13). Division and false teaching brings a skandalon among God’s people (Romans 16:17).
c. Woe to him through whom they do come: Essentially, Jesus said: “People are going to take the bait – but woe to you if you offer the hook. People are going to trip up – but woe to you if you set the stumbling block in their way.”
i. It would better for the offending one to die a horrible death, such as having a millstone hung around your neck and being thrown into the sea.
ii. This is a lesson that the church learned the hard way in trying to help God to curse the Jewish race for their rejection of the Messiah; the curse came back on the church worse than ever. If someone seems ripe for the judgment or discipline of God, let God do it. Get out of the way. God doesn’t need you as an instrument of His judgment, only as an instrument of His love
iii. 1 John 2:10 explains the solution to being a skandalon to others – love: He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. If we love our brother, we will not bring an offense into their life.
2. (3-4) If someone stumbles you, deal with it and forgive them.
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
a. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him: When someone sins against you, you should not pretend that it never happened. You need to rebuke that brother in love.
i. Love is the rule here; we obviously can’t walk around keep a record of every little offense committed against us. One aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering (Galatians 5:22), and we need to be able to suffer long with the slights and petty offences that come our way in daily living. Ephesians 4:2 says that we should love with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love. Don’t be too sensitive; bear with one another.
ii. But in love, when we are sinned against in a significant way, we must follow Ephesians 4:15 as the pattern: we need to speak the truth in love. Love isn’t going to other people about it; love isn’t bottling it up inside of you. Love is getting it straight with the person who sinned against you.
b. If he repents, forgive him: This is the challenge from Jesus. There is no other option given. When the person who offended you repents, you must forgive them.
i. What do we do with the person who has never repented? Do we forgive them? Even if relationship cannot be restored because no common mind is arrived at, we can still choose to forgive them on our part, and wait for a work of God in their life for the restoration of relationship.
ii. Clearly – especially in light of the words that follow – Jesus did not intend here to narrow our focus of forgiveness. If anything, His intent was to broaden our work of forgiveness. He wasn’t giving us a reason to not forgive or to be less forgiving.
c. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him: This indicates that we are not permitted to judge another’s repentance. If someone had sinned against me seven times in a day, and kept asking me to forgive them, I might think that they were not really sincere. Yet Jesus commands me to still forgive them and restore them.
3. (5-6) Great faith is needed to get along with people like this.
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
a. Increase our faith: On this occasion, the disciples were extremely perceptive. They recognized that great faith in God is needed to get along with people in this forgiving, non-offending way. If Jesus’ point in the previous passage was to narrow forgiveness, they didn’t need this faith.
i. “This work of pardoning every offence of every man, and that continually, seemed so difficult, even to the disciples themselves, that they saw, without an extraordinary degree of faith, they should never be able to keep this command.” (Clarke)
b. If you have faith as a mustard seed: We usually think of faith as being exercised with dramatic, miraculous works. That may be true, but the greatest miracles of faith have to do with the restoration of relationships.
i. According to Geldenhuys, the roots of the mulberry tree were thought to be extraordinarily strong; it was thought that this tree could stay rooted for six hundred years.
ii. You may have unforgiveness and bitterness that is deeply rooted within you; it may be like one of those trees that send down deep, strong roots. But through faith, Jesus can rip those roots clean out; it can be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea.
iii. “No duty required of men and women more grates upon flesh and blood than this of forgiving injuries, nothing that the most of people find harder to put in practice; so as indeed where there is not a root of faith, this fruit will not be found.” (Poole)
c. As a mustard seed: The faith that we must have is a faith that has more to do with what kind of faith it is than with how much faith there is. A small amount of faith – as much as a mustard seed (a very small seed) – can accomplish great things, if that small amount of faith is placed in a great and mighty God.
i. Little faith can accomplish great things; but great faith can accomplish even greater things. What matters most is what our faith is in, the object of our faith. “The eye cannot see itself. Did you ever see your own eye? In a mirror you may have done so, but that was only a reflection of it. And you may, in like manner, see the evidence of your faith, but you cannot look at the faith itself. Faith looks away to itself to the object of faith, even to Christ.” (Spurgeon)
ii. When ice-skating, it is far better to have small faith on thick ice than great faith on thin ice. Our small faith in so great a Savior can accomplish great things.
4. (7-10) We can’t put God into debt to us; anything we do for Him is small repayment for His work in our life.
“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
a. Having a servant plowing or tending sheep: Jesus had just spoken to His disciples about great works possible by great faith. Here Jesus added some words meant to work against the pride that often rises when someone is used by God.
i. Jesus speaks of those who really serve. Plowing is hard work; it exhausts the strength and endurance of the plowman. It is hard work in farming and it is hard work in spiritual ministry. Tending sheep can also be hard work, requiring a lot of patience, attention to detail, and a caring heart.
ii. It is helpful to remember that these words were not given to the multitude; the chapter began, Then He said to the disciples (Luke 17:1). “Mark you, he was not laying down the way of salvation, but pointing out a path of service for those who were already saved.” (Spurgeon)
b. Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink: Jesus pictured a servant coming in from a hard day of work, either plowing or tending sheep. When the servant arrives home, the master does not compliment, or feed, or serve, or massage the servant. The master expected the servant to keep serving because there was still work to do.
i. There is always something we can do to serve our Master, and there is always some way we can do it. “If you cannot go out ploughing, you shall go down into the kitchen, and do some cooking; and if you cannot feed the cattle, you shall bring up a dish of food for your Master. This is a change of work for you; but you are to keep on as long as you live.” (Spurgeon)
ii. In the context of the preceding words of Jesus, we can say that there are still people to forgive; there are still great works of faith to be done.
iii. These works are hard, but in this mini-parable Jesus gave us the right attitude. His pleasure before our own. His people preferred before ourselves. His name before your own name.
c. Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? Of course the master does not thank the servant for such things; in that pre-Christian culture such kindness was unthinkable.
i. Therefore, we don’t serve Jesus inwardly demanding that He thank us or praise us.
· It seems strange that Jesus would thank us, in light of all He has done for us.
· It seems strange that He would thank us considering all we have left undone.
· It seems strange considering all we have done has come from Him as a gift and an empowering anyway.
ii. “What have we done for him compared with what he has done for us? Our service put beside Christ’s is like one single grain of dust put in comparison with the mighty orb of the sun.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Yet strangely, He will thank us and reward us. Though we don’t deserve it, He will look at the work of each of His servants and to the faithful ones He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21, 23)
d. We are unprofitable servants: The kind of attitude Jesus spoke of is not a false humility, the kind of attitude that says “I’m no good at anything”; it is not an admission that we do nothing good or pleasing to God. It simply recognizes that He has done so much more for us that we could ever do for Him.
e. We have done what was our duty to do: This attitude understands that our Master has done more and greater things for us than we could ever do for Him. What He did for us was out of pure love; what we do for Him is out of proper gratitude and duty.
i. This is why it is so important for Bible teachers to emphasize what the Bible itself emphasizes – what God has done for us. When we realize all that God has done for us in Jesus, we want to serve Him out of gratitude. Think of the great work of forgiveness Jesus did for us; think of the great mountains He moved by faith. The greatest works of faith and forgiveness by us are mere duty in comparison.
ii. When our hearts are right, we live and act as if we are happy to have the privilege of being allowed to serve God.
iii. Not enough Christians have this attitude today. Instead, many today often want to project a “super-Christian” image that makes them seem to be anything but unprofitable servants. We only think that we are better than others are when we look to man, not Jesus.
iv. “Growing saints think themselves nothing; full-grown saints think themselves less than nothing.” (Spurgeon)
v. “An old rabbinic saying reveals a similar thought, ‘If you learned much in the Torah, claim not merit for yourself; for this purpose were you created’ (m. Abot 2:8).” (Pate)
B. The cleansing of ten lepers.
1. (11-14) The healing of the lepers.
Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
a. As He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers: It was not unusual for these lepers to congregate with one another. They were outcasts from society at large, and had no company other than other lepers – so, they stood afar off.
i. Who stood afar off: “They kept at a distance, because forbidden by law and custom to come near to those who were sound, for fear of infecting them. See Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2; 2 Kings 15:5.” (Clarke)
ii. Passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee: “The words dia meson are best translated ‘through the middle of,’ or ‘between,’ referring to Jesus’ travel along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” (Pate)
b. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”: The came to Jesus together and they prayed together, even though they were a mixed group of Jews and Samaritans (Luke 17:15-16). Bonded by their misery, their national and other prejudices vanished as they came together in prayer.
i. “A common misfortune had broken down the racial and national barriers. In the common tragedy of their leprosy they had forgotten they were Jews and Samaritans and remembered only they were men in need.” (Barclay)
c. Go, show yourselves to the priests: It was remarkable that Jesus asked them to go to the priests while they were still lepers. This was truly stepping out in faith, as in putting on the new man even when we still look and feel like the old man.
i. “The one condition of healing was obedience. Ordered, they must obey. If He was master as they had cried He was, then let them prove their faith by their obedience.” (Morrison)
ii. “God highly honours this kind of faith, and makes it the instrument in his hand of working many miracles. He who will not believe till he receives what he calls a reason for it, is never likely to get his soul saved. The highest, the most sovereign reason, that can be given for believing, is that God has commanded it.” (Clarke)
d. And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed: Just as God blessed the faith of the lepers to step out as the new man even when the feel like the old, so will He bless our faith.
i. “It is as we go on the commanded road that we experience the commanded blessing. Let the Church obey the command of the Lord Jesus, and with enthusiasms evangelise the nations, and, as she goes, she will be healed.” (Morrison)
2. (15-19) Only one out of ten of the lepers return to give thanks.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
a. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God: Only one came back to give thanks; and he was the unlikely one – a Samaritan. And, though he was the only one, at least he was very loud about his thanks.
i. All ten were willing to do a religious ceremony; that is go to the priest. Only one was filled with true praise and thanksgiving. “External religious exercises are easy enough, and common enough; but the internal matter, the drawing out of the heart in thankful love, how scarce a thing it is! Nine obey ritual where only one praises the Lord.” (Spurgeon)
b. Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Jesus missed the nine who did not return to give thanks. He wondered where they were. Jesus also notices our lack of gratitude.
i. “The question was asked, and it at once proves the value He sets upon the service of praise…One wonders whether it is not so that our Lord has been asking this question very constantly.” (Morgan)
ii. “Christ keeps count how many favours men receive from him, and will call them to a particular account thereof.” (Trapp)
iii. We can always find reason for gratitude before God. Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, was robbed of his wallet once. He wrote in his diary that night all the things he was thankful about:
· First, that he had never been robbed before.
· Second, that though they took his wallet, they did not take his life.
· Third, because even though they took it all, it wasn’t very much.
· Finally, because he was the one who was robbed and not the one who did the robbing.
iv. “Lastly, if we work for Jesus, and we see converts, and they do not turn out as we expected, do not let us be cast down about it. If others do not praise our Lord, let us be sorrowful, but let us not be disappointed. The Savior had to say, ‘Where are the nine?’ Ten lepers were healed, but only one praised him. We have many converts who do not join the church; we have numbers of persons converted who do not come forward to baptism, or to the Lord’s Supper. Numbers get a blessing, but do not feel love enough to own it.” (Spurgeon)
c. Your faith has made you well: There was an extra healing for this tenth leper. When Jesus said this, He likely meant God’s work within the man’s heart. The other lepers had whole bodies, but sick hearts.
C. The coming of the kingdom.
1. (20-21) If you want to know about Jesus’ kingdom, get to know the King.
Now when He 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; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
a. When He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come: We may just imagine a hostile Pharisee coming to Jesus, and demanding Him to either “put up” and produce the Kingdom of the Messiah, or to “shut up” and stop claiming He was the Messiah.
i. In Jesus’ day, just like our own, people longed for the coming of the Messiah. They knew the prophesies in the Old Testament which spoke of the glory of the coming Messiah; they wanted that kind of life and earth now.
ii. “WHILE the Lord was yet on earth the days of the Son of man were but lightly esteemed. The Pharisees spoke of them with a sneer, and demanded when the kingdom of God should come. As much as to say, ‘Is this the coming of thy promised kingdom? Are these fishermen and peasants thy courtiers? Are these the days for which prophets and kings waited so long?’” (Spurgeon)
b. The kingdom of God does not come with observation: Jesus made it clear to the Pharisee asking the question that the kingdom of God won’t be found through a hostile questioning of Jesus. The ancient Greek word translated observation is better-translated, hostile examination. Jesus told the Pharisees that their hostile, doubting eyes were unable to see or receive the kingdom of God.
i. According to Geldenhuys, the verb from which the word observation comes from is used often in the New Testament and in the Septuagint; it means “hostile observation.”
c. For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you: Jesus told them that the kingdom was right in their midst. Within you could be better translated in your midst or among you. The kingdom of God was among them because the King was among them.
i. This was not a mystical revelation by Jesus that in some seed form, the Kingdom of God is within everyone in a New Age sense. After all, Jesus would not have told Pharisees that the kingdom of God was within them. The statement of Jesus called attention to Himself, not to man.
ii. Like many today, the Pharisees said they wanted the Kingdom of God to come; but you can’t want the Kingdom and reject the King. “The Pharisees asked Him when the Kingdom of God would appear, while it was right in their midst because the King Himself was there.” (Morgan)
2. (22-24) Jesus’ kingdom won’t come immediately in the disciple’s day.
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. And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 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.”
a. 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: Now speaking to the disciples, Jesus told them that when He left this earth, the days would come when Jesus’ disciples – both near and far off – would long for the Messiah’s return.
b. And they will say to you, “Look here!” or “Look there!” Satan would know how to take advantage of that longing; there would be many who claimed to be the Messiah who would come before Jesus actually returned. It is essential that these false Messiah do not deceive us.
c. Do not go after them or follow them: In the centuries since Jesus spoke these words, there have been many who have claimed to be the Messiah, and some have had significant followings. Jesus solemnly warned us to not go after them or follow them; instead we should disregard them.
i. Dr. Charles Feinberg, a noted Jewish-Christian scholar, said that in the course of Israel’s history since the time of Jesus, sixty-four different individuals have appeared claiming to be the Messiah.
ii. In the not very distant past, men like David Koresh, Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon, and many, many others have all claimed to be the Messiah. Many Orthodox Jews thought (and still think) that a Brooklyn Rabbi named Mendel Schneerson was the Messiah. Even more have been regard as messiah in some sense without necessarily being in the Judeo-Christian framework (such as Stalin or Mao).
d. For as the lightning that flashes: In His day, the day of the Messiah’s triumph, all will see it even as everyone notices lightning that flashes across the sky. Those who claim that Jesus has returned or will return in His day, in some secret sense, are mistaken.
3. (25) Jesus’ kingdom cannot come until He finishes His work on earth.
But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
a. But first He must suffer: There is a tendency in many followers of Jesus to skip the cross and go straight to the Kingdom of God; but the Kingdom of God could not come until the King went to the cross.
i. Why should it be Jesus who rules and reigns? Because He has fulfilled His own word, and we are called to follow Him in the same way. Jesus said, If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35) He also said, Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. (Matthew 20:26)
ii. We might say that Jesus can only come again in glory because He came first in humility and submission unto death.
b. Must suffer many things and be rejected: The strength, certainty, and intensity of this statement is striking.
· Jesus must suffer and be rejected.
· Jesus must suffer and be rejected.
· Jesus must suffer many things, not just a few.
c. By this generation: Sadly, though the full triumph of Jesus’ kingdom would wait, His suffering would come soon, at the hands of this generation.
4. (26-30) The coming of the King will be a great surprise.
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 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. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
a. And as it was in the days of Noah: By showing the similarity to Noah’s day, Jesus described a world continuing in the normal routines of life. People ate, drank…married wives, they were given in marriage.
i. “All things continued as normal, that is until Noah and his family entered the ark, at which time the Deluge (kataklysmos) came and destroyed all the people (see Genesis 7:7, 10, 21; 1 Peter 3:20).” (Pate)
b. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: The destruction that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot came in the morning (Genesis 19:15-25). The day before seemed much like any other day to the men of Sodom.
c. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed: Even as the world seemed to continue in the normal routines of life before the flood and the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus said there will be some sense of normalcy in the world when He is revealed.
i. Jesus didn’t say that all would be good in the world, or that there would be no crisis. Conditions before the flood and before the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah were terrible, but the wickedness was accepted as normal and routine.
ii. Significantly, there are other passages of Scripture that seem to show that Jesus will return to an earth that will be anything but business as usual. These include:
· For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor shall ever be. (Matthew 24:21)
· And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (Revelation 6:15-16)
iii. Because the conditions of the world before the revealing of Jesus are described in such different terms, it is reasonable to say that there will be two distinct phases or aspects of Jesus’ coming, separated by some period of time.
iv. Just as in the days of Noah and Lot, when Jesus comes, some will be taken out of the way (escaping judgment) and others will remain and be judged.
v. The word translated revealed is apokalyptetai – from which we get our modern word apocalypse, but the ancient Greek word has the idea of revealing or unveiling.
5. (31-33) Prepare for the coming of the King by not being attached to this world.
“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. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
a. 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: When Noah’s flood came, one could imagine people trying to vainly keep their possessions safe while they themselves perished. Even so, if one is ready for Jesus’ coming, they will not be concerned about the material things left behind. The heart must not be on what is in the house, but what is in heaven.
b. Let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife: Because she disobeyed God and looked back on Sodom – presumably with regret and perhaps with longing – Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt as she and her family escaped judgment. Jesus here cautioned His followers to not look back at a perishing world, ripe for judgment, but to set their eyes on the deliverance God sets before them.
i. Remember Lot’s wife: “The word Jesus used for ‘remember’ …means to pay heed to; to learn a lesson from.” (Pate) We see the sin of Lot’s wife in at least three ways:
· Lot’s wife lingered behind. Moses made the point that Lot’s wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Before she looked back, she lingered behind him, as Lot and his daughters sought to escape the judgment of Sodom.
· Lot’s wife did not trust and obey the divine word. The angel specifically told them to escape with urgency, not to lag behind – and especially, to not look back (Genesis 19:17).
· Lot’s wife looked at what she was told to turn away from. After lingering and doubting, she then looked. “She did look back, and thus proved that she had sufficient presumption in her heartto defy God’s command, and risk her all, to give a lingering love-glance at the condemned and guilty world. By that glance she perished.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Lot’s wife, “Who either out of curiosity or covetousness turned her back, and she was turned. We are as hardly drawn off the world as a dog from a fat morsel.” (Trapp)
iii. Spurgeon remembered a further tragedy regarding Lot’s wife: she almost made it. “Doom befell her at the gates of Zoar. Oh, if I must be damned, let it be with the mass of the ungodly, having always been one of them; but to get up to the very gates of heaven, and to perish there, will be a most awful thing!” (Spurgeon)
6. (34-36) When Jesus comes some will be taken suddenly, and others will be left behind.
“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. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
a. In that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left: This passage is often applied to the rapture, a term applied to Jesus’ coming for His people at a time when the world seems to run in the normal routines of life (Luke 17:26-30).
i. The New Testament passage that most clearly describes this event and gives the name rapture from the Latin translation of the passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
ii. These words of Jesus (one will be taken and the other will be left) seem to describe this phenomenon of being caught up…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
b. One will be taken and the other left: Because this will happen during the normal course of life (while one sleeps in bed, while another is grinding grain, and while another works in the field), the emphasis is on readiness. Jesus will come suddenly and at an unexpected moment.
i. This connects with the prior illustrations of Noah and Lot. “Noah and Lot were taken and, therefore, saved from judgment while the rest were left for destruction.” (Pate)
c. Two men in one bed… Two women will be grinding together: These words of Jesus may indicate that it will be day in one part of the world while it is night on another; at the same time some sleep, others work in a field. Jesus will come for His people all over the earth at one moment.
i. “Verse 36 is not in the best Greek manuscripts…and is an addition to the biblical text. It was probably added by a scribe because of Matthew 24:40.” (Pate)
7. (37) All this will happen at the time when judgment is ripe.
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.”
a. Where, Lord? The disciples wanted to know more about this revelation of Jesus, presumably both where the deliverance the judgment might take place. As they came nearer to Jerusalem, perhaps they wondered if these events would take place soon, as they arrived at the City of Zion.
b. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together: This is a difficult statement. It was probably a figure of speech with the idea, “when judgment is ripe, it will surely come.”
i. “That simply meant that a thing would happen when the necessary conditions were fulfilled.” (Barclay) “Where that which is ripe for judgment is present, there also will the judgment take place.” (Geldenhuys)
ii. Some wonder if the conditions are ready in the present day for this revelation of Jesus, both in delivering His people and judgment upon a world that rejects Him. We may say this with some confidence: The Bible describes certain political, economic, spiritual, social, and military characteristics regarding what the world will be like before His return. It is fair to say that the conditions exist today, and the stage is set.
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