I want you to open your Bible again to the 17th chapter of the gospel of Luke, Luke chapter 17. We are looking at the subject of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our teacher is none other than Jesus Himself. These are the words of Jesus concerning His own return.
There are a number of places in the gospels where Jesus talks about His coming. We will come to one in Luke yet ahead of us in the 21st chapter which is really parallel to the great Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25 in which Jesus speaks of His return. Those two passages, Matthew 24 and 25 and Luke 21, tend to be a bit more chronological, although they do deal with themes and elements that are around the return of Christ. They do give us a bit of a chronology, a bit of a flow of the events that will take place in that great day when the Lord returns.
This particular sermon by Jesus in Luke 17 focuses not on the chronology of the sequence but on the nature of His coming. And the idea really is to convey to the Jews, both the Pharisees and the disciples of Jesus, both those who rejected Him and those who accepted Him, that their expectation of His Second Coming as a wonderful, joyous, happy celebration needs to be altered because the reality of His Second Coming is that it will be the most horrific event the world has ever seen. Yes, it will result in the establishment of His long promised kingdom. Yes, it will result in righteousness and peace and joy prevailing upon the earth. Yes, Jesus Christ will establish His throne in Jerusalem and will reign over the whole earth. Yes, it will begin only with the righteous, those who are alive on the earth at the establishment of that kingdom and the saints who have been with Him in heaven returning with Him so that you have the glorified and the earthly saints together making up the inhabitants initially of that kingdom. Yes, it will be a restored earth. Life will be very different here. The lion and the lamb will lie down together. Children will play in a snake pit, etc. Those things which are part of the curse in our world today will be reversed in that age. It will be a time when knowledge fills the whole earth and wisdom reigns supreme. But, before the establishment of that kingdom, it will be the Day of the Lord in the sense of judgment; judgment, the likes of which the world has never seen; judgment that surpasses any and all collectively of past judgments. It will be the worst judgment ever. It will be the total destruction of all the ungodly and they will be sent to hell forever as Jesus establishes His reign of righteousness.
Now the Jews didn't understand that. They assumed that the Messiah would come and set up His kingdom and for them it would be joy and bliss and knowledge and wisdom and peace and righteousness and it would be an opportunity for them to sort of be proud about their condition rather than experience the kind of humiliating oppression that they had endured for so many centuries. But the truth is, because they rejected their Messiah and because the world has continued to reject the Messiah, before the Messiah comes to set up His kingdom, He comes in massive global judgment.
Now that is the message of this text primarily. It doesn't really look at the kingdom which follows that judgment. It looks at the judgment. In fact, as we already know in the passage, it is likened to the judgment, as verse 26 puts it, in the days of Noah. It is likened in verse 28 to the judgment that came in the days of Lot, devastating, massive, far-reaching judgment in which only a few escape. Eight in the case of Noah on the entire planet; three in the case of Lot, Lot and his two daughters in terms of Sodom and Gomorrah the cities of the plain at the south end of the Dead Sea. It is going to be a sweeping, fearful, terrifying judgment the likes of which the world has never seen. And the world will see it. As you remember from verse 24, it will be like lightning flashing out of one part of the sky, shining to the other part of the sky. That is to say, it will be visible to everyone. Verse 23: If somebody says look there and look here, don't do it. Why? Because you don't need to look over here to see the Second Coming or look over here to see it, or over there. It's not going to be secret, nobody is going to have to point it out to you. It will be visible like lightning that flashes across the sky to everyone who's watching.
And so, there will come this time of judgment that will be seen by and experienced by the whole world. This is part of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you might think in one sense that this is a part of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ that...that we don't like. There is a bitterness to it, admittedly. There is a sadness to it. There is a sorrow to it. But part of loving His appearing, as Paul put it, in 2 Timothy 4, part of loving His appearing is loving the fact, not that He just appears to establish His righteousness, but that He appears to put an end to sin. He appears to put an end to the rebellion. He appears to bring a finish to the dishonor and the reproach and the scandalous and blasphemous attitudes that prevail in the world toward God and toward Christ and toward the blessed Holy Spirit. It is not just a time of righteousness on the positive, it is a time of the destruction of the sinful world system over which Satan and demons prevail which is so familiar to us and has been since the Fall. And when saints are found under the altar in Revelation 6 saying, "How long, oh Lord?” How long? How long before You come and make things right? They're not only crying for the prevailing righteousness to enter the world, but they are crying for an end to sin. It's much like the prophet Habakkuk who said the same thing, "How long, oh Lord, how long? How long are You going to tolerate rebellion in Israel? How long are you going to tolerate unrighteousness? How long are you going to allow your name to be dishonored and scandalized? It's what the psalmist said, "The zeal for Your house has eaten me up. The reproaches that fall on You fall on me.” I feel the pain when Your name is dishonored. How long, oh God, is Your name going to be dishonored? It's the same thing that Jesus said when He made a whip at the beginning and ended His ministry and cleansed His Father's house. It's that same attitude that longs for God to be vindicated and glorified and exalted and Christ to be lifted up and worshiped and not to be so dishonored as He is today.
Spiritual maturity can be defined in those terms, you know. The spiritually mature are those who look for the Second Coming, not for any personal gain but for the glory of Christ. That's what spiritual maturity is. It's when you love His appearing for His sake. It's when you long for His appearing for His sake. It's when you're so caught up in wonder, love and praise toward Christ that you want to see Him vindicated, you want to see Him exalted, you want to see the glorious manifestation of the children of God, not just for the sake of the children of God as wonderful as that is, but for the sake of the one who has made us the children of God, our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. You understand the words of the psalmist that reproaches that fall on You fall on me, I feel the pain when You're dishonored.
It grieves me when our Lord is dishonored. It grates on me. It...It pains my heart when He is dishonored by those who are anti-Christ, anti-God and He is dishonored and it is painful, sometimes more painful when He is dishonored by those who name His name and then misrepresent Him and use His name to abuse people and gain their own ends. But whenever His name is dishonored it is a heartache and a heartbreak to those who are spiritually mature. When I think about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, I don't want to engage myself in some selfish thinking about the fact that I'm going to be there to see the novelty of what the world is like when that happens. It isn't just a curiosity or a fascination to me. It has to be beyond that. That's why I'm not interested in the fictional approach to the Second Coming and I'm not interested in a fantasy when it comes to the Second Coming. I'm interested in the reality of the honor and the glory and the majesty of Christ being on display. I want His humiliation to come to an end in this world and His glory to begin.
I don't think many Christians seem to understand that today, many professing Christians. We live in a very self-centered, very, very overly personalized, narcissistic world. People are programmed to believe that they are the center of the universe, that the whole universe revolves around them. And even God is one of those revolving planets that moves around them to serve them somehow. There's a very superficial understanding of divine glory, a very superficial understanding of divine exaltation, divine honor, the lifting up of the majestic Christ. Really for decades, I think, evangelism efforts in the church in our sort of minimalist theology have...have been mostly sinner-centered, and even more so lately. God loves you, He loves you unconditionally. He loves you so much He wants you to be happy. He loves you so much He wants you to be satisfied. He loves you so much He wants you to be healthy. He loves you so much He wants to deliver you from all disappointment and all pain and to take you to heaven. And if you don't let Him do that, He's really upset and unfulfilled.
In other words, you're the key to God's fulfillment. It's as if the salvation of the sinner is the goal of redemption and God is the means to that. That's the very opposite of what Scripture teaches. The glory of God is the goal of redemption and the salvation of the sinner is the means to that. We are saved only that we might forever give glory to God, that we might forever exalt Christ. That's why we're here doing what we do on the Lord's Day and only people who really understand that know what worship is all about. It's not about a mood induced by certain music. It's about being consumed with the honor and glory of God and Christ. And when you have a world where all the emphasis is on personal fulfillment, and then you devise a gospel that simply fits into that world of personal fulfillment, you cheat people out of understanding the very purpose for salvation, the very essence of worship and the very reason why we hope for the return of Christ.
Look, you've got a whole society of people who think the world exists to fulfill them so they can find their satisfaction, their fulfillment, their purpose, their place, be all they can be, their comfort zone. And if they haven't found it already, then Jesus will help you find it. That will sell. I think that's one reason why 85 percent of Americans say they are evangelicals. They're happy to have Jesus find their place for them. The gospel then becomes about what Jesus will do to fulfill you as the center of your universe, so that the well-being of the sinner becomes the end and the goal of God's plan. I admit that the well-being of the sinner is a wonderful reality. I embrace that reality with all my passion. But that's only a means to an end and the end is the glory of God and the exaltation of Jesus Christ and we have been saved not so that we can be fulfilled, but that He can be glorified and in the process we are satisfied.
But where you have people who think very little about the honor of Christ, and where you have people who think very little about the glory of God, you have people who have a very little interest in the Second Coming and they're happy to be interested in it as a fantasy, or a fiction, as a fascination, but to long for it, to plead for it to cry with John, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus?" That's a stretch. I think for the most part people really don't care whether He comes or not, as long as they're happy, satisfied. And if they die, they get to go to heaven. So you embrace Jesus as the means to your own personal fulfillment. And by the way, there's an ongoing problem there because if Jesus doesn't deliver what you think He should deliver, you have a problem then in trusting Him and doubt, anger, disappointment, disillusionment come in when He doesn't perform to your satisfaction. In this kind of an environment, there's real shallowness, there's no deep understanding of the nature or the character, the all-glorious exaltation of the Trinity and so it's hard to get too excited about the return of Jesus Christ.
Look, I'm going to die and go to heaven. I may die and go to heaven before Jesus comes. So what interests me about the Second Coming is not what's going to happen to me. That's not what concerns me. It's what's going to happen to Christ that concerns me. We're all who are in Christ going to go to heaven. The Second Coming doesn't alter that, change that. The Second Coming is about Christ, it's about His glory and His honor and it's about the end of sin and the beginning of righteousness. That's why we long for it. And if you love the Lord with a mature love, then you have that longing for Him to be glorified. And really, loving the Lord is the priority, isn't it, when God laid out the Ten Commandments? The first commandment that God gave, this is the foundation of the will of God. This is what God wants at the primary foundational level. Listen to what He said, you know these words, "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and out of the house of slavery," Exodus 20, "you shall have no other gods before Me, you shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven, above or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving-kindness to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments." It's always been about loving God, it's always been about desiring the honor of God, the glory of God, the exaltation of God because you love God and that is why in Deuteronomy we are told that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind. It's about loving God and it is that love for God that becomes consumed with the glory of God and the exaltation of God. We want the humiliation to come to an end. We want Christ to be vindicated. We want God to be glorified. We want to live in a world that honors Christ. We want to live in a world that honors God. Ultimately I could never really...no matter what happens in the Christian world in which I move, I can never know a full and consummate and settled joy, I could never get the gnawing, nagging, agonizing pain out of my heart over the way God is constantly treated, and Christ, and the Spirit, both by those who reject His name and those who name His name. I want God to be vindicated and Christ and the Spirit. And so I long for the Second Coming because that's when that vindication is accomplished.
Turn to John 17 for a moment before we look at the text of Luke 17. In John 17 this gives you a perspective that may help you. Jesus is having a conversation, really a prayer with the Father here. This is a great prayer. Verse 1, Jesus is speaking, lifting up His eyes to heaven. He says to the Father, "Father, the hour has come, glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee." That's what it's all about. It's all about God's glory and the Son's glory. And if you go down to verse 24 you read this, "Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me,” believers, all the redeemed of all the ages, “be with Me where I am." Why? "In order that they may behold” what? “My glory." This is the mature attitude because this is the heart and soul of the truth of the gospel. We have been saved because the Father is taking out a bride for His Son to give glory to His Son forever. We long for the Second Coming because we want to see the glory of Christ manifest. We want to see Christ glorified and in Christ being glorified the Father is glorified and in Christ being glorified and the Father being glorified, we are glorified as well. So that is the driving motivation and purpose for salvation. It is for the glory of God, the glory of Christ, and we then, by being made glorious, become the means of glorifying God and Christ, praising Him for grace.
Why did God do all this? Why did He allow sin? Why did He redeem sinners? In order that He might manifest grace, mercy, because that was part of His nature but in order to manifest grace and mercy which is unmerited love and favor and forgiveness, in order to be able to overlook and forgive transgression, to manifest that, there had to be sin, there had to be transgression otherwise God can't display Himself. And so, not only is heaven filled with angels who praise Him for His holiness because that's all they know, but it will be filled with saints who will praise Him for His grace and His mercy. It is all about glorifying Him. We want God glorified. We want Christ glorified. So the Second Coming is not some kind of a adventure. It's not some kind of a fascination. It's not some kind of a curiosity. It is a passion for the mature believer who longs that Christ be glorified. Now let's go back to Luke 17 and look at some more elements of it. In fact, we'll actually finish this section.
Now what have we been saying about the nature of His coming? I gave you several points already. Let's just review them quickly. Jesus' coming will be desired by believers. Verse 22: "You will long to see it." Secondly, Jesus' coming will be visible globally. It will be like lightning flashing clear across the entire sky. It will not only be desired and visible, it will be delayed. Before He can come, verse 25, He must suffer many things and be rejected by this nation, meaning the Jews as well as the rest of the world. Only when that rejection ends...and it will end. Israel will be saved and there will be people saved out of every tongue and tribe and nation on the planet in a massive work of salvation during the time of tribulation just prior to His return. So it will be delayed until that rejection ends and that great work of salvation is complete. Fourth, Jesus' coming will be unexpected, unexpected. Verses 26 to 30, it came in a time they didn't think. They were warned. They had preachers. They were told, but they didn't expect it. In spite of all the warnings, in spite of all the preliminary signs, it will not be expected. People will be impenitent, they will be unbelieving. They will be wicked in the extreme, like they were in Noah's day. They were extremely wicked in Noah's day. In Genesis 6 God says, "All the imagination of man's heart was only evil continually." They were extremely wicked in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were severely wicked, says the Old Testament, severely wicked. But they were indifferent to all warning, indifferent to all the righteous who pled with them, that preacher of righteousness, Noah, and that righteous man, Lot. They will not expect it even though they're told. Even though they're warned, they will not expect it. He will come in a day, in an hour that you think not, He said. Number five, the Second Coming will be desired, visible, delayed, unexpected, and it will be revelatory. Let's just say revelatory. That is to say it will be a revealing event. In fact, it will disclose the hearts of everyone.
Look at verse 31. We'll pick it up there where we left off last time. "On that day," that is the day called the Day of the Lord, that day involving many days, but one epoch day when the Lord Jesus sends judgment culminated in His coming in final judgment and establishment of His kingdom. "On that day, let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away. And likewise, let not the one who is in the field turn back. Remember Lot's wife? Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it and whoever loses his life shall preserve it."
The point here is this: When Jesus comes on that day His coming will disclose where people's hearts are. This is a warning not to cling to the stuff of this world. By the way, if you turn back to Matthew 24, you find these same words of warning in Matthew 24 as Jesus speaks there about His Second Coming. Verse 15, "When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of through Daniel the prophet." Daniel prophesied an event in which the Antichrist will go into the temple in Jerusalem which will be rebuilt and desecrate it and at that moment break a pact that he made with the Jews, a peace pact, and begin a slaughter of the Jews, a massive slaughter of the Jews, which will not only be the work of Antichrist but may well be the judgment of God as well which was promised by Zechariah the prophet in which two thirds of the Jews, the unbelieving ones, will be judged. The judgment will begin then with a slaughter. This is one of the preliminary judgments to the final judgment three and a half years later at the return of Christ. When that begins, you know the end is near and the judgments are going to escalate into the final sealed judgments, the horrific trumpet judgments and bowl judgments described in Revelation. And then comes the warning in verse 16, "Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains," and here are the same words as we read in Luke 17, "let him who is on the housetop not go down” to get the things out of...out that are in his house. “Let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak” and a warning “to those who are with child, woe to them and to those who nurse babes in those days” because it's hard to run and flee the devastation if you have a nursing child. “Pray that your flight may not be in winter,” that's more difficult, “or on the Sabbath” which has its legalistic limitations as to how far you can travel, “for then there will be a Great Tribulation, a great thlipsis such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. This is the beginning of the horrific final judgment that culminates in the return of Christ. The general time is known, the day and the hour is not known.
So Matthew's text gives us our Lord's words with the same warning. By the way, in Luke 21:21 Jesus says it again, warning the same thing. In the day when you begin to see the judgment of God on the horizon, we're going to find out what you really love. In that day if you're on the housetop... Go back to Luke 17. Housetops in the land of Israel were the patios. They were the gardens. They put potted plants up there and they had some chairs and some places to recline up there and they enjoyed the outdoors on the patio at the top of the house and they had an outside staircase down to the ground. And the warning is, if you're up there and you see the judgment precursors, the preliminary judgments begin to come, don't even go down and inside to get something. Don't do that. Just get out of there. Judgment is coming.
And if you're out in a field, He says, don't go back to the house to get something. It's all going to feel the judgment. It's all going to feel the destruction. If you do go back, demonstrates what you love. That's why I say, this is revelatory of the heart. "Love not the world neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him," 1 John 2:15. "And all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world and the world is passing away." This is a warning to people to make sure that you put the value where the value ought to be. Those are normally the reasonable actions, I think. It would be normally reasonable to say if there was some hurricane coming, go down and get your stuff and get to safety, or if there was a fire sweeping your way and you're out in a field, run to your house, get the things that are precious and save them. But there is no future for this world in this day. It's all going to be destroyed. The whole earth is going to be transformed, reconfigured; nothing of the past needs to be taken into the glory of the kingdom.
The emphasis here is not on details but on a general attitude. Leave everything in this world behind. And to point out clearly, exactly what our Lord means He says, "Remember Lot's wife.” Remember Lot's wife. What triggered it was probably the "turn back," at the end of verse 31. Don't turn back to the house. Remember Lot's wife? “Remember,” mnemonic, mnemonic. That word is an adjective that means something designed as a device to aid the memory. Lot's wife was a story in herself, but she is a rigid salt pillar in the mind of every Jew for centuries. She is the archetypal person who was near deliverance and was destroyed because she looked back.
If you want to know her story, I'll just give you a brief look at it in Genesis 19. You can't remember her if you don't even know who she is. Lot had settled in Sodom. His wife was there, his two daughters were there. It was exceedingly sinful. Chapter 18,verse 20, exceedingly sinful, so sinful it needed to be completely obliterated from the world, from the earth and there couldn't even be ten righteous people found in the whole place. And so two angels come. We'll just pick up the story in verse 15, the angels urged Lot, in Genesis 19:15, Lot take your wife and two daughters that are here lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city. Fire and brimstone is going to come down like Vesuvius with gas and sulfur. Everybody is going to be destroyed. But he hesitated, so the men, the angels, seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon them, and brought him out, put him outside the city. And it came about when they had brought them outside that one said escape...one of the angels said, "Escape for your life. Do not look behind you, do not stay anywhere in the valley. Escape to the mountains lest you be swept away."
Well Lot panicked. "Oh no, my lords, now behold your servant has found favor in your sight and you've magnified your loving-kindness which you've showed me by saving my life but I can't escape to the mountains.” I'm not that fast. That's what he's saying. How am I going to get there? They might look close. They're further, I may not get up high enough on the mountain and the disaster will overtake me and I'll die. Now, there's this town over here called Zoar. Can't you just kind of put an X on Zoar and miss it with the judgment? OK, the name of the town, verse 22, was Zoar and he went there and he was spared. Verse 24, "The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven and He overthrew those cities and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities and what grew on the ground, but his wife from behind him looked back and she became a pillar of salt." Destroyed on the brink of safety; she came close but she never could let go of the world. She was that rocky soil, springs up for a little while but no true repentance there and it dies under pressure. She was that weedy soil, springs up for a little while, never bears any fruit. The love of the world riches choke it out. She belonged to Sodom. She belonged to Sodom. Her stuff was there, her heart was there, she looked back longingly and she was destroyed with Sodom. She was a Sodomite. Her heart was there because she loved her sin. She couldn't forsake the sins she loved. She loved darkness rather than light. She loved iniquity rather than righteousness. She illustrates the person who has come to the edge of salvation but looks back. J.C. Ryle wrote, "There are many in the present day who go a certain length in religion. They can form to the outward ways of Christian relatives and friends and they speak the language. They use all the outward ordinances of religion,” he said, “but all this time their souls are not right in the sight of God. Their world is in their hearts and their hearts are in the world." On the other hand, there are those of us who say my heart is in heaven, my Lord is in heaven, my name is in heaven, my home is in heaven, my Father is in heaven and my eyes are fixed on heaven. And it comes down to verse 33, this principle that keeps popping up again and again in the teaching of Jesus. "Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it; whoever loses his life shall preserve it." You hold onto the world, you hold on to sin, you keep what you want of this life and you will lose it forever in hell. You give it up, which is what “lose your life” means, and forever you will gain all that heaven has. If you want the best that God has prepared, then you let go of this world and its sin, you give it all up, you take your life and lose it. It's just exactly what Jesus said in Luke 9:23 to 25, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." He went on to say, "If you keep your life, you lose it. If you lose your life, you keep it." Same principle repeated in Matthew chapter 10, John 12, hate yourself, hate your mother, hate your father, hate your friends and relatives, even your money and possessions. None of it means anything to the one who truly sells all to embrace Christ. Escape to the Savior alone who can save you from judgment.
So when that Day of Judgment comes, it will be clear to everybody where hearts are. That's why I say, it will be revelatory. It will reveal the condition of the heart. Have a prepared heart for a time of judgment.
Now we said that the Second Coming is desired, visible, delayed, unexpected, revelatory, number six, divisive. Jesus' coming will be divisive. Divisive, that's not new. I just quoted you from scriptures and they're all throughout the teaching of Jesus, hate your father, your mother, and be willing to be My disciple. I came, said Jesus, not to bring peace but a sword, to set children against their parents and parents against their children and siblings against siblings and husbands against wives, and wives against husbands. It is a divisive thing to come to Christ. It is the most devising...divisive thing because you live in two completely different worlds with two completely different loves and two completely different motivations. That's true now. Some of you experience that every day of your life because you're alienated from your own children, you're alienated from your own spouse, you're alienated from your own parents, you're alienated from the friends and the people you associate with and you're terminally alienated and eternally alienated because you are in Christ and they are not. You possess eternal life and they do not. And the price you've had to pay for your commitment to Christ is the loss of that intimacy to...to a very significant and serious degree.
Well our Lord points out in very simple language how divisive this Second Coming is if even now being a Christian is divisive, notice here. When He actually does come, when the event occurs and the Lord arrives, verse 34 says this, "I tell you, on that night” it will be night on half the earth “there will be two." It doesn't say two men in the Greek, it just says two, duo, two in one bed. I take it this is probably referring to a married couple, two in one bed; one taken, the other left. There will be two grinding at the same place. This is in daytime because you do your grinding in a world with no electricity in the daylight when you're making bread. So somewhere in the world it will be night when He comes, somewhere in the world it will be day because it's global. There will be two grinding at the same place, two sisters, a mother and a daughter. One will be taken, the other will be left. Verse 36, you'll notice brackets around it. It says two men will be in the field working, again it would be daytime, one will be taken. The other will be left. This verse appears in Matthew 24:40. It is in all the manuscripts, the ancient manuscripts in Matthew 24:40. It is not in the older manuscripts in Luke. It got imported. We understand that, that's why it's put in brackets here. Somebody, some scribe along the way, maybe writing it down by memory, threw the Matthew line in here in addition to what was in the original Lucan text. But it is true what it says in verse 36, is exactly what it says in Matthew 24:40, it just doesn't belong here.
But the point is this. You have people taken and people left. Now the question is, what does it mean to be taken and what does it mean to be left, right? Taken where? Left where? And there's been some discussion on this. I don't think there really needs to be. Go back to Matthew 24 for a moment. I think it's very clear what it means to be taken and to be left. And I'll show you from the text of Scripture itself in the parallel passage. In Matthew 24 verse 37...and this will pick up what we saw also in Luke 17 in our last study. Verse 37, Matthew 24, "The coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah, for as in those days which were before the Flood’ which drowned the entire world, by the way, “they were eating and drinking, marrying, giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark. And they did not understand until the Flood came and” what? “took them all away." Now the Flood took them all away in what? In judgment. The Flood took them all away. “Took them all away” means “in judgment.” "So shall the coming of the Son of Man be." So the coming of the Man...of the Son of Man in judgment is to take them away in judgment. So we know then that it says in Matthew 24:40 there shall be two men in the field, one will be taken, same verb. Just as all the people were taken away in the Flood in judgment, so some will be...one will be taken out of that field in judgment. Verse 41, the two women grinding at the mill, one taken, the other left. So we know what taken means. “Left” means they escaped judgment. They are left then to go into the kingdom. Go back to Luke 17.
So the same word, same verb, is used speaking of how the Flood took people away in the sense of destruction and that there will be some taken in judgment when the Lord returns and others will be left. “Taken” means taken, just as in the case of the judgment of Noah, into judgment and eternal damnation. “Left” means left alive on the earth to enter into the kingdom, left alive on earth to enter into the kingdom. Out of a bed one will go; one will be left. Out of a kitchen, one will be go, one will be left. And we add Matthew's text, out of a field, one will go, and one will be left. It will be divisive and it's showing people working together in proximity to show you that this happens in the most intimate settings of family because life in those days was family life, fields, kitchens, beds. So it will be divisive and this time it will be eternally divisive, everlastingly divisive. They will be separated forever, never to be joined together again.
Now, this separation is also described in a parable in Matthew 13 where Jesus in verse 24 talks about sowing a field with wheat and then an enemy sows tares, and at the end the harvest is made and the separation takes place, the wheat, the tares, separated, separated, separated. The tares are burned and the wheat is preserved. It's the same picture. There are only two kinds of people in the Second Coming, those that are burned and those that are barned, those that are taken in judgment and those that are left to enter the kingdom.
Our Lord talked about this in a par...in a parable that He gave in the 25th chapter of Matthew. We won't look at it because we'll refer to it at another time. But in Matthew 25:31 to 46 He gave a parable or a story about sheep and goats, a picture really, a word picture of final judgment. The sheep represent those who are left to go into the kingdom. The goats represent those who are taken away in judgment. Put the goats, He said, on My left hand, put the sheep on My right hand, right hand being the hand of favor. The righteous go into the kingdom, the unrighteous go into judgment and eternal destruction.
So this division will come right down into families, right down into households, right down into beds, and it's forever. And again, according to Matthew 24:43 and 44, nobody knows the day or the hour when all this is going to begin. It all begins with the rapture of the church, then the judgments begin to unfold, then they escalate. And then in a day and an hour no one knows, Jesus will come back. We don't know when it starts, and we don't even know the exact time, of course, when it finds its end.
Best to be prepared for one other reason. The Second Coming is desired, visible, delayed, unexpected, revelatory, divisive, and finally, it is permanent, permanent in its fatality. Let's say it that way. It is permanently fatal. There is a...There is a finality to this judgment that comes out in the last verse. Look at it. "And answering they said to Him." These would be the disciples to whom He has been speaking since verse 22, "Where, Lord?” What's the location of this event? They're still thick about getting the picture of its global reality. Where? Where? How we going to know where? They still think it's going to happen and somebody is going to have to point them to it. They don't understand that nobody's going to have to say, "Oh, it's over there, oh it's over there, oh, it happened here, it happened over there, oh, we're the secret in-group, it happened over here and the rest of you didn't see it." They still don't understand that it will be global, it will be visible. When it happens nobody will miss it. The whole earth will be involved. And so they're still asking: “Where, Lord?” And His answer is amazing. "He said to them," He gives them a proverb, very likely this was a Jewish proverb. "Where the body is, there also will vultures be gathered." If you have a carcass, you're going to have vultures. That's a strange answer. What in the world? The word “vultures” is aetoi. Could be translated eagles but eagles don't eat dead flesh. The word means also “vultures” and here has that application.
What in the world is Jesus saying? His...What is He pointing to here? It's very simple really. His saying is this, you always know where the corpses are because you look for the vultures and wherever the vultures are, that's where the corpses are. And that's how it's going to be in My coming. Wherever the vultures hover, that's where I've been. That's how He ends this message. Wherever the carnage is, wherever the dead lie, spiritually dead yes, but physically dead, too, in judgment; wherever the bodies of the unregenerate lie all over the world, wherever the corpses are, that's where I have been.
You say, "This doesn't say anything about the kingdom. This doesn't say anything about the glory of the Millennial Kingdom." There won't be any Millennial Kingdom for people who don't come to Christ and who aren't warned about judgment. Sure the Jews thought they were going to be in the kingdom just because they were Jewish. They were sons of Abraham and they were circumcised. That was the standard fare and then to add to that they were very ceremonially religious. But Jesus is saying, while you're thinking about the kingdom, you may not even be in the Kingdom. You can't be in the kingdom if you get caught in the judgment and you're going to be caught in the judgment if you reject the Son of Man. And how far and wide is that judgment? It is worldwide. Wherever the carcasses are, that's where I've been. In other words, when Jesus comes it is death to the ungodly, death to the ungodly. Nobody says it more concisely than Jude. Jude 14, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousand of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." He comes to judge the ungodly and the carnage is worldwide.
Jesus wants to move them from this euphoric idea of the coming of the Messiah to a terrifying reality that before there is going to be a kingdom, there is going to be irreversible judgment and destruction. And we borrow again the words of Peter. "Seeing that all these things are coming to pass, what manner of persons should you be?" What kind of person do you want to be when this comes? Where do you want to be? You want to be cast into eternal hell? You want to be part of the everlasting carnage? Or do you want to be in the kingdom? And those that are alive at this time will go into the kingdom alive. Those of us who have already gone on to heaven are going to come back with Christ. In Revelation 19 we're pictured coming with Him and we will reign with Him in the kingdom as glorified saints along with earthly saints together reigning in that glorious kingdom for 1,000 years at the end of which He creates a new heaven and a new earth where we live forever in the glory of that eternal heaven. What kind of person are you? What happens to you if this judgment begins today, or tomorrow? And it all starts with the Lord removing the church.
You say, "Well that ought to convince everybody." No, that's not how it's going to work. They're going to go on with life the way they always did. Noah got in the ark and nobody changed anything. Lot left town and nobody changed anything. The church is going to leave. There’ll be all kinds of explanations, and the judgments will begin and sinners' hearts will get harder and harder and harder and they'll curse God and they'll wave their fists at Him and they'll cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them and to crush them and hide them. But you don't see any of them in Revelation crying out for salvation. There will be a great, massive, sweeping salvation during that time as the gospel will be preached, but there will also be hard-hearted rejection.
We look for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for His church in which we're taken out before all of this even begins. And if you're Christ's, that is your blessed hope.
Father, we come again at the end of this service, this morning, thankful for the hope that we have in Christ that we'll never be part of that eternal carnage either physically or spiritually. We will never know the destruction that comes on the ungodly for we belong to You, all our sins having been paid for in Christ on the cross. We thank You, oh God. We thank You from the depths of our hearts for this glorious gift of salvation. We pray that sinners would be warned, carefully warned today about what is to come. We long for Your appearing, Lord. You have a right to be glorified. You have a right to be honored. You have endured enough shame at the hands of sinners who have rejected You. And, oh God, You have been scorned. You have said, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him,” and mankind has refused to do that. They have scorned You and disobeyed You and dishonored You and worshiped other than You and made gods out of all kinds of animate and inanimate kinds of things, and mostly out of themselves and refused to love You and to glorify You. And it is time for You to vindicate Your...Yourself and to be glorified. It is time for Christ to be exalted. It is time for the world to see an end of the reign of wickedness. It is time for righteousness to prevail. We long for that day. We love Christ. We love what glorifies Christ and we long for His appearing and His glory. And may we live in the light of that, hopeful, obedient, joyful, thankful, settled at peace with You, and willing to suffer anything in this life if it brings glory to Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.
This sermon series includes the following messages:
Please contact the publisher to obtain copies of this resource.Publisher Information