This is in reference to Luke 17:26-37 where Jesus compares His coming in the Rapture appearance and its signs and times with the times of Noah and of Lot. The various responses to its content are as troubling as the content itself, in that guidelines for properly interpreting Scripture are so clearly violated.
That is my opinion, of course, but many folks seem to oppose that outlook. Obviously, believing as I do is not a requirement of Scripture, necessarily, but when one would teach the Scriptures to others, what James 3:1-2 says bears heavily upon that person to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” James wrote this:
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”
The Luke passage has a partial parallel in Matthew 24:36-44 but that passage leaves off any reference to Lot’s situation. Both refer to the end-time prophetic situation when Jesus is revealed to those who are snatched up to Him in that rapture experience spelled out in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:10, and in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8. These references make it basically clear that there is, in fact, to be such an event as the Rapture of the saints, a taking out of the world those who belong to Jesus Christ. According to 1 Corinthians 6:20, they are not their own but were purchased by the price of His blood on the cross of Calvary.
Major confusion has been caused by how verse 37 in Luke 17 is interpreted and applied to the context preceding it. But first, let’s work out just what the context of Luke 17:26-36 really tells us before we consider that last verse 37.
First of all, it is obvious that this is an end-time scenario because it plainly says the situation will be at the time when the “Son of Man is revealed.” The first time Jesus is revealed in the last days will be at the time of the Rapture, the snatching out of the world those who belong to Him. The fact that Noah and Lot were not taken to heaven does not fault the comparison with that of the Rapture when the righteous will be taken to heaven and the sinful ones are left behind, nor does it reflect negatively on who is taken and who is left in the Luke passage. In both cases they are removed from the judgment of sinful men.
The conditions described here are not possible for a Second Coming timeline. Just look at what is going on in the whole world – people are buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. After seven years of tribulation as described in Revelation 6-19, it is not possible that those activities told of in Luke 17 could be the normal life of the world’s population. The major concern of all people will be their safety and security, their very survival.
Then, the likeness of this future scenario will be as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot. That is, the current day’s situation included the extreme sinfulness in the times of Noah and of Lot. In Noah’s time, Genesis 6:5 says,
“Then, the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Match that with a thriving economy, as described, and an “eat, drink, and be merry” attitude prevails, and we have the conditions in today’s world. Especially is that exemplified here in America, for this country is the leader in the world, like it or not.
Likewise, it was the same in the time of Lot, the Luke passage tells us. Jesus is relating these things to us in Luke, but He was also present in those situations with Noah and Lot. The latter is much clearer as to that fact when we read of Abraham’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord and the two angels in Genesis 19. The conditions in Sodom were a saturation of immorality and degradation that engulfed the whole city. Yet, in Luke 17 they were involved in all the activities of life as it was from day to day. Jesus brings the picture from the whole world down to one local area, and then, finally, to two individuals, as we will see later in the passage.
But don’t miss this: As it was then, so it will be when the Son of Man is revealed. That is future for us today, except that we are, in fact, enjoying a rising economy that matches those described in the times of Noah and Lot. Satan’s desire to distract believers, and especially non-believers, from this looming truth that Jesus is returning very soon is very evident. The anti-Trump leftists are trying their best to denounce President Trump and return to their plan of devastation and destruction. Jesus said conditions will be like this when He, the Son of Man, returns.
He actually begins this discussion at Luke 17:20 with a question from the Pharisees of when the kingdom of God would come. In verse 24, Jesus brings the issue forward to a far later time. He says there,
“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.”
In between that time when He said that and this future one was His crucifixion, the rejection by His Jewish kinsmen, and the building of His true church, the body of born-again believers in Him.
Now, we are told of His imminent coming in the words of Luke 17:26-35. After verse 30, He begins to expand on what happens after that lightning flash appearance of Him coming in the air. It is as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
“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.”
Note carefully that last sentence—“we shall always be with the Lord.”
The continuity of the passage continues without a chapter break in the original writing, and details how His coming, like lightning, will affect the people on the earth. One statement in the context is when “they” shall say, “Peace and safety.” Then Paul writes, “then sudden destruction shall come upon them….” It appears most probably that “they” are the Jewish people, Israel, for they have been surrounded by enemies and have had constant threats and actions pointing to their destruction since the day of their establishment as a sovereign state. Islamic enemies do not recognize their right to exist, even. How, then, will this desire for “peace and safety” be fulfilled?
In Daniel 9:26-27 is a prophecy that a person coming out of the heritage of the old Roman Empire will “confirm a covenant with many for seven years” with or for someone. As a result, a new temple will be built by the Jews. That leaves us with a conclusion that it is with the Jews, their state of Israel. That new nation was the result of action by the United Nations. Thus, the “many” who sign the covenant with this person from Roman ancestry will be, again, the United Nations. And, also, the building of a temple is confirmed by the statement that this one (the Antichrist, as he is now identified) cancels religious activities in the temple, takes possession of it, and declares himself to be God at the mid-point of the seven years.
Two questions are left for us to consider. First, when will this Antichrist come into a position of authority where he will co-sign a covenant with leaders of other nations? The second is when will the announcement of a peace covenant come about? Answers to these are yet to come.
But let’s get back to the Luke 17 passage, where Jesus changes His discussion from groups of people to the individual person. “In that day,” He said, when He comes like a flash of lightning that is seen around the world, “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.”
When He comes, don’t try to hang onto anything of this world, for you are headed for heaven! Here Jesus is talking about those who are to be taken away to Him. The sense of that portion is now brought to that often-confused issue of where they are taken. The transformation from mortal to immortality and corruption to incorruption will be instant, like the twinkling of an eye, so Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53.
Jesus pinpoints the issue to the individual believer who is with one who is not a believer. He says, then, “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.”
Now, if one stops at this point, verse 36, the most reasonable conclusion is that those taken are the believers, taken to be with the Lord forever, just as 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says. Judgment for those taken is not mentioned at all. In all of the Scriptures, where do you find the Lord coaching lost and rebelling sinners to not try to “go back and get anything being left behind before judgment. Jesus is recorded as saying to those kinds of people doomed for judgment, “Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:27). God turns His back on evilness, for sure. Listen to what Jesus said on the cross, even: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” as the man Jesus died for our sins there.
Then, we come to the place where the disciples ask Jesus, “Where are they taken?” That is in verse 37, and Jesus responds with this, as translated in the New King James Version: “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
It seems to be common to say this statement means that those who are taken, in the prior context, are taken to judgment. What Jesus said was an “idiom,” a saying that is defined by the context in which it is used. What if Jesus had said, “Where the king is, there his subjects will be,” or, “Where the wicked one is, there his subjects will be.” The meaning of the statement would have a direct relationship to the content of the preceding narrative. In that sense, Jesus is saying to His disciples, “What did I just tell you about who is taken and who is left?”
Read again about the Rapture event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Those dead in Christ are taken first. But where? Not to judgment for sure, for they have been before the judgment seat of Christ already. Then, those who are alive are caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. What could be more plainly spoken? To link this statement of Jesus and its prior context to the passage in Revelation 19:17-18 where birds of prey are invited to a great supper of the flesh of mankind further contradicts this issue, for that passage forces the Luke passage to a “post-tribulation rapture” timeframe, for it deals with God’s judgment at the end of the seven years, and the Luke passage clearly is at the beginning of the seven years.
An honest consideration of that response, as some translations put it, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather” (NIV), or “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered” (NASB), what deep spiritual truth do these comments, as translated, have to do with the context of Luke 17:26-36? I say, “None!” It is, again, an idiom, a common saying that points the reader to the actual content of the prior discussion. For example, when someone says, “Boy, O boy, it’s raining cats and dogs out there!,” you don’t run to the window expecting to see the lawn covered with cats and dogs, do you?
Finally, and perhaps this is the greatest fault of all in the common response that “they are taken to judgment,” is that it is contradictory to what Jesus is saying in that context; therefore, that response is saying Jesus is contradicting Himself. That is a travesty upon His character and will not be shrugged off by the Lord. Then, having created the contradiction of the Lord, a problem of His justice is created. God saves Noah and his family, taking them into the ark, and also saves Lot and his family, taking them by hand with two angels out of the city so the angels could go back and destroy that city. As it was then, it is not the same (in contradiction) in these latter days, for suddenly those taken are the bad ones and those left are the righteous ones. But Jesus said “as it was then, so will it be when the Son of Man comes.” That is, those taken back then were the righteous, so it will be the same when Jesus comes.
Likewise, one must consider God’s attribute of justice. He is described in the Bible as One who says, “The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity” (Proverbs 21:15), and One who “will bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly” (Luke 18:7-8).
This is in consideration of the claim that the Rapture is at the end of the tribulation period, “post-tribulation rapture,” that is, and during that time of the wrath of God, those saints who are alive, physically, will endure all the judgments of that seven years. There is no Scripture telling of the protection of God for those saints. Those who do not take the mark of the beast will be killed, as shown in Revelation 7 where those “who come out of the Great Tribulation” are seen as souls dressed in white robes, standing before the throne of God. Only in Revelation 12 do we see where God protects one-third of the Jews, hiding them in the wilderness.
Meanwhile, those who were dead but transformed from the grave will be in heaven—unless those proponents say the dead in Christ will also be in the earth during those seven years. They would be immortals, not mortals, so how can the body of Christ be separated? The question is where is the justice of God for those who are living when Jesus comes, for those who are already dead will no longer suffer in the tribulation? “Will He bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly” (Luke 18:7-8).
These two deviations from rightly dividing the Word of truth are opposed in Proverbs 9:10 with these words: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Fear of the Lord has two characteristics—reverence for His character traits of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, and respect for His even-handed justice, that sin will not be tolerated. That wisdom, then, seeks knowledge of the Lord in that light and understanding of His ways comes forth. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 103:7, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.”
How close and personal do we dare to want to be with the Lord? I must close with this quotation from Psalm 139:23-24:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (KJV).
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