John T. Willis

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jesus' Teaching about the End of the World--Luke 17:20-37

As Jesus was moving closer to Jerusalem, some Pharisees [apparently from Jerusalem] asked Jesus "when the kingdom of God was coming." Jesus replied, and then expanded on this by teaching his disciples about the end of the world. This appears in Luke 17:20-37. This falls into three parts. I. Jesus Speaks with the Pharisees. Luke 17:20-21. a. As Jesus was moving toward Jerusalem, a group of unnamed Pharisees approached him and asked when the kingdom of God was coming. Obviously they wanted to know when God would send a descendant of David to become king over Israel as David and many of his descendants did. Thus, they were asking about a concrete, visible indication of the coming of that expected king. [Of course, the background is 2 Samuel 7 and related texts]. 17:20a. b. Jesus was thinking along entirely different lines. He replied: "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed." According to Jesus, "the kingdom of God" is God the Father's rule in the hearts of human beings. Thus, one cannot possibly observe "the kingdom of God" visibly. This is wholly a heart matter. Paul emphasizes this point when he says: "The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). 17:20b. c. Jesus put it this way: "The kingdom of God is among you." "Among you" means: (1) it is in the midst of you, in the presence of the person of Jesus himself and his ministry of preaching and healing, and (2) right now it is within your grasp or reach, it is at your disposal, if you will just accept it. The kingdom of God is God's rule in the hearts of human beings. 17:21. II. Jesus teaches his Followers not to be concerned about the time of the End of the World. 17:22-25. a. After responding to the Pharisees, Jesus intentionally turns to his disciples who have undoubtedly heard the question of the Pharisees. Jesus knows the hearts of all people. So he knew his disciples longed to see one of the days of Jesus. They hoped they would still be alive when Jesus returned and the world would come to an end. Jesus told them flatly that this will not happen in their lifetime. 17:22. b. Then Jesus tells them that other people will tell them about the TIME of Jesus's return. Jesus tells them not to "set off in pursuit" of these human imaginations. We can learn a lot from Jesus if we will just listen this message. Again and again, preachers will tell all of us that the end of the world and the second coming of Christ will happen on this day or that day. Jesus says: Do not "set off in pursuit" of these ideas. We human beings constantly run after a new movie, a new book, a new preacher, a new idea. These fads, these crazes are all a waste of time and energy. It is much wiser to keep returning to the Bible, to prayer, to meditation, to helping other people. 17:23. c. Jesus says that when he actually comes, this will be sudden and as manifest as the lightning bolts that light up the sky. In Jesus' own lifetime, he tells his disciples that first he must endure suffering and be rejected that that generation. What a great lesson for all of us. A person can spend a lifetime serving God through Jesus Christ, and the church and the people around him or her probably will reject him, just as Jesus' generation did. 17:24-25. III. Jesus gives two illustrations to make this point. Luke 17: 26-37. a. To illustrate his point, he turns to the Hebrew Bible. First, he reminds his disciples of the account of Noah. Genesis 6-9. In the days of Noah, people were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage until Noah and his family entered into the ark and the flood came and destroyed all of them. For that generation, the flood was sudden and quite clear, but too late for them. Hence, Jesus is clearly encouraging people to live for God through Jesus Christ to be prepared for the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. 17:26-27. b. Jesus' second illustration is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot. Genesis 18-19. In the days of Lot, people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day Lot left Sodom, God rained down fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them. We need to wake up and realize we are doing exactly the same thing. We are eating and drinking, buying and selling houses and cars and clothing=the works, planting gardens and fields, building huge buildings and mansions and capital of all kind. As in the days of Lot, God will appear like lightning, suddenly, unexpectedly, clearly. Will we be prepared? 17:28-30. c. Jesus says that wherever a person might be: on the housetop or in the field, that person cannot change his or her situation when Christ comes again. Jesus emphasizes Lot's wife. When the fire and sulfur fell on Sodom and Lot's wife turned back, she became a pillar of salt. 17:31-32. d. Jesus explains clearly: Those who try to make their life secure will lost it, but those who lose their life will keep it. Jesus' concern is not to attempt to determine the time of his second coming and the end of the world, but daily to take up one's cross and follow Jesus. 17:33. e. When Christ comes again, one will be taken and the other left; one will go into heaven, the other into hell. 17:34-36. f. Jesus' disciples then asked, "Where, Lord?" Jesus replied: "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." What he means is that the vultures will inevitably show up where the carrion is; so the day of the coming of Jesus Christ will also inevitably be revealed. So, do not be concerned about determining the exact time. This is God's venue, not man's venue. 17:37. Share YOUR concerns and imaginations and desires and reversals and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis


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