Luke: Chapter 17 - Forgiveness, Faith and Thankfulness

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2015-05-26

CHAPTER 17

 

FORGIVENESS, FAITH and THANKFULNESS

 

General

 

The speaker for the first week in Luke 17 made the point that his passage had no comparative passages. It could be argued that some of the verses in the first section appear in Matthew 18. The point about no comparative passages could well have been made on previous occasions but it seems apposite to catalogue the passages that are unique to Lukes gospel account at this juncture.

 

The majority of the unique passages are found in the following three sections: the birth narratives (chapters 1-2), the travel narrative (chapters 9-19), and the resurrection appearances (chapter 24)

Dedication to Theophilus (1:1-4)
Prediction of John's birth (1:5-25)
Prediction of Jesus birth (1:26-38)
Mary visits Elizabeth (1:39-45)
Song of Mary (Magnificat) (1:46-56)
Birth and naming of John (1:57-66)
Song of Zechariah (1:67-80)
Angels appear to shepherds (2:8-20)
Circumcision and dedication (2:21-24)
Simeon's song and prophecy (2:25-35)
Anna's thanksgiving (2:36-38)
Return to Nazareth and Jesus being found in temple (2:39-52)
Dating of John's ministry (3:1-2)
Genealogy traced from Adam (3:23-38)
John's instructions to special groups (3:10-14)

Claiming fulfilment of Isaiah in synagogue (4:17-21)

Proverb: physician heal yourself (4:23)

Faith of widow and of Naaman (4:25-30)
Miraculous catch of fish (5:1-11)
The woes (6:24-26)
Raising of widow of Nain's son (7:11-17)

Woman anoints Jesus feet, two debtors (7:36-50)

Women who helped Jesus (8:1-3)

Conversation with Moses and Elijah about his departure at transfiguration (9:31-32)

Rejection by Samaritans (9:51-56)
Second objection to following - to say farewell (9:61-62)
Mission and return of seventy (10:1-12, 17-20)

Good Samaritan (10:25-37)

Mary and Martha (10:38-42)

Friend at midnight (11:5-8)

True blessedness (11:27-28)

True cleansing (11:37-41)

Repentance or destruction (13:1-5)

Barren fig tree (13:6-9)
Healing of woman with spirit of infirmity (13:10-17)

Who are in the kingdom? (13:22-30)
That fox Herod (13:31-33)
Healing of man with dropsy (14:1-6)

Invitation to banquet, and places of honour (14:7-14)

Two examples of counting cost (14:28-33)

Lost coin (15:8-10)

Prodigal son (15:11-32)

Unjust steward (16:1-9)

Covetous hypocrisy of Pharisees (16:14-15)

Rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31)

Worthless slaves (17:7-10)
Healing of ten lepers (17:11-19)

Kingdom in midst of you (17:20-21)

Example of judgment on Sodom, Lot's wife (17:28-32)

Unjust judge (18:1-8)

Pharisee and tax-collector (18:9-14)
Zacchaeus (19:1-10)

Parable of the pounds (19:11-27) (similar to parable of talents, in Mk 25:13-30)
Lament over Jerusalem (19:39-44)
Warning at end of Olivet discourse (21:34-36)

Summary of days in Jerusalem (21:37-38)
Eating Passover before suffering (22:15-16)
The two swords (22:35-38)
Accused of forbidding paying tax to Caesar, Pilate's first declaration of innocence (23:2,4-5)
Jesus before Herod (23:6-12)
Pilate's second declaration of innocence (23:13-16)
Daughters of Jerusalem weeping (23:27-31)
Two criminals on cross, one rebukes, one repents (23:39-43)
"Father, into your hand I commit my spirit" (23:46)
Women preparing spices, and resting on Sabbath (23:56)
Centurion's declaration of innocence (23:47-48)
Apostles not believing women's report of resurrection (24:10-11)
The road to Emmaus, appearance to disciples, and teaching on fulfilment (24:13-49)
Ascension (24:50-53)

 

This list shows that there are echoes of the first six verses elsewhere in scripture. The same applies to verses 22-27 and 33-37.

 

Verses 1-10 Offences/Increase our faith

 

17 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

 

The principal verse in the whole of the gospel account is that found in Luke 19.10, The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. The question is, Do we know Him as Saviour or are we still lost? To be a Christian is a life changing experience. It is not merely coming to a place of worship on a Sunday. It is only those who know Him who can serve Him. It is only those who know Him who are acquainted with His purposes. There are three subsections in the first ten verses to do with those who on His masters service.

 

1-4 The servants mindset FORGIVENESS

5-6 The servants powerhouse. FAITH

7-10 The servants obligation HUMILITY

 

The word for offences is stumbling blocks (scandals). Causes for stumbling, for turning aside, for tripping up will occur. People will be scandalised for that is the Anglicisation of the word used here. They are inevitable. My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all (or, better, we all offend). If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. James 3.1-2. It is so easy to stumble the weaker person. It may be done inadvertently but the young or the spiritually young are easily stumbled. The backdrop to this chapter, as with many in this gospel account, was the Pharisees and their onerous rules that they had devised and which were extra to scripture and displayed their lack of love. Dont be pharisaical. The disciples were not to treat the weak badly. That is why the phrase little ones is used to describe those who were unable to see the danger and to see the stumbling block. It is very easy to trip people up. We are not to be the ones found tripping people up. There are many ways of doing so but one such is by twisting scripture. Hindrances and temptations and corruption of the truth can all lead to a dear soul being stumbled. The millstone is a heavy object. Place some thing that around the neck and cast the person into the ea (somehow!!) and that person is not going to surface again. Death would be the result. The use of this picture conveys the seriousness of stumbling people. The first two verses then warn against disciples (for they were the people addressed) causing offence to some other person.

 

What happens if the disciple is offended? Verses 3-4 deal with this aspect take heed to yourselves (take note). This opens up a massive discussion on human behaviour much of which could not be covered in the brief while allocated to the explanation of the passage. Consequently there is much that is extra in these notes. It should be pointed out that there are many different character types resulting in many scenarios but that the principles that are written here still stand. Some people are far too easily offended. There are a host of reasons for this weakness timidity, sincere belief, misperception, persecution complex, etc. These characteristics are met on a daily basis in the workplace, at school, in the neighbourhood and, sadly, are present among those in assembly fellowship. Care has to be taken when dealing with such. On the other hand there are those who offend too easily due to an abrasive, aggressive, angry character. Such suffer with a superiority complex which makes life uncomfortable for all who have to live with them. Similarly these are encountered on a daily basis and it takes skill to be able to deal with such but, again, such are to found in assembly fellowship. Mercifully this characteristic is not as prevalent in the assembly as it is in the world but to deny its existence among believers is to be nave.

 

There is no mention of the need on the part of the one stumbled in the first two verses to possess a forgiving spirit but there is when it comes to the matter of the disciple being the one who is offended. It is imperative that such a one manifests a forgiving spirit. The believer is in the forgiveness business. This is not natural. Dont get mad get even is the worlds motto but this is not to be the attitude and behaviour of believers. Nor should there be willy-nilly forgiveness. Here comes a brother and he says something that is offensive. The next step is for the offended to point out to the offender that offence has been given. This is in the form of a rebuke which is by no means a soft option. The rebuke is necessary for resolution. When God is offended He points out the offence, He lets us know about our sin and it is as we acknowledge our sin and turn from it with genuine and positive repentance, then God can move out in forgiveness. He does not grant blanket forgiveness to those who do not repent. Some might come back at this juncture and say, Did not the Lord Jesus ask the Father to forgive them for they did not know what they were doing? The Lord Jesus did not ask for every person associated with His death to be forgiven every sin in their lives but for this one sin in relation to His death, of which they did not know what they were doing, to be forgiven for all those involved. There was no notion of universal salvation for all those associated with His death. The scriptural principle is very clear in Luke 17.3 - if the offender is prepared to repent then the offended is to forgive.

 

Forgiveness is conditional on repentance where knowledge of what has been done exists. This may not be accepted by all. Gods love is unconditional (we all accept that) but His forgiveness is conditional (not everyone believes that). This knowledge may be present without the need to make it known by rebuke. In every day life there is often no knowledge that offence has been caused and there may never be with some characters as they do not realise how obnoxious they are. Such need to be told, however, normal behaviour is that once an offence has been made known, the person who offended says words like, I am ever so sorry. I did not realise that your mother was ill, or your son was in trouble with the law or that you had an illness or some such thing. Normal people are mortified when they realise that something they have said or done has caused someone distress because they were not up to date with the latest news. Implicit in their apology is the desire not to repeat such a statement or action again. We could call that repentance. It is a very positive reaction to the knowledge of the offence. In everyday life the offended is more than happy to forgive in that situation. Something has been done that was unintentional and for which apology has been given once the offence has been made known.

 

The situation in Luke 17 is no different. A person needs to know that offence has been given. This is often the hardest thing to do. So many misunderstandings persist because a person is not comfortable with letting a person who caused the offence know that offence has been taken. This may not always be the fault of the offended, however, the offender may be such a personality that to raise the matter of any offence would not result in the reaction we have described above as normal behaviour. The person may disagree. The offender may vehemently disagree. The person may fly off the handle. The offender may be known to have form as far as vehemently disagreeing is concerned and to approach such a person with the intention of raising the matter of offence given is invariably onerous but the onus is upon the offended to make the matter known however uncomfortable it is to do so. We cannot get away from that. Everything may appear to be simple instructions in Luke 17 and it is but there are people out there who by their behaviour make these passages difficult to put into practice.

 

Verse 4 states that should this same person offend seven times in a day and seven times in a day turn again to the offended and say, I repent then the offended is to forgive. There has to be a heart to forgive. We must have forgiving spirits, however, though not explicit, there must be seven separate and distinct offences that are in view in the chapter. If the offended having been told his first offence says that he is sorry and that he repents then, surely, he will not return seeking forgiveness for exactly the same offence some part of the day later. Repeatedly offending in the same way does not merit continued forgiveness. He has repented of the first offence and he would not repeat something about a mother being ill (to quote the earlier example) just a few minutes or hours later having said sorry and repenting. No, this second offence must be some other matter. The third offence must be yet another matter and with each passing offence we must conclude that the offender is not deliberately going out of the way to cause offence.

 

The Christians attitude to personal offence is to have a forgiving spirit in place against that time that a person approaches them or better responds to them with true and godly sorrow and with genuine repentance. God has a forgiving spirit waiting that time when men and women are conscious of their sin and confess it (that is they agree with Gods assessment of their sin) and turn from it to seek forgiveness. He is not soft. He is waiting to be asked for forgiveness and He is ready and willing to forgive when this takes place. So should Christians.

 

One last point that needs to be introduced here but developed further outside of this document. The word for offence here means the name of the part of a trap to which the bait is attached and hence it refers to the snare or trap itself. The word is always used metaphorically of anything that leads to prejudice, or becomes a hindrance to others, or causes them to fall by the way. When we think of offence in the English language we often think of the law and legal matters. The use of the word offender in these notes could easily get a person thinking that legal matters are discussed. Nothing could be further from the truth for here is personal offence and not law breaking. This is the sort of thing that is said or done that causes people distress or that harms them in some way and that can and should be resolved outside of the courtroom. The matters discussed in these verses are those things that cause people to stumble rather than end them in court. The terms repentance and forgiveness are used to describe the way by which matters are put right. When we think of God and His dealings with man there are a number of terms used to describe the restoration of a person to Himself. We read of being ransomed to describe the process whereby God has paid the price to secure our release from the slave market of sin. We read of redemption which carries with it a similar thought. We read of deliverance. We read of sanctification (by that is meant absolute sanctification). We read of cleansing. We read, and here is a legal term, of justification. All these nouns describe various aspects of Gods work on our behalf to secure our eternal blessing. Forgiveness is one such term that can be attributed to God but it is not the sort of term that one would encounter in a court room. It is a family term so that when we talk in the home among our family we never say, I justify you but we often say, I forgive you or, youre forgiven. It is interesting to note that the term that is used in this section is, if we might be bold enough to say, a family term. There is a lot more to consider in this particular study but we must move on.

 

The servants powerhouse

 

5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

 

It may well be that having heard about forgiveness that the disciples could not cope. The next verse says that they said, Increase our faith. The ability to forgive may well be something that arises out of increased faith but equally, if not more so, it arises out of increased grace. Whatever the source of the ability to forgive it is a manifestation of Gods working in the heart. There is a desire for increased faith on the part of the disciples in this section. It is always good when there is a desire for increased faith. Not that the Lord Jesus indicates the way to get more faith but spoke of faith akin to a small seed. It is not the size of the seed that counts (the mustard seed is very small) but the genuine nature of the seed. The Lord Jesus spoke of a sycamine tree, a black mulberry tree that had strong roots and stood firm. The illustration was to show that even small faith, dare we say a small amount of faith, can do mighty things. Genuine faith changes things.

 

The servants obligation

 

7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? 8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

 

Quickly moving on from the matter of faith, the Saviour said that there was something else to consider. Why did they want an increase in faith? Was it to accomplish great things? Was there not a danger of pride? Increased faith, though genuine and effective, must not result in pride. We are servants and that is what we must ever remember. At best, whatever is done, we have only done that which is required of a servant. If He chooses to use us then we must count it a great honour. When we have done all, it is time to say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. That is not so easy. It is not that I am a lazy servant for according to the last verse of the section everything has been done. When all is done then I am to rest in the knowledge that I am an unprofitable servant. As Christs servants we have been bought with a price so that we are not our own. We belong to another. We belong to Him (I Corinthians 7.23). We are not the servants of men. The duty of the servant is to do the will of the master. As His servants it should not merely be our duty but our delight to serve Him. When it becomes mere duty then something is amiss.

 

In a day to come it may well be that we hear those lovely words, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord How wonderful. There will be no pride then. There will be no personal glory then so why now? Everything that we are and hope to be and everything that we have done for Him we owe to Him. Let us be possessors of the mind of Christ that we will not look to our own things but rather to the things of others and that we, as servants, may go along with the lowly (as one has translated Romans 12.16), in the same way that He did (Philippians 2).

 

Verses 11-19 Ten lepers

 

11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

 

The first verse is of interest for, as mentioned earlier at the end of chapter 9, the Lord Jesus made His way to Jerusalem on His journey. It is strange that Samaria, the most southerly of the regions and the one closer to Jerusalem, is mentioned first of all. Could it be that He travelled along the boundary between the two regions, to the river Jordan, and then followed the course of that river down to Jericho, at which location we find Him in the next chapter.  The Saviour reached a certain village. It existed that we know but it is not necessary for us to know the name of the village. We cannot find this information out from the other accounts for this passage is unique to Lukes writings.

 

He encountered a group of ten lepers. This was a common sight back then. In those days this was a nasty condition. The feeling was often lost. Limbs themselves could be lost as result of this disease. It was contagious. People who had this disease were separated from society. This very passage says that they stood afar off (this phrase is used in three consecutive chapters in Luke 16.23, here and 18.13 it may well that there is a gospel message in there somewhere!!).

 

Before such were accepted back into society the priest had to be satisfied that the leprosy had gone. They had to meet with his approval (Leviticus 13 and in particular the following chapter, Leviticus 14).

 

Perhaps it was that these lepers had heard of the Lord Jesus for they addressed Him as Master (verse 13). When the Saviour healed them it was done in a different way from, say, Mark 1:

 

40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.

42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;

44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

 

The lepers were told to go to the priest. By the way Luke 17 has the word priest in the plural. They had no offerings in their hands. The Lord Jesus did not touch them (He could have and the disease would not have affected Him; He would have done to banish the disease). They were to go at His command and nothing else would do. And they went. All ten of them went. There may have been some among them who thought that this was to be a short trip. They may well have thought that as soon as they got there they would be told to go away but they went in the direction of the priests. On the way their bodies changed. The disease went. Perhaps there was the thought among most that once this had happened that they had better hasten their steps to get to the priests quickly or find the necessary offering and then go. We are not told. We are not told if the one who came back to thank the Lord Jesus ever got to the priests. What we are told is that when he saw that he was healed, turned back. If he went to the priests it was after he went back to the Lord Jesus. He remembered the one who had made all this possible. He was the one who had authority over the disease. One wonders whether he went to the priests to get the all clear at all. No doubt he was encouraged to do so by the lord Jesus Himself but immediate after the healing his first thought was of the one who had told him to go.

 

Cleansing from leprosy was on thing but the Lord Jesus was able to do far more than that. Leprosy always speaks of sin. The Lord Jesus is able to deliver and cleanse from the penalty, the power and, one day, even the very presence of sin. The nine were content with physical blessing but they had no conviction in their heart about the one who blessed them. The one who returned to thank the Master was a Samaritan. We may say that there was nothing unusual about that when we have been told the area that the Lord Jesus passed through. What is surprising, though, is that he went with the others towards, presumably, Jewish priests. Perhaps this was not the case but that they were all Samaritans. We are not told but the implication is that they were Jews and he, a Samaritan, with them. Being a Samaritan appears not to have affected the others in any way. They had been outcasts being lepers. He being a Samaritan was going to make no difference to them for he was a leper and they shared a complaint. Perhaps he had gone with them because he went where they went. Perhaps there was comfort and companionship in this. He returned to give thanks so he must have gone some way to return having discovered the change to his skin. Perhaps he knew that now that his leprosy was gone his companions would be expected by society to reject him as he was a Samaritan (John 4.9). There is so much in this section that we are not told and it may be best to be careful as we delve deeply but there must be a reason for this piece of information that he was a Samaritan.

 

Moving on we recognise that the Samaritan came to know the God of heaven. This story is more about results and reaction that it is about the miracle (or ten miracles!!) itself. There are many who want the blessing without giving any thought whatsoever to the Blesser. God is interested in our hearts. He is able to do good things for us on the inside. If we are ill we go to the doctor or the hospital. If we need money we go to the bank. If we are sinful and we are, and separated from God (not from society as in the case of leprosy back then) then we need to go to Him. The world cannot help us in relation to eternal things. The lepers were healed. He did this for them.

 

What has He done for us? This is what this story is all about for God not only can deal with rottenness on the outside but on the inside too. God has loved and still does. There is no one who loves us as much as He. Here is one who loves more than a son or daughter or a mother. He came from heaven to experience sorrow and suffering. People wanted rid of Him. There were nails, a cross, and crucifixion with hours on that cross. He bore our sins in His body on the tree. He suffered more than any other because He loved us. I deserve eternal separation from God because of my sin (Romans 3.23). The one who never sinned died for the sinner. He died for me. The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2.20). It doesnt depend on me. He wanted me to be in heaven and so He came from heaven to do the work that would allow me the opportunity to get to that wonderful place. Romans 5.8, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were not appreciating Him, while we hated Him, He loved us. The work has been done. If we reject His love then the work is not undone. It remains done. He has still died for me. To appropriate His salvation we must have faith. We are to confess our sins to Him and believe that the work done upon the cross was for me. Were it possible to force people to be saved there would be no need of meetings to preach the gospel for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God and it is faith that is needed for Gods eternal salvation. What this last section teaches is that the hearts condition is more important than the outward condition.

 

 

Verses 20-37 The kingdom of God

 

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.

23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.

24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.

25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

32 Remember Lot's wife.

33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

 

An overview of Gods timetable

In the Jews view of Gods timetable the Church age is missing or hidden.

 

https://bible.org/assets/pagegrapics/future-1.gif

 

  Church age 33AD to now + ?  I  7 year tribulation  I  Christs 1,000 yr reign

 

It is the Pharisees who raise the matter of the kingdom of God. Their question was, When? The Saviour responded to that question by saying that there was no need to look for His coming (present tense) and neither in the future were they to say, Lo here! or Lo there! There was no need to do so.

 

In Matthew 24 the Lord tells His disciples that during the tribulation false reports of Christs coming will be common

 

Matthew 24:

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elects sake those days shall be shortened.

23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

25 Behold, I have told you before.

 

The kingdom of God in scripture is both physical and spiritual. The Pharisees wanted the physical when their King, the Messiah, would reign in glory across the whole world. The Lord says that there would be no outward show, nor could its coming necessarily be detected by very close watching or observation, however, He (Gods Son, His servant) was amongst them. The King, their King stood before them. He was in their midst. He spoke with them. He may not have been wearing the regalia associated with kingship for He had come in grace to deal with sins by His sacrifice upon the cross. That was no reason, however, for them to not recognise His greatness displayed in so many ways. They should have done so and realised that this was the purpose of His coming but that He would come again and then the world would see Him in great power. They didnt see Him or acknowledge him.

 

The Lord was explaining that it was also spiritual. Remember the inter play between the Lord and Nicodemus in John 3?

 

v 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be born?

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

 

To the disciples He had other things to say. No doubt they had heard what he had said to the Pharisees and some explanation was needed. The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. The Lord Jesus was about to leave them. The rejection they suffered being identified with Him at this stage was nothing compared to that which they faced once He had departed. These days were coming upon them and they would desire the days that they were then enjoying with Him in the midst, however, the next time that people in general (not just disciples) were to see Him was to be when He came in power and great glory. It could be, too, that after the Saviours return to heaven there were to be those who would look for Him and take notice of those who said that He was here or there. The disciples were to know the falsehood of such claims. They knew that He was to be no longer here or there. His days of being here and there were soon to be over and He was to be in heaven and the disciples were to understand that (that is what His discourse in John 14-16 is all about)

 

See Acts 1 extract:

 

Acts 1

7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath days journey.

 

Then the Saviour spelt it out very clearly. Once He had left earth for heaven the next time that He would be seen as the son of Man was to be in great glory. The title Son of man is interesting. It is used 84 times (possibly 85) in the gospel records in the King James Version. The title seems to be specially associated with the Lords life on earth. In the gospel accounts the first mention is in Matthew 8: 20

 

And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

 

The last mention is in John 13:31

 

Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.

 

An amazing contrast between the Lords humility and poverty on earth and the Lords glory in heaven

 

Before Christs physical kingdom is established as recorded in Matthew 24 there will be great signs and wonders as the rise of the false prophets takes place

 

24    For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

 

Whilst there were no signs and wonders in heaven when the church age was established (although there were signs and wonders upon the earth on occasions) the physical kingdom on earth will be established by Gods great wonders.

 

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 

The next time this world sees the Lord Jesus His coming will not be in some discreet outhouse in Bethlehem. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. There will be brightness. In the same way that the whole horizon is lit by the lightning, albeit briefly, so there will be a dazzling display of His glory such that the sky will be alight with a blaze of glory. This is not the coming for the church. That will be private. That will be in secret. He will come to the air and call His own to the air to meet them there. His feet will not touch the ground. He will come so far and we will go so far to meet Him and then together we will go to heaven. There will be no Mount of Olive experience for the believer of this age. In relation to the establishment of the kingdom upon earth, however, He will descend to the earth and establish Himself upon the earth.

 

Verse 25 The Lord spoke on numerous occasions about His rejection, suffering and death at Calvary. Before all these wonderful events are to take place then the Saviour must die. This is what was about to happen. This was the then immediate future. There had never been such a time in Israels history. God was dwelling upon the earth with His own people; further God had provided a Saviour (who is Christ the Lord):-

 

John 1 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12    But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

 

Enough for now about the Jews what about you? Have you heard the gospel before, have you sung some hymns or choruses describing the wonder and saving power of Gods Son if so what have you done about Him?

 

Then two illustrations are given for conditions that will be seen when the Son of man comes to the earth. The Illustrations (Noah & Lot) have a common theme:

 

  1. Gods intimate knowledge of the evil going on, upon the earth;
  2. Gods absolute abhorrence of sin;
  3. Gods decision to bring in judgement for sin;
  4. God provides a way of escape, a means of salvation;
  5. It is down to the individual to accept or reject Gods plan of salvation;
  6. God judgement is absolute and permanent;
  7. The decision between life and death can be surprisingly difficult to make.

 

Other references: Genesis 6: 13 to 15, 22, Genesis 7: 6, & 23 : Genesis 18: 17 to 20, Genesis 19: 4 to 11; 13 to 14; 17* 24 to 26

 

The first illustration concerns Noe (Noah). The days of Noah were identified by indifference, rejection of God & faith, and ordinariness. Similar words of the Lord confirm this (again in Matthew 24):-

 

37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

 

There is nothing wrong with eating, marriage, etc. The Lord is describing the ordinary cycle of life. There is a sharp contrast between the impending doom and judgment of the people in Noahs day, and their continuing as though everything was normal and set forever. Yet Noah had warned the people. What about you, when you have listened to the gospel?

 

In the Lot illustration the Lord is again affirming the ordinariness of life immediately before horrendous judgment. The interpretation is primarily to the Jews towards the end of the great tribulation and the return of the Lord to the earth.

Though not present in the text here the conditions in Lots time show the rise and practice of same sex relationships and sexual immorality before impending judgment (Genesis 19). There is a sense that the narrative can also apply to this world, now, just before the return of the Lord into the air for His church

 

Verse 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

 

In that day in the context of the Lord speaking, does not refer to the rapture but rather to the return of the Lord, at the end of the great tribulation. The illustration is much more Jewish in culture see Matthew 24: 15

 

15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

 

But what does the scripture mean? Verse 31 must be read alongside the following verse and Luke 21.20-21 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the town depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it.

 

What happened to Lots wife was, though explicitly told not to do so (just as the people in verse 31), that she looked back to see the judgment fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Her heart was there. God judged those places but all she did was look back. She did not go back. She did not retrieve anything from Sodom. She just looked back and the one who judged Sodom judged her. In verse 37 the person isnt even away up the mountains. He is upon the rooftop. It is but a slight detour to go inside and take what possessions are needed for the journey. Dont do it, says God. We take it that there will be a people who will have read scripture like this and when that day comes will know that that they have to leave immediately, that theirs is to be a lonely existence in the caves and the mountains. Matthew 24 tells us that the signal for imminent departure for those faithful to God in that day will be when the abomination of desolation is seen in the temple. This is a vast subject but three OT prophecies will help the one keen to find out what all this is about.


Daniel 9:27
 And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.

 

This scripture refers to the seventieth week of Daniels prophecy. Each week is a period of seven years commencing in 454BC (note the slight difference from the diagram above). In 2015, 69 of these weeks had taken place. The 69th week culminated in Messiah the Prince (the Lord Jesus) being cut off (dying upon the cross). This seventieth week is yet to take place and we believe that it will take place between the time known as the rapture (when the Lord descends from heaven to gather His people from the earth to meet Him in the air) and His final return to earth as described in verse 24 of this chapter. The period will be split into two equal periods of three and a half years so that when Daniel speaks of the midst of the week he refers to the time when the first three and a half years is complete. The verse in Daniel 12 shows that it is at this time that the abomination of desolation is set up for 1290 days. There are three periods of time given in Daniel 12 1335, 1260 and 1290 days (literal days) and these need further investigation!!! 1260 is accepted as being 42 months or three and half years (see also Revelation 11.3)

 

Daniel 11:31 And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate.

 

This refers to an event that was prophecy when Daniel wrote it but is now part of history. This prophecy was fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes interrupted the temple sacrifices between 168 and 165 B.C. The abomination was a statue raised to Zeus and compounded by a pig that Antiochus had offered on the altar in the temple complex. No doubt the coming abomination will be similar in some way to that which has already taken place in history.

 

Daniel 12:11 And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days.

 

The return of the Lord Jesus will occur after this period of time.

 

Verse 32 Remember Lots wife.

 

Lots wife represents those who have been stirred by Gods call, have started to respond to it, but then earthly possessions, friendships, culture, have weighed in upon the mind, and have drawn the person back, at the very moment they should have been fleeing to God.

 

The speaker pointed out two remembers in scripture. The Lord says, Do this in remembrance of me. Our passage says, Remember Lots wife.

 

We might recall that the last chapter (16) had this to say, But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. We have not yet encountered this verse (it is in chapter 23) but the dying thief had this to say while on the cross, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. We feel sure that there is a gospel message in these three remembers from Lukes account.  

Verse 33  Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

 

This has a gospel application as well as an interpretation in the current setting. Turning back will result in loss of life. Fleeing will mean that, despite great hardship, the life will be preserved for some time. Many who flee will in the passage of time also die and, sadly, some from starvation.

 

A s to the application - for the unsaved sinner, there is a choice to be made, (when God brings the person under conviction of sin and the availability of salvation) between saving the present life or giving it up (losing it) and enjoying the new Life in Christ.

 

Verses 34-36 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

 

What happens to those who taken away (rather than flee)? they are taken away for judgment

 

The implication of the 3 verses is that the event happens across the world, in a scene of normality. In one place there are men sleeping (at night?), at the same time there are women grinding (in the morning?), whilst there are men in the field (morning, noon or afternoon?)

 

The challenge is rather than wondering about the matter academically, but to be ready spiritually for the Lords return. See Matthew 24:40 - 44

 

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

 

Verse 37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

 

This verse seems to confirm that the that those taken away (in the earlier verses 34 36) become the bodies in this verse which are fed upon by the vultures (rather than the word eagles)

 

Conclusion

 

For both Jew and Gentile, albeit it under different circumstances and conditions: Christs return for them can be one of joy and celebration (if they have prepared and made themselves ready for Christs return) or one of loss and death if they have ignored or rejected Gods way.