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“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: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. 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. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. 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. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 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. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. 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. 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”—Luke 17:20-37.
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There are several distinct sections to this portion of scripture. In verses 20 and 21 we have the question of the Pharisees concerning the kingdom of God, and our Lord’s answer. Remember, Jesus had been ministering in the land of Palestine for three and one-half wonderful years, and He had given evidence after evidence of His Messiahship. On more than one occasion the Father’s voice had proclaimed from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;” John the Baptist bore witness of Him before He came and after; His own works testified to His true character, to His Deity, in that He was the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. But these blind Pharisees did not see the truth concerning Jesus. We say sometimes that there are none so blind as those who will not see. These Pharisees were like that. They would not recognize His authority; and therefore nothing that He did, no witness that the Father bore of Him, nothing John the Baptist had said, could convince them. They were determined to refuse His claims. Now they came and put the question to Him: “When will the kingdom of God come?” It was as much as to say, You have been preaching about the kingdom of God; when will this kingdom actually appear? He answered, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” That is, it will not come with outward show. They were looking for the Son of David to appear among them, to raise up an army and deliver them from the Roman yoke and proclaim Himself King over all the world. But Jesus did not have any such program in mind. He came to sow the good seed of the kingdom, and so He said the kingdom would not come with an outward show. He declared, “The kingdom of God is within you.” There is a question among competent Christian scholars as to the exact meaning of this expression. If we take it just as it is translated here—that the kingdom of God is within us—then it means that the kingdom of God has to do with the acknowledgement of the Lord’s authority in our own lives, sanctifying the Lord God in our own hearts, recognizing Him as the righteous Sovereign. On the other hand, there are many who believe that this expression should have been translated, “the kingdom of God is among you.” That is, the kingdom was already present in embryo. Frankly, I rather think that is the real meaning of the Lord’s words. These Pharisees asked when the kingdom would be set up, and Jesus said the kingdom is here now, and you have not eyes to see. The kingdom of God is among you. The King Himself is here, attended by the members of His cabinet. In the regeneration, the golden age to which men have always been looking forward, He says, as recorded in Matthew 19:28, “Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The twelve apostles, in that sense, were His cabinet, the official members of His kingdom. So the kingdom of God was in their midst and they knew it not.
After the Pharisees had left He turned to His disciples and gave them a word of warning. He was going away as He had told them several times before, but they had not understood. In His absence they would be exposed to many dangers and to false leaders. So Jesus said to them, “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.” It is as though He said, You will be longing for the Son of Man and you will not see Me, I will be absent from you, away in the heavens. “And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.” Time after time through the centuries since Jesus went back to the glory, men have appeared who have given out that they had come to fulfil the promises of God, each claiming to be the Christ. But those who bear in mind the Saviour’s warning are not deceived by these charlatans. When Jesus returns again it will not be in weakness but in power. He will not come into this world a second time through the gate of birth, but will be revealed from heaven in power and great glory. “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.” “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God.” His advent will be altogether different from that in which He came in lowly grace to give His life for the salvation of a lost world.
But the Lord reminded His disciples that first He must suffer many things and be rejected of that generation, even as it came to pass. He is the rejected One still, even though throughout Christendom people profess to revere His Name; but the great majority have never yet opened their hearts to Him and owned Him as their Redeemer and King.
“Our Lord is now rejected;
And by the world disowned,
By the many still neglected,
And by the few enthroned;
But soon He’ll come in glory,
The hour is drawing nigh,
For the crowning day is coming
Some have an idea that He will not come again Until the whole world is converted, until His gospel has permeated the nations, and all have acknowledged His righteous rule; but that is not what Jesus taught; it is not what He told His disciples. He said, “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.” The whole world was not converted in the days of Noah. “They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” Corruption and violence filled the earth in those days. There were a few families where God was known, but they finally dwindled down to one—Noah and his household. When the Lord comes the second time He will not find the whole world waiting to receive Him, but sin will be rampant as in the days of Noah. Observe that the antediluvians were interested in the ordinary things that occupy the minds of men and women. They did not believe the message of Noah, but lived in utter indifference to God until the day when Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them. So we gather from this passage that the world will go on as it is going now. Men will be occupied with the various affairs of life but indifferent to the claims of Jesus until that hour when He returns. He is coming back in power and glory, and men will realize too late how foolish they have been to reject Him.
The Lord uses another illustration along the same line. He says, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went ,out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” There is nothing wrong in these things to which He calls attention. There is nothing wrong in eating and drinking, in buying or selling; there is nothing wrong in planting or building. These things are perfectly right in themselves, but it is wrong to be so occupied with them as to forget the things of God and eternity. Jesus did not even mention the terrible sins that characterized the cities of the plain; He speaks only of ordinary things. They were living as though there were no judgment to come, as though there were no God to whom they were responsible. And while they were going on like this the judgment came; it came so suddenly that there was no escape from it. We read, “But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” The Lord makes the application: “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” Because that day will be one of terrible confusion here on the earth, He says, “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.” That is, there will be no use trying to save something out of the wrecked world; it will be too late. It will be useless to attempt a way of escape for men who have rejected the only One in whom they might have found security.
In just three words our Lord next gives a very solemn warning: “Remember Lot’s wife.” Why should we remember her? Because she was almost saved, and yet she was lost. She was a wife of a godly man; she had even entertained angels in her home; she was in the way to being saved, but she was destroyed at last. Why? Because after she had left Sodom, her heart was still there. She had never taken her true place before God, and when Sodom went down she went down with it. We may well remember Lot’s wife. Especially does this warning apply to those who belong in Christian homes, who have had godly parents, who have heard the Word all their lives, and with whom the Spirit of God has striven. They have said in their hearts, “I ought to turn to Christ, I ought to trust Him, but I cannot yield myself to Him now.” Remember, oh, remember Lot’s wife! Remember, one may be almost saved but lost forever.
“‘Almost’ cannot avail;
‘Almost’ is but to fail!
Sad, sad, that bitter wail—
Our Lord adds, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” That is, he who lives for self, for pleasure, or wealth, for what this earth has to offer, will find at last that he has missed everything really worth-while. Whereas, he who is content, for Christ’s sake, to forego what men ,of the world value will find that he has riches for eternity of inestimable worth. I presume that during the years Lot dwelt in Sodom he had made quite a little fortune. Probably he had a very fine residence. I gather from the Scriptures that he had succeeded in making a name for himself. We read that he “sat in the gate of Sodom,” which implies that he was a judge. When the judgment fell, Lot was saved, but only by fire. He got out of Sodom in time, but he lost everything for which he had labored during all those years. He himself was saved, but everything else was lost. There are many who will be in heaven because they have really trusted Christ, but who will find that all their works will be burned up at the judgment-seat of Christ.
Jesus uses next a very striking illustration to show the separations that will take place in the day of His coming. In one part of the world it will be night when that event takes place. So He says: “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.” In another part of the world it will be sunrise, and women will be preparing the morning meal. So He tells us, “Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Elsewhere it will be full day, and He declares, “Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and other left.” How solemn! It speaks of an eternal separation. His coming is certain, but the time is uncertain. It behooves us all to be ready. When He comes judgment will be meted out to all Christ-rejecters.
“Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” Dispensationally, the carcass, refers to the putrid mass of false profession centered in Jerusalem in the last days. The eagles are the armies of the nations that will be gathered together against that city. But looked at morally, the lesson is a solemn one for every unsaved person who is found out of Christ in the day of His wrath, who will be exposed to the wrath of God. Like eagles, or really vultures, devouring decaying carcasses, so the judgments of God will fall on all who have spurned His grace.