The Lord’s Sudden Coming

dscn0009Luke 17:26-30

People like stories. Sometimes we call them movies or plays, but they are all stories. We like to follow the carefully crafted plot where the protagonists encounter various trials or tragedies through all the breadth of human emotions yet emerge happy and victorious in the end. But sometimes we willingly suffer through a tragedy in which the protagonists meet a sad end, such as Romeo and Juliet. We read or listen to movie or book reviews by the critics and recommendations by friends, so that we spend our time and money on the best stories. Who wants to attend a movie and be bored to tears or disturbed needlessly for two hours or more?

Our lives are part of a great story that we call history, and people love to write their own “reviews” about the way the story should go. Basically, people only “write” a couple different kinds of reviews:

  • History is absurd and meaningless. Nothing makes sense. This answer does not satisfy most people, and if it is true, even their review is senseless.
  • History is an unending story, endlessly repeating itself. This view is getting a lot of attention today as people listen to psychics, mediums, and so on. Fabled ancient Atlantis must have been a gigantic place, because “everybody” seems to have lived there at least once! All of this lacks the least proof.
  • History and humanity are getting better and better. Oh, there might be a few downturns, but look at the progress we’ve made! This is the view of most people, regardless of how they vary the story line. This “non-Christian view believes in a gradual and indeed an inevitable progress. It may sometimes describe the progress as being the result of the interaction of action and reaction, or of thesis and antithesis, but it still believes that there is within the world a principle at work which, slowly but surely, is leading steadily in the direction of an ultimate perfection” (Lloyd-Jones, Evangelistic Sermons, p. 282).
  • Opposed to all these is the Biblical view that history is moving toward God’s goal. As has often been said, “History is His story; that is, God’s story.” The plot focuses on God proclaiming to humankind his infinite value and how we can experience joy when we turn back to God. History has a destination, but it involves two destinies for people: glory or judgment. History does not inevitably get better. No, instead it involves a series of crises in which God works in grace and judgment. Think of the Flood, Sodom, the formation of Israel, and the cross of Christ.

In this passage, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us about the great event that will bring about the end of this world’s history: His sudden return in power and glory.

The Lord Jesus will return unexpectedly.

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26-30 ESV).

Notice that the normal activities of life will be going on (17:27-28). When Jesus lists these activities, he is not condemning them. In fact, he created us to do them, in the proper way (1 Corinthians 10:31). Human life is the same as in ancient times. We like to imagine amazing changes, but the basics of life remain. Only our technology has changed. We might get our water from a reservoir and a water treatment plant instead of a muddy river, but we still drink water.

The problem with the people referred to by Jesus was that those people were immersed in those activities apart from a concern for God. They were not glorifying God and enjoying him as they enjoyed God’s gifts. God was not in their thoughts; therefore, all these things “have become evidences of gross materialism, false security, and often cold selfishness” (Hendriksen). This is the root problem that the Bible calls “worldly-mindedness”. The people who lived in the days of Noah and of Lot committed many acts of wickedness, but the Lord passed by those things to expose the underlying attitude. Greed, violence and sexual immorality spring from the same source or heart attitude, worldly-mindedness. Remove the root and the weeds disappear. Worldly-mindedness ignores the highest part of human nature and lives only for the lowest. People were made to relate to God and not to live solely for the mundane parts of creaturely existence. God made us to eat, drink, marry, buy, sell, plant and build. All are lawful activities, until you begin to live for them. What are you living for? Do you have and make room for God in your thoughts and way of life?

Grace and peace, David

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