The Lord’s Sudden Coming (Part Two)

img_4308Luke 17:31-37

Pause for a moment and think about your life today. What did you do? Probably you did stuff you usually do, starting with your wake-up routine, unless you work third shift like I used to. Third shifters begin their days with work! In any case, most of what you did was what you usually do on any work day: get dressed, have breakfast, commute to work, work, talk to people, work, lunch break, work, commute home, take care of your pet, talk to family, have supper, try to relax, and go to bed.

The world is often deceived by “usualness” (2 Peter 3:3-7). Worldly-mindedness ignores the next world and only lives for and in conformity with this present world. Everything went along fine for those people, up to the day Noah entered the ark or Lot left Sodom. But you see, they had not thought about any sudden catastrophe ending their world! Everyone proceeded on the assumption that everything would always go on as it always had (2 Peter 3:4)! God and judgment were not in the thoughts. They thought that God will never bring judgment, just as everyone thought jets would never be used as bombs to destroy buildings. “It will never happen,” is the carefree attitude.

The people of Noah’s day and of Sodom were not expecting judgment. The sun rose on both mornings, as it had on all other mornings. You can almost hear them taking about the weather, breakfast, their plans for the day, Uncle Herman’s bad knee, and how nosy Aunt Mabel had been lately. Yet sudden judgment fell. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NIV).

The worldly-minded person ignores God, his kind warnings, and his gracious offers of salvation. Again, we see that human nature does not change. People ignorantly imagine that to be godless, irreligious and antichristian is very modern or postmodern. “Don’t be bound by the chains of a worn-out religion! Be chic, urbane, sophisticated and pleasure loving!” The truth is that godlessness and wickedness are very ancient. Noah was a preacher of righteousness and the whole world ignored him. Lot pleaded with his sons-in-law, and they thought he was just joking (Genesis 19:14).  “Irreligion and godlessness should never cause a true Christian to be pessimistic or to be filled with doubt as to whether the gospel is true or not after all. For it has all been predicted” (Lloyd-Jones, p. 292). When people ignore God’s warnings, they only spite themselves. The refusal to hear Noah or Lot did not stop those judgments from coming. My friend, do you think shutting your ears to Christ’s kind words will prevent his coming? You deceive and injure only yourself.

Christ’s return will be a time of separation (17:34-35). Some will be rescued from the wrath about to fall; others will be left for judgment. The Bible does not teach in anyway “universal salvation”. There is a heaven to gain and a hell to flee, and all people will experience both: some the one destiny, some the other. The Lord’s sudden coming will affect the righteous and unrighteous at the same time. In a moment, the godly will be removed from the judgment about to fall, just as Noah and Lot were. Life was going on normally for God’s people, too, when God rescued them from wrath. Salvation will come suddenly. So will wrath. Some people will be left for judgment, just as those of Noah’s day and the people of Sodom.

Physical closeness will not save. In this way, the coming judgment is different from the Flood and Sodom. What mattered then was whether you were inside or outside the ark or outside or inside the city. Physical relationship or personal friendship will not matter when Christ returns. One will be taken and the other left.

Though Christ will come to rescue his chosen people, his return will be the instrument of judgment on those who do not believe (17:27, 29-30, 37). Universal judgment will fall on all those left (17:27, 29-20). The haunting refrain is “and destroyed them all”. Certain judgment will fall on all those left (17:37). As vultures feast on carrion, so the ministers of God’s wrath will come on the spiritually dead.

Are you ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? In the Gospels, Jesus often spoke about his return. He exhorted people to be prepared and alert. The only way to be ready is to turn to God in repentance and faith in Christ. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

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