Sermon: The Blessed Hope of Christ’s Appearing (Luke 17:21-37)

Luke 17.21-37 AUDIO

The Blessed Hope of Christ’s Appearing

Luke 17:21-37

Introduction

Last week we looked at verses 20 and 21 to discover Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees’ question of when the Kingdom of God would occur.  If you remember, Jesus said if you’re looking for it to begin in the future, you’re already mistaken because it’s here now.  We discussed the reality of God’s Kingdom being a spiritual kingdom, not of this world.  It is an already established reality.  It came with Christ’s first coming.

Today, Jesus shifts gears and addresses His disciples and begins to teach them what they need to know about the Kingdom of God concerning the future and Jesus’ second coming.  The Kingdom of God began with His first coming and will find it’s final fulfillment at His second Coming.

There is one issue before we start, to address.  As if the second coming isn’t challenging enough, we have a manuscript issue to look at briefly.

The first thing that I want you to notice as you look through it, we’re going to be looking at verses 22 to 37, is that in some of your Bibles you may not have a verse 36, or in some of your Bibles verse 36 may be bracketed or in italics. The reason that is, your English translators of your Bible are telling you that that verse is not found in some manuscripts. Now lest that cause you some problem, I want to let you know that that verse is found in the gospel of Matthew (Mat. 24:40), so there’s no question at play as to whether what is said in Luke 17:36 is Biblical or not – it is.[1]

So whether we read the verse or not whether we look to Matthew’s manuscript, which has it, or Luke’s Gospel which doesn’t, it is saying the same thing either way…there are two people in close proximity one is taken one is not.

The second coming of our Lord is that event that all of God’s people wait for in anticipation.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. [2]

Please hear God’s Word concerning the second coming of Christ…

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 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. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” [3]

1. The Second Coming Will Be Unmistakable (Luke 17:22-24)

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.

In recent years, we have had end times predictions as to when the Lord will return.  Every time these quacks make their estimate they end up being wrong.  Jesus warns us not to follow after these nuts or crooks.  Some are truly deluded and others are money hungry and some are just Camping out.  Do not go out or follow them. Church, do not follow or ever get sucked in to these types of prophecy predictions.  We need not seek out minute details and predictions because Jesus says His second coming is an event that everyone will see and it will be unmistakable, you cannot miss it.  When it happens everyone on planet earth will know.  He says it will be as evident as someone looking up into the sky when lightning shoots across.

I remember a few weeks ago when the big storm hit, standing outside on the front porch looking at the sky when lightning shot all the way from the west to the east.  In a split second the whole sky was lit up like daytime and it was unmistakable.  Jesus says don’t get off track by seeking some minute prediction on the supposed details because this will only lead to confusion and conflict.  The reality of the second coming is that Jesus is coming back and when He does everyone will know it.

Jesus realizes that His followers as they endure tribulation and trials in life will at times be longing for His return that they could get sucked in to these end times scams.

Our Lord’s appearing will be unmistakable:

 7Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. [4]

I remember being in a church where one man was so consumed with end-times that about every week he came back with some Palestinian event that he just knew had some end-times meaning concerning Israel.  Every treaty signed and every minute detail he could uncover meant Jesus’ second coming was underway.  He was so consumed with end-times but when asked about the Gospel, he really didn’t have much of a clue about that.  He didn’t understand grace, repentance, or even how he was to live while waiting for the second coming.

This is exactly what Jesus tells us today through these verses…

2. The Second Coming is the Blessed Hope If We Understand the Cross

(Luke 17:25)

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

Jesus’ concern is that His followers not be so obsessed with His return that they forget His cross.  His point so far is to not crave the second coming to point of chasing after all things that make claims of it or don’t chase after signs like the Jews always were looking for but understand and be grounded in the cross.  If we have a solid grasp on the cross and the Gospel the second coming will be our blessed hope.  We won’t have to figure it out ahead of time but as Titus wrote, we can live for God’s glory while we wait for the appearing of our Lord.

The text uses language that should help us understand that the cross and Jesus’ suffering is not foreign to the divine plan of God to bring about the exaltation of His Son but rather it is an integral part of God’s plan.  The appearing of our Lord comes after the cross.  The cross is as much a part of God’s divine decree as is His Son glorious second coming.  It says, But first he must suffer many things and be rejected.

The reason for this suffering is in part at least that God’s Kingdom stands in tension with this generation.  Whenever Luke uses the phrase, this generation, he has in mind the generation of Israelites who died in the wilderness, the stiff-necked and stubborn generation from Exodus and Numbers.

The cross comes before the glorious return of Christ.  That may seem like a silly point to make but understand it is a deeply important point.  So before the second coming takes place, the elect must be ransomed.  God’s chosen and called must be freed.  This is the point of the cross here in this text.  Only through suffering will God’s will be fully accomplished in Jesus’ life.

It’s through suffering that joy and glory come.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [5]

Do you see the contrast here?  The disciples have their heads in the clouds desperately craving the final consummation of God’s redemptive plan and then Jesus shakes them back into reality by saying, the first thing that must happen is my death by crucifixion.  Don’t get ahead of God’s divine plan.  Suffering precedes glory.

This is huge for us today.  Don’t be so caught up with your end-times system that you neglect the cross and the gospel.  Because we are going to see that for the ones who do not understand the cross and the gospel the appearing of Christ is not the blessed hope, but the day of judgment.

A person may have an elaborate eschatological system they follow but if they don’t understand the Gospel, it has worked for their own destruction.  Please understand there is the temptation to try and figure out all the details because as believers we do long for our Lord’s return.  However, nine times out of ten folks who study and study end-times views end up forgetting to cross and the fact that we are called not to have eschatology figured out but we are called to love Christ and live our lives now for His glory while we wait for His return.

That’s why, if anyone here is waiting for Pastor Brian to lay out an end-times system with detailed charts and the latest newspaper clippings from the Jerusalem Times, I’m sorry but your wait will be in vain, because it won’t happen here.

Jesus is returning and until that day we must roll up our sleeves and get to work.

3. The Second Coming is the Blessed Hope if We Love Christ More than the World

26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 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. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife.

Days of Noah-

Jesus’ point here is that during the day when the godly Noah and his family waited for the flood, that generation of people who heard his warnings and preaching continued living their lives with no concern at all with what he was telling them.  They were going about their normal everyday lives without giving a single thought to the fact that what Noah was warning them about was looming on the horizon.

God sent the flood and it destroyed all those who were not His people.  All wicked unbelievers were destroyed that day.  Only those who took refuge in the ark were saved.

These unbelievers in Noah’s day loved this world more than they loved God.  They cared more about their earthly life than they did their souls.

Days of Lot-

The same point is made using the mentality and attitude of those in Lot’s day.  The people of Sodom were going about their daily lives of eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, They loved this world more than they loved God.  They too, died in judgment, not with a flood, but this time with fire.  Even lot’s wife who came so close of escaping the judgment had difficulty in letting go of this world.  Her heart was fixed not on the things of God but the things of the world.  She met a similar fate, as did all those in that wicked city.

Jesus goes on to say that…31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife.

As God’s people, bought with the blood of Christ, do not love this world more than Jesus and more than heaven.  If you do, the second coming will be judgment not blessing.

Please understand what our Lord is saying here.  We must love Him and the reality of heaven over all things.  Don’t have your arms wrapped around the things of this world.  If you’re on the roof and the Lord returns, do try to get down to retrieve your stuff.

If you were to walk up to just about anyone and lay out the doctrine of hell and the doctrine of heaven and say, now which one do you choose, almost everyone would, of course, pick heaven over hell.  Most lost people would pick heaven over hell.  But that’s not the choice laid out here in this text, or any other text in the Bible.

There is a great deal of difference between the desires of heaven in a believer and in an unbeliever.” I mean what unbeliever that you have ever met who even thought there was a remote chance that there was a place called hell who wouldn’t choose heaven over hell? But what Baxter is saying is, the way a believer wants heaven is different from the way an unbeliever wants heaven. Intriguing isn’t it? What does he say? “The believer prizes heaven above this world. The unbeliever prizes heaven only over hell. To the ungodly, there is nothing that seems more desirable than this world, and therefore he only chooses heaven over hell but not heaven over this world. And therefore he will not have heaven upon such a choice.” Do you hear what Baxter is saying? He’s saying exactly what Jesus is saying here. “If your arms are around your stuff, if your arms are around your crops, if the place that you really belong is in this world, you’ll get what you want and it won’t be heaven.[6]

The second coming is only the blessed hope if you prize Christ over this world.

4. The Second Coming is the Blessed Hope if We Love Christ more than Our Own Life (Luke 17:33-37)

33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” [7]

The word here is psyche which means life.  Now what Jesus is telling us is that if all our focus in this world are the things pertaining to preserving our own life and even making our life more comfortable at the expense of caring for our souls, we will loose the life we’ve tried so hard to preserve.  Rather than caring first and foremost about the things of this world concerning the preservation of our lives, such as food water and shelter, Jesus wants us to be concerned about our souls.

Jesus’ examples here deal with those who perhaps look very similar and yet, one has cared more for the things of Christ and the other for the things of the world.  One is like Noah and Lot and the other is like the people who disregarded the message to be saved.

We must always remember that the second coming is the blessed hope for all of God’s people but for everyone else the second coming means judgment.

The final phrase:  “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” [8]

Is a proverbial declaration of judgment.

The plain simple truth is that our Lord sends out this warning.  If you have your arms wrapped around this world you will end up like the world.  I pray you have your arms wrapped around Christ and you love Him supremely.

Remember, His coming cannot be missed.  It will be unmistakable.  We must never get so caught up in all the end-times systems that we loose sight of the cross and the Gospel.  Jesus warns us that if His coming is to be the blessed hope we must love Him more than the world and even more than our lives.

The Lord Jesus is pleading with all when He says, don’t be so connected to this world that when I come you can’t let go of your stuff.  Jesus warns us because in mercy He is calling men and women, boys and girls to embrace Him and love Him more than they love the things of this world.  Let go of your grip on material goods and embrace Christ.  Live for His glory and when He comes again we all will be ready.  His coming will truly be the blessed hope.


[1] Ligon Duncan on Luke 17:22-37

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Tt 2:11–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:22–37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Re 1:7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Heb 12:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] Ligon Duncan on Luke 17:22-37

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:22–37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:22–37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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