Sermon title:  WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE, WHEN CHRIST RETURNS?

Luke 17:20-37 and 18:8   

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 2, 2019

 

 

There’s an old saying

that a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

There weren’t any pictures, of course,

in the original manuscripts of the Bible.

 

But God often uses visual illustrations in the Scriptures

to teach us lessons.

 

For example, at Proverbs 30:27 he points to

the grasshopper-like insect called the “locust”

and he says,

 

“Locusts—-they have no king,

but they march in formation.”

 

People in the Middle East were familiar with locusts,

and so they could picture them in their minds,

marching in formation.

 

We’re more familiar with ants than with locusts,

so, in Proverbs 6, beginning with Verse 6, he says,

 

6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.

Learn from their ways and become wise!

 

7 Though they have no prince

or governor or ruler to make them work,

8 they labor hard all summer,

gathering food for the winter.

 

We can all recall times when we’ve seen ants

busy gathering food to take back to their nests.

 

We see them in our mind’s eye,

and we grasp how the picture of the industrious ant

can teach lazy people a lesson.

 

In a similar way,

the Lord uses past events

as illustrations to teach us about the future.

 

In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 10,

the Apostle Paul writes about

certain events from Old Testament history,

and he says,

 

“these things took place as examples for us,”

and

“they were written down for our instruction..

 

Similarly, in Luke Chapter 17,

which we read from in our Responsive Reading this morning,

our Lord Jesus uses

the flood of Noah’s day

and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,

as word pictures

to illustrate for us

what it will be like for this world

when Christ returns.

 

According to Verse 20, he was

 

“asked by the Pharisees

when the kingdom of God would come.”

 

We know that the Pharisees made themselves enemies of Jesus.

 

They were jealous of his popularity,

and they were angry that he exposed their hypocrisy.

 

When they asked him questions,

they often did so with wrong motives,

trying to trip him up in his words,

to get him into trouble

with the people or with the authorities.

 

They rejected Jesus and denied that he came from God.

 

So, on this occasion, too, when they asked the Lord

when the kingdom of God would come,”

he would have responded,

not just to their question,

but also to what was in their hearts.

 

They refused to recognize Jesus

as the promised King of God’s kingdom.

 

So, we read that “Jesus replied,

 

‘The coming of the kingdom of God

is not something that can be observed,

21 nor will people say, “Here it is,”

or “There it is,”

because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”

 

Jesus is the King of the kingdom of God,

and he was standing there in their midst,

yet they didn’t recognize him as King.

 

Some older translations say “the kingdom of God is within you,”

and many liberal teachers have used that

to present the kingdom of God

as a just a good, godly feeling in people’s hearts.

 

But, remember that Jesus addressed this to the Pharisees

who certainly did NOT have the kingdom in THEIR hearts.

 

So, I think the translation that

“ ‘the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”

is more accurate.

 

And most modern translations do render it that way.

 

The New Living Translation renders it,

 

You won’t be able to say,

‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’

 

For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”

 

Jesus, the King, was indeed already standing there among them.

--------------------------

 

After addressing the Pharisees’ question,

the Lord stopped talking to those enemies of his

and began to speak, instead, to his disciples.

 

We don’t know whether he just turned his back on the Pharisees,

or turned away from them,

and led his disciples off to a more private place.

 

In any case, the next verse tells us,

 

22 Then he said to his disciples,

 

“The time is coming

when you will long to see

one of the days of the Son of Man,

but you will not see it.

 

So, he let the disciples know

that he would soon be leaving them for a while.

 

In Verse 26, he added,

 

But first he must suffer many things

and be rejected by this generation.

 

Christ would suffer many things.

 

H would be crucified,

rise from the dead on the 3rd day,

and then ascend to heaven.

 

The disciples would long to see him again,

but he would be gone for quite a while.

 

After that, there would be false reports of Christ’s return.

 

He said,

 

23 People will tell you,

 

There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’

Do not go running off after them.

 

24 For the Son of Man in his day

will be like the lightning,

which flashes and lights up the sky

from one end to the other.

 

So, Jesus used flashing lightning

as a picture to illustrate

what his return would be like.

 

There would be false reports that Christ had returned.

 

False teachers would say, ‘Come here to find him,’

‘You will find him over there.’

 

But Jesus said not to believe them.

 

When he returns, you won’t be able to miss it,

just like you can’t miss thunder and lightning.

 

But, in the early 1800’s a man named William Miller

began to teach falsely that Christ would return

in the Spring of 1843.

 

Miller attracted followers from many different churches.

 

When nothing happened on the expected date,

he re-calculated to the Spring of 1844,

and then again to a date in the Autumn of 1844.

 

When nothing happened

on any of those dates

 most of William Miller’s followers

went back to their own churches.

 

But some of his die-hard followers

began forming various Adventist denominations.

 

Ellen White’s Seventh-Day Adventists

held on to the 1844 date

and claimed that some of Christ’s prophetic parables

were fulfilled in 1844,

as Christ supposedly began

an Investigative Judgment among believers.

 

Another Adventist group

claimed they found a 30-year error

in William Miller’s calculations,

and they began teaching that Christ would return in 1874.

 

When nothing happened on the expected date,

they insisted they could not be wrong,

and so Jesus must have returned invisibly.

 

A young member of that group, named Charles Taze Russell,

broke away and started his own Watch Tower magazine.

 

That Watch Tower magazine also taught

that Christ returned invisibly in 1874.

 

Russell’s group later changed its name to “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”

and also re-calculated the date to 1914.

 

They teach that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914.

 

At Matthew 24:26, our Lord spoke on another occasion

along the same lines

as in his address to his disciples in Luke.

 

And he warned against

just that sort of false teaching.

 

He said,

26 "If therefore they tell you,

'Behold, he is in the wilderness,'

don't go out;

'Behold, he is in the inner rooms,'

don't believe it.

 

27 For as the lightning flashes from the east,

and is seen even to the west,

so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

 

Jesus isn’t lurking invisibly in the “inner rooms”

of some cultic group.

 

He didn’t return invisibly in 1844 or 1874 or 1914,

because when he does come again,

it will be as unmistakable

as when flashes of lightning light up the whole sky,

and everyone sees it,

and everyone knows what happened.

 

That’s also why I personally don’t go along with

the secret rapture’ theory of the Left Behind novels and movies,

where all the Christians suddenly disappear,

leaving everyone else wondering for 7 years

as to just what happened to them.

 

Those novels and movies

show everyone puzzling over what happened.

 

I believe that when Jesus comes again

to Rapture us to heaven,

with the voice of the Archangel

and the sound of God’s trumpet,

it will be like when

the lightning flashes from the east,

and is seen even to the west.

 

No one will miss it

when Christ returns

and Raptures us back to heaven with him.

 

Also, the destruction of this sinful, ungodly world will begin.

 

It will all happen suddenly,

catching unbelievers off guard.

 

That’s what Jesus goes on to describe

in Luke 17:26,

where he uses what happened in the flood of Noah’s day

as a picture to illustrate

what his return will be like.

 

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah,

so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.

 

27 People were eating, drinking, marrying

and being given in marriage

up to the day Noah entered the ark.

 

Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

 

The ones who obeyed God—just Noah and his family—

entered the ark,

and then the flood began,

destroying that ancient world.

 

Christ will Rapture true Christians to heaven,

and then the destruction of this sinful world will begin.

 

Just as it was in the days of Noah,

so also will it be,” when Jesus returns.

 

Then the Lord went on to give

another word picture to illustrate what his return will be like.

 

He said it will be like when God destroyed

the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

He said,

 

28 “It was the same in the days of Lot.

People were eating and drinking,

buying and selling, planting and building.

 

29 But the day Lot left Sodom,

fire and sulfur rained down from heaven

and destroyed them all.

 

30 “It will be just like this

on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

 

Christ will come back

and Rapture us believers out of this wicked world,

just as he sent angels to bring Lot and his family

out of Sodom.

 

Back then,the day Lot left Sodom,

fire and sulfur rained down from heaven

and destroyed them all.”

 

When all of us believers have left this world in the Rapture

then destruction of this world will follow.

 

Then our Lord added,

 

31 On that day no one who is on the housetop,

with possessions inside,

should go down to get them.

 

Likewise, no one in the field

should go back for anything.

 

32 Remember Lot’s wife!

 

That’s similar to the language Jesus uses

in Matthew Chapter 24, when speaking about

the First Century destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

 

The Gospels often do present together

what Jesus said about the end of Jewish Jerusalem

and then end of this world when Christ returns.

 

But here he seems to be telling us

not to look back

when this world is destroyed.

 

When he comes to take all of us believers home to heaven,

we shouldn’t bemoan the fact

that we didn’t get to drive the new car we just bought,

or that we didn’t get to

move into our new vacation home

on the Vineyard.

 

We shouldn’t be like Lot’s wife

who apparently longed for

the things she was leaving behind in Sodom.

 

To follow Christ,

we need to be willing to give up

our life in this world

and all the possessions we have in this world.

 

Jesus goes on to say,

 

33 Whoever tries to keep their life

will lose it,

and whoever loses their life

will preserve it.

 

Trying to preserve our life in this world

would involve compromising our walk with Christ.

 

Trying to keep our life in this world

would mean taking on the ways of this world

instead of standing out as followers of Jesus.

 

Trying to preserve our life in this world

would mean that we don’t pick up our cross

and follow him to the cross.

 

When times of extreme persecution come

those who don’t really belong to Christ

deny him, to save their own lives.

 

But our Lord says,

 

33 Whoever tries to keep their life

will lose it,

and whoever loses their life

will preserve it.

 

At Matthew 16:25, he says,

“whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

 

And then here in Luke, Jesus goes on to tell

how he will pluck us out

from wherever we are

to take us to heaven with him in the Rapture.

 

It will be a time of separation,

when the Lord shows

that he knows those who belong to him,

and those are the ones he will take with him.

 

He says,

 

34  I tell you, on that night

two people will be in one bed;

one will be taken and the other left.

 

35 Two women will be grinding grain together;

one will be taken and the other left.”

 

There won’t be time then,

when the Lord is taking the believer,

for the unbeliever to say,

‘Wow, Jesus, I guess you’re real after all.

I believe now.

Take me, also!’

 

It will be too late.

 

Two people will be side by side—

one a believer and the other a non-believer—

and the believer will be taken up to heaven,

while the non-believer will be left.

 

The disciples asked about the fate of those

who are left.

 

37 “Where, Lord?” they asked. 

 

He replied,

“Where there is a dead body,

there the vultures will gather.”

 

So, Jesus tells us his return

 will be like the flood of Noah’s day

and like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

In the 4th Chapter of his 1st Letter to the Thessalonians

the Apostle Paul sums it all up for us.

 

Beginning at 1 Thessalonians 4:16,

he describes how Christ will return,

raise to life all the faithful Christians

who have died over the years,

and will Rapture all of us to heaven

and then pour out destruction

on this corrupt and wicked world.

Paul writes,

 

16 For the Lord himself

will come down from heaven,

with a loud command,

with the voice of the archangel

and with the trumpet call of God,

and the dead in Christ will rise first.

 

17 After that,

we who are still alive and are left

will be caught up together with them in the clouds

to meet the Lord in the air.

 

And so we will be with the Lord forever.

 

18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

 

1 Now, brothers, about times and dates

we do not need to write to you,

2 for you know very well

that the day of the Lord

will come like a thief in the night.

 

3 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.

 

How many will there be,

watching for the return of Christ,

and waiting to be taken to heaven with him?

 

In the days of Noah,

when God sent the flood

and destroyed the world of that time,

there were only 8 people

who went into Noah’s ark.

 

When God sent angels

to lead Lot and his family out of Sodom

before raining down fiery destruction on that city,

there were ultimately only 3 people who escaped.

 

What about today’s world?

 

At Luke 18:8, our Lord Jesus asked

the rhetorical question,

“when the Son of Man comes,

will he find faith on the earth?"

 

 

The New Living Translation paraphrases that,

 

“But when the Son of Man returns,

how many will he find on the earth

who have faith?”

 

The Contemporary English Version renders it,

 

“But when the Son of Man comes,

will he find on this earth

anyone with faith?”

 

Toward the end of his life

the Apostle Paul wrote at 2 Timothy 4:7,

 

“I have fought the good fight,

I have finished the race,

I have kept the faith.”

 

May each of us, likewise,

be determined to keep the faith.