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.”
Jesus refers to two historical events in this passage on the coming of the kingdom of God and the accompanying judgment to follow. Both would be familiar histories to the Jewish people at that time. He speaks of the “days of Noah” and the “days of Lot,” two periods marked by great evil and inescapable judgment.
Of the days of Noah, we are told, “The LORD saw the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6, italics mine). Of the days of Lot, we read, “the outcry against both Sodom [Lot’s hometown] and [the nearby] Gomorrah was great and their sin was very grave” (Genesis 18:20). There were not even ten righteous souls to be found to save Sodom from destruction (vv. 22-33). The men of Sodom were “wicked, great sinners against the LORD” (Genesis 13:13) and “did an abomination before Him” (Ezekiel 16:50). Sodom’s guilt extended to pride, overfed and prosperous ease and a disregard for the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49). 2 Peter 2:7 speaks of the “sensual conduct of the wicked,” and Genesis 19:4-11 records the sin of their lusting homosexuality, even to the extent that when struck with blindness, they “wore themselves out groping” for their intended victims.
Jesus might have used any of these vile examples to warn his listeners of mankind’s sure and coming judgment. Instead, though, Jesus surprises us by commenting not on the excesses and gross wickedness of those in Noah’s day or Lot’s day, but on their apathy and disregard of anything other than their material world, even up to the point of their doom. Judgment came upon them before they realized their error in neglecting their need for salvation.
It seems mankind’s tendency is to play down his sins, to disregard the assault our sins are to the character and nature of our maker, whose image we bear in the world. If we acknowledge our shortcomings or sins at all we often subconsciously rank them in relation to the scope of other worldly sins. Such phrases as “at least I don’t ____ like so and so,” or, if we’re very nearsighted, we may even try to recommend ourselves with such thoughts as, “I’m, basically a pretty good person; I do _____ for so and so and _____ for thus and such.”
But, again, what is the great warning Jesus gives in Luke 17? It is a warning to those who go through life nonchalantly, ignoring the reality of God around them and believing they have all the time in the world to address their spiritual selves. Of all the sins in which the people in Noah’s or Lot’s days participated, the sin Jesus highlights appears to be just good, simple living—eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, buying and selling, planting and building (vv. 27-28); nothing we would consider “evil.” Nevertheless, their days ended abruptly in sure judgment. They were caught unaware, and there was no time left to address their need for deliverance.
So it will be for all mankind, either at the point of physical death or in the day of the Son of Man— “There will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left” (vv. 34-35)
“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Thank you to Pastor Dave Monreal for the above insight (09-15-13).
[Painting by John Lewis Krimmel, Country Wedding, 1820]