Christ Is Coming
Text: Luke 19:20–37
As I was preparing for this, I realized that you and I, we're going to die one day, probably. The reason I say probably is because Jesus might return before we die.
We have few things in our lives that ground us, that get us to think about the actual reality of what's going on, then the fact that Jesus is returning. It orients us into how we are supposed to live and think and where we are heading.
We live today in what we might call the age of distraction. We carry cell phones, a literal computer in our pocket that can access apps like social media, which are great. These are great for keeping up with friends and talking to other people, but for many of us they're just distractions. Or take for example this tweet from Netflix that said, “Sleep is my greatest enemy.” Netflix are doing everything they can to get us so dialed in, so distracted, that we can do nothing else.
We also live in an age of suffering. Believers across the world are suffering because we put our faith and our confidence in Christ.
There's injustice all over the place. This week at work I was reminded of a guy named Chris Watts, who in August 2018 in Colorado killed his pregnant wife and two daughters. The response too that is justice, “Bring justice, Lord.”
But thinking about the second coming reminds us that justice is coming, and that one day all this suffering and persecution will come to an end. It reminds us not to get distracted with the things of this world because one day they will be no more.
Remembering the second coming gives us fuel to fight the fight of faith because we know how sweet the reward is at the end of the run. But so few of us (at least in my experience) think much about the second coming.
Finding the Kingdom
Our text starts with a question from the Pharisees. They were asking, “When is the Kingdom of God coming?” Let’s look at verses 20–21:
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20–21 ESV)
The Pharisees set the topic of this section by talking about the kingdom of God. And Jesus begins by telling them that they've actually missed it. Jesus started the coming of the kingdom.
Remember we have been saying, “Jesus is the Son of God who came in power and authority to empower his people through the cross.” And the Pharisees missed it. Here in front of them was the Son of God, the Son of God who came in power and authority. Here's the King himself on earth, and in him is the kingdom of God. But they missed it.
This comes right after Jesus heals ten lepers. Healings are one of the signs that the kingdom of God is here. But the Pharisees are blind. They just miss that. The kingdom of God is here in the person of Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus transitions to talking to the disciples, and he moves to talking about a day when they will long for the kingdom of God to return, they will long for the second coming of Jesus.
We're going to see that the second coming is
As we go through each of these, I’ll stop for a point of application.
Lighting Up the Sky
First let's look at it being spectacular. This is much different than Jesus’s first coming: he came humble, born in a manger. The second coming is going to light up the sky. Everywhere from Asia to North America to Africa to South America. All over the world, they will all see it. No one will be able to mistake how spectacular it is. Look with me at verses 22–25:
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. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 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. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:22–25)
Picture the whole world engulfed in this huge lightning storm. You are not going to miss it. It is going to be bright. It is going to be loud. This is going to be visual. You are going to see it. You don't need to go around wondering, “Oh was that it?”
I remember as a kid I would go to firework shows, and I would constantly ask my parents during it, “Is this the finale. Is this it?” And they would say, “No, trust me, you will know when it is the finale.” And you know what. They were right. All the sudden the sky just lit up and the fireworks started pouring out faster than anyone could count. And you knew, this was the moment.
This will not be your regular rainstorm sprinkled with lightning. You will know that this is the grand finale. Here's how 1 Thessalonians 4:16 puts it: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
I heard a pastor this week call that the noisiest verse in the Bible. That's the point. The point is that this is going to be loud and bright and obvious. Jesus is coming. No one's going to miss it.
Confident and Eager
Here’s my application for this first point, the point that Jesus’s coming is going to be spectacular:
Are you confident, and therefore, eager for this return?
Let me explain. Think of why Jesus would take the time to mention that it would be spectacular. The disciples were so confident and so eager for Christ return that he didn’t want them to be tricked.
Well, we just heard that Jesus is first going to suffer and die, then these things are going to happen. The disciples have walked with Jesus when he lived and then when he returned. This was a friend as well as a teacher as well as the Messiah. They would have missed him like we miss our deceased relatives, plus for all the theological reasons we normally think of.
So it is likely that when the disciple hear someone say, “Jesus is back. I just saw him,” that they might be tempted to run and go look to see him. This is how real the second coming was for the disciples. It's so ingrained in their mind that he is coming back. It so on their minds that they might be duped into thinking that he has come back by these people who say he's here.
So my question is, are we as confident and eager for Jesus to come back as the disciples?
I've gotta be honest. I struggle sometimes to remember that is going to happen. And I'm almost positive many of you share the same struggle. Here is another way to ask this application: Am I convinced and convicted about the second coming or is this so far from your mind that I hardly think about it.
The kind of eagerness we are to have is like a kid whose birthday is just around the corner. You know how they get: “My birthday is only three weeks away. It’s only two days away. I’m going to be ten years old this year.” They are so eager. It is on their mind all the time. Sure they can think of other things and do other things, but given some spare time, given a hard day, they remember, “My birthday is coming.”
To be fair, some of us have this king of eagerness for Jesus’s return, because when we are suffering, like someone just died and we long to be with them, we are longing for relief. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that is a real way we are called to make it through suffering. We remember that we are heading toward an eternity where this suffering never exists.
But is the return of Jesus so delightful, so exciting, that we are thinking about it when we are belly laughing so hard it hurts or when we are playing that board game that we just love or that cinderella win in March Madness that just makes us bonkers. Do we ever think about it in those moments of joy and think to ourselves, “Oh, I can’t get enough of joy. I long for the day when my joy will be endless. I long for the day when my joy will be full.”
Are we excited and convinced about the second coming?
If you answered that it is hard to remember the second coming, and are wondering how you could stir up eagerness, try reading the book of Revelation. I know you will have a lot of questions, but try focusing on what is clear. And I think you will find an increasing excitement for the second coming.
Let’s look at point number two: the second coming will be sudden. Look with me at verses 26– 33
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. 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. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:26–33)
So we have these two famous example of stories in the Bible: 1) Noah and 2) Sodom.
Now, Jesus draws attention not to the all of the obvious sin going on in those generations. What he draws attention to is that they are living ordinary life — business as usual. They were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building (17:27).
Then all the sudden the waters come down and flood the earth. Or the people in Sodom were walking around the market buying their groceries for the week and fire rained down from heaven. The point is, this day will come suddenly.
Look at Matthew 24 where Matthew is summarizing the same thing Luke is. So verse 37 says: “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37)
And it continues. Look at how Matthew ends this section in verse 43:
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:43–44)
It will be sudden. A thief doesn't write to you saying “ I'm planning on robbing your house tonight at 3:30 AM.” That's not how it happens. He comes when you least expect it and robs you. The point is we got to be always ready for this. That's what Jesus is trying to get at.
Are You Ready?
Here’s my application for this second point:
Are you ready?
We spend much of our lives getting ready for worst case scenarios or the inevitable. We buy life insurance, emergency savings, have canned goods ready. We know it is good to be ready. But what in the world possess us to prepare for these times here on earth and not prepare for eternity?
The principal way that Jesus sees us being always is that we don’t have our treasure here no earth, but our treasure is Jesus himself.
So it's not that we stop doing the ordinary things. We can be marrying and giving in marriage and buying and selling and planting. But the point is that we will be doing all of those ordinary things but don’t set your hope there. We do ordinary things for extraordinary reasons, that is, for God's glory not for themselves as the end.
This makes us ready because when he returns we can leave any and everything behind because we were only doing it for him. If it’s not coming with us, then it doesn’t matter since the goal of all we do stands before us.
The danger is that when we do the ordinary things just for the ordinary things sake then we will love them too much. If we show up to work and we get our paycheck in order that we might get rich here on earth — so that we can buy the latest iPad or to eat out a lot or whatever, then we might fall in love with that lifestyle and not want to give it up when the time comes.
You might, for example, choose to plant things here and there, not because we want to make much of God, but just because, I don't know, I guess you love plants. You say to yourself, “I think they're beautiful and lovely.” But imagine when Jesus comes back you look back at the plant and say, “I love this plant. I love it. It's beautiful.” But here's Jesus saying, “Come on. Let's go. It's time to go.” But you say, “I love my plant. I can't leave it.”
I use that example because it is silly. It is silly that any of us would love a plant more than going with Jesus. It is so silly to love the things of the world more than Jesus. But the warning is that, although it may not be a plant, there could be something that you value more than Jesus because you don't love it for Jesus's sake.
Let me just just hit this home for us and in a way that's more realistic than plants. Here's what Jesus says and end of a parable in Luke 14: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
If on that day we cannot leave our wife or our kids, if we needed to, if we cannot leave them behind in order to follow Jesus, then we have lost sight of what is really important. We have become glued to the world.
Free to Follow Christ
The point is don't be consumed by things of this world. And this is the warning sounding. Look at verses 31–33:
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. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:31–33)
The picture is of someone so glued to something here that they can’t let it go. But if you preserve your life here, you're going to lose it because on that day when the suddenness of Jesus's return come. It will include judgement. It will be sudden. There is not going to be time to pack your bags for your trip. And if at that moment you are so tied into the world, and cannot leave home without ____fill in the blank, then you will show that you don't love Jesus, the judgment will be accordingly.
Thinking about the second coming is suppose to be a wake up call to live in light of the second coming. Do ordinary things, but don’t set your hope there. Love your family, get a job, have kids, but treasure Jesus more than them. Love your kids in order that you might glorify God. Work not just to make money for money’s sake, but to make much of God.
Here's how 1 Peter 1:13 summarizes it. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
Don't set your hope on anything here, whether it's family, jobs, plants, whatever it is. Your hope is set fully on Jesus. That helps we're not distracted by the world. We're not distracted by Netflix. We're not distracted by the greatest things that this world has to offer. When we think of the second coming, the world of distraction, is no longer distracting.
Separation of All
Now, finally, point number three, the second coming will bring separation. Look with me at verses 34–35:
I tell you, in that night 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. (Luke 17:34–35)
Here we see that it is not only going to be sudden, but that is it going be a judgment. It is going to bring separation. Those who trust in Christ will be spared from the judgment and those who do not will not be spared. Think of the those stories Jesus just mentioned: Noah and Sodom. They are judgement stories. Jesus is going to judge the world when he returns. And that will mean that he will separate those who trust in him and those who reject him.
It is not going to matter what your family connections are, what your church connections are, who your best friend is, who your coworker is. You're not going to be able to say as a husband, “Oh look, my wife, she's a believer. I'm with her.” No. You will be left for the judgment.
You don't get to say, “Oh, well I knew John Piper. I knew him. I'd read all of his books actually. And, yeah, we were friends.” No, there will be judgment on that day. For those who do not trust in Christ on their own, they will face the judgment.
Take Sin Seriously
Here’s the application: take sin seriously.
If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, hear me, and hear the pleas from Scripture. He's coming back. There's no question about this. And if you don't trust him, you will face judgement for all you sin. This is going to happen. It is going to happen suddenly.
You may run out of time. Do not waste a minute. Turn to Jesus today. If you turn to him today and confess, “I'm a sinner. I can do nothing on my own to earn my place free from this judgement.” If you come to him and confess your sin, and then turn to him and receive grace, you will be saved. You will be spared on that day of judgement.
Not only will you find that you were spared from the judgment, but you are also find that your life today is filled with a joy you could have no other way. You were made to worship God, and until you do you will never have the fullness of joy promised.
For believers just hear this morning, this is no joke. We must not take our sin and treat it lightly. It is super serious. We cannot be messing with sin. The judgment is coming, and we must cling to Christ as we as we push through and kill sin.
Listen to Ezekiel's words about the sin of Sodom:
This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)
If that doesn't sound like a place where you live, you’re not listening. We must be careful. Kill sin. Run from sin. Why? Because there's the second coming is coming. That's a part of what is grounding us in this reality as believers.
Longing for His Coming
So the second coming is going to be a spectacular coming. We're not going to miss it. And we should be eager for it. It's going to be sudden, so we must be ready for it at all times. It's going to bring separation. The judgement is coming so fight the good fight. Kill sin.
Lastly, the disciples ask where this is going to happen. They heard how it's going to happen, what it will be like, and now they are wondering where. Here what verse 37 says
And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Luke 17:37)
Admittedly, this is a challenging verse. Scholars have different opinions. What I think what it means, in light of this passage, is that when vultures are circling a corpse, everyone knows where it is happening. It’s obvious. No one's missing. We call all look up sky and see, “Oh yeah, there it is. It is here.” It’s another way of saying it will be obvious.