Luke 17:20-37 (ESV)
20 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, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” 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.”
Since Jesus taught often about the kingdom of God, the Pharisees asked him when the kingdom was coming. Jesus responded that they would not find it through specific signs, or even by hunting for it, because the kingdom was right in their midst. If the Pharisees really wanted the kingdom, they only needed to acknowledge that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The way to God’s kingdom lay through his Son Jesus. Imagine Jesus standing right there with the Pharisees, explaining these truths, and the Pharisees just not getting it. Then he spoke to his disciples. In verses 22 through 25, he gave them three facts about the coming kingdom. First, although they would desire to see him set up his rule as Messiah, it wouldn’t occur in their lifetime. Second, when the kingdom does come, it will be evident to all. And third, Jesus said he must suffer before he is properly recognized as the rightful King. This must have disappointed the disciples, who were ready to go forward. So Jesus warned them not to follow any false Christ who may come, saying “now is the time.” Then he compared his return to the days of Noah and the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. Just as people weren’t ready for either of those two past events, they would not be prepared for Jesus either. When Jesus returns to judge the world, many will be caught off guard.
In the days of Noah, people ate, drank, and married. In the days of Sodom, people ate, drank, bought, and sold. Neither group was expecting the radical destruction they experienced. Eating and drinking, marrying, buying, and selling aren’t bad things, but they are wrongfully enjoyed when they cause people to ignore God. Jesus exhorted his disciples to remember Lot’s wife (v. 32). She provided a typical portrait of an unbeliever, because she just couldn’t let go of the things of this world. Jesus added, if anyone else wants to hold on to her life, she will lose it. Jesus never promised us protection from harm and suffering during our stay on earth. But he does offer us eternal life in his presence. No matter how hard things get, remember that if you are a follower of Jesus, you have an amazing future ahead of you. The suffering we experience in this life is as bad as it will ever get for those who know God.