LUKE 17:20-37  


Luke 17:20-37

The Messianic presence involves two parts.

Part one is the first advent and part two is the arrival of Jesus at the Day of the Lord, which will initiate the final events prior to the establishment of the 1000 year Messianic kingdom on the earth.

Luke 17:20-21

For the Pharisees, indeed, for the entire nation of Israel, the kingdom of God did not have physical signs that pointed to Jesus and said - this is the kingdom of God. Jesus told them that the kingdom was among them right now. It was His personal presence on the earth as the promised Messiah, but they did "not recognize the time of your visitation," (Luke 19:44). The only visible signs that were given to them were the miracles of his healing ministry (Mat. 11:2-5) and the resurrection after His death on the cross (Mat. 12:38-40).

Luke 17:22-24
When it comes to the teachings of Jesus, the chronology of Luke is not accurate. He has preserved contemporary political data that is crucial to localizing and timing the first advent presence of Jesus, as stated at verses 1:1-4, but it was not the intent of God or of Luke to insist on chronological precision for the CONTENT of what Jesus taught.

At this point in Luke's account, he has inserted teachings that were actually taught during the Olivet Discourse of Luke 21; Matthew 24 and Mark 13.
Whereas Matthew, and Mark, to a lesser extent, recorded this information in their respective "Olivet" chapters, Luke did not. He has placed it here where it has no direct connection with the surrounding context and is out of chronological order.
(1) Verses 22-24 has a double application to -
    A. The first century church.
    B. The church during the tribulation, when there will be false teachers
        proclaiming the arrival and presence of Jesus.

(2) Verse 25: This too is a snippet of data taken from other messages and the
     parable of the landowner at Matthew 21:33-46.
(3) Verses 26-30 refers to the day that Christ will arrive in the clouds of the sky in power and great glory as was described by Matthew 24:38-39.
(4) Verses 31-33 does not refer to the day of Christ's return, but to the day that the abomination is set up in the Holy Place as per Matthew 24:15-21.
(5) Verse 37 then picks up again from Christ's statement at verse 24.


For the disciples, who already know that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the issue is kingdom living during their lifetime, and anticipation of His future return which He promised to them on several occasions.

Jesus told them that there would come a time in their life when they would long to SEE "one of the days of the Son of Man." This probably refers to a visible physical presence of Jesus AFTER His ascension. It is a longing for the promised return to gather them to Himself as per John 14:1-3. But Jesus says that they will not SEE IT. That is, they will not see His presence here or there as though He would just "show up" to be with them. It does not mean that they will NOT see Him at all, for Jesus clarifies that they would, or rather COULD be witness to His coming, but it would be a spectacular coming, and not a covert, invisible arrival, proclaimed by people saying "He is here or there."

THEREFORE, when others tell them that Jesus is HERE OR THERE, they are not to listen BECAUSE part two of the Messianic presence, which will be accomplished by the physical return of Jesus, will be evidenced by a GLORIOUS presence in the sky, just like lightning flashing from east to west. This is what Matthew records at chapter 24:27-30. The application, then is for the disciples and all who are of the church, remaining on the earth up until the time of the end, they are not to listen to the false teachers saying that He is here or there, but they should know that His presence will be visibly and spectacularly seen as lightening streaking across the sky.

This passage becomes crucial in understanding that the promise of a spectacular return of Jesus for His believers (the elect) is given to the disciples as the foundation layers of the church and therefore to the CHURCH, and is what believers are to expect at the time of the second coming.
This also offsets any false theories about a "secret" or "invisible" arrival of Jesus and rapture of the church. It will not be secret or invisible.


Luke 17:26-30

The condition of Noah's generation and the city of Sodom just prior to their respective judgments, portrays the condition of the world just prior to the return of Jesus at the Day of the Lord. In the same way that normal life activities were going on until the judgment actually came, so also, such activity will be occurring prior to the signs and the arrival of Jesus at the Day of the Lord. And in the same way that the people of those two previous generations, were lulled to spiritual sleep and apathy through their occupation with the pleasures and possessions of this life, so also, will the generation of Christ's second coming be indifferent and unprepared for His return. These will be left behind when Jesus delivers those who have trusted in Him, and they will encounter the Day of the Lord judgments; the wrath of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16-17).

Luke's account of these days as given in chapter 17, is in summary form and should not be held to a rigid chronological progression, although, it is possible that Luke has recorded an earlier teaching of Jesus on the same subject. But in either case, Jesus has in view the general time period leading up to the Day of the Lord, when He will return as lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other. Matthew 24 gives the chronological details of that time period and Luke 17 needs to be inserted into the framework that Matthew provides.

At Matthew 24:9, Jesus taught that there would come a time when the church (the YOU, which refers to the Messiah believers who will be alive at that time, whether it is the specific group of disciples who received this teaching or the believers alive in some future generation), would be delivered up to tribulation (pressure or affliction - but NOT, "to be afflicted, as with the KJV). This will begin the oppressive reign of the man of lawlessness at the mid-point of the 7-year period known as the 70th week of Daniel.

At verse 9-28, Jesus gives some of the details about what would happen during that tribulation.

Here in Luke 17, the time during the tribulation is recorded at verses 22 -37, without any chronological order, as shown above.

At Matthew 24:13, "the one who endures to the end (of it) will be (physically) delivered (from it). Just as Paul writes at 2 Thes. 1:6-8.

"For after all it is {only} just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and {to give} relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."

Accordingly, when the events of the tribulation are triggered by the revealing of the man of lawlessness (2 Thes. 2:3-10) as he sets up his image in the Jerusalem temple (the abomination of desolation), it is only reasonable that anyone who is in the city, would want to get out. This would be of special urgency since the beast will be focused on killing Christians and those of Israel who will not take the mark (Rev. 12:13-17).

The warning to flee is recorded at Matthew 24:15-21 and here at Luke 17:31-33.
Now this is not instruction to "run away and hide," for the believer is never taught to do that, but it is simply telling them to get out of the road when the cars start coming. And since the urgency of the situation will be so great, they are exhorted not to be concerned about their material possessions, but to simply get out of Jerusalem.

The one who cherishes these personal possessions (his life; psuche in the Greek) will take valuable time to try and collect them and will likely be vulnerable to the rapid advance of the beast. The one who recognizes the urgency of the situation and does not cherish his personal possessions, will flee more quickly and likely be preserved from the beast's initial aggressions.

Furthermore, anything that would hinder their speedy departure would be undesirable, such as inclement weather (winter) or sabbath day restrictions (certainly an issue in Jerusalem). By the way, the sabbath day is an issue because of the restrictions imposed by Jewish society, and not because of any sabbath observance by the Christians who are leaving. In addition, "Woe to those who are pregnant or nursing," for this will greatly impede one's speedy escape. The reason for the urgency is because the presence of the abomination of desolation in the temple will begin the great tribulation of oppression by the man of lawlessness, and anyone who resists his religious mandates will be hunted down and killed.

This is instruction is FIRST for those who are in the city of Jerusalem. This is where the oppression begins. And as these believers in Palestine flee from one city to the next, they are to continue to proclaim the gospel until Jesus arrives to take them all out through rapture at the Day of the Lord. This is what Jesus taught at Matthew 10:21-23, "But whenever they persecute in this city, flee to the other; for truly I say to you, you will not finish with the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." This persecution is seen at Rev. 12:17, "And the dragon . . . went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus."

At this point it needs to be observed, that there was another occasion where the people were told to flee Jerusalem. This was in reference to the siege of the city by the Roman army, which would occur in just 40 years from the end of Christ's ministry. The two events need to be kept separate for a proper understanding of both. In addition, it further needs to be pointed out that this event of fleeing from the city of Jerusalem, either in the 70 AD context or in the tribulation context, is different from the people of the land running into the mountains when Jesus first appears at the Day of the Lord (Rev. 6:15-16; Isaiah 2:19-21).

Luke 17:23
"And they will say to you, 'Look, here!' or, 'There!' Do not go away and do not go after them."
During this time of persecution in the tribulation, many will be telling the believers, "here is the Messiah, or there is the Messiah," but they should not listen, knowing that Jesus will appear as lightning flashing across the sky, and it will be obvious when his arrival is at hand. Furthermore, when the tribulation events begin, it is then that the church will know that Jesus is about to return, for He will cut short the time of tribulation with the result that it will not last the expected 3 1/2 years, but actually be shortened by as much as 18 months. The believers during this time, "when these things begin to take place, (are to) straighten up and lift up your heads, because your (physical) redemption is drawing near," (Luke 21:28). This physical deliverance refers to the rapture of the church which is when Jesus supernaturally removes those living believers from the earth; gives them a new supernatural body; and joins them with Himself as well as all the believers who have died throughout the history of God's redemption program (1 Thes. 4:13-17).

In Luke 21:29-32 and Matthew 24:34-35, Jesus taught the parable of the trees, where we see that in the same way that the budding of leaves on the trees announces the arrival of summer, so also, the events of the tribulation, announce the arrival of Jesus.

"So you too, when you see all these things (tribulation events),
recognize that He is near; right at the door," (Mat. 24:33).

At Matthew 24:36-39, Jesus taught that society would be living in relative "peace and security," as in the days of Noah, and would be caught totally off guard when the judgment arrives through the Day of the Lord return of Jesus. This "at ease" lifestyle results from worshiping the beast and benefiting from his economic policies (Rev. 13:17).

Although this information is taught TO the disciples on the Mount of Olives, it is given to them so that they can in turn communicate it to the church and to the world. Accordingly, Jesus gives general warnings about preparation for His return, "therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming," (Mat. 24:42; 25:13). This and the parables that follow are to be taught to the unbeliever so that the urgency of trusting in Christ can be emphasized before He comes back and it be too late. Because when He comes back, then "one will be taken and the other will be left" (Mat. 24:40-41) and the one who is left will go through the Day of the Lord judgments and undergo even greater pressure to reject Jesus.


At Luke 17:26-30, Luke records the same illustration of "peace and security" to show that DURING this time period BEFORE Christ's return, the world will be occupied with its own pleasure-oriented lifestyle and be unprepared for the actual return of Jesus.


Again, out of chronological order, Luke records the warning to leave  Jerusalem during the time of the tribulation. At Luke 17:31, "in that day," does not refer to the actual day that Jesus returns, was was in view in the previous verses, but it refers to "during" the time period that is initiated by the abomination of desolation, as is recorded by Matthew; the time period of "all these things" mentioned at Mat. 24:33. Here, Luke simply records one of the factors that Jesus taught concerning this time period, without placing things in a rigid chronological order. Accordingly, the warning to "get out of town" without looking back is in reference to when these believers "see the abomination of desolation standing in the Holy Place," (Mat. 24:15).

At verse 32, the exhortation to remember Lot’s wife
expresses the danger of disobedience. It is mentioned
by way of illustration only. Lot’s wife was judged
because she disobeyed God’s instructions by looking back.
From the moment that the abomination is placed in the
Holy Place, time becomes crucial. Not only does the
man of lawlessness, thus begin his reign over
Jerusalem, but he also immediately begins to round up
any who are in opposition to him. Any delay could very
well result in being taken and killed. This is not
teaching that the one who “looks back” (which in this
context actually refers to GOING BACK) will be
immediately judged by God, but simply, that such
actions will “immediately” put you in danger of being
captured and killed.

At Luke 17:33, Jesus exhorts that anyone who has greater concern for his physical possessions, than his physical life, will put his physical life in jeopardy. Likewise, the one who recognizes the urgency of the situation, and seeks to get out of town quickly, without concern for the possessions he is leaving behind, will likely escape the immediate danger from the beast's takeover.

In addition, there will be many unbelieving Jews in the land of Judah who will flee the presence and authority of the beast. These are represented by "the woman" at Revelation 12, and God has a special plan of protection for them because they are still His chosen nation and will be functional not only during the Day of the Lord judgments, but also be the core of those who enter into Messiah's physical earthly kingdom.


At Luke 17:34-36, Luke records another factor related to the Day of the Lord return of Jesus, and that is what will occur at the actual event of gathering His elect out from the world. That is, there will be people throughout the world who will be "side-by-side" in various situations, and the believer will be taken out while the unbeliever will remain behind.
This is
NOT referring to the same exact “moment” when the
abomination is placed in the Holy place. Remember,
Luke is relating several different factors concerning
the “time period” leading up to the actual arrival of
Jesus in the clouds of the sky.
Matthew records this at Mat. 24:40-42, where the context relates this directly to verse 31 and the gathering (episunago) of the elect out from the world. Jesus is the one who initiates the event, but he uses the angels to do the actual gathering. At Mat. 24:31, it says that the angels will gather the elect, but at Mark 13:27, it says that HE will gather the elect. This gathering of the elect is described as a gathering together (episunagoge) at 2 Thes. 2:1, and as a meeting with the Lord in the air at 1 Thes. 4:17.

At both Luke 17:34 and Mat. 24:40, the word for "taken" is paralambano and means to take or "receive" to the side of someone. This is the same word that Jesus used LATER, on the night before His crucifixion, when he tells the disciples that "I will come again and RECEIVE (take) you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also," (John 14:3). It is reasonable that Jesus had the same event in view on both occasions.

The next thing that Luke records is at verse 37. The disciples ask, "Where?" and Jesus answers, "Where the body (corpse) is, there also will the vultures be gathered." Remember that Luke is just listing a variety of things that Jesus taught. This question and answer does not belong here RIGHT AFTER Jesus teaches that some will be taken and some left, as if to suggest that the disciples are asking where they will be taken. Matthew records this statement in connection with the coming of the Son of Man like lightning flashing across the sky, but not in connection with the gathering of the elect (Mat. 24:27-28).

"For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west,
so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."

So when the disciples ask this question, "Where," they are asking where will be the ARRIVAL of Jesus when He first appears? The answer Jesus gives focuses on Palestine as the center of activity at this time; the headquarters of the beast. The specific answer reflects a common image not only from Jewish culture as can be seen from the Old Testament (Job 39:30; Prov. 30:17), but from the laws of nature as well. What we need to determine is the significance of this image as Jesus relates it to His arrival at the Day of the Lord. It should be clear that those who are taken in the rapture, are not taken to a place where the vultures are eating a corpse. It is also clear that the arrival of Jesus as lightning that flashes across the sky (Mat. 24:27-28) is the same incident of gathering His elect when "one will taken and one will be left," (Luke 17:37). We also know that this event takes place immediately after the tribulation, which through that event, is cut short from its expected 3 1/2-year duration. It is at this time that the wrath of God and of the Lamb will begin to judge the beast and his kingdom. Those who are spiritually dead will be subject to horrendous physical judgments which will culminate in the battle of Armageddon where the corpses of the fallen soldiers will be food for the scavengers of the sky (Rev. 19:17-18). At Mat. 24, when the elect are gathered out INTO THE SKY, the non-elect remain on the earth to go through "the things which are coming upon the world," as Luke 21:26 indicates (parallel to Mat. 24). These Day of the Lord judgments begin and culminate in the land of Palestine, and it is perhaps this that Jesus has in mind when he answers the disciples' question of "where," with "Wherever the corpse (body) is, there will the vultures be gathered." The corpse is the dying body of the beast and his kingdom which is centered in Jerusalem, and his destruction will become final 30 days after the end of the 70th week at the battle of Armageddon.





©Ron Wallace, Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's consent.


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