I am examining a difficult text found in Luke 17:20-37. In the first post on this text we noticed that the kingdom of God was in their very midst, as seen in the presence of Jesus. The reign of God had already broken into human history through the ministry of Jesus. In the second post we noticed that there were three directions and descriptions identifying “the days of the Son of Man”: (1) Don’t return to your home to gather your possessions; (2) Where there are two people, one will be taken and one will be left; (3) Dead bodies everywhere as the vultures gather around these corpses.
So what is Jesus talking about? Let bring all of the questions together so that we can comprehensively answer all the questions we have raised so far. What are “the days of the Son of Man?” What do these days have to do with the kingdom of God? What event fits these directions and descriptions to not return to the house when these days come, that one person will be taken and one will be left, and there will be dead bodies everywhere so that the vultures will come? Daniel 7 describes the coming of the Son of Man as the subjugation of all wicked, insubordinate nations and kingdoms.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14 ESV)
All people and nations must serve him. His kingdom has eternal power and rule. The expectation of the coming of the Son of Man and the arrival of the kingdom of God was the subjugation of the nations (cf. Psalm 2; Psalm 145). The kingdom of God would conquer worldly nations and kingdoms. Daniel 2 pictures the kingdom of God shattering and crushing the world nations. This is the beginning of warning judgments given by Jesus in his teachings. The Jewish nation was going to be judged because of its rebellion to God, disobeying God’s commands, killing the prophets, and most notably killing Jesus, the King. This fits the three directions and descriptions given by Jesus. The Romans made their invasion of Judea and Jerusalem around 66 AD and completed its destruction in 70 AD.
(1) Don’t return your home and gather possessions. When the Romans came, the people were to quickly flee and not return to their home for their possessions because the city was going to be shut up and none would be able to leave. It was important to leave as quickly as possible so they would not stuck inside the city of Jerusalem when the attack began.
(2) Where there are two people, one will be taken and one will be left. The historian Josephus records that many Jews were captured by the Romans in this invasion. Many were captured, taken back to Rome, and made slaves of the Empire.
(3) Dead bodies everywhere. The historian Josephus recorded the horrors of the Roman invasion. It was an event that was visible to all people as Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The Jewish nation was being swiftly and comprehensively judgment for its wickedness and the kingdom of God continued to conquer nations in rebellion to Christ. This is the picture of the days of the Son of Man and how it relates to the kingdom of God. Every commentary I picked up did not have an acceptable answer to these three directions and descriptions. Some commentaries honestly admit that they do not understand what Jesus is saying, particularly concerning the dead bodies and the vultures. But the Roman invasion of Jerusalem makes the best sense of Jesus’ directions and descriptions.
But what does this mean for us today? Why does the imagery of Jesus as a conquering king ruling in his kingdom and subjugating the nations have any impact or meaning for us? Daniel 7 gives us a picture of the expectations of the kingdom and what it means for us.
But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever (Daniel 7:18 ESV)
And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Daniel 7:27 ESV)
Everyone must bow the knee before Jesus, giving our lives completely to him as his subjects or be judged with the rest of those who reject him. This kingdom is not about the wrath of God wiping out the enemies, though the scriptures are certainly clear that the enemies will be judged. The kings and rulers of the earth today rule in a selfish way. We see dictators historically and currently ruling for themselves, acquiring power for selfish, evil motives. Please notice the rule of Jesus. His rule, authority, and kingdom are being given to the people of the Most High. He gives this all-powerful, glorious kingdom to his people.
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:10–13 ESV)
In our wretched condition of sinfulness and rebellion, God has made a gracious offer to reign with him. He is offering a place in the eternal kingdom of God. He is giving us the glorious kingdom. How could God be so kind to offer us a place in this kingdom? It shows another dimension of God’s love for his creation. He wants us to be with him. He wants us to reign with him. He is giving us a kingdom if we will accept his gracious offer to be his people.