Those verses in Luke are compared with Matt. 26:26-28 and 36-44, which are about the Second Coming. This post also looks at Luke 21:34-36 and Mark 13:32-37, which are also about the Second Coming.
Luke teaches the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 21:5-33. He is the clearest about this of either of the synoptic parallels. In 17:22-37 and 21:34-36, by contrast, he is talking about the Second Coming.
In a sense, Matthew and Mark anchor and clarify Luke’s version of the Second Coming, while Luke’s version about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple–he is so clear about this–anchor and clarify Matthew’s and Mark’s version about the destruction!
For the post about the prediction of the destruction, please click here:
All translations are mine, unless otherwise noted. Readers are invited to see other translations at biblegateway.com.
If this post proves too complicated, go here:
Let’s get started.
First, let’s define Parousia. It basically means “being there, right alongside” (para + ousia or para + eimi, say lexicographers Liddell and Scott). The best image of the term is one of the emperor visiting or coming or arriving in one of his cities. The local dignitaries go out to meet him and escort him back to their city. They don’t embark on his ship and disappear for three-and-a-half or seven years.
For a fuller look at the term, see this post:
As it happens, however, Luke (or Mark) does not use the term; only Matthew does; instead, Luke says “coming” or “revealed.” But the entire context and message of Luke 17:22-37 leaves no doubt that the son of Man will come, in his Parousia.
Comparing Luke and Matthew
I have to compare Luke 17:22-37 with Matt. 24:36-44 because Luke separates off this passage from the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21, while Mathew places the teaching about the Second Coming in the Olivet Discourse, after his prediction of the destruction of the temple (24:4-35). (It’s called the Olivet Discourse because Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem proper, overlooking the temple; see Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:3.) In Luke 17:22-37, Jesus has not even entered Jerusalem (Luke 19:28).
These two parallel passages in the table, below, are remarkably close. In the post on Matthew’s Gospel and the Second Coming, my (and others’) exegesis leads us to conclude that Matt. 24:26-28 (a brief interlude in a longer discourse about the destruction) and 36-44 are about the Parousia or Arrival or Visitation.
Also see the companion post:
Since Matt. 24:26-44 (and Chapter 25) are about the Parousia or Second Coming (see the exegesis at the link), the following evidence shows that this section in Luke’s Gospel is also about the Parousia.
Now let’s see the two passages.
Matt. 24:26-28, 36-44
|22 He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will yearn to see one of the days of the Son of man, but you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or “Look here!’ But don’t leave, nor pursue it. 24 For just as flashing lightning shines from one end of the sky to the other end of the sky, so will be the Son of man in his day.
25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of man: 27 They were eating, drinking, marrying, and married off, until the day Noah went into the ark and the flood came and destroyed everyone. 28 Likewise, just as it happened in days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building. 29 And one day Lot left Sodom, and fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed everyone. 30 And in accordance with those things it will be on the day when the Son of man will be revealed [apokalyptō].
31 In that day, whoever will be on the roof and his equipment is in the house, let him not come down to get them; and the one who is in the field let him likewise not turn back to the things behind him. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; whoever would lose his life will preserve it. 34 I say to you: On that night two will be in one bed, and the one will be taken, and the other will be left behind. 35 Two women will be grinding at the same place, and one will be taken, and the other will be left.”
37 And in reply, they said to him, “Where, Lord?” And he said to them, “Where the body will be, there the vultures will also gather.
|26 If therefore they tell you, ‘Look, he is in the desert!’ do not go out. ‘Look! He is in the storeroom!’ don’t believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes out from the east and shines to the west, in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be. 28 For where the carcass is, the vultures also gather.
36 But concerning that Day and hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.
37 For just as the days of Noah were, in this way the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man will be. 38 For as just as they were in the days were before the flood, munching and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the days Noah entered the ark, 39 they also did not know until the flood came and took everyone away, and in this way will the visitation [parousia] of the son of Man be.
40 Then two men will be in the field, and one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding grain at the mill, and one will be taken and one left.
42 Watch therefore because you don’t know which day your Lord comes. 43 But this you do know that if the head of household knew at which watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and not permitted his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason, you also be prepared because at the hour you don’t expect, the son of Man is coming.
In Matthew’s passage, Jesus is answering the disciples’ question in 24:3:
“Tell us. When will these things be? And what will be the sign of your visitation [parousia] and the close of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)
Jesus answers their question about the Parousia in 24:36 to 25:46, going even to the awesome and majestic scene of the final judgment (25:31-46). The long section in between 24:36 and 25:31 teaches the disciples to be ready and expectant, because no one knows the day of the Parousia, not even the Son.
As to that thorny issue of the Son’s “prophetic ignorance,” which I don’t discuss here, please see this post:
In contrast, in Matt. 24:4-35, Jesus is answering the question about the destruction of the temple. Since that is not the topic of this post, readers are invited, once again, to click on this post:
In Luke’s Gospel, in comparison, the Pharisees had asked him when the days of the son of Man will be, and he replied that if they are looking for the Big Reveal, the Grand Arrival, then they are looking at it wrong.
20 When he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he replied to them, saying, “The kingdom of God does not come with observable signs, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here!’ or there!’ For look, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
The days which the Pharisees and Jesus and the disciples were living then meant that Jesus was ushering in the kingdom in a small, understated almost undetectable manner. This was about his first coming–his birth, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
However, Jesus takes his disciples aside—not the religious leaders who would misread the first coming and the quiet kingdom (quiet relative to the full revelation of the Second Coming). Then Jesus says to his disciples what the days of the son of Man will be like and when he will be revealed (apokalyptō). The rest of the discourse is indeed about the Big Reveal, the Grand Arrival. But for the Pharisees, they do not have the right to know this at that time. All they have to know is that the kingdom is here now, almost imperceptibly among them through Jesus.
So, it is easy to draw the conclusion that the parallel passage in Luke’s Gospel is also laying out the Parousia, but with small variations from that passage in Matthew.
These are verses in Luke, but not in Matthew. Do they make such a difference that they cancel out the parallel and the teaching about the Parousia or Second Coming in either Gospel? No.
The first verse is v. 25, which says that the son of Man must first suffer many things in this generation. He had already predicted his death in 9:21-22 and 9:44-45. Since the disciples may be thinking of a Grand and Glorious Conquering Hero, as they head to Jerusalem (9:51), he must remind them a third time that he must suffer and die, so the disciples should not misinterpret his prediction of the Second Coming; it is not right now, as he heads to the cross in Jerusalem. His ultimate conquest is for a later time. So call v. 25 a clarifying interlude to prevent misunderstanding in their original context of his journeying to the end of his life (not our context two thousand years later).
The story about Lot is particularly stark (Luke 17:28-30, 32). Jesus says that people will live like they did in the time of Lot. Jesus does not spell out for them the ancient people’s moral corruption because he did not need to; the disciples already knew of the awful parts of the story. Fire and sulphur raining down on the corrupt cities also teaches that doom and judgment will rain down on the inhabitants of earth when Jesus returns in his Parousia.
The next “extra” verse is 31, where Jesus tells his followers not to go back into the house to gather their things. This verse is also in found in Matt. 24:16-18, when Jesus was predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This extra verse poses no problem, however, because times will get tough, morally speaking, before the Parousia / Second Coming (see the next section).
Finally (for my purposes), the subject of Lot’s wife is brought up, because when people seek to gain their lives, they will lose it, but when they lose it in following him, they will preserve it. Jesus is repeating the same exhortation he spoke in Luke 9:24. So in other words, stay devoted to Jesus and the kingdom, and their lives will be saved or preserved. Don’t be like Lot’s wife who longingly looked back for her old and former life.
The Same Degraded Moral Environments
Matthew and Luke both show that the moral environment will be lazy and sleepy, but people will also go about their business, oblivious. So there is no sign of his Second Coming, if “sign” is defined as one or two major events that everyone can see. The only “sign” will be his actual coming or arrival or Parousia—like lightning. But by then this “sign” will mean that it is too late. The only “sign”–if one can call it that–is moral degradation, as it was before the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Everyone who is too busy and oblivious will be swept aside and hauled off to judgment: “taken away.”
What Does “Taken Away” Mean?
The one Greek verb translated “taken away” does not mean a rapture that is distinct from the Second Coming. Just the opposite. People are taken away after the Son returns in his full glory, with lightning, visible for everyone to see; in contrast, the distinct rapture doctrine says that the rapture happens before the Parousia. Yet this whole section of Scripture contradicts this popular misinterpretation.
See my post:
Luke 17:22-37: Taken Away = Rapture? (I also look at Matthew’s version)
His Day, That Day and the Day
In Luke 17:24, 30, and 31, Jesus says his Day, the Day or that Day. They speak of the same event. It is often used in both the OT and NT of the final day leading to judgment: you can look up the verses online but here are some references in the OT: Is. 10:20; Joel 1:15; 3:18; Amos 8:9; 9:11; Zeph. 1:10, 14; Zech. 14:4; Mal. 3:17-18.
Jesus is speaking, therefore, of the final day when he wraps up everything. This accords with Matt. 24:36, when Jesus first says that day. He too has shifted the topic from the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:4-35) to the Parousia (24:36 to 25:30).
So, once again, Luke 17:22-37 teaches the Parousia or Second Coming and agrees with the Matthean parallel.
The disciples ask the wrong question in Luke 17:37: where Jesus will return for the whole world to see. Jesus graciously answers the question, however, but not in the way they expect. Vultures will gather and feed on a carcass.
The vultures gathering refers to Job 39:30: “where the slain are, there is he [the eagle].” So this refers to dead bodies. The Parousia will be as obvious as vultures gathering around the slain. The whole context is final judgment.
The Most “Stubborn” Verse in the Synoptic Gospels
The one verse that causes the most headaches for certain interpreters appears in all three Gospels and in the same context.
I tell you the truth: this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matt. 24:34)
I tell you the truth: this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (Mark 13:30)
Truly I tell you that this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Luke 21:32)
If “generation” were to be translated as “race,” as some propose, then Jesus was declaring something vapid. Of course Jews would not pass away at the time he spoke. Instead, his prediction is about the timing, so “generation” is the right translation, as it is in nearly all other verses where it appears.
Now, what are “all these things”? Everything that Jesus had predicted up to that verse. Luke 21:20-24 even says that armies will surround Jerusalem. This happened in A.D. 70, when the Roman armies sacked the city and destroyed the temple. The Roman pagans stomped all over the sacred place, committing the abomination of desolation. Those three verses are capstones about the destruction of the city and Jerusalem. Jesus’s prediction came true–this (or his) generation, though he died young.
So, that one verse seems stubborn only to those who insist that many or all of the verses before the one verse are about our times–the distant future. No, they are about the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Once again, please click on this post for more information:
For this present post, the verse is irrelevant for Luke 17:22-37. And it appears after Matt. 24:36-44, so it does not apply to those verses either.
Luke 21:34-36 and Mark 13:32-36
These next verses in Mark and Luke come after “the most stubborn verse” in the three synoptic Gospels. They are open-ended, with no time restrictions: not this generation. Therefore, they too speak of the Parousia or Second Coming and the final judgment. Mark’s version mostly closely parallels and condenses Matthew’s version (vv. 36-44).
But first let’s look at Luke’s version:
34 Watch yourselves that your hearts are not weighed down with partying, drunkenness, and the anxieties of ordinary life. Yes, that day will come upon you suddenly 35 like a trap. For it will come on everyone inhabiting the face of the whole earth. 36 Keep awake in every season, asking that you can prevail to escape all these things that will happen and to stand before the son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36)
Note that judgment–standing before the son of Man–is mentioned. Next, Luke again says that day (v. 34b), which refers to the final day of judgment (Luke 17:24, 30, 31; cf. 12:46). The exhortation to pray to escape all these things that will happen is not specified, but in context it is the moral degradation (partying, drunkenness, and anxieties) or the tough times that are part and parcel of living godly lives in the midst of a corrupt world, like the days of Noah and Lot, before the Parousia.
32 “But concerning that day or hour—no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, except the Father. 33 Watch! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like man away on a journey who had left his house and given to his servants, each one, authority for his task and commanded the doorkeeper that he stay awake. 35 Stay awake therefore! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or in the middle of the night or at the crowing of the rooster or in the morning, 36 so that when he comes he does not find you sleeping. 37 But what I tell you I tell everyone: Stay awake!” (Mark 13:32-36)
Mark says “but concerning” and so does Matthew (see the table and v. 36). The Greek preposition translated concerning is peri (pronounced pair-ee), and it is often used to introduce a new topic, when peri begins the sentence or clause (Matt. 22:31; Mark 12:26; [13:32]; John 16:9, 10, 11; 17:20; Acts 21:25; 25:18, 26; 1 Cor. 7:25; 8:1, 4; 12:1; 16:1, 12; 2 Cor. 9:1; 1 Thess. 4:9; 5:1; Heb. 5:11; 1 Pet. 1:10). This use of peri is also reinforced with the tiny connector de (pronounced deh). It is an elusive particle, but in this case, “but” is used to contrast this topic with the previous one.
Here’s Paul using peri de in 1 Cor. 8:1, in his change of subject from marriage in 1 Cor. 7 to food sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor. 8: “Now about [peri de] food sacrificed to idols … (NIV). Similarly, using peri de, Jesus is shifting topics from the destruction of Jerusalem to his Second Coming–two distinct events at widely different times.
Clearly Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 are changing the topic from the coming-in-judgment on the temple to the Parousia or Second Coming or visitation to judge the world and put things right. Luke tracks along with them in his small section (21:34-36), but not quite as clearly with his transitional phrase (“but concerning”). The content of his verses is the same, however.
The main theme in Mark is to stay awake, be alert, and watch, morally and spiritually speaking. No one knows the day or the hour of the Parousia or Second Coming, except the Father. Matthew’s version vastly expands on Mark’s five verses. Matthew goes on to describe the theme of staying awake in three parables (24:45-51; 25:1-13; 25:14-30) and then offers the sobering and majestic vision of the final judgment (25:31-46).
Therefore, these two passages in Luke 21:34-36 and Mark 13:32-37 have been included in this post because they are also about the day of the Lord and standing before him in judgment, right after the Parousia, as Matthew clarifies in 25:31-46. Both passages say to watch for that day: the Parousia or Second Coming.
It is clear that Luke 17:22-37, which parallels Matt. 24:36-44, teaches the Parousia or Second Coming. This is different from Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (Luke 21:5-33 and Matt. 24:4-35; cf. Mark 13:3-31).
It is to be noted that Luke 17:22-37 (and Matt. 24:36-44 and Chapter 25 and Mark 13:32-36) don’t have that “stubborn verse” (this generation will not pass away”) that restricts the ending of his prophecy. Matt. 24:36-44 (and Mark 13:32-36) appear after the “stubborn verse.” The Second Coming is open-ended. No time markers or limits. His Parousia can happen a long time after the destruction of the temple and not necessarily in Jesus’s generation. but possibly in ours. We now know that it has not happened for two thousand years (and counting).
Clearly, then, we are tracking the Parousia or Second Coming.
How do I know God better with this biblical interpretation?
Jesus warned against yearning to see the day of the Lord:
22 He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will yearn to see one of the days of the Son of man, but you will not see it. (Luke 17:22)
The point is that the disciples will suffer persecution or the pollution of a general moral decline, and then they will yearn so much for his return that they may believe in false reports. “It has happened!”
23 And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or “Look here!’ But don’t leave, nor pursue it. (Luke 17:23)
Recall that the Thessalonians believed the day of the Lord had happened (2 Thess. 2:1-12). Paul tells them the Parousia has not happened and also exhorts them to stand firm (2 Thess. 2:15).
That’s why it is important for us to be willing to lose one’s life, in order to gain it:
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; whoever would lose his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)
If you hold on to the world’s systems that are doomed to fail, then you will lose your life in the kingdom.
Finally, Matthew’s Gospel fills out the picture more, being the most thorough of the other two synoptic writers. Jesus says:
42 Watch therefore because you don’t know which day your Lord comes. 43 But this you do know that if the head of household knew at which watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and not permitted his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason, you also be prepared because at the hour you don’t expect, the son of Man is coming. (Matt. 24:42-44)
We simply don’t know when Jesus will arrive in his grand and glorious Second Coming. It could happen at any time, when we least expect. Therefore, we have to be ready spiritually and morally.
If the Son did not know the day or the hour, neither do we. It could happen at any time. Therefore, watch! Be alert! Stay awake!
Luke 17:22-37: Taken Away = Rapture? (I also look at Matthew’s version)