Even for the apostles, Jesus’ teachings on the coming spiritual kingdom of His church and the Day of the Lord could be confusing at times. In Mark 8:31, Jesus is teaching that He must be killed and rise again, and, in verse 34, He calls the multitude and tells them they must crucify self to follow Him. He asks the people what it profits someone to gain the world yet lose his soul. Directly after these teaching, in chapter 9, Jesus tells His listeners many of them would live to see the kingdom come.
In Matthew 24:2, Jesus reveals that the temple will be destroyed soon, and His disciples ask Him for a timeline. They ask Him one question, but He gives two answers. His first answer speaks of the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, telling them to flee when these things come. Summing up in verse 34-36, Jesus turns His attention to the final judgment – a time of which only the Father knows. Likewise, in Luke 17:20, Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees the Day of the Lord is not something you can predict.
Days of the Lord
The term “Day of the Lord” is not always indicative of the Second Coming. Isaiah 13:6 describes the judgment against Babylon as a Day of the Lord. Ezekiel 29:6 begins a judgment against Egypt, and chapter 30:2 describes this judgment as the Day of the Lord. Amos 5:18-19 describes the destruction of Ephraim as the Day of the Lord. Finally, Joel 1:15 turns judgment against Judah and describes this as the Day of the Lord. None of these are the end of the world.
In Matthew 24, Jesus is addressing two different days. One is a Day of the Lord against Jerusalem, and Jesus says the people will be able to see this coming due to outside circumstances. However, a second day is spoken of in verse 36. This is the end of the world, and, like the coming of the Great Flood, no one will see it coming. He goes on to describe that some will be swept away in judgment in verses 37-44 while others are saved. He also uses the example of Noah in Luke 17:26, and He goes on to use Lot as another example. He concludes this with an admonition to remember Lot’s wife.
There will be no predicting or anticipating that final Day of the Lord. It will be as unexpected as the Flood, as unexpected as the destruction of Sodom. Jesus emphasizes that we cannot anticipate this day in Matthew 24:42 and 44. We cannot behave precipitously. We can only live prepared.
Remembering Lot’s Wife
Back in Genesis 13, Abram and Lot part ways due to the size of their flocks, and, in verse 10, Lot journeys east to the plains of Sodom. The decision Lot makes at that point determines the fate of his wife to an extent. He ignores the reputation of the nearby cities when he chooses where to settle. He pitches his tent near Sodom. Soon he is sitting at the gate, and later he has a house in the midst of the city. Genesis 18:16-23 then records God’s judgment upon Sodom, Abraham’s pleas for mercy, and God’s willingness to show mercy should He find ten righteous within Sodom’s borders.
When the time comes to flee, Lot’s wife’s heart stays behind. She looks back. Jesus uses the city of Sodom as an example of certain judgment, and He tells us that Lot’s wife should have willingly left such wickedness behind and fled. In this illustration, He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, and He is warning His listeners to flee without burden when that time comes. To save themselves, they must not look back.
II Peter 3:7-10 describes the sudden coming of the Lord and the inevitable destruction of our world. He encourages us to live right in God’s sight, knowing that this world is reserved for judgment. Like Lot’s wife and like those who would be fleeing Jerusalem, we can’t look back. Mark 8:34 records Jesus calling the people to Him, telling them to let go of the things of this life to gain the next. We have to be willing to walk away from the allures of this life to serve Jesus. The decisions we make now have long-term effects and being overly attached to the things of this world will draw us back. We must trust in our Lord and press forward unencumbered by the weights that tie us to this world.
lesson by Tim Smelser