Call To Worship September 2 2018
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
J.C. Ryle Luke 17:22-37
“The subject of these verses is one of particular solemnity. It is the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That great event, and the things immediately connected with it — are here described by our Lord’s own lips.
We should observe, for one thing, in these verses — what a fearful picture our Lord gives of the state of the professing Church at His second coming. We are told that as it was in the days of Noah, and in the days of Lot — so shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
We are not left to conjecture the character of those days. We are told distinctly, that men were entirely taken up with eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building — and would attend to nothing else.
The flood came at last in Noah’s day, and drowned all except those who were in the ark! The fire fell from Heaven at last in Lot’s day — and destroyed all except Lot, his wife, and his daughters. And our Lord declares most plainly, that similar things will happen when He comes again at the end of the world. ‘When they shall say, Peace and safety — then sudden destruction comes upon them!’ (1 Thessalonians 5:3.)
It is hard to imagine a passage of Scripture which more completely overthrows the common notions that prevail among men about Christ’s return. The world will not be converted when Jesus comes again. The earth will not be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The reign of peace will not have been established. The millennium will not have begun. These glorious things will come to pass after the second coming, but not before.
If words have any meaning, the verses before us show that the earth will be full of wickedness and worldliness in the day of Christ’s appearing. The unbelievers and the unconverted will be found to be very many. The believers and the godly, as in the days of Noah and Lot, will be found to be very few.
Let us take heed to ourselves, and beware of the spirit of the world. It is not enough to do as others — and buy, and sell, and plant, and build, and eat, and drink, and marry — as if we were born for nothing else. Exclusive attention to these things may ruin us — as thoroughly as open sin does! We must come out from the world, and be separate. We must dare to be singular. We must escape for our lives, like Lot. We must flee to the ark, like Noah. This alone is safety. Then, and then only — we shall be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger, and avoid destruction when the Son of man is revealed. (Zephaniah 2:3.)
We should observe, for another thing, in these verses — what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession. He says to us, in immediate connection with the description of His second coming, ’Remember Lot’s wife!’
Lot’s wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a ‘righteous man.’ She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom, in the day when he escaped for his life by God’s command. But Lot’s wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him — she had left her heart behind her. She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom — and was at once struck dead. She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins! Remember her — says our Lord, ‘Remember Lot’s wife!’
Lot’s wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her, in the day of Christ’s second coming. There are many in the present day, who go a certain length in religion. They conform to the outward ways of Christian relatives and friends. They speak the ‘language of Canaan.’ They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time, their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts — and their hearts are in the world. And by and bye, in the day of sifting — their unsoundness will be exposed to all the world. Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core. The case of Lot’s wife will not stand alone.
Let us remember Lot’s wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. Let us not profess to serve Christ — for no higher motive than to please husbands, or wives, or masters, or ministers. A mere formal religion like this — will never save our souls. Let us serve Christ for His own sake. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts — and have no desire to look back to the world.
We should observe, lastly, in these verses — what a dreadful separation there will be in the professing Church when Christ comes again. Our Lord describes this separation by a very striking picture. He says, ‘I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken — and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken — and the other left.’
The meaning of these expressions is clear and plain. The day of Christ’s second coming, shall be the day when good and evil, converted and unconverted — shall at length be divided into two distinct bodies. The visible Church shall no longer be a mixed body. The wheat and the tares, shall no longer grow side by side. The good fish and the bad fish, shall at length be sorted into two bodies. The angels shall come forth, and gather together the godly, that they may be rewarded; and leave the wicked behind to be punished!
‘Converted — or unconverted?’ — will then be the only subject of inquiry. It will matter nothing that people have worked together, and slept together, and lived together for many years. They will be dealt with at last, according to the reality of their religion. Those members of the family who have loved Christ, will be taken up to Heaven — and those who have loved the world, will be cast down to Hell. Converted and unconverted shall be separated forevermore, when Jesus comes again.
Let us lay to heart these things. He who loves his relatives and friends, is especially bound to consider them. If those whom he loves are true servants of Christ — then let him know that he must cast in his lot with them, if he would not one day be parted from them forever.
If those whom he loves are yet dead in trespasses and sins — then let him know that he must work and pray for their conversion — lest he should be separated from them for all eternity.
This present life is the only time for such work. Life is fast ebbing away from us all. Partings, and separations, and the breaking up of families — are at all times painful things. But all the separations that we see now — are nothing compared to those eternal separations which will be seen when Christ comes again!”