Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:20-37 (ESV)
Most of us have heard the narrative regarding the end of the world in which there is portrayed to be a rapture of the church that is loosely based upon these verses.
Whether one believes in a rapture of the church or not (amillennialism is the eschatological- or end times- teaching traditionally held by the Lutheran church, meaning we generally aren’t into the rapture concept) one thing is certain. As we affirm in all of the ecumenical creeds, Christ has risen from the dead, and He will come to judge the living from the dead.
There are people who will try to set dates and speculate on when Jesus will return, and they are all going to be wrong. We know Jesus is coming back, but we have no way of knowing when. As He says, people will be behaving like in the days of Noah- doing their things, openly mocking God, and feeling no sorrow or repentance for their sins, blissfully unaware that judgment is around the corner. That is a frightening concept, for anyone to become the object of the wrath of God, but it is also a reminder that God is the creator and we are the created.
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, the third petition, which is the most difficult of the petitions to pray and mean it: Thy will be done. This is in direct contrast to the whispering of the serpent in the Garden, whose call to temptation always begins and ends with, You will be like God.
Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
In our baptisms we are buried with Christ, and we are born into new life with Him.
The Kingdom of God is already here, happening and unfolding. It’s not all the way here yet. It’s not going to be what we expect and it won’t go according to our plans. Thy will is always going to be done, whether or not we are on board with it!
In many ways this knowledge is both a warning and a relief. A warning to keep our lamps trimmed and burning, because yes, the Bridegroom will return for us at any time, but also a relief because we know that this tenuous arrangement of “now, but not yet” living with one foot in both the worldly and heavenly kingdoms will finally be made into a complete “now and for always.” In our baptisms we are given the promise that we are God’s own child, and we receive the gift of faith. We are marked with the cross of Christ forever.
Jesus came to earth to suffer and die to save us from our sins. He is returning for His people, to judge the living and the dead and to establish the world to come forever. And it’s all going to be done His way.