In today's reading a Pharisee is asking Jesus when the kingdom of God will come. After answering the Pharisee's question Jesus begins to tell his disciples that a time is coming when they will long to see the son of man but will not. Jesus is sharing with his disciples that he will soon be leaving the earth but after that he will come again. Jesus then begins to describe what his second coming will be like. At Jesus' first coming, he comes into the world virtually unnoticed. Born in a manger, only a few witness his arrival into the earth.
What will the second coming of Jesus be like?
Luke 17(from our reading today) is very similar to Matthew 24. Why does Jesus tell the disciples, if anyone claims to discover the Messiah's return, to not listen or go look?
Jesus tells them at his second coming, he will make a grand entrance. Jesus is going to light up the sky. This is why they are not to go look if anyone claims he has returned. Jesus is telling his disciples that no one is going to miss his entrance at his second coming. The Lord wants them to know, if you haven't witnessed my return with your own eyes then it hasn't happened yet. No one will hear about the coming of the Lord through word of mouth. Every eye will witness his return.
Luke 17:23-24"Men will tell you,'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other."(see also Mt.24:26-27)
In the Matthew passage Jesus goes on to say,"Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather." Mt.24:28
What does this comment about the vultures mean? Just as the vultures never miss the opportunity to feast on a dead carcass, no one is going to miss the grand entrance of his second coming. In Matthew, Jesus describes how the nations will mourn as they witness his appearing in the sky.
Mt.24:30"At that time the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."
Jesus is going to light up the sky when he returns.
Mt.24:27"For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians he says, the appearing of Jesus when he returns will be so bright, it will destroy the lawless one. 2 THES.2:8
Jesus wants his followers to know that he is going to light up the sky, no one will miss his entrance when he returns.
But what about the scriptures that speak of Jesus coming as a thief in the night?
Based on this phrase "thief in the night" many have come to believe that Jesus' second coming will be done secretly. And that the Lord's followers, will be removed from the earth secretly.
A thief only steals those things that do not already belong to him. A thief doesn't need to steal what he already owns. Likewise, why would Jesus need to steal what is already his? Why would Jesus need to secretly steal anything?
There is actually no where in scripture that says,"Jesus is coming like a thief in the night." The scriptures tell us that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. See 1 THES.5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10 While the day of the Lord is referred to as a day of Jesus' return it is also continually described in scripture as a day of sudden destruction.
1 THES.5:2-3"for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying,"Peace and Safety," destruction will come on them suddenly,"
In 2 Peter, Peter refers to the day of the Lord coming like a thief, and he describes complete destruction of the heavens and the earth on this day. See 2 Peter 3:10-13 The term "a thief in the night" is used to illustrate destruction coming unexpectantly, sudden destruction coming in a moment when many are least prepared for it. The people destroyed in the days of Noah are a perfect example of unexpected destruction. Although they witnessed the arrival of the flood from it's first initial rain drops, they were unprepared for the magnitude of the destruction that was upon them. Destruction came upon them like a thief.
Joel chapter 2 gives a detailed account of what the day of the Lord will be like. Joel describes the day of the Lord as a day of darkness and gloom. A large and mighty army moving through the land destroying it city by city. The Lord is at the head, leading this army into battle. Nations are in anguish as they see this army approaching from the distance.
Joel 2:9"They rush upon the city; they run along the wall. They climb into the houses; like thieves, they enter through the windows."
The Lord's army is breaking into homes through the windows like thieves in the night. This is a depiction of a home invasion and of sudden destruction. Notice that nothing happens secretly here. The people under attack see this army as they approach.
Joel 2:6"at the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale."
Just as the nations will mourn as they see the Son of Man coming in the sky. On the day of the Lord many will be gripped with utter terror and fear as they discover the end has come.
Joel closes this passage with this remark about the day of the Lord,
"The day of the Lord is great;it is dreadful. Who can endure it?" Joel 2:11b
There is nothing secretive with the day of the Lord. However, destruction will come upon many suddenly.
Jesus wanted his followers to know that he would leave, but that he would come again. And that when he returned that everyone would see him at his appearing in the sky. Today's reading excites me. Jesus will come again, and when he does he is going to Light Up The Sky.