Luke’s Gospel and Eschatology

February 12, 2010

I’ve been reading through Luke’s Gospel lately, up through chapter 19 today, and have noticed quite a few eschatological references.  At the same time I’ve noticed a few blog postings also in connection with these chapters.

As I read through Luke 17 I noted the commonly cited verse where Jesus says that the kingdom is spiritual and among you.  The verses immediately after this statement talk about the signs of His second coming.  Over at Dr. Reluctant’s blog, the latest posting addresses this very issue — “Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (17)“.

In reading through Luke 19 today, I also noted the kingdom references in Jesus’ parable about the minas and the servants (Luke 19:11-27).  Jesus tells the parable to the people as they approach Jerusalem, because “the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”  The main feature of the parable is the three servants and what they did with their minas.  But notice verse 15, which states that He did (later) receive the kingdom:  “He was made king, however, and returned home.”

Here I am reminded of a common practice among amillennialists and preterists:  expounding theology from a parable.  They do this with some parables, such as the Matthew 13 parable about the wheat and the tares and the harvesting angels, or the sheep and the goats parable in Matthew 25, to try to prove their idea of a simple, one event resurrection and judgement of everyone.  As many dispensationalists point out, using parables to such extent, is problematic — an approach that fails to consider the full context of the parable and its context and relationship to other passages of scripture, both other passages nearby in the text as well as other parts of scripture.  But if they really want to use parables to affirm a particular theological position, why not use the one in Luke 19:11-27?  That passage is very clearly talking about the future kingdom of God.  Just as in Acts 1:6-7, Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for asking the question but simply tells them it’s not for them to know the times or dates, so here in Luke 19, Jesus does not rebuke the kingdom idea itself but again emphasizes that it will come at a future time.  If the kingdom of God was really just a spiritual kingdom now, Jesus had plenty of opportunity, both in Luke 19 and Acts 1, to explain otherwise.  Similarly, if the kingdom is only spiritual and among us as said in Luke 17:20-21, then why bother adding the rest of that chapter?

Which brings me to a third interesting passage, though I admit I scanned over it at first and didn’t catch the significance right away.  Immediately after the Luke 17 passage comes the parable about the widow and the unjust judge — Luke 18:1-8.  The significant verse is the last one, where Jesus states “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Yesterday’s post at the “World and Church Trends” prophecy website, “When Jesus comes will there be faith on the earth? Yes, no and then yes!”   takes this very passage, notes the importance of verse 8:  “The major mystery that remains in this passage is why does Jesus ask if there will be faith on the earth when He comes?” and concludes that it’s a reference to the pre-wrath rapture: the rapture will remove all the believers, then during the Great Tribulation many more people will come to faith in Christ, and then when Jesus comes to Earth at the end He will find those believers.

While I agree with the basic sequencing of the Second Coming events, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Luke 18:8 is referencing the rapture.  Yet the matter intrigued me enough to look up what John MacArthur had to say about this parable, from his Luke series.  His sermon on this text, “Persistent Prayer for the Lord’s Return” does not propose the rapture idea, but does point out the very eschatological focus of the parable, noting its placement immediately after Luke 17, and the statement in verse 8.

Now you say, “How do you know this is a Second Coming section?” Well verse 8 is the key to that. It says at the end of verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” Will He find this kind of persevering faith? Will He find this kind of persevering prayer? Will He find this kind of enduring confidence? This is definitely eschatological praying. No one of us knows the time of the Rapture. We don’t know when the events that are the Second Coming will be launched. We don’t know when the day of the Lord is going to come, but two thousand years have passed by, believers have been waiting and waiting, and suffering at the hand of sinners. Sin escalates, evil men grow worse and worse and worse. We see the pollution inside and outside Christendom. False teachers abound everywhere. We’re endeavoring to endure true and faithful, trusting in the Word of God. We have been promised that He will come. We believe that He will come. And here He says, “Keep praying for that event.” He will come but part of the means of that coming is our prayer life. Prayer moves God to accomplish His work and therefore having accomplished His work, bringing it to its great culmination in His Second Coming. He will come. He promises He will come. He will be faithful to His elect. He will bring judgment to the ungodly. He will vindicate the saints. He will exalt Himself. He will establish His throne on earth. He will reign in a Kingdom on earth and He will establish the new heaven and the new earth. And that is what we are to pray for relentlessly.

This takes us back to Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2. “When you pray, pray like this. Our Father who art in heaven, Thy Kingdom come.” This is Kingdom pray…praying. This is praying for the Kingdom to come, for the Lord to punish the ungodly, reclaim the earth, mete out righteous judgment, vindicate His elect, establish His glory on the earth, vanquish Satan, take His throne and establish the glorious fulfillment of all His promises. So again I say, the key to the parable hangs at the front door, we know what this story is about. We are to be living our lives saying, “even so, come Lord Jesus. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

MacArthur then points out the importance of Christ’s Second Coming as part of a Christian world view.  He’s right, understanding the future events and our blessed Hope makes such a difference in how we act in this world.  MacArthur:

I was reading a book this week that is a world view book of great note and a significant and helpful book on the world view. I couldn’t find one place in the book where it referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. You can’t even begin to have a proper world view unless you understand how it all ends.

I suspect he was referring to the same group as, a popular teaching and training site with worldview curriculum.  At any rate, I googled their site for several specific key terms related to the Second Coming (Second Coming, Rapture, Great Tribulation, Day of the Lord, Christ’s Return, return, rewards, Israel, etc.) and likewise found nothing.

The shallow teacher, who misses the significance of a proper worldview regarding how it all ends, comes up with very general teachings that might do well enough for superficial followers content to do a few minutes of devotional reading each day, but it does not satisfy the believer who earnestly studies God’s word as a great treasure.  That shallow view says that Luke 18:1-8 is about persistence in prayer, as in prayer for our daily, temporal needs of this life.  The same type of teaching, though, also says that the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is about our love for the brethren, how we treat fellow believers (same as taught in 1 John), and that Ezekiel 36-37 is (only) talking about spiritual regeneration.

  1. February 13, 2010 at 4:00 am

    What a great blog and great idea of keeping a blog for your discoveries from the Word. I just started the Horner Bible Reading Plan a week ago and I am thrilled with it.
    I might copy your idea of the blog. 😉

  2. February 13, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Glad you find this blog helpful. Yes, I’ve found blogging a great way to grow in my study of God’s word. Enjoy the Horner Bible Reading Plan, it’s a great way to read through the Bible. Are you on the Facebook group for it?

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: