The Two Days Of The Son Of Man  

And He said to the disciples,

“The days shall come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.” Luke 17:22

 Introduction 

In this statement recorded only by Luke (17:22-37), Jesus referred to “one [emphasis mine] of the days of the Son of Man.”  Emphatically implied was another day of the Son of Man.  In further explanatory comments, Jesus went on to teach His disciples some characteristics about both days.

 

Jesus spoke these words on the way to Jerusalem several weeks before His death and resurrection.  As far as we know, He taught His entire band of disciples about both His days well before He discoursed prophetically on the Mount of Olives to the fortunate four of Peter, James, John, and Andrew.  Hence, these four were likely quite familiar with the material about the days of Noah delivered during the Olivet Discourse, and how that illustration related to one day of the Son of Man.

 

This essay will contrast Jesus’ teaching in this pericope about the two days of the Son of Man, showing that His two illustrations of Noah and Lot cannot possibly refer to the same day.  Further, the characteristics of each day illustrated will be compared with the characteristics of the Rapture and with the characteristics of the Second Coming to show unequivocally that Jesus referred to these two days.

 

Recognizing the prophetic distinctions of His two days in this pericope will help dispel some of the interpretive confusion about the Rapture and the Second Coming recorded in Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1-25:46).  Some corollaries about the doctrine of imminence, and the timing of the two days will also be discussed.

 Contrast of the Two Days of the Son of Man: Luke 17:22-37 

Probably stimulated by a discussion with Pharisees about the timing for God’s coming kingdom, Jesus took the opportunity to inform His disciples about the two days of the Son of Man.  Jesus illustrated each day separately from biblical history.

 

At the outset, it is critically important to realize the two days of the Son of Man are not literal 24-hour days.  Jesus used the word “day” figuratively to mean an indefinite period of time used to encompass the details of a particular event.  We can discover this fact by recognizing Jesus’ comparative illustrations describing His two “days” feature a plural qualifier, “in the days (plural, emphasis mine) of” Noah and Lot.  Contrasting the illustration of the days of Noah with that of the days of Lot highlights the following significant differences.

1.      In the days of Noah, God’s judgment was announced beforehand (locally) over a significant period by Noah’s preaching, by and throughout actual construction of the ark, by occupancy of the ark, and by the seven-day lapse between completed occupancy and the deluge’s onset.  In the days of Lot, God’s judgment had extremely limited angelic announcement—less than 24 hours to a single family and prospective husbands.

2.      Prior to judgment in Noah’s day, the world’s population was involved in activities that crossed ethnic, racial, social, professional, and economic boundaries.  The prejudgment days of Lot’s neighbors were limited to commercial activities of buying, selling, planting, and building.  And if one might speculate anachronistically, the “eating” and “drinking” of Lot’s community before the brimstone and fire may have referred to “business luncheons,” thereby characterizing a commercial community almost wholly focused on the pursuit of business.

3.      God’s judgment in Noah’s day was water.  God’s judgment in Lot’s day was brimstone and fire.

4.      God’s judgment in Noah’s day lasted months.  God’s judgment in Lot’s day lasted hours.

5.      God’s judgment in Noah’s day was independent of man’s negotiations.  God’s judgment in Lot’s day was subject to Abraham’s negotiations with his Lord, and Lot’s negotiations with the two angels.

6.      God’s judgment in Noah’s day was worldwide—i.e., universal.  In Lot’s day, God’s judgment was localized, restricted to two cities and their surroundings.

7.      In Noah’s days, God successfully saved all the families of man (Ham, Shem, and Japheth) from judgment.  In Lot’s day, God successfully saved only the family of Abraham’s relative from judgment.

8.      After judgment in Noah’s days, the earth would again support life.  After judgment in Lot’s day, the scorched earth never again supported life.

9.      After judgment in Noah’s day, his relocation destination was God determined.  After judgment in Lot’s day, Lot himself determined his relocation destination—a small town in Israel.

 

These nine points of contrast between the days of Noah and the days of Lot force one to the conclusion that Jesus never intended the two illustrations to correspond to the same day.  Their common theme is escape from God’s judgment but in dramatically different ways under dramatically different conditions.

 Comparison of the days of Noah with the Rapture 

Let’s explore the bases for comparison.  The days of Noah featured God sealing informed representatives from all the families of man in an ark to protect them from His imminent worldwide judgment.  For seven days, nothing happened.  During this hiatus, the world’s population did not alter, one iota, its lifestyles or activities.  Life went on as usual because people of the world had no understanding of what was about to happen.  Likely, they had never seen rain—certainly not forty days’ and forty nights’ worth (cf. Heb. 11:7).  When judgment came, it was a unique, once-only, universal event, unprecedented in human experience.

 

Now, one can compare the days of Noah with the Rapture of the Church.  At some point in time, God will remove a specific group comprised of representatives (some spiritually enlightened) from every family of man to the safety of heaven, instantaneously and simultaneously, from all corners of the earth to protect them from His imminent, worldwide judgment.  For some brief but indeterminate time period, the world’s population will maintain its lifestyles and activities because they live in spiritual darkness—without understanding of the judgment that is about to happen.  The lifestyles and activities are general in nature and do not highlight any one societal segment.  When God’s tribulation judgment of Daniel’s seventieth week breaks forth (cf. Dan. 9:27), it will be a unique, once-only, universal event—unprecedented in human experience.

 

It’s easy to see why Jesus’ seven-point comparison of the days of Noah fits so nicely with the Rapture of the Church.

 Comparison of the days of Lot with the Second Coming 

Now let’s explore the days of Lot.  Remember, righteous Lot (Abraham’s relative) and his family members lived as sojourners in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Those cities were not home to the family.  God advised the family that Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be totally and permanently destroyed by divine action due to their abhorrent practices.  Residents of those two cities, mostly unaware of God’s pending and specific judgment, were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building (Luke 17.28).  The only intelligent recourse for Lot and his family was to preserve their lives by fleeing the area with urgency and singleness of purpose.  Lot petitioned for a town later to be named Zoar as the destination for his flight.

 

If we fast-forward to events just preceding Jesus’ Second Coming, we discover from God’s spokesmen, Jeremiah and the apostle John, that another contingent of Abraham’s relatives had taken up residence in Iraq—in the city of Babylon whose practices had become abhorrent to the God.  While Babylon’s residents were narrowly oriented toward commerce—buying, selling, planting, and building (cf. Rev. 18:11-20)—sudden destruction (including fire) would come upon them in one day (Rev. 18:8).  The prophet advised these Jews to flee Babylon (Jer. 51:6; cf. Rev. 18:4) because divine action would render Babylon permanently destroyed, desolate, and unfit for human habitation—just like God had done to Sodom and Gomorrah (Jer. 50:40; cf. Rev. 18:8).  The city of destination for the flight would be Jerusalem, in the homeland of Abraham’s descendants (Jer. 50:28; 51:50).

 

Notice these seven points of similarity between the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and what will take place for Abraham’s family descendants in the judgment of Babylon.

 

Jeremiah’s prediction, as well as those of the apostle John, fit perfectly with events timed closely to Jesus’ Second Coming when He is revealed (unlike the Rapture in which He is not revealed worldwide).  Therefore, Jesus’ comparison recorded by Luke with the days of Lot pointed directly to His second day.  Jesus’ second day is referred to as His Second Coming.

 Conclusion 

We now have biblical evidence before us that Jesus taught His disciples about His two days several weeks before His Olivet Discourse—the two days being the Rapture of the Church and His Second Coming.

 

Therefore, when Jesus taught about the days of Noah in Matt. 24:37-41, His students already knew He was teaching about the Rapture.

 

It might prove worthwhile to pause here and discover a few other important facts from this passage in Luke. 

 

First, Jesus told His disciples they would long for, but not see, the Rapture.  The reason they would long for the Rapture is revealed in Luke 21:12-17.  His disciples would face persecution, excommunication, imprisonment, betrayal by friends and family, and ultimately death.  The reason they would not see the Rapture was that it would happen after their lives on earth ended.  Thus, their writings and teachings could not possibly reflect an understanding that the Rapture was imminent in their respective lifetimes.  Their writings and teachings might well express an intense, heartfelt longing for day one of Jesus’ comings, but certainly not a suspicion that His coming for them would happen while they were alive.

 

Second, since day one of the Son of Man’s comings would mean simultaneous removal of people sleeping at night with those working during daylight hours (Luke 17:34-35), the event would have to be instantaneous and worldwide.  Since it was highly unlikely that believers in Jesus existed in Hawaii, West Samoa, or New Zealand (the nighttime locations) during the apostles’ lifetimes within the Roman Empire (the daytime locations), the possibility of any of the apostles experiencing the Rapture was truly remote to nonexistent.

 

Third, since the Rapture would not happen to them (and they could not know the day and hour the event would take place—cf. Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7), it might well be that they began to refer to the worldwide, instantaneous “longed-for day,” as “that night” (Luke 17:34) or “that day” (Matt. 24:36).  This might explain the indefinite allusions to what we have come to know as the Rapture.  If such a suggestion were plausible, interest in and reference to that day or that night would be relatively miniscule in the lives of Jesus’ first-century followers.  “That” day/night bore little relevance for them.

 

In fact, Paul referred to the day as the “caught-up-together-with-them-in-the-clouds-to-meet-the-Lord-in-the-air” day (1 Thess. 4:17).  It was not until some significant number of years later that the sobriquet, “Rapture,” was attached to day one of the comings of the Son of Man.

 

Fourth, it is glaringly clear that the Rapture of the Church happens well before the beginning of the Tribulation.  Simply put, from the data in Luke 17:22-37, it is clear an indeterminate period of time elapses between the Rapture (with God’s Rapture-contemporaneous return of kingdom management to His nation Israel), and Israel’s signing a seven-year covenant with the antichrist—beginning Daniel’s 70th week.

 Fifth and finally, Noah’s family knew judgment was drawing near as the ark’s construction approached completion.  They were likely unaware of the precise day and dour, but they probably could identify the year.  With the Rapture, Jesus informed His disciples the day and hour of the Rapture could not be known.  However, in the Olivet Discourse and in the Revelation, sufficient evidence exists that Jesus intended His people to know the generation in which the Rapture would occur (Matt. 24:32-34; cf. Rev. 2:25; 3:3).

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