The Context Is Critical: Luke 17:20-37

Focus Passage: Luke 17:20-37 (NIrV)

 20 Once the Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He replied, “The coming of God’s kingdom is not something you can see just by watching for it carefully. 21 People will not say, ‘Here it is.’ Or, ‘There it is.’ God’s kingdom is among you.”

 22 Then Jesus spoke to his disciples. “The time is coming,” he said, “when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man. But you won’t see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ Or, ‘Here he is!’ Don’t go running off after them.

 24 “When the Son of Man comes, he will be like the lightning. It flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first the Son of Man must suffer many things. He will not be accepted by the people of today.

 26 “Remember how it was in the days of Noah. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. 27 People were eating and drinking. They were getting married. They were giving their daughters to be married. They did all those things right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

 28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking. They were buying and selling. They were planting and building. 29 But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven. And all the people were destroyed.

 30 “It will be just like that on the day the Son of Man is shown to the world. 31 Suppose someone is on the roof of his house on that day. And suppose his goods are inside the house. He should not go down to get them. No one in the field should go back for anything either. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Anyone who tries to keep his life will lose it. Anyone who loses his life will keep it.

 34 “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed. One person will be taken and the other left. 35-36 Two women will be grinding grain together. One will be taken and the other left.”

 37 “Where, Lord?” his disciples asked.

   He replied, “The vultures will gather where there is a dead body.”

Read Luke 17:20-37 in context and/or in other translations on!

In our journal entry for today, let’s uncover an idea that is central to effective Bible study by looking at the details in the passage we are focusing in on. Near the end of our passage are some verses that many read and use to form the belief of a “secret” rapture (or a secret return of Jesus to take His followers to heaven). However, when we looking at the broad context of this passage, and the surrounding verses, this understanding is not likely, because everything leading up to this climax refers to something that is far from “secret” and far from being contained in a specific location.

While we’ll save looking at these details until another journal entry, the principle I want to point out in this journal entry is this: In order to have a strong, effective Bible study that leads us to Biblical “truth”, we must start by reading all passages within their context (both scriptural context and cultural context).

If we do what many people do, and pull out the last several verses of this passage, we can easily see a description of something that is not accurate when looked at in the broad context.

Multiple times, this passage refers to when Jesus returns, and how it will look from our perspective, as well as giving historical examples of those who Jesus was talking to would be able to understand. We get the picture that this will be a global event, will be very earth-shattering, and not everyone will be ready.

It is very easy for someone to pick and choose passages out of their original contexts, and have the Bible say something it was not meant to say. For example, perhaps we place the following verses together in sequence:

  • “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5 NLT)
  • “Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’” (Luke 10:37b NLT)
  •  “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27b ESV)

So is Jesus advocating us to throw money into our churches before hanging ourselves quickly? Absolutely not! This is a bad case of Biblical misinterpretation, and while this is a horrible message to pull out of the Bible, it is pretty obviously that the Bible does not advocate this message.

However, too often I see people pull a collection of scattered verses (out of their contexts) and use them to create a belief about God. This is bad Bible study, and it has lead to millions being confused about what the Bible really teaches.

This brings us back to our main point for today’s journal entry: In order to have a strong, effective Bible study that leads us to Biblical “truth”, we must start by reading all passages within their context (both scriptural context and cultural context).

Before closing out this entry, I want add that this post is not meant to make a stand about some Christian’s belief, or lack thereof, in the rapture. Instead, it is aimed at pushing each of us, myself included, towards studying passages within their broader contexts, and the broader context of this passage gives us the context of Jesus’ second coming – in a very global and unmistakably public way.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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