The Pharisees' question, Part 2
Oct 06, 2014
In Luke 17:20 the Pharisees questioned Jesus in regard to the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.” The Greek word paratereo, translated “observed,” is actually a medical term that Luke uses deliberately to show that the Pharisees’ intent was to examine Jesus to find out what was wrong with Him.
Jesus tells them that the Kingdom of God is not to come by looking for “signs to be observed,” that is, by looking for symptoms of Jesus’ doctrinal illness. One cannot say, “Look, here it is! I found this symptom!” or “There it is! I have discovered pride as the root of His spiritual sickness!”
The Kingdom of God is wholeness and health, and Jesus, whose name means “salvation” and also “full health,” was there in their midst, if they had had eyes to see.
Jesus then spoke about “the days of the Son of Man” in Luke 17:22. This drew attention to the fact that the Ancient of Days, with “the hair of His head like pure wool,” would walk into the divine court, sit upon the throne of fire (Daniel 7:9), and raise the dead for judgment. This is according to the prophetic law, which says in Leviticus 19:32,
32 You shall rise up before the grayheaded, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
In other words, when the Ancient of Days (“the aged”) walks into the court room, all will rise as the law commands. This refers to the general resurrection of all the dead, great and small, referenced in Revelation 20:11-15.
The First of the Days
In Luke 17:22, Jesus does not seem to be speaking of the great Day of Judgment at the resurrection of all the dead, for He says they will long to see it, but “you will not see it.” If all the dead are raised for judgment at that time, then how is it that “you will not see it”?
It appears that Jesus was telling this to His disciples, but yet He was still addressing the Pharisees who had asked the original question. We often do this when addressing one person in the presence of another. In essence, we can speak to two people at the same time. So while He was giving a positive lesson to His disciples, He was still addressing the Pharisees’ question. The Pharisees, then, “will not see it” by their critical observation. They will not see Jesus as the Messiah, nor will they see “one of the days of the Son of Man.”
Which “one of the days” will they not see? Once again, we must understand that Jesus was not speaking Greek when He talked with the Pharisees. It was translated into Greek for a Greek-speaking audience. The Hebrew word echad means either “one” or “first.” It is translated “first” in Genesis 2:11 and 8:5. It is likely that we should understand Jesus’ statement to mean, “the first of the days of the Son of Man.”
When seen in this light, this would draw a distinction between the first and second of such days, which caused John to distinguish between the first and second resurrection in Revelation 20. The Pharisees would not “see” the first resurrection of the overcomers, which event introduces the great Sabbath Millennium “Day” which they hoped to see. To see that day, they would have to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and follow Him.
Jesus then says in Luke 17:23,
23 And they will say to you, “Look there! Look here!” Do not go away, and do not run after them.
Since their diagnosis of Jesus was incorrect, their diagnosis of the Kingdom was equally incorrect. If they could not correctly read the signs that they saw whenever Jesus healed someone, then how could they possibly be correct in reading the signs of the Kingdom?
Jesus then explains why we should not respond to the Pharisees’ call to look here or there for the Kingdom. Luke 17:24, 25 says,
24 For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
The NASB takes some liberties with their translation, trying to understand what Jesus means. The Greek text reads “under heaven,” whereas the NASB says “the sky.”
There is also a question as to whether Jesus was referring to lightning or the sun itself. The Greek word is astrape, which can mean either lightning or the gleam of a lamp or candle. Luke 11:36 says, “as when the lamp illumines [astrape] you with its rays.” In other words, the word astrape does not have to be a great flash of lightning. It can be anything that brings light, even the light of a candle.
Matthew 24:27 is a parallel passage that gives us more clues,
27 For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.
Does lightning always flash from east to west? Obviously not, but the sun dawns in the east and moves through the sky toward the west. The Emphatic Diaglott renders this,
27 For as the lightning emerges from the East and shines to the West; so will be the presence of the Son of Man.
If we understand this to be a reference to the sun, then it is easy to see how the sun “emerges from the East and shines to the West.” This happens every day. But it is unlikely that lightning will emerge from the East and shine to the West.
The Dawn of a New Day
When Hosea prophesied of the coming resurrection, he too spoke of this as the dawn of a new day. Hosea 6:1-3 says,
1 Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 2 He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him. 3 So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn…
The coming of Christ, accompanied by the resurrection of the dead, is not like an instantaneous flash of lightning, but is more like the dawn of a new day. Psalm 57:8 says, “I will awaken the dawn.” In other words, the dawn of a new day, when men rise from sleep, prophesies of resurrection.
Perhaps this dawn is prophesied also in Proverbs 4:18,
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
So perhaps we ought to understand Jesus’ words in Luke 17:24 to mean:
“For just as the sun dawns in the East and moves across the sky getting brighter and brighter as it moves West, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer rejection and death (night).”
Jesus was telling us not to look for His coming as a flash of lightning, but as a gradual dawning of the day. The pattern is seen in Jesus’ own resurrection on the third day, but it also applies to the start of the third millennium from Christ, for a day is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). While Jesus’ resurrection occurred in a short period of time, the next fulfillment would take place “after two days” (Hosea 6:2), or at the start of the third millennium.
The third millennium from Christ is where we find ourselves at the present time. In the two-day interim we have seen the Pentecostal Age. Pentecost stands between Passover and Tabernacles, and its timing (the two “days”) is prophesied by the two loaves offered to God (Leviticus 23:17).
We are now near the dawn of this new day, which begins with the (first) resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6. In 1999 we reached the end of two millennia since the birth of Christ. In 2033 we will reach the end of two millennia since His death and resurrection. In 2035 we will come to the next Jubilee year.
Somewhere in this time period we ought to see the first of the days of the Son of Man, that is, the great day that is a thousand years, wherein the Son of Man sets the earth free from the rule of the beast systems and gives the earth its great Sabbath rest. It will be the “day” when the law will go forth from prophetic Zion (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2).
The Pharisees, however, will not “see” this day, for they will not be part of the first resurrection of those are called to reign with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6). The solution is for the Pharisees—and others—to stop assuming that Jesus had a doctrinal disease that needs a diagnosis. Only those who recognize Jesus as the Christ and the King will be eligible to see that day.
This is the second part of a mini-series titled "The Pharisees' Question." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part of the nintieth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones