God’s Word for You
Luke 17:34 one will be taken
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 27, 2018
34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.
This particular saying is unique to Luke. The first part of the verse does not necessarily mean that the second coming of Jesus will happen at night (in the next verse, two women are grinding together, certainly a daytime activity). The meaning we are to take with us is that no one will be expecting the end when it comes.
Here, something should be said about these “two people.” The translation is adequate. The EHV (Evangelical Heritage Version), ESV (English Standard Bible), CSB (Christian Standard Bible) and others like the NASB are all similar. However, someone who knows a little Greek might point out that the “two people” in this verse only have masculine pronouns when Jesus says, “the one… the other” (see, for example, Luther’s quick translation from memory in LW 39:86, “There will be two men in one bed”).
So that no one is offended by this, we must remember that Jesus was not speaking to our culture. In many cultures, the women sleep with their children, and men sleep where they can. When a husband and wife sleep together intimately, the children are shuffled off to grandma or an aunt. Jesus is not stressing the gender of the sleepers in this case, but the fact of the judgment day coming to all people. Rather than being used as an obscure text to defend homosexuality, this verse should horrify everyone who is living in a sin, not struggling with it, but embracing it. The judgment will come unexpectedly, and there will be no time at all in which to repent. Anyone who has been rejecting Christ “will be left,” that is, will be condemned.
Whether we take our application from the immediate context (verse 34-35), or from the broader context (verses 30-37), we end up with the same conclusion:
- Immediate context (34-35): People will be taken to heaven from the most ordinary of moments in their lives; the end will come suddenly. No matter how similar two lives seem to be, or no matter how close two people seem to be (brothers, sisters, slaves, spouses, cousins, work colleagues, etc.), they have no guarantee of eternal life because of their associations in life. Only faith in Christ saves. Therefore we should always be prepared.
- Broader context (30-37): The end will come so quickly that there will not be time to grab anything, to repent, or to make changes in one’s life. Only faith in Christ saves. Therefore we should always be prepared.
In this verse, the one taken is the one who is taken away from the destruction; away from damnation to hell. Therefore, this is a person being taken up into heaven, one of those few who will remain throughout those terrible final days but will still have his or her faith. The one left behind is one who will be condemned. “The Son of man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).
The more we ponder Judgment Day, the easier it is to become frightened, terrified, and desperate. Save me, Lord Jesus! Yes, “Save me, Lord Jesus,” is what we should cry, and it is the only thing we should cry. Do not rely on yourself, or on the saints, or the merits of dead Christians, or on a little more time in which to repent. None of these things will help or be available to anyone when the end comes. Our Lutheran Confession summarizes the Scriptures beautifully: “God wanted to insure my salvation so firmly and certainly—for due to the weakness and wickedness of our flesh it could easily slip from our fingers, and through the deceit and power of the devil and the world it could easily be snatched and taken away from our hands—that he ordained my salvation in his eternal purpose, which cannot fail or be overthrown, and put it for safekeeping into the almighty hand of our Savior Jesus Christ, out of which no one can pluck us (John 10:28). For this reason, too, Paul asks, Since we are called according to the purpose of God, ‘Who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?’ (Romans 8:35).” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, XI,46-47).
The answer to all our fears and to all our worries is set out memorably in the simple words of the hymn by Ludmilia Elisabeth, Countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Lutheran hymnwriter (1640-1672):
Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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