“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.” (Luke 17:20-24 )
I remember it best from when I was growing up in southern Ontario. During the fall and spring we called it “sheet lightening.” During the summer it was “heat lightening” when there was not rain but humidity after sunset. It would light up the sky as if a giant light switch had been flipped. What was total darkness because like daylight, but only for an instant. Then it was dark again. The presence of rain was no portend, and especially in the summer when there was no rain, you could have this sort of lightening with no warning. As it is phrased in this port of Luke, it “flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.”
And that is how I envision the end times; suddenly it is upon you changing everything from the way it was, darkness, to utter light. But unlike sheet lightening which comes and then goes just as quickly, the coming of the Lord will be sustained light that banishes all shadows and brings out of darkness those things that were hidden, both evil and good.
In nature sheet lightening is often preceded by thunder, so that while the lightening is a surprise it also is easily explained. That is, it is not so much unpredictable as the timing of it is hard to predict. And just as there are meteorologists who try their hand at weather prediction, there are scholars, theologians, and others who try to predict the day of the Lord. But as I once read, until the Lord comes, all predictions are suspect.
And from the passages we have read so far, the day of the Lord can not be predicted in its arrival. It will just be here. Will raised an excellent point yesterday when he said that there is not even the solid clue as to whether it will be better to be taken or left on earth. From other passages we are told that the saints will be gathered up in the air and taken to Christ. So we have made a causal relationship between being taken and being gathered up to God. But just as we can not pinpoint the day of the Lord, neither can we predict how it will happen. What we do know, and today’s scripture points out, is that we do not know when it will happen.
In their application of the verse, the Anabaptists emphasized the point that one should not believe those who predict when the Lord will come again to earth. And in absence of any firm time table the world is left to wait for its Creator as it so chooses. How will you wait?