Study Guide: A Sudden End and New Beginning

Sunday February 15, 2009 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

As Christians, we often give a lot of attention to passages in the Bible that refer to Jesus’ return, but often only to speculate about the end of the world. Instead, we should use these teachings to reflect on how we live here and now. One specific application of this principle is making daily decisions that honor God’s creation.

Extended Summary:

Today’s message centered around two aspects of the passage found in Luke 17:22-37. The first focal point was to answer the question, “What is the main point of this passage?” The second focal point was to offer an alternative to a common misunderstanding when interpreting what it means that “one will be taken and the other left.”

1. The point

Scholars disagree about what the “days of the Son of Man” refers to. Some think this refers to the end of human history and others think it refers to the Roman war on Israel from 66-70AD. Greg suggested that both may be true. It is often the case that prophetic language applies both to specific fulfillments throughout history and also to a larger event at the end.

Regardless of how we understand the phrase “days o the Son of Man” there are plenty of passages in the New Testament that make it clear that there will be a return of Jesus that does concern all of us. The point of this passage is that we are to live with that recognition and remember what it means for how we relate to the time and stuff we are responsible for in this world until either our death or Christ’s return.

Jesus reminded his disciples of the time of Noah when Lot and his wife needed to flee the coming disaster and Lot’s wife hesitated, she looked back to her home and her things and was caught up in the destruction. The main point here was that we must live life holding on to things very loosely. We must always be ready and willing to let go of our normal goals, associations, possessions, etc. and be free to join in with Jesus when he calls us to do so and when he returns. This is the freedom Jesus speaks of when he says, “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.”

2. Historical context for “one taken” and “one left”

The common idea of the “rapture” where a person is taken up into the air and away to some other place, presumably heaven, is a very new idea that stems from a questionable interpretation I Thess. 4:17. There are several problems with this understanding, but the main one is that in the context of the 1st Century, people would have assumed that to go up in the air was a way of speaking about joining God as God approached us here on earth. Just like the villagers would leave the village to go and welcome the king as he approached, and then they would all come into the village together, so also, this passage is speaking figuratively of how we would anticipate the coming of Jesus and engage with the world with him as our Lord. In this text and in many others, it is assumed or stated clearly that God’s reign will be here on Earth. Heaven will come to earth rather than earth being abandoned for some other place or way of existing. So, the “one taken” (from our text today) would be the unfortunate one who the disciples asked about. Jesus’ answer confirms that those taken are not raptured and saved but rather will face a clearly negative fate. The one left, then, remains with Jesus and is a member of the new kingdom of God here on earth.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you from today’s message?
  2. What does Jesus’ saying “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it,” mean to you?
  3. What would holding our possessions loosely look like in the life of our group?
  4. Were you raised in a church that taught the rapture view? Has today’s message changed your thinking on this? What difference does this issue make when we consider how we relate to creation? Remember Greg’s comparison of “renters” to “owners” as you discuss.
  5. What is one way we, as a group, can respond together to this message?