26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.32 Remember Lot’s wife.33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord, shall they be taken.
37 And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is gathered; or, in other words, whithersoever the saints are gathered, thither will the eagles be gathered together; or, thither will the remainder be gathered together.
38 This he spake, signifying the gathering of his saints; and of angels descending and gathering the remainder unto them; the one from the bed, the other from the grinding, and the other from the field, whithersoever he listeth.
39 For verily there shall be new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
40 And there shall be no unclean thing; for the earth becoming old, even as a garment, having waxed in corruption, wherefore it vanisheth away, and the footstool remaineth sanctified, cleansed from all sin. (Luke 17:26-27, JST verses 36-40 added)
I have a number of thoughts on these verses.
First, I notice that when Jesus compares the days before the Second Coming to the days of Noah and Lot, He says that the very day Noah entered the ark and the very day Lot left Sodom, destruction hit the wicked. I think this makes the point that as soon as the righteous are taken to safety, the wicked will no longer escape destruction.
Second, it is curious that although we know the days of Noah and the city of Sodom were wicked, we see that very innocuous activities are attributed to the wicked in verses 27-28.
- Eating and drinking
- Marrying and giving in marriage
- Buying and selling
We might gain some insight if we ask ourselves some questions. What were these people eating and drinking? Who was marrying and giving in marriage? What was bought and sold and on what terms? What was planted? What was built?
We can only conclude that their wickedness was so great that it was even corrupting those very basic activities of life, and that it was completely ignored and defended with the claim that they were good people too who did normal things just like anyone else. Yet normalized wickedness is not excusable just because it is pervasive throughout society.
Verses 34-36 tell us some very interesting things about the time close to the Second Coming. They show how mixed the righteous will be with the wicked. The image of two men in one bed (ignoring modern connotations) with one taken and the other left conveys the idea of how there will be very righteous people and very wicked people in the same household, essentially living cheek by jowl until the righteous are separated. (No doubt they will grate on each other.) The image of two women grinding together and two men in the same field evokes the idea that the righteous and wicked will be working right alongside each other until the day when the righteous are separated. But that separation will come.
The JST tells us how that separation will come—angels will take the righteous out from among the wicked and gather them together with the main body of the saints, and then will come the destruction of the wicked, as we know from the parable of the wheat and the tares.
Now, I’ve saved the verses 31-33 to talk about last because to me they seem a little tricky.
31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.32 Remember Lot’s wife.33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
When I consider that the surrounding verses are about the days of the Second Coming, these verses at first seem out of place. Verses 31-32 reminds me of words Christ said elsewhere about how the former day saints were to escape the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D., and it may be that those words were only applicable then and not applicable to the Second Coming. But... it struck me that they may also apply to the days just before the Second Coming when the angels come to take the righteous to safety. It is a matter of how we envision this rescue. If it is something like “the Rapture” that Christians always talk about, it doesn’t make sense. (I don’t want to say that being caught up into heaven isn’t going to happen because there are some scriptures that say that it will.) But if it is something like how Lot was warned to leave Sodom, then verse 31-32 make a lot of sense. Do we envision angels coming down and just grabbing us and carrying us away to the refuge of the saints? (It’s kind of a nice thought, isn’t it?) But ask yourself this—will angels take people who are not willing to go? No, I don’t think so; the Lord respects our agency, and so angels must too. Which means it will be something like how Lot was saved—a warning brought, directions given, choices to go (or stay or return) made, immediate travel required with almost no preparation or supplies… It is another physical gathering comparable to that which took place at the beginning of this dispensation, but with incredible urgency, and since we still have the New Jerusalem to build, we know where the gathering will be.
Joseph Smith Matthew says something similar:
37 And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived, for the Son of Man shall come, and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other….41 But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;42 For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;43 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.44 Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left;45 Two shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left; (Joseph Smith Matthew 1:37,41-45)
In D&C 63 we also find this:
53 These things are the things that ye must look for… even in the day of the coming of the Son of Man.
That “entire separation” is something we haven’t seen quite yet, but I believe it will happen as promised.D&C 63 highlights the flip side from the righteous being saved.
You may be wondering whether to believe this or not. You may ask yourself, “Why haven’t we heard about this in Sunday School?” Well, Sunday School has very limited time and has to get through each of the standard works in only 52 weeks, so they try to use the time available on the most important principles. Stuff not discussed may be good to learn (and the interest of time only prevents it from coming up) or bad to learn (and would never be mentioned anyway). Instead, the responsibility is on us to study more. President Harold B. Lee spoke in conference in October 1972 about places in the scriptures we can study to learn in plainness what the events will be. He mentioned Matthew 24 (and Joseph Smith Matthew), Doctrine and Covenants 45, 101, 133, and 38. These sources are reliable with unquestionable motives. (This blog, on the other hand, is just my own opinion and not official or authoritative to any extent.)
Now, back to Luke 17. After we are adjured to remember Lot’s wife, we are warned:
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33)
Considering the surrounding block of verse is about saving the saints, this verse really can muddy the waters. While we’ve been told how we can save our lives, here we are told that if we seek to save our lives we will lose it! I think that it is meant to refer to those difficult days leading up to the Second Coming. It seems to be a reminder that there is more than one way to save your life, and saving our spiritual life by staying pure regardless of the consequences matters more than saving our bodies from death. Some saints may be saved at the Second Coming, and other saints may be saved through martyrdom.