REMEMBER LOT'S WIFE
In addressing His first-century disciples concerning His (second) coming, Jesus employed a catchphrase that would have been easily recognized by those steeped in Old Testament literature: Remember Lot's Wife (Lk.17:32). This ancient expression pointed back to the days of God's judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of their wickedness, God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven to overthrow them (Gen.19:24-25). The admonition (remember Lot's wife) was a warning not to look back. While Lot's family was being led by angels to make an expeditious departure from the cities, Lot's wife ignored a direct angelic command, Escape for your life! Do not look behind you...escape to the mountains (Gen.19:17). Sadly, her disobedience brought about her death: (Lot's) wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt (Gen.19:26).
When we examine the context of this reference, found only in Luke's gospel account, there is much to consider. This re-counting of the fate of Lot's wife is coupled with a reminder of those who lived in the days of Noah (cf. Genesis 6-7). Noah not only built the ark, but he was a preacher of righteousness (2Pet.2:5). He heralded the approaching flood, but his words went unheeded. God was not desiring that any would perish (2Pet.3:9), but when the Lord closed the door of the ark behind Noah (Gen.7:16), only eight souls were onboard: Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives (Gen.7:13 and 1Pet.3:20). Both of these stories (concerning Noah and Lot), put a premium on fleeing - - leaving wickedness behind and hearkening to the will of God. We find a similar exhortation in the Olivet discourse, when Jesus urges his listeners: let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Mt.24:16).
The entire Olivet discourse (Mt.24; Mk.13 and Lk.17 & 21) concerns the destruction of the wicked city of Jerusalem, as does the book of Revelation (Rev.16:19). In Revelation Jerusalem is spoken of as “the great harlot” (Rev.16:19; 17:1 & 18 and 18:2, 10 & 18-24). The language Jesus used to describe Jerusalem in Mt.23:34ff parallels the words used by John to describe Babylon (Rev.16:6; 17:6 and 18:24). Concerning Babylon, John warns, Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues (Rev.18:4). The sins of the city of Jerusalem may have differed from those of the antediluvian age of Noah and the world of Sodom in the days of Lot, but Jerusalem displayed all of the earmarks of transgressions abhorred God (cf. Prov.6:16f with Mt.23). Luke's gospel records Jesus' warning, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies then recognize that her DESOLATION IS AT HAND. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains... (Lk.21:20-21a).
For those who attempt to divide Matthew twenty-four, asserting that there are two distinctive judgments being proclaimed: one on Jerusalem and one yet to come, the text itself rebukes them. Notice the location of the verse, wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather (Mt.24:28 with Lk. 17:37). It's placement undermines any effort to divide the chapter into two differing arenas. Additionally, according to the typical view of a future second coming, what good would it do anyone to flee to the mountains?
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ