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A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The Condensed Olivet Discourse" in Luke 17:22-37

Kuruvilla Thomas
Bangalore
Published on 5 October 2017


Luke 17:22-37 Timeline

Fig. 1


Introduction

This study treats Luke 17:22-37 as a cryptochiasmus in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is structured as a cryptochiasmus must be rearranged based on certain principles to be correctly interpreted. A cryptochiasmus is a new concept; see definition in [1]. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Section 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.

With this chiastic reconstruction, we will show that this prophecy from Jesus makes predictions about three distinct Periods. We show that this passage is a shortened version of the Olivet Discourse found in other New Testament passages, like the one in Matthew 24 [6].


Note:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites - primarily those of the tribe of Judah and their descendants - that remained after the Assyrian exile of the Northern Tribes; we will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.



Discussion

1. Presuppositions

In the Olivet passage in Matthew 24:3, the disciples ask Jesus three questions: when will this happen? (the destruction of the temple predicted in vs. 2), what will be the sign of your coming?, and of the end of the age? Jesus' prophetic reply, we believe, is regarding the three Periods listed below:

  1. The attack on Jerusalem (70AD) during the The First Jewish–Roman War (66AD–73AD).
  2. The tribulation period before Christ's millennial reign (from 2017AD). The tribulation and persecution of this Period seem to come from Satan through his human worshippers. We get the 2017AD date for the start of this Period from our parse of Revelation 12 [9].
  3. The Start of the End Times Tribulation (unknown date before 2967AD). Christ returns in all his glory and the faithful are gathered up. We get the c. 2967AD date for the End of the Age from our parse of Daniel 10-12 [8].


2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will use the NIV translation for this parse.

Parsing this chiasmus involves dividing the text into three categories as above. We will call the period of the First Jewish-Roman war Period 1, the period of the pre-millennial tribulation Period 2 and the "End of the Age" or the last days Period 3.

Categorizing vs 22-37

Vs 22-25 belong to Period 2. False messiah's will try to deceive people. Christ may not come in glory at this time, but the arrival of the Messiah, a human representative of Christ, will be made known around the world as rapidly as lightning.

Vs 26-30 belong to Period 3. Christ's arrival in the last days will be as unexpected and sudden as the devastation in the days of Noah (see Matthew 24:37 and [6]) and the days of Lot.

Vs 31-33 belong to Period 1. We know from our parse of other Olivet passages that these warnings to leave immediately apply to the time of the First Jewish-Roman war.

Vs 34-36 belong to Period 3. The instances of "rapture" events indicate that these verses apply to the last days.

Vs 37 belong to Period 2. As we see in our parse of the Olivet discourse in Matthew [6], the "vulture" adage applies to the coming of the Messiah in Period 2.




Original text

We color-code the chiastic units of the original text (NIV) below for easy visual identification using: red for Period 1, blue for Period 2, and green for Period 3.


Luke 17 22 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. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 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. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.
34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” [36](from KJV) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
37 “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”


3. Building the reconfigured text



From this parse, it appears that verses 22-37 form a cryptochiasmus as below:

A1   22-25 Period 2. False messiahs, Messiah's arrival like lightning.
  B1   26-30 Period 3. Christ's sudden return... as in the days of Noah and Lot.
    X   31-33 Period 1. Leave immediately on seeing the armies. Remember Lot's wife.
  B2   34-36 Period 3. Rapture instances.
A2   37 Period 2. "Vulture" proverb.


We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure we arrived at previously and based on the ordering rules of a cryptochiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X'. The corresponding subunits (For ex., subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For ex., A1,A2 is a unit) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

X  [A1,A2]  [B1,B2]        (1)


Translating (1) into verse numbers, we get:

31-33  [22-25, 37]   [26-30, 34-36]        (2)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (2).




4. Luke 17:22-37 Reconfigured

Period 1. The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD during the First Jewish–Roman War (66AD–73AD) (31-33)

31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.

Period 2. The tribulation period before Christ's millennial reign (from 2017AD) (vs. 22-25,37)

22 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. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 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. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

37 “Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Period 3 The Start of the End Times Tribulation (unknown date before 2967AD) (vs. 26-30, 34-36)

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 36(from KJV) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.





5. A Commentary on the Reconfigured Text

5.1 Period 1. The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD during the First Jewish–Roman War (66AD–73AD) (31-33)

31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.


Lot's wife looked back with longing, reluctant to let go of the life she was leaving and lost her life as a result. So the people of Judea should not try to retrieve their possessions but flee immediately on seeing the Roman soldiers because anyone tarrying will be trapped and eventually killed. (For more details on this Period, see our paper on "The 70 weeks of Daniel" [2] and a history of the war in [3].)



5.2 Period 2. The tribulation period before Christ's millennial reign (from 2017AD)(vs. 22-25,37)

As we have seen in other Olivet passages, the narrative of this Period seems to be arranged in a chiastic structure (a regular chiasm and so no rearrangement is required). The first section (vs. 22-23) and the last (vs. 25,37) are about the period before the coming of the Messiah, and the central pivot section (vs. 24) describes the coming itself.


22 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. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 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.

There will be a time of tribulation during which people will long to see the start of Christ's reign. Satan will send many false messiahs to lead people astray, but the Messiah's arrival will be made known around the earth as quickly as lightning.



25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

This may be a parenthetical remark from Jesus about his own suffering and rejection, or it may be that the coming Messiah also will be initially rejected.



37 “Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”


Just as circling vultures indicate the presence of a carcass on the ground, so also there will be signs that indicate the presence of the real Messiah (see Matt. 24:28 [6]).



5.3 Period 3 The Start of the End Times Tribulation (unknown date before 2967AD) (vs. 26-30, 34-36)

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” [36](from KJV) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.


The coming of the Son of Man and the rapture will happen at a completely unexpected time, just as the devastation in the days of Lot and Noah came without warning. Those found living unrighteous lives at the time will not be raptured immediately - they will have to face a period of tribulation.



Conclusion

With this chiastic reconfiguration, we have shown that this passage contains three interwoven prophecies. While the First Jewish-Roman War appears in all prophetic chiastic reconfigurations, the common theme that connects the other two Periods seems to be the advent of Christ's reign and the associated tribulations (ie., the start of his earthly Millennial Reign, and the start of his Heavenly Reign).

We parsed this simple chiasm using the understanding gathered from reconfiguring the three other versions of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and this validates our parses of those more complex versions. All these passages in the various Gospels are consistently the same at a deeper semantic level although there are surface variations, and all of them maintain a chiastic structure. This, to us, is further evidence that the Bible is divinely inspired and that every "jot and tittle" has been preserved in the text.




References

[1] A Definition of Cryptochiasmus
[2] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel"
[3] First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) by Wikipedia.
[4] Flight to Pella by Wikipedia
[5] Jewish Christian by Wikipedia
[6] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24
[7] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Daniel 8
[8] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Daniel 10-12. Part 3: Daniel 12.
[9] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Revelation 12








Related pages

Daniel 9
Mark 13
Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37
Cryptochiasmus