The Great Division
Luke 17:34
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.

1. The meaning of the text being established, we have next to inquire what the lessons are which it is designed to teach us. When it is considered in relation to its context, it becomes plain that the primary intention of the passage is to denote the suddenness with which the day of the Lord will come upon the inhabitants of the earth. "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only." There will be no perceptible check or change in the current of human affairs to warn us of its coming. Men will be engaged to the very last in the ordinary occupations of life, "as in the days of Noe" and "as in the days of Lot," "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage." Nor shall the great and final partition of good and evil be preceded or prefigured by any partial and gradual severance. Men and women shall be united in their daily tasks, and even in the most familiar intercourse of domestic life, between whom there shall be a great gulf fixed in that day.

2. There is a further lesson which may be derived from the text, and which it is also without doubt intended to convey. It is one which is set forth more or less plainly in other places of Holy Scripture. The children of this world and the children of light cannot be absolutely distinguished, so long as we see through a glass, darkly. Our estimate of another's character is after all nothing better than an inference from phenomena, and our powers of inference are at least as fallible in this as in all other matters. The warmest friendships, the most endearing ties, can afford us no unmistakable guarantee that those with whom we are thus outwardly united, are both almost and altogether such as we are.

3. There is, however, a third inference to which we are naturally led by the words before us, and to which I desire particularly to direct your attention at present. However closely and undistinguishably men are mingled together in this world, however various, minute, and delicate are the shades of character by which they are severally differenced, however hopeless it may appear, I will not say for man, but for Absolute Wisdom and Absolute Justice, to draw a broad line between the children of this world and the children of light, the text seems to imply, what we are elsewhere taught, that they will ultimately be divided into two and only two classes. But I think the text goes beyond this, at all events in the way of implication. For it not only tells us that such a sharp line as I have described will ultimately be drawn between the evil and the good, but it seems also to tell us that the line exists already, although we may be unable to discern it. For inasmuch as it represents the day of judgment as coming upon men unprepared, discovering them in the midst of their daily avocations, finding persons of the most opposite characters united in the closest intercourse without a suspicion of their incompatibility, and then at once awarding to every man his everlasting doom; is it not reasonable to infer that the grounds of that award exist already, although they are not in every instance cognizable by us? At this point, however, we are met by a difficulty. Our experience of the world and of human life appears to teach us a different lesson. No doubt there are good men and there are bad men on the face of the earth — good men who are acknowledged to be so even by those who are far otherwise, and bad men who are confessed to be so even by themselves. But the great mass of mankind seems to belong to an intermediate and indifferent body, consisting of those who are neither saints nor reprobates, neither fit for eternal life nor deserving of eternal death. The longer the world lasts, the more complicated the developments of society become, the more does this appear to be the case. The visible confusion of the moral world may only serve to cover a clear and well-defined line of demarcation. And, as much, on the one hand, that is outwardly and materially honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report, when traced to its true source would be found to be of the earth, earthy; so we must remember that "the Lord knoweth them that are His"; that, "the kingdom of God," which "is within" us, "cometh not with observation"; and that as "the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; so is event one that is born of the Spirit." But we shall do well to recollect, in addition, that we see men ordinarily in a transitional and undeveloped state. The good or the evil that is in them may not have had time to come to a head, or may be over. shadowed by old habits which hang about a man like parasites, but which can hardly be said to form a part of his proper self. But as each man's probation draws near its close, it may be that his character is altogether simplified and stereotyped. Then it is that the awful decree goes forth: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still." Mere experience, then, can decide nothing against the teaching of holy Scripture on this point, although it may not actually confirm it. On the other hand, it is worthy of observation, that a great thinker, whose name marks an era in the history of modern philosophy, in endeavouring to frame a religious system a priori, was led to a result altogether coincident with the doctrine under consideration. After raising the two following questions: first, Whether man can be neither good nor evil? and then, Whether man can be partly good and partly evil? he decides against the former, in opposition (as he confesses) to the prima facie dictates of experience, upon the ground that moral neutrality in any voluntary act is an impossible conception; and he disposes of the latter, by observing that no act has any intrinsic moral worth, unless it spring from a deliberate adoption of the moral law as our universal principle of action. I have cited this writer's testimony mainly because he cannot be accused of any undue partiality towards the distinctive peculiarities of the Christian system. But it is not difficult to translate his arguments into Scriptural language. For, on the one hand, it is our Lord Himself who proposes the dilemma, "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt": and, on the other, His apostle tells us that "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

(W. B. Jones, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed. The one will be taken, and the other will be left.

One Taken, and the Other Left
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