Outline of the Gospel of Luke ~ Chapter 12:
I. Instruction in the Light of Rejection, Luke 12:1-19:27.
1. Concerning hypocrisy, Luke 12:1-12.
2. Concerning covetousness, Luke 12:13-34.
3. Concerning faithfulness, Luke 12:35-48.
4. Concerning division and signs, Luke 12:49-59.
In this last section, (Concerning division, signs, and a final warning, Luke 12:49-59.) we have three main topics:
1. Vs. 49-53, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have a dividing nature on family members.
2. Vs. 54-56, a rebuke of those who cannot discern the time of the first Advent of the Christ.
3. Vs. 57-59, a final warning of condemnation against those who reject the Savior.
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1. Vs. 49-53, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have a dividing nature on family members.
Luke 12:49, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”
“I have come to cast fire upon the earth,” ERCHOMAI BALLO PUR EPI GE, is used figuratively for the judgment of Jesus Christ upon the peoples of the earth. Here, we see the context is regarding people’s faith in Him as Messiah or not.
Isa 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev 21:1, tell us that there will be “a new heaven and new earth.” That means that the first, our current, earth and heaven will be destroyed, 2 Peter 3:10; Micah 1:4.
2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”
As such, fire will consume the universe as we know it, so that this current earth and the heavens will cease to exist. Jesus then will create in their place a new earth and a new heaven. In that new creation, all of it will be freed from the disease of sin and the dominion of evil. But, before our Lord could enact that final destruction and new creation, He had to go to the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins, so that sin and Satan would be defeated.
As we see here, the Cross is the central event of the universe, and the Cross is the central aspect for everyone’s life. In that centrality, the Cross will be a dividing line between people, as they choose for or against Christ. That dividing line is what will divide people in eternity between heaven and hell, but it will also divide people in time regarding their allegiances.
Therefore, as Jesus was heading from Galilee to Jerusalem, He lamented about sin that grips the world, which He desires to cease immediately. He expressed this desire with “And how I wish it (the end-time fire) were already kindled.”
“How I wish it were already kindled,” uses the exclamatory use of the Adverb TIS for His strong desire with the Present, Active, Indicative of the Verb THELO, “to wish to have, desire, etc.,” with the Conjunction, EI, “if,” that emphasizes His strong desire, and Adverb EDE, “already, now, or at this time,” with the Aorist, Passive, Indicative of the Verb ANAPTO, ἀνάπτω that means, “to light a fire or kindle.” ANAPTO is used only here, Acts 28:2; and James 3:5. Here, it is used metaphorically for kindling the fire of judgment; the judgment of our sins upon the person of Jesus Christ, that will end the current problem of sin in the world. And, even though the judgment of our sins upon Jesus is good for the world, Jesus also knew that it would be a cause of division among people.
Our Lord’s strong “wish or desire,” was to get the plan of God moving forward. Knowing of the people’s overall rejection of Him, which would lead to His crucifixion, He is also prophesying about the judgments that will come upon the world for rejecting Him, beginning with 70 A.D., when Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans and culminating in the destruction of the heavens and earth, so that a new earth and heavens could be created. Though these judgments are punitive, they are designed to bring salvation to as many as possible.
We see here that the Lord is lamenting about each second that sin and evil continues to exist. He could, at any moment, eliminate all pain, suffering, disasters, disease, death, sorrow, mourning, and decay, but that would also mean the end of us. As such, His plan of redemption must tolerate the continued existence of evil for a time; just enough time to make a way for salvation and to collect all those who will choose to trust in Him. Therefore, Jesus is expressing His eagerness to get the Father’s Plan for Salvation to completion.
Luke 12:50, “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!”
“But I have a baptism to undergo,” in the Greek is DE ECHO BAPTISMA BAPTIZO, which literally says, “But I have a baptism to be baptized with,” using the Aorist, Passive, Infinitive for BAPTIZO.
Before bringing judgment, Jesus first had to be judged by the Father for our sins. This is called the “Baptism of the Cross.” It is one of seven Baptisms found in the Scriptures.
Baptism means identification or association of one thing with another. In the Baptism of the Cross, Jesus was identified with the sins of the entire world.
There are two categories of identification in Scripture:
1) An actual identification is called a Real Baptism.
2) A representative identification is called a Ritual Baptism. It uses water.
There are four “real” and three “ritual” Baptisms. Real Baptisms are without water. Ritual Baptisms are with water.
The four Real Baptisms include:
1) The Baptism of Moses (identification of the freed Israelites with Moses as God’s leader); 2) Baptism of the Cross; 3) Baptism of the Holy Spirit; 4) Baptism of Fire, (the judgment of the Tribulational unbelievers at the Second Advent).
The three Ritual Baptisms included:
1) The Baptism of John; 2) The Baptism of Jesus Christ; 3) The Baptism of Church Age believers.
The Baptism of the Cross is also found in Mark 10:38-39. Matthew parallels this account but does not mention baptism, only the cup to drink, Mat 20:22; cf. 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24.
Mark 10:38-39, “But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”
Even though the “Sons of Thunder,” James and John, (Mark 3:17), could not take on the sins of the world and be judged for them, they would suffer death for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They would suffer as Jesus did. But only Jesus could take on the sins of the entire world and be judged for them.
2 Cor 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
This Baptism is our Lord Jesus Christ being identified with our sins. This refers to the judicial imputation of personal sins to Jesus Christ on the Cross. Jesus Christ was identified with our personal sins and judged for them, so that Christ became our Savior. As sinners, none of those to whom Christ spoke were qualified to be baptized with sin on the Cross.
The Baptism of the Cross reveals the judging and purging work that His ministry represents that provides the way for people to make decisions about where they stand and to offer them the opportunity to be healed from their sins, Luke 5:31-32.
Luke 5:31, “And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick”.”
Rom 3:10, “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one’.”
Before Jesus could exercise such judgment and authority, He first had to undergo His own baptism, so He was limited in what He could do until then, which frustrated Him.
“Baptism” is therefore, a reference to His approaching judgment and death upon the Cross. As later texts make clear, Jesus will engage in a great cleansing act, where He will identify with the sins of humanity and provide a basis for both saving and condemning by His experiencing God’s judgment in their place, John 3:16-21; Rom 5:12-6:6. As such, in the judgment He experienced, He provides the opportunity for others to be spared, if they would believe in Him as their Savior. Interestingly, this sparing judgment He took on and offers freely to all of mankind, becomes the issue of stern division among people, including families.
Therefore, Jesus’ commitment to God’s will was total and complete. He was completely governed by His desire to complete His Baptism of the Cross, even though it meant suffering death in Jerusalem, Luke 13:31-35. In fact, He longed for this Baptism despite what it demanded, because only through its completion would the fire of judgment be kindled that would save. Jesus’ death is seen here not as a tragedy or a terrible twist of fate, but as the fulfillment of the God’s Divine Plan.
Then we have, “How distressed I am until it is accomplished!”
This is the second exclamation Jesus’ uses in this section. In vs. 49, He used TIS as an Adverb in “How I wish it were kindled.” Now, He uses the Adverb POS for “How distressed I am,” that indicates He is gripped with inner pressure regarding this situation, to the point it is constraining Him.
This is further emphasized in the next word “distressed,” which is the Present, Passive, Indicative of the Verb SUNECHO that can mean, “hold fast, restrain, enclose, constrain, compel, press, pressure.” Therefore, He described His state of mind as “distressed” until the Plan was accomplished. The apostle Paul used this same Greek verb to describe being “hard-pressed” (or torn) by two alternative desires, Phil 1:23, read vs. 21-26. So, we see from both Jesus and Paul that they held themselves together while enduring great affliction, because they also knew what the great outcome of their actions would be for others.
Therefore, we see our Lord’s inner struggle with what is going on at the present that will not be resolved “until,” He undergoes the Baptism of the Cross, i.e., “until it is accomplished,” HEOS HOTOU TELEO. TELEO is in the Aorist, Passive, Subjunctive that means, “to complete, finish, or perform.” This is the same root word that Jesus uttered on the Cross, when the payment of the penalty for the sins of the entire world had been completed, i.e., “It is finished.” In our passage, Jesus is looking forward to that time, which is the Baptism of the Cross. Therefore, He is currently having inner pressure about what is happening now, because He is anxious to get to the Cross and win the strategic victory of the Angelic Conflict by defeating sin and death.
“We can only imagine the Lord’s inner conflict. On a personal level, He left the pristine holiness of a perfect heaven to live in the cesspool of creation. While we hate evil because of the harm it causes us, God hates evil because it violates His very nature and corrupts everything—everyone—He loves. On another level, the Lord found Himself conflicted by His abhorrence for the continued existence of sin and His compassion for people. He “held Himself together” despite being torn between righteousness and patience.” (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary).
For our own personal application, if we think that serving Christ is demanding and difficult, think of what He endured on our behalf. He felt the inner struggles of seeing evil and injustice in the world and He suffered the thrashes and scourging of God’s judgment in His Baptism on the Cross. Therefore, we can ask ourselves:
- “Are we in the furnace of affliction?” He felt that fire before we did.
- “Are we experiencing “war” in the home because of our faith in Christ?” He knew what that was like too, Luke 8:19-21; Micah 7:6; John 7:1-5.
Micah 7:6, “For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own household.”
1. Vs. 49-53, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have a dividing nature on family members, (continued). Vs. 51-53, are paralleled in Mat 10:34-36.
Luke 12:51, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.”
“Do you suppose that I came,” uses the Present, Active, Indicative of the Verb DOKEO, “do you think or suppose,” with the Conjunction HOTI, “that,” and the Aorist, Middle Deponent, Indicative of the Verb PARAGINOMAI, “arrive, come near, appear, come forward etc.,” that is speaking of His First Advent. In other words, Jesus is asking a rhetorical question, “why do you think I came?”
Jesus then answers with their supposed response, “to grant peace,” DIDOMI ERIENE, and gives the caveat, “on earth?” EN HO GE. Another way He could have stated this, and has elsewhere, “did you think I came to establish My kingdom on the earth?” He answers this with a resounding, “I tell you, NO!” LEGO HUMEIS OUCHI, “no, not so, by no means, etc.” Therefore, His First Advent was not designed for Him to establish His Kingdom or the Millennial or eternal reign, but rather to go to His Baptism of the Cross to pay the penalty for the sins of the entire world.
Then Jesus tells why He came in His First Advent, “but rather division,” the Conjunction ALLA, with the disjunctive or separating particle E, and the accusative Noun DIAMERISMOS that means, “division, disunity, or dissension,” that is only used here in the NT. BDAG notes its meaning as, “division into partisan and contentious units, dissension, and disunity.” It contrasts EIERENE and is used here metaphorically for “dissension,” especially when compared with the parallel in Mat 10:34 that uses “sword,” MACHAIRA, instead. This dissension means “disagreement or difference of opinion, especially when leading to open conflict,” as the context in the following verses indicate. In a metonymical sense, MACHAIRA is used to denote the power and authority of an official or judge. To “bear the sword” then, symbolizes an authority’s power to punish, the power over life and death, cf. Rom 13:4. Therefore, Jesus is speaking about being judged for our sins upon the Cross that will cause divisions among family members and others, as they will be divided in their belief.
By making this statement, Jesus knows that He forces choices onto people. As a result, He does not bring peace, “but division.” That is because of the acceptance some will have regarding Him, while others reject Him as their Savior. The rejection He will suffer is only a portion of the tension introduced by His presence. Families will be divided as some opt for Him and others choose against Him. Every combination possible gets mentioned here: father and sons, mothers and daughters, in-laws against in-laws, etc. The choices are real, and people will go different ways. Therefore, no one should be surprised that in forcing choices, division of opinion will emerge.
And in fact, Jesus did come to bring peace to mankind as stated by Zachariah in his great prophecy in Luke 1:79, and in the birth announcement of the Lord by the angel to the shepherds in the fields, Luke 2:14.
Luke 1:79, “To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of His Divine favor/good pleasure.”
In addition, when Jesus was brought to the temple 8 days after His birth, Simeon prophesied that Jesus was “set for the fall and rise of many in Israel,” and that “a sword would pierce Mary’s soul.” The purpose of this division and this sword piercing was that “many hearts may be revealed,” Luke 2:34-35.
Jesus also stated to His disciples in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
And when lamenting over the people of Jerusalem in Luke 19:42, He stated, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
Therefore, Jesus did bring peace to the people of the world, which is the result of anyone believing in His crucifixion for the forgiveness of their sins, which was accomplished during His Baptism of the Cross. Yet anyone who does not believe upon Him does not enter into that peace, and therefore have division. That is why our Lord states, He has brought division.
Luke 12:52, “For from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.”
“Will be divided,” uses the Verb of the Noun we just noted in vs. 51, which is the Perfect, Passive, Participle, Nominative, Plural of the Verb DIAMERIZO that means, “divide, separate into parts, or distribute.” Interestingly, this verb is used in Matthew, Mark, and John only for the account of the four Roman soldiers dividing up Jesus’ garments amongst them upon His crucifixion. Luke also mentions this account, Mat 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24, as was prophesied in Psa 22:18.
Psa 22:18, “They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.”
The other usages are in Luke’s Gospel, speaking of the detrimental effect of a kingdom being divided, Luke 11:17-18; then in our passage, 12:52-53; and finally, in 22:17, when our Lord broke the bread at the Last Supper and shared it with the disciples. Luke also used it in Acts 2:3, for the tongues of fire dividing and indwelling the Apostles, and vs. 45 for the early believers dividing and selling their possession for the well-being of the church/community. Therefore, in all of its others usages, dividing actually had a unifying effect. As such, Jesus’ Baptism on the Cross will have a dividing effect upon the souls of mankind, yet it was accomplished to unify all of mankind with God. What was meant to unify all of mankind, actually results in dividing mankind, which Jesus full well knew, as the Cross is the dividing line for all of humanity.
Luke 12:53, “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
“They will be divided,” uses the Verb DIAMERIZO once again that means, “divide, separate into parts, or distribute.” In the previous verse, the division was generally stated as among the household members, OIKOS. Here, it gets even more specific with PATER, “father,” HUIOS, “son,” METER, “mother,” THUGATER, “daughter,” PENTHERA, “mother-in-law,” NUMPHE, “daughter-in-law.” These close relationships can and will be at odds over the person and work of Jesus Christ.
This prophecy of Jesus about the end times is sadly true not only of our time but of all times. Jesus experienced this within His own family, as there were divisions and rejections even within His own family, cf. Luke 8:19-21; John 7:5.
John 7:5, “For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”
Jesus’ mother, His brothers, and sisters all had to learn that obedience to Jesus and the Word of God takes precedence, even over family ties.
“It was because Jesus revealed the thoughts of many hearts—the thoughts of scribes, Pharisees, and secular rulers—that Jesus caused division. It is traumatic for a person to have his sinful heart exposed for what it is. A person must either accept the peace that Jesus wants to offer, or he must resist and reject it. But Jesus also brought peace to sinners, even publicans and prostitutes, not only because He revealed their hearts of sin, but because they were willing to accept His loving offer of forgiveness. Though He is the Prince of Peace, His first coming did not produce peace in the world. Rather, it produced serious divisions in the world, and even in families. Those who decide to follow Christ must recognize the possibility that even those who love them will turn away. We must not let this possibility deter us from total commitment to Christ. In fact, Jesus, because He was human, experienced family rejection for the sake of the kingdom of God. This enables Him to fully comprehend the ordeals of Christians now who must face rejection at the hands of loved ones.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Luke).
As we have noted, the parables in vs. 36-48, spoke about the crisis of His future return. Then in vs. 49-53, He spoke about the crisis of division brought by His own ministry. Now, in vs. 54-56, Jesus is speaking about the crisis of not being able to discern the times, which means the crisis of missing the Messiah / Savior / King. Our Lord used a comparable rebuking analogy when the Pharisees and Sadducees tested Him to show them a sign, Mat 16:2-3.
Luke 12:54, “And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out.”
In the first two verses, our Lord gives us two analogies of weather-related events that are indicators that a certain type of weather is coming. He was comparing the ability of the people to understand the coming of His kingdom with their ability to understand the coming of weather. This kind of reminds us of the old sailors forecasting analogy, “red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in the morning, sailor’s take warning.”
Once again, our Lord is speaking to the “crowds,” OCHLOS, which means a mixed bag of people from the laypeople to the religious leaders of His day.
Here we have the first, “cloud rising in the west.” The Greek is NEPHELE ANATELLO EPI DUSME.
“Cloud,” is the Noun NEPHELE. Its use in the Gospels is restricted to two other topics and its usage in this verse. It is first used for the Transfiguration, Mat 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34-35, then for our Lord’s prophecy and description of His Second Coming, Mat 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 12:54; 21:27. In Acts, it is used once for the Ascension of Jesus Christ after His Resurrection, Acts 1:9. In 1 Cor 10:1-2, it is used for the Theophany of Jesus as the Pillar of Cloud over the Tabernacle, cf. Ex 13:21; 14:19-20; 19:9; 33:9-10; 40:34. In 1 Thes 4:17, it is used for the Rapture of the Church that meets Jesus in the Clouds just as He left. In Rev 1:7, it speaks again of His Second Coming. Rev 14:14-16, speak again of Jesus in the clouds during the Tribulation. See also Rev 10:1; 11:12, for other usages of cloud in representation of heaven. The only other usages of NEPHELE are in 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 1:12, in analogy for the false teachers of false doctrines. As in the OT, these NT occurrences indicate that when God chose to do something very significant to, for, and with His people, He often did it within NEPHELE, “clouds.”
In our passage, the cloud is “rising,” ANATELLO. In 7 out of 9 uses in the NT, it stands for the sun or light rising in the morning. Twice it is used for Jesus’ appearance as “the dawning light,” Mat 4:16, and the “morning star” 2 Peter 1:19. Remember, Jesus Christ is the Morning Star, Rev 22:16.
Mat 4:16, “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned.” Cf. Isa 9:2; 60:1-3; Luke 2:32.
Rev 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
2 Peter 1:19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”
This cloud rising is seen coming from “the west,” EPI DUSME, “over or upon the west” that speaks of the action of appearing to sink and so disappear from view, going down, or setting. DUSME, means the Mediterranean Sea where rain clouds formed and would come over the hills of Palestine. This too has analogy for the 2nd Coming of our Lord and the eternal state as it is only used in Mat 8:11; 24:27; Luke 12:54; 13:29; Rev 21:13.
Mat 24:27, “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Our Lord states, “when you see,” these things, “immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out.”
“Shower,” is the Noun OMBROS that is only used here in the NT that means, “rainstorm or thunderstorm.” It denotes a violent rain or thunderstorm, not just a little sprinkle or shower. It is easy to miss or not forecast a pop-up shower, but when a massive storm is approaching, you cannot miss it. So, He says, “you say it is coming and so it comes to be.”
“You say it is coming,” is the equivalent to what we call in the Faith-Rest Drill doctrinal conclusions and rationales. This is when we mix the promises of God’s Word with faith and arrive at an understanding of what the Word of God is saying and how to apply it and then do it; we apply it to life.
Therefore, with this allegorical analogy, our Lord is using this ancient day weather forecasting, in analogy to the prophecies and predictions of His 1st Advent that they very well should have been aware of and able to interpret, especially since it has already happened to them.
Luke 12:55, “And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way.”
The second weather forecasting analogy uses the wind in regard to predicting hot days.
“South,” is the Greek noun NOTOS that means, “south, south or south westerly wind, or the land of the South.” It is only used seven times in the NT. We noted this word in Luke 11:31; Mat 12:42, for the Queen of the south, (Sheba), who would be condemning for the generation of Jesus’ day. It too, along with west is used in Rev 21:13, to describe the direction of gates of the New Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God. And, in Luke 13:9, it is used to identify the four locations from which the redeemed would come to sit in the Kingdom of God.
“Wind blowing,” is the Verb PNEO that is used for wind movement. Used seven times in the NT, it is literal in all but John 3:8, where the blowing wind represents the Holy Spirit.
The conclusion people would come to when they saw or felt a “south wind blowing,” is that “it will be a hot day,” EIMI, “it will be,” in the Future tense, with KAUSON, “heat or scorching heat,” only used here and in Mat 20:12; James 1:11. Here, it refers to the “scorching wind of the sirocco,” which is a hot wind, often dusty or rainy, blowing from North Africa, the Arabian Desert, or the Sahara, (cf. Job 27:21; Jonah 4:8), across the Mediterranean to southern Europe that can reach hurricane speeds. So, once again, this is not some light breeze. This is a significant weather system that is easily discernible, just as the 1st Advent of our Lord should have been to the people of His generation. This is the Doctrinal conclusion and rationale analogy once again.
“And it turns out that way,” is the verb GINOMAI as in vs. 54. This is more than a conclusion. It is the ultimate reality of the situation. It is the demonstration of the promises of God being made a reality in your life. Therefore, in these passages, it is the promises of God to send His Son into the world as the Savior / Messiah / King, coming to fruition.
Luke 12:56, “You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?”
Here, our Lord rebukes them for not having discernment that leads to faith, based on the promises of God that have been given to them.
“You hypocrites,” is the subject Nominative Noun HUPOKRITES, ὑποκριτής that means, “hypocrite or pretender.” It was used for actors on the stage pretending to be someone they were not. “A hypocrite is someone who pretends to have religious belief and virtue but doesn’t. The fact they didn’t know the will and work of God proved they didn’t know God Himself. And there are a lot of professing Christians who claim to know God but can’t tell you much about Jesus or what He demands. Our challenge is to avoid being one of them.” (Christ-Centered Exposition)
Luke has previously used this word in Luke 6:42; 11:44; and will again in 13:15. Mark uses it once in Mar 7:6. Matthew uses it 15 times, Mat 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; 23:13-15, 23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51. It is not used in the book of Acts or the Epistles. It is predominately used to reprove and rebuke the religious leaders of Jesus’ day; the Pharisees, especially in the “Woe judgments” of Mat 23; Luke 11:44.
We see it in a similar analogy to our verse in Mat 16:3, “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”
The rebuke in Luke’s gospel is, “You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?”
Interestingly, “sky” is the Noun HOURANOS that means heaven. So, we see the 2nd heaven, the sky or atmosphere in view here. This is the place that houses the weather cycles of the earth.
They “knew how to,” (OIDA), “analyze,” (DOKIMAZO, δοκιμάζω “to try, scrutinize, prove, discern, test, or examine”), these things, but “could not know how to analyze,” (OUK OIDA PROS DOKIMAZO), “this present time,” (KAIROS, “times, season, or opportunity”), i.e., the 1st Coming of the Lord.
This lack of discernment prevalent in Jesus’ day continues throughout the Church Age.
Rom 1:28, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge (DOKIMAZO) God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
2 Cor 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine (DOKIMAZO) yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
KAIROS is one of two Greek words for time. CHRONOS is the other from which the word chronology is derived. It is the word used for the regular flow of time, but KAIROS often represents a moment of critical decision or utmost importance. For Jesus, this KAIROS was the coming of the Kingdom in His person. All the previous verses in Luke Chapter 12, were an attempt by Jesus to prepare His hearers for the importance of this critical time.
Interestingly, how hard and unreliable is it to predict the weather? Even in our time of the space age and satellites that help to forecast the weather, the weather forecast is always presented with a caveat that it might not be so. As we say in New England, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.
Yet, these Israelites were not challenged to predict the unreliable weather patterns, they were asked to discern the First Advent of our Lord with the absolute and infallible Word of God at their disposal. These people had exposure to the Hebrew Scriptures, including prophecies concerning the Messiah, His mission, His death, His triumph, and many references to His kingdom. Therefore, they should have learned from the life and words of Jesus. They should have learned by honestly evaluating the writings of Moses, the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and other OT writers. All of these pointed to the times of the Messianic fulfillment of God’s plan. These evidences which pointed to the times of the Messiah were much more reliable signs than were those of the next day’s weather. Because of this, He chastised their failure to analyze and interpret the signs of their times.
Therefore, Jesus calls them hypocrites because they applied an honest evaluation of natural circumstances in determining the weather, but they would not exercise that same kind of honest evaluation in determining who Jesus was and what His purpose might be. If they could see the weather conditions and accurately predict what would be happening tomorrow, they should also be able to see the miracles Jesus performed, the good deeds He did, and the truths He taught as signs and the means for determining that He was the promised Messiah / Savior / King.
“The problem was not in the evidences. The difficulty was in the way the people approached the proofs. The reproof that Jesus delivered with the words “ye hypocrites” was not leveled at people who were confused about Christ and His purpose, or those who had never heard of Him, or even those who had serious doubts about Him. His anger was directed toward those who were in a position to know the truth, but who deliberately rejected that truth because of insincere motives. The truth would force them to change their way of living, their selfish goals, the way they dealt with their fellowman, all of which were changes they wouldn’t make. They felt it was more expedient to continue in their willful ignorance about the Messiah and His Age than to conform to His teachings and principles.” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary)
Luke 12:57, “And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?”
After giving weather allegories rebuking the people for not knowing the time of our Lord’s 1st Advent, He adds another exasperated rebuke in this verse. This rebuke is that they were “not judging rightly,” OUK KRINO HO DIKIAOS. Both, KRINO, “judge,” and DIKIAOS, “right,” are legal terms, which lends easily to the next two verses. But our Lord begins with the rebuke of the people because they did not have the discernment to know that Jesus was the Messiah / Savior / King, as foretold in the Scriptures.
“Initiative” is an added emphasis in the English and it literally reads from the Greek “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”
This self-judgment of “what is right,” means looking at / evaluating Jesus fairly and honestly as to who He is. As we have noted, they had the Law, the Prophets, and Poetical books of the Bible, which we call the OT today, not to mention the witness and warnings of both John the Baptist and Jesus, to have overwhelming information about the Savior / Messiah / King of Israel. Yet, they did not righteously or justly evaluate what God had given to them in comparison to who Jesus was. Therefore, they did not come to believe upon Him, as they should have.
This also reminds us of the free will volition God has given to every member of the human race to decide for themselves who Jesus is. Some will see Him for who He truly is and believe upon Him as their Savior, while others will not. The people to whom Jesus is speaking here, as in every generation, had enough revelation to be aware of what to expect of the Messianic Age. They should therefore have done what their own conscience told them was right and believed upon Him for salvation.
Next, our Lord gives an object lesson designed to emphasize the importance of acknowledging Him as the Messiah, using the judicial system of Israel in comparison to God’s judgment in the eternal state.
Luke 12:58, “For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.”
As noted above, this is paralleled in Mat 5:25-26. The context in that passage has to do with not forgiving your brother/sister and holding a grudge against him/her. It has to do with sinning post salvation, where you lose your experiential sanctification and fall into reversionism. In that case, God’s disciple will come to the believer, and we are warned not to be in that vulnerable state. Instead, we are to reconcile with our brother or sister, so we do not hold a grudge and continue to sin leading to Divine discipline, cf. 1 Cor 11:31-32.
1 Cor 11:31-32, “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”
In our passage, the context is much more critical, as here it is talking about those who believe in Jesus for salvation versus those who do not. In this passage, we are warned to make friends with our “opponent,” ANTIDIKOS, “opponent or adversary.” It was used for an opponent in a lawsuit, either the defendant or the plaintiff, which in this case is not a brother or sister, but is Jesus Himself. Much more serious! Jesus does not desire to be anyone’s adversary, but those who reject Him force that role upon Him.
ANTIDIKOS is only used here and twice in the parallel verse of Mat 5:25, and in Luke 18:3; 1 Peter 5:8. In 1 Peter, the adversary is the Devil. In our verse and the parallel, are the only times this is used for Jesus or God. The opponent of the unbeliever is God, James 4:4; cf. Luke 5:20; John 15:13-15.
James 4:4, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Luke 5:20, “Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you”.”
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Our Lord then goes through the litany of the posts in the judicial system with “Magistrate,” ARCHON, “ruler, prince, leader,” “Judge,” KRITES, “a judge or decider,” and “Officer,” and PRAKTOR, “officer, collector, punisher.” PRAKTOR is only use here in the NT. It carries the meaning of “one who exacts payment; one who is legally responsible for inflicting punishment upon another who owes a debt or who has committed a crime.” The PRAKTOR is the official who sees that justice is done in the matter. We could call this the executioner, as he is the one who “casts into prison,” BALLO EIS PHULAKE. From these words, in our current judicial system, we understand them as the Judge, Jury, and Executioner. God is all three when it comes to mankind.
Here, the unbeliever is encouraged to “make an effort to settle with him (the Magistrate or judge),” before going to court, “on your way there,” EN HO HODOS, “road, way, or highway.”
“Make an effort,” is the Aorist Active, Imperative of the Verb DIDOMI, “give, entrust, etc.,” and the Noun ERGASIA, ἐργασία that means, “trade, profit, gain, practice (of something), or diligence.” It means, “productive labor.” With the Imperative Mood we are commanded to make a good effort to understand who the Lord is so that we can come to believe upon Him.
“To settle” is the Perfect, Passive, Infinitive of the Verb APALLASSO, ἀπαλλάσσω that means, “release, be cured, to be set free, or to deliver.” It is only used here and Acts 19:12; Heb 2:15. As a Passive transitive, it means “being released or cured.” It was also used of “getting free of something, escaping, or getting off well, or without injury.” Here, the release or getting freed from is the impending condemnation that God will bring upon the unbeliever, which is the Eternal Lake of Fire.
Heb 2:15, “And might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”
The reason we need to be freed is twofold:
1) “So that he may not drag you before the judge,” where “drag you” is the Present, Active, Subjunctive of the Verb KATASURO, κατασύρω that means, “to drag away by force, pull down, or arrest.” It is only used here in the NT. It is derived from SURO, “drag, draw away,” and the Preposition KATA, which gives the term a sense of “force.” So, in both classical Greek and the Septuagint, this verb is used to mean “drag away by force.” Therefore, the context here is the one who lacks the motivation and discernment to judge what is right, (that Jesus is the promised Messiah / Savior), will be “dragged” away to another judge, (the Supreme court of Heaven – God), who will decide unfavorably towards them, (find them guilt of the crime of unbelief).
2) “The judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison,” where “turn you over” is the Future, Active, Indicative of the Verb PARADIDOMI, παραδίδωμι that means, “hand over or deliver up.” Used in various applications, here and others, it is used with regard to handing someone over to the court, Mat 10:17, or imprisoned in Mat 4:12, and can also mean hand over to death, Mat 17:22. The Officer here is the executioner of the sentence, which too is God in Trinity, especially Jesus Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment, as the officer will “throw you into prison,” BALLO EIS PHULAKE using the Future, Active, Indicative of BALLO that means to “throw, cast or put.” As we noted above, PHULAKE “prison” is representative of the Eternal Lake of Fire, the Second Death.
Therefore, we see, if a person is being taken to court and it is evident to him that the other person is in the right, the wise thing to do is to make peace with him quickly. If he rejects the opportunity to settle out of court, the court itself will find him guilty and sentence him to prison.
As a side note, later translations changed these verbs from the dogmatic fact of reality of the Future, Active, Indicative to the Aorist, Active, Subjunctive which makes it only a potential and not a reality, which is unfortunate for those interpreters, as they weaken the message and the reality that has led to many teaching false doctrines like that of purgatory or second chances.
Yet, our Lord was dogmatic in regard to the fact of this reality; if you do not fairly assess who Jesus is, you will reject Him as your Messiah / Savior, with the result of being cast into the eternal Lake of Fire due to your unbelief in Him. That is why He made the pleading emphasis of vs. 59.
Luke 12:59, “I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.”
Here, our Lord used a double negative in the Greek, OUK ME, which is a double emphasis of the severity of the situation. We would say, “absolutely not.” The things that absolutely will not happen is that the unbeliever “get out of there,” (the Lake of Fire), EXERCHOMAI, ἐξέρχομαι in the Aorist, Active, Emphatic Negation Subjunctive that means will not, “go out, come out, depart, etc.,” with the Adverb EKEITHEN, “from there,” used for the imprisonment of the Lake of Fire. Emphatic Negation is indicated by OUK ME, οὐ μή, plus the Aorist Subjunctive. This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek because οὐ μή plus the subjunctive denies any potentiality. A positive aspect of the use of the double negative for the believer is seen in John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”
Now we have the final phrase, “until you have paid the very last cent.” This is not given to say that the unbeliever can earn their way out of the Lake of Fire, but to prove that they cannot, because the reality is, no one can pay for their own sins. It uses the Conjunction HEOS, “till, until, or as long as,” with another Aorist, Active, Subjunctive of APODIDIMI, that here means, “pay back, return, render, or recompense,” with the Adjective, ESCHATOS, “last, final, etc.,” and LEPTON, “mite,” which is the smallest coin possible. It is only used here and in Mark 12:42; Luke 21:2, for the widows offering, i.e., “the widow’s mite.” It is said to be 1/128th of the Denarius. We would say, “one penny or one cent.”
The Aorist, Active, Subjunctive of APODIDIMI makes this a deliberative rhetorical Subjunctive statement from our Lord. “This rhetorical expects no verbal response, but is in fact a thinly disguised statement, though couched in such a way as to draw the listener into the text. In the speaker’s presentation, there is uncertainty about whether the listener will heed the implicit command. Unlike the interrogative indicative, it does not ask a question of fact, but of obligation. It is supremely a question of “oughtness”.” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics).
Therefore, this is what they ought to do to gain their freedom, but as we know from Scripture, this is impossible to do, as no one by their works can escape the sentencing of the Lake of Fire, Rev 20:12-15, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
As such, there will be no deliverance for the unbeliever until the debt is fully paid. And the fact that the unbeliever cannot and never will be able to pay this debt, they will remain imprisoned. But there is One who can pay that debt, and that person is Jesus Christ
“While we must accept that truth divides, Jesus nevertheless urged His followers to pursue peace. He began with an illustration of urgency and awareness, Luke 12:54-56, and then, in light of the approaching end, commanded us to accept whatever peace we can negotiate, vs. 57-59,” (Swindoll’s Living Insights), yet this negotiation must occur prior to ones departure from planet earth, at which time it will be too late.
Remember, this teaching is designed only as an illustration of the importance of getting one’s life right with Jesus by believing upon Him as your Savior while there is time. Also, this illustration should not be used to try to disprove the Biblical teaching of the eternal separation from God that awaits the lost, Mat 25:46, as there are no second chances after death to escape that eternal separation. Finally, it is always God’s desire to exercise grace toward man. He sent Jesus into the world to accomplish that purpose. Rejection of Jesus brings people into a position where the justice of God must be dealt out to them rather than His grace. This is the substance of the warning Jesus gave to His listeners.