The only thing we really know about Lot’s wife is that she looked back.
That’s it. We don’t know her name, we don’t know where she was from, we don’t even have a single line of dialogue from her. The angels warned Lot’s family to flee without looking back; Lot’s wife looked back “and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). That’s the only context we get. And for roughly two thousand years, this unnamed woman is little more than a footnote in Biblical history.
Then Jesus tells His disciples, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
It’s a short, haunting sentence. Remember Lot’s wife. Remember the woman who wasn’t ready to leave behind a world that God had marked for destruction. Remember the woman who looked back.
The clearest lesson from that warning ties in with Christ’s earlier assertion that “no one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
We’re doing this—or we’re not. We’re citizens of God’s eternal Kingdom—or we’re citizens of this temporary world. One or the other. We can’t have our feet in both, and we can’t spend our journey toward the Kingdom wishing we were back in the world we left behind.
That’s an important lesson. But what really gives me pause is the context of Christ’s warning. The Pharisees had asked when the Kingdom of God would come, and He warned His disciples not to fall for anyone’s false alarms—”for as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day” (Luke 17:24). It would, in other words, be sudden and impossible to miss. Just as important, it would catch the world by surprise—like the Flood in the days of Noah and like the fire and brimstone that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. “They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30). The event will be sudden, sweeping, unavoidable, unmistakable—judgment on a world determined to ignore or oppose the commandments of God.
With “the days of Noah” and “the days of Lot” (Luke 17:26, 28) as a backdrop for the arrival of the Kingdom of God, Jesus continued,
It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 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. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.
(Luke 17:30-35, ESV)
What happens on the day the Son of Man is revealed?
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The return of Jesus Christ is the moment when the faithful servants of God are transformed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52). It’s the moment when the corruptibles puts on incorruption, when the mortals put on immortality, when death is swallowed up in victory and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. That’s the moment Jesus is talking about.
And then He says, “Remember Lot’s wife.”
Is that possible? Is it possible for the people of God to come right up against the moment of their ultimate salvation and then look over their collective shoulders and think, “But I’m not ready to leave”? Can we get so attached to a world that is passing away, so involved and integrated into it, that when the time comes to leave, we’re not ready?
It’s not that we shouldn’t care about the people in this world. As Christians, we must. Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes, “because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). We should “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and “do good to all” (Galatians 6:10) as we have the opportunity. But a big part of letting go of the world means acknowledging that the answers and solutions the world needs aren’t in the world. As much as we should be making the effort to improve whatever corner of the world we find ourselves in, we do that knowing that the only way forward is leaving these broken foundations behind.
The Flood and the fire caught the world by surprise, but God’s people had a heads-up. They knew what was coming. We know what’s coming. We know who parades himself as the god of this world. We know he wants us to be distracted by and clinging to anything but the truth. We know he’s a master of making good look evil and evil look good.
When the time comes to go, will I miss what I’m leaving behind? Will I want to rush down from the rooftop, gather up my possessions and take all the cares of this world with me? Will I look back?
I hope not. That’s the uncomfortable question we all have to wrestle with. And I think that’s the key—we have to wrestle with it now. We have to start letting go of the world now if we want to be ready for the future that’s ahead of us—a future where, ultimately, we’ll be involved in fixing everything that the god of the age has broken and twisted. But we don’t get there by holding onto what we have here.
Remember Lot’s wife.
Until next time,