Don't Look Back

What does the story of Lot's wife have to do with the end times?

For many readers of the Bible, the story of Lot’s wife represents one of the strangest moments of the Old Testament. Having heard that God was about to rain down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah as punishment for their wickedness, Lot gathered his family and prepared to flee the destruction.

The angels of God left them with this instruction:

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”—Genesis 19:17

So the last remaining righteous family packed up and left everything behind in order to avoid God’s wrath. This is what happened next:

Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

26 But [Lot’s] wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.—Genesis 19:24-26

She and her family had already been saved. As everything they’d ever known exploded around them, Lot’s wife only had to follow one instruction. She was leaving behind an entire community famous for its depravity—Sodom and Gomorrah were sick, sick places—and the only condition on her survival was to not look back.

But she did. She turned around to see what she was leaving behind, and God destroyed her.

The fact that He did it by transforming her into salt confuses modern readers, but that’s where we have to think about the context. Back then, salt wasn’t a type of flavoring people kept in a little shaker on their tables. Salt was a preservative. It kept food fresh before the days of refrigeration.

Her final look might have been a look of longing at the evil she was leaving behind. It was an attempt at preservation of that old life. God might have been saying, “If you’re looking to hold onto that sin—if you want so badly to preserve what is evil—then pure preservation is what you’ll become.”

Even so, it would be easy to read this passage and just file it away as just one of those hard-to-understand stories from the Old Testament, except for one really important thing: In the New Testament, Jesus calls our attention to the story of Lot’s wife.

And He does it in the context of describing the end times.

If it meant enough to Jesus for Him to teach about it, then we dare not dismiss it as a weird story. We need to take it very, very seriously.

Remember Lot’s wife

In Luke 17, the Pharisees ask Jesus when they can expect the arrival of the Kingdom of God. In response, Jesus begins to give a detailed description of what the world will look like before His Second Coming, followed by a description of the Rapture of the Church.

He says the “days of the Son of Man” will be like the days of Noah, in which people had been going about their normal activities right before the flood destroyed them. Then Jesus brings up Lot.

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.—Luke 17:28-30

Judgment will be swift and sudden. As Paul describes it, the rapture will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

But then Jesus mentions Lot’s wife specifically. He makes it clear that He wants His audience to think about her response to God’s judgment:

31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”—Luke 17:31-36

Remember Lot’s wife. Why would Jesus mention Lot’s wife in the context of His return?

Letting go of the past

Earlier in this passage, Jesus makes it clear that the days before His return will be filled with violence, corruption and immorality—the same conditions that brought the cataclysmic judgments of flood and fire in the Old Testament.

The same kind of wickedness is rampant in our world today. Of course, it is a major sign of the end times. But faced with this wickedness, Jesus tells our generation we need to remember Lot’s wife. Why does Jesus use her as an example of what not to do in the end times?

It’s because she looked back. Even for a brief moment, she sought to preserve what she was leaving behind. She had fallen in love with the sinful world around her and didn’t want to say goodbye. No doubt, she was grieving over the relationships and possessions she was losing. Her home. Her friends. Her things.

She couldn’t let go of the past. In His great mercy, God had been willing to spare her the judgment He was bringing on the perverse culture of Sodom and Gomorrah. But instead of embracing that mercy and looking toward the future ahead of her, she looked back. Her focus was on the past. She couldn’t peel her attention away from the world and all she was leaving behind.

It cost her everything.

In one of the clearest end times passages in the Bible, Jesus warns us to remember the judgment of Lot’s wife so we can avoid her fate. Even though we also are living in a sin-filled world, many of us have a deep attachment to it. That may be one reason some people become fearful or anxious when they hear teachings about the Rapture or the end times. They don’t want to leave this world behind!

But like Lot discovered, there’s a much better world ahead of us. It is far, far better than what we are leaving behind.

This world is not our home

The apostle John may have had this in mind when he wrote these words:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.”—1 John 2:15-18

The world and the things of the world can easily become a replacement and distraction from God the Father. As we now are living in the most materialistic and immoral culture in human history, we need to be prepared to turn away from this world and never look back. We don’t need to long for the world behind us, because our perverse, pornographic society would make the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah blush.

This world is not our home. That’s why we shouldn’t be worried about the end times and the eventual destruction of this world. We should rejoice instead at the future God has laid before us.

Don’t be like Lot’s wife, who would have escaped had she not longed for the past. Be like Lot, who turned his back on Sodom and Gomorrah and refused to look back.

Loosen your grip

Before I wrap up this article, however, I want to make one thing clear: God’s Creation is good and I’m not saying it is wrong for us to enjoy it. I love a beautiful spring day or a spectacular West Texas sunset, just like anyone. I love my hometown and enjoy spending time with my friends. All of these things are gifts from God. They are good and necessary parts of our lives.

But the larger world—our society and culture—is wicked and corrupt. It has been transformed by Satan. It rejects God’s authority and convinces people to live by their own moral code instead of God’s. This is the spirit of the Antichrist and it is what led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

That same spirit, right now, is setting up our world for the coming wrath of God.

So I urge you to hold onto your possessions loosely. Prepare your heart to leave this world behind. Get ready to say goodbye to everything you have in this life, with the exception of the relationships you have with believing family members and fellow Christians. Don’t focus on your life right now, because it will all be gone in the twinkling of an eye.

I’m very ready to see Jesus and to go to my forever home in Heaven, which will be beyond our wildest dreams. Until that time, as long as I’m here, I’ll focus on Jesus and remain dedicated to preparing the Bride of Christ for His return. I want to lead as many people to Christ as I can. I also want to prepare my own heart for the end times.

Those days are coming soon. Be ready, but as you prepare for the return of Christ, please remember Lot’s wife!