Jesus spoke in parables. His stories were not necessarily factual because their purpose was to teach some principle about the spiritual meaning of life. (Luke 10 has some short parables that are obviously not literal.) He did many miracles in Capernaum and other cities. He challenges, “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago.” (Luke 10:13).
Capernaum had been the scene of many miracles, but it did not spark a spirit of repentance! They pursued Christ for more feeding on loaves and fishes, and the Master lamented, “you are seeking me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the fill of the loaves” (John 6:26).
This attitude leads Jesus to say, “… you Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades” (Luke 10:15). The city saw heavenly powers to which it failed to respond. Its reward for this failure would be going “down to Hades” (or “hell” in the old AV Bible, the grave, in many modern versions). And Capernaum did die for 1500 years, until archaeologists uncovered its ruins; so it was brought down to Hades.
In Luke 12 Jesus makes a significant point, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). The people of Capernaum missed this important principle and we need to be mindful of it ourselves.
Jesus’ disciples are sent out on a successful preaching and healing mission and when they return Jesus says, “I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Again, this is not be understood literally. We have seen the symbolic meaning of heaven, that the enemies of Jesus, seeking his destruction, were “disarmed” by the demonstrations of heaven’s power and lost their position as heaven’s representatives. In Luke 11 Jesus ridicules their attempts to deny his heavenly powers (Luke 11:15-23)., he ends by saying, “Whoever is not with me is against me …” We can take no neutral position when it comes to our personal relationship with Jesus. We must remember that!