What About the Kingdom? Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Text: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you..” (Luke 17:20-21)
Bible Reading: Luke 17:20-37
The kingdom is God’s rule in the universe and in each of our lives. Let’s start by looking at the kingdom as it is--
Present Now (Luke 17:20-21)
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
In our passage today, the focus is on the Pharisees. They had asked Jesus a question of great interest to them. They wanted to know, “When would God’s kingdom come?” Many of the Jews of that time believed that the coming of the Massiah would usher in a glorious political kingdom that would re-establish Israel as a great nation and end Roman rule. The Pharisees evidentially believed there would be certain signs that would accompany the kingdom’s arrival, and they believed they would be able to see the signs. The answer Jesus gave must have been unexpected. He told them that God’s kingdom would not come with clear and visible signs. He indicated that no one would be able to predict when the kingdom would arrive by observing predictable signs. To focus on signs would cause one to miss the very nature of God’s kingdom.
No one would be able to say, “The kingdom is here or there.” And the reason is very simple. God’s kingdom was already present among them. He said it’s “within you,” meaning “in your midst” or “within your reach.” Here, Jesus not only emphasized the personal and spiritual nature of God’s kingdom, but He also emphasized the kingdom’s presence among people and that it was something within their grasp. The Pharisees didn’t have to go out searching for the kingdom; it was present wherever Jesus was present. Since the kingdom is already present, no one needs to wait to enter it. You can enter it at any time by the way of salvation. What can we do to help believers to understand that God’s kingdom is present now? (We can tell them how to become part of the kingdom. We can lead a life that’s clearly different because we are part of the kingdom.) Next, we are told that the kingdom, as far as God’s rule over the earth has not yet come.
Not Yet (Luke 17:22-25)
22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
After answering the Pharisee's question, Jesus turned His attention to the disciples. They didn’t understand that difficult days were ahead. The time following Jesus’ death would bring such an intense level of suffering that the disciples would yearn desperately for the Lord’s return, but it wouldn’t happen then. Jesus used the phrase “one of these days” meaning days like the “days of Noah” and the “days of Lot.” These were days marked by a great catastrophe. Jesus then said, “You won’t see it, meaning you won’t see it coming.” It’s a reminder that believers are to wait for the Lord’s return. This is the answer for those who ask, “Why hasn’t Jesus returned in my lifetime?” Jesus then warned the disciples about being misled concerning His return. Many people have been misled in the past by a false prophet who said he knew the date. Do you remember the group that took poison when they thought Jesus was returning? Others have gone to the mountains on a certain day to meet Him.
Jesus told His disciples to avoid false prophets or others who declared Jesus has already returned in a secret, mysterious way. The reason is given in verse 24. The Lord’s coming will be so evident that one person will not have to report it to another person. Jesus’ return will be as visible as lightning flashing across the sky. Jesus emphasized the visible nature of His return more than the suddenness. Jesus’ presence on that day would be unmistakable and would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind. There would be no need for someone with special knowledge, so the disciples should reject such reports.
First, according to verse 25, Jesus would have to suffer many things, meaning His rejection and death in Jerusalem. We are told, “He must suffer”, meaning it would be God’s will. Jesus is saying that suffering must come before He is glorified. Although Jesus suffered and was rejected by the Jews, He would nevertheless come in His glory at the end of the age. The present generation, the contemporaries of Jesus, would reject Jesus because they were a “rebellious and unbelieving generation.” Can’t the same thing be said of our generation?
Jesus encouraged His disciples and prepared them for difficult days. He said the kingdom involved more than the present, and any announcement of its secret fulfillment would be false. Christians can be encouraged because the kingdom’s fulfillment has yet to occur; and that fulfillment will occur openly, not secretly. Next, we are told that Christ’s return will not be expected—
Not Expected (Luke 17:26-29)
26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Here, Jesus makes a comparison between the times of Noah and Lot and the time of Christ’s return. The events related to these two Old Testament characters often were connected with each other as examples of the punishment of wicked people and the redemption of godly people. Even though both illustrations show extreme sinfulness, the wickedness of the times is not the main point. Instead, Jesus emphasized the dramatic, unexpectedness of His return. Jesus wanted the disciples to understand that prior to His return people would live with no regard for the kingdom.
As His first example, Jesus used the days preceding the flood. Noah prepared for the approaching flood, but other people continued their daily routines. They ate, drank and married, giving no thought to impending judgment. They were so taken up with life’s ordinary affairs; they gave no thought to God. When the flood waters came, they were not prepared. What Jesus is giving us here is a picture of life on earth at the end of the age. People will live like tomorrow is guaranteed and like the end is far into the future. When Jesus returns, many will be unprepared.
In verses 28 and 29, Jesus went on to compare His return to the days in which Lot lived. He mentions eating and drinking along with a longer list of people’s activities. But, there is no mention of marriage when He mentions Sodom. Also, the sins that were committed in Sodom, were not mentioned, because once again the emphasis is not on the peoples' sinfulness but on their unpreparedness. Just like the example of Noah, earthly pursuits will take precedence over spiritual preparation for the time of judgment of sin. God’s judgment caught the people of Sodom by surprise because they lived as if it would never come.