Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 17:20-27 – Kingdom of God – Have Your Surrendered . . . Are You In The Kingdom?

Grace For The Journey

When you look at the first word of our text this morning as we pick up where we left off in chapter 17 and verse 20 you read that Jesus was asked “when the kingdom of God would come.”  We are going to be studying about that this morning.  We are in the Gospel of Luke, and we left off last time in chapter 17 at verse 19 so we will pick up this morning at verse 20 and go to the end of the chapter.   

God created man with an inherent sense that this world is not all there is.  This sense is intrinsically interwoven into our psyche.  The only creation of God created in His image, man is reflective, contemplative, and deeply spiritual.  We just have this sense that there is something bigger than our day-to-day lives.  We feel sure Shakespeare’s Macbeth wrongly concludes that life is nothing more than a “walking shadow” … “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  We feel sure there must be more here, that there is a purposeful future, and real meaning beyond this existence.  We want to know what the future holds.

This question was on the minds of the Pharisees in verse 20 when they asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come.  Jesus’ extensive answer indicates that this question was also on the minds of the disciples, as I suspect it is a question that is on the minds of disciples today.  We want to know, “What does the future hold?  What is this business about the ‘kingdom of God?’  What’s up with that?”

This phrase, “kingdom of God” occurs 27 times in the Gospel of Luke.  Because it occurs that many times in the Gospel than we can safely assume that this “kingdom of God” is important to God and man.  But what is it?  What is the kingdom of God and why does it matter?

We have said before that it is helpful to think of the “kingdom of God” in two ways, as something that has happened and as something that will happen.  In one sense the kingdom of God is present and in another sense the kingdom of God is future.  In one sense the kingdom of God is “Now,” and in another sense the kingdom of God is “Not yet.”  In one sense the kingdom of God has already begun: it has been inaugurated, and in another sense the kingdom of God awaits fulfillment: when it will be consummated

As we look into this lengthy passage from verse 20 to the end of the chapter and we may arrange the material under two main headings.  We could arrange the material under the “now” and the “not yet.” 

I. The “Now” Of The Kingdom (20-21)

Verses 20 to 21 teach us about the first sense of the kingdom of God, the “now” sense of the kingdom and in doing so we will gain a better sense of exactly what the kingdom is.  In verses 20-21, the Bible says, “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation;’ nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’  For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”   

The first thing Jesus does in answering the question in verse 20 about when the kingdom will come is to say that you will not be able to predict its arrival beforehand.  This is the meaning behind “the kingdom of God does not come with observation” or as one translation has, “it cannot be detected by visible signs.”  To be sure, there are signs preceding the kingdom, but the point is that one will not be able to map it all out, to determine the exact moment of the kingdom’s arrival by use of maps, charts, and diagrams.

This, of course, does not stop man from trying to do so.  Hardly a length of time goes by before another someone claims to know the exact moment the kingdom of God will come or the exact moment that Jesus Christ will return.  Jesus warns against these kinds of conclusions.  He says in verse 21, “Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’”  Do not listen to these people!  Period.  Do not listen to them; do not buy their books; do not waste your life.

Jesus explains what is the kingdom of God.  He explains first that the kingdom of God has already arrived.  The kingdom of God is “now.”  The kingdom of God is present and spiritual.  This is the meaning behind the phrase in the last part of verse 21, “the kingdom of God is within you.”  The literal translation here is, “the kingdom of God is among you or in your midst.”  Here is the point . . .

Jesus is the King

God’s kingdom

Has already begun. 

The kingdom is now. 

Since the king is

Standing before you,

God’s reign has begun.

The kingdom is not just some future, faraway notion.  The kingdom is right now.  Our initial thoughts of a kingdom usually consist of something in space and time with geographical boundaries.  But . . .

The kingdom is first spiritual

Before it is geographical.

It is “now” and awaits the “not yet.”  In one sense it has already arrived.  It has been inaugurated in the person and work of Christ.

It harkens back to Luke 4, verse 21, where Jesus, having read from Isaiah in the synagogue says, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled.”  What was the Scripture?  “To proclaim liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  In sum, “To inaugurate the kingdom of God.”  The kingdom has come in Christ and the kingdom will come in its fullness when Christ returns.

When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you entered into the kingdom of God.  You entered into His reign.  You understood that the King was standing in your midst, among you, and you received Him by faith into your life.  If you are a Christian, you are living in the “now” of the kingdom awaiting the “not yet” of the kingdom.  That is what verses 22 to the end of the chapter teaches us.  Verses 22, to the end of the chapter, deal with Christ’s Second Coming.  The Scriptures speak of two comings of Christ.  The Bible notes this in Hebrews 9:27-28, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin (that is, “not to deal with our sins”), for (ultimate) salvation.”

The writer of Hebrews is talking about the consummation of the kingdom of God.  If the “now” of the kingdom is “present and spiritual,” the “not yet” of the kingdom is “future and glorious.”  We await this future, glorious aspect of the kingdom of God – the consummation of the kingdom when Christ returns and rights all the wrongs, judges the wicked, and establishes His universal reign on earth; wars will cease … man will experience real peace … pain will pass away; night is turned to day.  This world is not all there is!  Christ will come again and fix everything and it will be a glorious time. 

This is what Jesus talks about in verses 22 and following.  The teach us about three aspects of His Second Coming . . . 

1. It Will Be Universally Visible.

The Bible tells us in verse 22, “Then He said to the disciples, ‘The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.’”  That is, “You disciples will no longer be here when I return,” or, “My second coming will not happen in your lifetime.”  That is the idea.  Verse 23 says, “And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.  Do not listen to these guys who tell you they have got it all figured out.  Do not go after them or follow them.”

Never forget how many people totally missed Christ’s first coming!  The Jews had the Scriptures and totally missed it.  This calls for deep humility regarding our prognostications, our careful mapping out of all the events of the second coming.  Verse 24 says, “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.”  Christ’s coming will be universally visible.  As lighting flashes from one part of the sky to the other part of the sky and all may see it, so will Christ’s return be as visible to all on earth.  They all will see His coming.

God will work out the physics of this.  Some wonder how He can come to one part of the world in such a way that His coming is visible on the other side of the world.  We can safely assume the Grand Physicist will work out the physics of His coming.  After all, He created everything, all matter, and knows how to manipulate natural phenomena for His glory.

The point is that Christ’s Second Coming will not be secretive, it will be observed by everyone.  It will be very public, very evident to all.  Notice a qualifier in verse 25, “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”  Which is to say, the Second Coming will come sometime after Christ’s work of redemption on Calvary’s cross.  This is Christ’s immediate concern.  His first coming is about suffering and death.  He said in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man has come” … “To give His life as a ransom for many.”  He came to suffer and die.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” 

The first coming is about bearing the cross and

The second coming is about wearing the crown:.

Christ’s Second Coming will be universally visible.  All will see it.  Secondly . . .

2. It Will Occur Suddenly And Unexpectedly.

Jesus says in verses 26 and 27, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”  The point here is that Christ’s coming will occur suddenly and unexpectedly.   Many people will be surprised and unprepared.  People will be living their lives, living as though they would live forever.  The verbs at the beginning of verse 27 are all in the imperfect tense meaning uncompleted action; things will be continuing on without end, people are eating, drinking, marrying; it is business as usual.  They lived as though judgment would never come. 

Verses 28 through 30 tells us further, “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: 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.”  Here is the point . . .

Just as people in Noah’s day

And people in Lot’s day were

Just going on about their lives,

Eating, drinking, buying, selling,

Planting, building, so it is in our day

And so it is when Christ returns.

People live as though they are just going to get up again tomorrow and do the same thing they did yesterday.  They just go on about their lives as though judgment will never come – –eating, drinking, buying, selling, working, playing, watching TV, going to games, pursuing the degree.  Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected.  It will catch people by surprise. 

Verse 31 states, “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.”  New Testament scholar Robert Stein notes: “The picture is a well-known image of war describing the swiftness of an approaching enemy army, which does not permit time to prepare.  One can only flee.”  Christ’s return will be sudden and unexpected.  There will be no time to prepare.  He will be here, and it will be too late to do anything.

These verses also indicate that one of the reasons many will be unprepared for Christ’s return is because of their preoccupation with material things.  Many are more concerned with “goods in the house” or the “eating” and “drinking” and “buying” and “selling.”  Many are more concerned with “stuff” than are concerned with their own “souls.” 

Jesus says in verse 32, “Remember Lot’s wife.”  Here is a picture of a woman unprepared for judgment.  Judgment came to Lot’s wife suddenly and unexpectedly.  What happened to Lot’s wife?  She was turned into a pillar of salt.  Why?  Because she looked back.  Lot and his family were instructed to flee from the land of Sodom and Gomorrah because judgment was coming.  So severe would be this judgment that to look back would cause them to be pulled into that judgment.  Lot’s wife looked back.  Why?  Because her heart was bound up in the things of the world.  She was running on the outside, but staying on the inside.  She looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. 

Verse 33 tells us, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  If we had more time, we would reflect on the fact that Jesus mentions here in this passage the historical persons Noah, Lot, and Lot’s wife.  He refers to them as real, historical people.  He refers to Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt without once calling into question the truthfulness of the account.  Our Lord believed in these Old Testament histories, never once questioning their authenticity.  If this is the view of Scripture held by our Lord it should be our view as well.  These things really happened.

We have said that Christ’s return and the coming kingdom will be 1) universally visible and 2) will occur suddenly and unexpectedly.  Thirdly . . . 

3. It Will Result In Separation.

Verse 34 says, “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.”  The word “men” is not in the original and the idea seems to be two people from the same family, a married couple, for example.  There will be two people sleeping in bed and when Christ returns one will be taken and the other left. 

The idea is that one is

Taken away from judgment

And one is left for judgment. 

One is spared the judgment,

One will face the judgment.

This verse does not teach that people will “disappear.”  That is not the idea here.  The point is simply that Christ’s return brings separation between the saved and the lost.   The same point is made in verse 35, “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.”  The point is that when the kingdom comes in its fullness, when Christ returns, His coming will result in separation, separation between believers and unbelievers, even in families and among coworkers.  The wheat and tares are separated from one another, the good fish and the bad fish separated, the sheep and the goats.  Verses 36 and 37 convey the same sense.

Husbands, you cannot get into heaven on the back of your wife’s faith.  Wives, you cannot be saved simply because your husband is saved.  Two are in one bed, one is taken and the other left.  You cannot get to heaven on the faith of a family member, the faith of a mother, a father, a coworker, or a friend.  You must yourself believe and be saved in order to be taken from judgment when the kingdom comes.

The real question is, “Where will this judgment take place?”  Our Lord does not say exactly where the judgment will take place.  He may simply mean, “Wherever there are dead bodies (spiritually dead), there will be judgment.”  The tone of these verses are that It will be clear to all that Christ has come, so clear that no one will need to ask, “Where?”

So . . . What Are We To Do?

1) We Must Prepare Ourselves.

Are you ready for judgment?  Are you ready for Christ’s second coming?  Or will you be among the many who are caught by surprise; Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected.  Prepare yourself. 

2) We Must Prepare Others.

It is a frightful thing to think of the way Christ’s coming will result in separation of families.   Is everyone in your household saved?  What of your friends and coworkers?  Do you talk about things that really matter?  Are you preparing others for the judgment to come?

The kingdom of God is still “among us.”  Are you in the kingdom?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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