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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 17:20-37: The Already, Not Yet Kingdom
Luke 17:20-37: The Already, Not Yet Kingdom Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 September 2013

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I normally enjoy movies about the end of the world.  I find it fascinating to see how the writers handle the scenario.  Normally, some terrible catastrophe (incoming asteroids, colossal tidal waves, aliens attacking, etc.) is threatening to end the human race.  The scientists are baffled, the masses are panicked, the rulers are running for cover, and then the hero comes in and risks it all to save at least some of humanity.  Millions die, governments crumble, landscapes are reformed, but usually the movie does not end with the actual end.  Hope is restored that the human race will continue (perhaps it will even be ‘better’ after the tragedy).  The credits role and we all go home feeling pretty good about things.

Yet, such work is fiction.  We are told that the threats are real and we often experience real catastrophes, but I am not so sure that Hollywood really believes in the end of the world.  I mean even the movies are not really the end.  But what about you?  Do you believe that this world is going to come to an end?  Do you believe that the days of history are numbered?

Jesus did.  He teaches us about it in our passage this morning.  His teaching is framed around a question about the Kingdom of God.  Jews believed that a future Kingdom of God was coming.  The promises of God in the Old Testament would be fulfilled with a future Kingdom.  The details were debated, but most believed in a coming Kingdom.  When the Pharisees ask for Jesus’ thoughts on the coming Kingdom, He teaches us about it’s relation to the end of days and a surprising truth about it’s present reality.  So what does Jesus teach about the Kingdom?

The Kingdom has come (v. 20-21)

The Pharisees ask their question in verse 20a.  Look at that with me.  They want to know when the Kingdom is going to come.  They want to know what Jesus thinks about this controversial subject.  So how does Jesus respond?  Look at verse 20b.  There were those who thought based on the Old Testament that the Kingdom would be preceded with certain ‘observable signs’, but Jesus says that such an interpretation is not exactly correct.  Don’t the prophets say that certain signs will be present?  If so, then what is Jesus saying?  Look at verse 21.  People were trying to use those signs to predict the coming of the Kingdom and Jesus is cautioning against that.  When the King comes in all His glory, it will not be missed (as Jesus will go on to say).  But not only that, Jesus tells the Pharisees that the Kingdom is already in the midst of you (I think this is the best translation).  This is a shocking statement to the Pharisees.  What does Jesus mean?  How could the Kingdom already be present?

The answer is that the King has come!  When Jesus took on flesh and became a man, the King arrived.  He was born the King.  Thus, we refer to His first coming as the inauguration of the future Kingdom.  When Jesus took His first breath, the promised Kingdom came alive.  He came to redeem God’s people through His death on a cross.  He came to defeat their enemies and secure their victory over death through His resurrection.  All who turn from their sins and believe in His death and resurrection become members of the Kingdom.  He is our King and we are His people.  His reign has begun.  The enemies are on the run.  The Spirit is working in power among us.  The Kingdom has come. 

When we gather together on Sunday, we come as a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), as members of the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13), as those who will one Day proclaim before our Savior’s throne: Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and the shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:9-10).  King Jesus came to not just bring us the kingdom of God, He came to make us the Kingdom.  All praise to the King!

The Kingdom is coming (v. 22-37)

Even though the Kingdom has been inaugurated with the first coming of Christ, this does not mean that the Kingdom has already come in all of its fullness.  Many of the promises of the Old Testament will not be fulfilled until that time, which is why so many of the Jews were not convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  They misunderstood the fact that Jesus would come once to establish the Kingdom and would then come again to consummate it.  Jesus goes on to describe what the days will be like leading up to His return.  What does He say?

Jesus tells us that some will long for better days.  Look at verse 22.  There are a couple of different ways to take this verse.  It seems that when Jesus speaks of the days of the Son of Man, He is actually referring to His return.  He tells the twelve that they will long for those days, but will not see them.  If this interpretation is right, then this is the clearest statement by Jesus that He would not return in the lifetime of the disciples.  They would long for His return, but they would not see it.  What I think Jesus is emphasizing is that His followers will long for His return.  Do you long for it?  Is there a part of you that agrees with John when he writes: Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)?  In good times and in bad, we should be a people who keep one eye to the skies, longing for the return of our Savior.

Jesus also tells the disciples that some will try to mislead.  Look at verses 23-24.  There will be those who will point to different circumstance or different people and proclaim: ‘Here it is, this is what we have been waiting for, this is a sign from God, this is God’s man.’  They will try to mislead people in this way.  So how do we avoid this error?  We always battle lies with the truth.  And Jesus tells us the truth: when He comes back, nobody will have to point it out.  He will be as obvious as lighting in the night sky.  Nobody will miss it.  Sometimes people come up with ‘new teaching’ or ‘new ideas about God’ and they try to convince others that they are missing out if they do not believe what they are saying.  But do not be mislead.  The Lord has given us what we need in His Word.  Jesus has told us that we will know it when He returns.  We can fight against being misled by knowing the truth of what Jesus has said.

Jesus then gives us a great warning.  He tells us that some people will not be prepared for His return.  He uses two Old Testament illustrations to make this point.  First, He talks about the days of Noah.  Look at verses 26-27.  Before the floods came, people were going about their regular lives.  They were eating and drinking and getting married and just living life.  And then it was too late.  Noah entered the ark, God sent the rains, and everyone outside of the ark’s protection died.  They were not prepared for the flood.  The second illustration is the story of Lot.  Look at verses 28-29.  Just like in the days of Noah, before the judgment came, people were just going about their lives.  They were buying and selling and planting.  They had plans for the future.  They were not concerned with judgment.  Jesus applies this idea to the days before His return in verse 30.  Look at that with me.

People will not be prepared for the return of Christ.  They will be preoccupied with life.  They will be eating and drinking and having a good time.  They will be getting married and starting families or a new career.  They will be watching sports and posting on facebook.  They will be so preoccupied with the stuff of earth that judgment will catch them completely by surprise.  Some may try to preserve their life, but it will be too late.  Look at verses 31-33.  They will want to get their stuff (surely it can save them).  They will be so obsessed with this life that they will forfeit the life to come.  Just like Lot’s life, they will not be able to let go of what they perceive to be joyous living.  And oh how costly it will be.  They will seek to save their life, but only lose it in the process.  Only those who are willing to give up the stuff of earth, the stuff of this life, will be ready for the life to come.  Only they will be prepared.

What will happen to those who are not prepared?  Jesus tells us in verses 34-35.  Jesus tells us that some will be taken and some will be left.  What will happen to these groups?  Those who are prepared will be taken to eternal glory with Christ.  And those who are not prepared will be taken to judgment.  Look at how Jesus describes this judgment in verse 37.  It is hard to know exactly what Jesus means, but the image is bleak.  Those who are not prepared, those who are spiritually dead, will attract judgment just like dead animals attract the vultures.  It is a sobering picture of what awaits those who have not repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus.

Jesus teaches us that the Kingdom has already come with His coming.  Yet, the Kingdom has not come in all of its fullness.  We still wait for that time.  As we wait, it is critical that we know the truth and not be mislead and that we be ready for the return of Christ.  How exactly can we be ready for the return of Jesus?  As sinners who have rebelled against God being King over us, how can we be ready and escape the judgment that is coming?

The answer is found in verse 25.  Look at that with me.  In this simple verse we see the overwhelming grace of King Jesus.  The King has come to save His Kingdom.  He has come to suffer many things so that they can go free.  He has come to give His life as a ransom for us at the cross.  He will suffer the punishment that we deserve, the wrath that we have earned.  He will drink down the cup of God’s righteous wrath against our sin and it will take His life.  But the story does not end there.  The grave will not be able to hold Him.  Three days after He is laid in the tomb, He will rise victorious over all our enemies.  This is what Jesus must first do before the Kingdom comes.  And by doing this He has prepared a people to be the Kingdom.  All who have turned from their sins and believed in Him will be ready for His return.  They wait with anticipation for the coming King.  And until that day comes, they will labor to serve Him faithfully by telling others how they too can be ready.  This is what we are called to do. 

The world may be enamored with the end of days.  They may read books and watch movies about what it might be like.  But many are not ready for return of the Son of Man.  Are you?  Are you ready for Christ to come back?  Have you placed your faith in Him and turned from your sins?  Do not be preoccupied with this life.  Do not be mislead by those who stray from the Word.  Do not be found unready.  One will be left for judgment and one will be taken to glory.  Which one will you be?  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 September 2013 )

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