Luke 17:20-37 “The Nature of The Kingdom”

Open your Bibles please to Luke 17. We are going to be looking at Verses 20-37 today. 

These verses deal with a topic that has been popular since Jesus’ time.

Do you know Hippolytus of Rome, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Irenaeus? Oh, you don’t? Gotcha they were three Christian Theologians who predicted that Jesus would return in the year 500 based off of the dimensions of guess what… Noah’s Ark. 

Since then there have been hundreds of predictions of the date of Christ’ return and many more to come. notable names on the list of predictors are Charles Wesley, Joseph Smith, Jerry Falwell, Issac Newton, Harald Camping, Jack Van Impe, John Hagge, and others. Now, in looking into the different predictions of the coming of Christ, I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole of information asserting that current events and other global events are definitely fulfillments of certain prophecies, and while they didn’t say give a certain date, they were confident it was soon. 

Now, Even though the first one I could find dates back to 500, the question of when the Kingdom would come is a question that is actually asked in the Bible. This is not a new pursuit. The text today even deals with this question. The Pharisees knew the old testament prophecies about the Kingdom and the days of the Son of Man. So they asked Jesus when it would come. Jesus then takes the opportunity, not exactly to answer the question they were asking, but to answer the question they should have been asking. Lets read the text and see How Jesus answers their question. 

 

So, here is another instance yet again when Jesus takes a situation with someone he meets and turns it into a teaching moment. Not only for the person he is meeting, but for the disciples as well. Now, you will note here as I said that Jesus does not answer the question that they ask, but answers what they should have asked. You see when someone asks a question, they are approaching it with a particular set of presuppositions that shape the way they view their world. One thing that happens often in Jesus’ ministry especially when discussing the kingdom is that jesus has to reset the presuppositions of the people he is talking to. The first example of this that comes to my mind is in Mark 8:27-38 when Peter makes the proclamation that Jesus is the Christ. Then jesus begins to explain what must happen to Him, being rejected and killed. Then Peter, exposing His presuppositions of an earthly kingdom rebukes Jesus, and then Jesus calls him Satan. jesus then teaches about how if you want to be part of His kingdom, you must take up your cross and follow Him. He makes the same statement that we see in this passage in verse 33, that whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 

So first lets look at the presuppositions that were behind the Pharisees question and behind peter’s rebuke of Jesus. To put it simply, the pharisees believed that the Kingdom would be inaugurated by an earthly king. They were looking for the political and social restoration of Israel. Furthermore, they believed that when it came, it would come with signs and in ways that can be observed. The also it seems based on how Jesus corrected their presuppositions that they believed it would be complete all at once. 

Now lets take a look at what jesus taught them and the disciples concerning the coming of the Kingdom. If I were to put this teaching into one sentence, I would say it like this: The Kingdom has been inaugurated, and has yet to be consummated.  This is what theologians call the already but not yet. What I and others like to call a “liminal state” sound familiar? We actually have a very good example of this concept here. Last week we voted to approve the new By-laws at ECC, and yet, we have a period of time when the new polity will not be fully consummated until we install elders and deacons Lord willing on Sept 8. our new polity is already, and not yet. we are in a liminal state. So lets look at how Jesus explains this to The pharisees and His disciples. 

  1. The Kingdom is here: Look for a second at verse 21. Jesus tells the Pharisees that the kingdom is in the midst of you, a phrase that can also be translated “in your grasp” What he is not saying is that the Kingdom is in their hearts, because most likely they were unregenerate. But what he is saying is that the kingdom has begun. Furthermore it has begun quietly.
    Jesus said that the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed. What are the typical signs of the beginning of a new kingdom? The overthrow of the old kingdom for one. A mighty military presence, a bold new leader on the scene who is willing to do what it takes to clear the way for His reign. An invasion of the current kingdom and violent seizing of power. It was clear that most everyone believed that that is how God’s Kingdom would be brought about. But jesus brings a different message, His kingdom is in the hearts of His true followers. Jesus teaches throughout the gospels that the Kingdom comes in two stages. The first stage is as the suffering servant as in Isaiah 53, and the second is as victorious King. The first stage is coming to atone for sin, and the second is to establish His reign. jesus’ parables in Matthew 13 are all meant to point to this truth.
    One of the presuppositions that is present in the people who did not understand this is that because they had followed all the rules, they wee ready to receive their king, but in fact the kingdom had to be inaugurated by Christ’s atoning work for His people before they could be part of His kingdom. That is why in verse 25, jesus says the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. This accomplishes the ability for us to be part of this kingdom.
    This is why Jesus teaches that the kingdom was coming without signs to be observed, that it isn’t in one location (not a nation state)
    It was coming int the hearts of those who trusted in Christ’s work for their sins.
  2. The Kingdom is not Yet: The fullness of all that the kingdom will be has not been fully consummated. We can look around and see all the suffering and brokenness of this world and even our own struggles with sin and see that things have not been made right. We know though from scripture that when the kingdom fully comes that those things will be made right. Jesus teaches them on this point as well. In contrast to the inauguration of the kingdom, the Day of the Son of Man, Christ’s triumphant return, will be one that comes with signs. He says that just like lighting fills the sky from one end to another, it will be clear to all that His day ha come.
    He also says that it will be sudden. That Just like the flood, people will be crying on their normal lives right up until the moment He returns.

Application:

  1. The Kingdom is Here, but we cannot see it. Don’t waste time building an earthly kingdom. focus on the eternal one.
  2. Live your life in pursuit of eternal treasures.
  3. Use our Earthly pursuits as a means to advance the eternal kingdom. 

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