Sermon Follow Up - Week 17, 2021
Why is our understanding of the kingdom of God important?
When we consider the kingdom of God today, we most regularly come to a place of rather strong debate in the church. Some fine, bible-believing Christians believe the kingdom of God is almost entirely in the future. Either it’ll be something that will simply happen in heaven, or is identified in some manner with heaven, or some varieties of their understanding of the Millennium of Revelation 20. Whatever the case, the kingdom of God, as they understand it, is almost entirely yet to come. Some Bible-believing Christians, mostly in Western Christianity, believe that the kingdom of God is almost entirely a present thing as well. Some of them, in fact, believe it so much that it has been the foundational thrust behind a desire to recover Judeo-Christian morals within the nation and society. Other Bible believing Christians believe the present day reality of the Kingdom of God is the primary reason for taking up the job of building the kingdom and redeeming the culture through a variety of social concerns. Others, of course, are just caught up in whatever is going on and tend to land on whichever way they tend to lean. The reality is that authentic Christians are all over the place when they begin to talk about the kingdom of God.
What is it that Jesus means when he speaks of the kingdom of God? It really should matter to us. In fact, our understanding of this major theme in the gospels and in Jesus’ teaching, will very much inform how we live as his disciples in the present day.
As we consider this text, we’ll consider three specific observations of aspects of the kingdom of God, making some application along the way so that our lives as disciples of Jesus would be informed by this massive theme that Jesus regularly speaks of.
The Sermon Text
“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”” (Luke 17:20–37 ESV)
The Main Point of the Sermon
Our enjoyment of the kingdom of God now and then is assured through our present faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Sermon Points, Additional Scriptures, and Quotes
The Present Kingdom Isn’t Entirely Observable (vv. 20-21)
Jewish expectation was that Messiah would set up a physical kingdom in which He would rule the world from the restored throne of David. The unprecedented nature of justice, righteousness, peace and safety is Messiah’s rule was a significant hope in the life of Ancient Israel and is seen throughout the major and minor prophets. The Pharisees often questioned Jesus about signs from heaven because some of the Hebrew prophets specifically speak of such enormous signs as part of the coming day of the Lord that would bring in the kingdom of God. All that to say, that no matter the heart behind the question, the question is a real one. The Jewish leaders had no idea of a first coming as compared to a second coming. There was only one coming and it would come with great heavenly and earthly, observable signs. And as they looked for those cosmic signs, they missed the multitude of signs that were being done by Jesus right before their eyes that did point to the fact that He was the messiah.
The signs of the presence of the Kingdom were numerous. The first sign was that Jesus cast out demons.... A second sign of the presence of the Kingdom was that Satan fell from heaven and was bound . When the 72 followers returned from preaching the gospel, Jesus reported that he saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). This becomes clear when cross referenced to the binding of Satan as described in Revelation 20. A third sign of the presence of the Kingdom was that Jesus performed miracles. A fourth sign that the Kingdom had arrived was that the gospel was preached to the poor. A fifth sign was that the Kingdom was present because Jesus forgave sins. And a sixth sign was at the Kingdom was present because Jesus declared it was a spiritual Kingdom (Kim Riddlebarger).
Jesus' Response: “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” What does he mean by that?
What Jesus is saying is that, instead of looking for spectacular outward signs of the presence of a primarily political Kingdom, the Pharisees ought to realize that the Kingdom of God is in their midst now, in the person of Christ himself, and that faith in him is necessary for entrance into the Kingdom” (Anthony A. Hoekema).
This kingdom isn’t observable to the Pharisees because they were blind to Jesus. He, the King of the kingdom stood in their midst, and even did SO MUCH to give evidence of his identity and the actual inbreaking of the kingdom, but they rejected him wholesale. The coming of the kingdom of God when Jesus arrived on the scene was not as the people of Israel thought…and perhaps it’s not what you thought either. But here HE is right in the midst of them, and us.
The kingdom of God is in our midst, in the person of Christ himself, and to enter that kingdom, Jesus is the key. We’ve seen that on numerous occasions throughout our study of Luke. The reality is that today, just like the day our text is speaking of, people are looking for great signs in the world that will indeed yield to the coming fullness of the kingdom…but in the meantime those same people often misplace not only the joy of living in the present kingdom of God that has come, but also misplace the King of that glorious kingdom and the certain hope of the full kingdom yet to come.
The Future Kingdom is Entirely Visible and Desirable (vv. 22-25)
…people have so many crazy ideas about the end times that it is easy to go astray, which is why we need to know what Jesus said about the end of the world. He said the time would come when we would start to wonder when his kingdom would ever come. He said that people claiming to have inside information would tell us that the Messiah was here or there, tempting us to believe that we have it all wrong, or that we are missing out on a secret we need to know for salvation. But Jesus knew that all the rumors and speculation would only lead us away from the truth. To protect us from getting taken in, he said, very firmly, “Do not go out or follow them” (Philip G. Ryken).
For the disciples, the future day of the Lord they longed to see, the fulness and promises of the Kingdom coming that they looked for was just that…future. And friends, it remains that way today. Those who are in Christ long for the day of the Lord. And when Jesus, the Son of Man, does return, it will be so totally obvious that we will not need anybody to tell us where he is. Signs of the times will ultimately be unnecessary. Jesus, in verse 24 speaks about the coming of the Son of Man as being as obvious and sudden as lightning flashing and lighting up the sky from one side to the other. There will be no mistaking it. All will see it. The glory of God unmistakable.
And so it will be when Jesus comes back. He will come back suddenly, unmistakably, and his glory will be seen by all. This is how the present, partially unobservable kingdom, will yield to the universal observation of the triumphant and glorious return of the Son of Man, King Jesus as he comes to bring his kingdom in all it’s glorious fulness.
But something else had to happen first. Something future for the disciples, but in the past for us (v. 25).
He [Jesus] always viewed the kingdom through the lens of the crucifixion and the resurrection. In order to establish the kingdom of his grace, he first had to die for sinners, taking upon himself the judgment that our sins deserved. His kingdom could not come without the sufferings that would lead him to the cross. Therefore, if people were looking for the kingdom of God, the first thing they would see was Christ crucified. It is the same for us. The kingdom only comes at the cost of his blood, and we can only enter the kingdom of God by trusting that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. The kingdom will come to us when we believe in Jesus for our salvation (Philip G. Ryken).
We Must be Ready for the Future Kingdom (vv. 26-37)
There is no question that the days of Noah and Lot were evil. But consider what Jesus actually speaks about here as it relates to the days of Noah and Lot. He doesn’t mention any of their intensely wicked ways. Instead, he simply points out normal life. People in Noah’s day were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. Normal stuff, right? In Lot’s day, Jesus only speaks of people eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. Just normal stuff. Sounds like our days too, doesn’t it.
The issue is that people were living with little to no thought of God, nor about the consequences of their lifestyles.
Is there really any difference in our own time with these descriptions Jesus gives? People – in the culture, and even those who are in the church - are too busy continuing on their way in conducting the business of life to give much thought if any to the God who created them and to whom they will give an account on that final day. The main focus is on planning weddings, conducting business, planting their fields or building structures, and deciding what they will eat and drink at their next meal. For reasons such as those, people don’t have time to think about God, much less to read his word and walk in obedient and humble worship of him. The people in Noah’s and Lot’s day lived with little or no concern about God so that His judgment seemed to be sudden and without warning. And Jesus is stating that this will be the same way on the day when the Son of Man is revealed (v. 30).
When the Son of Man, the promised Messiah, who is currently hidden from our sight because He is in heaven, suddenly bursts into open view as we’ve been speaking of, it will seem sudden and without warning though the gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed for nearly two thousand years. Those who pay attention, repent of their sins, and believe the good news of Jesus Christ will be prepared…like Noah. Those who don’t pay attention, repent of their sins and believe the good news of Jesus Christ will be swept away in God’s wrath as surely as the flood destroyed the world and brimstone and fire destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
Which will you be, friend?
Take time to write out some answers in your journal/notebook
Am I still dead in my sins, or have I found new life in Jesus Christ? Have you believed the good news? That while your sins should sentence you to eternal death, Jesus took on the penalty of your sins so that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is King, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved? You enter his kingdom now, the vultures will never gather around you, and the day he returns and brings his kingdom in all its fulness, you will enter in and enjoy him forever. Why? Well, because you have been saved by grace through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you have that confidence today?
Am I ready for the imminent return of Christ in all his glory? Am I ready to meet Jesus?
Consider the words of Paul...
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 ESV)
RESOURCES FOR THIS WEEK
Consider Reading the Section Entitled...
The Last Things
SONGS TO CONSIDER
Song - "Creation Awaits"
Song - "When We See Your Face"