A Present Kingdom (Luke 17:20-21)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | July 27, 2014


Kingdom of God, Part 3

Text:

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”  (Lk. 17:20-21)

Notes:

  • We’ve already said in part 1 that the kingdom of God has begun, a message proclaimed by the King himself.
  • And in part 2 that the King urges men to make the kingdom of heaven their first priority.
  • In part 3 we answer the question “How does the kingdom of God come?”
  • What does the coming of the kingdom look like?
  • How is it recognized?
  • And how can we properly respond?

Since the kingdom of God comes in the person of Jesus, the proper response is

to recognize him for who he is,

to recognize our need of him, and

to submit ourselves totally to his way of salvation.

How does the kingdom come, and therefore how can we properly respond to its coming?

  • This question has been asked and answered by many in their day and ours.
  • It’s a common misunderstanding.
  • The Jewish expectation about the coming of the kingdom handed down to those in Jesus’ day was that
    • a Messianic military-political leader would come and overthrow their Roman rulers,
    • restore Israel as the chief nation in the world,
    • set up an earthly kingdom through a visible, earthly momentous action, and
    • reign as king over them.

The Pharisees here and elsewhere misunderstood the coming of the kingdom.

  • In spite of the many sign-miracles he performed, they were always asking for more.
  • In Jn 6 they said to him, “Moses gave us the sign of manna in the wilderness, what sign do you give us that we may see and believe you?”
  • To which Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life…but you have seen me and yet do not believe.”

The people misunderstood the coming of the kingdom when they “came to take him by force to make him king,” but he passed through them and “departed to the mountain alone.” (Jn. 6:15)

Jesus’ brothers misunderstood the coming of the kingdom when they said to him, “Go to the feast, show yourself.”

  • IOW, show yourself as king. To which J replied, “My time has not yet come.”

John the Baptizer misunderstood the coming of the kingdom when his disciples asked Jesus,

  • “Are you the Expected One or should we look for someone else?” to which he replied, “Go report to John what you see, the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Mat. 11.1-5)
  • The Roman governor Pilate misunderstood the coming of the kingdom when he asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
    • To which Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.”(Jn 18:33-37)
  • Jesus’ disciples misunderstood the coming of the kingdom when they asked after his resurrection, “Will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?”
    • To which he replied, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons, only the Father knows, but you shall receive power when the HS comes upon you…” (Acts 1:4-7)

Throughout history, the kingdom of God has been misunderstood.

  • The Roman Church has believed herself to be the religious-political kingdom of God.
  • At times the Protestant Church has taken up arms to compel people to enter into the kingdom.
  • Some in more recent years have sought to bring in the kingdom by means of the social gospel through legislation and foundations which build hospitals and better homes.
  • Others have sought to bring in the kingdom through protests against injustice and war.
  • Other well-meaning Christians have believed that the kingdom will arrive only at the second coming of Christ.
  • But Jesus here is saying, no, the kingdom does not arrive in all these ways.
  • The kingdom has arrived in my coming.
  • The kingdom has arrived in me.

 There are four points to this message.

  • When the kingdom is not coming.
  • Where the kingdom is not coming.
  • When and where the kingdom has already arrived.
  • The proper response to the coming of the kingdom

 First, he clarifies when the kingdom is not coming.

  • In response to the Pharisee’s question in verse 20, concerning “when the kingdom of God was coming..
  • He says, ““The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed…”
  • There are various interpretations of the meaning of the phrase “signs to be observed,”
    • but the best interpretation refers to the apocalyptic signs prevalent in Jewish end times speculation,
    • including the desire to calculate the kingdom’s arrival by what is seen in the sky.
  • So another way of saying this is, “the KOG is not coming with “signs from heaven.”

In other words, the KOG is not arriving in the future.

  • Notice that these two verses are set apart from the following verses (22-37) where Jesus describes such signs from heaven.
  • But they are in connection with his second coming in power and glory, with the consummation of the kingdom.
  • Verses 20-21, however, are in connection with his incarnation, his first coming, and the inauguration of the kingdom. ]
  • Here, Jesus says the kingdom is not coming in the future.
  • So they are not to look into the future for cataclysmic signs to be observed.

Second, Jesus clarifies where the kingdom is not coming. 

  • In v 21 he says, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’]
  • In other words, they are not to look to this place or that place for the coming of the kingdom.
  • The kingdom is not coming someplace else.

Third, Jesus tells them when and where the kingdom has already arrived – in himself.

  • In v. 21 he says, For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
  • In his coming into the world, the king has come and the kingdom has arrived.
  • When has the kingdom arrived?
  • Now – already in the coming of Jesus into the world.
  • That’s why he told the Pharisees they didn’t need to look to the future for the arrival of the kingdom of God.
  • Because it arrived with the coming of Jesus.
  • Where has the kingdom arrived?
  • In the person of Jesus himself.
  • That’s why he told the Ph’s not to look here and there for the coming of the kingdom.
  • Because he is standing right in front of them.
  • The meaning of this verse turns on 2 issues:
    • is the kingdom said to be future or present, and
    • what does “in the midst of you” mean?

Let’s look first at the meaning of “in the midst of you.”

  • Some have said it means, “inside you.”
  • However, here he is addressing the Ph’s, and we know that the kingdom was not inside them.
  • Also, nowhere else in the NT is the kingdom spoken of in internal terms.
  • The NT speaks of people entering into the kingdom of God, not the KOG entering into people.
  • The Spirit is given as a sign that one has entered into the kingdom, but the Spirit’s presence does not equal the KOG.
  • The KOG is a community of residence, of blessing and enablement.
  • The Spirit marks the members of that community.
  • So if “in the midst of you” here doesn’t mean “inside you” what does it mean?

It means “in your presence” or “before you.”

  • In other words, Jesus is saying, the kingdom of God is standing right in front of you.
  • The kingdom of God is embodied in the person of Jesus himself.
  • That’s why they don’t have to look here and there for it.

Then, is the coming of the kingdom in these verses future or present?

  • The evidence is strongest for present because of the change in verbs from “coming” which has a future force in v. 20 to “is” which has a present force in v. 21, and the placement of “is” near the end of the sentence.
  • That’s why they don’t have to look to the future for the coming of the kingdom.
  • The kingdom is already present in Jesus first coming.
  • Yes, there will be a future consummation of the kingdom in its fullness when Jesus comes again.
  • But the kingdom has already begun in Jesus.
  • The point Jesus was making to the Ph’s is that they shouldn’t look to the future, but should see in the present the signs of its arrival, in the works and words of Jesus.
  • And they shouldn’t look elsewhere for the coming of the kingdom, but should see in him who stands before them that the king and his kingdom have come.

Fourth, the proper response to the coming of the kingdom is to recognize Jesus for who he is and to cast ourselves at his feet.

  • The key to our response is found in the context of this passage.
  • In vv. 11-19, ten lepers cry out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus cleanses them, yet only one returns.
  • “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks to him. And he was a Samaritan.”
  • The next passage, by contrast shows the Pharisees’ improper response.
  • A Samaritan responds properly while the teachers of Israel respond improperly.

What can we learn from the leper?

  1. He recognized Jesus for who he was, the Messiah of God, saying, “Jesus, Master.”
  2. He recognized his own need for the mercy of God, saying, “have mercy on me.” He knew he could not help himself, nor could any but Jesus.
  3. He submitted himself totally to Jesus’ way of salvation. He came hopeless and helpless to Jesus, and cast himself at Jesus feet in thanksgiving and praise.
  • IOW, as we respond to Jesus, we experience the kingdom and its benefits.
  • When we respond to Jesus we find the kingdom’s presence and benefits.

SO WHAT? Luke’s view of the kingdom

  • The Kingdom comes in stages – one present, the rest in the future
  • In his ministry J offers forgiveness and the Spirit
  • The K invitation continues to be offered, is not w/drawn because of Israel’s rejection
  • J heals to show Satan’s demise
  • He promises to bestow HS as a token of K’s presence and promise’s coming
  • Thus K currently manifests itself in the CHURCH where God is currently active thru X
    • manifesting his transforming power and
    • distributing saving blessings to his people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s