Scriptures

The Coming Of The Kingdom Of God!

Introduction

‘Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. ‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. ‘It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. ‘It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.’ ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’ Luke 17:20-37

The subject matter here in Luke 17:20-37 and in Luke 21:5-33 overlaps. Both refer to the siege of Jerusalem and the Lord’s ‘second coming’ but the discussions are different.

‘Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come.’ Luke 17:20

In Luke 17:20 the Pharisees ask the Lord Jesus when would the Kingdom of God come. Orthodox Jews earnestly desired the Messiah to appear to rid the nation of the Romans, expecting him to establish the nation as ‘the kingdom of God’ and be its king for ever.

‘But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.’ Luke 24:21

‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’ Daniel 7:13+14

Also, they were expecting it to happen any time then because of the predictions in Daniel 9:24-26,

‘Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. ‘Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.’

These would be widely discussed issues of the day.

In Luke 21 it’s the Lord’s prediction of the devastation of Jerusalem which give rise to the disciples’ questions. The Lord had talked about his ‘second coming’ and the day of judgement so they would have difficulty imagining the temple being destroyed and Jerusalem being devastated before then.

‘And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.’ John 5:27-30

On the one hand, the Pharisees expected a militant Messianic liberator, on the other hand, the disciples were confusing the destruction of Jerusalem with the Lord’s ‘second coming.’ This accounts for the different ways in which the Lord answers their questions and for differences between the two events.

Chronology

This sequence of historical events needs to be born in mind whilst studying this subject.

The Mosaic era

The Lord’s ministry began about AD 27 and he was crucified about AD 30. The Mosaic law became defunct when the Lord was crucified, Colossians 2:14

‘having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross’.

So, the Lord gave this teaching during the Mosaic era, the establishment of His kingdom was still in the future.

The Messiah’s era

His kingdom began within the lifetime of many of His hearers and it was established on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after his crucifixion. This was the beginning of the present era, the era when the Lord rules over hearts, the era of His kingdom but those who rejected Him couldn’t see this.

After the day of Pentecost, the new church suffered increasing persecution from the Jews. The destruction of the temple in AD 70, during the siege of Jerusalem, finally brought to an end all remaining vestiges of the Mosaic era.

After the devastation of Jerusalem, the church was persecuted by the Roman’s, they were severely persecuted under the Roman emperors Diocletian and Nero. During the time of persecution those in the church who wanted to gain control over its members kept a low profile to avoid the risk of arrest, torture and execution.

This risk significantly diminished when Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire, the church developed into struggling ecclesiastical institutions. So, in different regions power greedy members in the churches vied with each other for supremacy.

Faithful Christians who dared protest were themselves persecuted and even executed by prelates and from this developed the chaotic conglomeration of politically motivated ecclesiastical hierarchies that is called ‘Christendom.’ But there has always been a remnant who clung to the simplicity of the original faith of the apostles.

The day of judgement

At the end of this era the Lord Jesus will appear, then He will judge all the living and all the dead and He will hand his kingdom over to the Father and the physical universe will be annihilated for good. There will be a new heavens and a new earth whose occupants will not be physical.

‘Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.’ 1 Corinthians 15:24

‘I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.’ 1 Corinthians 15:50

‘By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.’ 2 Peter 3:7-12

When would the kingdom of God come?

The Pharisees question

‘Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ Luke 17:20-21

‘When will God’s kingdom come?’

The Pharisees demanded an answer, they really wanted to know when the Messiah would overthrow the Romans and establish Jewish nation as the everlasting kingdom of God. So, the Lord corrects them of the idea that the Kingdom of God is a secular kingdom by asserting that it’s a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the heart. The Lord’s Kingdom is heavenly in essence.

‘Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ John 18:33

‘Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ John 6:36

The time when they would yearn for the Messiah to appear.

‘Then he said to his disciples, ‘The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them.’ Luke 17:22+23

After the Lord ascended to heaven political unrest progressively increased giving rise to the siege of Jerusalem, then even the disciples would yearn for the Messiah to appear to take control of the situation but they would be disappointed.

Then there would be bogus messiahs, during the siege there were false messiahs offering deliverance from the Roman occupation. So, He warns His disciples not to follow anyone who would be masquerading as Messiah’s.

 The contrast of ‘those days’ with ‘the day’ of the Lord’s coming

‘For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.’ Luke 17:24

This is given as the reason why they must not follow the bogus messiahs. When He does come, the situation will be totally different, it will not be an obscure local event, He will be seen everywhere, at once, suddenly.

‘But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.’ Luke 17:25

‘First’ means before the days when they would yearn for the Messiah, Luke 17:22. However, before any of those things begin to happen the Lord Jesus would suffer scorn, abuse and death, being rejected by people of that generation.

Please note that the phrase ‘this generation’ occurs 15 times in the New Testament and everyone is where the Lord is referring to the generation of people to whom He is talking. The phrase ‘that generation’ is used to refer to folk of a different time.

‘That is why I was angry with that generation I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ Hebrews 3:10

The days of the Messiah’s rule

‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. ‘It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. ‘It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.’ Luke 17:26-30

The situation in the world during the reign of ‘the Son of man’ over His spiritual kingdom, right up to the day of His appearance at the last day. Just in case any would think that during the reign of the Lord Jesus the whole world would automatically submit to Him, He reminds them of what happened before the flood and in the days of Lot.

Just as most people were unprepared when devastation came upon them then, so people of the world in general will be caught unaware when the Lord appears on judgement day.

Notice again, the difference between ‘the days’, which refers to the time of His rule and ‘the day’ which refers to Him being the Judge. The Pharisees were looking for the coming of the Kingdom of God, days when the Messiah would be their victorious king.

That is why in Luke 17:22+26 the phrase

‘the days of the Son of man’

is used to refer to the days of the Lord’s rule, this present era, when the kingdom of God exists ‘within’ the children of God.

The phrases, ‘in his day’ in Luke 17:24 and ‘the day when the Son of man is revealed,’ in Luke 17:30, refer to His appearing at the end of this present era to judge of the alive and the dead.

The Lord Jesus said in John 5:27-30,

‘And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.’

‘On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.’ Luke 17:31-33

‘On that day’ refers to the time of yearning and bogus messiahs. When Jerusalem is under siege they must get away. In verse 31 the word ‘that’ refers back to the beginning of the Lord’s remarks where He warns them of there would be false Messiahs, Luke 21:22-23.

When they heard about bogus messiahs rallying patriotic Hebrews to fight off the Roman soldiers, they were to flee without looking back because their lives would be in such danger that they would not even have time to collect their belongings, they were to abandon everything.

During the siege of AD 70 there was a short break in hostilities, that day Christians, following this advise, took that opportunity to flee Jerusalem. They weren’t to be like Lot’s wife, reluctant to leave their belongings behind.

‘I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.’ Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.’ ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’ Luke 17:34-37

‘On that night’ refers to the time of the Lord’s coming, when He comes, His saints will be go to be with Him and the wicked will be rejected. Having given them that advice, using the word ‘that’, the Lord Jesus redirects their attention to His most recent subject.

‘the day when the Son of man is revealed,’ Luke 17:30

Note that the world is a sphere suspended in space where at the same time on one side it is night and on the other it is day and folk are working.

‘He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.’ Isaiah 40:22

‘He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.’ Job 26:7

Notice in verses 34-36, the word, ‘left’ or ‘abandoned’ as some translations have means that not one of those who will be gathered to be with the Lord. This word doesn’t imply that they are left to live on the earth. It shouldn’t be interpreted so as to contradict other Scripture.

‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.’ John 5:28-29

‘In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom.’ 2 Timothy 4:1

‘But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.’ 1 Peter 4:5

Even of those claiming to be His, those who call Him ‘Lord’, the sheep and the goats will be separated, the sheep will be chosen and the goats rejected.

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.’ Matthew 25:31-32

Where will this event take place?

Still confused the disciples ask where it will happen,

‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’ Luke 17:37

None of the wicked, wherever they are, will escape the day of Judgement. The King James Version uses the word ‘eagle’ whilst other use the word, ‘vulture’ but this word cannot refer to the eagle on the Roman military standard because eagles don’t usually gather around meat and the illustration here is of scavengers gathering around carcasses. It probably refers to vultures.

The word ‘body’ is evidently directed at the spiritually dead, the wicked. This proverb could also apply equally to the administration of God’s justice on the nation of Israel, compare Luke 21:22 with Isaiah 46:11 and Ezekiel 39:4 or to the administration of His justice when the Lord Jesus appears.

A person can be physically alive yet spiritually be a carcase.

‘But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.’ 1 Timothy 5:6

Many who are alive physically are dead spiritually and the Lord makes it clear that wherever the spiritual carcases are, they will be separated and suffer judgement. One can be physically alive yet spiritually be a carcase.

‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’ Galatians 6:7-8

‘And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore, we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.’ 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Hebrews 12:1

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