What About the Kingdom?

Explore the Bible Series

January 2, 2005

 

Background Passage: Luke 17:1-37

Lesson Passage: Luke 17: 20-37

 

Introduction: The “Kingdom of God” was one of the central teachings of the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry; indeed, this term, and its parallel phrase “the Kingdom of Heaven,” are used 117 times in the Synoptic Gospels and more than thirty times in the rest of the New Testament.  Matthew and Luke gave significant prominence to this concept.  Yet, as frequently as we find this theme in the New Testament, it remains a difficult and mysterious idea to many (including this writer!). 

 

Personal Note: I have found four works quite helpful in understanding Christ’s usage of “Kingdom of God.”  Consider reading these useful books.

  1. Walter Chantry. God’s Righteous Kingdom. Banner of Truth, 1980.
  2. Donald Guthrie. New Testament Introduction. InterVarsity Press. 1981. (See pages 409 ff.)
  3. George Eldon Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1974. (See, in particular, pp. 45-134)
  4. Geerhardus Vos. The Kingdom of God and the Church. American Tract Society, 1903.  (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing presently offers this volume)

 

The Kingdom of God refers to the spiritual rule of God in the hearts and lives of those in whom Christ’s redemptive work has subdued the power of evil and established the rule of faith and loving obedience to God’s commandments. The Kingdom, therefore, is not so much a domain with physical boundaries and institutions; rather, it is the rule of Christ in men’s hearts. “It is now generally agreed that it means not so much a domain, as a reign; not so much an area over which a king reigns, as the activity of reigning.” (Guthrie, p. 409).

 

This important term has this significance in understanding the message of the Gospel of Luke:

  1. This Kingdom belongs to God.  He alone is Sovereign and Lord over his Kingdom.  This Kingdom has its genesis in the will and work of God, and he sustains and directs it to his own ends and purposes.
  2. The Kingdom of God must achieve its purpose.  It cannot fail or falter.  Furthermore, it cannot suffer change or transformation.  The Kingdom will achieve precisely the end for which the Lord created it.
  3. The Kingdom centers on the person and work of Christ.  Jesus’ birth and earthly ministry ushered in, and his return will crown the Kingdom with grace and glory.
  4. The Kingdom is connected with the salvation to all those who enter, by grace through faith in Christ.
  5. The Kingdom has both a present reality and future culmination.  The Kingdom of God has come into the world with the wonderful, finished work of the Savior, and he will bring it to fulfillment and glory by his promised return.

 

I.                   The Nature of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-25)

A.     The spiritual nature of the Kingdom (vv. 20-21):  The Pharisees obviously harbored certain misconceptions about the Kingdom.  It would not come with the pomp and splendor of earthly monarchs.  Moreover, Jesus indicated that the Kingdom would come at a time when many would be unable to discern the signs of the times.  That is, they will not see it coming; rather, it will arrive, as stated elsewhere, like a thief in the night.  The Lord said, furthermore, that the Kingdom had, in one sense, come already in the hearts of God’s people (See v. 21).  The Jewish religious leaders had largely missed the coming of the Kingdom because they did not have eyes to see the evidence of changed lives around them.

B.     The danger of false prophets (vv. 22-23): Jesus directed these words to the disciples.  The Lord anticipated a time, perhaps, when his followers would grow discouraged as they waited for the culmination of the Kingdom.  They might be tempted to turn to false teachers who call their attention away from the promises of the Messiah, and the Lord warned them to refuse the message of these false prophets.  Not all who claim to speak in the name of the Lord should be believed. 

C.     The suddenness and unexpectedness of the coming of the Kingdom (vv. 24 -25): Like lightening in a thunderstorm, the Kingdom of God will come with sudden force and unmistakable power. Also, the disciples needn’t worry that they will miss the coming of the Kingdom.  The King will arrive with conspicuous power and glory that all will see and know he has come. Also, notice that the Lord will have his day of glory (v. 24b). Yes, the King will experience terrible suffering and rejection (See v. 25); yet, this anguish will not be the final chapter of the Lord’s story. The King will have his final day of glory.

 

 

II.                Two Analogies of the Future Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:26-30)

A.     The days of Noah (vv. 26-27): The Lord predicted that the time of his coming would resemble the days of respectable, busy, indifference that Noah experienced.  Surely Jesus did not mean to demean the regular, mundane activities of life: marriage, eating and drinking, working; nevertheless, he condemned the common belief that life consisted of these things.  Family and professional activities have their appropriate place, but Jesus concerned himself with the sinful notion that the pursuit of these issues would dull the heart and mind to the great, eternal things of life.  In Noah’s day, the people presumed that life would continue as it always had.  They gave no thought to judgment, righteousness, and salvation.  They were lulled into a spiritual stupor by the routine affairs of existence and missed the most important matters of life.  The Lord predicted that his Kingdom would find the world in a similar condition.  O, what a sinful and deadly presumption they entertain!

B.     The days of Lot (vv. 28-32):  Like Noah’s day, Lot lived in an environment of worldly indifference and presumption.  They sinful men of Sodom had no idea that disaster stood at the door.  They sinfully assumed that life would continue as it had previously. Even as the fire fell from heaven, Lot’s wife, drawn by her sinful affections, turned back in a furtive look to the cities of the plain.  Her stolen glance betrayed a stony heart.  Even in the midst of unimaginable judgment, she found no place for thanksgiving for the grace of God in her heart. This foolish woman enjoyed great religious privilege; yet, in the end, she came to ruin because her heart remained hard and unheeding to the merciful overtures of the Lord.  Hardhearted and disobedient men will meet with a worse end than hers when the Day of the Lord appears. What solemn words we find here, “Remember Lot’s wife.”  In verse thirty-one, Jesus called his people to urgent action. They must ready themselves for the coming of the Kingdom without the slightest hesitation or delay.  Many commentators believe this particular portion of our text relates to the destruction of Jerusalem (and I have no quarrel with that application); nevertheless, surely this passage also relates to a vital plea for decisive action on the part of those who would escape the Day of Judgment.

 

III.             Final Warnings (Luke 17:33-37): A great division will occur when the Kingdom of God comes.

A.     Two persons will be asleep in bed.  One will be received unto the Lord, and the other will be left to perish in the Judgment.

B.     Two women will be about their daily labors.  One will be taken to rest and glory with Christ, and the other will be left behind.

C.     Two men will be in the field.  The King will take one to himself, and the other will remain behind without a place in the Kingdom.

 

Conclusion:  The term “eagles” should probably be translated “vultures.”  Jesus anticipated a day of terrible ruin and decay when vultures would pick at the carrion of what man has done in the earth.  The kingdoms of the world, replete with carnal splendor, will eventually come to utter ruin and decay.  In that day, only the Kingdom of God shall stand.

 

Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few that find it...

 

Now everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.