Summary: A teaching Message on Luke 17:20-37.

Luke Series #76 August 18, 2002

Title: The Kingdom of God for Dummies Part 1



Introduction: Welcome to New Life in Christ. This morning we are in Chapter 17 of the Book of Luke in our verse-by-verse teaching series out of that book.

Read Luke 17:20-37

Opening Prayer

In the past few years, a popular line of "how-to" books has taking up an ever-increasing amount of space on the shelves of bookstores. They’re known as the "Dummies books" They include titles such as: Golf for Gummies, Religion for Dummies, Windows 95 for Dummies, and a future book to be released only in Palm Beach County: Voting for Dummies.

The books are not really for stupid people; rather they are for uninformed people. They take sometimes complicated subjects and explain them simply, while sticking primarily with the basic information that most people need to know about the subject.

I entitled today’s message: The Kingdom of God for Dummies. I did not do this because I believed that anybody in the congregation lacks intelligence, but rather because I will be covering the basic information or characteristics of the Kingdom of God. Everything in the passage we read, in one way or another relates to the Kingdom of God. I will be sharing with you five characteristics of the Kingdom of God, but before I get to the first characteristic, I need to explain what the Kingdom of God is, and why the Pharisees asked about its coming in verse 20.

The subject of the Kingdom of God was spoken about by Jesus on numerous occasions, and it obviously has great importance. Jesus described his teaching and preaching as a message about the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43; 8:1). Jesus taught his disciples that they were to pray that God’s Kingdom would come (Luke 11:2). Jesus instructed his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:2), and many of the parables were illustrations used to instruct us regarding the Kingdom of God. The epistles of the New Testament also mention the Kingdom of God often. The apostles wrote about inheriting the Kingdom of God and the establishing of the Kingdom of God.

So just what is the Kingdom of God? That is no easy question to answer because the term is used broadly, so any definition will fall short in some respects. Nevertheless, I would define the Kingdom of God as the manifestation of God’s authority, power, and purposes, whether in a person or place. Let me clarify this with an illustration. Many years ago, England was the world’s political superpower. She had colonies, which she ruled politically, all over the world. Collectively, England’s rule and these colonies were referred to as the "United Kingdom." It was called a Kingdom because that is where England exercised her authority and purposes.

The Kingdom of God is where God’s authority and purposes are manifest. For instance, the Bible says that Christians are taken out of the Kingdom of Darkness and enter into the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). In other words, Christians are now under a new authority, experience a new power, and fulfill the purposes of God, instead of Satan. Therefore it can be accurately said that they have entered the Kingdom of God.

The Bible also refers to a time when God’s Kingdom will be established not just an individual lives, but geographically over the whole Earth. The will come a time when only God’s authority is exercised and only his purposes are experienced. Many Scriptures make reference to this future establishment of the Kingdom of God.

Rev 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

"The Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."

Rev 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.

For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

The people of Jesus day understood, as we should also understand, that although God was sovereignty in control of all things, his authority and purposes were not currently being fully manifest throughout the earth. God’s Kingdom had not yet come, if it had, there would be no more sin, Satan, suffering, or sickness, because these things are not manifestations of God’s purposes. This is why we pray for God’s Kingdom to come, recognizing that it is not fully present at this time.

Currently there are supernatural powers, political entities, and rebellious people who are opposed to and resistant to God’s authority and purposes. Nevertheless, the Old Testament clearly prophesied a time would come when God’s enemies would be destroyed, and his purposes fully manifest. There is coming a new day, with a new order of things.

Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…

Rev 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

This is the biblical and true version of the New World Order or New Age you may have heard of. The profit Daniel makes mention of the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

Dan 2:44-45 In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those Kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

The Pharisees were looking forward to this time because they were expecting a political overthrow of Rome and the exultation of themselves to a position of power. They had some serious misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God, so Jesus corrects them when they questioned him about the Kingdom, and after correcting them he gives some instructions to his disciples regarding the Kingdom of God. With that said, let’s get to the first characteristic of the Kingdom of God that we will discuss today.

Read Luke 17:20, 21

1. The Kingdom of God is present today.

This is the main point of these two verses. The authority, power, and purposes of God are today being fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Let me explain. The Pharisees were carefully watching world and political events of the day, and searching the Scriptures, so that they would know when the Kingdom of God would come. The problem was that they were expecting a political/geographical that could be observed and pointed to in the same way as we could point and say, "There is the United Kingdom." Jesus corrects them by saying, "The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, "Here it is" or "There it is. . . " In other words, the Kingdom of God is not a specific location that people can point to.

Jesus goes on to say, "The Kingdom of God is within you." Most other translations of the Bible translate these last two words as "among you" or "in your midst." This is a way of saying that the Kingdom of God you are looking to come has already arrived and is among your or right in your presence. It is most likely that this is a better translation, since Jesus could not have been saying that the Kingdom of God was in the Pharisees’ hearts. In addition to this, Kingdom of God’s current presence among the people was a main theme in the Gospel of Luke, which makes it more likely that this is Jesus emphasis here.

1. The Kingdom of God is present today

The Kingdom of God is present because Jesus the King of the Kingdom is present and he was exercising the authority, and manifesting the purposes of the Kingdom of God. Many Scriptures point out the current presence of the Kingdom of God.

Luke 11:20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come to you.

Luke 16:16-17 The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

Wherever Jesus the King healed the sick, overcame evil and Satan in people’s lives, released the oppressed and bound, or saved souls, he was manifesting the authority, power, and purposes of God, i.e. the Kingdom of God.

1. The Kingdom of God is present today

The Kingdom of God is still present because Jesus is still present in the church through the Holy Spirit, so we can still see God’s Kingdom being manifested in healing the sick, overcoming evil, releasing the oppressed and bound, and in saving the lost. This fact of the Kingdom of God’s current presence should affect our expectations and our prayers.

1. The Kingdom of God is present today

Does this mean that all that we experience now is all there is to the Kingdom of God? Is there no future expectations regarding the Kingdom of God? No, not at all. When Jesus says the Kingdom of God is present or in your midst, he doesn’t mean the full manifestation of God’s rule. Obviously, sin, Satan, evil, suffering, etc. all still exist, and even the Christian only experiences God’s purposes and power to overcome these things in part. The fullness of the Kingdom of God is in the future, as we have read already in the Book of Revelation. In fact, Jesus gives us teaching regarding the future and full manifestation of the Kingdom of God in the next few verses.

In some ways, the Kingdom of God is like a hurricane approaching Florida’s coast. When the outer bands began to come onshore, the wind will pick up and also the rains. The meteorologist can accurately say, "The hurricane is here; it is present." At the same time, any knowledgeable person knows that this little bit of wind is only a foretaste of the intensity that is to come. In the same way, the manifestations of the Kingdom of God we experience today are only a foretaste of what is to come in great intensity and power. This fullness takes place when Jesus comes again. Jesus discusses this full manifestation of the Kingdom of God in the next few verses, where we will see the second characteristic of the Kingdom of God which I will expound upon today.

Read Luke 17:22-25

2. The full manifestation of the Kingdom of God will be obvious to all.

Jesus has just noted how the current presence of the Kingdom of God cannot be discerned by careful observation. In fact, the religious leaders of the day were totally unaware of the Kingdom of God’s presence, but the full future manifestation of the Kingdom of God will be totally different. It will be obvious to all, like lightning in the sky. I’ll comment more on this in a moment, but first let explain verses 22 and 23.

The text specifically notes that Jesus is now speaking to his disciples. He says that the time will come when they "long to see one of the days of the Son of Man." This could be a reference to the disciples longing for Jesus in the sense that they were wistfully thinking back to the good old days, when Jesus was on the earth. This verse more likely refers to the disciples longing for the return of Jesus the King to set up his Kingdom. The disciples were not looking for things in this world. They were not looking for worldly success, bigger houses, or fancy clothes. Their burning desire was for the return of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God! Titus 2:13 tells us that Christians eagerly "wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." The earnest desire and cry of the early church in a sin-sick world was "Come Lord Jesus!"

While the earnest desire was for the immediate return of Jesus Christ to set up his Kingdom, Jesus said to his disciples, "You will not see it" (verse 22). Jesus was not saying that they would never see the Kingdom of God, but rather that the longing disciples may not immediately see the return of Jesus. In other words, there may be a delay before Jesus returns; something Jesus hinted at in several parables concerning his return.

The earnest longing for Jesus’ return, along with a delay in his return, could possibly cause problems for the disciples. They could be susceptible to false profits, false christ, and false reports of Jesus’ return. In the same way that a thirsty man lost in the desert is likely to see and believe in a mirage of water, so disciples might be likely to believe in the reports that Jesus had returned when people would say things like, "There he is" or "Here he is" (vs. 23). The disciples so desired the return of Jesus that they were likely to believe false reports out of wishful thinking.

Jesus basically tells them, and us, not to go chasing after those who say such things about Jesus return because we do not have to worry about missing the return of Jesus. Why not?

2. The full manifestation of the Kingdom of God will be obvious to all.

Nobody will need to inform anyone of the return of Jesus! As Jesus said in verse 24, "For the Son of Man in his day will be like lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky and from one end to the other." Lightning does come very suddenly, and so will the return of Jesus, but the sudden return of Jesus is not the emphasis of this illustration. Jesus pointed out how lightning can be seen from one end of the sky to the other, i.e. it cannot be missed and neither can Jesus’ coming to set up the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Please note that this verse is not referring to the rapture, which is when Jesus takes his people to be with him before the judgment comes. This judgment precedes the setting up of the Kingdom of God and revealing of Jesus Christ as the King of Kings. I will share more on that next week, but for now the main point of these verses is that. . .

2. The full manifestation of the Kingdom of God will be obvious to all.

The teaching of these verses is applicable to at least two false teachings in the world today. One false teaching comes from the cult group: Jehovah’s witnesses, who teach that Jesus returned invisibly and set up the Kingdom of God in 1914, but only a small number of faithful believers saw it. It is very clear that such teaching is totally contradictory to what Jesus said here. He said, "Don’t go running after them." In other words, Jesus was saying do not listen to people who teach that Jesus’ returned but most people missed it.

Another popular, but false teaching, concerning the Kingdom of God and the return of Jesus is found in the church. This teaching is that Jesus returns spiritually (invisibly) in his people/church and gradually establishes the Kingdom of God through them. Again this teaching is contrary to the verses we have read and to those which come next, in which Jesus clearly teaches that his coming will both be sudden and public. It will be obvious to everyone.

Rev 1:7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

2. The full manifestation of the Kingdom of God will be obvious to all.

After sharing this in verse 24, Jesus says in verse 25, that the Son of Man (Jesus) "first must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation." This is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion, which was never far from Jesus’ mind. It is a reminder that Jesus did not come the first time to where a crown, but rather to be crucified. The first time Jesus came, he came to die in our place, but the second time he comes, he will come to rule. We live in between the times. As such, we still have an opportunity to come into his Kingdom by receiving and surrendering to King Jesus. If you haven’t done that, I hope you will do so today by acknowledging your sinfulness, asking for forgiveness, and placing your faith in Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: Next week I will continue to share on the proceeding verses and how they relate to the Kingdom of God. Today we learned from the Bible that the Kingdom of God is the manifestation of God’s authority, power, and purposes. In one sense the Kingdom of God is present today, because Jesus is present today. In another sense, the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God will come only when Jesus returns. That is a day we look forward to and it is a day that will be obvious to everyone.