The Kingdom of God began at Jesus’ First Coming
Show: Luke 17:20-21 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see (in verse 20) the Jewish Pharisees ask Jesus “when the Kingdom of God” would come. This is the UTOPIA question. God promised in the Old Testament that when the Messiah came – there would be a kind of utopia.
You may recall Isaiah 9 – talks about the Messiah being; “:Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. And Isaiah says that when this Messiah is born – 1) THE ROD of the oppressor will be shattered and 2) EVERY WARRIORS BOOT will be burnt in the fire. The idea is no more war. World peace. Again, Isaiah 11 which also talks about the Messiah’ birth – speaks of the WOLF living with the LAMB. The LEOPARD lying down with the GOAT. Not just UTOPIA for man, but UTOPIA for the animal kingdom too. Real world utopian peace was God’s promise…
So working through Luke’s gospel you see Jesus claiming both directly and indirectly to be the Messiah. In Luke 9 – Peter even declared Jesus to be the Messiah. So this raises the natural question is Jesus about to restore God’s Kingdom? Is utopia round the corner?
Illustrate: FIRST, I want us to think about the phrase “Kingdom of God”. For any KINGDOM to exist there MUST be a monarch. A republic may exist with a president and a democracy may exist with a prime minister. But a Kingdom needs a King or Queen. So who is the King or Queen of Gods Kingdom? (PAUSE) THE SECOND THING a Kingdom needs is SUBJECTS or PEOPLE? At the height of the British Kingdom – there were people all over the world who were loyal to the British monarch and saw themselves as people of the British Empire. But who are the subjects of God’s Kingdom? FINALLY, every Kingdom also needs A PLACE (or location) from which the King rules. It’s the Kings people in the Kings land. And when a good King rules over his people in a good land there are certain blessings that follow….
So a simple definition for the Kingdom of God is as follows (Slide 4 / Slide 5). Now if you go back to Genesis 1 & 2 (which is like the original Kingdom of God) – you can ask; who were God’s people? (Adam & Eve). What was God’s special place? (Garden of Eden). What was God’s Rule? (Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). And what God’s blessing? Well it was eternal life – because they had access to the tree of life. Now of course, this ALL WENT TO POO, because Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and rejected God’s rule (ENTER).
But God then started restoring his Kingdom (and restoring utopia) through ABRAHAM & SARAH. So who were God’s people in the Old Testament? (The Jews). What was God’s special place? (The promised land). What was Gods rule? Well, it was the Jewish Torah – (Genesis to Deuteronomy; upheld by King David). And God’s blessing was then shalom and prosperity – so long as they were loyal subjects. But again, IT ALL WENT TO POO – because the Jews rejected God’s rule. But the Old Testament Jewish prophets all promised that; When the Jewish Messiah came he would establish God’s perfect kingdom forever and it would never be ruined by sin again.”
Apply: So THE PHARISEES question about the coming of the Kingdom is understandable. Let’s look at Jesus answer in verses 20-21. Jesus says; The Kingdom of God is not yet something that can be observed. Nor can you say; “here it is” or “there it is.” In other words the Kingdom of God is not yet something you can see with your eyes or point to with your finger. But Jesus does say (verse 21) the “Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Some Bibles translate this – “the Kingdom of God is inside you.” But the better, more accurate translation is the Kingdom of God is amongst you OR in your midst…
The first necessary ingredient for God’s kingdom is a perfect godly King to establish and govern according to God’s rules. And standing amongst them, in their midst – is Jesus that perfect King.
I really don’t think Jesus is saying the Kingdom of God is inside you to the Pharisees. THE PHARISEES (who are Jesus’ opponents) ask the question where is the Kingdom? And it’s very unlikely Jesus would say to his enemies – “its inside you”. That’s wrong! What Jesus is saying to his opponents is that although they may be cynical – the first NECESSARY INGREDIENT for the Kingdom of God is already present amongst them. The Kingdom is not yet visible. But the King is here…
Point 2: The Kingdom of God is secured in Jesus’ Death & Resurrection
Show: Luke 17:22-25 (READ)
Explain: Well Jesus now speaks of a future time. He says the time is coming (future tense). And the coming of Gods Kingdom in fullness is now somehow linked to the coming of the Son of Man. And Jesus says when the Son of Man comes it will like lightening which flashes and lights up the sky. In other words – you won’t miss it. So when the Son of Man comes (which you can’t miss) then the Kingdom will be established.
Now Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man in Luke’s gospel – 25x. This phrase – “SON OF MAN” – actually comes from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Around 500BC the prophet Daniel had a series of visions about the God’s judgment (and the end of the world). In Daniel 7 this is what it says; (Slide 7; Dan.7:13-14). So Daniel has a vision of a person who looks like a son of man; he looks like an ordinary human. But the Ancient of Days (who is God) gives this human being AUTHORITY, GLORY AND POWER and everyone worships him. This is a strange vision because the Bible says – worshipping anyone or anything other than God is idolatry. It is sin. But in this vision God seems to be ok with everyone worshipping – this Son of Man.
Now the New Testament explains that the reason God is ok with everyone worshiping Jesus is that Jesus is Gods Son in human form. Jesus is God in the flesh. So worshiping Jesus is the same as worshiping God. That’s why it’s not wrong.
But Daniel FINISHES THIS VISION telling us that the one like a Son of Man ultimately establishes A PERFECT KINGDOM that will never be destroyed. So Son of Man and God’s Kingdom are also linked.
Now with all this in mind lets come back now to Luke 17:25. Jesus says (Slide 9 – Lk.17:25), but first the Son of Man must SUFFER many things and BE REJECTED by this generation. So Jesus is now talking about his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus has to die for the sins of the world before God’s Kingdom can really come…
Now remember I said (SLIDE 10) the Kingdom of God can kind of be defined as; God’s People, in God’s Place under God’s Rule enjoying God’s blessing. Well we have God’s rule because King Jesus is here. So the Kingdom is dawning. BUT WHO ARE GOD’S PEOPLE? At this point the answer is kind of no one. OR it’s only the Jews who accepted John’s baptism. (GOSPEL) THE PROBLEM is everyone in the whole world rejects God’s right to be God. Instead of obeying God, we sin and we kind of make ourselves god. In the process we become Satan’s people, rather than God’s people. We are just like Satan. We sin, we do evil and we refuse to repent or obey God. So we then become people who belong to A) Satan’s Kingdom of darkness rather than B) God’s Kingdom of light. So to set us free from Satan’s kingdom a ransom had to be paid. The wages of sin is death. EVERYONE who rejects God and continues in sin must die and go to hell. But Jesus died on the cross and descended into hell – to pay the price for your freedom. Jesus loved you so much that he walked into hell, so you could walk out.
That’s incredible. Jesus’ offered up his life to Satan, sin and death so you could be saved. It’s called THE GREAT EXCHANGE. Jesus leaves the kingdom of light and goes into the kingdom of darkness, so that you can leave the kingdom of darkness and enter the kingdom of light. Its a swap. But it’s now your choice. Can you see that Jesus is the perfect King? Can you see he died to pay for your sins?
Finally, have you thanked Jesus for dying for you AND have you accepted Jesus as your King? If the answer is yes – then you are already part of God’s Kingdom. Now! Already!
Remember THE GREAT COMMISSION – after Jesus’ death and resurrection he said to his disciples; “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me… All authority!” This was the fulfillment of Daniel 7. The Ancient of Days GAVE the Son of Man all authority, all glory and all Sovereign power so that everyone would worship him as King. So after his death and resurrection – Jesus says to his disciples; Well, “All authority in heaven and earth has now been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…”
You no longer need to be a Jew in order to be part of God’s Kingdom. BUT YOU DO NEED to be a disciple of Jesus. AND you need to worship Jesus because he is God’s perfect king who died for you. But insofar as you are a growing, worshiping disciple of Jesus – you are already part of God’s Kingdom. You have been bought with Jesus’ blood. So God’s Kingdom already has 1) a ruler – King Jesus and it already has 2) people joining it – Christians. But what about God’s place?
Point 3: The Kingdom of God will be Consummated at Jesus’ Return
Show: Lk.17:26-30 (READ)
Explain: Well here Jesus appeals to two well known judgments; A) Noah and the flood; AND B) Lot and Sodom – Gomorrah. Noah’s family only entered the new creation after the flood AND after the world was cleansed of sin and evil. God had to remove all the evil and wickedness so that Noah’s family wasn’t infected again. Similarly, the promise to Abraham of inheriting Canaan and having a son only became a reality after Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed AND the area was cleansed of sin.
Now in both instances there was A DELAY between the promise of a fresh start and the actual fresh start. Noah spent about 100 years building the ark before the flood came. But eventually judgment came and then Noah’s family entered the new creation. Similarly, Abraham is told to go Canaan and God would make him a great nation. But Abraham has to wait 25 years before the area (Sodom and Gomorrah) is cleansed of sin and only then is Isaac born. New kingdom life begins on the other side of cleansing judgment. But in both cases the day of cleansing eventually came and then the promise was realised…
Well (verse 30) Jesus says it will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. When the Son of Man returns A) then the cleansing judgment will take place and B) then God’s people will enter the new place of blessing – where there is no more sin, evil or corruption.
(SLIDE 12) This means God’s Kingdom has some NOW and some NOT YET elements. God’s Kingdom already has PEOPLE. Everyone who is a genuine born-again Christian is already part of God’s Kingdom – NOW. But the ultimate PLACE of God’s Kingdom is still NOT YET. The world will be cleansed of sin and evil at Jesus’ return and then we’ll enter God’s special place. But nonetheless – Jesus is already King over all the world – NOW. God has already revealed the Ruler and the Rules of God’s Kingdom in Jesus. We know how God wants us to live as His people NOW and we should start living as people of God’s Kingdom – NOW!
So this brings us to the final part – God’s blessing. God’s blessing of His people has both a now and a not yet aspect. Some churches (of the more Pentecostal variety) often speak like you can have all the blessings of heaven NOW. Others churches (of the more mainstream protestant variety) often speak like you can’t have any of the blessings of heaven YET. No! You only get pie in the sky after you die. DOH! So is it delicious utopian pie now or delicious utopian pie later?
There are some blessings of Gods Kingdom we can experience now and others we have to wait until Jesus’ return. We do have PEACE with God now. That really is life-changing. We do have JOY and HOPE (and many of the fruits of the Spirit now) because Jesus has already given us the Holy Spirit and he has already brought us into the church family – where we experience love and community. This is ALL available NOW. Also, as we start to live under Jesus’ rule – he saves us from much of the pain and suffering that comes from sin and foolishness. There are always NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES (or curses) that come from sin. There are always POSITIVE CONSEQUENCES (or blessings) that come from obeying Jesus. But this side of the final judgment – it will never fully be utopia – because A) Satan is causing grief and B) lots of people are doing wicked stuff. The world must first be cleansed of evil (through Jesus’ final judgment) before the full light of utopia will dawn. But it will dawn.
Apply: At Jesus’ return – ONE PERSON will be taken into utopia and ONE PERSON will be left for judgment. THERE WILL BE TWO PEOPLE in one bed – one will be taken to utopia and the other left for judgment. Now some Christians see this as reference to THE RAPTURE. I tend to agree, but with a few qualifications. I think the rapture (and Christians being taken to heaven) will only happen after the great tribulation, not before the great tribulation. But the Apostle Paul does say in 1 Thessalonians 4 – that real Christians (who are alive at Jesus’ return) will be taken up in the clouds to meet the Lord (1Thess.4:17).
But for me – this kind of parallels the final judgment. Jesus is going to sort A) the sheep (true Christians) from B) the goats (religious, secular and woke people). SHEEP will learn to fly in the rapture. GOATS will stay on the ground.
You’ll notice in verse 33 – Jesus says whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve or save it. You have to make a choice. What is more important – the things of this world OR the things of God’s Kingdom? 1) If you try to hold on to earthly comforts now – you may forfeit utopian life later. No flying for you. 2) But if you are willing to put Jesus first and forgo some things of earthly life now, then you will be saved and you will have utopian life later. Its your choice! But Jesus gives a warning; once you’ve made the decision to follow Jesus don’t look back (at all the things your leaving behind). Don’t do what Lot’s wife did. Don’t look back with sadness because that is dangerous. Just fix your eyes on Jesus and keep going.
What you already have in Gods Kingdom NOW with Jesus is already far better than anything you left behind. Plus, with Jesus, you get to fly and go to utopia later. So don’t look back and don’t end up vulture food. Jesus finishes by saying when the sheep are raptured to heaven the vultures will also gather to feast on the goats. The vultures (in verse 37) is actually an allusion to the battle of Armageddon. You know whenever there is a big battle (and lots of people are dying) the birds of carrion – the vultures, the crows and the eagles all begin to circle overhead – because they anticipate a feast. Well in Revelation 19 – Jesus turns up on a white horse. His name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and the passage says Jesus then summons all the birds of the air to come and feast on all the dead from Armageddon. So when the sheep learn to fly and are raptured to heaven; you’ll also see the birds of carrion gather to feast on all the dead goats. No. You don’t want to be a goat. Jesus is the King of God’s Kingdom (and through faith in him) you can become one of God’s people, who lives under Jesus rule and is blessed now and enjoys utopia later. It’s your choice.