Scripture: Esther, chapters 1-2; Psalm 150; Luke, chapter 17
Luke 17:20-27 (NASB) – Now He was questioned by the Pharisees as to when the Kingdom of God was coming, and He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look there,’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not leave, and do not run after them. For just like lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so will it be also in the days of the Son of Man: people were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, and they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Observations: Several ideas caught my attention as I read this passage today. First, I noticed that Jesus speaks of two different time periods – “the days of the Son of Man” and “the day of the Son of Man.” In verse 22 Jesus says, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.” That implies that the days of the Son of Man refers to Jesus’ time on earth with the disciples. In the future – the days will come – people would long for the time when Jesus was on the earth – the days of the Son of Man. But you will not see it.
That indicates that when Jesus returns, it will not look like it did the first time He was here. For just like lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. The “day” is in the future; it is not the same as “the days” that Jesus refers to in the first part of the passage. The “day” will happen in an instant, just like lightning.
Not with signs that can be observed. That leads to the second concept: The kingdom of God is not coming with signs that can be observed. The Pharisees had asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, and that was the answer Jesus gave. This idea also has two different aspects. First, the kingdom was not coming with signs that could be observed because the kingdom of God is in your midst. From the time that Jesus arrived to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, the kingdom was in their midst. That doesn’t mean that it had come in its fullness, of course. Jesus had begun the process of announcing God’s kingdom – a process that continues until it arrives in its fullness.
But there are signs that Jesus said would be present before the “day” of the Son of Man: just as it happened in the days of Noah (verse 26), and “the same as happened in the days of Lot” (verse 28), “it will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (verse 30, emphasis added). The “signs” are that people would be going along as they always have, not expecting anything to happen. They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, and they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all (emphasis added).
The Kingdom is in your midst. But the last idea I want to discuss is really the main thing that caught my attention: The kingdom of God is not coming with signs that can be observed…For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst. It’s already here! Followers of Jesus need to live in the realization that they are already part of God’s kingdom. The kingdom should be our primary focus. That’s nothing novel, of course; Jesus called us to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
Unfortunately, we’re too prone to look for other things. The most dangerous things are those that masquerade as “the day.” They will say to you, ‘Look there,’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not leave, and do not run after them. Why do we continue to chase those who tell us that they’ve figured it out? Why do we listen to those who say, “this is the sign that we’ve been waiting for”?
Scripture tells us that in the last days there will be many false teachers and false prophets. We’ve seen our share of them in recent years, but that’s nothing new. False teachers and false prophets have plagued the Church pretty much since Pentecost. The New Testament writers warned their readers about them, and we need to be wary of them today. We shouldn’t listen to calls to pursue some other kingdom (like political power and influence). We shouldn’t accept invitations to accept some other gospel (like prosperity, “social justice,” “compassion,” or anything else). We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Application: I’m not sure why I am surprised by the proliferation of so-called prophets who claim to speak on God’s behalf on any number of issues, because it has always been that way. Maybe it’s because it’s so easy for such “prophets” to gain an audience. Technology has undoubtedly made it easier for the Church to proclaim the gospel. However, it has also made it easier for false prophets to gain an audience. Disciples need to stay focused on Jesus so they’re not misled by false teaching.
We’re currently studying Luke’s gospel in our Sunday sermons, and last Sunday we looked at Jesus’ call to “deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow” Him (Luke 9:23). I talked about the number of people who proclaim messages, purportedly in Jesus’ name, which are contrary to this call to die with Jesus. Why do so many people listen, and accept these messages? Because we want them to be true. Who wouldn’t rather hear a “gospel” of health and happiness and prosperity and “fulfillment” than a gospel that calls us to come and die? The problem, of course, is that the call to come and die is the true call. Anything else is a siren song that lures us to spiritual destruction and death.
Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding us that there is only one true gospel – the message of the kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim, and to confirm by his death and resurrection. Guard us against the temptation of false messages that proclaim something other than the call to be crucified with Christ. Remind us that those messages offer us less, not more; they offer us substitutes for life rather than the real life that is only found in Jesus.
Help us to remember that the kingdom is among us. Remind us that we’re part of it when we respond to Jesus’ call. Help us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him. Inspire us to live in ways that help your kingdom to come and your will to be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.