One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the Kingdom of God come?" Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs
You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you." (Luke 17:20-21)
The question on everyone's lips is the one the Pharisees asked. It seems to be a question that everyone wants an answer to. In the last week I have fielded such a question or its derivative 3 times. It is one the questions I am asked frequently. Do I think this piece of world news is an indication of the closeness of End Times? What do you think about the movie 2012? When do you think the End Times will be upon us? What are the signs of the End Times being imminent? And many more like these ones.
Luke has already included in his ordered account a purple thread on the Kingdom of God theme. Not as much as Matthew who is the Kingdom exponent. Matthew's gospel includes 55 references to the Kingdom. Luke has 43 references to the Kingdom but with a different focus from Matthew. As you can see from the verses I have selected below Luke's focus is on the fact that the kingdom is preached, that it is near, imminent and within us but not obviously seen.
Proclaiming the Kingdom:
Luke 4:43 But He replied, "I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent."
8:1 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took His twelve disciples with Him,
9:2 Then He sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
9:11 But the crowds found out where He was going, and they followed Him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and He healed those who were sick.
9:60 But Jesus told him, "Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God."
16:16 "Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.
It is near you and soon:
9:27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God."
10:9 Heal the sick, and tell them, 'The Kingdom of God is near you now.'
10:11 'We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!'
11:2 Jesus said, "This is how you should pray: "Father, may Your name be kept holy. May Your Kingdom come soon.
But not obvious:
8:10 He replied, "You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: 'When they look, they won't really see. When they hear, they won't understand.'
Clearly the issue of the Kingdom of God has been bugging the Pharisees. Out of the blue seemingly, they ask the question we all want to ask but I think for different motives. Their question prompted Jesus to respond with "The Kingdom of God can't be seen by visible signs. You won't be able to say, "here it is" or "there it is over there". This response could mean two things. Either that the Kingdom of God is coming in a way that can't be seen; it's not an observable thing. Or it's not coming in a way that will have observable signs before it comes. These Pharisees are the ones who were asking for signs before (Bible Gem 977 - The evil of asking for a sign - Luke 11:29-32).
In all likelihood the Pharisees haven't changed at all and are still asking for signs of the miraculous. They want those signs as proof that Jesus is who He says He is. They are not signs or indications that we are close to the end times. They are miraculous or supernatural acts that prove what Jesus is saying. No, you won't be getting those kinds of signs, as Jesus has already told them.
What does the coming of the Kingdom of God mean? In essence it is a term relating to the Coming of the Messiah and the ultimate ushering in of the rule of the Age to Come. God's ultimate rule over His creation. To many of the Jews however it meant the overthrow of Roman rule because when the Messiah came, He would bring with Him God's Rule. The problem was that the Jews didn’t not realize there were two Comings. They did not realize that Messiah would come as the Suffering Servant and then as the Coming King: Messiah the son of Joseph and then Messiah the son of David. (See Gem 855). The Pharisees often meant their question in the context of looking for confirmation by miracles that Jesus was who He claimed to be. But deep down inside, they knew the truth but refused to accept it.
The Kingdom of heaven is not geographical. It is not like an earthly [basilea] - kingdom, a political entity with borders and a capital city and a king in residence in the royal palace. The Kingdom of God is both present now (with the coming of Jesus the first time – bringing with Him God's new order) and will come in all of its fullness in the future when Jesus ushers in the Millennium and the consummation of God's rule. But for now God's Kingdom is manifested when a person recognizes and summits to God's rule within their own individual life. His reign is within you, especially so when the Holy Spirit takes up residence there.
I need to say at this point that there are two interpretations of God's kingdom being "within you". Either the sense is within an individual when that person is filled with the Holy and submitted to God reign and will. It is not a locational thing, but an attitude of heart and an orientation of life. But some dispute this is what Jesus is meaning. Rather their viewpoint is that the Kingdom is present in the congregation of God's people met in Divine order. The kingdom is among you (plural) in this sense a collective thing related to gathering of God's people rather than within you as an individual.
We will continue to look at the matter of the Kingdom because Jesus continues to talk about it in this series of verses. You will see tomorrow why I have divided the units as I have. Of course there is more to come and because I am aware of the things I wanted to know when I was first a Christian and the kinds of questions I receive regularly, I can take an educated guess as to what is in your mind. But once again I will be basing what I say on the passage before us in Luke; not Matthew. Just to warn you of that fact.
He is there and He is not silent. Francis Schaeffer
Life makes more sense when we don’t make it about ourselves. Judah Smith
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. Henry Ford
Dreams come a few sizes too big so we can grow into them. Be patient! Rick Godwin