Sermon #126 Luke Sermons
Title: The Kingdom of God
Text: Luke 17:20-25
Date: Sunday Evening — June 20, 2004
Tape # Y-27b
Readings: Lindsay Campbell & Ron Wood
I have a very important and very practical message. I hope you will listen carefully every word, following the scriptures attentively. I want to talk to you about The Kingdom of God.
At the outset, let me state emphatically that almost everything you hear preachers say on radio and television about the kingdom of God is totally false. All the popular books about the coming of the Kingdom of God and the end of the world are false. Almost everything to be found in the notes of reference Bibles and study Bibles is false. Obviously, I have not read them all; but I have read a few, and I have not yet read even one that sets forth the teaching of Holy Scripture about the kingdom of God. I urge you to ignore such religious tomfoolery.
And if what I have to say to you in this message is not verified by the Word of God, count what I say as nothing more than religious tomfoolery. I will go further than that. ― If what I have to say to you in this message is not exactly what God says in his Word about his kingdom, ignore me and count what I say as nothing more than religious tomfoolery.
Open your Bible with me to Luke 17:20-25, and see for yourself what the Son of God has to say about the kingdom of God.
(Luke 17:20-25) “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: (21) Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (22) And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. (23) And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. (24) For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. (25) But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.”
Let’s look at these six verses line by line, praying that God the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher.
A Derisive Demand
First, we read that our Lord Jesus was “demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come” (v. 20). Everything the Pharisees asked our Lord was asked with an evil motive. They never asked anything that they might learn, but only that they might accuse the Lord Jesus of some evil by twisting his words, or deride our Savior’s doctrine.
But here, they went even further, they “demanded” him! What arrogance! What presumption! What hellishness of heart is exposed when sinful men dare to demand anything from the God of Glory! Yet, those who made this demand pretended to be the only true worshippers of God!
The word translated “demanded” means “accosted” or “interrogated.” All the Jews, including the Pharisees, were looking for the coming of the Kingdom of God. They were looking for the promised Messiah to come and establish his kingdom on earth, making them the rulers over all the world.
But this demand has the tone of derision in it. It is as if they said, “You tell us you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the King. If that is true, where is the kingdom? Do you really expect anyone to believe that such a poor, common man, a man known to keep company with sinners, is the Christ of God? How long do you expect us to wait for this kingdom of yours to appear?”
The Master’s Answer
Our Lord seized the occasion given him by their derision to teach his own disciples some blessed gospel truths. Listen to the answer our Savior gave to the Pharisees’ demand.
First, he says, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation” (v. 20). I can almost picture the puzzled look of utter ignorance upon the faces of those ignorant Pharisees. Our Lord answered these fools according to their folly, only to make them more ignorant, only to give them greater confusion.
Yet, he was, at the same time teaching his own disciples who were in the crowd that day, and teaching his disciples of all future days. How Peter, James, and John must have perked up their ears. Mary Magdalene, I am sure, came to a dead silence. ― “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” What does that mean? It means that the kingdom of God is not at all like any earthly kingdom.
Its coming cannot be observed by the eye, by observing signs, marking dates, measuring time, or checking off fulfilled prophecy. Its presence cannot be observed by carnal means, because it is not carnal, but spiritual.
Illustration: Hafford Overby ― “I want to be Mayor of Detroit in the Millennium.”
Those who expect to observe anything of this kind are sure to be disappointed. They wait and watch in vain for a carnal, material kingdom that will never come, just as the Pharisees did. The Lord Jesus says, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” These three things, at least, are meant by his words.
1. The kingdom of God does not come with pomp and pageantry. It does not come with an outward show of any kind. In fact, the translation given in the margin of your Bible is, “The kingdom of God cometh not with outward show.”
2. The kingdom of God does not come in such a way that men can observe it.
God’s kingdom is a kingdom no one can see, except he be born again. It is a kingdom none can enter, but by the new birth (John 3:3, 5). No one can discern anything at all about this kingdom except those who are taught of God and have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12-16).
(John 3:1-8) “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: (2) The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (8) The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
(1 Corinthians 2:12-16) “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
3. Our Lord’s words in verse 20 also mean, perhaps primarily mean that the kingdom of God does not come by the observation of religious laws, ceremonies, traditions, and ordinances.
The kingdom of God does not come by observing holy days and doing holy things: ― Baptism ― Sacraments ― Good Works, etc. The kingdom of God is not a matter of religious dos and taboos (Rom. 14:17; Col. 2:20-23).
(Romans 14:17) “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
(Colossians 2:20-23) “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (21) (Touch not; taste not; handle not; (22) Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (23) Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.”
The fact is, if you and I see something that so greatly impresses our eyes, our natural senses, and/or our feelings that we are by what we see inclined to think “Surely, the kingdom of God is here,” we are wrong, dead wrong. Look at the next line of our text and see if that is not precisely what the Master tells us.
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there!” (v. 21). ― What does that mean? Really, it is just an amplification of what our Lord has just declared. ― “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” Many in those days, in the days immediately following our Lord’s earthly ministry, and at various times throughout the past 2000 years have said that this or the other false prophet is the Christ. Many have said the kingdom of God will appear here or there, at this or that time.
Our Lord warns us to ignore such claims, no matter who makes them, no matter how convincing their arguments are, and no matter how many follow them.
But there is more to the warning than that. We live in a day of mega-churches, super-churches, and crystal cathedrals. Every year at Christmas and Easter, every major television network broadcasts the idolatrous splendor of Rome and his unholiness the pope. Televangelists bedazzle millions with their religious crusades, great works, and miracles. And we are all prone to marvel at the great whore Babylon and the riches, crowds, and magnificence of free-will, works religion. We tend to think, “Surely, this must be God’s work and God’s kingdom. All these people cannot be wrong.” That is exactly what the Apostle John did when he saw it (Rev. 17:4-8). But such marveling is but marveling at a gorgeously arrayed harlot whose sole mission is destruction, an harlot who deserves to be and shall be destroyed. Only those whose names are not written in the book of life are intoxicated by the wine of her fornications.
(Revelation 17:4-8) “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: (5) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (6) And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. (7) And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. (8) The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”
Now, watch the Lord’s next words in the latter part of verse 21. ― “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
The word “within” might be translated, as it is in the margin of your Bible, “among.” In that case, our Lord’s words here mean, that the kingdom of God is already here, in your midst. He and his disciples were among them. While that is certainly true, the kingdom of God is already in the earth, God’s church is his kingdom, the word used by our translators conveys our Lord’s doctrine accurately. ― “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
It is a spiritual kingdom not a carnal kingdom, a heavenly kingdom not an earthly kingdom, an inward kingdom not an outward kingdom. It lies not in outward things, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy
· It is the binding and dispossession of Satan, the strong man armed.
· It is the putting down of the old man, sin, with its deceitful lusts, from the throne.
· It has its seat in the inward parts, and is therefore called the inner, and the hidden man.
· It does not lie in words, in an outward profession of religion.
· It is oil in the vessel of the heart, and is distinct from the lamp of a visible profession.
· It does not lie in external works and duties, but it is an inward principle of godliness in the soul, or spirit of man, produced there by the Spirit of God.
· The kingdom of God is a kingdom governed by grace. In this kingdom grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life by Jesus Christ the King.
· Christ, as king of saints, dwells and reigns in his people.
In verses 23 and 24 our Lord turns to his disciples. He is now talking specifically to his own and warns us here of a time of great trouble. The time he is talking about is not any specific day, but any day in which the words of these two verses are applicable.
(Luke 17:22) “And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.”
The “days” to which our Lord refers are the whole gospel age, the days of God’s church in this world, from the time of our Savior’s death to the time of his second coming.
How often those disciples who heard these words must have echoed them! How often they must have pined for the Christ’s physical presence with them again! How often they must have thought to themselves, “How I wish I had paid more attention! How wish I had not neglected the opportunities I had! What sweet hours and days of blessed communion and instruction they were!”
But, I am confident that our Lord’s words here were not spoken just for those disciples. They were spoken for us. They are applicable to us. “The days of the Son of Man” are those times and seasons when the Son of Man meets with, instructs, comforts, and blesses his people by making himself known to us, by taking the things of God and showing them to us. They are our days of public worship in the house of God under the ministry of the gospel. It is here where the Lord Jesus promises that he will meet with his people (Matt. 18:20).
(Matthew 18:20) “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
When God’s saints are deprived of these days, by reason of persecution, or sickness, or providence, then they learn to value the highly. Once they are gone, they are treasured. Let us “prize, make use of, and improve such days and opportunities, whilst we have them. We know not how soon our teachers may be removed into corners, when we shall wish in vain for them; and seasons of hearing them, as is here suggested. Sad it is to know the worth of Gospel opportunities, by the want of them!” (John Gill)
Yet, even when such times come, even when we are placed in circumstances in which we have no place of worship, no one to preach the gospel to us, no sweet times of fellowship in God’s house with Zion’s pilgrims, should such ever come to pass, we must not chase after the bubbles of religious excitement. We must not follow those who follow false christs (v. 23).
(Luke 17:23) “And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.”
In verse 24 our Savior speaks of his day and of his coming in his day without warning, without signs, suddenly and speedily, like a bolt of lightning. ― “For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.”
Certainly, this is applicable to our Lord’s glorious, second advent. But the opening word of the verse (“for”) seems to me to give it a direct connection our “desire to see one of the days of the Son of man” and our Lord’s warning not to follow false christs in verses 22 and 23. You see, the days of the Son of man are those days in which our Savior comes to us in mercy, love, and grace, and makes himself known to us. Whatever that day is, it is his day, the day of the Lord and it always comes unexpectedly, like a bolt of lightning (Isa. 12:1-6). Oh, what a day that day is!
(Isaiah 12) “And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. (2) Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. (3) Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. (4) And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. (5) Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. (6) Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.”
· The Day of Conversion!
· The Day of Reviving!
· The Day of Death!
· The Day of His Coming!
But, before our Savior can come to any sinner in saving mercy, before he could ascend to his throne in Glory as our Mediator, before he could come again without sin unto salvation, something else must happen. I want you to look with me at the must of which our Lord so often spoke while he was on the earth (v. 25).
(Luke 17:25) “But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.”
(Matthew 16:21) “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
(Mark 8:31) “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
(Mark 9:12) “And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.”
(Luke 9:22) “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”
(Luke 22:7) “Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.”
(Luke 24:7) “Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
(Luke 24:44) “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”
(John 3:14) “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:”
(John 12:32) “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
Before he could come to us in grace, with the blessings of redemption, grace and salvation, the Lord Jesus had to suffer and die as our Substitute, put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, rise from the dead, and ascend to his throne as the King of Glory, as our Savior King. Thank God, he did!
 If a man is getting rich on his message, you can be sure it is his message, not God’s!