Sermon: The Kingdom of God According to Jesus (Luke 17:20-21)

Luke 17.20-21 Audio

The Kingdom of God According to Jesus

Luke 17:20-21

Introduction

Through the ministry of Jesus there was a misconception about who He is and about His rule and reign as Messiah or King.  Most believed God’s Kingdom to be a future event and a future establishment.  Here in our text for this morning, Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God is already established.  It is future in the sense of it’s full consummation but it is a current reality, it began with the ministry of Jesus and continues throughout our day and will be fully established when the reign of Christ visibly covers the entire planet as seen in Psalm 22.

These two verses today cover the current Kingdom, which Christ established when His ministry began some 2000 years ago.

The way in which we can move past some of these misconceptions is to understand the question that Jesus is asked.  The word Kingdom comes from the Greek word βασιλεία, which means not Kingdom per se but Kingship or we might say rule or reign.

It’s not wrong when you think of God’s Kingdom to think of  those in which His rule and reign are seen…the church.

TT- Wherever God is truly recognized and honored as King, there you find His kingdom

Luke 1720 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

1. The Religious Leaders Expected an Earthly Kingdom

1720 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

Throughout the ministry of our Lord on earth, over and over again He made claims of royalty.  He often called Himself the Son of God.  Other times, He called Himself Messiah or Christ or King.  Many if not most were confused by these claims.  They heard Jesus call Himself King or Messiah and yet there was no visible kingdom to go along with these claims.  Either, Jesus was crazy or the people were missing something.  Here, a Pharisee asks Jesus a question that most everyone, including His close followers were asking among themselves and were too afraid to ask in person… when will the Kingdom of God come?

For the most part, the people had all failed to perceive the realization of God’s redemptive movement right in front of their eyes.  They had failed to realize that, wherever God is truly recognized and honored as King, there you find His kingdom

The big misunderstanding of those around Jesus was that the Kingdom of God is a future kingdom and that it is entirely an earthly visible kingdom.

The Pharisees and their many followers were looking forward to the arrival of an outward, earthly, visible kingdom, one in which the Jews would occupy a very prominent place.  They could hardly wait because then, they would have the upper hand.  God would smite the Romans like He had done with foreigners in the past and Israel would be established as the political head of the world and they would all enjoy prominent positions as God’s representatives…Jesus, when will this happen? 

Here, their lack of love for Christ led them to a severe misunderstanding.  They loved the thought of an established visible Kingdom, one in which they would be exalted, more than they loved the King.  They wanted a prominent place more than they loved Jesus.  Because, biblical history proves that when these expectations of a visible kingdom didn’t pan out they, in rage, they killed the King of glory.  He claimed authority as the Son of God and yet they saw not power to reclaim Israel as the world leader.

2. The Kingdom is Not Coming with Observable Signs

The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!

God’s Kingdom is not something that can be seen.  It will not be ushered in with observable signs, Jesus tells them.  They believed that God’s Kingdom would be a Kingdom one could see as one beheld great sights such as the other earthly kingdoms have.  If this were the case, Jesus explains people could say, Look, here it is!

Jesus’ response is, “No, no it’s not going to be that way and you’re not going to be able to observe it.  The kingdom that God is bringing isn’t going to be able to be observed that way because that’s not the kind of kingdom that it’s going to be.”  And you’ll notice elsewhere in the gospels that He will poke at the Pharisees about how they’re always looking for signs.  He’ll say things to them like, “You folks are good weather forecasters but you can’t really read the signs of the times,” because they valued themselves as readers of the signs of the times.  And He said, “Actually, you’re not a very good reader of the signs of the times.”  But part of that is because they misunderstood the nature of the kingdom.[1]

The Jews were always looking for signs.  They were always trying to coax Jesus into giving them more signs and wonders.  Jesus if You just do one more amazing miracle healing then we’ll believe.  He did heal many and they said He healed through the power of Satan.  He taught as One having authority and they said He had a demon.  There was, however, a sign and they were missing it.  The King stood right in front of them and they missed it.  How’s that for a sign?  You want a sign ok here it is, I’m here now.  That’s really what Jesus was telling them.  Here I am and here is God’s Kingdom.

The word here, observed, is a word that means under scientific scrutiny.  In other words, the Kingdom of God is not something that will be coming through certain verifiable data or testing procedures.  It’s not something measured or even counted.  It can’t be tested or seen with human eyes.  It’s a spiritual kingdom.

The part of the Kingdom that could be seen was the King Himself…

To help us understand what the nature of God’s Kingdom is, let’s briefly look to John 18 at the account of Jesus before Pilate.

Pilate wasn’t necessarily wanting to have Jesus crucified.  He was however, interested in the possibility of Jesus being a threat to the reign of Caesar and also his reign as governor.  So, he asks Jesus if He, in fact, was a king.  I want us to pay particular attention to Jesus’ response.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” [2]

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” [3]

Jesus is a King.  His Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual kingdom.

11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. [4]

3. The Kingdom is Here, Now

for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The reason Jesus gives for not looking for signs to show that the Kingdom of God is coming is because it has already come…it is in the midst of you, He says.

What did Jesus mean by this phrase?

First, we have the fact of the Kingdom being among the people as Jesus was among the people.

His preaching was a proclamation that the Kingdom was here.

The kingdom of God was in Jesus’ preaching…

43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”[5]

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. [6]

The Kingdom of God was in Jesus’ miracles…

20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. [7]

The Bible is extremely clear on the fact that the Kingdom of God began with the first coming of the King.  The Kingdom of God is still in our midst.  Men and women, boys and girls are currently being saved by God and placed into His Kingdom.

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [8]

The misunderstanding in Jesus’ day was that the Kingdom of God was a future event that could be seen by amazing signs and wonders instead of seeing it for what it is…a kingdom not of this world.

I believe this is one of the big misconceptions of our day as well.  Many try to teach that the Kingdom of God is an eschatological occurrence, in other words, something that will happen when Christ comes again.  This is dangerous theology and unbiblical theology.  It goes against everything Jesus taught about the Kingdom and the reign of God.

4. A Kingdom Not of This World

A. It’s Not affected by Governments or National Leaders

What does it mean for us that the Kingdom of God is in our midst and not a Kingdom of this world?  It’s not dependent on nor is it hindered by anything political.

It’s neither dependent upon, nor can any expression of governmental power ultimately hinder that kingdom.  God brings His kingdom and Christians and the Gospel and the kingdom of God go forth sometimes in countries where they’re persecuted, sometimes in countries where they’re tolerated, sometimes in societies that are on the rise, sometimes in societies that are on decline.  We have, over the last two millennia, been in every outward circumstance conceivable and the kingdom of God has gone forth.  Let me just give you three examples.

Think of world Christianity.  When Jesus died, there were a handful of people on this planet, literally just a few people, a few dozen people, who embraced Jesus as King, Priest, and Prophet, Lord and Savior.  Today, almost one in three people on this planet claim Jesus as Lord and King.  Now that has happened not because of the support of some governmental power because if you look around the world today, Christians exist in every kind of relationship to the state.  It’s happened because the kingdom of God is going forth and that kingdom of God is not tied to a particular political or cultural or societal or civic expression.

Another example of this is Africa.  Africa is a continent that is waxed by all manner of challenges and problems, but do you know in the year 1900, there were about 8 million Christians in Africa. Today, there are 400 million Christians.  Christianity is exploding in Africa to the point that the average Christian is a twenty-nine year old African woman, not a proper British subject speaking the Queen’s English, but a twenty-nine year old woman in Africa.  Now there’s every political situation under the sun.  There are dictators who are oppressing their people, there are a few sprinklings of free republics, and there’s everything in between, but the kingdom of God is going forth.  People are coming to faith in Christ.  People are living under the rule of God, acknowledging Him as their King, and they’re living in such a way to be salt and light in their communities and in their society.  The kingdom of God is going forth.

Or think of China.  When Western evangelical missionaries left China in the wake of the communist takeover in the 1930’s and 40’s, it was feared that the struggling Chinese Christian churches would just be swallowed up.  And for almost fifty years we all but lost contact in China.  And when political oppression eased enough that we could kind of peek under the hood and see what was there, it astounded everybody in the West.  Christianity had exploded in China.  Nobody quite knows the numbers because it’s hard to calculate the house church and it’s hard to get an accurate feel, but at least tens of millions of Christians are there.  Now externally, communism reigns, so the kingdom of God has not expressed itself in China with a political upheaval and an establishment of Christian rule and law, but the kingdom of God has gone forth. [9]

B. We Are the Visible Manifestation of the Kingdom

Because God’s Kingdom is not dependent on governments, regardless what political climate we find ourselves in, we must be living for God’s glory and to be light in a dark world.  The Kingdom is here, now.  Therefore, we must be living as Kingdom citizens now.  We’re not waiting for Christ’s return to live like Christians but we’re doing so now in anticipation of His return.  We’re not waiting for a dem or a rep to hold office to life for the King, we’re not waiting for conditions to be favorable or unfavorable, tolerant or intolerant of Christians but we live and submit to the reign of Christ here and now. We’re not like the Pharisees who wanted to know what the signs were, so when they started seeing them then they could step it up a notch. No, we are to live for God and the glory of our King now.

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. [10]

TT- Wherever God is truly recognized and honored as King, there you find His kingdom

The vast majority of men are utterly deceived in their expectations with respect to the Kingdom of God.  They are waiting for signs, which will never appear.  They are looking for indications, which they will never discover.[11]

We must never fear, no matter what this world does in regard to governments for or against Christianity, God is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.


[1] Ligon Duncan a sermon on Luke 17:20-21

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 18:33). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 18:36–37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 19:11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 4:43). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 8:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 11:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Col 1:13–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] Ligon Duncan on Luke 17:20-21

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (1 Co 10:31). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[11] J C Ryle on Luke

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