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The Kingdom in Your Midst

January 31, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Kingdom of Heaven Verse: Luke 17:20–17:21

Theme: Jesus came to provide access for sinners to the Kingdom of God.

Introduction: God is Sovereign and rules over all the earth. His Kingdom is unstoppable. When we talk about the kingdom, there is much confusion – especially as we reflect on Jesus who is identified as the King. It is needful to understand that the reference to the Kingdom has a variety of aspects. For example, there is the eternal kingdom of God in which He rules as the absolute sovereign. The kingdom of God also refers to creation. There is the kingdom of Israel in which God reigned through human kings (David, Solomon, etc…). There is the Spiritual Kingdom in which God reigns in the hearts of those who believe. There is the mystery form of the Kingdom – called the church. There is also the coming Millennial Kingdom in which Jesus will reign on the earth for 1,000 years prior to the destruction of the Heavens and Earth and the creation of the New Heavens and Earth. Hence, the phrase “Kingdom of God” is confusing to many. In our text, that confusion is evident as the Pharisees are asking Jesus about the Kingdom – when it was going to begin. Jesus clarifies, that the kingdom they ought to be concerned about is the kingdom that had already begun, not the future glorious Millennial Kingdom. 

I. The Interest in the Kingdom – 17:20a

A. The Expectations for the Kingdom

  • When this exchange with the Pharisees happened is not specified for us – the important aspect is that it happened.
  • The phrase - “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming …” –conveys a confusion by the Pharisees caused by a disparity between what they expected the Kingdom of God would produce and what Jesus constantly claimed about the kingdom.
  • The Pharisees’ expectation was that the Messiah would come and deliver Israel from the oppression and injustice caused by the occupiers of their land – the Romans.
  • The Old Testament predicts that the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom will be accompanied by many external indications and miraculous events:
  1. Nature will be reconciled – so much so that dangers will be eliminated - cp. Isaiah 11:6-9.
  2. Earthquakes will alter the topography of Israel – cp. Zechariah 14:4.
  3. It will be a time of Peace – Isaiah 32:17-18.
  4. It will be a time of joy – Isaiah 61:7, 10.
  5. It will be a time of comfort – Isaiah 40:1-2.
  6. It will be a time of truth – Isaiah 65:16.
  7. It will be a time of the reign of the Messiah – Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-4, 10.
  • There was no awareness that there would be two advents – two aspects of the Messianic Mission – cp. Isaiah 61:1-2.
  1. The First Advent (Incarnation) would begin the Messianic Mission and the initiation of the spiritual aspects of the Kingdom – “… bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” – cp. Luke 4:17-20.
  2. The Second Advent (Millennium) would complete the Messianic Mission and the fulfillment of all of the aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant – “… and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.”

B. The Evidences of the Kingdom

  • Hence, the conventional wisdom in Israel – led by the Pharisees and chief priests – was that if Jesus were the Promised One, He would perform the type of celestial signs in the heavens and on the earth – cp. Joel 2:1-2,10-11, 30-32
  • When Jesus “failed” to provide them the signs that the Old Testament predicted would accompany the establishment of the Millennium, they rejected Jesus.
  • Because they couldn’t comprehend the two aspects of the Kingdom dominating the two advents, their questioning of Jesus was to expose Him as a fake – desiring to discredit and slander Him.

Application:

  1. How do think one can remain open to being taught by Scripture on things they may think they know (like the Pharisees who were persuaded of their view of the Kingdom) without becoming “wishy-washy”? 
  2. Have you ever been disappointed by Jesus failing to do what you expected Him to do? How did you respond?

II. The Invisibility of the Kingdom – 17:20b-21a

A. The Introduction of the Kingdom – v. 20b

  • Jesus response to them was corrective – indicating that their desire to forecast or anticipate when the kingdom of God would come was errant - “And He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.’” 
  • Certainly, their jaws dropped as they heard Him say what was unthinkable given their faulty understanding of the Old Testament.
  • The term “observed” [παρατήρησις] – is used only here in the entire New Testament; it “was a technical term in Hellenism for calculating future events by observing the stars.”
  • This tells us that they wanted the ability to predict the date of the onset of the “kingdom of God” through different celestial or astrological “signs.”
  • His answer was that we are not able to anticipate the “kingdom” – it is something that is already active, as we will see, with the presence of the King.

B. The Intangibility of the Kingdom – v. 21a

  • Additionally, we see that time of the Kingdom cannot be anticipated, it cannot be limited to a particular place – “… nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’”
  • The estimation of the “kingdom of God” that is so finite and localized falls fall short of the grandeur and pervasiveness of the kingdom.
  • Again, the two aspects of the kingdom that produce this confusion are: 1) the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom that refers to the reign of God within the hearts of sinners who are redeemed; and, 2) the fulfillment of all of the physical promises given to Abraham when the Messiah physically sits upon the earthly throne of David.
  • The aspect of the Kingdom that was already relevant to their existence and determined their accountability was pervasive as sinners were turned to faith in God for redemption – comparable to leaven – cp. Matthew 13:33.
  • This intangible characteristic of the “kingdom of God” is what Jesus referred to when He said “My kingdom is not of this world” – cp. John 18:36-37.
  • We understand that the physical Millennial kingdom that is associated with the 2nd Coming will be clearly evidenced and located with the seat in Jerusalem – cp. vv. 22-24. 
  • However, in our text, Jesus is talking about the aspect of the Kingdom that is focused on His 1st Advent – the spiritual rule of Christ in the hearts of sinners.

Application:

  1. How does the present aspect of the kingdom of God relate to the political systems in this world?
  2. If Jesus’ kingdom is right now within the hearts of believers, how are we to expand the kingdom? 

III. The Internalization of the Kingdom – 17:21b

A. The Essence of the Kingdom

  • The reason that you cannot point to where the kingdom is result from the fact that the present essence of the kingdom is spiritual.
  • In our text, Jesus states “For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
  • The phrase “in your midst” [ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν] – literally says “inside you it is.”
  • Some of the scholars have balked at Jesus making this statement to the unbelieving Pharisees and therefore translated it “among you” or “in your midst” as does the NASB.
  • However, this can be overcome by seeing the reference to a general principle of where the kingdom is located – within “a person” without specific reference to the unbelieving Pharisee.
  • In the current aspect of the “kingdom of God” it is internal and exists as sinners are reconciled to God and willfully submit to His Lordship as their King – cp. Luke 11:2, 20. 

B. The Entrance of the Kingdom

  • The kingdom aspect of which Jesus is speaking is the presence of Christ Himself within each person who comes to Him by faith – cp. John 14:23.
  • Hence, the “kingdom of God” exists within each one in whom the Lord Jesus Christ reigns – the evidence of which is the presence of the character of Christ – cp. Matthew 6:33; Romans 14:17.
  • Hence, the message of the early church – and the message that ought to characterize the modern church – is that one must enter the “kingdom of God” through the Gospel – cp. John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Acts 8:12.

Application:

  1. How would you rate your participation in the Kingdom of God – why do you rate yourself that way? 
  2. Why is the kingdom of God inseparable from Jesus Himself? 

 

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