Message: ‘The Kingdom: already but not yet’ pt. 2
Text: Luke 17:20-37
Introduction: In his book ‘The Message of Matthew’ Michael Green writes:
PP: History is going somewhere.
- It’s not meaningless. It’s not random. It’s not eternal.
- There will be a real end, just as there was a real beginning. And at the end of it, we’ll find Jesus Christ.
History, is in a real sense, Jesus’ story.
- He made the world, He came to dwell in it. He will return at the end of history to wind it up. End quote
So, history, it’s so much more than a subject in school. As followers of Jesus Christ:
- We must learn from history
- We must we live in the present
- But, our hearts must hunger for the future.
And that’s the scope of eschatology. I talked about that last week. I gave you a broad definition of eschatology:
PP: The study of the fulfillment of OT and NT prophesies concerning the Kingdom of God.
So eschatology is not just ‘end times’ or Jesus’ 2nd coming.
- It’s what God has done in history past,
- is continuing to do in history present
- and is planning to do in history future.
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- Last Sunday we looked at the present reality of the Kingdom of God, or Inaugural eschatology, the ‘already’ part.
- Today we’ll look at the future aspect of eschatology, the ‘but, not yet’ part.
Before we look at our text, a little background.
- Luke chapter 17 is the first of two chapters, in Luke, where Jesus is asked a question about when the Kingdom of God will come. The other is chapter 21.
- Chapter 21 has a parallel to both Matthew 24 and Mark 13 which is often called the Olivett Discourse. However, Luke 21 is an abbreviated version.
Know that what we’ll read in Luke 17:22-37 is not a chronological layout of the ‘end times.’ It’s one of the many descriptions Jesus gives us of the Kingdom of God.
Throughout his Gospel, Dr. Luke has been showing us the importance of faith in Jesus and avoiding unbelief. He’s made it clear that every person who encounters Jesus, must make a decision about Him:
- He must be received or rejected.
- His teachings must be believed or denied.
There is no middle ground, no third choice.
In Luke 17:22-37 we’ll see why that’s vitally important… life altering, in fact.
- While there are great blessings for those who eagerly await the future aspect of Kingdom of God. (Those who have received Jesus and believed His teachings.)
- God’s judgment awaits those who have rejected Jesus and denied His teachings.
OK, just about ready to look at the text for this morning. One more observation:
- Jesus, in Luke 17:20-21 focused on His first coming, in response to the question of the Pharisees.
- In verses 22-37, He stresses His second coming, to His disciples.
- BUT, always remember, that the Pharisees and others in the crowd that followed Jesus around, were listening in, and I believe Jesus intended it that way.
- Because, we were given this Biblical text, we too were intended to ‘listen in’ on Jesus’ conversation with His disciples concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God.
- Luke 17:22-37 But not yet
PP: A. Luke 17:22-24 Do not lose heart
And He said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire 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 go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”
Right at the start, understand that Jesus loved His disciples. And being God, He knew what they would encounter when He left them to return to Heaven.
- As time would pass, the likelihood of them losing heart would greatly increase.
So, Jesus challenges and warns His disciples, then and now; to stay the course, to not give up hope nor give in to the enticement of the world.
Jesus told His disciples:
- The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.
Jesus made obvious, what they would almost readily deny…
- As a result of the coming judgment upon all unbelief, on all those who have rejected Jesus and denied His teachings,
- Upon looking and hoping that Jesus will return to make all things right and bring His Kingdom,
- His disciples would be prone to lose hope, when the time of Jesus’ return is delayed past their comfort zone.
PP: The fear is
- When we long to see Jesus’ return, yet, He chooses to delay that return, we’ll lose hope… and become disinterested.
- And the natural result of losing hope and disinterest in spiritual things, is looking for comfort, for meaning, for satisfaction, in the world.
I’ll flesh that out when we get to 26-30.
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So, Jesus is telling His disciples
- When My return is delayed, when others will say I’ve come, don’t listen, don’t be fooled, don’t follow them.
Understand, when I do come back, it won’t be a secret, it’ll be as obvious as lighting in the sky.
PP: B. Luke 17:25 Jesus must first suffer
But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Friends, the cross, is at the center, the very heart of God’s plan and is the key to His Kingdom.
- The cross, is the physical representation of the world’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
- The cross, is also the physical representation of the grace, love and mercy of God, for all those who would receive Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
Jesus is telling His disciples that, before He can bring His kingdom when He returns, He has to first leave them. But, that leaving, would be painful.
- He would suffer, not only the emotional rejection of the very people He came to save,
- but He would also suffer the physical torment, of all that led to the cross.
Note that, once again in Luke’s gospel, Jesus refers to His suffering, death and being taken away from His disciples.
- Friends, there is NO KINGDOM without the CROSS!
PP: C. Luke 17:26-30 What it will look like
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all, so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (2 slides)
I’ll look at the stories of Noah and Lot together, because they have one thought:
- Christian, remain focused!
Jesus tells us what life was like in the days of Noah and Lot:
- They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage…
- they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building…
Sounds a lot like… life… right? Things that are all necessary and important to living, to caring for ourselves and our family. We do all those things …every day.
But here’s the problem Jesus is addressing: In both Noah and Lot’s day,
- the people did all those things,
- at the expense of losing their focus on God and their relationship with Him.
Because of that,
- The people in both Noah and Lot’s day weren’t prepared for the coming judgment of God.
PP: In other words, the people in both Noah and Lot’s days became distracted, they lost focus, they gave in to the enticement of the world and its pleasures,
- So much so, that they didn’t see, didn’t believe, the coming judgment, they were warned about.
Jesus is saying, and warning, His followers, now as He did His disciples then, that the same is true about His return and the coming of His Kingdom.
Some will lose hope… become disinterested in spiritual things.
- They’ll no longer choose to serve God and His people.
- They’ll no longer financially support God’s work though the local church.
- They’ll no longer gather to worship God.
- They’ll no longer read God’s Word.
- They’ll no longer pray.
- They’ll no longer be a part of God’s local church.
- They’ll no longer walk with God…
All because they lost hope, became disinterested in spiritual things, and instead looked for comfort, for meaning, for satisfaction… in the world.
- And when Jesus returns… they won’t be ready.
The Apostle John Perhaps had this in mind when he wrote 1 John 2:15 as a warning:
PP: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Friends, it’s a dangerous thing, to get so absorbed in the pursuits of life, that you forget Jesus is coming back!
- And that’s a picture of loving the world more than loving God.
- Even though most would deny they’re doing that.
PP: D. Luke 17:31-33 Remember Lot’s wife
On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
Here, Jesus gives us a practical real-life example of someone who got spiritually distracted by the world. Lot’s wife. Jesus said Remember Lot’s wife and by application… Don’t be like her.
You all know the story…true story, because Jesus makes a clear reference to Lot’s wife, just as He did to Noah and Lot. Don’t forget that when people tell you Bible characters aren’t real.
- An angel of the Lord comes to Lot’s home in Sodom and tells him that God will destroy the city and they need to leave… now!
- As they were leaving, Lot’s wife chose to stop, to linger and look back at the city and she was immediately turned into a pillar of salt.
Why did she look back? We’re not told. But, we can make a few assumptions based on the context of our passage.
- Perhaps she left her favorite dress in her closet. Or she really wanted to take her Hallmark Channel DVD’s.
- Or she was grieving her lost social position in town, or the material comforts of city life.
Whatever it was, it distracted her from obeying God. And the consequences for her, were great.
I believe that Jesus was saying:
- Whatever you’re doing in life, even when it’s good, don’t let your ‘things,’ your ‘job,’ or anything or anyone else,
- keep you from obeying God’s call to follow Him.
It’s that simple… and it’s that hard. Because many are like Lot’s wife, who have too strong a hold on what the world offers.
Perhaps the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he wrote Philippians 3:13b-14:
PP: …one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Christian: Keep focused on God!
Jesus ends that section with Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
This is the second time Jesus said this to His disciples. And the context is the same in both places… total commitment to Jesus. The first time Jesus said this was in Luke 9:23-25
- And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
Remember, love the world… lose your life.
PP: E. Luke 17:34-37 Coming judgment
“I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
PP: Upon a cursory reading of this text, my first thoughts were of the ‘Left Behind’ books and movies by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
It also brought back to memory one of the first songs I learned to pay on the guitar… The 1969 Larry Norman song ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready.’ Remember that one? PP:
- Life was filled with guns and war And everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready.
- Children died, the days grew cold A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold I wish we’d all been ready.
- There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.
- A man and wife asleep in bed She hears a noise and turns her head, he’s gone. I wish we’d all be ready.
- Two men walking up a hill One disappears and one’s left standing still. I wish we’d all been ready
- There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left
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As nice as the memories are, I don’t believe our text this morning is a reference to the Rapture. It’s just Jesus saying:
- When I return, some will be ready, while others… won’t.
Remember, Luke 17:22-37 is not a chronology of the events of the ‘End Times.’ It’s a description of its nature… what it’ll be like.
Finally, I need to take a brief look at verse 37… What an off answer to the question by the disciples ‘Where, Lord?’ Jesus told them Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Why the word ‘where?’ Perhaps they assumed it would take place in a physical location where sin was as great as it was in both Noah and Lot’s days.
But instead, Jesus gives them a more metaphorical answer to ‘where.’ Jesus’ answer can be taken two different ways:
- The idea here can be that judgment will take place when the necessary conditions were fulfilled (Barclay)
- Or it can mean that the judgment will be as obvious as seeing vultures around dead bodies.
Perhaps it’s both. It’s truly hard to tell.
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Conclusion: Before I give you a closing illustration that I hope will help solidify what we’ve been looking at this morning, I need to give a disclaimer.
- This was written in a time when we used different terms. When I got my Masters in Clinical Social Work, you could work in either the fields of MH (Mental Health) or MR (Mental Retardation)… those words were acceptable at that time.
- Please forgive me if this illustration brings any offence.
ILL: Dr. Joseph Stowell, the President of Moody Bible Institute, once visited a home for retarded children that was operated by a Christian friend.
PP: Noticing the children’s handprints on the windows, Dr. Stowell remarked about them to his friend. “Oh, those,” he replied. “The children here love Jesus and they’re so eager for Him to return that they lean against the windows as they look up at the sky.”
That’s not a retarded way to live! May we all imitate those simple children
- by making sure that we are in Christ’s present kingdom
- and by faithfully awaiting His soon coming future kingdom! (Steven Cole) End Quote
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Perhaps you’re here this morning and you’re not in God’s present kingdom,
- because you’ve yet to receive God’s grace,
- by placing your faith in Jesus to forgive your sin.
If that’s true, then, quite honestly, only God’s judgment awaits you.
- Not my words, God’s!
That’s the bad news… the Good News is that
- forgiveness of sin is a free gift of God’s grace,
- to all who call upon the name of the Lord, for forgiveness and salvation.
- Again, not my words, God’s!
If you’ve learned anything from our text this morning,
- please, don’t wait to get right with God.