The Coming of the Kingdom of God
[Luke chapter 17, verses 20-37]
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For this week’s Progressive Christian Bible study we’ll be going over the second half of chapter 17 of the Gospel of Luke. When we left off last week at verse 19, Jesus had healed ten men of leprosy while traveling along the border from Samaria to Galilee, which would be in the area roughly west of the modern borders where Israel, the West Bank territory and Jordan intersect. As you recall, only one of them bothered to come back and thank Jesus and express his gratitude for his divine healing. “Where are the other nine?”, Jesus had asked, but the man did not know. We should all take a lesson from this, that we are to maintain an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude for the eternal salvation that has been given to us by the shed blood of Christ Jesus! I also recall charging all my readers to live up to that responsibility, so that on the day we stand before Christ not a single one of us would be found at fault, but that all might be found blameless before him. I presume everyone is doing that, but if you’re not, you know who you are. Time to tighten up, everybody! Having written all that, let’s take up where we let off last week beginning at verse 20.
“Once, when asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The Kingdom of God does not come by your careful observation, nor will people say, Here it is’, or ‘There it is’, because the kingdom of God is within you.’ Then he said to his disciples, ‘The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’, or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.’” (Luke 17, verses 20-25)
“The kingdom of God”, Jesus explained, “is within you”. It is not a physical place we can visit or live in. We cannot buy from it or sell to it. The only thing we can extract from it is also the only thing we need for our eternities – eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, Savior and Kinsman Redeemer. Beyond Jesus, everything else is little more than an afterthought. There is a very good reason – as far as most church denominations are concerned – that this is never taught in any of the mainstream churches of today. If more people understood that Jesus resides in the hearts and minds of every true believer, many church buildings would have no more reasons to exist! “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.” Here Jesus is plainly telling his apostles that none of them will still be on earth by the time the “Kingdom of God” is established. In other words, it was still a long way off back then, and we still faithfully await the establishment of His Kingdom to this day.
“Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’, or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning….” Don’t go running after people who claim to have an ‘inside track’ with God! There is no such thing! Even the apostles came to Jesus privately time after time, asking him to please explain this or that. Any man, woman or church that claims to have a certain access to God that is available nowhere else, well, that’s how cults get started. But more importantly, that’s how otherwise well-meaning individuals seeking a deeper relationship with Christ get sucked into these damned cults, and cults are idolatry because they interject an intermediary between Christ and humankind when none is necessary! That’s why I teach and preach that we have available a direct and personalized relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that transcends all human understanding as well as all church denominations and cults. The most severe judgment awaits those who perpetrate these cults on well-meaning but otherwise naive individuals, nearly all of whom are new to Christianity. “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Here in verse 25, Jesus again predicts his eventual execution, which by this point was less than a year away. The Pharisees undoubtedly heard all these things Jesus said to the Twelve and had no idea what Jesus was talking about. I’m sure this was intentional on the Lord’s part. Now let’s move on to part 2 of 3 in our study, starting at verse 26.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day Noah entered the Ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.’” (Luke 17, verses 26-29)
Here we can see the path taken by the train of thought of our Lord and Redeemer. In the last sentence Jesus spoke of the near future, when he would be ”rejected by this generation”. But in the following sentence Jesus spoke of the distant future juxtaposed with the distant past when he spoke of Noah, Lot and the “days of the Son of Man”, which referred to his Second Coming. Back then people were living their lives to the fullest with no regard at all for their souls; it was a completely hedonistic lifestyle where ‘anything goes’. We have much the same situation today. It is common in some circles (but not all!) for people today to have more than one sex partner, multiple marriages, and even people with criminal records – the majority of which are nonviolent drug offenses or property crimes – have become fairly commonplace. Back when I was a kid, these kinds of things were the exception, but now they are the rule. And as before in days of old, there will be a series of huge natural disasters and major wars in the fairly near future that will wipe out much of humankind. Whether Christians will still be on earth during that time is the topic of endless debate, so I’m not even going there! But the point is that these things will occur, and we must prepare ourselves accordingly. And now let’s conclude today’s study starting at verse 30.
“‘It will be just like this on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down and get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you on that night, two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.’ ‘Where, Lord?’, they asked. He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’” (Luke 17, verses 30-37)
The Second Coming of Christ will not unfold in some dramatic fashion like a Hollywood stunt or some fantastic special effects. None of those things would do it justice, let me be very clear about that! When Jesus returns for the final time it will be instantaneous, “like lightning”. But before that, when the Rapture of the Bride takes place roughly 3.5 years prior to that (see Daniel chapter 9), those who are called ‘home’ to Him will be brought before him just as instantaneously. Moreover, whoever tries to take anything with them – anything at all from their shoes on up – will be slaughtered instead. It doesn’t specify how this will occur, but why take a chance on finding out when we can be with the Lord forever? “Where, Lord?’, they asked. He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’” So, we can surmise that those left behind after the true Church is taken up will face destruction. They will be swept away along with the destruction of the earth or by a global war. I will decline to speculate on any possible dates for these occurrences, but you can be very sure they will certainly occur! Until then, let’s keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus Christ because he is the Savior of the world and the Kinsman Redeemer of all who place their faith in him. And next week we’ll start on Luke chapter 18.