It’s Here, But It’s Coming.
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” – Luke 17:20-21 NLT
The Kingdom of God was a popular topic among the people of Israel. They wanted to see His Kingdom reestablished just like it had been under David and Solomon – with a powerful king sitting on a throne in Jerusalem and no more foreign armies occupying their land. So when a group of Pharisees ask Jesus when He thinks the Kingdom of God will come, they are trying to get Him to reveal the plans for setting up His earthly reign as Messiah. They don’t believe He is the Messiah, but they simply want ammunition to use against Him with the Roman government. If they can show Jesus to be an insurrectionist, then they can have Him arrested and get Him out of their hair once and for all. But as usual, Jesus gives them an answer they weren’t expecting. He tells them that the Kingdom of God is already here. It can’t be judged or predicted by signs or visible clues. The fact was that the King of kings and Lord of lords was standing right in front of them, but they didn’t recognize Him as such. Their understanding of the Kingdom was completely different than that of Jesus. He didn’t come to sit on a throne. He came to die on a cross and then to reign in the hearts of men. His Kingdom was a spiritual one, not marked by palaces, scepters, crowns and royal robes, but by humility, servanthood, sacrifice, grace, and mercy. There would be a military aspect to this kingdom, but the battles would all be spiritual, not physical. Jesus came to conquer sin and death, not the Romans. He came to wage war with Satan, not Caesar. They had placed their hopes on a physical kingdom. Just like their ancestors had done so many centuries before, they were demanding of God, “Give us a king just like all the other nations.” They wanted an earthly king ruling in an earthly kingdom located in the city of Jerusalem. They were suffering from good-old-day syndrome, recalling the days of David with a mix of nostalgia and longing. They forgot that those days were also filled with trouble. David, while a good king and a man after God’s own heart, was not a perfect king. Those were not completely peace-filled days. There were still enemies to fight. There was still the problem of sin and rebellion.
Jesus came to establish a different kind of kingdom. And His first coming, when He took on human flesh and was born as a child, was to establish His Kingdom in the hearts of men. The first thing He had to do was to establish His message. He spent time teaching the truths of His Kingdom. He gave them insights into the values of His Kingdom in His great Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. Righteousness would be measured by a different standard in His Kingdom. The requirements for right standing with God would be more intense than ever before. Good behavior and good deeds would not be enough to earn favor with God. It would require a changed heart. Jesus had told the people that “unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20 NLT). Jesus was going to require a different degree of love, a higher requirement of sacrifice, a more intense measure of humility, and a non-negotiable mandate that all citizens of His Kingdom die to themselves. For all of this to be possible, Jesus told them that the true King, the one they were rejecting, would have to suffer before His Kingdom was established completely. He would have to die. He would have to conquer sin and death, and make possible a new way for men to be made right with God. He would pay the penalty for the sins of men and satisfy the just and righteous wrath of God. Those who accepted the generous offer of His life for theirs, would become citizens in His new Kingdom. Those who refused to accept His payment for their sins, would be left to bear the penalty for their sin on their own. And that is what Jesus deals with in His answer when He refers to “on that day.” He lets these religious leaders know that there is a day coming when He will return again, and it is on that day that He will establish His physical Kingdom on earth. He WILL rule and reign from Jerusalem. He WILL sit on a throne and wear a crown just as David did. But He will be a perfect, sinless, completely righteous ruler. And when He comes to set up His kingdom, it will be too late to get ready for it. It will come with surprising swiftness and when no one expects it. People will be busy living their lives as usual, doing the things they always did. Then, suddenly, Jesus will show up in all His glory. And when He does, there will be a dividing between those who belong to His Kingdom and those who don’t. Citizenship will be based on faith in Christ alone, not heritage, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or even external signs of righteousness.
Over in Matthew’s account of this story, He records Jesus as warning His listeners to “keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 NLT). We are to live in constant preparation for His return – a constant state of readiness and eager anticipation. Jesus shared this word of warning to His disciples, none of whom lived to see the day of His return. But He still wanted them to live as if it might happen in their lifetime. And the same holds true for us. When Jesus came, He made His Kingdom known to man. He provided a way for men to become citizens in His Kingdom through His death, burial and resurrection. But He is not done yet. There is a day coming when He will return to complete His Kingdom and reestablish the rule of righteousness on earth. We are to live with that time in mind. He is coming back. He is has one more thing to do. This world is not our home. This is not all there is. We still live in the now, but not yet. The best is yet to come. So we are to live with our eyes on the goal.
Father, keep us focused. Don’t let us get distracted by all the things this world tries to offer as poor substitutes for Your Kingdom. Don’t allow us to buy into the lies of the enemy and settle for less than the best. While You rule and reign in our hearts, there is a day coming when Your righteous Son will rule and reign on earth – literally, not figuratively. And at that time, He will make all things right. Sin will be done. Death will be defeated. Sorrow will be no more. The world will be returned to its pre-fallen state and we will live in perfect harmony with You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men