Today we begin a new message series from the Gospel of Luke entitled “Lessons from the Master.” Our message today is called “The Already Not Yet Kingdom.” Today we’re going to be studying Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God, sometimes called the Kingdom of Heaven. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the realm of God’s rule.
Let’s look at a diagram to better understand the Kingdom of God. On the left, we have the Earth on which we live. On the right we have Heaven, where believers go when they die. Does God rule in Heaven? Certainly. So Heaven is also the Kingdom of God. But things aren’t so simple, heaven is not just reserved for the afterlife or eternity.
Matthew 6:10 (ESV) Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
In this verse from the Lord’s prayer, we see first of all that God’s will is done in heaven. We are to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. When God’s will is done on earth, God’s kingdom comes to earth. So, heaven, the kingdom of God is not just about eternity or the afterlife. Let’s modify our diagram to show heaven overlapping with earth. The overlap happens when God’s will is done on earth, when God’s kingdom is coming. You see the kingdom of God is breaking into the earth, but the overlap is not yet complete.
Luke 10:9 (ESV) Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
This verse is part of Jesus’ commands to 72 disciples that He sent out on a mission. Part of their mission was to heal the sick through the power of the Holy Spirit. When they did that they were to say, the Kingdom of God has come near to you. You see, it’s God’s will to heal the sick, which was accomplished by God’s power. The kingdom of God had come near, heaven had invaded earth. That is the mission of every believer, to bring the power of heaven to earth.
Although we can already see miracles, heaven invading earth, it is not complete. There is still a lot of things on this earth that are happening which are not God’s will. One day, when Jesus returns, the overlap will be complete, as we see in this diagram. The complete triumph of the Kingdom of God has not yet been enforced.
Revelation 21:2-3 (ESV) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
One day, heaven will completely overlap earth and there will be a new heaven and new earth where righteousness alone dwells. God will live with His people, just as Adam and Eve walked with God in Eden. The final triumph of the Kingdom of God will result in the merging of heaven and earth. And we will live there forever, in immortal bodies, both physical and eternal. This aspect of the Kingdom of God has Not Yet happened, it is still in the future. So, let’s look at Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God.
Luke 17:20-21 (ESV) 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, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
The Pharisees thought that the Kingdom of God would come in dramatic fashion. Probably by a coming Messiah who would defeat the Roman empire and set Israel free. Jesus told them that the coming of the Kingdom of God in this age would not be obvious to everyone to see. In fact, it would not be something where people would point to it and say There it is. Jesus concludes his answer to their question of when the kingdom would come, by saying the kingdom of God is in the midst of you. In other words, the kingdom of God was already near to them in the person and ministry of Jesus and His disciples. Yet, these Pharisees did not even recognize it.
Luke 17:22-23 (ESV) 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.
Notice that Jesus is now talking to His disciples. In the future, after Jesus left the earth, they would desire to see Jesus return. Some will begin to say that someone somewhere is Jesus who has returned. Jesus warns His disciples of every age to not follow anyone who claims to be Jesus come back from heaven. Why? Because that’s not the way that Jesus will return.
Luke 17:24-25 (ESV) 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. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
When Jesus returns, it will be like a lightning bolt that lights up the entire sky. Everyone on the planet will know in an instant that Jesus has returned. Jesus will not return in secret or to a select few. But this is not going to happen in the lifetime of the disciples. Jesus is going to have to be rejected by Israel and suffer and die on the cross. We know that He rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven. From heaven, at a time of God’s choosing, Jesus will return and bring in the fullness of the Kingdom of God to earth.
As believers, the kingdom of God is already breaking into the world through our lives. Through our following of Jesus, more and more people are becoming believers, citizens of the kingdom of God. Yet, although God’s will is being done in some places on this earth, there is many places where evil still reigns. We wait and pray, believing that in God’s timing, Jesus will return, bringing the fullness of the kingdom to earth. When we seek God’s kingdom first, when we bring God’s kingdom through prayer, when we are witnesses of the kingdom, we hasten the day of Jesus’ return. We look forward in hope of the new heavens and new earth where only righteousness dwells. Then the kingdom of God will be here in fullness.
Luke 17:26-27 (ESV) 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.
Jesus now begins to talk about what will happen when He returns to earth. He compares His return with what happened in the days of Noah. Because of the extreme evil and violence in Noah’s day, God decided to bring judgement on the world. God warned Noah and his family and told them to build the ark. Noah warned the people of his day that judgement was coming, but they ignored him. They carried on life as normal, eating drinking, and marrying.
Then one day, which seemed like an ordinary day, Noah and his family got into the ark. Then the rain began to fall and fountains of the deep opened up. Everyone on earth except Noah and his family in the ark were destroyed.
Luke 17:28-29 (ESV) 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—
The next example of what Jesus’ return will be like is from the story of Lot. Lot lived in the city of Sodom, a wicked and perverse city that celebrated homosexuality. The homosexuals of the city attempted to rape angels that visited Lot and Lot himself. They had no idea of what was coming. The angels led Lot and his family out of Sodom to rescue them from God’s judgement. When they were safely out of Sodom, God sent fire and sulfur down from heaven and destroyed the entire city. When Jesus returns, it will be just as it was in these two examples.
What can you learn from these examples? First of all, Jesus’ return will be completely unexpected to those who are not believers and to believers as well. Unbelievers will be carrying on their sinful lives as normal, not giving any thought to God. Suddenly, in a flash, Jesus will light up the sky and everyone’s eternal destiny will be sealed. There will be no time to repent. Those who are believers will be saved from the coming judgement. Those who are not believers will face eternity in hell, the lake of fire.
There is another coming of the Lord for each one of us personally, which is our death. None of us knows when that will be. It may be suddenly without warning or over a period of time. When we die, just as when Jesus returns, our eternal destinies will be sealed. So we must make sure that we and others around us are …
Luke 17:30-31 (ESV) so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 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.
When Jesus returns, He will be revealed to the entire world. Everyone will know who He is and the impact of His return. We are given warnings about what not to do on that day. We are not to be concerned with our physical possessions on the day Jesus returns. We are not to turn back to our home when Jesus returns. What should be the focus of every believer when Jesus splits the skies? We should be focused on Jesus and spending eternity with Him. Those who are concerned about their physical possessions indicate they are not truly believers.
Luke 17:32-33 (ESV) Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
When the two angels rescued Lot and his family from Sodom, the angels warned everyone to not look back at the judgement falling upon the city. Lot’s wife choose to disobey and looked back to Sodom with longing in her heart. She was struck down in judgement and became a pillar of salt. True believer’s lives are focused on giving up everything to live for Jesus.
Luke 17:34-35 (ESV) 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.”
The coming of Jesus is often spoken of in Script ure as like a thief in the night. A thief in the night is totally unexpected and comes without warning. Jesus tells us what will happen when He returns. A man and wife will be sleeping in bed and suddenly one is taken to be with Jesus. The other is left behind to face God’s judgement. Two women are working together on job and suddenly one is taken to be with Jesus. The other is left behind to face judgement.
Luke 17:37 (ESV) And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
The disciples ask Jesus, where is this going to happen? They really do not yet understand what Jesus is teaching them. Jesus replies, where the corpse is, there vultures will gather. Jesus is saying that when He returns the believers, those spiritually alive will be taken to be with Him in the new heavens and new earth. What will be left are the corpses of unbelievers who are spiritually dead. Vultures gather around these corpses which will be resurrected to face judgement day. We must be prepared for Jesus’ return.
How do we prepare for Jesus’ return? We live in anticipation of His return, reminding ourselves it could be any day. As we anticipate His return, we seek His kingdom first in all we do. As we look forward to His return, it motivates us to reach the lost around us. If they are not reached before His return or before they pass on, they have no hope. Being ready for Jesus’ return is the most important thing in life.
Today, we’ve learned more about the kingdom of God, about heaven. We pray daily, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. As believers, we carry the power of the kingdom within us. May we, as Jesus’ followers bring kingdom power near everywhere we go. Already heaven is breaking into our world with supernatural power. The demonstration of kingdom power leads people to turn to Jesus. May we warn people of the coming judgement, so that they turn to Jesus. May we live everyday looking forward to Jesus’ return. May God help us reach the lost and bring revival to St Louis.