The Bible says in Luke 8 that Jesus began to go about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. Jesus said about His ministry in Luke 4:43 that “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” Now this has been the ongoing theme of Jesus’ message; “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Up until this point, Jesus has been preaching regarding the requirements to enter the kingdom, and the characteristics of those citizens of the kingdom. His miracles were done to illustrate that the kingdom of God was being manifested on Earth. The power to do these wonderful miracles should have been evidence that Jesus was in fact the King of the kingdom of God who had come to Earth to establish His kingdom.
But obviously, there was still a great deal of confusion about the kingdom on the part of the people that were following Him in the first century. And I would suggest that there is a great deal of confusion even today among 21st century followers as well. If I were to ask you to describe the kingdom of God, I’m sure that I would get several dozen different answers. It’s one of those phrases that is very familiar, and yet perhaps has not been thought through to the point of really understanding it.
The Pharisees obviously had many questions regarding what Jesus was teaching about the kingdom. And even the disciples had misunderstandings as to the nature of the kingdom. So as we look at our text for today we see the Pharisees initially asking the question of when will the kingdom of God come. And then as Jesus is answering that question He turns to the disciples and gives a more detailed explanation in response to what must have been their unasked questions.
Jesus begins to answer this question concerning the coming of the kingdom of God in vs. 20, saying, ““The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Here is what Jesus is saying; the kingdom of God is an invisible kingdom. It is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus says it isn’t with signs that can be observed. It is not physically apparent. But He says the kingdom of God is in your midst. It’s right in front of you and you can’t see it. Jesus was no less than the King of the kingdom. So He defines the kingdom. And the citizens of the kingdom are those who recognize Jesus as Sovereign and that have submitted to be His servants. It is a kingdom where Christ rules and reigns over our hearts and minds and wills.
I feel for this to really be understood I must try to show you the big picture of the plan of God. Because the kingdom of God is eternal, it extends from Genesis to Revelation. And there are different stages of it. Different ways it is manifested at different times. But perhaps it will help if I go back to the beginning and explain the best I can how the kingdom of God has come. So to begin with we will consider the purpose of the kingdom. Secondly, we’ll look at the institution of the kingdom, then the realization of the kingdom, the manifestation of the kingdom and finally the consummation of the kingdom and some characteristics of what is called the day of the Lord.
First the purpose of the kingdom. It really starts with Genesis, with the creation and the purpose of God. It says in Genesis 2 that when God made man, He said it was not good for man to be alone. And yet, right after that God gave Adam the job of naming all the animals of creation. So Adam names each creature that God created, thousands upon thousands of them were ushered past him and he examined them and named them all. And the scripture says that there was not found among all the animals a mate suitable or like unto him. And so God put Adam to sleep and took from his side material from which He made woman. She was like him, compatible to him, desirable to him, a helper suitable unto him whom he could love, and that would love him in return so that the scripture says that they would be as one flesh. He could have fellowship, communion, love, companionship. This was God’s design for man.
But actually, this was also a picture of the purpose that God chose to create man. God looked around the universe, at all the creatures that He had made, the worlds that He had created, all the various forms of angelic creatures of which I believe the scripture indicates were millions upon millions, He looked at all that He had made and He found no one that was a suitable mate for Him. No one that was like unto Him that could choose to love Him and respond to Him in the way that He desired for fellowship, for communion, for companionship.
And so God said in Gen. 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Now when God made every other thing in the universe, He simply spoke it into existence. He simply spoke and millions upon millions of stars instantly took form and began to burn, lighting up the heavens. He spoke and millions of varieties of plants and fauna instantly appeared. He simply spoke and the sea was instantly teeming with millions of fish of every conceivable shape and color and size. Yet when God said let Us make man in Our image according to Our likeness, God didn’t simply speak us into existence. This pinnacle act of creation was actually an act of love. God got down on His hands and knees in the dirt of the earth and began to form with His hands the body of man. He lovingly shaped us into His image, into an image that was like Him, compatible to Him with His own hands. He caressed us and shaped us into a body that He would love. And then when He had formed us in His image, it says He breathed the breath of life into that body and man became a living soul. God bent down and placed His lips upon man’s lips, and kissed into man the breath of life.
The purpose should be quite clear, man was made for God, just as woman was made for man. Mankind was made to be the bride of Christ. Eph. 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. John chapter 1 says that Christ was in the beginning with God and all things are made by Him, and without Him nothing was made. We were made to be the companion of Christ. To become one with Christ.
Now time will not allow me to elucidate all the details of the fall. It should be familiar to you all. But suffice it to say that God created man to be His bride, to love Him and have fellowship and communion with Him, and to share in His glory, to share in His kingdom, even to rule and reign with Him. But when given a choice between God and evil, mankind chose evil. Satan and His angels seduced man to sin against God in an attempt to overthrow the rule of God. Man revolted. And so sin entered the world, and death through sin.
That leads to the second stage, the institution of the kingdom. Though sin had entered the world, separating man from God and causing death, God was still in control. The creation was still under the Sovereignty of God. God still had a plan by which He would redeem from fallen humanity a people who would love Him. And so God instituted that phase of the plan by calling Abraham to come out from the world and go to a place where He would eventually disclose Himself to the children of Abraham. God chose a man, who gave birth to a tribe, who formed a nation, so that He might disclose Himself and reveal Himself to them, that He might love them and provide for them a way to escape the death which was a result of sin. It was to be a theocracy, a nation ruled by God. But once again, mankind rebelled against God’s rule. Rather than submit to God as their sovereign, man chose another king, a mere man to rule over them. And a succession of kings subverted the peoples love and submission to God towards themselves. Throughout history though, God always kept a remnant. A small minority of people on the earth that loved God, that served God, that recognized His sovereignty, that served His kingdom and looked for the day when the kingdom would be realized.
That brings us to the realization of the kingdom. The long awaited day came when at just the right time, Jesus was fathered by the Holy Spirit, born of a woman in a non descript small town called Bethlehem. God authored this next phase of the kingdom, when no less than the Creator humbled Himself to become a man like us, to take away the penalty of sin so that He might make it possible for all of mankind to be reconciled to God. And God did this by sending Jesus to become our substitute, to live the righteous life that we could never live, and pay the penalty for sin that we could never pay. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “God made [Jesus] who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
Yet as it had been prophesied in Isaiah 53, the world did not recognize Him as their Savior. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be drawn to Him.” But God loved mankind so much, that He poured out His wrath upon His only Son, the spotless lamb of God. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” But as Isaiah prophesied, He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him. Jesus wept over His nation, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!”
Jesus Christ was the realization of the plan of God to bring about reconciliation of those who would enter the kingdom. John 1:17 says that “the law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” This was the way that God designed to bring about the righteousness that He required to be a citizen of the kingdom of God. Only a righteous, holy God could atone for the sins of the world. And God has ordained that by faith in what Jesus has done for us, by confessing our sins, and submitting to His Lordship over our lives, we might be saved. We gain entrance into the kingdom of God. When we survey all that God has done for us, when we realize all that Christ suffered for us, then they that have submitted to Him in faith and repentance should respond by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our might. This is what we were made for. And that relationship that was planned from creation can now be realized as we live in the Spirit and not in the flesh as sons of God.
When Jesus died and rose again God brought about the next phase of the kingdom. This phase came through the Holy Spirit and is known as the church age. The church is the manifestation of the kingdom. God was no longer just revealing Himself through the nation of Israel, but to every nation and tribe on earth. As the Apostles were indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, men and women from every nation in the Middle East heard the gospel preached, and 3000 people were saved in one day, starting the first church.
The church is the manifestation of the kingdom of God because God sent the Spirit of Christ to live in us as we live in the world. Having been made holy by the transference of Christ’s righteousness, we now receive the Holy Spirit to dwell in our holy of holies as we become the temple of the Holy Spirit. As Paul said in [1Co 6:19-20 NASB] 19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
The church is now the manifestation of Christ to the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in those who have given their hearts to God. That is why the scripture says we are to be holy even as God is holy. We are ambassadors for the kingdom of God to the world, serving God through the power of Christ living in us.
Then finally, we come to the consummation of the kingdom. This is what Jesus addresses in the remainder of the chapter. He has alluded to the consummation, or the day of the Lord in various parables and teachings. In chapter 12, Jesus compares the consummation of the kingdom to a master who gives to his servants a stewardship. That means that he gives them an assignment, a responsibility, something that they are supposed to do until He comes again. And Jesus says that there are two types of servants in this kingdom. Those that are faithful, and those that are unfaithful. When the master comes back and finds the faithful and sensible steward who did his master’s will, he says that steward will be blessed and will be put in charge of all his possessions. But those servants who lived according to their own desires and disregarded the commands of the master will be cut into pieces and assigned a place with the unbelievers.
Jesus makes it clear in multiple illustrations that at the consummation there will be both a day of judgment for the lost and a day when the king will return in glory for his bride. Those that are found righteous will be swept up with the Lord and the rest who are unsaved left to face the wrath of God. So now Jesus turns from the Pharisees and addresses the unspoken questions of the disciples.
In all the remaining verses He relates the coming of the kingdom as the day of the Lord. He says first of all that the day of the Lord will be something longed for by the righteous. In vs. 22, “And He said to the disciples, ‘The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. “They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them.’” Jesus is saying that He will not return immediately. There will be a time of longing, of looking for the coming of the Lord. And of course, there will be many deceivers, many anti Christs, many false Christs who will attempt to deceive the world. Jesus wanted His disciples to be aware, to be on their guard against false Messiahs.
Next He emphasizes that the day of the Lord will be public, it will not be something that is private or secret. But Jesus says in vs. 24, “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” Lightning lights up the entire sky, doesn’t it? It’s shocking, it’s electrifying. It can be terrifying. But one thing for sure, when you’re outside in the dark and lightning crashes, you see the entire sky light up from one end to the other. There is booming thunder. Jesus is giving a very vivid illustration of the way that He will come in power at the consummation of His kingdom. When He came the first time, no one recognized Him. But when He comes the second time, Rev. 1 says “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.”
Thirdly, Jesus tells His disciples that the day of the Lord will not come until He suffers many things and His gospel is rejected. This was a real issue for the disciples. They couldn’t accept that the Messiah would have to suffer and die in order to usher in the kingdom. Their understanding of the kingdom was in militaristic or political terms. They expected a revolution, a socio/political solution that would usher in a time of peace and prosperity. And unfortunately, that is the same expectation a lot of false teachers are espousing today. They teach a social gospel, a prosperity gospel, and they want nothing to do with “take up your cross and follow Me.” But Jesus says suffering precedes glorification.
Then Jesus says the day of the Lord will be a day of sudden judgment. He uses two Old Testament examples to illustrate that it will be business as usual right up until the day when He returns. Vs. 26, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
Listen, not only does He imply the suddenness of the coming of the Lord, but He is emphasizing in a very dramatic way the judgment with which He comes. In the days of Noah, mankind had managed to so defile itself and become so corrupted that the only solution that God had to correct it was to wipe every living thing off the face of the earth save those that were in the Ark. One of the things that we are looking at in our study in Genesis this week is found in chapter 6, when it says the fallen angels took for themselves wives among the daughters of men. So you have a form of sorcery that spawned a demonic race. Satan once again was trying to overthrow creation by producing an unredeemable offspring. And that union produced a race of men that were exceedingly evil. 6:5 “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
The interesting thing about the flood was that God gave the people of the earth 100 years to repent. Peter says that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. And Jude says concerning that preaching that the patience of God kept waiting for people to repent. But in 100 years, no one was saved. They rejected the message. So the day came when God closed the door, and the heavens broken open and the fountains of the deep broke open. And God wiped the face of the earth clean.
The other example Jesus gives is that of Lot. Lot was living in the lap of luxury. It was a well watered city, a flourishing civilization. And yet the evil of that city grew so great that God sent His judgment against it. The great defining sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that of homosexuality. It was so blatant, so open, so prevalent that the entire town turned out to try to take the two angels that came to warn Lot. And so God rained down fire and brimstone upon the city and destroyed every living thing.
I can’t help but see parallels between those two illustrations and the current situation in the world today. You know in Revelation 9:21 it says concerning the people at the end of the age that oppose God that they will “not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.” Immorality is translated from the Greek word pornea, which means illicit sexual intercourse such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc. Isn’t that the state of affairs today? Society wants to redefine God’s laws to say that such things are not sin any more, because we don’t want to admit it’s sin. But God says it is sin. Changing the law does not change the fact that it is an abomination to God.
And it’s interesting that the Greek word for sorceries used in Revelation is the word pharmakea, from which we get the word pharmacy. The characteristic of the end times is that they won’t repent of their drug use. And once again we see society attempting to make what is a sin legal by legalizing marijuana.
Listen folks, I am confident that we are living in the days of Noah. We are living in Sodom and Gomorah. The patience of God has been waiting, the gospel has been preached and yet they will not repent. And soon Jesus Christ the King is coming back in judgment. The world wants to limit God to only love, and equate their immorality as on par with God’s love. But they have failed to understand that God is holy and righteous and must render justice against all unrighteousness. [Rev 19:11-16 NASB] 11 “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Then in vs. 31 Jesus says that the day of the Lord will discriminate against those who love the world and the things of the world. “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
Can you imagine the futility and the foolishness of the people in the days of Noah running into their houses to try to save their possessions? The judgment of the earth in the consummation of the kingdom is going to be absolute. [2Pe 3:7, 10 NASB] 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. … 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
In vs. 34 Jesus says that the day of the Lord will be a day of division. “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” In other words, God knows those that are His. He will take His people out of the judgment. But it will be a division even to the point of separating two in bed, one will be taken and the other left. No one gets into the kingdom on the basis of their wife or their husband or their family. God will judge every man and woman according to their deeds. God knows those who are His.
And finally, in vs. 37, the day of the Lord will come in response to the increase of corruption of the earth. “The disciples answering said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” The disciples must have thought that this would be a judgment that would be limited geographically. Perhaps they thought it would be on the rest of the world but Israel would be spared. But it should have been pretty clear that the judgment of God will be universal, that is the picture of the lightning flashing from one end of the sky to the other. So Jesus gives a rather obscure answer to their obscure question. Where the body is the vultures will be gathered. I believe this is a reference to the spiritually dead. You can usually tell when something has died in the country by the fact that vultures are circling around up in the sky above it. And I believe that is what Jesus is indicating here. That when the stench of the decay of the spiritually dead rises up to heaven, then the vultures will come. Judgment will come upon the whole world when sin reaches a certain final state of corruption.
Folks, I’m afraid that the corruption of the world has already paralleled the corruption found in the days of Noah. We are living as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. The patience of God has kept waiting for 2000 years, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the fact is the same today as it was in the days of Noah, the days of Lot and even the days of Jesus and the Apostles. They will not repent of their sins, but revel in their rebellion against the King of Kings. And one day soon, without warning, Jesus Christ will suddenly return.
[Mat 24:29-31 NASB] 29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31 “And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Listen, today is the day of salvation. The way unto the kingdom of heaven has been revealed through Jesus Christ. The penalty for our sins has been paid by Jesus Christ. All that remains is for you to repent of your sins, and by faith commit to serve Him and follow Him with all of your being, to love Him with all your heart. Jesus Christ is coming again, not only in judgment against the rebellious, but also to deliver, to take up His bride which has been redeemed by His blood and to present them faultless before the throne of God. You have a choice today. Who will you serve? Who will you obey? I pray that you will be found the faithful and sensible steward who on the day of the Master’s return was found doing his Master’s will, and who will receive the blessing of God and put in charge of all His possessions.