THE KINGDOM IS HERE (SO SUBMIT TO THE KING) AND IT’S COMING (SO BE READY)
Confusion and Uncertainty have long surrounded the topic of the coming kingdom of God. This was true when Jesus walked the earth and it remains true today. Yet the Bible offers abundant revelation about many specific aspects of the kingdom. Here the Pharisees kick things off with a question (cloaked in skepticism) about the timing of the kingdom promised in the OT. Jesus focuses their attention on their ignorance of His First Coming. If they don’t submit to the King when He is present among them, what is the use of investigating the topic any deeper?
Then He turns to His disciples and delivers a series of certainties about the coming kingdom:
– It will be delayed until after His redemptive mission has been completed – including suffering and rejection in Jerusalem
– It will be hidden from them for an undetermined period of time and they will long to see its consummation
– It will be trumpeted by many imposters who will deceive cult followers
– It will be obvious to all when it appears suddenly and dramatically like lightning
– It will find the mass of humanity unprepared and preoccupied with the normal activities of life
– It requires preparation and readiness since it will mark the watershed between ultimate salvation or destruction
We need to have clarity where God has chosen to reveal details about the coming kingdom so that we will be prepared for the future and make the most of our present opportunities to walk by faith.
Steven Cole: Bible prophecy is not given so that we can sit around and speculate about what will happen in the future. It is always given so that we can apply it to how we live in the present in light of what God has promised to do in the future. Specifically, it is crucial that we understand personally how to be in God’s kingdom, because Jesus makes it clear that His awful judgment will fall suddenly and certainly on everyone who is not in His kingdom. He shows us here that:
To be in God’s kingdom, we must be personally related to God’s King Jesus and we must faithfully await the kingdom’s consummation when He returns in glory to judge everyone.
I. (:20-21) SUBMISSION TO THE KING NOW TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER THE TIMING OF THE CONSUMMATED KINGDOM IN THE FUTURE
A. (:20a) Deflecting Question
“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees
as to when the kingdom of God was coming,”
question addressed to Jesus by the Pharisees
MacArthur: They may have asked the question mockingly, having already concluded that He was not the Messiah, not coming with signs to be observed. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah’s triumph would be immediate. They were looking for Him to come, overthrow Rome, and set up the millennial kingdom. Christ’s program was altogether different. He was inaugurating an era in which the kingdom would be manifest in the rule of God in men’s hearts through faith in the Savior (v. 21; cf. Ro 14:17). That kingdom was neither confined to a particular geographical location nor visible to human eyes. It would come quietly, invisibly, and without the normal pomp and splendor associated with the arrival of a king. Jesus did not suggest that the OT promises of an earthly kingdom were hereby nullified. Rather, that earthly, visible manifestation of the kingdom is yet to come (Rev 20:1-6).
Steven Cole: The general Jewish belief was that the kingdom of God would begin with a bang, with a powerful Messiah establishing His rule in Israel and delivering the nation from her enemies. But here is this carpenter from nowhere with His ragtag band of fishermen, and there is no sign that He is going to defeat the Romans and usher in the glorious new age. Sure, there were some miracles, but where is the clear evidence that He is establishing His kingdom rule?
B. (:20b-21a) Discerning Clarification – Don’t Prioritize the Physical Over the Spiritual
“He answered them and said,
‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’”
Geldenhuys: the final coming of the kingdom will take place so suddenly and unexpectedly that no one will be able to prophesy with any degree of accuracy when the day of His second coming will arrive.
C. (:21b) Definitive Answer
“For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
You, Pharisees, don’t need to concern yourselves with hypothetical questions about the timing of the coming Kingdom of God in terms of its being established on earth as prophesied in the OT. You should give attention to your submission to the King who is present right now among you. Why are you opposing the King? The kingdom is present right now in the person and ministry of the King.
Donald Miller: the Kingdom was already present in him (vs. 21). He, as the King of the Kingdom, had come, had cast out demons, healed the sick, and announced the “good news” that the Kingdom was there (4:18-21; 11:20). If they had interpreted these deeds and his teaching rightly by faith, they would have known that the Kingdom was already in their midst in him.
II. (:22-25) SUDDEN RETURN OF THE KING LONGED FOR BUT DELAYED UNTIL AFTER SUFFERING AND REJECTION
Deffinbaugh: The Danger of over-zealous expectation
A. (:22) Anticipation – Longing for the Return of Christ and His Kingdom
“And He said to the disciples, ‘The days shall come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.’”
Response of Jesus switches to focus on His disciples
Donald Miller: The same subject is continued, but to the disciples (vss. 22-37). It is now, however, not a question of the beginning of the Kingdom in the coming of Jesus, but rather of its completion when he comes again as Son of man. Throughout the New Testament these two aspects of the Kingdom are present. Jesus could say that “the kingdom of God has come” (11:20), and yet he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (11:2). The Kingdom is already here in Jesus, but not yet here in its fullness. The Church, therefore, must proclaim the Kingdom’s presence and live in its power, yet at the same time witness that it is yet to come in its fullness.
Steven Cole: What believer hasn’t longed for the Lord to return and straighten out this messed up world? We look at world problems—war, violence, greed, crime, corruption, immorality, the pollution of God’s beautiful creation, and the many other problems—and cry out, “How long, O Lord?”
Scott Harris: Why would people long for “the days of the Son of Man,” a reference to the Messianic Kingdom? Because the descriptions of it as a time of peace, abundance, righteousness and justice are attractive even for those that interpret them allegorically into only general terms instead of specific promised characteristics. That longing can easily set a person up to be deceived or self-deceived if they are not careful.
B. (:23) Deception – False Claims and Hopes
“And they will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’
Do not go away, and do not run after them.’”
Anyabwile: Think of how many cult tragedies would never have happened if people would take seriously these two verses. There would be no Jim Jones at Jonestown. There would be no David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco. There’d be no Heaven’s Gate cult massacre. All of these people died because they listened to someone say, “The kingdom is over there!” or “Look! There’s the messiah!” If someone tells you they know the secret path to the kingdom, point to Luke 17:22-23 and refuse to believe them or give them a hearing.
Deffinbaugh: There is a “cultishness” in all such movements, for in order to follow such “messiahs” they will have to leave their present place of service. Each of these false messiahs will have a following, but they will not be regarded by all as God’s Messiah, nor will they institute the kingdom. Jesus instructs the disciples here that chasing after messiah’s, as though they might miss His coming is foolish and unnecessary. When He returns, it will be universally known and evident. There will be no mistaking it. Thus, there is no need to worry about missing out on this kingdom and no need to follow-up everyone who claims to be the king.
C. (:24) Obvious Glorious Fulfilment – You Won’t Be Able to Miss It
“For just as 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.”
Comes suddenly, unexpectedly and decisively
Anyabwile: The disciples can’t miss it. It’s unmistakable. Yu won’t need someone to point you to it. It’ll be plain for all the disciples to see. Christ’s coming will be so glorious and obvious it will petrify the world. The world will stand still in awe of the brilliance and glory of the coming of the Son of God. His coming is the blessed hope of the church (Titus 2:13). If you have this hope in you, it will be fulfilled.
D. (:25) Prerequisite – One Prior Event
“But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
This is the only event marker that must precede the Second Coming – so we all need to be in a state of readiness for the final accountability
III. (:26-30) SURPRISE DESTRUCTION WILL BE UNLEASHED AGAINST THOSE PREOCCUPIED WITH NORMAL LIVING AND UNSUSPECTING OF FINAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Deffinbaugh: The Danger of worldly preoccupation
A. (:26-27) Like the Days of Noah
“And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
B. (:28-29) Like the Days of Lot
“It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”
Steven Cole: Jesus uses two examples from history, Noah and Lot, to illustrate the same point, namely, the need to be ready for the certain and coming day of judgment when Jesus returns. . . Note also that Jesus assumes the historicity of these two events, the flood and the judgment on Sodom. They were given to us as two graphic warnings of the coming judgment on the whole earth at the Second Coming.
Scott Harris: While these two examples were times of extreme wickedness, it is not the sin to which Jesus points, but the indifference to God in just living out their lives doing the common things of life as they desired. It is at that point that judgment came upon them suddenly. Though they had plenty of warning, they were completely unprepared. They believed life would just continue on as they had always known it.
C. (:30) Like the Second Coming
“It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.”
IV. (:31-37) SEPARATION UNTO FINAL SALVATION AND DESTRUCTION WILL OCCUR AT THE SECOND COMING
A. (:31-33) Pathway to Salvation – Lose Your Life to Preserve It
1. (:31) Urgency
“On that day, let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away; and likewise let not the one who is in the field turn back.”
2. (:32) Case Study
“Remember Lot’s wife.”
Donald Miller: The ordinary pursuits of life are legitimate, but are not to be engaged in as though they were permanent, nor allowed to crowd out the constant readiness to part with them at the coming of the Kingdom. A loose hold on the present order makes for readiness for the coming order (vs. 31). The fate of Lot’s wife is an example of what happens to those who are too much tied to the goods of this world (vs. 32; Gen. 19:26).
Geldenhuys: Lot’s wife, although she had tried to flee from Sodom, nevertheless remained attached in heart to the doomed city and consequently came to a fatal end. But history should ever warn the faithful against such worldly-mindedness.
3. (:33) Principle
“Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it,
and whoever loses his life shall preserve it.”
Steven Cole: In other words, to be so attached to the things of this earth that we want to hang on to them more than we want heaven is to jeopardize our eternal souls. But to let go of all the things that the world values and to live in light of Jesus’ coming will result in ultimate and final salvation. It may mean hardship and suffering now, in comparison with those who are living for this life only. Like the rich man in contrast with Lazarus (16:19-31), they may have it good now and you may be worse off because you are not striving for those things. But when Jesus comes and God’s final judgment falls, you will be the one to preserve your life and they will lose theirs. Remember Lot’s wife!
B. (:34-36) Examples of Separation
1. (:34) In the Home
“I tell you, on that night there will be two men in one bed;
one will be taken, and the other will be left.”
Deffinbaugh: My (NASB) text tells me that two men will be in the same bed. It is possible, as some translations render it, that it is really a man and wife who are thus pictured. It is also possible that it is two men, but without any sense of immoral conduct. In those days a bed was not like the “beds” which we have today—single, twin, standard, queen, king, water, etc. In those days there were no bedrooms usually and thus the whole family slept together on the floor, on what must have been mats, at best (cf. Luke 11:7, where the head of the house speaks of he and his children being in bed).
2. (:35) In the Workplace
“There will be two women grinding at the same place;
one will be taken, and the other will be left.”
3. (:36) In the Field
“Two men will be in the field;
one will be taken and the other will be left.”
Geldenhuys: When the Son of Man appears in His glory, a complete and final separation will be brought about between the faithful and the unbelievers, and even the most intimate bonds between people will not prevent their being separated from one another . . .
C. (:37) Certainty of Destruction
“And answering they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’
And He said to them, ‘Where the body is,
there also will the vultures be gathered.’”
Probably asking Jesus Where this coming judgment will take place.
Donald Miller: When the decisive moment comes, there will be a great separation. Some will be taken into the Kingdom, others left outside. Their outward estate is quite similar – sleeping at night, working in the day (vss. 34-35). The only difference is that some have known the transitory nature of this life and have lived in expectancy of the age to come, while others have felt secure in the present age. To the question of the disciples about where this should take place, Jesus replied with a proverb. The fact that it will take place is all that we can or need to know, and not the time or place. As surely as the vulture finds a carcass, so surely will judgment come (vs. 37). Therefore, be always ready!
Steven Cole: Jesus’ answer is also hard to understand and there are a variety of interpretations. It could mean that just as vultures gather on dead bodies, so, “Where the spiritually dead are found, there inevitably will there be judgment” (Leon Morris, Luke [IVP/Eerdmans], p. 262). Or, the sense could be that when judgment comes, it will be obvious, just as the location of a corpse is obvious by the presence of vultures. Or, it could mean more, that judgment not only will be obvious, but also universal and permanent (Darrell Bock, Luke [Baker], 2:1440 lists these last two views, along with five others; he leans to the last view). Once judgment comes, it will be final. Thus Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry about where the judgment will occur, because once it comes, it will be too late and all will see it in its horrific finality” (adapted from Bock, ibid.).