THE GOSPELS 97
Luke 17:20 thru 18:8
THY KINGDOM COME
The Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom was going to come. This question triggered one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament, and we are going to spend a little time examining it.
First, we must define the Kingdom. Jesus says here, “The Kingdom of God is within you”. The word translated “within” calls for some examination. It is
variously translated “in the midst of you”, “inside of you”, “among you”, and
“is now among you”. In nine versions of the New Testament, these are the
variations which I found. If we combine all of them they have Jesus saying that the Kingdom is both within you and in your midst. I think this is probably what Jesus wanted them to know, as we shall derive from further study of this passage.
The Pharisees had led the Jewish people to expect an earthly Kingdom in which the Jews would rule the world. Jesus begins His remarks here by saying that the Kingdom will not come with observation. It will not be something which you can see and locate. It will be in your heart, and those who are in God’s Kingdom will be some of your own neighbors who move among you.
When, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prayed, “Thy Kingdom come”, this is just what He was asking. That the Kingdom of God come to exist in the hearts and minds of men who made Him the Lord of their life and the King of their souls.
Those who try to envision an earthly Kingdom at some future time fail to recognize that “God is Spirit”, and our relationship with Him is a spiritual and eternal one. We are not going to be running around on streets of gold with God sitting in our midst on a literal throne. The One who controls the far reaches of sidereal space and yet can notice every thought and intent of every human heart cannot be imagined to sit on some literal throne in some locatable space. Those who try to envision Heaven as a place we will enjoy with our physical senses, which are limited by time and space, are like the Jews who awaited an earthly Kingdom and rejected Christ when He did not give them that. That is Jesus’ message to the Pharisees here.
Jesus then speaks to His disciples to warn them about anticipating the future
actions of God, as the Pharisees wanted to do. He said there will be times when you will wish the Son of Man would return, but He will not. Many things must happen before that event, and when it does it will not be an isolated thing, but everyone will know it as they see a flash of lightning. So He warned them against people who tried to tell them He had come already. His words warned
that the final day would be when all of God’s plan was done, and no one knew when that would be. Also, in this part of His instructions He pointed out that in the final day, those who were God’s people would be taken and all the rest left. In other words, our relationship with God is an individual matter. Being with the right people, and belonging to the right group, does not matter. “Two might sleep in the same bed and one be taken but the other left”, He said.
Remember that in all of this lesson, Jesus is telling His disciples that, no matter what happens in this world, the ones who remain faithful will receive their final reward. The Pharisees were looking forward to enjoying power and victory over their enemies in an earthly Kingdom. Jesus tells His disciples that such is not in God’s plan, and that, while there will be much suffering ahead for them, those who remain faithful will be taken into an eternal Kingdom.
To emphasize this point Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge who, in spite of his evil nature, finally broke down and rewarded the widow who persisted in bothering him. He contrasted this judge to God and told them that as an evil judge would give in to persistent begging, surely a loving Father would reward His children who persisted in being faithful to Him. The key verse is Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” In other words, with all the problems one faces, and the temptations which this current world offers, will any continue to remain faithful, as they wait for the long delayed return of the Son of Man?