The Book of Luke, The Kingdom of God, Part I - Lesson 193
Luke 17:20-37, And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. 22And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. 23And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. 24For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. 25But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. 26And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. 34I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 37And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
In the beginning of this passage we are given an interesting dichotomy which is a very common way that truth is communicated to us in the Bible.
A dichotomy is the division of something into two parts or kinds so that understanding about each part may occur.
The proverbs are filled with comparisons of two ideas and the teaching of Christ is also replete with this method of teaching.
One of the primary ways that science comes to understands things is the way of comparison and categorization into things that have similar and dissimilar characteristics.
The subject of the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of his kingdom were subjects that were discussed continuously by the Pharisees.
We can see in this passage that the Pharisees had their own ideas about what would accompany the coming of the kingdom but as is usually the case their ideas did not harmonize with truth.
They demanded of Christ his idea as to when the kingdom of God should come not so as to know truth but to hear opposition to their ideas in order condemn the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees saw themselves as the experts in spiritual matters and as being from that people from whom the Messiah would come.
I imagine that they fully expected Messiah coming from their own elite group and it was easy to reject this Jesus for he was not of them nor did he have the proper credentials.
The Pharisees were, of course, the accrediting agency for all spiritual ministries and this demand of theirs was not a desire for truth but a desire for evidence in which to convict this man who in their minds was clearly an imposter.
It was another of their efforts to trip up the Lord Jesus so as to be able to publicly discredit Him.
The Pharisees were convinced that they had everything under control.
They had a very neatly organized religious system.
They had a very precisely laid out code of conduct.
They insured that there was a law or many laws for every occasion.
They had a theological formula for determining the kingdom and its coming and if they simply applied the standards they had set up to every potential “Messiah” they would be able to judge when the true Messiah had come.
For as we see in Christ’s answer to them they had determined that the Messiah would come with observation.
This word observation is a word which is used to describe a doctor who carefully observed the symptoms of a patient, in order to diagnose his illness.
The same term was used for the “careful observation” of the heavens, by those who were experts in astronomy.
They would watch the travel of a planet and be able to forecast where it would be at a certain time.
By Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees I believe it is inferred that the Pharisees thought that they could deal in the same fashion with the arrival of the kingdom of God.
They would simply apply all of their standards and tests over a period of time, and then in a methodical way pronounce the true Messiah to be such and such.
Surely their system was infallible and they would be able to tell the real Messiah when he came.
A lesson for us here is that we need to be as dogmatic as the Bible is dogmatic but when it is not dogmatic we must also not be dogmatic.
You can read multitudes of books that vividly and dogmatically describe end times but we must only accept that which God’s word describes for that is a Pharisaical trait.
The Pharisees were sure of everything they believed but look and ponder that that assurance led them to crucify the very Messiah that they were looking for.
No one fully could interpret the prophecies of the Old Testament and how they would be fulfilled in Christ.
Some had bits and pieces of the “how of it” but no one man had put all the pieces together and from this we ought not to think that we who live today have a complete understanding of Bible prophecy either.
We need to realize that we too have many misconceptions concerning the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth. We also do not know it all.
So we have two ideas in conflict here.
And these ideas fill this world today for the conflict involves that which can be seen compared to that which cannot be seen.
The Pharisees were looking for the kingdom without, while Christ was preaching of a kingdom within.
This is the conflict between those who believe and those who do not believe.
The only thing that this world has is that which can be seen, that which can be observed.
Scientists only believe and theorize on what they can observe.
People of this world operate only upon that which they see.
The eye gate is what is to be satisfied.
Eye candy is what is desired in all things in this world, in dress, in comforts, in transportation, in position, in power.
The world’s revealer of itself is simply the mirror that one looks into as appearance is glorified each day so that others may observe not what you truly are but what you are not.
Observation alone always results in error and falsehood.
The Pharisees were only concerned with an earthly kingdom, with headquarters in Jerusalem.
Their concept of the kingdom was secular, earthly, and materialistic which obviously conflicted with the kingdom that Jesus Christ proclaimed.
This Jesus did not fit the preconceived expectations of the Pharisees and the people, and neither group had any thought of changing and accepting truth.
For the law and tradition that they worshipped was one mainly based upon outward performance but they should have remembered the word of the Lord given to Samuel in:
I Samuel 16:7, But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
In the New Testament this is again emphasized by Paul to the Corinthians in:
2 Cor. 4:18, While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Throughout the book of Luke we have seen where Jesus has pointed out to the Pharisees and others, that they tended to evaluate things by appearances.
Also the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by Matthew, brings out this habit of the Pharisees.
The Lord Jesus told men that sins were not merely external such as murder, or adultery, but they were also internal such as anger, lust, or greed.
He told them that righteousness was not so much the doing of external acts such as fasting, the giving of tithes and offerings, or the saying of long prayers, but in the attitudes of the heart.
In chapter 16 of Luke, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being far too external in their religion:
Luke 16:15, .Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
Appearance is highly esteemed by men but God looks past appearance and judges the heart.
It is an amazing thing when you consider that when God looks at this world he sees an entire different world than we see.
He sees hearts which reveal that which is real and we see images that are produced to cover any reality of the heart.
We make judgments based upon the external while God makes the right judgments based upon the heart.
So this outward living is that which prompted the question of the Pharisees as they demanded of Him as to when the kingdom should come.
Their question was based upon an expectation that the kingdom’s arrival would be preceded by various external “signs and wonders”.
The Pharisees consistently challenged Jesus to prove himself by performing signs and wonders for these were the preconceived requirements of their Messiah.
As they made a big show by external things their Messiah would do likewise.
As stated in the Amplified Bible the: Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God would come. He replied to them by saying, The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display. Nor will people say, Look! Here it is!or, See, it is there! For behold the kingdom of God is in your hearts and surrounding you.
So the conflict is solved by the word of the Lord.
No! As far as the Pharisees were concerned His kingdom does come with show or observation.
The Pharisees nor the people would be able to point to the Messiah or the kingdom and say, “Here it is” or “There it is.”
For their expectations of what the King and his kingdom would be like were so distorted that they would never recognize the real thing
This man Jesus and his ministry did not fit their preconceived expectations and their minds were so bound as to prohibit truth from entering.
But Christ did not withhold truth from them for he told them that “The kingdom of God is within you.”
We know that the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
It was impossible for the Pharisees to see the kingdom of God by observation for they were not born into the kingdom by the Spirit of God.
The New Birth brought by the Spirit of God is a private transaction between the Spirit and the new babe in Christ.
There is no fanfare, no cymbals, no victory parade.
Those around do not see anything take place to this new entry into God’s kingdom.
This transaction is a transaction of the heart for God deals with the heart, not that which is outward.
Jesus is saying that the kingdom is a spiritual matter, a matter of the heart, and therefore the kingdom of God is within you.
But there is another point to consider here and that is that the kingdom of God was already present in the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
It was already present in those who had bowed the knee to Christ and had surrendered to his sovereignty.
The kingdom was already increasing in number and in a spiritual sense the true kingdom of God was beginning to take shape all around the Pharisees but not in such proud and arrogant hearts as theirs.
So the kingdom of God is this. Christ the king in you and you in the king.
The king is within his subjects and his subjects are within the king.
And until you are placed into the kingdom as a result of the new birth you will not be able to know of the kingdom.
It cannot be seen by observation, nor by feeling, nor by touch, nor by power.
Only those who have placed themselves as subjects of the king will know the king.
Peter wrote of this in I Peter 5:6, Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Eventually Christ will come openly, publicly at His second coming to reign with all the saints and angels, but at present, and until then, the kingdom grows as people are saved, and the kingdom in this form is without outward observation.