Scripture Text – Luke 17
Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time when He would no longer be with them and they would be ministering to others in His place. It was a critical period in their lives and there are important lessons for us to learn from the Lord’s teaching.
In this chapter, Luke recorded lessons that Jesus gave His disciples about some of the more important essentials of the Christian life: forgiveness, faithfulness, thankfulness, and preparedness.
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” – Luke 17:20-21.
Please read Luke 17:22-37 for background for this section.
The Jewish people lived in an excited atmosphere of expectancy, particularly at the Passover season when they commemorated their deliverance from Egypt. They longed for another Moses who would deliver them from their bondage. Some had hoped that John the Baptist would be the deliverer, and then the attention focused on Jesus (John 6:15). The fact that He was going to Jerusalem excited them all the more (Luke 19:11). Perhaps He would establish the promised kingdom free of Roman rule!
The Pharisees were the custodians of the Law (Matthew 23:2–3), so they had the right to ask Jesus when He thought the kingdom of God would appear. It was customary for Jewish teachers to discuss these subjects publicly, and Jesus gave them a satisfactory answer. However, He reserved His detailed lessons for His disciples.
The word translated “observation” is used only here in the New Testament and means in the original Greek “to observe the future by signs.” It carries the idea of spying, lying in wait, and even scientific investigation. The point Jesus made was that God’s kingdom would not come with great “outward show or signs” so that people could predict its arrival and plot its progress.
The Pharisees’ question was legitimate, but it was also tragic; for Jesus had been ministering among them for some three years, and these men were still in spiritual darkness. They did not understand who Jesus was or what He was seeking to accomplish. Their views of the kingdom were political, not spiritual; Jewish, not universal. Jesus did not deny that there would be a future earthly kingdom, but He did emphasize the importance of the spiritual kingdom that could be entered only by the new birth (John 3:1–8).
The statement “the kingdom of God is within you” has challenged Bible translators and interpreters for centuries, and many explanations have been given. One thing we can be sure of is that He was not telling the unbelieving Pharisees that they had the kingdom of God in their hearts!
The Greek preposition can mean “within, among, or in the midst of.” In essence, Jesus was saying, “Don’t look for the kingdom ‘out there’ unless it is first in your own heart” (see Romans 14:17). At the same time, He might have been saying, “The fact that I am here in your midst is what is important, for I am the King. How can you enter the kingdom or be a citizen of the kingdom if you reject the King?” (see Luke 19:38–40). The Pharisees were preoccupied with the great events of the future but were ignoring the opportunities of the present (Luke 12:54–57).
Having answered the Pharisees, Jesus then turned to His disciples to instruct them about the coming of the kingdom. He warned them not to become so obsessed with His return that they ended up doing nothing else but trying to track Him down. This is a good warning to believers who do nothing but study prophecy. Certainly we should look for His return and long to see Him come, but at the same time, we should be busy doing His work when He comes (see Acts 1:6–11).
To begin with, His coming will affect the whole world, so it is foolish for anyone to follow false prophets who say “He is here! or He is there!” Furthermore, His coming will be as sudden as a flash of lightning (Matthew 24:27, 30). While a study of the prophetic Scriptures will help us understand the general characteristics of the time of His coming, we cannot know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13; Luke 12:40, 46). It is futile to investigate signs and try to calculate the day of His coming.
But then Jesus used two Old Testament events to illustrate the certainty and the suddenness of His coming: the Flood (Genesis 6–8) and the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19). In both examples, the people of the world were caught unprepared as they engaged in their everyday activities of eating and drinking, marrying, buying, and selling. Noah witnessed to his generation in the years preceding the Flood (2 Peter 2:5), but his preaching did not convert them. Noah and his wife, his three sons, and their wives, only eight people, were saved from destruction because they entered the ark. Peter saw this as an illustration of the salvation Christians have through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18–22).
To Be Continued