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  • Kingdom Come – Luke 17.20-37

    Kingdom Come Now

    The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus, hoping they can get him to say something they can use against him later. They ask him when the Kingdom is coming. Jesus wisely dodges their question by refusing to answer it on their terms. He tells them that the Kingdom is already here  they just can’t see it. It is an invisible Kingdom, especially invisible for those who are spiritually blind. 

    Invisible does not mean unreal. Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Is wind real? Is music real? Is love real? We experience invisible things all the time, and even though we can’t see them, we know they are real because we observe their effects. We can’t see the Kingdom of God on a map. But we who follow the King can hear it’s song. We can know it’s language. We can even feel it’s presence. The Kingdom of God is as real as the air we breathe and the laughter a mother and child share together. It is a country without borders, but it passes through every border. Wherever the redeemed people of God are, there you will find it’s ambassadors. Thousands of them – hundreds of thousands.  Millions who call on the name of the Lord and serve Him above all and are loyal to His ways. 

    When John came just before Jesus began His ministry, the baptizer said that “the Kingdom of God is near”. But when Christ came, He said the Kingdom of God is now here! It is present, not distant. It is here at this moment, not far away and hidden behind signs of the times. For those who trust Jesus now, the Kingdom is made real in our hearts – now. Not tomorrow. Not next week, but today! The Kingdom of God is not something you have to wait for. For anyone who trusts and obeys, the Kingdom of God is here, now. Though it may be invisible to the eyes, it is as real as every other invisible reality: as real as love, as real as truth, as real as joy, as real has hope. 

    “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (v21)

    Kingdom Come Then

    Even though the kingdom of God is here now, it is growing and expanding, stretching out into every corner of our lives and our world until the moment when God the Father determines that the time has come for His Kingdom invisible to become the Kingdom visible. Like lifting a veil or pulling back a curtain, the ultimate reality of God’s kingdom will one day be revealed. In today’s passage, Jesus calls it the day of the Son of Man. Daniel the prophet also called it the day of the Son of Man. Matthew called it the end of the age. 

    And we know from what Daniel wrote, what Jesus taught, and Revelation reveals, that the Kingdom that comes on the day of the Son of Man will be both sudden & visible.

    Sudden in the way that lightning is sudden. Unexpected in the way that lightning is unexpected. That is why we must live each moment as though He is coming soon. I used to be fascinated by teachings and prophecies about the end times. Until I realized that understanding the signs of the times doesn’t make one bit of difference in the way I should live. It doesn’t matter if Jesus comes back today, tomorrow, or a hundred years from now. I know what I am supposed to do today, and that is to live like He is coming in the next moment, every moment. No one knows the day or the hour when He will come again to judge the quick and the dead, but we all know the day and the hour when we need to live right. The day is now. The hour is this one. And so, for those of you who like to explore the signs of the times and correlate prophecy with modern events, I salute you for your diligence. But as for me and my house, I will simply serve the Lord today, expecting Him to come back any second now, and by the grace of God, ready to welcome Him to His Kingdom in my life.  

    “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” (v24)

    “On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.” (v31)

    No Turning Back

    Jesus gives a stern warning to us all – whatever happens, keep your eyes fixed on Him, and don’t look back. Don’t look back today. And don’t look back when He returns and the sky is rolled back as a scroll. Why does he warn us about looking back? Because He knows, like Lot’s wife, we grow attached to the things of this world, and if we look back or try to take our old life with us, we will lose our new life in the Kingdom. 

    What Jesus says in verse 33, “Whoever tries to save his own life will lose it; whoever loses his life will save it” (GNT) – He said to His disciples often. 

    “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

    “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16.25)

    “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.” (Mark 8.35)

    “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9.24)

    “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12.25)

    I think Jesus was serious about that, don’t you?

    We must never look back and dwell on our old life. Not now. Not then.

    Between now and then, the kingdom must advance, not retreat. And it advances in two ways - First, the Kingdom grows and fills our own hearts as we surrender old ways to the cross and put them behind us forever. Second, the Kingdom advances in the world as the darkness of sin and violence are pushed back when we proclaim the mystery of our faith and the good news of salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. 

    Would you like to know what Heaven is like? Here’s a suggestion: stop living like hell. Would you like more peace in your life? Stop waging war against the God who loves you. Would you like to have a clear conscience? Stop looking back at all the wreckage of the past and fix your eyes forward, on the cross and the awesome Kingdom of Christ.  

    “Remember Lot’s wife!” – she couldn’t resist turning back, and she became entombed in bitterness.

    “But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 18.26)

    Where The Vultures Gather

    We’re almost done, but we can’t ignore this troubling image Jesus gives of a corpse and vultures at the end of Luke 17. This is in response to a different question from the disciples. The Pharisees asked Jesus “when” the kingdom would come. The disciples asked “where?” 

    Jesus offers them a shadowy answer with plenty of room for debate as to its specific meaning. “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” (v37b) 

    Whose dead body? Who are the vultures? Christians have debated what those words mean since the day Jesus spoke them. 

    Some say this refers to future events, the end of the age, and the dead body is Israel, and the vultures are those who desire its utter annihilation. This could be a glimpse of the end of the age when the nation of Israel is surrounded by enemies on every side. In that case, Israel would be the corpse, and the nations of the world would be the vultures.

    Others say this is a reference to something that has already taken place, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, forty years after Jesus, when the Romans sacked and burned the Jewish capitol, leaving no stone unturned in their destruction of the once holy city. In that scenario, Jerusalem would be the lifeless corpse of the old covenant religion, and the Romans would be the vultures.  

    One very interesting interpretation comes from Ambrose of Milan in the fourth century: “This will find fulfillment when Jesus’ body is nailed to the cross and he is surrounded by his faithful followers like the women who gather at his tomb.” While I’m not sure I agree with his interpretation of the faithful followers of Jesus as “vultures,” there may be something to the idea that His own body is the focal point. Ambrose goes on: The gathering place of the kingdom is the body of Christ, and it will remain so in the age of the church – the body of Christ where his saints gather around the sacrament of his body.” (Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, Luke 17:37) 

    However you might interpret Jesus’ words at the end of this passage is between you and God. My prayer is that you will allow the Holy Spirit to show you one thing for sure: He’s coming soon. Very soon. Get ready. Stay ready. 

    And never, ever look back.

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