“Thy Kingdom Come and Come Again?”: 2016 Gospel of Luke #67
This is an exposition of Luke 17:20-37. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Batptist Church on Sunday morning, August 6, 2017.
It’s a classic routine. I must have heard it a hundred times and I laugh every time I hear it. Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” The routine involves a reporter talking to a baseball player about the strange names of some of the ball players. He asks about some of the fellas playing on this team. Costello replies, “Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know’s on third.” “What’s the guys name on first?” “No what’s on second.” “I’m not asking who’s on second.” “Who’s on first.” “I don’t know.” “He’s on third!” It is a masterful routine that goes on for several minutes and becomes very confusing. To watch or listen to that is fun. To have that happen to you is not so fun! Have you ever had one of those conversations that somewhere in the middle of it – you found yourself wondering if you and the other person were engaged in the same conversation? The same words are going back and forth – but you’re not communicating?
I’m afraid that is often the case as believers engage in conversation regarding certain doctrines. This confusion has led many to believe that doctrine should be avoided because it is too confusing or divisive. The truth is there are some doctrines that we do struggle to understand. There are aspects of the truth that we will never fully grasp. The Christian life is one of continual study and growth. We never “arrive” we are always in pursuit. But that is not an excuse to “blow it off” and say, “Leave that for the theologians to argue.” Every believer has a responsibility to “study to show themselves approved unto God. A workmen who doesn’t have to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.” That is not reserved for the pastor, theologian, teacher or church leader – but every child of God.
One of those “confusing” areas of doctrine is the focus of our text this morning. What about the Kingdom of God? Jesus, in the model prayer, told us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” John the baptizer came preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” Jesus went forth preaching the good news of the kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about kingdom living. One day Jesus said to a group of people “there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). And yet there are other passages in which we are told that when Jesus comes the whole world will know it and no one can deny it. It’s all very confusing. Did the kingdom come in the first century? Is it here now? Is it coming in the future? The answer is yes! It came. It is here and it is coming later. Our text is found in Luke 17:20-37.
Text: Luke 17:20-37
Luke is narrowing the focus of his Gospel.
We are in the final months of our Lord’s earthly ministry.
He is moving steadily, decisively toward the cross.
He is focused more and more on the kingdom.
He is concentrating more and more on his followers, preparing them for his departure.
One of the problems with the passages dealing with the kingdom of God is that often different but related questions are being dealt with within the same text. That is what we have in the text before us. Often, in our attempt to define the trees, we fail to see the forest! We can become so fixated on the details we fail to see the grand scheme. I’m confident that God has a very detailed and exact plan and program scheduled. I’m less confident about our ability to decipher that plan! I’m also convinced that there is plenty of room for discussion and disagreement among believers on the details. What is essential is that we understand the larger issue.
I am convince from our text that:
Thesis: When it comes to the Kingdom of God believers must learn to live in the tension between the now and the not yet.
This is not a matter of compromise or semantics.
This is not a clever attempt at fence straddling.
This is the biblical understanding of the kingdom of God.
For years there has been a running feud between those who saw the kingdom as a present reality and those who saw it as entirely future. Both sides have had to engage in theological gymnastics in order to get around certain troublesome passages. I once had a discussion with a man I love and respect, that was greatly concerned about how to teach the January Bible Study. The study that year was the Sermon on the Mount. I asked him, “What is your problem?” His reply shocked me. “I want to be practical. That passage is about life in the kingdom. It doesn’t relate to us. It is for the kingdom age.” Now he was consistent in his dispensational approach to Scripture, I’ll grant him that. But he was wrong! At the same time I know others who feel that everything related to the kingdom is here present. That there is no future fulfillment. There is no kingdom yet to come. That’s wrong as well. It is not a matter of either or. It is both and!
There are two things I want us to glean from our text.
- The believer lives in the confident assurance that the kingdom of God is a present reality. (17:20-21)
- The believer lives in the confident hope of the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom with the return of Christ. (17:22-37)
Then our Lord reveals three things about His coming.
When He comes – no one will have to speculate as to whether or not He has come.
When He comes – He will come in judgement.
When He comes – we must have the proper focus.
In the days before the flood and the days before Sodom was destroyed – it was business as usual. They were consumed with the mundane as if that was the profound!
How do we avoid that mistake?
Live and walk in the knowledge that the kingdom of God is here now and in the confident hope that its ultimate fulfillment is yet to come. A biblical understanding of the kingdom of God demands that you live within the tension of the now and the not yet.