The Arrival And Return Of The King

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Series: Luke

The Arrival And Return Of The King

February 16, 2020 | Randy Smith
Luke 17:20-37

The Arrival And Return Of The King

Luke 17:20–37
Sunday, February 16, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith

In the beginning of His life when the Magi were seeking out baby Jesus they asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Mt. 2:2). And then at the end of His life Pilate questioned Jesus on this very title. “Are You the King of the Jews?” To which Jesus replied, “It is as you say” (Mt. 27:1). In the epistles Jesus is referred to as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17) and as “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). In Revelation Jesus is called the “ruler of the kings of the earth” and again, the “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 1:5, 17:15).

Understanding Jesus is the true and highest King gives us great hope in this current political climate. It makes us question who is truly king in our lives? Whose voice are we ultimately listening to? It promotes praise for God’s superior authority and power. And it leads us to the discussion of the King’s kingdom. Clearly, Jesus cannot be a King without a kingdom.

So today we will use the Word of God to answer that question. If Jesus is truly King of kings, what and where is His kingdom? And more importantly, am I part of His kingdom because He is acknowledged as the true King of my life?

The Kingdom Is Here (verses 20–21)

Two sermon points today. The first sermon point is found in verses 20-21 as Jesus addresses the Pharisees (as seen in verse 20). And the second sermon point is found in verses 22-37 as Jesus addresses His disciples (as seen in verse 22). Let’s begin with the first point: “The Kingdom is Here.”

So, as you can see in verse 20, Jesus is questioned by His chief opponents, the Pharisees. They ask Him, “When the kingdom of God was coming.” Two assumptions can be drawn from this thinking. One, if Jesus was indeed a King as He claimed, He would have a kingdom. And two (related to the above and their present understanding) was that when Messiah comes, He would immediately set up God’s Kingdom. And in their understanding, that Kingdom would be demonstrated by the exaltation of Israel, God’s visible and eternal throne established, the curse reversed, the Romans overthrown and the world either judged or flocking to Israel to receive the true God. To them, the Messiah would immediately bring this visible Kingdom and they (the Jews) would all be welcomed recipients of it. They were wrong on both accounts.

Jesus corrects them. End of verse 20. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.” Is that true?

Now let’s think about that for a minute. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.” Have you ever read the Book of revelation? There is no doubt that the Kingdom of God, the Day of the Lord, the Return of Christ is coming with very visible signs. Many signs on earth and many signs in the heavens. There will be spectacular and cataclysmic signs in the celestial places.

As a matter of fact (not to get too far ahead of myself), when Jesus speaks of His return in verses 23-24, He says, “They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”

In other words, the Return of Christ will be with signs unmistakable. But here Jesus says. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.” Verse 21, you cannot say, “‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’” Is there a contradiction?

Of course not. The explanation is simple. You have heard it from me before many times. There are two installments of God’s Kingdom. King Jesus will return in the future to judge His enemies and establish His visible Kingdom. We are still waiting for that. We refer to it as the Second Coming.

But on His first arrival, He did establish His kingdom in a less noticeable sense. Not with signs in the heavens to be observed, but rather by reigning as king in the hearts of those who have received Him as their Lord. The end of verse 21 is very clear. “For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In a sense, the Kingdom of God has arrived.

You see, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees. Because their expectations of the Messiah were incorrect, they missed Him when He arrived. He did not fulfill the spectacular signs in the heavens and bring world peace (rather it would be personal peace with God) and overthrow evil (rather we would be delivered from our slavery to sin) and establish His visible and eternal throne (rather He will be authority in our lives). But that does not mean that He did not fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah either. They were not observable in the Pharisaic sense, but they were visible for those who have eyes to see.

For example, how did Jesus affirm to John the Baptist that He was the Messiah? Luke 7:22. The blind see. The lame walk. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. The Gospel is preached. And the lepers are healed (last week’s sermon!). God’s kingdom has broken into this age!

How were our Lord’s exorcisms to be interpreted? Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

What were among our Lord’s first words? Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

For those who have received King Jesus, He is resigning as King in your hearts. You demonstrate your allegiance to King Jesus because you delight in obeying King Jesus over king Satan. His kingdom is primarily seen in our inner qualities. It’s not so much seen through the Gifts of the Spirit as it is in the Fruits of the Spirit – conformity to Christ. Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is …righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Because if you have submitted to King Jesus, Colossians 1:13-14, “He rescued [you] from the domain of darkness, and transferred [you] to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom [you] have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” If you are in Christ, the Kingdom of God is in your midst (verse 21). And that kingdom is beginning small like a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31), but one day will be large and visible for all to see.

And that takes us to our second point.

The Kingdom Is Coming (verses 22–37)

So, God’s reign has broken into the world with the arrival of Jesus Christ. Satan has been disarmed. Death has been conquered. And sin has been defeated. There were not pyrotechnic, triumphalist or apocalyptic phenomena that makes His presence indisputable. Rather, the Kingdom of God is in our midst. In a sense it is hidden. King Jesus is on the throne in the hearts of those who have received Him as Lord. He is reigning in our lives as His people bow to His authority. But the day will come when King Jesus will return, and His reign will be more authoritative and more visible for the entire world to see. That is a time when every knee will eventually bow

Let’s go to the second point. From “The Kingdom is Here” to “The Kingdom is Coming.” Now we see Jesus turns to His disciples.

Let’s start in verse 22. “And He said to the disciples, ‘The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man [name is an allusion to Daniel 7 – the return of Christ], and you will not see it.’”

Where was Jesus when He said this? He was presently in their midst. Did His disciples at this point fully understand His departure? No. Was He about to die at Calvary and ascend to heaven? Yes, shortly. Would the disciples be saddened? Yes. Would He promise them to return? Yes. Were the disciples eager for His return? Yes, verse 22 says they will “long” for it. Will Jesus set up His visible kingdom at His return? Yes. So, what will the Return of Christ look like? It will different from the first coming. It will be both spectacular and judgmental!

Look at verse 23. “They [false teachers] will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them.”

So, why should we not listen to someone who claims the Lord Has returned? Because His return will be unmistakable! How unmistakable?

Verse 24, ‘“For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.

This is not speaking about a vertical bolt of lightning. This is more in line with stunning heat lightning that illuminates the entire sky. Listen, no one will miss the return of Jesus. It will be sudden, eye-catching, glorious, frightening and celestial. We do not know the day or hour of His return, but we will not miss it and we do know the general timeline. Our Lord’s first arrival – done. Verse 25, our Lord’s suffering and rejection – done. The resurrection and ascension – done. The church age – presently underway. Our Lord’s Return – the next event on His timetable.

Again, we do not know the specific time, but Jesus now gives us a picture of how people will be living when He does return.

First in verse 26 and 27 it is compared to the time of Noah. “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

So briefly, what do we know about the day of Noah? The account begins in Genesis 5:32. Wickedness on the earth. A warning of judgment to come through Noah identified as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5). God holding back judgment for decades. 1 Peter 3:20, “The patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah.”

And how were the people acting? According to our text they were eating, drinking, marrying, etc. It’s not to say those things are bad. It’s only to say they were going on with life as normal, living without any divine perspective. No focus on God. No concern for their wickedness. No need to heed the warnings. Live as usual. It sounds like society today. Verse 27, “Until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” God’s people rescued (a minority). The rest judged (a majority).

The same lesson is taught from another Bible story. Beginning in verse 28. “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”

You get the point. The Return of Jesus has been foreshadowed in biblical history from the past. Verse 30, “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” A few will heed the call of Christ. Those people will repent and turn to Him. The rest will be overtaken by surprise (like those in Noah and Lot’s day) when the Lord returns this second time as a “thief in the night.” Paul put it like this in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.”

Verse 31, “On that day [one day – the Day of the Lord], the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.”

In other words, when Christ returns there is no need to panic or flee. So, think about this. Our responsibility is to believe in Christ, demonstrated by a life that submits to Him as King. Period! We have no control over the end time events, but God does. They should not bring us fear. Rather they should bring us great comfort if we are in Christ, if we keep our eyes on Him. He is in total control of our destiny and we are secure in His hands.

Again, only if He is our King is the Lord. And if our King is the Lord, we will not be like (verse 32) Lot’s wife who looked back because her heart was still in Sodom. And we won’t (verse 33) lose our life because we already lost it when we came to Christ to gain His life. But if we are like Lot’s wife and wish to gain our life in this world, we will lose it. This is union with Christ. And in this union (as we stay focused on Him), we are sheltered. And when the day comes, we will be rescued.

Look at verses 34-36 Jesus makes the same point in three different scenarios. “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”

We have a tendency to separate people into categories. We create these trivial and artificial divisions – wealth, education, political party, race and the lists continue. But in God’s economy there are only two divisions of humanity, two classes that are stated in different ways throughout the Bible. Those in the church and those in the world. Children of God and children of the devil. Sons of light and sons of darkness. Born again and spiritually dead. Sheep and goats. Right now, we are all existing in this world together. Unlike the crusades and inquisitions, we are not called to make a separation. But the day will come when the Lord returns and makes a definite and final separation between the wheat and the tares. Family, proximity to each other, nationality, occupation mean nothing. In verses 34-37, there will be those who are taken and those who are left.

Verse 37, “And answering they [the disciples] said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ And He said to them, ‘Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.’”

There have been many different interpretations of this verse. But if we keep the translation of aetos vulture and not eagle and “body” as dead bodies, I believe it’s fairly straightforward. What is this section about? Judgement. The days of Noah and Lot? It is judgment seen in mass death. Where do vultures gather? Around dead bodies. Read the book of Revelation. Read about the end time, cataclysmic wrath of God. Revelation 6:16–17, “And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Read about those not in Christ left behind and not taken.

So, the disciples ask in verse 30, “Where, Lord?” And Jesus responds very powerfully and says, you’ll know where based upon judgement and death.

But let me end with a word to believers. Are you longing (verse 22) for the Lord’s Return? If you are in Christ, you should be.

1 Corinthians 1:7, “Awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 1:5–10, “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.

1 Peter 1:7 and 13, “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ… Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

And if you are eagerly longing for the Lord’s return, why is that? Is it a desire to be at peace in heaven? Is it vengeance on your enemies? Or is it a longing for His name to be vindicated and glorified? That, if we really get it, should be our ultimate desire. We see how this world has ignored King Jesus. How they have blasphemed His name. It is just like the wickedness during the times of Noah and Lot. Yet God has been watching, warnings have been sent, His patience is being demonstrated and judgment is coming in His personal return. And we long for Him to exalt Himself, take back rightly belongs to Him and establish His visible and eternal Kingdom. “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

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