The Coming Kingdom
9-12-18 Luke 17:20-21 Lesson 49
If you’re here for the first time in this class we do give you a free book which is on the screen there so see me after and I’ll get you one of those because this is the book we’re going by. My book, The Coming Kingdom, which as you know is not the most important book, the most important book is the Bible, Amen! My book just sort of topically organizes biblical information.
But here we are in Luke 17, verses 20 and 21. And they gave me a new electronic gizmo up here so I’m going to see if I can get it to work. You’re supposed to be able to switch the screen. Look at that, wow! You’ve got to have really good coordination for this to work so I might fumble it up a little bit.
We are in the book I wrote, chapter 16 which is pages 215-226 and as you know we’ve been doing a study on the kingdom and the first part of it was what does the Bible say about the kingdom. And we traveled all the way through the Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, and we saw the kingdom concept developed and offered to Israel on a silver platter in the first century. And as you all know the nation of Israel turned down that offer, which put the kingdom, not in a state of cancellation but postponement. God is doing a new work today through the church but He hasn’t forgotten what He said He would do in and through Israel. So we’ve traced that.
Secondly we’ve looked at the main problems with kingdom now theology because most of Christendom, going back to the fourth century, has argued that we are in the kingdom now. So God’s program for Israel has been severed and all of Israel’s promises have been transferred to the church. And we went through the problems with those interpretations. Basically they reinterpret what the Old Testament says concerning the kingdom. Our view of postponement does not reinterpret those passages, it simply argues that they are not happening today but they will happen.
Now we’re in part three, if all this is so clear why does most of Christendom believe that we are in the kingdom now. So we’re going through a plethora of New Testament passages and I’m trying to show you how to interpret those correctly. We’ve been looking at several passages from the ministry of Christ because that’s what many people believe, that Jesus set up the kingdom in His first coming and there are lots of passages people use to try to prove this… the kingdom is at hand, theirs it the kingdom, Thy kingdom come, and you see the verse references there with all of those, seek first the kingdom, the kingdom suffers violence until now, I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven, the kingdom of God has come upon you.
- The kingdom is at hand (Matt. 3:2)
- Theirs is the kingdom (Matt. 5:3, 10)
- Thy kingdom come (Matt. 6:9-13)
- Seek first the kingdom (Matt. 6:33)
- Satan falls like lightning (Luke 10:18)
- The kingdom has come upon you (Matt. 12:28)
And those are all passages that we looked at prior to the summer recess. Last week was our first week back for the fall quarter, after summer recess and so we started looking at last time Luke 17:20-21. Let’s read those again, and this is what it says: It says, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.””
So this is Christ speaking to the Pharisees, and of all of the verses that people use this is probably the number one verse people go to, to argue that we are in the kingdom now. E. R. Craven, a scholar that I’ve been quoting a lot in these talks says this: “This passage,” that’s the Luke 17 passage that we just read, “probably by the advocates of the prevalent theory of the Basileia,” now Basileia is just a Greek word for kingdom, “This passage probably by the advocates of the prevalent theory of the basileia is regarded as their most important proof-text, both as to its nature and present establishment.” [E.R. Craven, “Excursus on the Basileia,” in Revelation of John, J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 96.]
So everybody that argues that we’re in the kingdom now is going to, at some point, quote Luke 17:20-21. So we have to sort of learn how to navigate our way through that one, which is what we’re going to try to do tonight, building on what we talked about last Wednesday evening.
So what I said is I want to give three responses or three reactions. The first reaction is these verses do not say what everybody thinks they say, that the kingdom of God is within you. Many, many Bible translations, like the NCV, I think that stands for the New Century Version, translate the verse as if it says God’s kingdom is within us. And so that’s what a lot of Christians think, the kingdom of God is inside of us once we get saved. And as I tried to talk us through last time, I gave you five or six reasons as to why I don’t think that’s what those verses are saying at all.
First of all, who was Jesus addressing? The Pharisees. Are we going to say the kingdom is inside the Pharisees? That would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it, particularly when the Pharisees were trying to kill Jesus at the time He made that statement. Secondly, we tried to look at the fact that the kingdom never entered people in the Bible. It’s the other way around, people enter the kingdom. Third, we looked at the fact that when the kingdom comes Jesus is ruling with a rod of iron, no sin is tolerated.
Now let me ask you a very honest question: do you guys ever sin as a Christian? And you guys are sinning right now because you won’t admit it so that makes you a liar, right? [Laughter] Of course we sin as Christians. That’s why we’re told don’t grieve the Spirit, don’t quench the Spirit, those kinds of things. That’s why we’re told when we sin we don’t lose our salvation but fellowship is broken between us and God. And we have to exercise 1 John 1:9 to get back in the proper fellowship. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”] You see, in fellowship, out of fellowship wouldn’t be an issue if Jesus was ruling in our hearts in kingdom fashion because the kingdom is described as the time period when He’s ruling with a rod of iron.
Furthermore, in Christ’s statement, “the kingdom is in your midst” and this isn’t the best version to quote, the best version is back there in Luke 17, “The kingdom of God is in your midst,” does Jesus define what the word “kingdom” means here He never does? [Luke 17:21, “nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”] So what definition is He drawing from? Everything that’s been developed in the Old Testament that we spent 48 lessons or something like that, working our way through.
So that’s the way to understand terms in the New Testament that don’t have a definition. You fill that word with the meaning that prior revelation is already assigned to it which means that the kingdom is always something that’s earthly, always involving a restored nation of Israel over planet earth. And because Jesus doesn’t reinterpret any of that we can’t just switch horses in midstream and make it sound like well, all that Old Testament stuff is cancelled because Jesus is reigning in our hearts.
And beyond that when you get into the latter ministry of Jesus Christ, and we went through all the verses, He makes reference over and over again to a future kingdom on the earth. And the people that were hanging around Him all understood Christ as teaching that, having never cancelled it, so if all of a sudden the rules switch in midstream and the kingdom is spiritual then all of those statements in the latter ministry of Christ, by Christ, and people that knew Christ really well, don’t make any sense. So I don’t think the NIV or the NCB or any of these versions have it right when it says “the kingdom of God is within you.” I think the best translation is the NASB here when it says, “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” So that would be reaction one and that’s what we covered last Wednesday.
And let me give you a second thing to think about as we look at Luke 17:20-21. The offer of the kingdom framework is sufficient for handling Luke 17:20-21. And it’s been a little while since we walked through a lot of that so I’ll kind of redo a little bit the offer of the kingdom framework. But just a few points here on number 2, related to the offer of the kingdom framework. What you have to understand is in Judaism, in the Jewish mind, as portrayed in the Old Testament, king and kingdom always came together. It was like horse and carriage, they always go together. And the Jewish mind never conceived of any kind of reality where the King would be present and the kingdom wouldn’t be here. And when you understand that you can understand Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew’s Gospel is the first gospel written; it’s probably the most Jewish gospel that we have.
All of the early church fathers believed that it was written to a Hebrew Christian audience and to understand Matthew’s Gospel you have to put yourself in the shoes of a Hebrew Christian, not a Gentile Christian but a Hebrew Christian. And you have to ask yourself what were Hebrew Christians in the first century thinking about? And what the Jews were thinking about is well, we’ve believed in Jesus, at least the remnant had, we’ve believed in Jesus and if Jesus is the King then where is His kingdom.
So Matthew’s Gospel is set out to explain why the King is present but the kingdom has been rejected and postponed. Every detail that Matthew includes in that gospel is part of that explanation. And the Hebrew Christians needed that explanation because they needed to know if they really believed in the right guy. I mean, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah but His kingdom is not here so they were having doubts as to whether they had really trusted in the right Messiah that they were waiting for according to their Old Testament or not. So Matthew spends 28 chapters explaining, by including different stories in the life of Christ that the King came but the kingdom offer was rejected and postponed, not cancelled but postponed.
And the nation of Israel, at least the remnant, needed that explanation because in their minds king and kingdom always came together. So to understand Matthew’s Gospel you can’t really think like a Gentile. You’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of a Hebrew Christian because of the way the Jews understood king and kingdom always going together.
Over in in Luke 17:20-21 that’s the reason that Jesus uses the present tense of the Greek verb eimi, when He says, “For behold, the kingdom of God is” present tense, “in your midst. [Luke 17:20-21, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”] It was in their midst because according to the Jewish mind king and kingdom always went together.
Let me show you some passages from the Old Testament that reveal this so you don’t think I’m making this up. You know these verses, this is on all of our Christmas cards. Isaiah 9:6-7 says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;” by the way, is that the first coming or the second coming there? That’s the first coming and what does the rest of verse 6 say? “And the government will rest on His shoulders;” now is that the first coming or the second coming? That’s the second coming, but you see how the verse conflates the two, because in the Jewish mind if the king is here the kingdom has to be here as well. That’s how the Old Testament always portrays this. This is why Matthew has to explain the postponement concept, because it would be antithetical to the Jewish mind. Verse 7 goes on and describes the kingdom, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.”
You see, you ask a Jewish person today who is unsaved and I went through law school and not to be stereotypical I had access to a lot of Jewish people in law school and most of my professors were Jewish so we got into the subject of religion and Christianity and I would say well how come you all haven’t trusted in Christ as your Messiah; haven’t you read Isaiah 53, which is a very clear portrait of Jesus 700 years in advance. And their answer is there’s no Shalom; Shalom means what? Peace. Now when they use the word “peace” they don’t use it the way we use it. We in the Gentile dominated church use peace to describe peace with God, spiritual peace. When they use the word shalom they’re talking about political peace.
So they don’t think Jesus, in their unbelief, could be the Messiah because they don’t see shalom, they see Israel as a tiny nation being bullied by the United Nations. And everything that the Hebrew Bible, or what we call Old Testament, speaks of concerning Christ and His kingdom, they don’t think any of that is being fulfilled today. And they’re right, so they think Jesus could not have been the Messiah because king and kingdom go together. See that. That’s why Matthew is explaining the postponement concept to Hebrew Christians in the first century, to tell them yes, Jesus is the King but the kingdom is not here, it’s just postponed, because the Jews conflated the two, because they’re Old Testament, which we call Hebrew Bible, conflated the two as well.
Now Reformed theologians, replacement theologians come along and they say well, Jesus did succeed in bringing in the kingdom, it’s just not literal, it’s spiritualized. See that? So the unbelieving Jew says Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because we don’t see a literal fulfillment of these prophecies. Replacement theologians say He did succeed in bringing in the Kingdom, it’s just spiritual. And our camp rejects both of those positions; we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and yes, He did not succeed in bringing in the kingdom promises but those kingdom promises are not cancelled, they’re postponed. So we are arguing against Judaism and we are also arguing against Reformed theologians because we’re keeping them literal and we’re saying that the kingdom will come, it just hasn’t come yet.
But my point is you see how Isaiah 9:6-7 conflates king and kingdom. And you have to think this way to understand why Jesus would say the kingdom is in your midst to His Jewish audience, the Pharisees. Daniel 7:13-14 conflates king and kingdom. [Daniel 7:13-14, “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”]
Daniel says “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man” now who would that be? Jesus Christ, and then you keep reading and it talks about His kingdom, “coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, all sovereign power, all nations of peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his” what? “kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. So you see how king and kingdom go together?
Another passage, a good Christmas one, Christmas will be coming up very quickly in a few months, and no doubt some of this will be on your Christmas cards. It says, [Luke 1:26] “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,  to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” And then down in verse 32 it says, “He will be great” this is Gabriel I believe speaking, “and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;” so it’s talking about the birth of Jesus Christ and it’s saying the King is here and so is His kingdom because the two in the Jewish mind always went together.
In fact, dislocating the two would have seemed completely foreign to a Jewish person. That’s why Matthew has to give us an in depth explanation of a postponement. And you can’t really make sense of why Jesus would say “the kingdom is in your midst” unless you understand this Old Testament Hebrew Bible Jewish mindset.
So E. R. Craven says, “Now, remembering the close connection in the Jewish mind between the establishment of the Basileia, and the glorious coming of the Son of Man—a connection established by the prophecy of Daniel (7:13, 14),” we just read it, “and not previously rebuked but approved by Jesus (Luke 9:26, 27)—let anyone hypothesize as the meaning of . . . with the signs of a gradual approach, and of . . . in the midst of, and read the entire passage, verses 20–30.” [Excursus on the Basileia,” in Revelation of John, J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 96.]
And what he is saying is you can’t make any sense of Luke 17:20-21, the kingdom is (present tense) in your midst until you understand the Jewish mindset that the king and kingdom went together like horse and carriage. [Luke 17:20-21, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”] And this is why Jesus in the verses we’re looking at made the statement, “the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”
Why is that? Because it’s right in front of you is what he’s saying; if I’m here and the two go together and this is a unique point in Jewish history where a generation could have taken Christ, enthroned Him on His terms and the kingdom would have materialized; it was that near. And He says it is, present tense, “in your midst” because He’s respecting the Jewish thought of Old Testament or Hebrew Bible that the King and kingdom always go together.
However, what happened? What went wrong? You can’t understand what went wrong until you understand the offer of the kingdom framework which is something that will be a review for many of you because we’ve gone over it several times in prior lessons. Very quickly here is the offer of the kingdom framework and what gospel is it most developed in? Matthew. Why is that? Because the Hebrew Christians would need an explanation as to what happened. I mean, how in the world could Jesus be the king and the kingdom is not here? Matthew’s Gospel explains that.
We know that throughout the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible the kingdom was predicted, many passages, like Isaiah 11:6-8, then the kingdom was offered through the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, the Twelve, and the Seventy who said what? “Repent for the kingdom is at hand.” It was offered to that generation. By the way, is kingdom defined here? It’s not defined, so how do you define that word “kingdom” or basileia? You go to the Old Testament. The whole thing, everything that the Old Testament predicted was offered to that generation. That’s what’s meant by the offer of the kingdom. And that offer is extended right up until Matthew 12:24. [Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”]
And that’s the tragic point in which the religious leaders attributed Christ’s miracles to the devil. The moment that happens it was evident what the nation was going to do; the die had been cast. So Matthew 12 is followed by Matthew 13. So for the very first time in Matthew 13 Jesus starts explaining the postponement. In fact, He begins to describe through eight parables the conditions of the earth spiritually while the kingdom is not here. And that’s where we come in because that’s the time period we’re living in now, the interadvent age. It’s a time period where God is at work and part of His program during this time period is to build what? The church or the body of Christ because we are inheritors of this coming kingdom. And you’ll notice that our instructions in the church are not to go around and tell people “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Why would we go around telling people to do that? That was an offer only for first century Israel. Rather our instructions are to go into all the nations and preach the personal gospel of salvation. Because you see, through all of this God took lemons and turned it into lemonade, which is something only God can do.
Only God could take a tragedy, and those of you in this room are listening when I say a walk through tragedy know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re sensitive to God as you go through a tragedy He’ll take a tragedy, the tragedy itself isn’t good but He’ll use it for good. And God took this tragedy of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah nationally and used it to pay the sin debt of the world because Israel turned Christ over to the Romans for execution (as we know) and as Jesus died on that cross whose sin debt was being paid for? My sins and your sins. And He formed the church subsequent to that.
The offer of the kingdom was given only to Israel. Jesus told the twelve to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Matthew 10:6, “but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”] Our instruction is to “go into all the world” and not preach the offer of the kingdom but to preach personal salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. [Mark 16:15, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”] You see that in the great commission.
But one of these days the age of the church will end with which event? The rapture and there is a second generation out there, yet future, Israel, that will receive the offer of the kingdom because the nation of Israel in their history doesn’t get things right the first time but the second time. And this is how to understand Luke 17:20-21. Luke 17:20-21 is part of that offer that was right in their lap that they could have enthroned Christ on His terms. [Luke 17:20-21, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”] So there’s John the Baptist, Jesus, the twelve and the seventy, offering the kingdom.
Here is Dr. Toussaint’s sort of rendition of the offer of the kingdom framework. It’s the same kind of idea, the kingdom is developed in the Old Testament; we’ve explained why there’s a contingency in the offer because of the Mosaic Covenant, the message was confined to Israel. Jesus talks about contingency all of the time. For example, in Matthew 11:14 He says of John the Baptist, if you’re willing to receive it he is the what? The Elijah who is to come. [John 11:14, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”]
He could potentially fulfill Malachi 4:5-6 if the nation receives the offer. [Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.  He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”]
And then what you find after Matthew 12 is a cessation of the offer because of the nations rejection of the offer Jesus announces judgment coming upon first century Israel under the cycles of discipline of the Mosaic Covenant; because of unbelief Jesus describes the postponement age in what’s called the parables, particularly the parable of the minas where Jesus entrusts His servants with different tasks while He is gone for a season, and that’s the season or time we’re living in now.
But then the message of the imminent appearing of the gospel will appear again in the seventieth week of Daniel, the seven year tribulation period. So where do you put Luke 17:20-21? You put it right there in number three or right there in number four. [Luke 17:20-21, it says, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees” now that’s a big deal right there, if you’re an under liner in your Bible you should underline the word “Pharisees.” “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.””]
You don’t grab Luke 17:20-21 and say oh, Jesus brought in the spiritual form of the kingdom and forget this whole framework. And see, this is the tools that people really don’t have when they’re trying to read the Bible. No one ever explains to them this big picture that I’m giving you. So they’re kind of just grabbing a verse here or there to fit some preconceived idea. And what I’m saying is you can’t interpret Luke 17:20-21 independent of this framework.
So going all the way back to the Mosaic Covenant what was the obligation of the nation of Israel? Their obligation was always to set over them a king whom the Lord chooses. If the nation of Israel does that then they become not just the owner of their blessings from the Abrahamic Covenant but the possessor of their blessings and the kingdom of God comes to the earth. And that’s what first century of Israel had a golden opportunity to do. They had an opportunity to set over them the King of God’s choosing, which would be Jesus Christ, which would mean the kingdom, hypothetically could have conceivably come to the earth at that particular point in time.
And the tragedy is that the nation of Israel turns down the offer and if you want an explanation as to why they turned down the offer what sermon should you read in Matthew’s Gospel? Matthew’s Gospel has five sermons. How do I know there’s five sermons in there? Because each sermon ends with this phrase, “after He had finished saying these things.” So what sermon would you read to figure out why the nation of Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom? The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7 because Matthew 5-7, Jesus explains to Israel that the kingdom is not just physical, it’s not just going to bring in Shalom, world peace, but it’s also ethical and moral. And once the nation figured that part of it out they weren’t interested. They loved the politics of it; in fact, in John 6 when Jesus feeds the multitudes with a few loaves and a few fish people were coming and taking Him by force, John 6:26, to make Him King. And Jesus had to withdraw Himself. [John 6:26, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”]
So they all loved Jesus as long as He was feeding their stomachs, and they thought Rome was going to be overthrown. The moment He started talking about ethics and morals and righteousness and in fact how no one can enter the kingdom of God unless their righteousness is greater than the Pharisees. I mean, can you imagine how unpopular that teaching was? How can your righteousness be greater than the Pharisees? Well, there’s only one way to get that righteousness, that righteousness has to be imputed, transferred or an alien righteousness. See that? And normally when you start talking about things like that people weren’t interested any more. And this is why the nation of Israel is in unbelief today. They want the political ruler, they don’t want the moral ruler who’s going to rule with a rod of righteousness. And this is why the nation of Israel today is a sitting duck for who? The antichrist. The antichrist is going to deliver on what they want, give them the pseudo peace, world peace, without the morality. See that? But it will be a false Messiah.
[34 minutes into the message] So that’s how to understand Deuteronomy 17:20. Jesus was present and because King and kingdom go together therefore that nation could have taken Jesus on His terms, enthroned Him and the kingdom of God would have come. The whole world would be covered with world peace. [Deuteronomy 17:20, “that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.”] But the Sermon on the Mount is what they didn’t want and that’s why they turned the offer down. So how do you understand Deuteronomy 17:20 the kingdom is in your midst? You understand it as a unique opportunity that was available for first century Israel because of the presence of Jesus. The king of God’s own choosing was right there.
So just to show you that I’m not making this stuff up here’s a quote from Max Zewick in his Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, quoting Luke 17:20-21. Notice what he says here: “In view of the fact that Christ was addressing the Pharisees, modern exegetes generally prefer to translate ‘among’ but this meaning is elsewhere unknown. Secular and patristic
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is]in your midst.”
““In view of the fact that Christ was addressing the Pharisees modern exegetes generally prefer to translate ‘among’ but this meaning is elsewhere unknown. Secular and patristic evidence has been produced (by C.H. Roberts) for an extension of the meaning ‘within’, in other words, it’s in your hands (which means that for which one is responsible),” look at what he says it’s, “within your power of choice (cf. ‘it lies” not inside of you but “it lies with you’), i.e., from the human side the Kingdom is yours if you choose it, if you will it.” [Max Zerwick, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1996), 251–52] See that.
And this is one of the problems that I have with this kind of Calvinism that’s very aggressive and being promoted today where it leaves no room at all for free will; God coerces people against their will to get saved. And you see, that violates everything that the Bible teaches because God has made us in His image (has He not) which means He respects our power of choice.
Now it’s true that you have to come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit to respond to the offer of salvation but whether you choose Christ or not the power still rests with you. If God didn’t do it that way He would not be respecting how He has made us as image bearers. And as an image bearer of God you have one awesome power; you have the power to tell God no. Think how much power that is. In other words, if you want to go to hell you can go, God will certainly convict you and annoy you until your dying day but if you want to shut off your will and tell the Creator no that power rests with you. Modern day Calvinism doesn’t respect that. They believe it somehow steals God’s glory whereas I think what they’re doing is they’re developing a system of divine sovereignty that’s so lopsided it’s not respecting other parts of the Bible. It’s certainly not respecting the offer of the kingdom here because the nation of Israel had within their grasp, they had it within their midst, they could have made Him the King and the kingdom would have come. That generation turned it down and so the offer is removed and won’t be reextended until a subsequent generation.
But notice I’m quoting a key grammarian here, Max Zerwick, who says the Greek rendering of that verse is not that the kingdom is inside of you but it’s within your will, it’s within your power of choice, you could have had it.
Here’s another one, another scholar, Walter Elwell and he writes: ““Another example is that in koine Greek,” and that’s the Greek that your New Testament was written in, koine Greek, koine means common, common Greek, it was basically a language that Alexander the Great brought into existence in the intertestamental period. And the reason God recorded His revelation in Koine Greek, Greek for the common person, is because God loves everybody and wants everybody to have the opportunity for salvation, so He put it in the language of the blue collar folks, the middle class working folks. So Walter Elwell writes, “Another example is that in koine Greek, the expression entos humon (literally, ‘inside of you’) often meant ‘within reach.’ Thus, Jesus’ statement in Luke 17:21 could mean, ‘the kingdom is within reach.’” [Walter Elwell and Philip Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2001), 207.]
King and kingdom go together, the Old Testament says that. I mean, the whole thing is yours, just enthrone the King on His terms and the kingdom in its very literal form, not spiritual form, would have materialized on planet earth. But we know the story, don’t we? The rest of the gospels reveal how that offer was turned down and yet God took a tragedy and turned it into a victory; He took lemons and turned it into lemonade because through this transaction the sin debt of the world was paid for. The rest of the gospels record what? The rejection of the offer.
It says this, “He” that’s Jesus, “came to His own,” now who are “His own”? The nation of Israel. See John here is explaining what he’s going to develop throughout his book. “He” that’s Jesus, “came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him.” That’s the tragedy. That’s the tragedy that the Lord turned into a triumph; the offer was rejected. And there’s a parable that Jesus told, called the parable of the minas, it’s in Luke 19:11-27, we’ll make reference to that in just a moment, but here the citizens in the parable are portrayed as the nation of Israel.
Now don’t get me wrong, a remnant of Jews did believe; I’m talking about the crux of the nation, the bulk of the nation, the leadership of the nation. But his citizens, which is personified there as first century Israel, “hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want” see that, they didn’t want it, “we don’t want this man to reign over us.’” [Luke 1:14] Feed our stomachs, that’s fine, do some miracles, that’s fine, but don’t have authority over us in a moral sense; don’t have authority over us the way the Sermon on the Mount describes the moral implications of the kingdom. And so the nation of Israel took a golden opportunity and threw it away. But did that throw God off at all? No, He just used that to execute His plan of the salvation of the world through the death of Christ.
And this is what the Calvinists, I don’t think really understand. They think you’ve got to have God controlling people to such an extent that they don’t have any free will and that’s the only way to maintain God’s glory; that’s their thinking. But I think what I’m describing for you now actually accentuates God’s glory to a higher level. Why is that? Because only God can take the free will of His creatures and their independent power of choice and use that to execute His plan that He has foreordained from the beginning of the world.
Now you step back an you look at that and you say how could God take rejection by His creatures of Him to orchestrate His will? Doesn’t that want to make us glorify God even more? I mean, only God could pull that off, right? I mean, I’m not worried about God’s glory, I don’t have to have God controlling everything and giving nobody free will to maintain His glory. My view of God is so big that God can take the decisions of His creatures and the power of free will that He has given them in such a way that when you make a move one way or the other in your own free will, as the Spirit convicts you, no matter which decision you make God is using you to pull off His plan. I mean, you’re going to get into heaven and you’re going to see this whole thing, the veil is going to be pulled back and you’re going to say wow, that’s just amazing, I’m just going to glorify God throughout the ages.
So the offer is turned down, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and He says, “saying if you had known this day, even the things which make for peace, but now they have been hidden from your eyes, for the days will come when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you
Luke 19:42, “saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side,  and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another,” why is that? “because you” that’s first century Israel, “did not recognize the time of your visitation.” He came into Jerusalem, you see it says in 42, this very day.
Now Sunday mornings we’ve studied the Seventy Weeks Prophecy; the fulfillment of that prophecy was to the exact day, from the moment the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s clock started running, Daniel 9:25. [Daniel 9:25, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”] So they had all of this information available, yet they turned it down and that’s sort of the tragedy that the Gospels reveal to us.
And so what does Jesus begin to do? He begins to, in light of Israel’s imminent rejection of the offer of the kingdom, he begins to articulate an interim age. This is what they didn’t understand, there’s a new age or a new period of time while the kingdom is not present where God is still at work. This age has been going on for 2,000 years and we’re part of it. It says, “while they were listening,” Luke 19:11, it says, “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable…,” that’s the parable of the minas, that’s the parable where the owner entrusts his servants with different things to manage for him while he’s gone for a long period of time, and He’s coming back in the distant future to settle accounts and ask what we did with the things that the Lord lent us. That’s called the parable of the minas.
Now why did He have to tell them this. Look at the underlined portion there, it says “because He was near Jerusalem,” where is the kingdom going to be headquartered through? The city of Jerusalem, so they’re right there in what they think is Washington D.C., this is going to be the capital of the whole thing, right? They thought He was going to set it up imminently and Jesus starts to explain to them it’s not going to be set up imminently because the nation of Israel is about to reject Me. So let me give you a parable, the parable of the minas which discloses this long age of time where we are entrusted with things to do while the owner is not present.
And why did He begin to unfold this? Because due to the fact that they were near Jerusalem they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear when? Immediately! So now Jesus is saying it’s not going to appear immediately; it hasn’t been cancelled but it’s been postponed and there’s this long age of time that you don’t know anything about so I will reveal it to you for the first time through the parable of the minas. See that?
Now does this mean that the offer of the kingdom is completely off the table? No it doesn’t because the offer will be received by what? Not first century Israel but what? Future Israel in the time period of the tribulation, it’s going to take the events of the tribulation period to bring Israel to her awareness of her need to receive this offer.
Do you realize the event that’s going to shake them to their core? It’s going to be the desecration of the temple by the antichrist because the antichrist will show up, He’ll give them politics and the healings and the food and shalom without the morals. He’s the rider on the white horse, the first seal judgment, Revelation 6:-1-2. [Revelation 6:1-2, “Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”  I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”]
They all think this is our guy; in fact, they will have entered a deal with Him that Isaiah 28 calls a deal or a peace pact with Sheol or hell itself. And they will think He is their Messiah because He’s given them what they’ve always wanted, the kingdom without all the Sermon on the Mount stuff. And what is going to shake them to the core of their being is when they’re phony Messiah, who they think is their true Messiah, goes into the Jewish temple, Daniel 9:27, and betrays them by desecrating the temple and replicating what Antiochus Epiphanes did in the intertestamental period which is an event described on Jewish minds and hearts. Once they see that happen then they’re going to realize we goofed up; we had it wrong all this time and that’s when they began to repent. Zechariah 12:10. [Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”]
They’ll begin to weep, mourn, and they’ll begin to cry as one cries for an only son, and yet through the trauma of that God is going to bring His elect nation into faith and once that happens the kingdom will come.
And a really great thing to understand about God is God knocks us down so we look up. That’s how it always works. Does He work that way in your life? Yes He does, He’s going to work that way big time in the life of the nation of Israel. So this offer of the kingdom will eventually be received by future Israel and that’s what Luke 21:31 is talking about. [Luke 21:31, “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near..”]
See, Luke 17 comes before Luke 21, right? You can’t just build your theology on Luke 17, you’ve got to take into account Luke 21. And what does Luke 21:31 say? Now this is the tribulation period, the Olivet Discourse. “So you also, when you see these things happening,” what things? The tribulation period, the desecration of the temple, some of the things I’ve tried to describe “So also, when you see these things happening recognize that the kingdom of God is” what? “near.”
Well wait a minute, I thought He set it up back in Luke 17. If He set it up in Luke 17, as most of Christendom apparently believes then why would He say yet future “that the kingdom of God is near.” How could it be near in the tribulation period if it was already set up in Luke 17? Do you follow this? And what I’m saying is you can’t interpret Luke 17 without this big framework that I’m giving you. You’ve got to look at the big framework; anybody can rifle through the Bible and grab a verse that supports their presuppositions. Anybody can do that! The skilled Bible interpreter can put the whole thing into a framework.
And by the way, what does He say here, “So you also, when you see these things happening” what things? Signs! What signs? The signs of the tribulation period. Well wait a minute, I thought back in Luke 17 He said the kingdom of God is not coming to you with signs to be observed. Why does He say in Luke 17:20 and 21, ““The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;” then He turns right around in Luke 21 and says that the kingdom of God is coming through signs. [Luke 17:20-21, “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;  nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
So which is it? Is He coming with signs or not coming with signs? Well, it didn’t come with signs in Luke 17 because Jesus was standing right in front of them; see that? And it was rejected, postponed, temporarily the offer taken off the table, but it will come with signs in the tribulation period because it will take the desecration of the temple by the phony Messiah antichrist to bring Israel to her senses that they need to receive the kingdom on the King’s terms. See, if you don’t have an offer of the kingdom framework you have no basis for distinguishing Luke 17, the kingdom is not coming with signs to be observed, distinguishing that from Luke 21:31 which says that the kingdom is preceded by signs. [Luke 21:31, “”So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.” Whatever your theology is you’ve got to be able to put the whole Bible together and that’s hopefully what I’m trying to show you how to do.
And I like to include these quotes. This is from doctors Quine and Toussaint, who wrote a Bib Sac article, Dallas Seminary’s Academic Journal, on the kingdom. [Stanley D. Toussaint and Jay A. Quine, “No, Not Yet: The Contingency of God’s Promised Kingdom,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (April–June 2007): 138, 141.] I like to give you these quotes to show you that I’m not just up her making things up. I’m following a line of thought that’s well-trodden by many, many scholars.
This quote says: ““If the kingdom had already come,” speaking of Luke 17, “why did Jesus prophesy the future Tribulation in Luke 21:31 and say in connection with that series of events, ‘When you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near’? The implication is clear: This kingdom is not near now. It was near (in the sense that Jesus personally offered it to Israel), but then it ceased being near. Then in the future Tribulation the millennial kingdom will again be near. . . . In Luke 10:9, 11 the seventy were told to preach that the kingdom of God had drawn near. But in 19:11 the disciples thought the kingdom was close at hand, but it was no longer near. This contrasts with Luke 10:9, 11. Again Israel’s rejection of the Lord is seen in the words of the citizenry, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’ (Luke 19:14). But this parable teaches more than Jewish rejection; it also affirms that the Lord’s followers” that’s us by the way, we’re that unique people living between these two events, first century Israel’s rejection, future Israel’s acceptance.
Where do we fit in the whole thing? We’re living between those two events. We are inheritors of His coming kingdom and we have things to do while the kingdom is not here. And when the kingdom is established I’ll tell you this much, the Lord is going to hold all of us to an account and say what did you do with what I gave you? And you’re probably sitting there saying well I don’t have anything to give. Well, every person in this room has three things, they all begin with the letter “T,” Time, Talent and Treasure. Every one of us to varying degrees have those three T’s. And when the Lord establishes the kingdom He’s going to ask us what did we do with the three T’s. That’s the significance of the parable of the minas.
But this parable teaches more than human rejection; it also affirms that the Lord’s followers have responsibilities to fulfill in the interim while He is gone because Israel had rejected the King, the kingdom was postponed, it was no longer at hand. So when you’re quoting Luke 17:20-21 you can’t just quote that verse to prove something; you’ve got to put it in a larger framework which would include the offer of the offer of the kingdom, Luke 10:1, 9 the nation of Israel’s rejection of the King and the kingdom back in the first century, Luke 19:14, Luke 19:42-44. And then you have to factor in Luke 21:31 as to why the kingdom is near and preceded by signs, and that’s the future generation that will receive it.
So that’s probably my favorite explanation of Luke 17:20-21. It doesn’t say the kingdom is inside of you; last week we covered that. What it is, is you have to interpret that in light of the overall offer of the kingdom framework. And next week I’ll try to give you a third possibility and I’ll do that very fast and then we’ll be leaving Luke 17 and moving into other passages that Jesus said that people use to say we’re in the kingdom now. [Stanley D. Toussaint and Jay A. Quine, “No, Not Yet: The Contingency of God’s Promised Kingdom,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (April–June 2007): 138, 141.]