The Coming Kingdom 050Luke 17:20-21 • Dr. Andy Woods • September 19, 2018 • The Coming Kingdom
The Coming Kingdom
9-12-18 Luke 17:20-21 Lesson 50
Open your Bibles to Luke 17, verses 20 and 21. Some people have said that was a lot of new information on Sunday, concerning Revelation 3:10. The problem is that I wrote an article on that and the problem is the more you learn about something the more you want to share it with everybody else whether they want to hear it or not. So if the information was a little bit too much or overwhelming I did make some copies of that article on Revelation 3:10 on the name tag table so you might want to get that and read it just to sort of assimilate what we talked about. I think there’s about 20 or 25 of them out there and if we run out we’ll just put some more out so don’t worry about that.
So let’s take our Bibles and open theme to Luke 17:20-21. And we’re continuing our study on kingdom, as you know, in chapter 16 of the book I wrote. And as you know the first part of the study has been what does the Bible say about the kingdom? We’ve carefully explained the Old Testament and New Testament, that the kingdom is an actual physical geopolitical reality and it was offered to Israel on a silver platter in the first century. They rejected the offer so the kingdom has been postponed and it’s going to be reestablished in a future time with a future generation of Israel. In the meantime God is at work through the church and we are the inheritors of the kingdom or the sons of the kingdom.
But many, many people say no, we’re in the kingdom now and I went through the problems with that. The basic problem is you have to change the Old Testament definition. So the moment we move away from postponement into the kingdom is happening now, and by the way, if you want the fancy-dancy word for that it’s called realized eschatology. So realized eschatology means that the eschaton has already started and so that’s another way of saying kingdom now theology. And some are kind of flirting with realized eschatology and they call themselves inaugurated eschatologists, so the kingdom has partially started now. And the major problem with that is you have to change the definition of the kingdom, as we talked about.
But why are there so many people that believe in realized eschatology? So we started going through the passages that people use to argue for kingdom now or realized eschatology and the first section of verses we’re looking at are verses from Christ’s ministry, and I’m trying to give you an explanation for those and show you how each of those fit a postponement model better than a realized or inaugurated eschatology model.
So here are the passages in Christ’s ministry that we’ve gone through and the last couple of weeks we were together we were looking at Luke 17:20-21. So let’s remind ourselves of those verses. I just want to make a few more comments on this passage before we move on over to the Nick at Night discourse which is John chapter 3, Nick at night, Nicodemus conversing with Jesus at night.
But before we do Nick at Night just a couple more comments on Luke 17:20-21. Now you remember what this 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 that verse is probably the number one verse you get from people that believe in realized eschatology; they all quote that verse. We were making three responses to kingdom now theologians’ use of that verse.
The first thing we pointed out is this verse does not say what everybody thinks it says; it does not day the kingdom is within you. And I gave you several reasons for that but a lot of your Bible versions, like the NCV, [New Century Version] basically say God’s kingdom is within you so Jesus is in our hearts and the kingdom is inside of us. And that is not what that verse is saying, what it’s saying is it’s in your presence, not inside of you, it’s in your presence, it’s in your midst because who was there speaking those words? Jesus Christ!
And then last week as we were working through this I was trying to show us all that you can handle that verse through the offer of the kingdom framework. So one of the things to do is to get the big framework down and then try to figure out where each of the pieces of the puzzle fit. So the offer of the kingdom framework is the kingdom was offered to Israel. So what he’s saying there, and I gave you the quotes from several scholars and so forth validating this. What Jesus is saying there is not the kingdom is inside of you, what He’s saying is it’s within your power of choice because Jesus was present and had that generation received the King on the King’s terms the kingdom of God cold have been a reality. So it really was a unique opportunity for that generation.
And of course, the rest of the story of the Gospels is He came to His own (the Jewish people) and His own did not receive Him. [John 1:11, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.”] So the story is how that offer was turned down and when that offer was turned down the kingdom went into postponement and God began to work with a different group of people called the church. So you can explain Luke 17:20-21 through that framework. [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 according to Luke 21:31 that offer will be re-extended following the rapture of the church to a future generation of Israel. [Luke 21:31, “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”] So when you put your doctrine of the kingdom together you can’t just look at one verse, which is what everybody is doing today in their inaugurated or realized eschatology, you’ve to look at all the verses, including Luke 21:31.
And at this point I was really tempted to move on to something else but I wanted to give you one more possibility for Luke 17:20-21. I personally hold to view number two there, that’s what I usually use to explain Luke 17:20-21 but there is a third possibility I at least wanted to make you aware of and that’s this: When Jesus said “the kingdom of God is in your midst” He was speaking of something totally completely future, even though He uses the present tense there. Let me kind of unpack that if I could, briefly, for you. If you go to Luke 17:22 what you see is that generation is rejecting the offer because Jesus says right in that midst He says, “‘The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.’”
And if you go down to verse 25 it says, “But first He must suffer” Jesus speaking of Himself, “many things and be rejected by this generation.” So the rejection was already happening and because the rejection was already happening Jesus starts to outline, not a present manifestation of the kingdom but something completely future. And He probably is thinking of Daniel 2:35 and verse 44 where the stone, remember this from Sunday morning, that when we were in Daniel the “stone cut without human hands” instantaneously strikes the feet of the statue and crushes the statue which represents Gentile empires and the stone cut without human hands is God’s kingdom. And then that stone, when it crushes the statue grows and grows and grows until it fills the whole earth.
[Daniel 2:35, “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” Daniel 2:44, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.”]
And Jesus, as His offer is being rejected He could very well be talking about something completely future, the instantaneous establishment of the king when the day arrives when the nation of Israel receives Him as their King. And that could be the explanation as to why He says the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed. [Luke 17:20, “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;’”] In other words, when it comes it’s going to come spectacularly instantaneously and immediately.
And I don’t know if we have time to read all the verses but down in verses 23 and 24 He describes it as coming like lightning. It says in verses 23 and 24, “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.”
So he’s describing here a completely future reality of the instantaneous establishment of the kingdom, analogizing it to the coming like lightning. We have lightning in the sky here quite frequently where we live and you see how suddenly it comes, instantaneously. And that’s what the kingdom is going to be like once it comes. That’s why you can’t confuse it with today because what God is doing today is He is gradually constructing His church. He’s been doing that for two thousand years; as people are getting saved they’re being added to the temple, using the metaphor of the temple where holy stones, holy bricks within that temple, the gradual construction. But not so the kingdom; when the kingdom comes it’s going to be instantaneous.
And unbelievers of that time are going to be completely taken off guard. That’s why its analogized to the flood. If you go down to verses 26 and 27 of Luke 17 it says, “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 they had pushed God out of their minds and so when the flood came it just took everybody off guard. Noah probably seemed like the biggest fool in the world building this giant ark there sitting in his driveway while everybody else is having a great time and laughing and hooting it up and ridiculing Noah. And it seemed like a big joke until the flood hit and then it wasn’t so funny anymore, right?
So that’s how the kingdom is going to come, it’s going to come instantaneously, just like the floodwaters came. And it’s going to be just like it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you go down to verses 29-33, “but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” He says,  “On that day, 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.  Remember Lot’s wife.” Remember she became a what? Pillar of salt. And verse 33 says, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
So you see, what Jesus is describing here as the nation is rejecting Him, He’s outlining the circumstances through which the kingdom will come one day. It’ll be instantaneous, it’ll be like lightning; it’ll be like the flood, and it will be like the sudden fire and brimstone that hit Sodom and Gomorrah. And consequently unbelievers, people that have pushed God out of their minds, will be completely taken off guard.
Verses 34 -36 talks about unbelievers in that time. He says,  “I tell you on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.” Now a lot of people think this is the rapture here but you see, when you study this in context what you learn is the flood waters came and took them all away. So here’s a question: who was taken away in the flood waters, believers or unbelievers? Unbelievers. So in this case, being taken away, is it a good thing or is it a bad thing? It’s a bad thing. When we talk about the rapture, which ends the age of the church, is being taken a good thing or a bad thing? It’s a good thing! So a lot of people will confuse these verses with the rapture of the church but this in context is not talking about the rapture of the church. It’s talking about judgment coming upon unbelievers.
It says,  “There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.” You’ve got to remember being “taken” here is like the flood, which is a bad thing. And then it says in verse 36,”Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.” And this ruins a lot of good movies that you watch. I grew up with the Thief in the Night movie series, and they took all these verses and applied them to the rapture. The problem is while I strongly believe in the rapture I don’t think this is what Jesus is talking about here. He’s not talking about the rapture, He’s talking about judgment, taking unbelievers away. How do I know that? If you look at verse 37 it says, “And answering they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’” in other words, where are they being taken and look at the answer, “And He said to them, ‘Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.’”
So it’s talking about the corpses of people in judgment being piled so high that the beasts of prey will come and gorge on these corpses. So this is not speaking of a blessing being taken, right? It’s speaking of judgment. So I wouldn’t throw a rapture doctrine in here at all, although it’s commonly done and people, when they throw the rapture doctrine in here usually just quote part of the verse, they don’t give you the whole judgment context.
But all of this to say that as the kingdom is being rejected by first century Israel Jesus starts to outline how the kingdom is going to come one day once the nation accepts Him. Unbelievers will be caught off guard. It’ll be just like it was in days of Sodom and Gomorrah. It’ll be just like it was when the flood waters hit the earth. It’ll be like the flashing of lightening. It’s going to come so fast there’s not going to be any signs to be observed because it’s going to be instantaneous, just like that! Stone cut without human hands that suddenly strikes the feet of that statue and the statue crumbles, the empires of man crumble and the statue grows and grows and grows till it fills the earth.
And so it’s completely possible here that Jesus is outlining, as He’s talking, of a completely futuristic reality. That’s the whole context of this. And that’s why it says there in verse 21, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed” now watch the tense of this verb, “nor will they say,” what tense is He speaking of there? Future tense, “nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is, or there it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’” He’s speaking here according to this view that I’m giving you, of a completely futuristic reality. And you say well, where did you get this idea from. Well I got it from the scholar that I keep quoting, from 1874 named E. R. Craven and he has an excursus on the Basileia, what’s the word for Basileia? Kingdom, he has a great excursus, meaning kind of a digression on the kingdom in his revelation commentary, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. That’s why I keep quoting him.
He says here, “Does it not become manifest that this passage, so far from teaching the doctrine of a present establishment of the Basileia, must be numbered amongst those that connect the establishment with the Second Advent?” [Excursus on the Basileia,” in Revelation of John, J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 97.] And everybody is trying to find a present establishment of the kingdom here but if you look at the whole context Jesus is being rejected by first century Israel and He starts outlining a completely futuristic reality.
Well, if all of that is true, then why does He speak in the present tense in Luke 17:20-21. Why does He say “The kingdom is,” present tense of the Greek verb eimi, why does He say “The kingdom is in your midst.” In other words, if it’s a future, completely future reality why is He speaking here in the present tense?
- R. Craven, who’s advocating this idea, gives some answers to that. Number 1, when the Pharisees originally asked the question of Jesus, having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, were the Pharisees asking the question in the future tense or the present tense? They were asking the question in the present tense, right? And having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming they thought it was going to come right then and there. So Jesus responds, “Behold, the kingdom is in your midst” in the present tense. That’s why He’s speaking in the present tense. They asked the question in the present tense and He’s following polite rules of conversation, He answers the question in the present tense.
But according to E. R. Craven’s view you shouldn’t mistake the present tense for Jesus communicating that the kingdom of God is here now. So E. R. Craven says, and I’m sorry for reading these quotes to you, I tried to cut them down believe it or not, and I know he wrote in 1874 but his thinking is so good it’s hard for me to just cut it out. He says, “In the E.V.” that’s an English translation, “there is a difference in tense between the question of the Pharisees and the answer of Jesus—they are asking, when the Basileia should come, and He answering, it cometh not with observation, it is within you—which necessarily implies a declaration of then existing establishment. This difference is altogether unauthorized—both the question and the answer are in the present; the question of the Pharisees should be translated “when cometh (erchetai) the kingdom of God?” The question was asked in the vivid dramatic present; it manifestly had reference to the future; it would be in defiance of every conceivable law of language to suppose that our Lord, in following the lead of His questioners, intended to indicate a different tense. The question and the answer are but illustrations of that law proper to all languages, but pre-eminently to the Greek.” [E.R. Craven, “Excursus on the Basileia,” in Revelation of John, J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 96.]
In other words, Jesus is just using good manners. They ask the question in the present tense, He gives them an answer in the present tense. But that’s not to be confused with Him teaching that the kingdom is present now. That’s E. R. Craven’s point.
One other quick point on this is the following: Biblical languages sometimes use the present tense to depict, not a present reality but a reality that is absolutely certain future certainty or a reality that can come to pass any moment. And this is sort of confusing for us as English speakers because when we use the present tense, we typically use the present tense to communicate a present reality. But that’s not the way Greek functions. Many times Greek does use the present tense to communicate a present reality but that is not always the case. And God saw fit to record the revelation of the New Testament in the Greek language, so that means to understand the Bible properly we have to have some kind of facility with New Testament Koine Greek.
And in New Testament Koine Greek, and actually also in Hebrew, your Old Testament, Hebrew Bible was recorded in Hebrew and a little touch of Aramaic in there as well, biblical languages use the present tense many times to communicate a present reality but it doesn’t always mean a present reality. It could mean a reality that is so certain you speak of it in the present tense, not to communicate that it’s here but to communicate that it is certain or that it is coming to pass at any moment. And that’s what Jesus could be doing here in Luke 17:20-21 when He says the kingdom is in your midst. He’s not saying it’s here, He’s saying its establishment is 100% certain even though this generation is rejecting it. This generation rejecting Me is not going to throw off God’s plan and program whatsoever. And He explains the future establishment of the kingdom, as we’ve talked about in this context, but in the process He uses the present tense to show how certain the coming of the kingdom is.
So biblical languages sometimes use the present tense to describe certainty. Now why is that? One reason is God is outside of time. God is timeless. So today is Wednesday; in order for Thursday to come, in order for me as a human being to get into Thursday I’ve got to wait for Wednesday to become Thursday (unless I have the ability to predict the future or something). Until Thursday comes I really don’t know what’s going to happen on Thursday because I’m still stuck in Wednesday. Some of you wish it was Friday, right, or better yet Saturday… or better yet, Sunday, what about that. What about that? Now does God have to wait for Thursday to come to discover what’s in Thursday? No, He’s not bound by time like we are; He’s outside of time. So God can speak things that haven’t happened yet from the human point of view as if they’ve already happened because God is timeless.
That’s why 2 Peter 3:8 says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” And people get real bogged down on this and they try to analogize this to the creation days; this has nothing to do with the creation days! Or they try to come up with a seven thousand year existence of the universe and all of these things they start reading into the passage. The only thing this is saying, and by the way, it’s a paraphrase from Psalm 90:4; it’s not even a quote, it’s a paraphrase from Psalm 90:4. [Psalm 90:4, “For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.”]
Psalm 90, to my knowledge, is the oldest psalm in the psalter, 150 Psalms, and does anybody know who wrote Psalm 90? Moses. Moses wrote Psalm 90, the oldest psalm in the psalter and Moses, way back when the Mosaic time period would be, I don’t know, 1400, Exodus was what, 1446, something like that. Moses said “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.” What’s it saying? It’s saying God is outside of time. To God tomorrow is today and yesterday is today because we’re stuck in Wednesday and we just got out of Tuesday but to God Wednesday and Tuesday are all one animal because He’s not limited by time and He already knows what’s coming on Thursday. So that’s why He’s telling me with your future just trust Me, I already see it; you don’t see it but I see it.
So many times in the Bible when God speaks the tense is given, not from the point of view of man but it’s from the point of view of God. For example, I don’t know if you’ve been studying Joshua lately, remember Joshua went to defeat Jericho and remember the instructions He was given? March around Jericho seven days, and blow the trumpet on the seventh day and the walls will tumble around Jericho. Before the Israelis even went into that assignment and into that battle do you know what God said? “The LORD GOD said to Joshua” the leader of the nation of Israel at that time, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.” [Joshua 6:2]
So before they fought or before they followed God’s instructions the battle had already been won and God says it’s already been given into your hand. Why is that? Because God can see the future because to God the future is today because He’s not bound by time. So when you see the present tense in the Bible, especially narrated from the perspective of God, it doesn’t always mean a present reality from humanity’s perspective; it means a certain reality. And biblical languages function a lot like this. For example, do you remember Romans 8:29-30? “For those whom He foreknew,” this is talking about the different phases of our salvation, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
So God foreknew us, past tense. God predestined us, past tense. He called us, past tense. He justified us, past tense. Now are you glorified right now? You all don’t look very glorified. [Laughter] I don’t think I look very glorified either. But you’ll notice that “whom He justified, He also glorified,” which tense? Past tense, even though it hasn’t happened yet. We’re not in glory yet. See our salvation, the phases of our salvation are so certain… and by the way, this is a brief digression, this is why it’s impossible for people to lose their salvation once they have it, because you’re already on a fast track to glory as far as God is concerned tomorrow is today, it’s already happened and God can speak of it as a certain reality even though in fact, in point of fact in actuality it hasn’t happened yet. So you’ll notice that the tense is past for the past phases of our salvation as well as the future phase of our salvation, despite the fact that the future phase of our salvation has not been executed yet.
So that’s why you’ve got to be very careful about biblical tenses. A lot of times the tense is narrated from the perspective of God communicating certainty not actual in fact reality from humanity’s point of view.
Here’s another example: I had a student at the Bible college (called College of Biblical Studies where I worked for seven years) ask me about this one time in class, I didn’t really know how to answer it at the time. Jude 14 says, “It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam,” now a lot of people are trying to fit extra genealogies into the genealogies of Genesis 5 and11, they say there’s missing names there because they’re trying to stretch the genealogies out so that it accommodates old earth evolutionary thinking. The problem is Jude, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says that Enoch was which generation from Adam? The seventh generation, and you go back into Genesis 5 and you can just count backwards and it goes to seven. So there is no missing generations in the genealogies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11.
So way back yonder, in Genesis 5, Enoch, who as you know was translated into heaven prior to the flood, he’s kind of like a prototype of the church, translated into heaven through the rapture before the seven year tribulation period comes. Enoch, way back in that time made a prophecy about the Lord’s return in the Second Coming and Enoch said, “Behold, the Lord” what? “came” what’s the tense there? Past tense, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,” now is that prophecy, has it happened yet? Has the Lord come “with many thousands of His holy ones”? Not yet, that’s the Second Coming, when He comes back to this earth with the resurrected church and also the angels.
So that’s a future reality but you notice that Enoch’s prophecy puts it in the past tense and makes it look like it already happened. Now how could Enoch do that? Because he was prophesying under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; God is outside of time, He’s not bound by time and He can communicate things yet future from the human perspective as if it already happened and sometimes the tense is changed just to show us how certain the event it. So this student asked me this question in class and I really didn’t know how to answer it but now I think I have a better answer. She said if it’s a future prophecy why does the verb put it in the past tense? And the correct answer, had I had my wherewithal at the time would have been it’s being narrated from the perspective of God who is timeless, who is outside of time.
So if all of this is true this is how to understand Luke 17:20-21; the kingdom is in your midst, it’s not saying it’s presently here. What it’s saying is, in a context where he’s describing the future coming of the kingdom he’s saying it’s certain. So this would be an example in Greek of what is called the futuristic present. Dan Wallace, a well-known Greek grammarian of our day, I had him as a professor, says this: “The present tense may be used to describe a future event, though. . . . it typically adds connotations of immediacy and certainty….The present tense may describe an event that is wholly subsequent to the time of speaking,” like the coming of the kingdom, like the second coming of Christ, “although as if it were present.” [Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 535-35.]
So when Jesus says the kingdom of God is in your midst it may be an example of what we would call a futuristic present, certainty not actual in fact reality. [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.”]
Some examples: here’s an example of the futuristic present, 1 John 2:17, “The world is passing away” that’s a present tense verb, “The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” Now you notice that the verb is in the present tense. John made that statement two thousand years ago. He said “The world is passing away.”
Now here we are in 2018, has the world passed away? I mean, I’m still able to touch the ground, are you? The sun still comes up every morning, even on cloud hangover days the sun is there. I mean, the world hasn’t passed away for 2,000 years. So if the world hasn’t passed away for 2,000 years why would John, back in the first century say that the world is passing away? He’s saying it’s passing away because it’s absolutely certain it’s going to end. He’s not describing an in fact reality at that point in time; he’s describing something that’s absolutely certain. And that’s how Jesus could be using the expression “the kingdom is in your midst.” Not an in fact reality from the human perspective but something that’s absolutely certain.
How about your resurrected body, are you in your resurrected body right now? Do you guys ever look in the mirror? I look in the mirror, it’s sort of depressing isn’t it? As a matter of fact, I go get my hair cut over at Super Cuts quite frequently and the lady cuts my hair and I look down at the ground and I see all this gray hair on the ground and my first instinct is well that obviously couldn’t be my hair because my hair didn’t use to be gray like it is now. But now it’s graying, it’s a hard reality to accept because it didn’t used to be that way, at least I’ve got hair, some of you are a little disadvantaged and the light from the ceiling is beaming off of you right now, and I won’t mention any names.
But the reality is we’re not in a resurrected body now but Paul puts the resurrection body that we don’t have yet in the present tense. Did you notice that? 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body;” see the present tense there?  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is” present tense of eimi, by the way, that’s the same verb used in our passage, Luke 17:20-21, the kingdom is in your midst, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” So the resurrection both that’s coming is in the present tense just like our current decaying body is in the present tense. So obviously when you look in the mirror you say well, I don’t have that resurrection body yet.
So if that’s true how could the Scripture put it in the present tense? It puts it in the present tense because it’s an example of the futuristic present. It’s certain you’re going to get the resurrection body. In fact, from God’s perspective, who is not bound by time, you already have it and you’re already in glory. And so the biblical writers often use the present tense to communicate absolute certainty.
That’s why some of you, when we were in Matthew 13, you might remember way back when, and we went through the parables in this class, of the interadvent age, some of you kind of stumbled over it because I was trying to argue that the kingdom, even in these inner advent parables is a future reality and some of you asked me well, why does it say, for example, like verse 31, “the kingdom of heaven IS” present tense, “like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field.” Why is the present tense used in verse 47 of Matthew 13? “Again, the kingdom of heaven is,” present tense of eimi again, “like a dragnet cast into the sea….”
Why does it keep saying “the kingdom of heaven is,” “the kingdom of heaven is,” “the kingdom of heaven is”? He keeps saying that over and over again because he’s describing something that everybody knew was going to be a certain reality one day. So that’s why if you’re building your theology completely off the present tense, which is what kingdom now theologians are doing in Luke 16:20-21. [Luke 16:20, “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,  and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.”] They’re not really understanding the sophistication of biblical tenses and biblical languages and they’re not really understanding the sophistication of a timeless God who can speak future realities as if they’re present because from His perspective they are present because they’re absolutely certain.
Now here’s another E. R. Craven quote just to show you my source where I’m getting this idea from. And I put these quotes up here not to bore you to death but to show you that I’m not just up here making things up; I’m following a well-trodden path that many scholars have gone down.
Craven says, ““[Pre-eminently to the Greek, by which a certain future may be represented by a verb in the present;” which is what I’ve been trying to explain, the futuristic present, a future certainty in other words, “illustrations may be found, Matthew . 26:2 (after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed, etc.);” there in Matthew 26:2 he says “the Son of Man is betrayed.” Now that’s earlier on the Passion week, I think it’s even before the Passion week if memory serves, but it’s prior to His crucifixion. It’s prior to His betrayal yet He says here, quoting Jesus, in the present tense, “the Son of Man is betrayed,” yet it hadn’t happened yet. Well why speak of it in the present tense? Because it’s certain, that’s why. The betrayal of Christ and the crucifixion of Christ was a decree of God that was going to happen.
So Jesus speaks of it as certainty and He uses the present tense to communicate that certainty, not the fact that it had already happened or it was happening right there when he spoke those words. That’s how our glorification is spoken of, that’s how the coming kingdom is spoken of, that’s how your resurrection body is spoken of, because it’s communicating certainty because it’s narrated from the perspective of a timeless God.
He uses another example, which I already gave you, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, “it is sown in corruption, it is” he says concerning the future resurrection, “ raised in incorruption…. To the conclusion that the language of our Lord must be understood as having reference to the future, it may also be remarked that we are shut up by the following considerations: The supposition disconnects His words from the immediately-following address to the disciples, whilst” there’s that Old English, “whilst the contrary supposition brings them into manifest and beautiful connection therewith, and with His other utterances in this connection may be considered that class of passages which… …are regarded as teaching the doctrine of a present Basileia from their use of the present verb when mentioning it.” See, he’s attacking that idea. He’s saying just because Jesus says the kingdom is in your midst doesn’t mean the kingdom is actually in their midst because the whole context of it is the current rejection of Him by the nation and the future establishment of the kingdom like lightning, and yet that coming establishment is so certain that Jesus could speak of it in the present tense through the use of a futuristic present.
In other words, what He’s telling the Pharisees is you guys aren’t slowing down God’s program one iota, you just go ahead and betray Me, you go ahead and do what your little petty human mind wants to do and you turn Me over to the Romans for execution, and you think you’ve won the day. The fact of the matter is you haven’t stopped anything, in fact, you’ve just ushered in one of the greatest blessing, if not the greatest blessing the human race has ever received—the payment of the sin debt of the world! And you think you’ve stopped the kingdom of God from coming? It’s still just as certain, it’s just not going to happen immediately. So He uses the present tense to communicate certainty.
He says, “(Reference is not now had to those in which there is taught in the context that apparently requires the hypothesis of a present kingdom—each of these receives an independent consideration). These passages are: all those parables which thus refer to the Basileia, Matthew 13:31,” which we looked at a second ago, “38, 44, 45, 47, etc.; also Matt. 11:11; Romans 14:17. These, it is admitted, are all consistent with the hypothesis of a present kingdom; but, under the rule set forth under the preceding head, they are all grammatically consistent with that of a certain” what establishment? “future establishment.” [Excursus on the Basileia,” in Revelation of John, J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 96-97.]
Now why do I have to go back to 1874 to find minds like this? Because no one today talks like this. I mean, I’ve got to go back into the annals of history to even discover such a view is there because everybody today is saying well, He said it in the present tense, therefore Jesus is reigning in the kingdom now. All of my peers and the ones who taught us, with very few exceptions, all taught it that way. And yet to me it’s so exciting to get past modern day scholarship and go back to some of these hidden minds of the past, brilliant minds, that could give you a different perspective. In fact, my dissertation advisors started getting mad at me on my doctoral dissertation at Dallas Seminary because I was quoting people like this. I was quoting people from prior centuries because I thought that was where the light was. And I was reprimanded on more than one occasion and they told me if you can’t quote someone within five years’ time of ours they’re not worth quoting. That to me is so sad because if you cut yourself off from the older commentaries you’re cutting yourself off from so much wisdom and wealth of knowledge.
And in fact, I think this is one of the reasons that the present generation is so ignorant of so many things, because they’re in academic situations where they’re being only forced to reference contemporary scholarship. There is this mindset that if it’s not contemporary scholarship it’s not worth anything. And that in logic is what we call the recency fallacy where you assume that if something is new it must be true. Well guess what? There’s a lot of recent things floating around that aren’t true at all and there’s a lot of old stuff out there that’s completely solid. And I was reprimanded and the dissertation advisor would say well we know more, that’s kind of an authority base that they all used, “we know more than what preceded us.” So therefore you cut yourself off from the past.
Well, I would say this, I think that as humanity has gotten further and further away from man’s original relationship with God I don’t think we’ve gotten smarter; I think the opposite has happened. I think our intellectual capacities have deteriorated. You go back to what people were doing just after the fall, you have Cain and his descendants forging tools. What does it say there back in Genesis 4:22, out “of bronze and iron.“ [Genesis 4:22, “As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.”]
Have you ever stopped to think about that? They were working with bronze and iron simultaneously. Doesn’t secular anthropology teach that first there was the bronze age, I don’t know how long that lasted, followed by the iron age, (if I’ve got the order right). In other words, humanity didn’t get really smart to discover later metals and what we’re learning here in our Bible is that they had both simultaneously at the dawn of human history. Cain was building a city; Noah was building an ark, and don’t tell me that didn’t take some kind of knowledge of engineering and aerodynamics and all that kind of stuff. And I think what’s happened is we’ve gotten further and further away from God our intellectual capacities have deteriorated. In fact, at this church I put a test that were given to 5th grades 4th graders, 8th graders back in the 1800’s, basic grammar school exams, and to be honest with you I look at those questions, out of eleven questions I could answer two of them off the top of my head, yet back in the day this was considered common place, common knowledge.
And so this idea that you can only quote people recently because we know more, frankly I don’t but it, I think when you cut yourself off from the past you remove yourself from an awful lot of wisdom. For example, what’s everybody debating today? Judge Cavanagh, right, I remember watching this whole battle take place. And what’s everybody upset about? Are you going to respect Roe vs. Wade? Are you going to respect settled law, forgetting the fact that Roe vs. Wade was handed down in 1973, is there no constitutional history in the United States of America prior to 1973? I mean, do we have the War of Independence and then we had 1973? What happened between 1776 and 1973? And they’re all worried about are you going to uphold Roe vs. Wade, are you going to uphold settled law? Let me tell you something, as someone who’s gone through law school and studied the Roe vs. Wade decision, the Roe vs. Wade decision trashed settled law, it completely trashed it! And now they’re all worried about respecting settled law? They sure weren’t worried about it in 1973 when Roe vs. Wade was overturning history in this country, from 1776 up to 1973. How did I get off on all that stuff? The point is, E. R. Craven I think has a valuable insight here and he should be listened to.
So all of that to say, and we didn’t get into John 3 tonight, we’ll start that nest time, and I will be here Wednesday, I know there’s a rumor I won’t be here Sunday, that’s just a rumor and Alex Garcia, I think is teaching this Sunday, so it’s not a rumor. He’s a good preacher so don’t play hooky. Play hooky when I’m here, don’t play hooky when our guests are here, that’s not good manners, right? Amen! Can I get an amen to that?
We didn’t get into John 3 tonight, we will be getting into it on Wednesday, the following Wednesday, but I just wanted to give you insight into Luke 17:20-21, how do you handle that from a futuristic kingdom perspective? Number 1, it’s not saying the kingdom is within you. Number 2, if you like the offer of the kingdom framework it could be Jesus saying the kingdom is in your midst meaning if you enthrone Me the kingdom will come. And then there’s a third possibility here that Jesus could be describing a reality that’s completely future, despite the fact that He’s using the present tense, because it would be an example of the futuristic present. And that’s the point that E.R. Craven is making and he’s saying when you look at the whole context of Luke 17 it’s talking about a future establishment of the kingdom.
So the next time we reconvene we’ll be doing John 3:3-5, the Nick at night discourse where Jesus says you have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, you have to be born again to see the kingdom of God; is that saying that the kingdom is present now. Is that what Jesus is saying? We’ll look at that next time.