In 1973 a guy by the name Gary Kildall wrote the first popular operating system for personal computers. It was called CP/M. According to writer Phillip Fiorini, IBM approached Kildall in 1980 about developing the operating system for IBM PCs. But Kildall snubbed IBM at a crucial meeting.
The day IBM came calling, Kildall chose to fly his new airplane. The frustrated IBM executives then turned to a guy by the name of Bill Gates, who had founded a small software company called Microsoft. Fourteen years later Bill Gates was worth more than 8 billion dollars.
This story provides for us an illustration for our text today. For it is a parallel to the idea of God’s kingdom. Just like Kidall, many people do not realize how big God’s kingdom will become. For a lot of people, because it seems so completely obscure, involve themselves with other forms of entertainments. They give no thought to being a part of God’s kingdom because it seems so completely irrelevant.
This should not be the case though. The kingdom of God is a reality that deserves our utmost attention. The Scripture certainly makes a big deal of it. For instance, you can find the phase “kingdom of God” used over three hundred times throughout the pages of Scripture. That makes it one of the Bible’s most prominent themes.
For again, it may be something that, like Kidall and the operating system market, we completely miss. For all practical purposes, it doesn’t seem like a reality with which we need to be overly concerned. Because we look around and we don’t see any significant reality of it.
That is why this passage of Scripture exists. Here in this Scripture Luke wants to impress upon us the fact that the kingdom of God has most certainly broken into this realm. Because it has, it is imperative that we enter into this kingdom and seek to remain faithful to it.
In order to help us in this regard, Luke expresses something of the presence of this kingdom in verses 20-21.
I. Its presence [20-21]
In these verses we are told about a time when a Pharisee questioned Jesus about when the kingdom of God would come. Now, I can’t help but think that this would have been a little awkward for Jesus. After all, he had been talking about it for quite some time. The whole of his ministry pointed to the fact that he was ushering in the kingdom. He had been doing miracles and casting out demons. These things were overt expressions that the kingdom of God was in fact breaking into the world.
All these things pointed to the fact that Jesus was the King! They pointed to the fact that the kingdom was indeed right in their very midst!
Of course, there was some obscurity. For the kind of kingdom Jesus was bringing was not your typical kingdom. It wasn’t a kingdom that would come with armies and tanks and chariots and swords. It was a different kind of kingdom. It was a kingdom of humility and grace. It was a kingdom that was essentially spiritual in nature. That’s why he clarifies it by saying, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, “Look, here it is.” For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.
Some translations make this say, “It is within you.” But that’s a little be hard because the Pharisees were not typically people who accepted Christ into their lives. The better reading, I think, is that this kingdom is in their midst.
In other words, Jesus is saying, “I’m standing right in front of you. I’m the King! My kingdom exists wherever I am and wherever I am acknowledged as Lord. And you don’t get it because my kingdom is not about muscle and brute strength. It is about grace & redemption. It is about the reign I have, not so much over a land, but over your heart.”
I think that this can be compared to the story that is told about Albert Einstein. Einstein was once talking with a young lady and enjoying a fine conversation. When they were done, he asked her what her name was. Despite all his great knowledge and great understanding, Einstein was oblivious to the fact that the lady with whom he was talking was his own daughter!
That’s essentially the point that is made in these two verses. Despite all their learning and great knowledge of the Scriptures, these Pharisees were oblivious to the fact that they were staring their King right in the face.
But so many people miss Christ’s kingdom because they don’t realize the significance of Jesus. It certainly had to be the case for Theophilus. Remember that’s who Luke was writing to. If Theophilus was a Roman, what would he be wanting in a ruler. He’d likely want a guy who has some grit. He’d want a true Ceasar. The Roman mindset is one of power & might.
And there isn’t much that’s changed over the years. Who do we want to be our sovereign? It’s not typically the guy who is standing by the punch bowl.
It is true, there’s not much when it comes to Jesus. He doesn’t seem like much. Scripture even says that he had “no beauty that we should behold him.” Jesus doesn’t parade himself around in regal attire. And, to be frank, everything about him seems downright obscure, if not altogether weak.
But what we see about Jesus should not deceive us. The king has arrived. And his kingdom has been inaugurated in him.
The important thing for us is that we must make sure we do not make the same mistake. Jesus isn’t much to behold, at least, not at the moment. His kingdom isn’t armed with warheads and tanks and vastly arrayed armies. But the kingdom of Christ has broken into this world. The presence of his kingdom is real because Christ himself is real. And, if you want to be a part of that kingdom, you need to make sure that you are aligned with the king.
We must not forget, like this Pharisee must have, what is recorded in the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel records a vision of a little rock that crashes into the feet of a gigantic statue. And that little rock begins to grow. And that little pebble eventually turns into a gigantic Mountain.
Right here you have the pebble. Jesus is that tiny, and seemingly insignificant rock. In him we have the initiation of this kingdom, and we ought not to miss it because he doesn’t possess the power and the regality that we would much prefer.
But you will notice that Luke continues to develop this whole understanding of the kingdom for us. After making mention of the presence of his kingdom, he expresses something of its plight.
II. Its plight [22-25]
In verses 22-25 Jesus turns to his disciples, and he explains that this kingdom will not develop very quickly. As a matter of fact, this kingdom will exist, so to speak, under the cross. The kingdom that he is bringing will go through much suffering.
In verse 22 Jesus says, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.” Now he is talking about the glorious coming of Christ at the end of the ages. The time when he comes in judgment to trounce his enemies. The idea of the “Son of Man” gets at this. Jesus uses that title “Son of Man” 4 times in this passage. And that draws from the book of Daniel. Daniel had a vision of “the Son of Man” coming on the clouds. It was a vision of the might and majesty of the Messiah coming to establish his kingdom in power.
And Jesus says, “The days are coming when you will long for that day. You will long for Jesus to come again. But you won’t see it.”
Why are you going to long for it? It is because you are going to be suffering. You are going to be oppressed. You are going to be persecuted. You are going to want your enemies to be lifted off of you and you are going to want reprieve from their hatred.”
Then, in the next verse he talks about people pointing here and there and going after false messiahs or false appearing. In other words, people are going to be eager for Christ to return. They are going to be anticipating it and desiring it. But, in verse 24, He says don’t believe them because my coming will be obvious to everyone. It will be like lightening streaking across the sky. There is going to be no mistaking it because everyone is going to witness it.
Then in verse 25 he says, before that happens you have to understand that I’m going to die. Jesus says before he can come in that glory, he must “suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
Now, what is he doing here? He is preparing his disciples, isn’t he? He’s just said, “I’m the king!” But he wants them to understand that his kingdom is going to be established in a certain way. It is going to come through the cross. And there is going to be a certain amount of time where this kingdom exists without its king visibly present. And his kingdom will seem like a real loser because it is oppressed.
Let’s go back to that vision in Daniel about the pebble becoming a grand mountain. It seems so regal, doesn’t it? But is that the way Christ’s kingdom is? Is that what it looks like? Not at all. Everywhere we look, it seems like it is being stamped out.
We are experiencing this in our own day. As we see the secularist agenda advancing, it almost seems like secularism is strangling the life out of the kingdom of God. We can look all around the world and what do we see? We see nothing but persecution and attack.
Its true. It almost always seems like evil powers are pounding upon us like were a bunch of ants being squashed. And the question probably arises, “Why should I join this bunch?”
Of course, for Luke’s audience, this would be important. I mean, it would be silly for anyone to think that they should become a Christian if their king were not around. People would be like, “Your kind died? Why do I want to join in with you guys?”
But this is Luke’s way of telling them, “Everything is going according to plan!”
For us today, the same thing is being communicated. Everything is going according to plan. For those of us who are Christians, it is an encouragement to us to not lose heart. We are supposed to be the underdogs in this fight. That’s the way Christ has ordained it.
And for those who are not part of this kingdom, don’t be fooled. Just because we are oppressed, doesn’t mean we won’t win out in the end.
As a matter of fact, that’s what we see in the last portion of our text. After talking about the kingdom’s presence and plight, Jesus goes on to talk about its penetration and perfection.
III. Its penetration & perfection [26-37]
In verses 26-27 Jesus tells us how His rule, which is now spiritual in nature, penetrates into the visible realm in a powerful and visible way. He begins to prophesy about his coming again, expressing that it will be just like the days of Noah and Lot. People will be going about their normal everyday affairs—eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, then right in the middle of it, the Son of Man will appear in Judgement.
It will come upon them suddenly and with great power. It will take them by surprise and overwhelm them.
Now, some people think what Jesus says here applied to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. That’s because it talks about the one being on the housetop and in the field. They are not to dawdle and go back for their things. They need to flee while they have the chance or they will be caught in the Roman invasion.
I will confess that I’m friendly to that idea. There are certainly some things that seem to fit. And there can be no doubt that destruction of Jerusalem was no doubt a definitive act of God where the Rule of Christ was manifested. It was the gavel of God coming down on Apostate Judaism. In this case, the visible reign of Christ was manifested in a stark and penetrating way. It was God’s way of saying, “MY kingdom will not tolerate unbelief, nor will it be limited to a certain nation or region (i.e. the land of Israel).”
But I am also of the opinion that what is said here points to a greater reality. And you cannot read this without being reminded of the great and final Day of the Lord. The destruction of Jerusalem was only a foreshadowing of the ultimate day when the Son of Man would come again on the clouds to perfect his kingdom.
If what is said here does apply to Jerusalem, we must remember that it is only an indication that the Kingdom of God will reach its consummation. Christ’s rule will penetrate visibly into this world when he appears and brings the final judgment.
Now, I should mention this. I understand that there is a stream of interpretation that takes this passage to refer to a rapture of the saints. Some read verses 34 and 35, where it talks about two people grinding grain and one will be taken and the other left. There will be two in bed, one will be taken and the other left. Some read that and think it means that the one who is a believer will be taken up into heaven and the unbeliever will be left here on earth.
I’d like to suggest that this is not the meaning. For one, if you compare it to those in Noah and Lot’s day, you’ll understand that the ones who were left were the ones who received grace! The ones who were taken were the ones who faced judgment. The people of Noah’s day were swept away in the flood and only 8 people were left. Sure, Lot was taken out of the city, but he was left in that Sodom & Gomorrah was completely taken out by the sulfuric rain that came down upon them.
This fits with the last verse we read too. The disciples ask, “Where are they taken?” And Jesus answers by saying, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” Now, that doesn’t sound like heaven to me! It sounds more like judgment.
All of this though, is a reminder of how important it is for you to be in this kingdom. Just because it lacks any real luster now, does not mean that it will be that way forever. What is said here is a reminder that Christ will be victorious, and those who are on the wrong side of that kingdom will meet with a terrible end.
If Christ is not now your King, then you must know that his kingdom will eventually prevail. This prophecy is a warning. If you persist, then you will be judged and you will not enjoy being among those who enjoy life and everlasting peace.
These words are, then, not so much indications of judgment, but invitations of grace. You do not have to be one who is swept away because of your unbelief. Rather, you can enter his kingdom. If you will simply acknowledge him as king and submit to him as Lord, you can have a place in it.
As we said at the beginning: Kidall did not know what the operating system market would become. And eventually, he missed out. But not so for Bill Gates. Eventually, he had the opportunity to enjoy the fullness of it.
Let that be a lesson to you. May you be one who does not miss out on the ultimate expression of the kingdom of God because of its present obscurity.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.