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The Coming of the Kingdom

June 2014
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the-kingdom-of-God-is-at-hand-Change-your-ways-and-believe-the-Good-NewsEnd times prophecy has been a major area of interest in the American church culture during most of my lifetime, and especially in the past four plus decades starting with Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth,” which I read at the time it was published back in 1970 when I was a mere 18 years of age. In fact, the book has remained popular over time and is still in print today. The following description of the book is taken from the order page on ChristianBook.com:

The impact of “The Late Great Planet Earth” cannot be overstated. The New York Times called it the “no. 1 non-fiction bestseller of the decade”. For Christians and non-Christians of the 1970s, Hal Lindsey’s blockbuster served as a wake-up call on events soon to come and events already unfolding – all leading up to the greatest event of all: the return of Jesus Christ. The years since have confirmed Lindsey’s insights into what biblical prophecy says about the times we live in. Whether you’re a church-going believer or someone who wouldn’t darken the door of a Christian institution, the Bible has much to tell you about the imminent future of this planet. In the midst of an out-of-control generation, it reveals a grand design that’s unfolding exactly according to plan. The rebirth of Israel. The threat of war in the Middle East. An increase in natural catastrophes. The revival of Satanism and witchcraft. These and other signs, foreseen by prophets from Moses to Jesus, portend the coming of an antichrist…of a war which will bring humanity to the brink of destruction…and of incredible deliverance for a desperate, dying planet.

Of the four views of the end times, Hal Lindsay and his book come from a dispensational premillennialism, pre-tribuation rapture point of view, which is still very popular today in many churches across the nation. While I read widely on end times prophecy in my younger years when it was a very popular topic in the church at large, I don’t keep up with any of the “end times” ministries in particular that have proliferated since that time. So, before you get bleary-eyed on me, this post is not about that particular view point or any of the other three views on the end times. Innumerable volumes have been written on this topic and I do not have either the theological training or desire to enter into that discussion. My point in mentioning this subject is to acknowledge the vast interest in end times eschatology in many church cultures today and to bring up the subject of “the coming kingdom of God” as described in Luke 17:20-37, which states:

“Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

“Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

“‘Where, Lord?’ they asked.

“He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’”

There is a good, albeit lengthy, article/commentary on this passage titled, Sign-Seeking and the Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37),” written by Bob Deffinbaugh on Bible.org. As noted in his article, the passage is broken down into five main points:

(1) The Pharisees and the Kingdom of God (vv. 20-21)
(2) The Disciples and the Kingdom of God (vv. 22-37)
(3) The danger of over-zealous expectation (vv. 22-25)
(4) The danger of worldly preoccupation (vv. 26-32)
(5) Summation (vv.33-37)

First off, while end times prophesy is usually centered around specific events the will occur leading up to the end of this current age and the second coming of Jesus Christ (a specific event), Jesus clearly stated to the Pharisees in vv. 20-21 that “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, we cannot see it or point to it as the kingdom of God is in our midst (or as another version states, “the kingdom of God is within you” ~NKJV).

So what exactly is “the kingdom of God”? An excellent definition is found on GotQuestions.org and states the following:

The kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal sovereign God over all creatures and things (Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:3). The kingdom of God is also the designation for the sphere of salvation entered into at the new birth (John 3:5-7), and is synonymous with the “kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of God embraces all created intelligence, both in heaven and earth that are willingly subject to the Lord and are in fellowship with Him. The kingdom of God is, therefore, universal in that it includes created angels and men. It is eternal, as God is eternal, and it is spiritual—found within all born-again believers. We enter the kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that kingdom for eternity. It is a relationship “born of the spirit” (John 3:5), and we have confident assurance that it is so because the Spirit bears witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16).

God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and the ruler over all of His creation. However, the designation “the kingdom of God” compasses that realm which is subject to God and will be for eternity. The rest of creation will be destroyed. Only that which is part of the “kingdom of God” will remain (quote source here).

Repent Remember Return“We enter the kingdom of God when we are born again, and we are then part of that kingdom for eternity”. . . and, therefore, it becomes a part of who we are the moment we are born again (a definition of the term born again can be found at this link) and from that point on it is within us always. However, at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ and his second physical appearance on earth, the kingdom of God will be established on the earth and he will rule and reign at that time (see Rev. 19:11-21; 20:1-6).

Jesus does warn us that as the end times approach, in both Luke 17:22-24 and also Matthew 24:4-8, not to be duped by false messiahs, and also that we would hear of wars and rumors of wars and not to be alarmed. And while current end times prophesies stress actual events going on all around us in this world, Jesus clearly states in Luke 17:26-35 that people on the earth at the time of the end will be going about living life much as they did at the time of Noah and Lot and totally unaware of the coming end when judgment and destruction hits:

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

In a society such as ours that offers so many, many distractions that can divert our focus and attention on so many other things than Jesus Christ, we need to be alert to “the danger of worldly preoccupation” as Bob Deffinbaugh states in his article mentioned above, Sign-Seeking and the Coming of the Kingdom (Luke 17:20-37).” He makes the following statement (p. 10):

In both Noah’s day and in Lot’s, people were preoccupied with “living.” Life to them consisted of the earthly, temporal things which bring men pleasure, meaning, and joy. “Life,” as Jesus is using the term here, is not just one’s physical existence, but one’s source of meaning and significance. When people’s “lives” are caught up in the pursuits of living, they become insensitive to spiritual matters, and in particular to those warnings of the Scriptures and the saints concerning God’s coming and His judgment. The same spiritual dullness which unbelievers face because of their worldliness (finding their “life” in the world, in temporal things), Christians can experience (see Luke 21:34-36). Look at Lot and his family. Lot’s son-in-laws refused to leave Sodom, and thought Lot out of his mind. Lot himself was most reluctant to leave. While Lot’s wife left Sodom, her heart was still there, and thus she turned back to see all that she loved, her “life” going up in smoke. [See the result of her action and what happened to her in Genesis 19:26.]

One of the greatest dangers that faces those of us who are born-again believers in Jesus Christ is, as Bob Deffinbaugh’s writes in his conclusion to his article:

“. . . that of worldly preoccupations, which diminishes our desire for the kingdom, and dims our view of its reality, and dulls our desire for it to come. When our ‘life’ is found in Christ, and we can give up all else, all other things in which the world find ‘life’ then we will eagerly await His return, and we will work to hasten it. This is why Jesus has had so much to say about possessions. Possessions will possess us if we find our ‘life’ to be wrapped up with them. When we use our possessions to further the kingdom, then we lay up treasure in heaven, and we quicken our hearts toward heaven” (p. 13).

He also warns us of “a neatly packed definition of spirituality, with all kinds of external check points. [Much like the Pharisees] they think that by merely ‘following the program,’ [e.g. our own preconceived rules and definitions of what ‘spirituality’ looks and acts like] men will be spiritual, and that anyone who is not ‘in the program’ (whatever that program may be–and there are many programs) cannot be spiritual” (p. 13). He continues by stating:

“There are those as well whose desire to be godly and to sense God’s personal presence in their lives is so great that they lack stability and endurance. They are persistently chasing off after some new claim of spiritual vitality. They go to this church and then the next, the follow after one ‘spiritual’ leader after another. A misguided desire to be spiritual can be the source of many cultish pursuits. Spirituality, like the kingdom of God, will finally and fully come in time, when God has sovereignly determined it would, and in the way He has chosen. We should not seek to be ‘spiritual’ per se, but to be obedient and faithful to Him who both saves and sanctifies” (p. 13).

Whether our own spirituality becomes “stiff and programmed” (and leaves us judging others who don’t look and act just like us) or we care more about all the things–money, possessions, power, accolades, acquisitions, status, etc.–our society offers us (e.g., “the good life) while claiming all of these “external” things are primarily what God would have for us; we need to be on alert that we are on a downward slope that leads nowhere. This life in Christ is not about accumulating “stuff” or acting “spiritual” much like the Pharisees did (and they did both and totally missed the kingdom of God).

What makes us Christlike is not found in material possessions, money, accolades, or acting “spiritual.” What makes us Christlike in internal, not external. And it’s a matter of the heart, not the head or our own will and wants. The kingdom of God is within us, but we can squelch it out of existence if we live for ourselves and what we want and let anything or anyone else take the place of Jesus Christ in our lives. He is our Lord and Savior, and not the things we allow to take our attention away from him.

As Jesus stated, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). So . . . 

Will we spend our days seeking “the good life” . . .

Or following “the Giver of Life” . . . .

The choice is ours . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” (2009) by Phillips, Craig and Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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