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Within You

Luke 17:20 -- 37

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If ink were blood then the most severe of battles would be over prophecy. No subject disgraces the church more than the combat over revelation. Therefore, we will approach this passage with the reminder that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

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 He said to the disciples, "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. "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. "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. "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. "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. "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. "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. "There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. ["Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left."] And answering they *said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered."

(Luk 17:20-37 NASB)

The Kingdom of God

It must be noted first that this passage deals with two things often interchanged: the kingdom of God and the Second Coming. We shall teach on the Second Coming a little later; first , let us deal with the kingdom of God.

No signs visible

Christ here tells us that there will be no visible signs of the coming of the kingdom of God. “Not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drum” is indeed the case. Over and again Christ portrays the kingdom to be a gradual, growing thing – it starts out small but in the end is very large.

More to the point today, Christ tells us that it will be without “signs.” In other words, the kingdom does not arrive by miracles, but by the ordinary process of growth.

In your midst

The text of the Scripture hear can have two meanings:

  • It may be translated “within you.” This is the way the King James had it, and therefore the interpretation was that the kingdom of God was something that happened internally, by your thought and will.
  • It can also be translated “in your midst,” meaning that the kingdom of God is among the people, living in society, but not being of society.

Each view has its adherents; perhaps Christ meant both. The word in question is entos, from which we get our word “enteric”, meaning something related to our intestines.

Asking the wrong question

The point is simple: to ask “where” or “when” the kingdom of God will arrive is asking a nonsense question. The right questions are “who” (Jesus Christ) and “how” (gradually, almost unnoticed). The end of the church as we know it will be at the Second Coming of our Lord.

The Day of the Lord

Known variously as the day of the Lord, the day of Wrath, the day of the Son of Man (and not all agree that those are all the same), the day is different from the kingdom of God. Regrettably, the two are often confused. One reason for this confusion is that the day of the Lord is the point at which the kingdom of God (his people) are transformed into eternity.

In the deserts of California there lives a cactus known as the century plant. It rarely blooms or flowers, but when conditions are just right it shoots up a huge center stalk, flowers blooming. If you were to encounter one not knowing this, you would not imagine such a thing. The name comes from the rarity of the blossom (i. e. it blooms once in a century). The church is like that; when the conditions are right, the church will bloom in all its resurrected glory. But when are conditions just right?

First comes…

Christ gives us very little concerning the timing of his return – but a great deal of instruction on what must be done in the meanwhile. Here is the little we do know:

  • As this was taught before the Crucifixion, Christ rightly tells them that he must suffer first.
  • More as a warning than as an indicator, he tells us that false prophets and false Christs, with convincing miraculous power, will arise. (This should settle the hash of Joseph Smith, Mohammed and any number of lesser lights).
  • One very tangible sign is this: the Gospel must be preached to the entire world (“all nations”) before he returns.[1]
  • Finally, the sinister figure known as “the man of lawlessness” (and the apostasy he heads) must come.[2] There is much speculation on this; in general, Protestants think he is either the papacy (collectively) or the last pope.
Signs of the times

Christ is equally general concerning the signs of the times:

  • He tells us that there will be wars and rumors of wars, disasters aplenty – and these are just the beginning. This seems to be of little assistance to those trying to determine the time – but of great help to those who have already figured it out. War and disaster we have in plenty; they can easily be made to fit whatever theory you have.
  • One sign which distinguishes us from the church of the Middle Ages: we have those who are certain the Lord’s return is simply mythical. The mockers and scoffers are with us in force. To be a true Christian in our day is to be laughed at.
  • Another sign is this: things will be happening as they normally do. This is not of much help in determining the time, but it does point out that when things are going well, we should still be prepared for the coming of our Lord.

The Return

Having established how little we have in the way of signs for “when” (and I think that was Christ’s intention) we may now proceed to “how.” Christ’s main point here is that we will not be able to miss it. If you have to be told where, that’s not the one you’re looking for.


We are told little about the opening of the return, but what little we do know is impressive enough.

  • It will be seen all over the earth. There will be no mistake about it.
  • There will be great signs in the visible heavens. Stars falling, moon failing to light, darkened sun are mentioned. Some[3] interpret this as events in the political sphere (remember how Joseph told his brothers that their stars bowed down to his?); the plain sense of the Scripture, however, seems against this.
  • The purpose of his coming is to give everyone what they deserve – good or bad. It is a time of judgment.

Much difficulty exists in going beyond this, as the various theories of interpretation vary significantly in more details. One issue will serve as an example: The points cited seem to imply one resurrection of the dead. Those who follow Hal Lindsey’s work will know that he posits six resurrections (one of those being the resurrection of Christ).

Christ’s enemies

It is sometimes difficult for Christians to comprehend, but the gentle Jesus they have been taught to know is also the Lord of Judgment. So, briefly, here’s what we know will happen to those who are Christ’s enemies:

  • They will be weeded out of the throng containing the church. Those who were worshippers in name only – the goats[4] - will be separated from those who did God’s will on earth. Those who are ashamed to call themselves Christians will find Christ ashamed of them.
  • These will receive the treatment of God’s wrath – eternally. It is pictured in Revelation as a lake of fire.
  • They will suffer from “eternal destruction”[5] – the eternity without Christ. This is the popular way of phrasing things today: a “Christless eternity.” Somehow, that doesn’t seem nearly as bad as hell.

Beyond these, we are into the various theories again. But I submit that these are quite sufficient to make the point.

For His children

Those whom Christ has redeemed have a much different fate:

  • He said he was going “to prepare a place” for us. This, one suspects, is the same as the New Heaven and New Earth seen by the Apostle John. All of our pictures of this are symbolic; what those symbols tell us is that this will indeed be a glorious change.
  • The Christian redeemed will have a new body[6] – raised from the dead or meeting him in the air.
  • Finally, we will be with him for all of eternity.

What to do

Having said all this, and leaving a great deal not said, just what should we do about it?

Permit me to begin with what we should not do:

  • We should not pass judgment on each other.[7]
  • We should not use revelation to replace righteousness. If you have all knowledge of his coming, and have not love, what good is it?
  • When he comes – don’t look back.

What should we do?

  • Over and again he tells us – be on the alert! Be ready!
  • Ready – how? By doing what he commanded us to do. From the ordinary charity of the Christian life to the Lord’s Supper, we must not neglect that which he has commanded.

It sounds simple; it is. It sounds unbelievable too. But then again, who would have believed in the resurrection before Christ showed it to us?

[1] Matthew 24:14

[2] 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

[3] Generally speaking, these are adherents to the Post-Millennial interpretation.

[4] Matthew 25:31ff

[5] 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10

[6] Philippians 3:20-21

[7] 1 Corinthians 4:5

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