Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 20 June 2015
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Luke 17 v 20-37
Ever since there have been people around, the questions being asked have been:
- How did the world get here?
- What should I do?
- How is it all going to end?
Our passage today answers the third of these questions, and in doing so, will give us impetus on the second question. We are going to look at what Jesus says about how it will all end, and the answer we have will certainly affect the way we decide to live our lives.
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. 24 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.”
So what does this passage teach us about how it’s all going to end, and how we should live in the light of it?
Our passage starts off with what seems on the face of it to be a reasonable question. But the fact that it’s the Pharisees who are asking it should give us a clue that maybe it’s not so innocent after all. The Jews of Jesus’ day were looking forward to the coming of the Kingdom of God, which was the same as looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, who, they believed, would set up the Kingdom of God on earth, conquer the Romans, and establish Israel as the dominant force on earth. It was believed that the coming of the Messiah would be heralded with armies, banners, conquest and power. So the Pharisees are asking when all this is going to happen.
So Jesus now speaks – first in answer to the Pharisees, and then to his disciples, about the coming of the Kingdom of God.
An Existing Reality
Jesus answers that the Kingdom of God, far from being something that would be heralded with armies, was actually amongst as they spoke, in the person of Himself. It was not coming with fanfares and trumpets, but, quietly in the hearts of men and women who received Jesus. And the kingdom of God exists amongst us as we meet to worship, to eat and drink together, in fact whenever Christian gather. That does not mean that there are no signs of its presence. We believe passionately in the supernatural, that can often be dramatic. But the point that Jesus is making is in answer to the presupposition of the Pharisees, that this would be an armed conquest. Not at all – at least not yet!
A Future reality
What was not known was that the kingdom of God would be “Now and Not yet” – it had already come, but would not come in its fullness until the return of Jesus, having given everyone the opportunity to turn to Him in the meantime. So we are told that the kingdom of God will come in its fullness. There are several points made here:
- It will be longed for. The disciples will long for it, but not see it.
- There will be imposters
- It is a part of a careful timetable of God’s work – so first of all Jesus had to suffer, die, pay the penalty for our sins, rise from the dead, ascend to heaven , pour out the Holy spirit and build his church. But the next item on the agenda is Jesus return.
- It will be unmistakeable – no one will miss it!
- It will be totally unexpected – just as the days of Noah, of Lot – and on 9:11.
A Glorious Reality
Jesus does not dwell on this here, but let there be no doubt, for those who have trusted in Jesus as their saviour and Lord it will be a day of glory and longing fulfilled.
A Horrific reality
But make no mistake, for those who have rejected Jesus, it will be worse than their worst nightmare. The destruction of the flood, of Sodom and Gomorrah will only illustrate the horrors of that day. Here will be a separation of those who believe form those who do not.
An Inevitable Reality
Where there is a dead body, the vultures gather. It is inevitable, just as night follows day, that Jesus wil return. We don’t know the time or date, but we know that it will happen.
So….what should we do?
The Christian needs to live every day in the light of the imminent return of Jesus. And the unbeliever should take the opportunity that still exists to fall on the mercy of God
“Like a thief in the night He will come
There will be nowhere left that you can run
You can fall with the night
Or you can rise with the sun”