LOOKING AT THE KINGDOM YOU CANNOT SEE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 14, 2018
20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” 22 And he said to the disciples, “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. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot's wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
— Luke 17:20-37, ESV
I will never forget the look on my girls’ faces when the tram rounded the turn and there it was, Cinderella Castle, right in the middle of Disney World. Their eyes were as big as headlights. They were given Disney toys from birth and had looked at many pictures of the castle, but there is nothing like seeing the Magic Kingdom with your own eyes.
There are many other castles and kingdoms we can see on this earth that evoke awe and wonder. Some of you have toured our nation’s capital or been pictured in front of Buckingham Palace. A good friend recently sent an e-mail with a picture of the Taj Mahal. All of these places represent majesty, authority, a kingdom you can see with your own eyes.
Today I want you to look at a kingdom you cannot see. It is infinitely greater and of more consequence that all the collective kingdoms of this world. It is referenced ninety-nine times in the New Testament and explained in some detail in this passage in Luke’s Gospel. It is the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God holds authority and power over all of heaven and earth. It paved all past roads, controls all present circumstances, and guarantees future promises. Though we cannot see it, we look at it every day. How do we look at the kingdom we cannot see?
You cannot see the kingdom of God in the past, but it was there.
Our Lord probably uttered these words during His last look at Jerusalem before His betrayal, arrest, mock trials, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The Pharisees were aggressively questioning Jesus concerning claims that He is the true King of the Jews and Savior of the world. It was with sarcasm and unbelief that Jesus was “being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come.”
To the Pharisees, the kingdom of God had already come in the past, and they fancied themselves the keepers of the keys. They saw the kingdom of God in their built, rebuilt, and remodeled Temple Mount. They felt they had entered the kingdom through the doors of religious rituals, rules, and regulations. They could count the number of nickels and noses in their denomination, and to them it represented the kingdom of God.
But a thousand Pharisees, or a billion Roman Catholics, or sixteen million Southern Baptists, does not a kingdom make. Never at any time in past history could the Jerusalem Temple, or the Vatican, or the First Baptist Church, be called the kingdom of God. These are places you can see and people you can count, and Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.”
You cannot see the kingdom of God in past religious expression or experience. Just being a Pharisee or a Jew in Old Testament times did not make you a member of the kingdom of God. Just because you joined a Christian church in the past and have your name on a church roll does not guarantee citizenship in the kingdom of God. You cannot see the kingdom of God in the collective past professions of faith, places of worship, and myriads of religious activity.
But, it was there, at least for a chosen few. There were always some Jews during the Old Covenant days who trusted in the person of Jehovah rather than their place at the Temple. There have always been professing Christians during the past two thousand years who not only professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ but actually practiced their faith in worship and works.
The elect of past ages could not see an earthly kingdom of God, because they were the kingdom of God. Such is our opportunity in the present.
You cannot see the kingdom of God in the present, but it is here.
After Jesus denounced the Pharisees for clinging to a kingdom they could see, He made one of the most startling and serious revelations in all of Scripture. He revealed the secret place of the spiritual kingdom of God. He said, in present tense language, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” In this great revelation the Lord means at least three important things.
Christ is calling us to focus on a kingdom that Pharisees cannot see. Those village idiots in Jesus’ day were looking over their shoulders at places built in the past, and could not see the person right in front of them, the promised Messiah. No one who trusts in religion, or works, or human goodness, instead of the person and work of Jesus Christ will ever see the kingdom of God. We cannot see Christ physically right now, but He is here.
Christ is calling us to focus on a kingdom that is built from the inside out. God, in Christ, through the Spirit, enters into us, regenerating the heart, renewing the mind, rearranging our total being to be totally committed to Him. This cannot be seen with the human eye, nor the most sophisticated x-ray and scanning machines. But believers know what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory” (ref. Colossians 1:27). You cannot see Him, but He is there.
Christ is calling us to focus on a kingdom that is corporate, a team, a family, where there are no lone rangers. At this precise moment, Christ is building His church, a particular plurality of persons who are promised, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (ref. Matthew 18:20). Sadly, you cannot see Christ in every visible church, but when God’s people gather around God’s word and engage in godly worship, the kingdom of God has come, and the King is in our midst.
At our present moment, God is with us. We cannot see Him, save with eyes of faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:7). At some point in the future, however, according to the word of our Lord, the faithful will see and rejoice, and the unfaithful will look on with horror, as the invisible kingdom of God focuses into full spectacular sight.
You cannot see the kingdom of God in the future, but it is coming.
Unlike Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, we cannot go back to the future and see what is going to happen. And I hate to break it to you, but the lady downtown with the crystal ball is a fake. No one can see the future, except God, but every person who has ever lived will be exist in the future, either inside or outside the coming, visible kingdom of God.
Jesus came the first time to suffer and die on the cross for the sins of citizens of the kingdom of God. Jesus will come again to make His kingdom visible, powerful, eternal. When Jesus comes, you will find yourself either in or out, and there will be no second chances. In order to get us ready, Christ gives us some clues.
The second coming of Jesus Christ will occur quickly and unexpectedly like “lightning flashes and lights up the sky” and “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Even saved people will be somewhat surprised, and lost people will watch in immediate astonishment and eventual panic.
The second coming of Jesus Christ will follow a time of decay in society and apostasy in the church, like “the days of Noah” and “the days of Lot.” In those days there was very little faith on earth (look ahead to Luke 18:8). The kingdom of God is like a grain of sand beside an ocean of sin. Once again people around us are adopting the morals of animals and most professing believers really do not believe at all. God’s previous forays into destruction are just a foretaste of the wrath to come, when the kingdom comes.
It took nearly two thousand years for Christianity to cover the world, deeply influencing first world culture and offering hope to second and third world societies. It has only taken our lifetimes to see that influence unravel in the West and be replaced in the East with secular humanism and radical Islam. “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows” (ref. Mark 13:32), I know, but I know when Jesus comes again it will be in a day and hour much like our own.
The second coming of Jesus Christ will separate everyone into two groups, forever and ever. “One will be taken and the other left,” Jesus said. One will be taken into the visible, glorious, indescribably wonderful kingdom of God. The others will be left behind to endure the wrath of God and an eternity separated from Him, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
What a warning this is to unbelievers everywhere! May they repent and believe and be saved! But the primary audience of the word of God is the people of God. So let us be warned and encouraged, too.
There is no kingdom of God on earth that we can see. We cannot make a perfect family or a perfect church, no matter how hard we try. We will never live in a perfect country, ruled by righteousness and truth. We should not strive to enrich our lives with an abundance of wealth and material things, for material kingdoms cannot last. We must be true to our family, active in our church, supportive of our country, and work for what we own, but in none of these things can we see the kingdom of God.
Rather, we must focus on the King, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Focus on the King you cannot see. He is lovely, worthy, supreme. He is in our midst, and those who follow the King find themselves in the kingdom of God. You just can’t see it, yet.
Copyright Â© 2018 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org