1. Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world." John 18:36. St. Paul said: "The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:17. The angel told Mary that Christ's kingdom would have no end. Luke 1:33. Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs even to infants. Mark 10:14. In the kingdom of God we have only servants, not masters. Matthew 20:25- 27. The kingdom has only one Master, Jesus Christ. The weapons of the kingdom of God are not physical, but only the Word of God. II Corinthians 10:4. In the kingdom of God the peace of God reigns. Jesus said; "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, I give to you."John 14:27. The kingdom of God lives in the hearts of Christians. Jesus said: "The kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:20.
2. But the people at Jesus' time, including the disciples, thought that the kingdom of God was an earthly, physical, powerful kingdom, similar to earthly government. That's why the two sons of Zebedee wanted to sit one at His right hand and one at His left hand in His kingdom. Matthew 20:20-23. That's why the disciples were offended when Jesus told them that He had to suffer and die. Luke 9:22-44. That's why, just before He ascended into heaven, the disciples asked Him whether He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel at this time. Acts 1:6. Perhaps because of this idea the Emmaus disciples said that they hoped Jesus was going to ransom Israel. Luke 24:21. Because of this false idea the people wanted to seize Him and make Him their breadking. John 6:15. And that was the reason for the question of the Pharisees: "When will the kingdom of God come?" On a later occasion (Luke 19:11) the people thought that the kingdom of God would come immediately.
3. Read all of Matthew 24; Mark 13 and Luke 21. There Jesus says: "Beware lest you be misled. For many will come in My name saying `I am the one' and `the time is near.' Don't follow after them." In these chapters Jesus tells us that the times before the end of the world will be filled with wars, tumults, earthquakes, famines and many troubles. There will be no glorious kingdom of God on this earth. In fact Paul tells us: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22. And Jesus said: "In the world you have tribulation. But be courageous, I have overcome the world." John 16:33.
4. In our text verses 20-23 speak of the kingdom of God in this life. In this life we shall not see one of the days of the Son of man. We won't see a glorious day. That will come only on Judgment Day, verse 24, when Jesus' glory will suddenly appear all over the earth. But first Jesus must suffer, 25, for the sins of man. Likewise we in this life must suffer, not to pay for our sins but to keep us humble. Then in verses 26- 30 Jesus pictures the indifferent carelessness of unbelievers in every age of this world. In Noah's time, in Lot's time, people lived only for the things of this life: marriage, food, clothing, enjoyment. But Christ will return suddenly for judgment just as the flood and fire appeared suddenly and destroyed all unbelievers. In this life the kingdom of God is a hidden, suffering kingdom. In the life to come it will be a glorious, revealed kingdom. In this life Jesus suffered. Now He reigns in glory.
5. In verse 20 of our text the Pharisees were asking the question which was on everybody's mind. Jesus answered them in 20b and 21 and then in verses 22-37. He speaks particularly to His disciples, the believers because they are so easily overcome by the false ideas of their age.
6. Refer to Buls' essay on Church and Government (St. Petersburg, 1993) part II as to the nature, time, substance, membership, purpose, activity, standards, means and tools of the Church or the kingdom of God.
THEME: The Kingdom Of God
The twelve tribes of Israel under Moses were not identical to the kingdom of God. For example, only those who looked at the bronze serpent lived (Numbers 21:7-9). The rest died in unbelief. Another example: Under the theocracy (Deuteronomy 21:1) God allowed unbelievers to divorce their wives. But Jesus called this "hardness of heart" (Matthew 19:8). Not all Israelites were members of the kingdom of God. Another example: At John 8:33 the Jews claimed that mere descent from Abraham made them free, members of the kingdom of God. But Jesus rejected that idea. Paul says at Romans 9:6: "They are not all Israel who are of Israel." In our text for today Jesus tells us what the kingdom of God is not and what it is.
I. WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT
A. God's Kingdom does not come with observation, verse 20. It is plain that the Pharisees' understanding of the term "kingdom of God" was not the same as Jesus' understanding thereof. In this verse "observation" means "watching, spying" (cf. the use of the verb at 6:7; 14:1; 20:20; Acts 9:24). It means "observance of rules" Galatians 4:10. The noun "observation" occurs only here in the New Testament. It means "to observe in a physical way so that one can observe and watch. "Jesus explains when He says that people will be wrong when they say: "Look here. Look there." Jesus explains at Matthew 24:23 "Then if any one says to you: `Look here is the Christ' or `here He is' don't believe them, for false Christs and false prophets will arise and will deceive, if possible, even the elect. "The Pharisees' understanding of the kingdom of God was a Christless kingdom of false prophets.
B. It is not a physical kingdom, verse 21. In the wilderness the children of Israel wanted a life of much food and no suffering, Exodus 16:3. At Samuel's time they wanted a king like the other nations, I Samuel 8:5, even though God did not will that. In Jesus' day the Jews thought that mere descent from Abraham made them members of the Kingdom, John 8:39. But in our text Jesus says that the kingdom of God is within you. The kingdom of God, in this life, is hidden in the hearts of men. Paul said: "The foundation of God stands firm, having this seal: `The Lord knows those who are His'. " Unconverted Paul thought he was a member of the kingdom of God but when he was converted he learned that membership is by faith. See II Corinthians 5:7.
II. WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS
A. It is a kingdom of certainty. The Pharisees asked Jesus: "When will the kingdom of God come?" In Acts 1:6 the disciples asked: "When will you restore the kingdom to Israel?" They were not certain. Paul describes unbelievers at II Timothy 3:7: "Ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth." At John 10:24 Jesus' enemies asked: "How long will you keep us in suspense?" He said: "I've told you but you won't believe." So long as unbelief reigns in a man's heart he is uncertain and follows anyone who claims to be Christ. The Christian says: "I am persuaded that nothing can take me from God's love in Christ." Romans 8:38.
B. It is a kingdom of endurance. Jesus warns His disciples in verse 22 that while people are saying: "Look here. Look there" they will long for the glorious appearance of Jesus in judgment. But they will have to endure much tribulation. They will have to suffer for Christ who suffered for them. They will have to put up with a world that is sunken in carnal desires and goals, verses 26-37. Jesus promised: "He that endures to the end shall be saved." Matthew 24:13.
Christians say: "Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever." They live their lives by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for them. Galatians 2:20. Amen.