What is the message of Luke 17:21?
“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, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”” (Luke 17:20–21, ESV)
This is the beginning of Jesus’ teaching on the coming of God’s kingdom through him. The Pharisees want to know when God’s kingdom is coming. They are expecting Jesus to give them physical signs of the coming of the kingdom in the last days.
But he shocks them by telling them God’s kingdom doesn’t come by observable signs. It comes through Jesus who inaugurates the kingdom of God. This is why he says God’s kingdom is in their midst. He is standing right in front of them. But they can’t see him.
They don’t see the Messiah who inaugurates the kingdom of God by coming himself. Through his teachings and his Person he brings God’s kingdom. They expected God’s kingdom to overtake the Roman Empire and free them from Rome.
But God’s kingdom was not about overruling the kingdoms of this world. Jesus came to bring salvation from sin so we can live for him until he comes to finish the work of his kingdom. God’s kingdom begins in the heart of every individual who follows him. It spreads through evangelism, overtaking the thrones of the idols we set up for ourselves.
That’s why Jesus continues to talk about the coming of the Son of Man. He does give them signs that they don’t expect. He talks about the sign of Jonah where he will be in the tomb for three days, like Jonah in the belly of the big fish.
It will be an unexpected coming of the kingdom through Jesus. Just like people were partying and not paying attention in the days of Noah, life going on as if nothing’s going to happen, so then Jesus will come.
It will be a surprise to everyone who’s not paying attention, not looking at the seasons and times. Jesus teaches us to decipher the seasons and times so we know when he is coming. We can’t give us a date, but we can tell he is coming soon from the seasons we see around us.
Jesus warned us of the coming of his kingdom in the end times, but he was there in front of these leaders and they did not see the coming of the kingdom back then. We continue to worship him and serve him in his kingdom until he returns to complete it.
So we live in a kingdom that has been inaugurated by Jesus’ first coming. Jesus’ kingdom is now, in the plane of spiritual existence. But it overtakes the world in a different fashion than the kingdoms of this world. The war is unseen for now.
It is a spiritual kingdom winning the hearts of people through the preaching of the gospel. As we proclaim Jesus’ coming and kingship in our hearts, the kingdom fights against the gates of hell and prevails. But Jesus’ physical kingdom is coming in the end times. It is a kingdom started by Jesus that we are continuing now. And it will be on the earth when Jesus arrives in the end.