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Sep 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 11, 2011

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. Luke 17:20-1 (read verses 20-37)

INTRO: I have frequently been asked why I think my dad’s church grew so rapidly

Among the other lame answers I give, I explain that most of the rapid growth occurred during what was an apocalyptic era
– the revolutionary 1960’s that ended in many shattered dreams
– the youth were looking for an authority who understood the times, who seemed to have a handle on what was next
– in the late 60’s, Dad began emphasizing biblical prophecy — current events had a purpose, an apocalyptic meaning
– like others, he was inspired by Israel’s 1967 war and once again having Jerusalem under their control

In 1970, Hal Lindsay released The Late Great Planet Earth, which became a best-seller
– from that moment, Bible prophecy became big business

Read The Late Great Planet today and it is clear how wrong Lindsey was regarding statements he made dogmatically
– biblical prophecy is not a crystal ball
Christians buy into it because they don’t know the Bible well
– to many believers, the Bible a big, mysterious book from which you can lift random verses and sew together a prophetic quilt

The harm that does is in the way it distracts us from the real issues of eschatology –– i.e., the study of the “last things”

  • that the universe is a divine promise waiting for fulfillment
  • that the world is not going to go on as it is indefinitely
  • there is a determined future and it culminates in God

Believers have always been curious about God’s timetable

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating . . . (1 Pe. 1:10-11)

The Pharisees asked Jesus a question that launched him into this subject
– this section is framed by two questions: When? (v. 20) and Where? (v. 37)

Verses 20-21, The Pharisees’ question was “When?”

For the Pharisees, at that time, “the kingdom” was not heavenly, but earthly
– it would be a restoration of Israel’s former glory – the Golden Age

Jesus’ first answer is negative – “Not what you think”
– not with observation, “Look here or there”
– his teaching in Luke is that the kingdom has already come, but invisibly – a mystery

“Behold” (the same word translated Look), it is among you (10:9, 11:20)
– the future world is already present, but in a transcendent form
– the life of the future has entered Jesus’ followers now to prepare them for it
– the kingdom is present in Jesus – eternal life begins now

The Bible doesn’t give us lots of clear details about heaven
– but the one thing that is most clear: We will be with Jesus
– 23:43, “you shall be with Me in Paradise” defines Paradise

Verses 22-24, Special insights and instructions for the disciples

“The days will come” – the rest of chapter is peppered with days and day
– in the Hebrew Scriptures, the ultimate judgment is the Day of the Lord

What was directly ahead for them, would make them long for the end
– this longing makes people vulnerable

“Look there! Look here!” – when hear these words, they indicate a false alarm
– it isn’t going to happen that way
– so don’t go there, don’t pursue it

When the real thing happens, it will be like lightning that lights up the whole sky
– it won’t be secret or private

Verse 25, They had the most trouble with this part

This was totally foreign to them
– it was like telling them David would have been a better king if he had been rejected, tortured, and executed
– something had to happen in time to make the future possible

Verses 26-30, Jesus illustrates what the end will be like

Two examples:
1. The days of Noah – “the flood came and destroyed them all”
2. The days of Lot – “fire and brimstone from heaven destroyed them”

Notice the rhythm: “they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, etc.”
– but the rhythm is suddenly broken as those normal life activities crash into “the day”

Noah “entered into the ark” for safety and Lot “went out of Sodom” for the same reason
– for both of them it was a separation from a world under judgment

We have seen a lot of “eating and drinking” in Luke’s gospel
– here, it’s a way of describing all the things people normally do
– they were busy with their lives as if the world will always be this way

We make plans for the future within a limited range
– we simply don’t know what life after death will be like, so it doesn’t enter our calculations
– and because we’re not thinking about it or preparing for it, it always comes as a shock
Thursday’s power outage came without warning; everything electric just stopped
– contrast that end-of-the-world feeling Thursday night with the so-called “Carmegeddon”
– because we knew it was coming, we were prepared for it and it turned into a colossal non-event

The activities Jesus lists are not sinful – there’s nothing wrong with them
– but they become a problem when they’re the only reality on our horizon
– when we are so absorbed in them, we are aware of nothing else
People will be engaged in the ordinary stuff of life
– going to work, going to school, shopping
– then, suddenly they will blind sided by the end because they were not oriented to God

Verses 31-36, What we have to be prepared to do

“On that day,” forget your “goods” that are in the house
– we have to be ready to abandon everything
– we’re not threatened by ordinary activities – sleeping, grinding . . .
– the threat is our attachment to them
– why did Lot’s wife turn and look back?
– her attachment to what she had to leave behind

Reality is not summed up in materialism
– if it were, we would lose everything when we die
– Jesus has been enlightening us what it means, “rich toward God”
We worry to much over things we should only give casual attention and we give casual attention to things we should be very concerned about

33, “soul,” here, is a picture of someone trying to keep his or her current situation intact
– the free soul is detached – ready to totally let go of everything

Verse 37, One last question: “Where?”

Jesus, “You don’t have to worry about that”
– the vultures just show up
– like the lightning, these issues take care of themselves — they don’t need our help; our job is to trust
Jesus wants our hearts to be at peace regarding all these things

CONC: A gripping after effect from the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, is what we hear in the final words that victims left as voice messages to their loved ones:

“Honey. Something terrible is happening. I don’t think I’m going to make it. I love you. Take care of the children.”

“Hey, Jules. It’s Brian. I’m on the plane and it’s hijacked and it doesn’t look good. I just wanted to let you know that I love you, and I hope to see you again. If I don’t, please have fun in life, and live life the best you can. Know that I love you, and no matter what, I’ll see you again.”

“Mommy. The building is on fire. There’s smoke coming through the walls. I can’t breathe. I love you, Mommy. Good-bye.”

“I love you a thousand times over and over. I love and need whatever decisions you make in your lives. I need you to be happy, and I will respect any decisions you make.”

Jesus calls us away from attachments and addictions to what is real
– he calls us to himself, to love, to relationships, and to everything else that survives this life
– the best way to detach from the world is to attach yourself to him


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  1. meg chasin / Sep 4 2014

    In stillness you hear a beating heart,
    At first it is your own,
    Wait longer…and it is God’s

    Hi Chuck…I know you haven’t seen me since I was young (20+ yrs!!) and regardless of the memories of a troubled, mixed up girl, I want to tell you how deeply I resonate with what you have written here and though I love Jesus, I have never felt that I “fit in” to the traditional church labels and environment. I am in happy to hear that you are following the Spirit and what Love says as opposed to dogma. I am still deeply struggling with where I fit in as church environment is concerned (my family and I occasionally attend Saddleback) but this doesn’t lesson the swell of my heart to pursue the heart of God. I see an enormous amount of fear binding up believers and I am saddened by it. It is a challenge to be your true self without risking judgement from those who are to “love” you unconditionally. Thank you for writing what you have written here and for taking the road less traveled…it takes courage. 🙂

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Sep 6 2014

    Meg, it is always a blessing to bump into fellow travelers on this path. We have not only the assurance of God’s Spirit for our guide, but we are privileged to make the journey with others who have heard the same call.
    I appreciate your encouragement and pray that you are also encouraged.

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