Behold, The Kingdom Is Nearer Than You Think

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty through thirty-seven of the seventeenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find it coming directly on the heels of Jesus encountering ten lepers during His journey toward Jerusalem. As you read this passage of scripture you will find the beloved physician Luke writing and recording how at and from that time the Pharisees has demanded Jesus revelation concerning the kingdom of heaven. Upon reading this section of the gospel of Luke you will quickly find the Pharisees—perhaps after hearing so much concerning the kingdom of heaven—coming unto Jesus and actually demanding of Him a declaration and some sort of explanation concerning the kingdom of heaven and the manifestation of that kingdom within and upon the earth. The more I sit here and think about and consider this passage of scripture the more I can’t help but see a strong and powerful connection between the Pharisees demanding from Jesus a revelation concerning the manifestation and arrival of the kingdom of heaven and their asking Jesus for a sign. If you read and study the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will quickly discover and find that within the gospels the Pharisees demanded of and asked Jesus for a sign from heaven. During and at certain points of time within the life and ministry of Jesus we find the Pharisees not only demanding by what authority He performed such mighty works among the people, and even performed some of the actions He performed. In all reality, if and as you read the four gospels you will find the Pharisees not only demanding from Jesus a sign from heaven, but they also demanded from Him to know by what authority He engaged in some of the actions He did, and even performed some of the mighty works He performed. What’s more, is that as you read this passage of scripture you will find the Pharisees once more asking for and demanding something of Jesus. This time, however, the Pharisees were not asking for, nor demanding a sign from heaven, but were asking for and demanding a personal explanation concerning the kingdom of heaven. On this particular occasion we find the Pharisees not asking concerning the mighty works which Jesus performed among them in their midst, nor the authority by which He did some of the things He did, but rather concerning the kingdom of heaven.

Undoubtedly the Pharisees has been before and around Jesus the Christ as He sight and spoke unto the Jewish people during those days. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Pharisees were present on certain occasions when Jesus has spoken concerning a new and different kingdom—one that would not originate with or from this world, but one that would be from above. Time and time again the Pharisees would have heard Jesus speak of a different type of kingdom—one that had absolutely nothing to do with the authority of man, nor dealt with earthly kings, rulers and monarchs. If you spend your time reading and studying the words which are found and contained within the four gospels you will find Jesus constantly and continually speaking of and declaring the kingdom of heaven, and how there was an entirely new and different kingdom that was present among them within and upon the earth. Undoubtedly the Pharisees were present on certain occasions when Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven and taught in parables concerning what the kingdom of heaven was and would be like. In all reality, this subject of a new king and perhaps a new kingdom emerged before Jesus would ever speak a single word, for even from the time the wise men came from the East, they came in search of He who was born King of the Jews. Even before Jesus would grow into a man and walk among men as the Light of the world there would be this concept of king and kingdom present within and upon the earth, for the wise men would specifically come from the East in search of Him who was born King of the Jews. If we are to understand the ministry of Jesus the Christ, and if we are to understand the words which Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we read and consider the various passages in scripture which present us with Jesus speaking concerning the kingdom of heaven, and speaking in parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. Within and throughout the four gospels you will find a tremendous amount of language surrounding the kingdom of heaven and Jesus teaching and speaking in parables concerning the kingdom of heaven. When attempting to speak of and concerning the kingdom of heaven Jesus primarily spoke in parables in order that He might speak unto the people concerning the realities surrounding this new and different kingdom—one that did and would not originate from and upon the earth, nor would originate with and from man.

Within this passage of scripture we find the Pharisees coming unto Jesus in order that they might demand from Him concerning the kingdom of heaven, which means and suggests that they had undoubtedly been present while Jesus spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven among those before and around Him. What’s more, is that the fact that the Pharisees were speaking unto Jesus concerning the kingdom of heaven suggests the trek found reality that they undoubtedly had discussions and dialogues between and among themselves concerning this kingdom. In fact we know from the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of John they one of the Pharisees—a man named nicodemus—came unto Jesus by night in order that he might speak to Him freely and privately concerning the kingdom of heaven. This man nicodemus—one of the Pharisees—would come unto Jesus by night in order that he might have a private audience with Jesus the Christ concerning who He was, as well as matters of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, I would dare say that before we get into the words which were spoken by Jesus concerning the kingdom of heaven, it is first necessary that we read the words concerning this encounter and exchange between Jesus and this nighttime Pharisee. It is the words which we find in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of John that we first encounter the Pharisees and their speaking unto Jesus concerning the realities and matters of the kingdom of heaven. The interesting thing about that which we read concerning Nicodemus is that when he came to Jesus, he didn’t come during the day, nor even in the light, but rather came unto Jesus by night. It isn’t exactly clear as to why Nicodemus chose to come to Jesus by night—perhaps he chose to come by night so he could have a personal and private audience with Jesus, or perhaps even because he didn’t want to be seen and observed by the Pharisees concerning his interest in this man called Jesus the Christ. Regardless of the reason why Nicodemus chose to come to Jesus by night, it is absolutely certain that this Pharisee had a wonderful and powerful interest in the realities of the kingdom of heaven, and in Jesus the Christ Himself. Consider if you will the words which are found within the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of John concerning this Pharisee named Nicodemus who came unto Jesus privately by night in order that he might hear and listen to the words which He would speak unto him:

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou nearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up?: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world: but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not concerned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every to be that doeth evil hate the the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:1-21).

What we find within the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of John is one from among the Pharisees coming unto Jesus by night and declaring unto him that they knew that He was a teacher come from God, for no man could do the miracles which He did except God be with him. These words which Nicodemus spoke and mentioned unto Jesus the Christ don’t specifically demonstrate any type of interest in who Jesus the Christ was, but what they do in fact do is express unto us a willingness of Nicodemus to speak privately with Jesus—undoubtedly because he desired to learn and know more about the works which Jesus the Christ performed, and even perhaps concerning the kingdom of heaven which Jesus the Christ spoke about. The words found and contained within this passage of Scripture are unique in that they bring us face to face with one of the Pharisees—that religious sect among the Jews which regularly and habitually opposed Jesus the Christ—coming unto Jesus concerning the works which he completed and performed. It’s worth noting that within this encounter, Nicodemus didn’t ask a single question of Jesus, nor did he ask a single question concerning Jesus the Christ. What we find and what we read in this passage of Scripture is simply one from among the Pharisees who came unto Jesus by night in order that he might have a private and personal audience with him to listen to and hear the words which He would speak unto him. It’s actually quite unique and interesting that we are given no real insight into what drew Nicodemus from the light of day into the darkness of night in order that he might speak face to face with Jesus the Christ. There is absolutely no indication as to why this particular Pharisee chose to come to Jesus by night in order that he might speak with and speak unto Jesus. Regardless of why Nicodemus came unto Jesus by night it is absolutely certain and clear that he desired a personal and private audience with the man called Jesus in order that he might learn more concerning this man who was called King of the Jews—pretty much from birth. Undoubtedly Nicodemus heard of the great and mighty works which Jesus had performed among men within and upon the earth, and perhaps He even witnessed the miracles which Jesus the Christ had performed within and upon the earth. You will note and notice within this passage of Scripture that Nicodemus didn’t speak concerning anything else in the presence of Jesus the Christ save the works which He performed among men, and how no man could do such work except God be with him. The words which Nicodemus spoke unto Jesus were directly connected and pointed to the reality of the works which Jesus the Christ performed, and contained a declaration that no man could do and perform such works unless God was truly with Him.

The encounter between Nicodemus is actually quite interesting and unique, for you will notice that when Nicodemus came unto Jesus by night, he didn’t ask, nor did he demand of Him a sign from heaven. When Nicodemus came unto Jesus by night, he didn’t ask or demand of Jesus by what authority and what power He performed the works which He had done within and upon the earth. In all reality, there might have been a genuine and authentic interest and desire within the heart of Nicodemus concerning this Jesus the Christ, and he sought to come unto Him by night in order that he might learn more about Him in a personal and private setting. The fact that Nicodemus—one from among the Pharisees—came unto Jesus by night in order that he might speak unto him is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for there is absolutely no indication within the New Testament gospel of John that he desired from Jesus a sign from heaven in order that he might believe on Him, and believe on the One who sent Him. When Nicodemus came unto Jesus by night, he didn’t come unto him demanding some type of evidence and proof from Jesus that He was in fact who He said He was, and was in fact the only begotten Son of God. It is true that Nicodemus came unto Jesus and spoke of the mighty works which He performed among men, however, Nicodemus only spoke of the works in direct connection to the fact that no man could do such works without and apart from God being with him. It was only then that Jesus began speaking unto Nicodemus concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the tremendous need to be born again—to be born of water and of the Spirit. It was during this nighttime exchange that Nicodemus encountered the reality of the kingdom of heaven, and how it is necessary for one to be born again—it is necessary for one to be born of water and of the Spirit—in order that they might even enter into the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that Jesus even spoke unto Nicodemus concerning his mission and purpose within and upon the earth—namely, that through Him the world mighty be saved. It’s worth noting and mentioning within this encounter that Jesus would eventually transition to speaking unto Nicodemus concerning the reality that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so also will and must the Son of man be lifted up, in order that whosoever would believe on him would not perish but have everlasting light. Jesus emphatically declared unto Nicodemus that the Son of man did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved—a reality that spoke directly to the manifestation of the cross within the life of Jesus Christ, and the suffering and death He would face and experience as a direct result of being on the cross.

If you turn your attention back to the previous chapter within the New Testament gospel of John you will find certain of the Jews coming unto Jesus after He had driven out the money changers and overturned the tables of money in the courts of the Temple asking and demanding from Him what sign He gave them concerning His doing such things. Jesus entered the courts of the Temple and saw the worship of God being transformed into a way of commerce and merchandise, as money changers and salesmen sold those things which were needed to worship the Lord upon His holy altar and in His holy temple. Jesus entered into the courts of the Temple and was immediately disgusted and angered by what He saw, for he found in the Temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. Immediately Jesus made a scourge of small cords and drove them all out of the temple—the sheep and the oxen included. What’s more, is Jesus would pour out the money changers’ money, and overthrew the tables they conducted business at, and declared unto those that were present on that day that His Father’s house was not to be a house of merchandise. Please don’t miss this, for it was on this particular occasion, and the actions of this particular day which caused the Jews to begin to ask questions concerning the authority Jesus the Christ possessed within Himself to perform such actions among men within and upon the earth. In fact, if you come to the eighteenth verse of the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find it written and recorded concerning the Jews’ response to Jesus the Christ, and His actions within the courts of the Temple. Consider if you will that which the apostle John wrote and recorded in the second chapter concerning the response of the Jews to Jesus’ anger and zeal within the courts of the Temple upon entering into the city of Jerusalem:

“Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. Now when He was in Jerusalem, at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:18-25).

In the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of John we find the first mention of the Jews asking Jesus concerning the authority He had to provide Him with the freedom to engage in such actions in the courts of the Temple. What’s quite interesting is that immediately after we find the Jews questioning by what authority Jesus performed such actions within the courts of the Temple, and what sign He would perform before and among them to demonstrate His authority and right to engage in such behavior, we find Nicodemus—one of the Pharisees—coming unto Jesus by night to speak unto Him concerning the works which He did. Perhaps the works which Nicodemus spoke of were the works and miracles which were spoken of in the final portion of the second chapter, for the apostle John recorded how many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which he did. Undoubtedly it was the works and miracles which Jesus performed before and among them within and upon the earth that caused Nicodemus to come unto Jesus by night and speak unto Him concerning those works. While the Jews demanded of Jesus concerning that sign He would show them to demonstrate His right and authority to behave in such a manner within the courts of the Temple, Nicodemus came unto Jesus by night speaking of the great and mighty works He performed among men within and upon the earth. This is actually quite interesting when you take the time to think about it, for if you continue reading in the four gospels, you will quickly find and notice the Pharisees coming unto Jesus and asking of and demanding from him a sign in order that they might believe. In fact, if you begin reading with and from the thirty-eighth verse of the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the following words written concerning the Pharisees coming unto Jesus asking and demanding a sign from Him. Consider now the words which were written by the apostle Matthew concerning this particular encounter:

“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sight be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:38-42).

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t the only time the Pharisees came unto Jesus and demanded of Him a sign, for if you continue reading in the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the Pharisees came again unto Jesus with the Sadducees in order that they might once more ask of and demand from Jesus a sign from heaven. Consider if you will what the apostle Matthew wrote and recorded concerning this particular occasion beginning with the first verse of the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel:

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them and departed” (Matthew 16:1-4).

With each of these passages we come face to face with the fact that not once, but twice the Pharisees came unto Jesus asking of and demanding from Him a sign from heaven in order that they might believe in Him and on the One who sent Him. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for this would not be the first time the Jews specifically would ask of Jesus a sign from heaven, for when Jesus drove out the money changers, the oxen and the sheep, and overthrew the tables of money, the Jews asked of Him what sign He gave them to demonstrate and prove that He had the authority to do such things among them. Eventually this would spill over into the rest of the ministry of Jesus, for on two separate occasions we find the Pharisees coming unto Jesus asking of and demanding from Him a sign from heaven in order that they might believe in Him, and believe on His name. This is actually what makes that which we find and that which we have in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke so incredibly intriguing and captivating, for instead of the Pharisees demanding of Jesus a sign from heaven, we find the Pharisees now demanding of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God, and when it should come. The Pharisees had transitioned from asking of Jesus a sign from heaven that they might believe in Him and believe on the One who sent Him, to now demanding of Him when the kingdom of God should come. What is truly remarkable and unique about the response of Jesus unto the Pharisees is that He did not provide an answer to their question, nor did He give them any thing specific concerning the kingdom of God, and when it would come. If you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that when responding onto the Pharisees and their demand concerning when the kingdom of God should come, Jesus made the following emphatic declaration: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! Or, lo, there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” As you continue reading the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture you will find that Jesus never answered the question concerning when the kingdom of God would come, but rather provided them with signs that would point to when the kingdom of God would be manifested among them. If you continue reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus speaking unto His disciples concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the signs they should look for and expect to point to the coming of the kingdom of God, and even the coming and return of Jesus the Christ Himself. Within this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus not only speaking concerning the days of Noah, but also the days of Lot—both time periods which are recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis and describe great judgment of the living God within and upon the earth. It was during the days of Noah where the Lord would destroy the entire earth save eight souls and two of every kind of species within the ark with a flood and deluge. What’s more, is that it was during the days of Lot that the earth destroyed not one city, not two cities, but five cities of the plain of the Jordan with fire and brimstone from heaven. Consider the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples immediately following the declaration unto the Pharisees concerning the kingdom of God being among them:

“And He said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be His day. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, He which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (Luke 17:22-37).

The words which are found in this passage of Scripture are absolutely and incredibly powerful, for it is with these words where we find Jesus—not providing us with a precise day and time when the kingdom of God would be manifested upon the earth, and when the kingdom of God would come upon the earth, but rather specific signs that would point to and reveal when the kingdom of God was near. As you read this passage of Scripture we find Jesus—not speaking of a day or hour, but rather we find Jesus speaking of times and seasons, for Jesus sought to convey to His disciples a tremendous understanding concerning the signs of the times, and the signs surrounding the coming of the kingdom of heaven, and the sign of His coming and return. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for while we do not know the day, nor the hour in which Jesus the Christ will return, nor when the kingdom of God will be manifested within and upon the earth, we do know with absolutely certainly the signs which point to the reality of when the kingdom of God will be manifested, and when Jesus the Christ will return and come again. The question we must ask ourselves when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture is whether or not we are paying attention to the signs of the times, and whether or not we are paying attention to what is taking place within our generation, for we are much closer than we even think or realize. We have not been given to know the precise day or house for Jesus returning and coming back, however, we do know the signs of the times which point to the reality of when the kingdom of God will come, and we do know what to look for. Are we paying attention to the signs of the times, and are we paying attention to that which points us to the reality of the manifestation of the kingdom of God being much closer than we can even think or imagine? Are we doing absolutely everything that is necessary to make ready and prepare ourselves for the manifestation of the kingdom of God within and upon the earth, and even for the return of Jesus the Christ to carry away His body and bride? What are we doing and how are we spending our days in light of the tremendous reality that we are much closer and much nearer to the coming of the kingdom of God, and to the return of Jesus Christ than we are actually letting on, and perhaps even believing? Jesus spoke unto the disciples concerning the signs of the times, and gave them specific instruction on what to look for, and the question is whether or not we are paying attention to the signs of the times which are manifested all around us. We must ask ourselves whether or not we are paying attention to the signs which point to and reveal the awesome reality that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is in fact much closer and nearer than we have been thinking, and even believing. If we are truly living in the days of Lot, and if we are truly living in the days of Noah, the question we must ask ourselves is what we are doing to make ourselves ready, and what we are doing to understand the times we are living in, as well as understanding just how near and how close we are to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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