Luke 17:20-25

When Will the Kingdom Come?
Luke 17:20-25
Intro: Sometimes we cannot help but wonder when the kingdom will ever come. As we wander through this weary world, with all its disappointment and decay, we question when God will make everything right. Deep down we know we were made to live somewhere free from pain and sorrow and death. We long for a better place – a place where justice is done, a place where God reigns supreme, and a place where His people have peace and joy. Honestly, at times we feel God-forsaken as if He has forgotten us or moved on to others more faithful than us. It is at those times when our dreams are dashed, when we are afraid of the future, when evil seems to triumph, when righteousness seems irrelevant, that we ask when the kingdom will ever come. 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time ask this question, too. Surprisingly, it was not to catch Jesus in a trap or to diminish Him among the crowds, but because they wanted to know when God would establish His righteous rule. The coming of the kingdom was a burning issue in those days, and it is not surprising that people asked the Lord Jesus for His point of view. Recall that Israel in the 1st century was under Roman occupation. Its citizens were longing to be delivered from these unwelcomed rulers. They wanted to know when God would restore their fortunes and when His righteousness would prevail. Some thought the kingdom would be a new Jewish government. Others thought in more spiritual terms, but everyone was looking for God to make everything right with their world. When would the kingdom come? Today’s text answers that question to some degree and poses a few more.

Luke 17:20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;

To ask “when” God’s kingdom would come is to miss on two counts.

First, human calculations about God’s activity are wastes of time. They are also arrogant and even irreverent.

Since the subject is the reign of Almighty God, let’s remember that the when, the where, and the how, are tucked away in the secret wisdom of the Lord. 

The kingdom is not built by human hands. It is a gift, not a task.

Luke 12:32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The answer to the question of “when” is the same as that given by Jesus to His disciples when they asked if he would now restore the kingdom to Israel…

Acts 1:7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

Yet even an answer that clear and concise, by Jesus Himself, has not prevented others from converting the Bible into a farmer’s almanac to parse every syllable of every nuanced word seeking to crack the code of the date of Jesus’ Return.

The second reason the Pharisees’ question misses the mark is that they seek strange signs of the kingdom’s arrival while rejecting the only real signs available.

Earlier Jesus had said…

Luke 12:56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?

The presence of Jesus is the presence of the kingdom.

And what were the available signs? The deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them (7:22).

These conditions mark the presence of God’s reign in the world. 

Like many of the things God does – maybe most of them – the kingdom will not come in the way people expect. 

The religious leaders thought the kingdom would come with special signs. They were looking for pageantry and fanfare – the kind that usually accompanies earthly kingdoms. What would the inauguration party look like?

Or they were looking for supernatural signs – the kind they could read in the sky (“observation” = the way astrologers seek to calculate future events by looking at the stars).

They expected someone with secret knowledge to tell them where the kingdom was, pointing it out by prophetic words.

Doe Christians expect the same today? Some surely do.

They see a culture in spiritual chaos and seek a political solution – the kingdom of God established through human government. 

Or they speculate about the end-time prophecies in the Bible and develop a timetable for the Return of Jesus. 

Or they claim to have secret, specific knowledge about the end of the world.

Be careful! The Pharisees were also looking for these things, but these signs are not what Jesus promised.

Jesus said the kingdom would not come with any signs – at least, not the kind that most people were looking for. He said they would not be able to predict when the kingdom would come or point to it by their own wisdom. 

Luke 17:21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Scholars have long puzzled over the meaning of the end of verse 21.

First, let’s get a working definition of the kingdom. It is God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule.

But what did Jesus mean when He said, “the kingdom of God is within you?”

Some think Jesus means the kingdom is something inside us. 

In a sense, this is true: the first place God must rule is in the realm of the heart, as the Pharisees so badly needed to learn. But, the idea that God’s kingdom is only some kind of invisible, inward reality is nowhere taught in the NT.

Jesus speaks of men entering the kingdom, not the kingdom entering men.

“the kingdom of God is within you,” is a very popular modern translation. It scratches where our heavily psychologized and extremely individualist culture itches.

For false converts, religion has much therapeutic value. And anytime the Bible sounds like it is saying that what is valuable is what is inside of us, people are drawn to those verses.

This is a prevailing attitude in modern churches. “Preacher, tell me something about me and my good buddy God!”

The phrase “within you” can also be translated “among you” and “in the midst of you” depending on the context. In this verse, it is almost certainly appropriate to choose “among you.”

Exodus 17:7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The “you” is plural. It is collective. Therefore, the sense is that the kingdom is present among you within a group or a community.

Matt 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

“The kingdom is already here; it’s right in front of you.”

The Pharisees can be our teachers here. By their blindness, they tell us that it is possible to be concerned with the kingdom but to ignore the King. It is possible to be fascinated with last things while neglecting the first thing. 

It could not be said that the unbelieving Pharisees had the kingdom of God within them. And yet, there they were standing in the presence of the king Himself. 

Since Jesus is the King, wherever He is, the kingdom is.

We also observe that the kingdom of God was present in the preaching of the Lord Jesus. 

Wherever Christ went, He always proclaimed the good news of the kingdom.

Luke 4:43 “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”

The kingdom was also present in His miracles. 

When Jesus cast out demons or healed the sick, He was demonstrating the power of God’s kingdom.

In fact, after one miracle He said to the Pharisees…

Luke 11:20 But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.

These men did not need any more signs. They did not need anyone to come tell them where the kingdom was. They simply needed to listen to Jesus. 

This is both ironic and disastrous. The Pharisees were looking for the kingdom, but it was already there!

Jesus may have dressed in peasant clothing, but He really was the King, and unless people acknowledged His royal person, they would miss out on the kingdom of God. 


If we are wise, we will be careful to avoid making the same mistake the Pharisees made. 

The only hope of the kingdom is Jesus Christ. He is the only One who can make everything right.

Having warned the Pharisees what to look for – and what not to look for – Jesus turned His attention to His disciples. 

They needed to know about the kingdom too, not because they did not know who the King was, but because they were not yet ready for His kingdom to come.

We must understand that the kingdom of God does not come all at once, but little by little, until finally the King is seen in all His glory.

Earlier Jesus had compared His kingdom to a tiny seed that develops into a large tree or to a pinch of yeast that causes an entire loaf of bread to rise (Luke 13:18-21). This is how the kingdom grows!

The process had already started. Since Jesus was the King, His first coming to earth was the advent of His kingdom. 

Truly the kingdom of God was in their midst!

But the day was coming when Jesus would reign in the full supremacy of His risen majesty. 

He was already the King, but His kingdom had not yet come – not the way it would come when He returned in all His glory.

Therefore, we are living between the “already” and the “not yet,” which explains why we are still praying for God’s kingdom to come, and why sometimes we wonder when our prayers will ever be answered.

Luke 17:22 Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.  

When Christ said “the days will come,” He was looking ahead to His future kingdom.

He anticipated a time when the disciples would look for His appearing and wonder what was taking Him so long. 

Some think “the days of the Son of Man” refers to His earthly ministry. In that case, the disciples would be looking back with fond memories on all the happy times they shared with Jesus during His good old days on earth. 

However, this passage is looking forward, not backwards; what Jesus says is oriented towards the future. 

Furthermore, when the Bible talks about the day of the Son of Man, generally it is speaking of the last day on earth, when Jesus will come again to judge the world. 

But first, the church will enter a very trying season in which we will long to the see the Return of Christ, but we will not see it yet.

The waiting will wear on us. It will make us long for deliverance. It will make us susceptible to false teachers and even false Messiahs.

Luke 17:23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.

Christ said a time would come when we would start to wonder when His kingdom would ever come. 

Is it wrong for us to long for one of the days of the Son of Man? Jesus is not saying that. But He is warning the disciples not to allow their desire to lead them into error. 

He said that people claiming to have inside information would tell us that the Messiah was here or there, tempting us to believe that we have it all wrong, or that we are missing out on a secret we need to know for salvation. “See it our way! Adopt our view.”

Christ tells us not to fall for it. Don’t let the desire for relief lead you into all sorts of strange speculations. Don’t even be open to them.

No matter how attractive or enticing the rumors, Christ’s disciples must not pursue them. Patience is the fruit of the Spirit here needed most.


In Jewish tradition the identity of the Messiah would not be immediately apparent. The rabbis taught that Messiah would appear incognito and would only be recognized after careful examination, or only when Elijah the prophet returned to make Him known.

In striking contrast, Jesus declares the coming of the Son of Man to be sudden, unpredictable, and universally visible.

Luke 17:24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.

When the Son of Man does return, it will be so totally obvious that we will not need anyone to tell us where He is. Any sign would be superfluous. 

Jesus said His Return will strike like a bolt of lightning that flashes across the sky: sudden in its appearance, obvious in its shining brilliance, and powerful in its mighty display of the glory of God. 

None will foresee it, and all will see it at once!

No one who sees it will say, “I wonder if this could be His Return.”


On that great day, no one will need any signs to tell them what is happening.

Jesus Christ will be unmistakably, instantaneously, and universally revealed in all His majesty and splendor. 

Something else had to happen first, however, and Jesus made sure to mention it.

Luke 17:25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Once again, Jesus was foreshadowing the cross by predicting His suffering and death. There must be loss before there is gain.

He had already told His disciples that He would die and rise again.

Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”

He also told them He would be put to death by wicked men.

Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”

In order to establish the kingdom of His grace, He first had to die for sinners, taking upon Himself the judgment our sins deserved.

Therefore, if people were looking for the kingdom of God, the first thing they would see was Christ crucified.


It is the same for us. The kingdom only comes at the cost of His blood, and we can only enter the kingdom of God by trusting in Jesus’ death for our sins.

The kingdom will come to us when we believe in Jesus to be saved.


It is as if Jesus is saying: “Do not allow a combination of wishful thinking and fervent desire and even difficult circumstances to lead you to grasp at false straws (v.23); when the Son of Man comes, you will know it (v.24); meanwhile, your task is to endure suffering as I have (v.25).”

Acts 14:22 “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”