Listen to me read the article.
When would the kingdom of God come according to Luke? Luke was an author of two books in the New Testament: Luke and Acts. The reason why we attribute both books to Luke is tradition. There is nothing within the books that suggests they were written by Luke. There is a transition in pronouns beginning in Acts 16 from “they” to “we” that suggests the author was present in those sections, and we know that Luke was a travel companion of Paul, but we don't have any evidence besides that as far as I know. Personally, I don't really care. It doesn't bother me that much. If the author wanted to make himself known, he would have done so. I'm more interested in the contents anyways. Regardless of the authorship, both Luke and Acts were written to “Theophilus” (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), so it is reasonable to assume they have a shared author. There are other reasons too, but I don't have enough letters beside my name to go into that now, so let's just get to it.
Notice, again, that the only thing we want to know in this article is when the kingdom would come according to Luke's writings. We aren't interested in any other book right now. Obviously, this is going to leave questions unanswered, but that's okay. I'm only twenty-seven, so I have plenty of time to chase those rabbits.
Now, the book of Luke contains the word “kingdom” forty-six times, and Acts has eight mentions if my math is correct. In the Greek text, the word kingdom comes from the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia). Here's a list of the passages:
lemma:βασιλεία in NASB95
Luke 1:33; 4:5, 43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:1, 10; 9:2, 11, 27, 60, 62; 10:9, 11; 11:2, 17, 18, 20; 12:31, 32; 13:18, 20, 28, 29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20, 21; 18:16, 17, 24, 25, 29; 19:11, 12, 15; 21:10, 31; 22:16, 18, 29, 30; 23:42, 51
Acts 1:3, 6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31Exported from Logos Bible Software
I will only be covering the pertinent ones, so you'll have to check out the rest if you want to double check me. Before we get into it, I need to make one point clear: the question is specifically, “When would the saints enter the kingdom?” That is what I mean by the kingdom coming. The question of when Jesus would sit on the throne of David is easy to answer, and the answer comes in our very first passage with a little help from Acts.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.Luke 1:32–33
“And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.Acts 2:30–31
The capital letters in my version of the Bible indicate quotation of an Old Testament passage; I'm not yelling at you. Sometimes they miss stuff, but it is generally pretty good.
Now, Jesus would sit on His throne FOREVER, and Peter said He sat on His throne through the resurrection, so is Christ reigning now? You betcha. This is a big deal because of another passage in Acts quoted by James. When James is debating with the others about whether or not Gentiles should keep the law, he quotes from Amos 9:11.
‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,' SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO.Acts 15:16–18
The return of David to his throne through Jesus meant Gentile inclusion into the New Covenant community. It meant the restoration of Judah and Israel (Ezekiel 37; Hosea 3). It meant the arrival of the Messianic Kingdom.
It is this kingdom that Jesus preaches all throughout Luke (Luke 4:43, 8:1, 9:2, 11, 16:16; Acts 1:3). If you search the word “David” in the prophets (Isaiah-Malachi), you will see why Jesus preaching the kingdom was a big deal. No wonder there was so much excitement revolving around Jesus… until, of course, He showed them how He wasn't interested in the same kind of kingdom they were.
Alright, so back to the discussion at hand (haha).
The first passage in Luke that I'm aware of that mentions something about when the kingdom would come is Luke 9:27.
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.Luke 9:26–27
When Jesus talks about the Son of Man coming “in His glory,” this is another way of saying “coming in His kingdom” (cf. Matthew 16:28). So, both Luke 9:26 and Luke 9:27 are talking about the same thing. Jesus coming in the glory of the Father with the angels is Him coming in His kingdom, and He promised they would see that before some would taste death. We'll continue this discussion of glory and kingdom later in Luke. On to the next.
In Luke 10:9, 11, Jesus says “the kingdom of God has come near to you” twice. So, some would see it before they would die, and it had come near to them.
In Luke 11:20, Jesus says, “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Here's an interesting one. In Luke 14, Jesus makes some comments about a meal.
And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”Luke 14:12–14
Basically, Jesus says, “Invite the poor and the rejected, and you will be given a banquet bigger than you can imagine at the resurrection.” In response to this, someone says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15). So, there is a connection between the kingdom of God and the resurrection. Interesting. Instead of rejecting this statement and correcting the man by saying something like, “Well, the kingdom will come before you die, but the resurrection is, like, obviously really far away, dude,” Jesus tells a story specifically to that man. Here it is:
But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.' “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' “Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' “And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' “And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. ‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.' ”Luke 14:16–24
So, who is Jesus talking about here? Is this not a peek into Paul's ministry that Luke participated in? Most of Jesus' own people rejected Him, so He sent His disciples to people who would accept them. Keep this story in mind, possibly read Matthew 8:10-12 and the parallel passage in Matthew 22, and let's move on. (By the way, in the Matthew 8 passage, how could Abraham sit in the kingdom if he wasn't resurrected… hmm.)
This next one is good. The Pharisees want to know when the kingdom will come. They are interested in this because, from their perspective, the kingdom coming means Rome is going to be kicked out of Jerusalem by the Messiah in an epic battle.
Here's the interaction.
And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “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 17:19–21
After bursting their bubble about the nature of the kingdom by explaining that it was already starting to arrive in a way they didn't expect, He turns to His disciples and launches into another discussion about His coming again. Without getting into it now, there are a ton of parallels with Matthew 24, and that should mean something to you shortly. On to the next.
As Jesus approaches Jerusalem, the people were getting excited because they thought the kingdom was going to come immediately. It made sense in light of the comments Jesus had been making up to this time, and the nation had been waiting on this for over 700 years since the northern tribes went into exile, so you can identify with their anticipation. So, what does Jesus do? He tells another story. This one is kind of long, so I'm going to take out the bits about the minas.
So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. “And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.' “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.' “When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done… But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”Luke 19:12–27 (cf. Matthew 25:14-30)
So, the nobleman goes into a distant country to receive a kingdom. Some citizens hated him and rejected him. When he gets back after receiving the kingdom, those who rejected him are killed.
So, the kingdom wasn't going to arrive immediately, but it was going to take some time. After Jesus' resurrection, He ascended to sit on David's throne, or, as Jesus said in the parable, to receive the kingdom. Upon coming back before some of His disciples would die, those who rejected Him and put Him to death would be slain. It is at that point that His faithful servants are given a part of the kingdom.
Finally, in Luke, we come to chapter 21. Luke 21 is Luke's version of Jesus' sermon about His coming again and the destruction of the temple. The other versions are found in Matthew 24 (see why that was important earlier?) and Mark 13. I can't really say this better than Jesus, so let me just quote this passage for you:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.Luke 21:20–32
This passage has everything we've talked about so far: those who rejected Jesus are judged, Jesus would come with glory, the kingdom would come at that time as well, and all this would happen within that generation.
“I thought the kingdom came on Pentecost?” Not according to Luke. Yes, Jesus ascended to receive the kingdom for Himself, but according to Luke, the saints would enter the kingdom at the coming of the Lord at the resurrection of the just and judgement of those who rejected Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50).
So, when Paul preaches the kingdom of God, which is the fulfillment of the restoration of Israel passages according to Acts 1:6, he has this message (and timing) in mind. This is why he says, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Why would he say that? Because Jesus said they would be persecuted before entering the kingdom at the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:12).
What have we learned? According to Luke, their entrance into the kingdom would be when Jesus would come again at the fall of Jerusalem. Tomorrow, we'll do Matthew.
One Reply to “The Coming of the Kingdom [in Luke] (Part 1/5)”
Thanks again for such an insightful analysis of the timeframe in which the coming of the kingdom would arrive. I appreciate all the work you do to make the Word of God come alive with a more accurate understanding of God’s kingdom.