20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, `Behold, here it is!' or `There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." 22 And he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, `Behold, there!' or `Behold, here!' Do not go, do not follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Meditation: What can lightning tell us about the coming
of the Lord and his kingdom? The Jews in Jesus' time were watching
in great anticipation for some sign which would indicate when the
Messiah would appear to establish the kingdom of God. The
Pharisees' question on this matter was intended to test Jesus
since they did not accept him as the Messiah. Jesus surprised them
with the answer that the kingdom or reign of God was already here!
Jesus spoke of the coming of God's kingdom as both a present event
and an event which would be manifested at the end of time.
The Day of Judgment and God's final verdict
The "Day of the Lord" was understood in the Old Testament as the time when God would manifest his glory and power and overthrow the enemies of his people, Israel. The prophet Amos declared that the "Day" also meant judgment for Israel as well as the nations (Amos 5:18-20). The prophet Joel proclaimed that at this "Day" those who truly repented would be saved, while those who remained enemies of the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile, would be punished (see Joel 2).
Image of lightning and the sudden appearance of Christ on Judgment Day
Why did Jesus associate lightning with the "Day of the Lord"? In the arid climate of Palestine, storms were infrequent and seasonal. They often appeared suddenly or unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere, covering everything in thick darkness. With little or no warning lightning filled the sky with its piercing flashes of flaming light. Its power struck terror and awe in those who tried to flee from its presence. Jesus warned the Pharisees that the "Son of man" (a title for the Messiah given in the Book of Daniel 7:13-15) would come in like manner, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, on the clouds of heaven to bring God's judgment on the "Day of the Lord". No special sign will be needed to announce his appearance. Nor will his presence and power be veiled or hidden, but all will recognize him as clearly as the lightning in the sky.
Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead
Jesus identified himself with the "Day of the Lord". "Son of man" was understood as a Messianic title for the one who would come not only to establish God's kingdom but who would come as Judge of the living as well as the dead. Jesus points to his second coming when he will return to complete the work of restoration and final judgment. While we do not know the time of his return, we will not mistake it when it happens. It will be apparent to all, both believers and non-believers as well.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what sign would indicate the "Day of the Lord", Jesus replied that only one sign would point to that day and that sign was Jesus himself. Jesus surprised the Jews of his time by announcing that God's kingdom was already present among them in his very person - the Son of God sent from the Father to redeem the world from sin and corruption.
Our hope is anchored in God's kingdom - not the passing kingdoms of this present world
In the Lord Jesus we see both the power and the glory of God's kingdom. His divine power overthrew the powers of darkness (the kingdom of Satan and all who opposed God's rule) and sin (which corrupts and enslaves the human mind, heart, and will to the forces of evil and wrongdoing). Jesus knew that the only way to victory was through the cross. On that cross he defeated death and canceled the debt of our sins. The victory of his cross opens the way for us to live as sons and daughters of God and citizens of his heavenly kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness (moral goodness). Is your hope and future securely anchored to God's heavenly kingdom?
89 For ever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day; for all things are your servants.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.
175 Let me live, that I may praise you, and let your ordinances help me.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Don't
pursue human glory, by John Cassian (360-435 AD)
"If the devil has been driven out and sin no longer reigns, then the kingdom of God is established in us. As it is written in the Gospel, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation, nor will they say, 'Lo here,' or 'Lo, there.' Truly I say to you that the kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:20-21). The only thing that can be 'within us' is knowledge or ignorance of the truth and the affection for righteousness or sin by which we prepare our hearts to be a kingdom of Christ or the devil. St. Paul described the nature of this kingdom in this way: 'For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Romans 14:17). If the kingdom of God is within us and is righteousness, peace and joy, then someone that remains in these is surely within the kingdom of God. Someone that remains in unrighteousness, conflict and the melancholy that kills the life of the spirit is already a citizen of the devil's kingdom, of hell and of death. These are the signs whether it is God's kingdom or the devil's." (excerpt from CONFERENCE 1.13.5)
[John Cassian was an early 5th century
church father who lived for several years with the monks in
Bethlehem and Egypt before founding a monastery in southern