Luke 17 verses 24/25. “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
On the one hand the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven is invisible. It cannot be seen with the human eye and therefore there is no point in saying “here it is”, or “there it is” (v 21)
But there is an opposite error to avoid as well, and that is to so focus on this unseen, spiritual phase of the Kingdom that we forget that the Kingdom will indeed come, one day, in power and in great glory. On that day, far from being invisible, it will be instantaneously and also universally visible to the human eye.
When I was a younger preacher, it was very fashionable amongst certain liberal theologians to deny the second coming of Jesus. It was considered something only simple and unsophisticated people believed in; the thing to do, these people would say, is to work amongst the poor and needy and show yourself as a concerned Christian.
The funny thing though is that it was exactly this teaching of the Kingdom coming visibly, the return of Christ, that gave momentum to thousands of young Christians giving their whole lives to serving Jesus anywhere, in missions, in Churches, in ghettoes, to love the poor, alleviate their misery and teach them the truth of salvation.
In these verses Jesus was referring to times still to come in the history of the world when His people would long to see him come visibly. In other words, there would be tough days ahead, when Christians will be under all kinds of pressure, and we will all be tempted to say, “When is the Lord coming back?”.
During times like that there will be no end of people who will appear with what will look like wonderful charts and schemes to illustrate their prophetic ideas. Teachers will arise, as it were, and say, “there he is”, or “here he is” – or if you like, he is coming back on such and such a date. Some will tell you that you have to subscribe to their creeds to be saved.
Have we not seen exactly this happen, even in our own times? And a quick glance over Church history will reveal that many people became prominent at different times in history, especially when the going was tough, with claims of special visions, dreams, or messages from angels.
Well, says Jesus, don’t believe them. “Do not go rushing off after them”. Why not? Because his coming will not be a secret, and will require no visions or dreams. There will be no guess work. It will be like the lightning which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.
So do not be led astray. Keep your wits about you.