The Kingdom of God is Where!?
Where exactly do we find the Kingdom of God? Twice this past week, I heard someone say that the Kingdom of God is within me. What does that mean?
First, let’s look at the verse that teaches us that the Kingdom of God is within us and look at what people believe is meant by this:
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; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” – Luke 17:20-21 (New King James Version)
Jesus has people talking. They are debating whether he is the promised Messiah. The Pharisees do not want to believe that Jesus is that Messiah, so they have hounded him for three years, trying to trap him using tricks, legal definitions and outright deception. They think that if they can show Jesus as a fool or a liar, then the people will realize he is a fraud.
So they ask him when the Kingdom of God would come. That seems like a good question to ask. If Jesus is really the Messiah, certainly he knows the timetable for when he would become king. He must already be planning the overthrow of the Roman Empire if he is to rule himself. Of course, think the Pharisees, since he is not Messiah, his true self will emerge.
Jesus’ response is that the Pharisees would not be able to see the Kingdom with their own two eyes. Then he tosses out his well-known quote: “the kingdom of God is within you.”
What does that mean?
There are several main thoughts regarding this. The most popular is that the kingdom of God is a spiritual reality that currently resides within us, in our spirit. This concept implies that we all have the kingdom of God in us and therefore, we are of special value.
Some Problems with this View
I have several problems with this view. First, why does Jesus answer a “when” question with a “where?” The Pharisees have asked, “When will the kingdom come.” Jesus answers, “It’s within you.” This doesn’t make sense.
Additionally, the idea that everyone has the kingdom of God within them is pure Gnosticism. To those who might say, “Not everyone – only Christians,” then why is Jesus saying this to the Pharisees? They obviously were not followers of Jesus.
Some might say that the Pharisees stood for all the Jewish people. Then the idea becomes, “The kingdom of God is within the Jews.” This also falls apart, for it is clear that Jesus displayed himself to non-Jews as well. The centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), the royal official (John 4:46-54), the Samaritan woman (John 3) and the Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28) were all shown the kingdom of heaven: to one, he reveals that he is the Messiah, to two others, he praises their great faith.
In the passage regarding the Centurion, Jesus is clear about who will enter the kingdom of God.
Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 8:5-13
Jesus praises the faith of the Centurion, comparing it to the faith of the Jews. Jesus had not come across any Jew in all Israel with the same faith as this non-Jew. Then to make sure that everyone understood, Jesus teaches that there will be many from the east and the west (Gentiles) who will sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom while the sons of the kingdom (Jews) were cast into hell.
A Different View
Luke 17:21 is translated, “the kingdom of God is within you” in the New King James Version (NKJV). However, if you look at other English translations, you will find that not all of them translate this the same way.
Of the 53 English versions I looked at, 26 of them, including the NKJV, have “the kingdom of God is within you.”
However, 27 versions have either, “the kingdom of God is among you,” or “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
My own research finds that, from a linguistic viewpoint, the proper translation of the Greek word, “entos” would be “within.” This is the way it is translated the only other time it is used in the New Testament (Matthew 23:26). It is also the word used in the Septuagint for the Hebrew word “within” (for example, Psalm 103:1).
So why do so many translations use “among?” According to Thayer’s Dictionary, “among” is a proper translation, though “within” is the primary translation. So it isn’t wrong to use “among” from a linguistic viewpoint.
Since we have determined that “among” is a valid, though lesser used, translation, we need to determine why so many English translations use this. The answer is: context.
The Kingdom is Among You
As I described above, saying “the kingdom of God is within you” does not make sense in the context. How can Jesus explain the kingdom of God being within those people who have been his enemies and will have him crucified in the near future? Why does he respond to a “when” question with a “where” answer?
However, if the “kingdom of God is among you” instead of “within you,” we have a much better understanding of the passage.
The Pharisees ask, “When?” and Jesus answers, “It’s already started!” Luke doesn’t tell us how the Pharisees responded to this, though we can guess they were confused. They might have asked each other, “How has the kingdom of God already started?”
Jesus was trying to show them that his coming to Earth kicked off the start of His Kingdom. A king rules over his kingdom. However, before he became king, he was a prince. Before he was ruling over it, although he was not yet king and only a prince, the kingdom was already his. Jesus will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15).
Future King, Current Kingdom
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” – John 18:36
So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. – Luke 19:12
And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” – Mark 9:1
Jesus explains that he has a kingdom. His coronation might not have occurred yet but the kingdom exists. Not of this world. In a distant country. Some of those with Jesus saw the kingdom when they went up on the mountain and witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2, 2 Peter 1:16-17).
Jesus told the Pharisees, “the kingdom of God was among them” because the future king was standing in their midst.
Though the Greek word “entos” could be translated “within” or “among,” the context forces us to choose “among.” Next time a preacher or a friend says, “the kingdom of God is within you,” ask him if it was in the Pharisees too.
Meanwhile, we can even now worship the future King. We can recognize that though the Kingdom has not been fully manifested, we can enjoy many of its blessings now. Even so, we can look forward to experiencing its fullness in the future.