Kingdom of God within You


Please explain what it means to have the kingdom of God within you (Luke 17:20-12).


I think you could get rich if you were given a dime for every time someone brings up these verses in connection with either questioning, or wanting to deny, that the “kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven” in Israel’s program is describing the literal and physical establishment of God’s dominion and kingdom on this earth. To some it is just a puzzling couple of verses, and they have a hard time figuring out what the Lord is saying when it is so obvious from everything else that is said about the “kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven” that it is a literal, physical thing. However when it comes to those who want to deny the literal, physical reality and nature of the kingdom, and instead want to see a spiritual, ‘in-the-heart’ type kingdom; it never ceases to amaze me that they think that this one passage is supposed to upset and overturn the dozens and dozens of passages in the rest of the Gospels (and in the rest of the Scriptures pertaining to Israel’s program) that plainly and clearly testify to, promise, and prophesy about, the literal and physical establishment of God’s kingdom on this earth in the land of Israel. But such is the way of a man when he determines with himself to only see what he wants to see, and not to be honest with God’s word. And in essence, that is exactly what the Pharisees themselves of Luke 17 were doing in view of all the evidence that had been set before them concerning the fact that “the kingdom of God” really was “at hand,” just like the “gospel of the kingdom” had been declaring to be the case. And recognizing and appreciating that this is what the Pharisees were doing is the key, so to speak, to understanding the Lord’s response to them in verse 21.

First of all, note that the things set forth in Luke 17 are not at the beginning of the Lord’s earthly ministry, nor therefore at the beginning of the climactic stage in God’s program with Israel when the “kingdom of heaven” just began to be preached to Israel as being “at hand.” Rather by the time you get to Luke 17 the three years of the Lord’s public ministry are nearing their end, and the preaching to Israel of the arrival of the climactic stage in their  program with the “kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God” being “at hand” has been saturating Israel for almost three and one half years. I point this out for two main reasons: 1) to underscore the fact that if the “kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven” was to be rightly understood as only a spiritual, ‘in-the-heart’ type kingdom, and not a literal, physical one (and that this is actually what the Lord is supposed to be teaching in Luke 17:21); then He naturally would have been doing that right from the beginning and not allowing the misconception to exist for three or more years. And 2) I point this out to underscore the fact that the Lord’s response to the Pharisees is in view of the fact that they were in possession of over three years worth of testimony and evidence verifying the reality of the “kingdom of God” being “at hand.” With these things in mind, I’ll briefly set forth my understanding of the issue.

As verse 20 relates, near the end of His ministry the Lord “was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come.” Notice that Luke says the Lord “was demanded” of them. This is something the Pharisees did not do with honesty of heart; not with sincerity of inquiry; not as ones who genuinely believed “the gospel of the kingdom” and that it was truly “at hand,” being persuaded by both the preaching and the evidential signs of the kingdom and “signs of the times” that had been given. No, this wasn’t what was behind their “demand.” Instead, this “demand” of theirs was part and parcel of their continuing scorn, ridicule, and denial that the climactic stage in Israel’s program actually had arrived and that the “kingdom of God” therefore really was “at hand.” This they did in the same vein as when they tempted the Lord and “desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven,” as well as when they had earlier on denounced John the Baptist. It was therefore a hypocritical, ingenuous, and scornful “demand” based not only upon their firm refusal to honestly deal with the evidence that had been set before them, but also based upon their own preferred ideas as to how they thought the “kingdom of God” should come. (They thought it should come with great pomp and circumstance, and that they would be able to observe it as such.) And the Lord was well aware of this. He knew with whom He was dealing and what was behind their “demand.”

Therefore the Lord’s response to their “demand” takes all of this into account and is consistent with all of it. Hence when the Lord responded by first of all saying, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:,” He reproved their misconception of how they thought the kingdom should be coming, which was based upon their own imagined and preferred ideas. Therefore the kingdom wasn’t coming with the “observation” and prestigious sort of signs they looked for. Likewise when He went on to say, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there!” He reproved any idea that it would be the way they imagined in the future either. No one is going to come to them in the future and tell them to ‘Look here’ or ‘Look there’ and so let them observe the kingdom coming with the pomp and circumstance with which they think it should come. And, once again, the reason for all of this is because what they imagined about the way in which God would announce and bring His kingdom to the earth was all wrong. None of what they imagined was what God had set forth in the prophets. Instead the “signs of the times” and the mechanics of the kingdom’s coming described by God in the prophets was entirely different than what they imagined and preferred to believe.

Nevertheless what God had set forth in the prophets was true. And in connection this, when the climactic stage in Israel’s program arrived God began to fulfill exactly what He had set forth in the prophets. The promised word of the kingdom began to preached in the very manner specified, and all of the prophesied signs that verified the reality of the kingdom of heaven being “at hand” began to transpire. The kingdom of God began coming upon Israel just as had been foretold and the proof of it had been abundantly given to them over the course of the previous three plus years. Hence, these Pharisees were not without proofs by any means and their “demand” was without legitimate foundation.

Moreover, in view of the way in which God described the effectual working of both “the gospel of the kingdom” and the signs of the kingdom, the proof of the reality that the kingdom of God had come upon Israel was actually in the hearts and minds of these Pharisees themselves; for God had put it there. They just refused to believe it. This is because “gospel of the kingdom” and its accompanying signs effectually worked within the people of Israel in the same way that the pronouncing of the Law did back in Moses’ day. As is recorded in Deuteronomy 30, Moses said to the people of Israel in his day, “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say. Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say. Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” Hence they were without excuse when it came to being held accountable by God for the commandment Moses gave to them. The commandment and the very works of the Lord that they saw through Moses’ ministry effectually worked within them, (in their mouth and in their heart), and by so doing placed them in the position of full accountability to God.

Now, once again, in similar manner was this the case with the people of Israel with the arrival of the climactic stage of their program. God designed “the gospel of the kingdom” and its accompanying signs from Him to effectually work in the same way and for full accountability to be brought to bear upon each Israelite, including the Pharisees, in view of it. (This accountability factor is a big issue during the climactic stage in Israel’s program and as such it has a bearing upon a great number of things. However I am just talking about it in gist, and for its bearing upon the situation in Luke 17.) Because of this the Lord says things in His ministry to Israel that directly make reference to this accountability factor. For example with respect to the impact made by Him casting out devils He said, “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” And notice that He said this to the Pharisees. The kingdom of God had come upon them. And there was “no doubt” about it. But they refused to believe it. Nevertheless it had “come upon” them, and the prophesied signs of the kingdom held them accountable to it. In like manner “the word of the kingdom” was effectually “sown in the heart” of an Israelite when he heard it. Whether he believed it or not was up to him. But it was effectually “sown in his heart,” just like the Lord said, and he was held fully accountable for it.

In view of this, therefore, all the proofs for the reality of the coming of the kingdom of God (if the Pharisees of Luke 17 honestly sought proofs) were in their own hearts, placed there over the previous three plus years by the effectual working of both “the gospel of the kingdom” and the signs of it. That therefore is where they should be looking to see the reality of the kingdom being “at hand.” Hence, the Lord said to them, “for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Keith R Blades

20000203 A33 DG V I IP j s bn tp tc

Scroll to Top