The Kingdom of God is Within You

Luke 17:21
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

This passage is generally used in the endeavour to prove that the kingdom of God is not a visible dominion of God to be established upon earth in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ returned from heaven, but a spiritual reign of Christ in the hearts of believers.

CHRIST ANSWERS THE PHARISEES.- A careful reading of the episode (verses 20-37) will show how mistaken is such an endeavour. In the first place the words of Christ in question were addressed, not to believers, but to unbelievers - to the Pharisees, Christ's enemies, of whom he said, "Within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23: 28); "Ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness" (Luke 11: 39). How then could the kingdom of God, in the sense of the spiritual reign of Christ, be "within " such as these? It was certainly not "within" them, and Christ meant no such thing. What he did mean was this: that in spite of their " observation " (parateresis, narrow watching, compare Luke 6: 7; 14: 1), they could not discern "the finger of God" plainly revealed in their midst. Even the margin of the A.V. gives the alternative for "within" thus : "or, among" and the R.V. margin says : "or, in the midst of you." This certainly ought to have been put into the text, for the very obvious reason indicated above.

When his enemies attributed his works of healing to Beelzebub, Jesus referred them to their own doctors, and added, "But if I with the finger of God cast out devils (demons), no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you" (Luke 11: 20). That is, the power of God was thus openly revealed in Christ in the land of Israel. Hence, when he sent out his disciples into the cities which he himself proposed to visit, he said: "Heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (Luke 10: 9, 11). In a sense the "kingdom of God" is universal, all creation being in the grasp of His divine dominion : "The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all" (Psa. 103 19). But we must not misinterpret such general declarations in a way that will make void "the gospel of the kingdom" which Jesus preached.

CHRIST WARNS HIS DISCIPLES.- The gospel concerns the purpose of God in Christ with regard to the earth, and promises a kingdom of God upon earth, in which God's will shall be done "as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6: 10). When this kingdom comes, then will come the day of the Son of Man, of which Christ went on to speak to his disciples on this same occasion (Luke 17 : 20-37). Turning from the unfriendly "observation," or narrow scrutiny of the Pharisees, "he said unto the disciples, The days will come when YE shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here ; or, see there : go not after them nor follow them. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven, so also shall the Son of Man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation." And he went on to tell them that his subsequent coming to judge the world should be "as it was in the days of Noah" (verse 26), "as it was in the days of Lot" (verse 28) - a dreadful time of fallen carcases and gathering eagles (verse 37, compare Ezek. 39: 17-22; Rev. 19: 11-21). Thus Jesus answered the Pharisees, and forewarned the disciples as to when and how "the kingdom of God should come." Study the days of Noah and of Lot, and we have a type of how "the world of the ungodly" (2 Pet. 2 : 5) will be destroyed, and "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Rev. 11: 15).

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE PAST.- The gospel which Jesus preached was "the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1: 14, 15; Luke 4 : 43). It was not new as to its fundamental ideas; but only as to his person and office. The gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3 : 8, 16) when God promised him the blessing of all nations in his Seed, the Christ. The form of blessedness proposed was "the kingdom of God." There was once a "kingdom of God" upon earth, but not of the kind that is coming. That was a mortal, though divine, administration. This will be an immortal "everlasting kingdom" in the hands of Christ and the saints. The kingdom of Israel of old was the kingdom of God, see Exod. 19 : 4-6; 1 Chron. 29 : 23, and God covenanted with David that his throne and kingdom should endure for ever in the hands of the Son of David and Son of God, that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Read carefully the terms of the "everlasting covenant" (2 Sam. 7 : 4-16) and "the last words of David" (2 Sam. 23: 1-7). It is true that, because of Solomon's sin, the kingdom was divided, and because of continued iniquity, both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were overthrown. But concerning the latter, when God gave the last king, Zedekiah, into the hands of the Babylonians, he said, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more until he come whose right it is ; and I will give it him " (Ezek. 21: 27).

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE FUTURE.- "He whose right it is," is the Lord Jesus Christ, "the Heir." He is "the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt. 1: 1); "and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David" (Luke 1: 32). That is not in heaven, for "David is not ascended into the heavens; but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool" (Acts 2 : 34). This will be in Jerusalem, "for it is the city of the great King" (Matt. 5 : 35). "The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion : rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psa. 110: 2). There will then be no more hostile Pharisees in Jerusalem demanding "when the kingdom of God shall come." In the place where they said, "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19: 14), there they will submit to him. And of those who rejected him, or shall reject him, he said, "Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me" (verse 27). They rejected "the kingdom of God" when God in Christ approached them in the message of peace and works of healing and mercy; they must therefore learn by the "rod of iron" (Psa. 2 : 9; Rev. 2: 26-27). "The kingdom of God" was in their midst then, and they knew it not; they will know "like lightning" in "the day of the Son of Man" (Luke 17 : 24).

In view of the scriptural facts and principles above indicated, the reader will be able to understand how it is that John the Baptist says, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3 : 2); and yet Jesus says the kingdom of heaven shall be entered by obedient believers "in that day" of his coming again to judgment (Matt. 7: 21; 13 : 43; 25 : 34). Further, it will become plain what was meant when Jesus said, "He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (John the Baptist - Luke 7 : 28). For John, though "much more than a prophet," was then only "among those that are born of women," that is mortal flesh and blood; and "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Cor. 15 : 50). "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit" (John 3 : 3-6). A man must be born again mentally, morally, and physically. He must believe "the gospel of the kingdom of God," repent, and be baptized into Christ, and thus be "born of water" in "the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5 : 26). Then he must, "by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality," that the Lord Jesus Christ may reward him with eternal life "in that day" (Rom. 2 : 7-16).

Then, when Christ returns, if the obedient believer be dead, he will raise him to eternal life; and all such "are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20 : 36). This is being "born of the spirit." "They are equal to the angels" who are "ministering spirits," and being thus "partakers of the divine nature . . . an entrance is ministered unto them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1: 4, 11). See further, such passages as: Dan. 7; Zech. 9 : 9, 10; Mark 11: 1-10; Luke 22 : 29; Acts 1: 3, 6, etc.

Reproduced from: The Christadelphian Shield: Papers Explanatory of Wrested Scriptures