How should we understand Jesus Christ’s statement in Luke 17:21 Luke 17:21Neither shall they say, See here! or, see there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
American King James Version×often translated “The kingdom of God is within you”? Many take it to mean that the Kingdom is something set up in men’s hearts. Yet we should realize that Jesus was speaking here to Pharisees who were opposed to Him (verse 20). So was God’s rule truly in their hearts? The words “within you” are better translated “in your midst” or “among you” or “here with you,” as other Bible versions variously render this.
The Kingdom was among them because Jesus was among them—the very King of all creation and future King of Israel and all nations was right there in their midst bringing a foretaste of the instructions and miracle-working power of the Kingdom yet to come.
This also explains Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:28 Matthew 12:28But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come to you.
American King James Version×: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Casting out demons was a hallmark of the future Kingdom of God—when Satan and His demons will be banished. Yet Jesus was not restricted from intervening to a certain degree when He came—nor is He now. Through Christ’s ministry and work, there was a breaking through of the age to come into the present age, as some have described it—and that breaking through can still be experienced by God’s people today.
In fact, though Jesus’ use of the term “Kingdom of God” was usually meant in an end-time sense, there are some instances where it’s shown to exist in a preliminary form today—compared to a mustard seed that starts out tiny but grows to become a huge plant or as a little yeast that ends up permeating and leavening a whole batch of bread dough (Matthew 13:31-33 Matthew 13:31-33 31 Another parable put he forth to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
33 Another parable spoke he to them; The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
American King James Version×).
Of course, those who will be crowned with rule over the world in the future age are those who are submitted to the reign of God during this age—though they may seem small and insignificant now. And they can be looked on in a sense as the Kingdom of God in embryonic form (compare Romans 8:22-23 Romans 8:22-23 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×).
It is not accurate, however, to regard Christ’s followers of this age as having “entered” the Kingdom so as to be “in” the Kingdom now.
As the apostle Paul told those who were already Christian believers, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 Acts 14:22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×). They had not entered yet. And the apostle Peter made it even clearer, telling Church members to remain faithful so that “an entrance will be [in the future] supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11 2 Peter 1:11For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×).
In fact, entering the Kingdom is synonymous with inheriting the Kingdom. It is “when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him,” that “the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (verses 31, 33).
Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christians do not enter or inherit the Kingdom of God at this time, stating, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50 1 Corinthians 15:50Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.
American King James Version×, English Standard Version). As long as we are human, we cannot inherit the Kingdom. We must be changed from fleshly, mortal bodies into immortal spirit beings.
It’s important to understand that entering the Kingdom of God requires a changed level of existence. We must be raised into divine glory to be like God our Father and Jesus Christ so as to rule under Them in Their Kingdom. (See our Bible study aid What Is Your Destiny? to better understand this subject.)
Another passage often used to argue that Christians are in the Kingdom today is Colossians 1:13 Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
American King James Version×, which states that God “has delivered us from the power [or dominion] of darkness and conveyed [or transferred] us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” This verse is speaking of an authority transfer from the rule of Satan to the rule of God.
Many assume the use of the word “into” here means that we are now “in” God’s Kingdom. But the Greek word rendered “into” does not have to mean we have been placed within the Kingdom. Some versions translate it simply as “to”—as we’ve gone from one authority over to another. We were subject to Satan’s rule and are now subject to the rule of God’s Kingdom.
Of course, the Kingdom of God exists today in that God is the Ruler of the universe. And He will personally rule over those who submit to Him today. However, that does not put them in the Kingdom now—it puts them under its rule, just as the nations of the earth during the Millennium will not be in the Kingdom in the full sense but will be under its rule.
Yes, there is a sense in which we are able to experience the Kingdom today. We live in submission to it now. Its King even lives within us to lead us out of darkness—bringing the power of the future age into our lives in the present. But we are yet in territory occupied by the enemy—not just the world but even our own flesh. We wait for a kingdom that is not yet here—the Kingdom that Jesus will bring with Him at His return, when He will completely transform us and will set about to transform the world at large.
For a more thorough explanation of the Kingdom of God, be sure to read “What Is the Kingdom of God? ” and the related articles in this issue.