“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” NIV
When I first came across this passage in Luke forty years ago, I was astounded. I had recently come through a season of darkness and confusion, and was just beginning to see the full wonder and glory of Jesus Christ, and the abundant life that He came to give us all. This was a complete change of perspective for me. Before I had thought that every time the Bible was talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, it was referring to the place Christians go after they die.
While I still understood and do understand that Christians pass from this life and into the immediate presence of our glorious Lord, then I learned something about our present experience of His presence. Finding the words of Jesus telling that the Kingdom of God is within us only confirmed what I was already experiencing! I had discovered genuine righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! (Romans 14:17).
Today these scriptures are commonly quoted and even taken for granted. Sometimes I think they are taken too much for granted.
Have you ever seriously considered the context of Luke 17:20-21? The people who asked Jesus about the Kingdom and the ones he answered were the infamous Pharisees. While not all Pharisees were bad guys, the picture we get from the New Testament was that many of them who came in contact with Jesus were against Him. I can understand that the Kingdom of God is in those of us who have been born again according to John 3:3-5. But how could He say that the Kingdom of God was inside of those nasty Pharisees?
In fact, some Bible students and a few translators believe what He actually said was that the Kingdom of God was “among them.” They believe that the Kingdom of God was present among them in the Person of Jesus, which is true, but let us consider another possibility. Could He really have meant that every human being has a place within them where God could actually set up His throne?
Since Jesus came two thousand years ago, preaching, teaching, healing the sick, raising the dead, dying on a cross, returning to life and ascending to the right hand of the throne of God, the world has never been the same. The greatest change took place in the hearts and lives of people from all backgrounds and stations in life. He did not ignore their sinfulness, but He also saw something else in them. He saw that place in each one of us that is reserved for God alone, that only He could fill.
Those who followed Him were instructed to pray for the whole world, that the same Kingdom reign of Christ from heaven would fill others as well, that His will would also be done on earth in them. This is where it must begin, within you and me. The same goes for everyone else. Sometimes it is hard to look at another person and see that one as a potential Kingdom citizen. But Jesus did this very thing. He insisted that nothing was too hard for God.
When I look as the state of my country and society, it gets harder all the time to see the Kingdom of God advancing forward, but that is the challenge given unto us. Many of us are regularly challenged to believe and expect a better life for ourselves, our families, and our churches. Today I would challenge us all to believe God for His will to be continually done in this whole earth, as it is in heaven! That means that as we pray the Lord’s prayer, He will open tens of thousands of hearts around this world to His Kingly reign of light and love. He reigns as King in our hearts and desires to do so in all hearts everywhere. Will we join Him in His vision for His Creation? Will we enlist in His glorious army of light, clothed with the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the belt of Truth, the spread of the Gospel of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God?
Maybe it isn’t all about me after all. Yes, the Kingdom of God is within me, but it is also in others. Jesus wants to call that marvelous lifestyle forth from all people everywhere. Some may be satisfied to get their personal mansion in heaven, but there are others who possess a holy dissatisfaction with the state of God’s universe. They are seeing how He must continue to reign, until all His enemies are put under His feat, even death! Our prayers, intercessions and testimonies play a great part in this transformation of hearts, even to end the source of death, that carnal mind that resists Life Himself!
The King of the Kingdom came two thousand years ago. He announced that it had come and inaugurated it. It has been advancing ever since. It is active in many of us today, and many are already living under His Lordship. It will continue through cultural storms and political upheavals. It will prevail through economic downturns, riots, revolutions, and dictatorships. But perhaps even in our lifetime we will fully see “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea!” (Habakkuk 2:14).