We look today at three kingdom references (Luke 17:20, 20, 21) that are, in my estimation, some of the most misconstrued texts in Jesus’ kingdom message. Here they are in context:
20 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, 21 nor will people say, ?Here it is,? or ?There it is,? because the kingdom of God is within you.?
22 Then he said to his disciples, ?The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 Men will tell you, ?There he is!? or ?Here he is!? Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 ?Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 ?It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 ?It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.? [37 ?Where, Lord?? they asked. He replied, ?Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.?
1. First off, this text does not say the kingdom of God is some kind of little divine spark in the soul of each person. It is not about the kingdom being “in your heart” or “in your spirit”. The expression is plural: “the kingdom is within you [plural].” This view trotted its merry way among the 2d Century Gnostics and then was picked up in modern liberalism and in such folks as Elaine Pagels.
2. Second, “within” is an unusual expression and is most literally translated “among” rather than “inside.”
3. The context is a question about time and the supposed ability on the part of some to calculate its coming.
4. Jesus denies their capacity to calculate.
5. Instead, Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is among you [plural].”
Many today render this expression as follows: The kingdom of God does not come according to your apocalyptic timetables and calculations; instead, though you don’t see it, the kingdom is right now present among you [in Jesus] and/or within your grasp [if you respond to me].