Summary: A look at the Kingdom of God and what and where it is.
Tonight we will continue our series on “What, Where, Why, When?”, while I attempt to answer your questions about God, the Bible, and the church.
Let’s go straight to our email question for this evening
Hi Pastor Shane,
Luke 17:20-21 specifically, can you expound on verse 21b (For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.) I’ve been doing some reading on this and would like to get a deeper understanding.
I’ll tell you right off the bat, there is a whole lot of discussion out there on this passage with opinions floating all over the place.
But, let’s start by reading the passage in question and go from there.
Then Jesus goes into a prophetic teaching for the disciples on the last days and end times.
The NIV lumps this all together as if it were one teaching. While in context they do have much in common, there is a clear distinction of two thoughts here.
He starts out answering a question of the Pharisees. In verse 22 we see Him turn His attention to His disciples. This could have happened at the same moment or there may be a time lapse between the two.
Either way, there is a distinction between them as to the context in which they were said.
On the one hand Jesus is answering a question, on the other hand He is speaking of things to come in revelation to His disciples.
The verbs are different, even though in translation into English they seem similar. In His answer to the Pharisees, Jesus uses present tense and to the disciples He uses future tense. So, again, this extended portion does not answer the question at hand.
A careful study of the Gospel accounts shows us that Jesus often spoke in mystery to the Pharisees and religious leaders which we find in Luke 8:10.
Some would suggest then that this passage in Luke 17 in Jesus speaking in mystery to the Pharisees and then explaining it more to the disciples. That the term “the days of the Son of Man” is synonymous with “Kingdom of God.”
This is possible of course, but not supported in that would be a very narrow view of the Kingdom of God as existing only in the last days that Jesus is talking about in verses 22-37.
Let’s look at verses 20 and 21 as a stand alone statement.
The controversy among theologians about this passage is over one little word. In the NIV and the KJV that word is translated “within” with a footnote “or among”.
The NLT says “among you,” the CEV states it as “is with you.”
The RSV uses the phrase “in the midst of you”
The Greek word in question that is causing all this fuss is “entos” which literally means “see inside”
The only other use of this word in the NT is Matthew 23:26 speaking of cleaning out the inside of a cup or dish.
There also is not a parallel account of this exact exchange with the Pharisees in any of the other Gospels so we can’t look there for further clarification.
This has left scholars and theologians to figure out the intent Jesus had in using the preposition entos
A brief look at some of the arguments:
On the one hand there are those who are adamant that the proper translation is within, not among.
This would imply that the Kingdom of God exists solely in the hearts of people, specifically those who follow Jesus.
The problem with this argument is the fact that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, a group who was quite opposed to Jesus. So, how could He say the Kingdom is within them.
To suggest that He was not speaking to them, but had turned His attention to His disciples or others listening is not supported by the text, specifically verse 22 which shows the distinction of His attention.
Supporters of this argument contend that Jesus was correcting the Pharisees for their faulty thinking on the Kingdom of God and so it was proper for Him to say within you.
Citing the case that Jesus was speaking of the way Kingdom does exist spiritually and beyond normal human existence.
They claim that Jesus was letting the Pharisees know that their hope of a political Messiah was not going to happen and that if they wanted to experience the Kingdom of God they were not going to find it in any outward form until they first discovered it in their own hearts.
The other side who stands for the translation of “among you” put forth that Jesus was speaking of Himself.
They base it on the intent of the question from the Pharisees. The Pharisees were asking about the Messiah and His Kingdom.
They were looking for the Messiah to reestablish the earthly reign of the throne of David and to overthrow the Roman rule.