What did Jesus mean when He said, "The Kingdom of
God is within you"?
One of the most misunderstood statements of
Jesus is recorded in Luke 17:20–21, "Now when He was asked by the
Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The
kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See
here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
Jesus was answering skeptical Pharisees who were hoping
God’s dominion on earth would immediately appear. They were expecting
Jesus, if he were truly the Messiah, to liberate the Jews from Roman control
and restore the Promised Land to Abraham’s seed. For their sakes, Jesus
explained that the kingdom "does not come with observation." This
word "observation" implies viewing something over a protracted
period. In other words, he was informing his hearers that they would not see
a gradual removal of the Romans from the land of Israel, with the Israelites
recapturing one city at a time.
I do not believe that Jesus was indicating his audience
actually possessed an inward experience of the kingdom of God. Rather, he
was making a hypothetical statement. He was proposing, "If you
experience the kingdom of God, it will be an inward experience." In a
similar sense, Jesus could have exhorted a group of depressed persons
saying, "You will not find true joy in external and material things,
for behold, true joy is within you." Such a statement would not be an
acknowledgement that joy was actually resident within their hearts, but
rather, that if they ever found true joy, it would be an internal
When all the New Testament scriptures on this subject are
blended together, they clearly reveal that the kingdom did not become an
inward, personal experience in the hearts of the disciples until much later,
on the day of Pentecost. On that pivotal day, when the Holy Spirit swept
into the upper room like a wind, men were ‘born of the Spirit’ for the
first time. It was then that one of Jesus’ prophecies came to pass: a
prediction that a number of his disciples would not "taste of
death" until they saw "the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark
In John 3:3–7 Jesus clearly indicated that this ‘born
again’ experience is the main prerequisite for ‘seeing’
(comprehending) and ‘entering’ the kingdom of God. So Luke 17:20–21 is
not a description of the inward spiritual condition of the whole human race.
Instead, it only indicates a potential inheritance that can be realized
through the biblical experience of salvation.