What did Jesus mean when he said “the kingdom of God is within you”? (17:20-21)?
Some translations render this “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Either translation is legitimate, but it does make a difference and only one really makes sense. Saying the kingdom of God is “among” you or “here already” leads us to wonder why Jesus prefaced that comment with “the kingdom doesn’t come with careful observation.” The Pharisees were certainly looking for it. If it were already there, they’d see it.
But saying “the kingdom of God is within you” serves as a lasting lesson and rebuke to the Pharisees – and often, to us.
The kingdom of God is where God rules. The Pharisees wanted to be a part of God’s kingdom, a citizen of His nation. Thus, they were looking for the coming of a Messiah who would set that up. They just needed to know the signs that it had arrived so they could join.
Jesus pointed them to the only sign that mattered: the changed life. The kingdom, the rule of God, comes to you when God rules your life. It is not possible to be a part of the kingdom, and not be under God’s rule. The Pharisees wanted to have it both ways. They could not, and neither can we. All the talk some people do about “heaven,” disturbs me. Everyone wants to go there, but why? Perhaps it just beats the alternative, but I wonder . . . If God doesn’t rule your life now, and you cannot imagine being happy here living the holy life without a little (or a lot of) worldliness mixed in, how could you possibly enjoy heaven? The fact is, the kingdom of heaven will never be a part of the life that does not submit to God.