An eloquent writer in the WordPress community recently posed the challenging question: “If you didn’t know anything about the Kingdom [of God], how would you define it?”
When defining the Kingdom of God, the first verse I think of is part of Luke 17:21: “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
I always drew great hope and comfort from that verse. “The Kingdom of God is within you.” I felt it was a treasure hunt of sorts—it was the Lord telling us that we can look within ourselves and find the holiness of His perfect Kingdom, through the Presence of the Holy Spirit. It made me feel comforted to think of this, because there are times when I feel so inadequate. But then I think to myself, the Kingdom of God is within me, waiting to be discovered! I can do more, through Him Who strengthens me!
Yet who am I, and who’s to say I know what I’m talking about? As I read different perspectives on the subject, I began wondering, what if I’m wrong? When you question something you believe in, and face the thought that it may not be exist in the way you thought it did, it shakes you up inside. It really “rocks” your world, in the earthquake sense of the word.
So I turned to the wisdom of others. I belong to a discussion group in which we discuss the works of 19th/20th century author Grace Livingston Hill; and to this group, I asked the question, “Am I wrong?” Their answers have uplifted, enlightened, and inspired me.
One friend had this commentary, which has helped me find peace and confidence in my own opinion:
“As for this one particular verse, the best way is to go to the original Greek or Hebrew
texts to see what they say. Often, words and phrases in the original text could not be easily translated to English because there just wasn’t anything comparable. I believe it is a mistake to assume that English translations are the final word.
The connotation of a particular phrase can change from Greek to English, or even from Grace’s time to our time. So “within you” may mean something different to you and I than it did to the KJV translators in 1611 and something else to those who wrote down what Jesus said. The huge number of translations is proof that not everyone agrees with everyone else’s interpretation of the original text.
Do you want a perfect example of changing connotation? If I told someone of Grace’s day to “reach out and touch someone”, they would physically touch another person. However, someone from my generation [look out, I’m showing my age] would probably pick up the phone and call someone! There are many other words and phrases that have changed meaning dramatically just in our lifetime—Just read a GLH book to find more! We have to be very careful about reading today’s meaning into yesterday’s writing, especially where the Bible is concerned.
Here’s what I’ve found on BibleGateway.com after reading your post :
Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible by Robert Young is an extremely literal translation that attempts to preserve the tense and word usage as found in the original Greek and Hebrew writings. Here is Luke 17:20-21 in this version, courtesy of BibleGateway.com:
And having been questioned by the Pharisees, when the reign of God doth come, he answered them, and said, `The reign of God doth not come with observation; nor shall they say, Lo, here; or lo, there; for lo, the reign of God is within you.’
The Amplified Bible covers both —the brackets are part of the translation and are not mine. “Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].
American Standard Version: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.
New Life Version: It will not be said, ‘See, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For the holy nation of God is in you.”
Wycliffe New Testament: neither they shall say, Lo! here, or lo[!] there; for lo! the realm of God is within you.
Worldwide English New Testament: People will not be able to say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is! That is because the kingdom of God is inside you.’
Many versions (like NIV) include both “within” and “among” with one or the other as a footnoted possible translation. On BibleGateway, some are saying within and some are saying among, so it looks like the jury is still out.
Jesus did, after all, say specifically that His Kingdom was not of this world in John 18. In Luke, the pharisees were asking about a literal kingdom on earth, but Jesus seems to be pointing out that it couldn’t be seen here or there, it was somewhere that it couldn’t be seen.
Be encouraged and listen to what God is speaking to you. After all, He’s got the FINAL, final word.”
Another friend shared this definition of the Kingdom with me:
“The kingdom of heaven is the church living out the purposes of its king Jesus while we wait his return to rule his kingdom on earth.”
A third friend summed up both perspectives beautifully with her own:
“The Kingdom is within each of us who are true Christians, and the Kingdom will also be an actual happening/place one day in the future for those of us who believe.”
I’m grateful for the question, the challenge to my beliefs, and the wisdom of others. I do believe, as I always have, that Christ’s kingdom will come on earth some day. In the meantime, I hold with confidence to the notion that his Kingdom truly does exist inside us, too.
I know it does, because I have seen it, in all its glory, within others.