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.” (Luke 17:20–21, NKJV)
This question of the Pharisees continues being asked to this very day by those who look for an earthly Kingdom that will come with great and tumultuous world events. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah would come as a Warrior King to throw off the Roman dominion and restore Israel to world power. Isn’t that precisely what modern day Premillennialists are looking for? They believe that Christ will come to restore Israel to world power and rule over an earthly, physical, kingdom from Jerusalem.
The passage above is just one among many that show the Premillennialist view to be without biblical support. When Jesus said that the kingdom would come without observation, that people would not be able to say, “See here!” or “See there!,” He was emphasizing the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God. It would not be like the coming of earthly kingdoms, with observable conquest and rule. The Kingdom of God would not have physical borders where people would be able to say, “See, here are the borders, and there are the borders.”
Certainly, when Jesus said that the Kingdom of God would come without observation, He didn’t mean that there would be no way of observably identifying when the Kingdom would come. He taught the people how they would be able to “observe” the coming of the kingdom. It would come with power from on High (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8). In Acts 2:1-4, the Holy Spirit gave “observable” conformation that it was time to open the doors to the Kingdom (cf. Matt. 16:18-19). When the apostles began to manifest the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to say that they were “observing” the things prophesied by Joel regarding the coming of the Kingdom (Acts 2:14-16). In that way the Kingdom did come with “observation.” But, it was not the observable establishment of an earthly or physical kingdom, as the Pharisees were expecting and Premillennialists are still expecting.
Jesus further emphasizes the spiritual nature of the Kingdom when he says, “the Kingdom of God is within you.” Unlike a physical kingdom with physical, “observable,” borders, the borders of the Kingdom of God would be within the hearts of men. The borders of the Kingdom of God would cross physical borders and go anywhere men heard and obeyed the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:37-38, 41, 47). It is clear that when we obey the gospel we enter into the Kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5; Eph. 2:19; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9). However, the Kingdom of God must also enter us! In Romans 14:17, the apostle Paul shows what it means when Jesus says, “the Kingdom of God is within you.”
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
Notice, once again, the contrast between physical and spiritual. When we have obeyed the gospel of Christ (2 Thess. 1:8; Rom. 6:3-5, 17), we know that we have entered into the Kingdom of God (Acts 2:41, 47; Col. 1:13). But do we have the Kingdom of God within us? We can know whether we do or not by, among other things, the things that Paul refers to in Romans 14:17.
Do I have the Kingdom of God within me?
- By living according to the doctrine of Christ (Righteousness, Ps. 119:172; 1 Jn. 3:7-8).
- By keeping close to God (Peace, Jn. 14:1-3, 27; 16:33; Phil. 4:6-9).
- By rejoicing in my salvation (Joy, Phil. 4:4; 2:17-18; 3:1).
There is certainly more involved with having the Kingdom of God within you (cf. Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 6:14-18; Col. 3:12-17; et. al.). But, Romans 14:17 provides a good benchmark to start with. Obey the gospel to enter into the Kingdom of God and let the righteousness, peace and joy of the Kingdom be within you!