“The Kingdom of heaven is within you” is not in the bible. The Kingdom of God is synonymous with the Kingdom of heaven so this phrase may be a misquote and misunderstanding of
Luke 17:21 (NKJV)21 nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
This was the last part of Jesus’ response to a question asked by the Pharisees.
Luke 17:20 (NKJV)20 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;
The Jewish leaders were looking for the Messiah to come and lead the nation of Israel to a in a successful liberation from their captors the Romans. Instead here was Jesus talking about a Kingdom that called for repentance and loving your enemies.
The Greek word translated “within”, in this scripture is entos, which is translated various ways. It is translated “within” in the KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and NET. It is translated “among you” in the NLT and HCSB, and “in the midst of you” in the ESV. Earlier versions of the NIV had “within you” with a marginal note suggesting “among you.” Since Jesus was answering the Pharisees “within you” is not the best translation because Jesus was surely not saying that the Kingdom of God was within the Pharisees’ hearts. These people opposed Jesus and had no relationship with God. Jesus even called them hypocrites.
Matthew 23:27 (NKJV) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
So the best translation of entos, in the context that Jesus used it is “in the midst of you” or “among you”
What Is The Kingdom Of Heaven?
The Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are synonymous. The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs 68 times in 10 different New Testament books, while “Kingdom of heaven” occurs only 32 times, and only in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus even uses the two terms interchangeably.
Matthew 19:23-24 (NKJV)23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Bold mine).
Broadly speaking, the Kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe.
Psalm 103:19 (NKJV) The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His Kingdom rules over all.
Daniel 4:3 (NKJV) How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation.
Romans 13:1 (NKJV)1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
However, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who become part of His Kingdom and to willingly submit to His authority. Jesus told Nicodemus how to become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
John 3:3-6 (NKJV)3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Once a citizen of His Kingdom you must submit to His authority.
Matthew 7:21 (NKJV) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
The Kingdom Of God Is Not Just About Heaven
A big misconception many Christians is that the Kingdom of God is all about a place called heaven, our home after death. However, the Kingdom of God is not all about the future and strictly speaking it’s not a place.
Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God, but Jesus demonstrated what the Kingdom really is. He healed people, He blessed people, He comforted people. He brought us face-to-face with the Kingdom in the present.
The Kingdom Of God Is Not Just A Place
When we hear the word "Kingdom," we think a nation or empire controlled by officials This can certainly be true on the return of Jesus. And while this was certainly part of the ancient imagination that gave birth to the idea of "the Kingdom of God," it cannot fully encompass it. The Kingdom is not a place, really. It’s more what the Kingdom is like instead of where it is.
The Kingdom of God is found wherever and whenever God meets the gathering of the faithful. God has promised to meet us wherever we gather, whenever we call on God's name.
The kingdom of God impacts actions, thoughts, relationships, families, institutions, and governments. In the end, it will touch everything on earth. Like a tiny mustard seed grows into a great bush, the Kingdom of God which started with Jesus and a small group of men has grown all over the earth and is still growing and conquering the heart and minds of men, women, boy, and girls.
Matthew 13:31-32 (NKJV) 31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."
If the kingdom of God is neither up in heaven nor limited to human hearts, but is something we ought to experience in all aspects of our earthly life
The Kingdom Of God Is Not Just About The Future
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount talks about the present reality of the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 5:3, 11 (NKJV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
In His first sermon in Luke, at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus said;
Luke 4:18-21 (NKJV)18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.21 And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
Jesus commissioned all of His disciples, that includes us today as well, to proclaim the Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NKJV)16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them.17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
So Where Is The Kingdom
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. He begins that model prayer by asking that His Father’s Kingdom come and be on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV)9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.10 Your Kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
Heaven On Earth
I want to share a devotion, about the Kingdom of Heaven, that I recently read in the YouVersion Living For Heaven Reading Plan by Craig Denison and First15 titled Heaven on Earth
Heaven on Earth
Scripture: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
To seek God’s kingdom coming to earth is to declare our great need for God’s presence, provision, love, and redemption. We have been given a mandate of the highest importance from our King of kings. We are to carry the Kingdom of God with us everywhere we go and release this Kingdom through everything we do. We are called by Jesus to bring heaven to earth.
In Matthew 16:19 Jesus tells his disciples, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What would it look like for the people of God to release the Kingdom of heaven everywhere they go? What would it look like for even just a few of us to truly say yes to the calling of God on our lives to live for more than just worldly pleasure and comfort, to step outside of ourselves and live with an eternal perspective?
You are made to make an eternal impact far greater than you can imagine. God has placed within you keys to the doors of heaven, and he longs to use you to release his love, grace, peace, mercy, and redemption to others in desperate need of him. He longs to call you out from the daily grind of life into a higher pursuit of seeing the earth transformed by his goodness.
Seeing heaven come to earth all starts with declaring your need of God. It all starts with drawing a circle around yourself and allowing God to transform you from the inside out. You are not called to minister to others in your own strength. You are not called to figure out how to best love people. You aren’t even called to muster up a desire to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. All the weight of eternal impact rests on the shoulders of your heavenly Father. All that is required of you is to take time to let God love you, fill you with the desires of his heart, and follow his leadership into the fulfillment of those desires.
God wants to take your five loaves of bread and two fish and multiply it to feed the souls of thousands. Say yes to partnering with the Holy Spirit, and allow God to use you to change the world by bringing his Kingdom to earth through simple acts of love and obedience. Take time in guided prayer to allow God’s word and his Spirit to teach you, empower you, and release you into the calling of bringing heaven to earth today.
God wants to bring the kingdom to earth through you. No matter who your friends are or where you find yourself, God wants to bring the Kingdom to earth everywhere around you. If you will say yes every day to the adventure of being used by God, your life will begin to take on a whole new purpose so much more fulfilling than anything you’ve previously experienced. May you live to see God’s Kingdom come to earth through your life today.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.