“The Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the Kingdom of God is among (within you).” (Luke 17:21 NRSV)
No one will say, See here! Or There! For you see, the Kingdom of God is in your midst. (Luke 17:21 CSB)
Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is! Don’t you see? God’s Kingdom is already among you.” (Luke 17:21 CEB)
Nor will they say, ‘Look here it is! Or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:21 ESV)
As you can see from above, I quoted four different interpretations of the same verse of out Luke 17. The question is does the Kingdom of God reside in every person? Some scholars say yes it does, and other say no it doesn’t. It all relates how a person translates and interprets the phrase, entos ymon. With no doubt all scholars believe that Jesus is talking to the Pharisees that he himself embodies the Kingdom of God. The debate is if all humans have the Kingdom of God within them whether or not they believe in God at all. According to Frank Viola from his book entitled the Insurgence:
Consequently, the kingdom of God is not an internal, private thing. It’s a public, social reality that shapes our entire lives, both inside and out. It is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence. The Christ who lives inside you wishes to be manifested with the other citizens of His Kingdom. (Viola, page 115).
Thus Viola like many other scholars interpret this passage in a more social context. How could the Pharisees whom Jesus was speaking to have the Kingdom of God within them if they were his enemies and enemies of his Kingdom? Jesus was basically saying, you look for signs and wonders of the coming Kingdom, but the Kingdom is right here in front of you embodied in me.”
David Bentley Hart, and Eastern Orthodox Christian Scholar disagrees with this translation and interpretation of the passage. He believes it is private and internal. He writes:
Entos ymon – it is occasionally argued that this phrase would better translated “among you” or “in your midst”, especialy by those who instinctively prefer social to mystical construals of Jesus’s teachings; but this is surely wrong. Entos really does properly mean “within” or “inside of,” not “among,” and Luke, in both his Gospel and the book of Acts, when meaning “among” or “amid,” always uses the phrase “en mesoi” or just en, followed by a dative plural; his phrase for “in your midst” is en mesoi ymon, as in (Luke) 22:27 below. He uses entos only here, with a distinct and special import. (David Bentley Hart – New Testament).
Thus, according to David Bentley Hart, entos ymon literally means within you. Even the Pharisees have the Kingdom of God within them (even though they do not know it).
I believe that this passage can be interpreted both ways. Both meaning that the Kingdom of God is within our midst and the Kingdom of God is within you. I believe that they can both be interpreted in a social context referring to the body of believers aka the Church, and mystically that God’s Divine Presence is within every human being. In the historical context, Jesus is speaking directly to the Pharisees and means that the Kingdom of God is within their grasp (referring to Jesus himself).
According to the Orthodox Study Bible, “The Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality present within the Christian believer and within the community of the Church.” (Biblegateway app).
According to the First-Century Study Bible, the Gospel of Thomas quotes the same passage:
If you leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky, ‘ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘it is in the sea, ‘ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is with you and it is outside you.”
Jesus Kingdom was both internal (in the heart of every believer) and external (within the Church), as well as present and not complete (NIV First-Century Study Bible – Biblegateway app).
For those that have a mystical bent in their relationship with God, the Kingdom of God being a present reality within every person can bring empowerment, joy, hope, gratitude, and union with our savior (John 17:21). For those that see the Kingdom of God “being in our midst,” that is external, then God’s Kingdom is present within the Body of Christ, or the Church. As people gather together and are unified under one accord, the Kingdom of God is present.
Thus is it’s not an either/or but a both and. First and foremost, Jesus embodied the Kingdom of God. Any person that accepts Christ as Lord and Saviour has the Kingdom of God within them. Thus, for those that actualize the Kingdom of God through their communion and union to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God is within them. According to Richard Rohr, contemplation opens us to the absolute union and love between God and the soul, and is the means by which the Kingdom of God is actualized. Secondly, it refers to Jesus being within their presence. The Kingdom of God was not external through signs and wonders, but through Christ himself. Why would the Pharisees embody the Kingdom, if they were against Jesus? For those that translate the passage ‘in your midst’ have a dualistic thinking that a person onto-logically cannot be holy apart from God. For those that translate the passage “within you” like David Bentley Hart, the passage has an ontological meaning relating to how humanity is divine since it is made within the image of God. Many New Age Christians (like Depaak Chopra) take this perspective just like those that were Gnostic Christians in the early church.
This is a difficult and highly debated passage. I believe that God’s Kingdom is within every person that is regenerated (Titus 3:5 and are born again John 3:3). God’s Kingdom is also manifested socially within the Church. I believe that every human being has a divine spark within them that is the essence of God (panentheism), yet isn’t awakened until they come into contact with the living Jesus.