Where Is the Kingdom of God?

It’s fascinating to see how divisive the interpretation of a single line of the Bible can be. People ask, “How should a line be translated? What was the original intent?” as if there is some secret decoder key. The exact intent is important only when you begin to base your entire ideology on the literal interpretation of the Bible. Then, an exact translation is very important. Otherwise, you are not sure what to believe in.

My favorite example is Luke 17:21: “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Or, is it? Here is how this line is translated in some of the most popular English translations:

  • New International Version – “the kingdom of God is within you.”
  • New American Standard Bible – “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
  • The Message – “God’s kingdom is already among you.”
  • Amplified Bible – “the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].”
  • New Living Translation – “the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
  • King James Version – “the kingdom of God is within you.”
  • English Standard Version – “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
  • Contemporary English Version – “God’s kingdom is here with you.”
  • New King James Version – “the kingdom of God is within you.”
  • New Century Version – “God’s kingdom is within you.”
  • 21st Century King James Version – “the Kingdom of God is within you.”
  • American Standard Version – “”the kingdom of God is within you.”
  • Young’s Literal Translation – “the reign of God is within you.”
  • Darby Translation – “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
  • New Life Version – “the holy nation of God is in you.”
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible – “the kingdom of God is among you.”
  • New International Reader’s Version – “God’s kingdom is among you.”
  • Wycliffe New Testament – “the realm of God is within you.”
  • Worldwide English – “the kingdom of God is inside you.”
  • Today’s New International Version – “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Even though a few of these contain footnote references, this is the text that the editors decided was the best translation of the original Greek, “tou qeou entov umwn estin”. Or, perhaps the Latin, “regnum dei intra vos est.” From the Nag Hammadi texts, the Gospel of Thomas is translated like this, “the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.” It’s a bit more verbose, but the meaning is very similar.

After you get over the fact that there are so many different English Bibles, you’ll probably still be wondering to yourself … how could there be so many different translations of the Greek phrase, “tou qeou entoV umwn estin”? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think this specific line of the New Testament has been given quite a bit of thought. A lot is riding on this particular line because this is Jesus telling us where the kingdom of God is. Wouldn’t you like to know where the kingdom of God is? I sure would. But if even the experts can’t agree on the proper translation how can I know what to believe? Where is the kingdom of God?

If you do a search on Google for Luke 17:21, you’ll find endless debate over the ‘proper’ translation of this line.

I guess we will just have to make up our own minds on this one. All of the translations above probably capture what Jesus was trying to say. If there is a kingdom of God, I doubt it would have artificial boundaries. I’m guessing that the kingdom of God is within, inside, in our midst, and also in our hearts. I think when people get too caught up in a literal interpretation of the Bible they sometimes miss the point. The point is that God’s kingdom is everywhere. I think that is what Jesus was trying to tell us.

What do you think?

Comments (9):

  1. Michael

    November 9, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Matthew,

    I understand why you might be concerned with the differing in translations. Some of the scribal differences depend on which manuscripts were used in the translation from the Greek to English.

    The King James translators, used the Textus Receptus, while most all others do not. The NIV is a thought for thought translation and not word for word, therefore it’s open to misinterpretation by the translator if they have missed the intent of the original thought. The Message is not a literal translation at all. It’s one man’s, Eugene Peterson (who is a mystic), opinion of the Bible. I’d stay away from any translation authored by one person.

    We could go through every version, but time and space won’t allow for that. Either way, none of the versions here change any vital Christian doctrine.

    In truth, the kingdom of God has no boundaries, artificial or real. God is completely sovereign over the entire universe. Nothing is beyond His power and/or control. He is the “Master of the Universe”

    Sometimes I believe some in the visible church have failed in NOT believing in the literal interpretation of the Bible enough. While the Bible is not a science textbook, and is not meant to be, the science in the Bible is accurate. The geology, anthropology, geography…all of it is true and verifiable. Yet, many in the church don’t recognize that and accept the world’s version of science, while trying to hold to the moral issues in the Bible. However, if you don’t hold that the anthropology, geology, etc, in the Bible is true, how do you convince a godless culture that there are also moral absolutes?

    For that failure, I apologize to you.

    But, I want to challenge you to take a look at one verse in different translations and tell me how you would interpret it if you had to:

    Romans 6:23

    For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. KJV

    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NKJV

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. NLT

    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ESV

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NASB

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. RSV

    For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ASV

    For the wages of sin [is] death; but the act of favour of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. J.N. Darby

    For the wages of sin [is] death: but the gift of God [is] eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Noah Webster Version

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord. Hebrew Names Version

    stipendia enim peccati mors gratia autem Dei vita aeterna in Christo Iesu Domino nostro (Just in case you know how to translate the Latin Vulgate)

    It’s pretty clear that the translators all agree here. This is a vital piece of Christian theology. Do you think the author (the Apostle Paul) meant this literally or figuratively?

    Thanks for your time,
    Michael

    Reply
  2. Matthew

    November 9, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    Michael –

    Sounds like you have been studying this for a while, so thanks for your response. The short answer to your question, do I think that Paul “meant this literally or figuratively?” is of course, yes. I think Paul meant this literally. Paul is without a doubt one of the most influential people in the history of civilization. And though he is referred to as an apostle, he never met or knew Jesus as the 12 did. So, even though Paul is speaking literally, his words are not those of Jesus and for me don’t carry the same weight or importance.

    Honestly, I have never really understood the use of the Bible to defend a particular position on morality. In fact, the whole subject of morality seems entirely too human centered. So, it’s no surprise that Romans 6:23 is just as baffling to me. There is an enormous emphasis on morality in western civilization in contrast to the east but I don’t see how this emphasis has really helped us though.

    Though you and I don’t see the world exactly the same, we both seem to agree on the central topic – that “the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.”

    Reply
  3. Michael

    November 10, 2007 at 1:56 am

    Actually, as a Pharisee, a Hebrew of the Hebrews as Paul called himself, he would have had much interaction with Christ. Before his conversion, Paul was a severe persecutor of Christ and His disciples.

    Not only that, but during his conversion, it was Christ who called out “Saul, Saul. It is I whom you persecute.”

    John 1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Then it says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. What most non-Christians don’t understand is that Jesus Christ is the Word. In fact, the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is about the glory of Christ. The Old Testament points to Christ. The gospels speak of the incarnate Christ, and the rest of the New Testament shines the light back upon Christ and toward His second coming.

    2 Tim 3:16-17 states that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. In fact, the Greek word used there is “theopneustos” (theo s meaning God, pnestos referring to “breath”), so literally it means God-breathed. So, every piece of Scripture is breathed directly out of God.

    So, Paul’s words have just as much authority as the letters typed in red in many Bibles, because they are not simply Paul’s words.

    The thing is, will a man submit to that authority?

    Usually, and you can say I’m wrong, but usually there are three reasons a man won’t come to God or submit to His authority.

    1. He refuses to submit to anyone’s authority. He decides that he would rather live an autonomous lifestyle, submitting to no one but himself. His pride will not allow him to bow before a holy and righteous God.

    2. He thinks that he’s done too much wrong for God to forgive him, or that someone else has done something so horrible to him that there’s no way God would accept him as he is.

    3. He loves his sin and refuses to give up the things he enjoys. Coming to the holy God would mean turning away from such living.

    Matthew, what do you think happens after someone dies? Also, would you consider yourself to be a good person?

    Reply
  4. Don

    November 12, 2007 at 8:42 am

    Lk 17:21 — I especially like, “The spiritual realm is within you.” After all, that’s where we are to go to pray, not to into public “like hypocrites” (Mt 6) — KJV has “into your closet” but the Gk tamieion refers to the innermost secret room of a house, where the householder locks up his money-box, hence meanings of tamieion include “treasury” and, interestingly, “magazine” (armory) [Liddell & Scott Gk-Eng Lexicon].

    Reply
  5. Matthew

    November 12, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Michael, are you speculating? No where in the Bible does it say that Paul met Jesus. If you are taking a literal approach to the truth of the Bible, could you show me where this meeting takes place?

    Yes, I consider myself a good person. I think for some people submitting to a higher authority does allow them to squelch certain bad behavior by being held accountable by God and by their church community. I don’t think that being a good person requires religion – though it may help.

    As for death, no one knows what happens after death. It’s the great unknown. Religion exists, to a great extent, to help answer this question. In the end, it is a matter of faith.

    Reply
  6. Surreal2u

    November 12, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Michael,

    Although what you have said is well written and you are obviously an intelligent, spiritual man, I’d tend to disagree with the statement below.

    ‘While the Bible is not a science textbook, and is not meant to be, the science in the Bible is accurate. The geology, anthropology, geography – all of it is true and verifiable.’

    I’d ask you where it’s verifiable that the heavens and the earth were created in 6 days as was Adam and Eve through science.

    I enjoyed reading what you wrote very much but would find this to be a point of contention.

    Carter

    Reply
  7. Wilma

    November 27, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Am reading “God Laughs & Plays – Churchless Sermons in Response to the Preachments of the Fundamental Right” by David James Duncan. I believe you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts on this discussion.

    Reply
  8. Phil

    November 6, 2011 at 12:36 am

    I think that the Kingdom of God is a state of consciousness. God is Love and Love is a state of Spiritual Consciousness, therefore why wouldn’t the Kingdom Of God be the same? We don’t look outside of ourselves for love, we know it exists within us. Jesus repeatedly says that His Spirit resides within the believer. Jesus lives in the Kingdom of God, right?

    It only makes sense that since Jesus lives in the Kingdom of God and that Jesus Spirit lives in us then it must be that the Kingdom of God is within our consciousness.

    Reply
  9. Travis Raney

    February 5, 2015 at 2:16 am

    In Matthew 23:26 Jesus speaks of the Pharicees saying ” blind pharicees, clean first the within the cup then the outside will be clean.” The Greek “entov” is used here as well as in Luke 21:17. It wouldn’t make sense to translate that as “first clean in the midst of the cup.” I agree with Phil, the Kingdom of heaven is where you enter through the narrow gate. Wide is the path to destruction (there are many sins of the flesh that take us away from God.)” Seek he first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be added unto you,” that means on this earth, as it is in heaven! Therefore the kingdom must be here, now, within, and in our midst, we just do not have eyes to see in our current state of spiritual development. Some have found it, Jesus even spoke saying “some of you will not taste of death until you see me in my Kingdom.” I am seeking your Kingdom Jesus, with all of my heart, with all of my strength, with all of my mind and with all of my soul. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *