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.”
The Pharisees asked many questions to cause our Lord to stumble. But here they seem to be asking an honest question about the kingdom. “When will the kingdom of God come?” In other words, when will God begin his earthly kingdom? Would it be soon? Would the Roman empire be defeated during their lifetime? This was a real question that deserved a real answer. But Jesus did not answer their question directly. Instead, he attempted to correct their misunderstanding of the subject.
The kingdom was not something that the Pharisees would find by taking observations. By observing a patient’s symptoms, a doctor can make an educated guess about the problem. But what works for a physician does not work for those looking for the coming of God’s kingdom. It is not something that will happen because you can identify certain symptoms of the times. People are always attempting to determine the exact date of future events. Quite often, someone will say, “Look here, I can tell the kingdom of God is about to start!” But Jesus said people will not say that. I think what he means is that none of their statements will be accurate.
Nobody can say, “Look here” or “look there” for an important reason: the kingdom of God was within them. What exactly does that mean? Here’s where it gets tricky. It sounds as if the Lord is pointing toward a spiritual kingdom within these people. In other words, the kingdom is “inside you men.” But after translating the passage, I find “inside” to be a wrong understanding of what he was saying. Substitute “in your midst” (NASB) or “among you” for that phrase and it colors even your understanding of “within you.” The Lord Jesus was not speaking with men who had received him, but those who would eventually reject him. The kingdom of God was not something at work inside their spiritual bodies, it was something present at that moment.
My conclusion about this is that the kingdom of God “within you” is a reference to the Lord Jesus. As these men asked for clues about the timing of the future physical kingdom, they were ignorant of the King standing in their midst. “The Savior declares that the kingdom has already arrived and is among the Jews in Him as the representative thereof. … The kingdom of God is already a present reality in Him but … its final consummation lies in the future when He comes in divine majesty” (Geldenhuys, Norval, The Gospel of Luke, 443). In other words, the future King was standing in their presence, but (as you will see in the following verses) it wasn’t yet time for him to rule.
Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
The Pharisees were unable to understand our Lord’s answer. But they were not given a more full explanation of the subject. That was reserved for Jesus’ disciples. At a later time, he explained to them that the physical kingdom was not going to take place at that particular moment. Although there would be times when they would desire for Christ to return and rule the earth, it would not come in their lifetime. Deceivers would make claims about it, but these were to be ignored. Christ’s kingdom would be universally recognized when it came.
Lightning is an interesting phenomenon. Think back to the last storm you observed. No matter how dark the night was, each bolt of lightning suddenly lights up the entire sky. Even when the lightning appears in the west, the eastern sky is lit up. What exactly does this have to do with the kingdom of God? I think the Lord was likening his kingdom to the suddenness of lightning and the extent of its brightness. Christ’s kingdom will come suddenly and nobody will be oblivious of its appearance. All will know.
As Jesus spoke about the kingdom, he announced something that his disciples probably didn’t understand at the time. They too were probably looking for this physical kingdom. But Jesus had not come this time to set up an earthly kingdom. He first would suffer many things and be rejected by most of the people of that generation. We know from reading the rest of this gospel that this is exactly what happened. Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, and then crucified at Calvary. The expected kingdom was not to be at that time.
But the Lord Jesus physically rose from the grave and eventually ascended into heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father’s throne. He will eventually return to conquer and rule the world after the Tribulation. When will these things take place? I wish I could tell you. But in God’s wisdom, he hasn’t revealed that to us. Thankfully, I am already a loyal subject of the One who will reign then as King of kings and Lord of lords. How about you?