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.
A number of versions present an alternative translation. They say, “The kingdom of God is among you, or in the midst of you.” But this can be dismissed in a moment. The Greek word for “within” is ENTOS, and the only other time it occurs in the NT is Matthew 23:26 “You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also.” There can be no mistake as to its proper meaning. The LXX of the OT has a few additional examples, one of which is Psalm 103:1 “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”
The Kingdom of God is therefore growing inside us, and is therefore invisible. Hence the Lord’s admonition not to go around looking for it. Having reached this important conclusion, let us give it a little more thought. In one of His parables Jesus spoke about the Kingdom being likened to yeast inside three batches of dough. Matthew 13:33. The woman (signifying the Holy Spirit) watches the dough rising until it has completed its work. Then she bakes the bread. This may not be the only teaching contained within the parable, but it assists admirably in our present investigation.
Through the ages men and women have committed themselves wholly to the Lord, and as a result something begins to grow within them, invisible, and not even possible for any of us to determine how advanced is that growth. This is of the mercy of the Lord. Were we able to assess our own progress, it would certainly engender pride or disillusionment.
At the end of the Apostle Paul’s life he had this to say. “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:12 “What I have committed unto Him” is literally “my deposit”, and refers to the “Bank of Heaven” into which no burglar can penetrate. Paul went on to say, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8. Paul died not having received the prize of being changed into his new body, but is now in heaven awaiting the time when the Kingdom will become a visible reality on earth, in which he will be an ambassador for the Lord.
Many others have walked the same path, and the “kingdom yeast” has performed its function. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21.
The parables of the Talents and the Pounds have a useful word to say in this connection. Those who receive an initial “deposit” from the Lord may “trade” with it, thereby increasing the final sum, and are rewarded for it. They only know the final outcome when standing before the Lord, who then directs them to their reward, their position in the visible Kingdom. Some may govern “ten towns”, others “five towns” etc.
If the Church is looking for a mass exodus of all Christians in a moment of time, as is frequently preached and taught, then a day will come when many will receive a nasty shock. The change into the new body will occur as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15:23. “Every man in his own order.” Not all at once, but each as the growth of the “heavenly yeast” has completed its work.