(Part 22 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series)
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
The Kingdom of God (often understood to be synonymous with the kingdom of heaven) is commonly thought of as heaven itself – the physical place where God and His angels abide. However, the text above actually suggests the location of this kingdom – “within you;” that is, within God’s people; something other than a physical location.
If God’s desire is to dwell within the cleansed hearts of His people as we have determined in this Cleansing of the Sanctuary series and if the kingdom of God Is also within people, that suggests that the presence of the kingdom of God is closely connected with the cleansing of His people.
What could “the kingdom of God is within you” mean, in light of all that we have been studying on the cleansing of the sanctuary? Could it be that it is within people who have a correct understanding of the character and purposes of God?
But is that kingdom of God referring to God’s actual presence through His Spirit or to something that enables His presence?
The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven
First let’s establish that the two terms are referring to the same thing. In the New Testament “kingdom of heaven” is used 33 times and only by Matthew. The “kingdom of God” is used 69 times in the New Testament but only 5 times by Matthew. Here are verses in Matthew and Mark reporting exactly the same conversation but each using a different term:
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17)
“And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Here is the same comparison between Matthew and Luke:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:3)
“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
The terms “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are thus seen to be equivalent and will be used interchangeably in this study.
The Kingdom of God is Related to Knowledge
“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matt 13:11)
“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matt 23:13)
The scribes and Pharisees could not shut up literal heaven but they could keep people in spiritual ignorance so they would not find their way to the kingdom.
“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:” (Mark 4:11)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)
Matthew is not speaking of people trying to find a physical kingdom. Rather, it is knowledge that we need to seek – about the kingdom of God. He is speaking of finding the kingdom of God and, once found, their other temporal needs would be supplied. Could “finding” it be something like reaching a level of understanding of God’s ways and a connection with Him?
The Kingdom of God is a Mindset
If the kingdom of heaven “is within you” that could be referring to the mind; to a way of thinking – a way of thinking that is in agreement with the principles of heaven. This website supports the understanding of a non-violent, non-condemning, ever-merciful God. While that concept might, on the surface, seem to contradict plain words of scripture, a more careful look reveals a different picture – please explore more of this website.
Also, this Cleansing of the Sanctuary series emphasizes that overcoming sin starts with having a relationship of absolute trust in God which comes from properly understanding His wonderful character.
Consider these verses:
“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:14)
“Of such” – of the trusting attitude of a young child – “is the kingdom.”
“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10:15)
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom 14:17)
That verse relates the kingdom of God to a state of the mind rather than to physical things.
“And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. …” (Mark 12:34)
Jesus’ words above were in answer to a scribe who had said:
“… Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)
This scribe was close to the kingdom of God because of his understanding that the principle of love was more important than offerings and sacrifices.
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Dan 2:44)
How could a kingdom be set up anywhere on earth when those kings are still in existence and stand forever? Wouldn’t it be interrupted by the Second Coming? If the kingdom that God sets up “in the days of these kings” is not a physical kingdom but a way of thinking, a set of attitudes in the minds of its subjects, it could be seen to continue right through the Second Coming and on into eternity. If the God of heaven sets up a kingdom it could certainly be referred to as either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven.
The Kingdom of God Not Like an Earthly Kingdom
This verse shows that people in Jesus’ day were expecting a visible kingdom:
“And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” (Luke 19:11)
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Jesus response to such ways of thinking is shown in this verse:
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:” (Luke 17:20)
“But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke 10:10-11)
Jesus was there saying not that a physical kingdom had somehow come near but that an opportunity to learn the truth of God’s kingdom had been made available – and they had spurned it.
Those verses suggest that the kingdom is not so much a place as it is a state of mind or knowledge. In Jesus’ sample prayer is a suggestion that the kingdom might even be on Earth:
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10)
“Let your kingdom of love come and your perfect will be done on earth just like it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10; The Remedy NT)
Other verses suggest that people on Earth are or will be a part of this kingdom:
“These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Dan 7:17-18)
The saints “take the kingdom” or, as it is more commonly translated, “receive the kingdom.” They are not taking the kingdom of God from kings of the earth who never had it. This verse links receiving the kingdom with a level of knowledge:
“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment [discernment] was given [granted] to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” (Dan 7:22)
“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (Dan 7:27)
That verse also supports that the saints receive rather than take the kingdom.
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)
“Not of this world” is not simply a reference to not being on Planet Earth because, of course, that is where His servants (the disciples) were. Rather it is a reference to the world’s way of doing things. In the world’s system not only would His servants have fought but they would have been organized and trained for fighting and expected and ordered to by their king. “Under the whole heaven” in Daniel 7:27 suggests that this kingdom is on Earth.
John the Baptist and the Kingdom of God
When we get to heaven who do you think, among the saved, might be great in heaven? Moses? Elijah? Surely one of the prophets. Does this verse suggest it might be John the Baptist?
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist …” (Matt 11:11)
Why was John considered so great? In fact, he was considered more than a prophet and the reason is given:
“But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matt 11:9-10)
“More than a prophet” because it was he who had the role and privilege of introducing the Messiah to the world. But the last part of verse 11 contains a surprise:
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt 11:11)
It could be illustrated like this:
Does that mean that when we get to heaven and line people up by greatness (which, of course, we wouldn’t do) the least person who made it to heaven, the one who just squeaked in would be greater than John the Baptist?
How is greatness measured? Don’t we expect that John the Baptist will be there? Will he be the shortest person there? Is it even referring to heaven?
Notice, it says:
“.. he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”
Matthew 11:11 is written in the present tense. Could it be talking about John the Baptist compared to other people right then; in his day; when the words were spoken?
Could being in the kingdom of heaven refer to not necessarily being physically in heaven although that will be the case after the Second Coming but having a certain state of mind or understanding, even before the Second Coming?
Did John the Baptist have a problem with his understanding? Might he have been influenced by passages about the Messiah such as:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;” (Isa 61:1-2)
As he preached about the coming Messiah he said things like:
“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7)
“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Luke 3:9)
“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” (Luke 3:17)
Does it seem like, in John’s mind, the Messiah was coming to straighten things out? Wasn’t that close to the common expectation? They were, for example, looking for a Messiah to end the Roman oppression.
But when Jesus came and proclaimed His mission He said, quoting Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
He quite significantly stopped just before the part that says “and the day of vengeance of our God” Why do you think He did that? Potentially, He would very likely have been misunderstood.
Did He proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God”? Yes, actually He did in Matthew 24 when He spoke of the fall of Jerusalem. But why not include it in what He said in Luke 4? Because if was not part of His mission to the world. We could say that the vengeance came later in 70AD but it was not His work to do. That destruction happened not by a direct act of God but because His protection was forced away and He could no longer protect them. We can see that in this verse:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings [to protect them], and ye would not [allow it]!” Matt 23:37)
We can see further evidence that John the Baptist had a problem with his understanding.
“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (Matt 11:2-6)
What happened in John’s mind?
- He heard what Christ was doing
- He perceived a mismatch between Jesus’ actions and his understanding of the work of the Messiah
- He had doubts in his mind that Jesus was the Messiah
- He sent two of his disciples to investigate
Is it possible that John was still looking for the vengeance part? Is that how it could have been true that John was less than the least in the kingdom of heaven? Those people, with a true understanding of the character of God, would know that He does not use violence to get His way but only the incentive of love. Those who have only heard the standard concept of God’s character and have not carefully investigated for themselves would believe that God often plays His trump card of force to get His way.
The Kingdom of God Subject to Violence
While Jesus preached the kingdom of heaven, it seems that it was misunderstood by most people. Misunderstood and even attacked in some way:
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence (G971), and the violent take it by force.” (Matt 11:12)
If the kingdom of heaven was only a reference to the physical heaven, people could not be doing violence to it. This is not a physical attack and as the kingdom is shown above to be a way of thinking (a mindset or philosophy) it could be referring to attempts to impose ideas upon the understanding of it that don’t fit.
“The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth (G971) into it.” (Luke 16:16)
In that verse, the word “presseth” is translated form the same Greek word translated “violence” in Matthew 11:12. The thinking of most people towards the concept of the kingdom of God is also seen in this event:
“When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” (John 6:15)
This misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom of heaven is seen in this verse:
“For I bear them (the people of Israel) record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” (Rom 10:2)
It could be said that the kingdom suffers violence even today; much violence from the understanding that God would use violence in the establishment or ruling of His Kingdom. People try to impose their own understanding of how God should rule His kingdom without understanding the principles of heaven.
So if the kingdom of heaven is not referring to the physical location of heaven and some were part of the kingdom of heaven in John’s day, could the kingdom of heaven exist even now? Or perhaps the kingdom of heaven (a correct knowledge of God) has been largely lost over the centuries (think especially of the Dark Ages) and is only now or soon to be reestablished – “in the days of these kings” (Dan 2:44).
Even John the Baptist’s preaching of the kingdom of God was not with a full understanding. He shared some of the misconceptions of the popular belief. The kingdom of God was then preached by Jesus and, after Pentecost, by His disciples. And, I believe, the 144,000 will more fully understand the kingdom of heaven and will thus be able to preach it with conviction and power.
So what will the experience of the kingdom of heaven be like and who will be a part of it? We will look at that in the next and final part of this series and see how it is related to the Cleansing of the Sanctuary.
This is Part 22 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series
Return to Daniel 8:14 (the master page of the series) to continue