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
The apostle Paul wrote, to the Church at Rome, 'Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.' ( Romans 14:17 ) Whether you believe the Scriptures or not, there is much there that speaks to the heart, reminding us that it is within that we must look for the Divine. We are, each & every one of us, according to these same Scriptures, made in the Image of the Creator God. Covenantally speaking, Christianity tells us that, in order to rightly bear this Image, however, one must first accept ( believe in ) Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. Whatever the case may be & to whatever extent, every human being in existence today bears that Image, no matter how well hidden!
The question might well be asked here, 'What IS the Image of God? In the past & as it still continues to be, this has been a matter of some controversy. Some have postulated that it signifies Covenant Life, as above, while others call it the Divine Spark, testifying that it dwells within each of us, even the worst sinner. This blogger, throughout his own journey of discovery, has even theorized about the matter, interpreting this enigmatic phrase as meaning that it was the fact that Adam was given the dominion over the rest of the creation which comprised the Divine Image. This is, for all intents & purposes, a Scriptural interpretation, although it, as well as the apostle's explanation in Romans, simply & plainly says what this Image accomplishes in us, how we act because of its indwelling Power!
Being that this post was meant to be about the Kingdom Within, one might be wondering why the Divine Image has been at the heart of this post, thus far! That's a good question & one that is more far-reaching than one might think; 'if the Image of God is not present, could one inhabit the Kingdom?' On the other hand, 'if all have the Divine Image, do not all inhabit the Kingdom?' 'What IS the Kingdom?' We can speculate that this Kingdom, that which Jesus said is 'within you' is a different dimension, one in which the Creator God dwells, or one might simply say, with the apostle Paul, above, that it is 'righteousness and peace and joy'. This explanation actually fits very nicely with Jesus' words throughout His ministry, describing it as anything from 'leaven' ( Matthew 13:33 ) to someplace where the saints, those following Jesus, would 'sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob' ( Matthew 8:11 ). In other words, the Kingdom of God, or Heaven was not something one needs to look for outside him or herself, but rather is evidenced by an outward manifestation, peace that only comes from from the heart, or innermost being!
In many places throughout the Greek Scriptures, Jesus spoke of this Kingdom as something they would 'enter' ( Matthew 19:23 & 24, 21:31 ) & preached the nearness of it ( Matthew 12:28, Mark 1:15, et al ), but it is also spoken of on a more esoteric level, as something that would be manifested through the outward actions of its inhabitants! When Jesus told the Pharisees that the Kingdom was within them, one might immediately object & rightly so, that because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah, they ultimately did not inherit the Kingdom. In this enigmatic passage, though, while Jesus was alluding to their covenant status as the Israel of God, He was clearly proclaiming that the Kingdom was not something that would 'come', at least, not like they were expecting, but that it would be manifest from the heart, with deeds of righteousness goodness, mercy & peace!
The Kingdom, then, is really the manifestation of the Peace Within, the understanding that the Divine indwells us; as Jesus said ( Matthew 10:28a ), 'do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul'. This biology may perish, being mortal & prone to death, but our inmost being, our spirit, is immortal, being of One Essence with the Creator, Giver & Sustainer of all Life. This is where Peace, the Peace that passes all understanding, comes in; the startling realization that no other can harm us should give us pause. If none can harm us, who are the very Image of the Creator God, then should not that allay any fear & allow us to manifest only Love? Scripture says that 'God is love' ( I John 4:8 ); since, then, we are made in the Divine Image, does it not follow that WE are Love?
The Divine Image may rightly be noted, then, as dwelling in all, though all have not realized this capacity. It is through our manifestation of the Kingdom Within that those who have not yet realized, for whatever reason, their true potential will come to the understanding of what it truly means to partake in the Divine. Love, not fear, will be the order of the day, because as the Kingdom expands its borders, through us & those who receive our vibrations, so will the realization that Peace & Love Reign supreme! Fear will no longer be a factor, for as the Scriptures also say ( I John 4:18 ), 'perfect love casts out fear'. The writer went on to explain, in the context of his writing, that fear comes from torment, such as they were experiencing in their mortal ( biological ) bodies at the time.
If we would learn not to fear what things may come, in time & place, upon these mortal bodies, then would we be more apt to manifest the Kingdom Within, through the Love that is perfected in us. As we, ourselves learn not to fear, but manifest that Perfect Love, it will flow out through our fingertips to touch the world around us. Realizing that we may not always, with these eyes, see the intended results, we may rest secure, knowing that Love is the Way!
Charles Haddon Shank