Guest Article: The Kingdom of God Is Within You!

Luke 17:20-21 – The Kingdom of God

"In your midst?" or "Within you?"

Jim Nicolosi

Knoxville, TN


The question of the nature of the Kingdom is a vital question, needless to say. Some say the kingdom is not yet established. Some say that the kingdom will not come until we die. Some identify the kingdom as a geographically defined entity, in the fashion of the Old Covenant Kingdom of David.

In Luke 17 Jesus seems to say something vitally important about the nature of that kingdom, and yet, his statements continue to perplex commentators to this day. In the following examination of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 17, guest author Jim Nicolosi shares with us some excellent thoughts on what Jesus said. The implications of Luke 17- when properly understood– are profound, and thrilling! We appreciate Jim Nicolosi’s excellent work, and wanted to share it with our readers. We have slightly edited Jim’s article for our purposes, but, all changes were approved by him.

Don K.



Consider the following scripture versions:


Luke 17:20-21 (KJV) – 20 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. 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (KJV)


Luke 17:20-21 (NASB) – 20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say,’ Look, here it is!’ or,’ There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst. " NASB


The KJV uses the term "within you". The NASB uses the term "in your midst." Some Bible translations use the interpretation "in your midst" in Luke 17:21 while other version translate it as "within you". A number of commentaries and various 21st century thinkers support the Luke 17:20-21 interpretation "in you midst" in lieu of "within you". The reason given by the commentaries and various 21st century thinkers is that Jesus is making this statement to the Pharisees and they reason that the kingdom could not possibly be found within these individuals (the Pharisees) as the Pharisees were rejecting Jesus and were not believers in Him. I do not disagree with this line of reasoning. Some of the commentaries and various 21st century thinkers simply say that Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He was standing in their midst. I think this misses the mark. The Luke 17:21 verse bears additional scrutiny.


Of note is that the Greek word in Luke 17:21 translated "midst" in the NASB and other versions is "entos" (Strong’s NT: 1787). The word "entos" is used two times in the NT. In addition to Luke 17:21, it is used in Matthew 23:26.


Matthew 23:26 – Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within (entos) the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. KJV


Matt 23:25 – "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside (entos) they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. NASB


Upon initial inspection, the term "entos" in Matthew 23:26 (KJV) provides a completely different meaning that the one used in Luke 17:20. Specifically, in Matthew 23:26, "entos" is used to designate a location (within or inside the cup and platter). It is contrasted with another location (outside of them) in the same biblical verse. The meaning is rather straight forward. Jesus was saying both the inside and outside of the cup and platter should be clean. Jesus was making a rhetorical statement. His statement here in Matthew 23:26 was not a cleanliness commentary on dishware but rather a cleanliness commentary on hearts of the Pharisees. They looked clean on the outside from all outward appearances. However, Jesus knew the inside was another matter.


As the meaning of "entos" as used in Matthew 23:26 is fairly straight forward, I would argue that it should be used in a similar fashion in Luke 17:21 (i.e. the kingdom of God is within you) as translated in the KJV version, since it is the only other time that "entos" is used in the NT.

The issue of the audience of the Pharisees that Jesus is speaking to is rather easily addressed. As demonstrated in Matthew 23:26, I would argue that Jesus is making a rhetorical statement to the Pharisees. He was harkening back to the intimate relationship that existed between God and man (Adam) prior to the fall. He was not saying to the Pharisees specifically that the kingdom of God was within them personally as demonstrated by their behavior documented throughout the NT (with the exception of Joseph of Aramithea and Nicodemus). Jesus was commenting on the nature of the kingdom– i.e. it is an inner, spiritual kingdom, not a geo-politico kingdom like they were expecting. He was not saying that the kingdom was, at that moment, in the heart of the Pharisees. They were expecting one kind of kingdom, Jesus was speaking of another kind of kingdom. They looked on the external; Jesus was predicting the internal.


Another, and more compelling, reason for the translation to be "within you" rather than "in your midst" is a simple examination of the word "midst". There is a Greek word "mesos"" (Strong’s NT: 3319) that is routinely translated "midst" which is used 62 times in the NT. Luke himself used "mesos"" fourteen times in writing his gospel (~25% of the total usage in the NT). I would have to assume that if he intended us to translate Luke 17:21 as "in the midst" as opposed to "within you", he would have used "mesos"" rather than "entos" as he already demonstrated that he was communicating "midst" in his gospel by using "mesos"".


I would propose that his intended meaning was the same as that of Mathew 23:26. You cannot separate Luke 17:20 from Luke 17:21. In Luke 17:20, Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." It was not going to be a physical event but rather a spiritual event. Remember, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that a time was coming when believers would worship "in spirit and in truth." I b
elieve this ties very nicely with what Jesus said in Luke 17:21. It is my personal understanding that the Parousia of Jesus re-established the full and open (spiritual) relationship with the Father that had been lost through Adam.


Thus, Luke 17 does not affirm that the kingdom was in the hearts of the recalcitrant Pharisees. It does affirm the nature of the kingdom, and it does prove that the full establishment of that kingdom would be in the first century. There are other reasons why Luke 17:21 should be translated "within you" rather than "in your midst" but these are sufficient for this case.


NT: 1787 (used twice in NT) – entos (en-tos’); from NT:1722; inside (adverb or noun): KJV – within.


Matthew 23:26

26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. KJV


Luke 17:21

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. KJV


NT: 3319 (used 62 times in NT) – mesos (mes’-os); from NT:3326; middle (as an adjective or [neuter] noun): KJV – among, before them, between, forth, mid [-day, -night], midst, way.


"Mesos" used 14 times in Luke


Luke 2:46

Luke 4:30

Luke 4:35

Luke 5:19

Luke 6:8

Luke 8:7

Luke 10:3

Luke 17:11

Luke 21:21

Luke 22:27

Luke 22:55 (2)

Luke 23:45

Luke 24:36



(Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)


1 Comment

  1. Sadly you are completely wrong and so was James Strong. Strong cites 2 Ancient Greek verses to support the contention that “entos” can be interpreted to mean “among” or “in the midst of”. both citation are erroneous.

    The Strong’s citation of Xenophon is sadly in error. The first phrase Strong’s cites (ἐντός αὐτῶν) is from The Anabasis of Xenophon. Strong’s suggest we “see the passage” rather defend their translation directly. The passage refers to an army being “inside or within” enemy lines. See The Anabasis of Xenophon with Explanatory notes by F. Cunningham Belfor as he explains this, or see any number of Greek scholars who have translated The Anabasis.
    ἡ δὲ Μιλησία ἡ νεωτέρα ληφθεῖσα ὑπὸ τῶν ἀμφὶ βασιλέα ἐκφεύγει γυμνὴ πρὸς τῶν Ἑλλήνων οἳ ἔτυχον ἐν τοῖς σκευοφόροις ὅπλα ἔχοντες καὶ ἀντιταχθέντες πολλοὺς μὲν τῶν ἁρπαζόντων ἀπέκτειναν, οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτῶν ἀπέθανον· οὐ μὴν ἔφυγόν γε, ἀλλὰ καὶ ταύτην ἔσωσαν καὶ τἆλλα, ὁπόσα “ἐντὸς αὐτῶν” καὶ χρήματα καὶ ἄνθρωποι ἐγένοντο, πάντα ἔσωσαν. [Xen. The Anabasis 1.10.3]
    The Milesian woman, however, the younger one, after being seized by the King’s men made her escape, lightly clad, to some Greeks who had chanced to be standing guard amid the baggage train and, forming themselves in line against the enemy, had killed many of the plunderers, although some of their own number had been killed also; nevertheless, they did not take to flight, but they saved this woman and, furthermore, whatever else came “within their lines”, whether persons or property, they saved all alike.
    Translation by Carleton L. Brownson

    One cannot be “among” or “in the midst of” a line. One has either crossed it or has not.

    With regard to the second phrase cited (ἐντός τούτων), it is from Xenophon’s Hellenica. Once again, Strong’s has made an egregious error.
    ὁ δ᾽ αὖ Θηραμένης καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα ἔλεγεν ὅτι ἄτοπον δοκοίη ἑαυτῷ γε εἶναι τὸ πρῶτον μὲν βουλομένους τοὺς βελτίστους τῶν πολιτῶν κοινωνοὺς ποιήσασθαι τρισχιλίους, ὥσπερ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦτον ἔχοντά τινα ἀνάγκην καλοὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς εἶναι, καὶ οὔτ᾽ ἔξω τούτων σπουδαίους οὔτ᾽ “ἐντὸς τούτων” πονηροὺς οἷόν τε εἴη γενέσθαι: ἔπειτα δ᾽, ἔφη, ὁρῶ ἔγωγε δύο ἡμᾶς τὰ ἐναντιώτατα πράττοντας, βιαίαν τε τὴν ἀρχὴν καὶ ἥττονα τῶν ἀρχομένων κατασκευαζομένους. [Hell. 2.3.10]

    Theramenes, however, objected to this move also, saying that, in the first place, it seemed to him absurd that, when they wanted to make the best of the citizens their associates, they should limit themselves to three thousand, as though this number must somehow be good men and true and there could neither be excellent men outside this body nor rascals “within it”.
    Translation by Carleton L. Brownson

    The meaning of “entos” here is clear. The opposite of “outside” this body is obviously “inside” or “within”.

    An important point is that when the Rabbi’s translated the Torah into Greek, the Hebrew term tavek which means “in the midst of” was not rendered as “entos” which is the Greek term used by Jesus in Luke, but as “en” Strong’s G1722. Look into Strong’s G1722 and you will see how often “en” is used meaning among and look into “entos” which is only used 2x in the entire NT and the only other time clearly means “inside”.

    Another are the Psalms cited in Strong’s. Look into them for yourself… look at the LXX and the Hebrew. It makes things stunningly clear.

    Finally, rather than quibble let me request that you cite a single verse from Greek prior to and during the time of Jesus that uses the term “entos” meaning “among” or “in the midst”

    Please forgive me if I seem adamant. The words and teachings of Jesus are again being talked about as mutable depending on the social times or denominational needs. The Pope tried to see if changing the clear meaning of words would be OK… it failed this time but has succeeded in earlier times and may again.

    With love,

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