B1 Luke 17:20-21 WEL When he was questioned by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, he began to answer and said to them, “The Kingdom of God doesn’t come with careful observation. 21 “Nor will they say, ‘Look over here,’ or ‘Look over there.’ for—take note—the Kingdom of God is within you.
B2 Luke 17:20-21 NRSV Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."
B3 Luke 17:20-21 ESV Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
The common issue is this. The Lord Jesus is speaking to some ungodly Pharisees who are demanding an answer as to when God’s Kingdom will begin. The Lord Jesus surely cannot be telling these ungodly Pharisees that they have God’s Kingdom within them, that is, inside them, so it must mean something else.
The Greek word is ἐντός entós (G1787).
B1 It means within or inside. Because of the interpretation issue, most include the idea of in your midst or something similar.
B2 It is used 2 times in our New Testament. [Emphasis is mine]
C1 Matthew 23:26 NIV Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
C2 Luke 17:20-21 NIV Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."
B3 In Matthew, it is obviously inside.
A few comments from scholars:
B1 Robertson’s Word Pictures on this verse:
Within you (entos humōn). This is the obvious, and, as I think, the necessary meaning of entos. The examples cited of the use of entos in Xenophon and Plato where entos means “among” do not bear that out when investigated. Field (Ot. Norv.) “contends that there is no clear instance of entos in the sense of among” (Bruce), and rightly so. What Jesus says to the Pharisees is that they, as others, are to look for the kingdom of God within themselves, not in outward displays and supernatural manifestations. It is not a localized display “Here” or “There.” It is in this sense that in Luk 11:20 Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God as “come upon you” (ephthasen eph' humās), speaking to Pharisees. The only other instance of entos in the N.T. (Mat 23:26) necessarily means “within” (“the inside of the cup”). There is, beside, the use of entos meaning “within” in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus saying of Jesus of the Third Century (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 426) which is interesting: “The kingdom of heaven is within you” (entos humōn as here in Luk 17:21).
B2 Vincent’s Word Studies:
Within—Better, in the midst of. Meyer acutely remarks that “you refers to the Pharisees, in whose hearts nothing certainly found a place less than did the ethical kingdom of God.” Moreover, Jesus is not speaking of the inwardness of the kingdom, but of its presence. “The whole language of the kingdom of heaven being within men, rather than men being within the kingdom, is modern” (Trench, after Meyer).
So how do we solve this? This is my opinion.
B1 God is speaking.
B2 God being omniscient and omnisapient can communicate perfectly. This is the word that God chose.
B3 In context, it appears to mean
C1 The Pharisees expected something outward only. Jesus corrects them, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation.”
C2 The word observation is the Greek word παρατήρησις paratḗrēsis. It means, essentially, looking around, that is, inspecting a thing. The idea being of some outward value.
C3 The Pharisees saw purity, holiness, righteousness as an outward value instead of an inward value. Compare:
D1 Matthew 23:25-28 NIV "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
D2 Matthew 15:18-19 NIV But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
C4 It is the inside, the core of each person, where evil or righteousness comes from.
D1 Matthew 12:33 NIV "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
D2 Jeremiah 4:14 NIV Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?
D3 Ezekiel 18:31 NIV Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel?
D4 Hebrews 10:22 NIV let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
B4 The Lord Jesus is telling them, “Look, you are looking for outward values only, but God looks at inward conditions. The Kingdom of God is not just some outward state, but is an inside (the heart) condition, which is shown by its outward actions.”
B5 People act what they believe. People can dress up but be an evil criminal. They can say all the right things, use the right language of righteousness, and preach and write what appears to be God fearing and correct. But, in private, they are controlling, create an atmosphere of fear, say evil things, do evil things, control, abuse, etc. This outward appearance and action means something but not much. Many people have been abused by those who outwardly, in public, are perfect, holy, blameless, righteous, etc. but in private are vile, abusive, selfish, self-serving, controlling, etc.
B6 It is the heart that matters.
B1 On verse 20: With observation - With scrupulous and attentive looking for it, or with such an appearance as to “attract” observation - that is, with pomp, majesty, splendor. He did not deny that, according to their views, the time was drawing near; but he denied that his kingdom would come in the “manner” in which they expected. The Messiah would “not” come with pomp like an earthly prince; perhaps not in such a manner as to be “discerned” by the eyes of sagacious and artful people, who were expecting him in a way agreeable to their own feelings. The kingdom of God is “within” people, and it makes its way, not by pomp and noise, but by silence, decency, and order, 1 Corinthians 14:40.
B2 On verse 21: Is within you - This is capable of two interpretations.
1. The reign of God is “in the heart.” It does not come with pomp and splendor, like the reign of temporal kings, merely to control the external “actions” and strike the senses of people with awe, but it reigns in the heart by the law of God; it sets up its dominion over the passions, and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
2. It may mean the new dispensation is “even now among you.” The Messiah has come. John has ushered in the kingdom of God, and you are not to expect the appearance of the Messiah with great pomp and splendor, for he is now among you. Most critics at present incline to this latter interpretation. The ancient versions chiefly follow the former.
There are differing opinions of interpretation. If one believes differently, it is OK. We can still learn. Personally, I understand it as within you rather than in your midst, but I will not fight anyone who understands it differently. All believers do understand that God’s work is a new heart, a new creation, that will reveal itself in our thoughts, desires, words, and deeds.