The Kingdom Within
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
[Note: After one more recent period of crash and burn, I heard the Lord culminatingly say to me this morning, “You need to lie in stillness before me today.”
It was clear He meant that literally, not metaphorically as if to continue going about normal affairs and daily routine while “meditating on Him.” Having a cold today, it was not hard to justify. And so, I lay in stillness for 8 hours, just listening, and putting away every other thought. This article is the result of that stillness. May it benefit everyone in the kingdom of God who reads it.]
The Lord would impart anew to us understanding of the essential internality and eternality of His Kingdom. When Jesus said “The kingdom of God is within you,” He was not speaking as a generality. Some translations water down the essential internality of Jesus’ words by translating the Greek word “entos” (which means “within”) as “among.” They say, “The kingdom is among you.”
While it is true that the kingdom may be evident in some way “among” us, that is not what Jesus was saying. We know that is not what He was saying because He was affirming that the kingdom was not coming in any observable way by which people could point and say “It is here,” which is what the word “among” suggests. Interestingly, when Jesus did kingdom miracles which people could see, He described the kingdom’s presence only in terms of its “nearness”
“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Luke 10:9
The difference between the essential internality of the kingdom and its observable manifestations “among” us or “near to us” is a critical distinction that cannot be overstated for importance. Failure to make this distinction by assigning the kingdom’s essentiality to its manifestations leads to the destruction of our faith when manifestations fail us, are taken from us or in any other way come to an end.
The development of God’s eternal kingdom within us is woven on the loom of God’s call to us over purposes and desires. These callings, purposes and desires are the stuff over which God inspires us to exercise our internal faith in Him. But these callings, purposes and desires are not eternal. They are temporal and cyclical according to God’s appointed seasons of exercise. They come and go, and in many cases appear to “fail.” This also applies to disappointments over what we by observation call “unanswered” prayer.
What happens when the callings and purposes over which we exercise our faith come to an end or are taken from us? If we define these things as the essence of the kingdom, then we are plunged into personal crisis. Our lives come to an end for us. Our sense of meaning and purpose in God dissolves. And we may even walk away from the faith itself—as many have.
How many churches have failed? How many callings have been destroyed or been stunted or even prevented from manifestation over any number of issues over time? How many desires, prayers and visions for ministries, businesses or families “for Christ” have collapsed and died in some way?
If these demonstrations of the kingdom are the essence of the kingdom to us, then to us the kingdom of God has failed. This conceptualization of the kingdom is fatal to our faith in God.
But the Father would correct our understanding of the kingdom—especially in a time when so much is preached and taught about “the kingdom.” The manifestations of the kingdom “near to us” or “among” us are not the essence of the kingdom. The callings, desires and purposes of the kingdom are not the kingdom. These all pass away. But the kingdom of God is forever. It cannot pass away.
But the only way to know and appreciate this is to understand that the forever kingdom of God is within us. It cannot be seen by external observation, even though many of its evidences are produced for the benefit of observable witness to the earth. But the evidences are not the essence. Their presence or absence tells us nothing about the reality of the kingdom within.
What and Where is “The Kingdom”?
What then is the essence of the kingdom? Where is it within us? What does that mean?
The kingdom of God in its essence is simply where the King is. The kingdom follows the King. Where the King is, there is His kingdom.
So where is the King? The King Himself is alive within our new creation man. As believers who have been born again of His Spirit, we all know this. “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Christ lives within us, and so does His Father—all by the Spirit. And to the degree the Spirit has invaded and immersed our souls through Spirit baptism, to that degree the Father and Son have indeed made their manifest abode in us—“manifest” here meaning to the inner man in the heart. (Conversely, to the degree the Spirit has not immersed our inner man with the Father’s indwelling presence, to that degree the belief in the “abode” of Christ within us is held as a mere starving theology.)
But when thinking of the Father and Son indwelling us, we don’t think of them as “King.” And so we don’t make the connect to their “kingdom” within us. But the truth is that the eternal kingdom of God which cannot fail and has no end is the kingdom of the presence of the Father and Son already indwelling us. That indwelling IS the Kingdom of God. God’s habitation within us IS His Kingdom—“in earth” (our earth—you and me, made out of dust) “as it is in heaven.” God indwelling man is the prime fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer for the coming of the kingdom. All manifestations over callings, desires and purposes among men are secondary to this and are not the essence of the kingdom.
But after a lifetime of the Spirit’s training into calling, purposes and desires “for the sake of the kingdom,” we often easily lose sight of the internal essentiality of the Kingdom. We can fail to nurture and properly cultivate God’s internal presence within us. And if we are lax in this area, we are set for a tailspin and a crash and burn scenario in our lives when kingdom enterprise into which we have heavily invested in prayer and anointed energy collapses on us. (Yes, collapses happen as much under anointed energy as they do under fleshly energy. Look at Paul’s churches….)
At times of such collapse, it is vital to repair to the inner sanctum of the Lord within us to realize anew Who the King is and where His kingdom is apart from all else that we have given ourselves to Him over.
Pure Kingdom and Applied Kingdom
In the world, there is what is called “pure science” and “applied science.” In the realm of spiritual life, the same is true. There is the pure kingdom and there is the applied kingdom. The pure kingdom refers to the essential eternality of God’s kingdom indwelling us. The applied kingdom is the expression of that eternality into the light of day through spiritual calling, desire and purpose. We have been taught to put a high priority on the “applied kingdom,” and rightly so. Too little faith has been exercised toward seeing the demonstrations of the glory of God in the world.
But the applied kingdom cannot substitute for the pure cultivation of the Father and Son’s indwelling union. The pure kingdom is ever and forever in us, and the source from which all else in the applied kingdom is intended to come forth. And whenever the applied kingdom collapses in some way, the pure kingdom remains our home and place of abode until God is ready to stir again to the topside in any direction.
The difference between the pure and applied kingdom is readily seen in the life of Christ. While we are wowed by all the applied kingdom stories of his supernatural feats, the main story is that Christ spent entire nights in prayer building up His pure kingdom relationship with the Father. Not one thing Jesus did as an applied manifestation ever occurred off foundation of the carefully cultivated life of prayer toward pure fellowship with His Father.
It is also to be noted that as “King,” Jesus’ identity as the “King” did not shift between His manifestations of the miraculous. He did not “become” king when He demonstrated the kingdom and then stopped “being” king when He was just eating or going to the bathroom. He was always King, whether or not He was especially “manifesting” the kingdom. (And from that point of view, the manifestation of the kingdom can be said to be wherever the King is no matter whatever He is doing, however mundane.)
And so it is and must be to our own awareness. The kingdom is within us, just because Christ the King is within us. And He is still and always King in us whether or not He is showing off any kingdom miracles or conducting any kingdom ministry through us on a given day or in a given hour. The real question for us is, do we get this? Are we by night cultivating the inner kingdom through time spent in His presence, and are we doing so as the unyielding foundation of whatever else we may be doing by intercession over calling, desire and purpose by day?
Seeking First the Kingdom…..
What does this do for us when we consider afresh the command to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”?
Seeking first the kingdom is not seeking first the calling, desires and purposes of the kingdom. It is not choosing to give ourselves to the ministry first over advancing ourselves through a secular job. It is not choosing to have a family dedicated to God first over having a family just for the sake of the desire for one. Such “firsts” are about expressions of the kingdom. But they are not the meaning of “seeking first the kingdom.”
To seek first the kingdom means that when confronted with a sense of human need, we come into the secret place of inner fellowship with Christ long enough and deeply enough to see Him deliver our soul from the worries, fears, anxieties, distrust and disbelief over our needs. When we devote ourselves to this place of inner kingdom fellowship, that is where we will discover God’s perfect solution and inspiration for receiving the provision, whether it requires us to wait further or to take any particular action. But that is where the kingdom first is.
The kingdom of God within is a garden and a paradise. It is found only through the doorway of death leading to a deeper life—death to the external and to that which demands our attention and subservience under the light of day. We find the kingdom within whenever we come to the end of ourselves in a fresh way, when we become as helpless as the birds of the air and the grass of the field for which God cares. We find the kingdom within when all that is left is the Father’s presence, and nothing else to trust in.
The Cycle of Pure and Applied Kingdom Life
The pure kingdom is a place of reflection, quiet, stillness and rest. The applied kingdom is a place of spirit petition, labor and action under the light of mortal life. So it is that out of finding the inner kingdom anew in deep reflection, we eventually become stirred once more toward applying the kingdom through new petition. Fresh seasonal revelation is imparted—fresh calling, fresh desire, fresh purpose. We sally forth once more. And so the cycle begins again.
But we must understand that under this mortality, the cycle never ends. The cycle between answering the call to the applied kingdom faith out of pure abidance in Christ, only to see that application die to bring us back to strictly abiding in the pure kingdom of Divine Presence, only to once more answer the call to new kingdom application—does not cease until we are finally delivered into the permanent reality of which the inner kingdom speaks.
You see, it is to the heaven in our hearts that we are ultimately being called and toward which we are being prepared. When this life is through for us, we pass the final gateway into the reality of the inner kingdom that was developed all along within us. What was only “within us” now becomes our permanent abode. We enter paradise where the Father’s Presence is all, and for which we were being prepared through the call to the inner kingdom. We come into the realm where we find all the answers to our prayers that were stored up in waiting which we thought had been unanswered. What was once only on the inside, is now the substance of all reality for us. That is where our friends and relatives are in the kingdom who have already made that permanent crossing over.
The angel yet says, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord henceforth, that they may cease from their labors.” Of what labor does the angel speak? It is the labor of the cycle between the pure and applied kingdom under the sun of mortality.
Overcoming the Pain of Crossing the Threshold
I want to close this article by discussing the peculiar pain that confronts us each time we must cross the threshold between living in the pure kingdom of inner fellowship and acting in the applied kingdom under the Spirit’s unction. Every time we cross that threshold there is pain, no matter the direction.
When the evidences of our engagement in the applied kingdom fail, we die once more an inward death. A javelin pierces our belly. The church collapsed. We were fired from the ministry. Our spouse was taken from us suddenly without warning. The relationship was irreparable damaged or lost. Our family was broken apart by an intruder. The prayer did not come through. The healing failed. The provision was lost.
So we learn to once more abide only in the pure kingdom of inner fellowship, worship and reflection. We learn anew the Father’s love and the All Sufficiency of His Presence. We come to abide, and abide and abide the more. We soak in the contemplative air of the Spirit’s fellowship. Yet only before so long does the Spirit say, “Enough time here, my son. You must now arise once again to carry forth my faith into the light of the church, the society and the marketplace.” We are given an irresistible sense of calling, and irrepressible desire, and an unstoppable yearning for an applied purpose in God that refuses to let go of us.
And now we must cross the threshold going the other way. And again there is pain. There is fear. We know what happened last time we applied our faith. We don’t want any more risks—with the church, with the ministry, with the family, with starting a new business or enterprise “for the kingdom.” We want to stay in our place of quiet abiding, and prayer, and contemplation and rest. But the Spirit will not let us go. The tension is there. And we are called to overcome for the sake of the same love for which we were called to yield up that application the last time.
For thousands of years, the saints have struggled with the pain of crossing the threshold back and forth between the pure and the applied kingdom. Entire streams of Christianity were founded to accent the importance of the one or the other. The monks and mystics and deeper life streams persuaded us of the need to abide in the inner kingdom, and to let the applied kingdom just take care of itself somehow. The anointed missional movements of faith and action taught us otherwise, galvanizing us to applied kingdom activation in the callings and gifts of the Spirit, while acknowledging the value of personal prayer and worship as a sidebar to spiritual life.
No one wants to die. We all get that. But there is no other way to find life. The cycle is here to stay. At each call to the threshold, the Father deepens us in who He is within us in the ongoing preparation for who we are becoming in Him. His Presence is enough, and there is always a place of rest in Him. So that no matter where we are in the cycle, we have a palpable inner reality and an anchor and a hope in His peace and fullness that can see us through every crisis between the kingdom dimensions. That is why the kingdom is defined in its essence not as an enterprise, but as the internal divine qualities of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” There is no substitute for the possession of these qualities in the heart at the expense of all else.
For me today, it is once more to appreciate the superior value of His kingdom within. Everything I am called to be through application is subservient to who He is ordained to be within me as unfailing Father, friend, confidant and lover of my soul. It is important for me to pass on to you these observations by way of my own kingdom application coming out of my time of pure kingdom abiding throughout this day.
Love to all in the same faith,
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created May 26, 2015