The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). It also shows itself with discipline and judgment (cf. 1Corinthians 4:20-21). In other words, the Kingdom of God has to do with living for God and having our pleasure in him, but how does this play out in the world and within the kingdoms of this world? When Jesus was speaking in Luke 9:27, he was speaking to the same folks he spoke with in 9:24. This is understood in that both subjects are mentioned in the context of Jesus celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem (cf. John 7:10).
But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:27 – emphasis mine)
Jesus told his disciples that some of them would be alive when the Kingdom of God would come (Luke 9:27). Matthew says some would be alive when they would see the Son of Man come in his Kingdom (Matthew 16:28), while Mark says some would be alive when the Kingdom of God would come in power (Mark 9:1). The implication is that some would be alive at that time, but the others would not be alive. Moreover, it is also implied that, since some would live until the time of the Kingdom of God coming in power, death would follow sometime later. Therefore, if Jesus was speaking of his Second Coming, that coming cannot be as we understand that term today.
According to what Jesus said in Luke 17:20, the Kingdom of God cannot be seen with the eye, but its effects could be seen (cf. Luke 10:9, 11; 11:20). Jesus claimed that the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, i.e. understood by ocular evidence (G3907 – Luke 17:20), but Jesus does say it can be seen or discerned (G1492 – Luke 9:27) through other means. What would Jesus’ coming in his Kingdom look like, if his Kingdom cannot be seen with out eyes? Could his coming in such a Kingdom be seen with our eyes?
By what means, then, can it be discerned (G1492), and by whom? Jesus told Nicodemus that unless one is born again or born of water and the Spirit one is unable to discern (G1492) the Kingdom of God. In other words, only born again believers are able to discern the Kingdom of God. Others may see its effects (Luke 10:9, 11; 11:20), but they probably would not attribute those effects to the Kingdom of God. Critics or unbelievers would rather see anything else as a possibility of God’s power than attribute that thing to the Kingdom of God.
If the Kingdom of God cannot be understood through ocular evidence (G3907), how can it have a place in our world? Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within man (Luke 17:21), specifically, the heart of man (cf. Mark 4:14-15, 26). Herod and Caesar would seek to rule men by force, but this would remain so only if a stronger man than they didn’t come against them to take away their kingdoms. Moreover, once the authority figure (viz. Herod or Caesar) wasn’t present, his subjects might do whatever they pleased, proving the authority of men over others in this world is authority by force. This isn’t so with God. God’s Kingdom cannot be seen with the eye (Luke 17:20), because it is found in a man’s heart (Luke 17:21). It has to do with a man’s voluntary submission, one man at a time. If God is not the Ruler of a man’s heart, he will never rule the man, so therein is found the throne of the Kingdom of God.
Moreover, the Kingdom of God can be entered only through much suffering and opposition (Acts 14:22), so there is a struggle to enter God’s Kingdom, but that struggle is not with God. Rather it is with this world. This world seeks to maintain its authority over every man within its realm of jurisdiction. The world is jealous of another authority that demands allegiance from its subjects. Herod Antipas wanted to see Jesus, when he heard about Jesus’ ministry inside Herod’s jurisdiction, and his desire to see Jesus wasn’t friendly. Jesus had to take measures to remain free from Herod’s grasp, and years later Jesus’ disciples had to do similarly. We must be careful about what we say and do to keep from unnecessarily arousing the suspicion of local authorities. The Kingdom of God is entered only through suffering and opposition, thus expressing our loyalty to God and not another (cf. Acts 14:22).
Finally, one may ask, if the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, how can anyone know when it appears (Luke 9:27)? From the first century onward, folks have always believed that the Kingdom of God would immediately (or soon) appear (Luke 19:11-12), but Jesus said it wouldn’t. Nevertheless, he did say it would come, and he would give a sign when it would be present (Luke 21:27-28, 31-32; cf. Matthew 24:30), and notice that a sign was needed to do that. The afore mentioned Scriptures point to Jesus’ coming to judge Jerusalem and the Temple at the end of the age, which came cir. 70 AD. The Kingdom of God came in power at that time, and in a future study I intend to show this in more detail.