In Proposition 110, George Peters states:
“The passage most relied on to prove the Church-Kingdom theory utterly disproves it.”
The verse in question by Peters is Luke 17:21 which states, “nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (ESV)
Those who affirm the Church-Kingdom theory focus in on the phrase “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” as proof for the immediate implementation and existence of the full nature of the kingdom of God on earth. As Peters will note, such a position is theologically untenable.
The most notable observation Peters presents in Proposition 110 is the following:
“This Kingdom “within you” could not be the Christian Church, for that was afterward instituted and it was not anything that the Pharisees were in personal actual enjoyment of, and to apply it either to the person of Christ or to a spiritual reign is to bring it into conflict with covenanted expectations and the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples (Props. 19-23 and 38-49).”
As with any attempt to properly exegete Scripture, context is important. Luke 17:21 cannot be taken in a vacuum or apart from the context in which the conversation/statement by Jesus was being made, thus we need to identify to whom Jesus was speaking. The Pharisees had questioned Jesus as to when the Kingdom of God would come. If we move forward a bit in this chapter to verses 22-37, we find Jesus speaking in a clearly eschatological manner. This is important as the time frame in which Jesus notes the Kingdom will come is in the future, specifically at the time of his return.
The Pharisees were looking for something immediate to take place. As Jesus noted to the Pharisees in Luke 17:20, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.” Thus, we can ascertain from the words of Jesus that the Kingdom is something that will come and be fully instituted at the end of days. This means it was not fully in place at the first advent or as some Church-Kingdom adherents declare, at the time of the establishment of the church. Such an assertion is not in keeping with the clear teaching of Jesus in Luke 17 or other similar contexts.
Luke 17:21 cannot be used as a proof text for the Church-Kingdom theory.