It is one thing to externally see something with the physical eye, and it is another thing to internally see something with the spiritual eye of understanding. The former experience is that which is physically revealed to a person or a group of people at the same time, whereas the latter experience is perceived spiritually within the mind and heart of an individual.
Mentioned by Jesus more than any other topic (approximately 106 times across the four Gospel accounts), the kingdom of God was by far Jesus’ favorite subject to teach about during His time on earth. In fact, Jesus brought the reality of this kingdom down to earth for us when He came among us in the flesh. And with this kingdom, He brought us spiritual understanding and healing, and He personally showed us the Way.
“When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied, “The kingdom of God was not coming with observations and signs; nor will people say, ‘Look! Here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For the kingdom of God is among you.”” (Luke 17:19-20).
After having spent three years in fellowship with Jesus, even His disciples did not fully understand how this kingdom would manifest itself in the world. It was not until after they physically saw Christ rejected and murdered by His own people, and then buried and raised to life again by God, that they began to spiritually grasp what this kingdom was about, and all that He had said to them about it.
But what does it mean that the kingdom of God is among us? When God sent His only Son to earth, He gave us a part of Himself—that the spiritual eyes of our hearts may be opened, and that we might turn from our ways and receive the forgiveness of our sins, that we would be saved for life eternal. This part of Himself which He gave us is three-fold:
1) He gave us an understanding of eternity and showed to us the highways to the kingdom of God.
2) He willingly poured out His flesh and blood for us as a ransom for our sin, that we may have eternal life.
3) With His final breath, He imparted His Spirit to us that we may have power over the enemy and spiritual darkness, greater insight into the mysteries of God, and help in the time of need.
It was crucial that Christ spiritually and physically revealed His eternal kingdom to His disciples BEFORE DYING in the flesh, so that AFTER His RESURRECTION they would fully understand all of the things which He has accomplished, and would follow in His footsteps. Here are two major examples of these spiritual and physical paradoxes which Christ has made known to us:
These events foreshadow that a spiritually blind person cannot perceive the Holy Spirit until Christ is resurrected within the heart and mind of that person. For Peter, James, and John this meant that Jesus brought them up into the Mount of Transfiguration—spiritually signaling that they had to be elevated in the Spirit and in their minds in order to see Him in His full glory.
But for Paul, this meant a light from heaven suddenly came down and flashed all around him (Acts 9; 22), bringing him to his knees and begging to know Who it was—spiritually signaling that in Paul’s case, he had to be humbled tremendously in the Spirit and in his mind in order for His eyes to be opened. And even when His eyes were opened, there was a period of three days which he was blind and neither ate or drank anything. It wasn’t until after the Lord’s disciple, Ananias came and laid his hands on Paul, that he fully regained his sight.
In both instances, Jesus physically manifested His glory to His disciples and to the apostle Paul before they were able to fully understand what He was doing in and around them. How could they believe Him if they had not tasted and seen His glory beforehand somehow? And even 2,000 years later, here we (believers of Christ) are proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God to you and to all people everywhere—that the kingdom of God has come upon us, and is in the midst of you even as you read these words. Since the Gospel has gone out from His mouth, the internal image of Christ is continuously taking shape and form before our eyes and within our hearts, expanding and revealing more of His unshakeable kingdom.
Because God is Spirit (John 4:24) and thus invisible to the human eye, and because Christ has already come to earth in the flesh (John 1:1, 14), all humans MUST have some kind of revelation or encounter with His Spirit (BEFORE DYING) in order to know Him and receive eternal life. And in order for humans to begin to see Him, someone must preach the good news to them (Romans 10:14-15). With each day that passes on the earth, the eternal beauty of His kingdom and the love which He has lavished upon us is more clearly realized by those who belong to Him.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”