What is the meaning of the expression, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed” in Luke 17:20?
In this passage, Jesus is teaching about the kingdom in the end times. Because he is teaching about it in this timeframe, he is saying that his kingdom has already begun in the hearts of men. That’s why you can’t observe it or see it.
The way you see it is in the hearts of Christians. They are showing you what it means to be part of God’s kingdom with their speech and actions. He is not saying you can’t observe the kingdom. He saying it comes in ways you are not used to seeing a kingdom come.
Jesus’ kingdom is not part of this world. It’s not like the kingdoms and empires and nations we see around the world. It’s not something that comes about in the same ways, founded by people and throwing its strength and weight around in the world.
At the moment Jesus answers the question of the Pharisees about his kingdom, he represents and is God’s kingdom on earth. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, when he says “the kingdom of God is in your midst,” he is saying that he as God’s kingdom is standing right in front of them.
When you take this understanding of the first century AD, all of the religious leaders in Israel missed the coming of the kingdom through the Messiah, Jesus. They were looking for it in other ways, but God chose to bring it through his Son. In a way, he was saying that if they are asking the question, they had already missed the kingdom of God.
Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom on earth during his earthly ministry. But it continues in the hearts of people who trust and believe in him today and throughout history. So God’s kingdom has never worked the way earthly kingdoms do. That’s why they can’t observe it’s coming.