The Reign of God Is Within You
When we think about the reign of a king, we think about the authority the king has to accomplish his purposes. In order to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “The Reign of God is within you,” let’s consider the nature of kings and kingdoms. Imagine a kingdom where there’s a rule that you must give 50% of your income to the king. If you refuse, then king can confiscate your property and throw you in prison. The king gets what he wants and then some. You have no authority in the matter.
Now suppose there’s rule that you must pledge your allegiance to the king. If you don’t pledge your allegiance to the king, he can confiscate your property and throw you in prison. But this doesn’t mean the king can get what he wants. You have authority over your allegiance. Even if you lose everything, your freedom, or perhaps even your life, there’s nothing the King can do to get your allegiance. Do you see the difference? The reason for the difference is that the king’s authority does not extend beyond the physical world of the kingdom. The spiritual realm is beyond his authority.
Now suppose that there is an imaginary kingdom. not a somewhere outside of yourself, but inside of you. It is made, not with roads and houses or property and prisons, but who you are, what you do, what you want, etc. The king of this kingdom wants everything, not just 50%. This king wants you to pledge your allegiance to him. Do you think that the king of this kingdom has the ability to get what he wants? His authority extends into who you are, what you do, what you want… everything.
How do you feel about a kingdom like this? Do you find this king offensive?
Maybe you don’t think it’s fair for him to own everything. Maybe you imagine him exercising some sort of mind control over you, destroying your sense of self, making your will conform to his own. If you could use one word to describe this king, maybe you would choose the word death.
This is the blog post three of four. The first one is New Wineskin for the New Wine: Raising Hell, Resources, and More… and the second one is The Fragrance of Life or Death: Reexamining 2 Cor. 2:14-16.
Here’s a quick recap:
For someone with eyes to see and ears to hear, but whose mind or heart is not prepared to explore the depths and heights of the exceeding greatness of Christ’s power, the content, or new wine, of this website, or wineskin, seems like a symptom of some contagious new disease that threatens the body of Christ. Some would say that my efforts are wasted on them.
[God] is leading us in triumph in the Christ, and the fragrance of His knowledge He is manifesting through us in every place, because of Christ a sweet fragrance we are to God, in those being saved, and in those being lost; to the one, indeed, a fragrance of death to death, and to the other, a fragrance of life to life; and for these things who is sufficient? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)
And in The Fragrance of Life or Death: Reexamining 2 Cor. 2:14-16 I wrote,
The Complete Jewish Bible translation, in my opinion, conveys more of the meaning that is lost in translation, without confusing the English-reading person:
But thanks be to God, who in the Messiah constantly leads us in a triumphal procession and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of what it means to know him! For to God we are the aroma of the Messiah, both among those being saved and among those being lost; to the latter, we are the smell of death leading only to more death; but to the former, we are the sweet smell of life leading to more life. Who is equal to such a task?
I still take issue with this translation…
Lost in Translation
The problem I have with the CJB translation of this passage is inconsistency. Notice the words fragrance, aroma, smell, and sweet smell.
Fragrance. Aroma. These are pleasant words.
The English word fragrance comes from the Latin word, fragrantem, and has held the meaning “sweet smell” since the mid 15th century. Likewise, aroma is from the Latin word, aroma, meaning “sweet odor.” But the word smell (etymological origins unknown) replaced the Old English word stenc, from which we get the word stench, sometime in the late 12th century. Stench is a word that has been used from the 13th century on to convey an offensive odor. (Online Etymology Dictionary)
5 English Words = 2 Greek Words
The Greek or New Testament words for fragrance, aroma, smell, and sweet smell are osmé and euódia. Osmé inherently carries neither a negative nor positive connotation. It is a neutral word describing the fact that one’s nose is functioning. Euódia, however, is a positive word describing both that the nose functions and the mind is pleased by what the nose smells.
So far, so good. Now, onto the problem.
The English word smell is used twice, once in the phrase, “we are the smell of death,” and again in the phrase, “we are the sweet smell of life,” but the Greek the word osmé is used four times. It can be found in the following phrases:
- the osmé of what it means to know him
- we are the osmé of the Messiah
- we are the osmé of death
- we are the sweet osmé of life
The fourth time it is used, it is accompanied by the English word sweet. I suppose that the translators justified adding sweet even though it is not found in the Greek, because of the word euódia, which is said to be “among those being saved.” Fair enough. I can live with that. They’re just trying to convey the meaning of the text.
Translator Bias Revealed
But if we examine the structure of verse fifteen, we see that euódia is also said to be “among those being lost.” Why should the English word sweet be used to describe one osmé and not the other? This demonstrates a bias on the part of translators, who see the words death to death and assume the worst. The text literally says,
… to moreover God [be] thanks always leading in triumph us in Christ and the osmé of the knowledge of Him making manifest through us in every place. For of Christ euódia we are to God in those being saved and in those perishing, to one indeed osmé from death to death, to one moreover osmé from life to life, and for these things who [is] sufficient?
God is pleased that osmé is doing what it does.
Remember, osmé describes the knowledge of Him and how that knowledge impacts those who smell it. Euódia is God’s opinion of the osmé. Regarding the functions of osmé, this passage says that osmé is:
- of Christ
- to God
- in those being saved
- in those perishing
Euódia, or God’s opinion of the osmé, is positive. God is pleased that osmé is doing what it does, whether it is the smell from life to life to those being saved or the smell from death to death to those perishing. This may be of little consequence to believers who are ignorant of what perishing really means. For more information about this, read If God Swears, Then What About… I do not subscribe to the idea that being saved or perishing is strictly limited to believers and unbelievers, and I certainly don’t believe that it’s about the eternal destiny of heaven-bound and hell-bound people.
Osmé is everywhere and in everyone.
Osmé, or “the fragrance of what it means to know him,” can be offensive to people who:
- don’t believe God exists
- believe God exists but don’t believe He can be known
- believe God exists, believe He can be known, but don’t believe He is worth knowing
- believe God exists, believe He can be known, believe He is worth knowing, but don’t believe He has made Himself known to them
- believe God exists, believe He can be known, believe He is worth knowing, believe He has made Himself known to them, but don’t believe the knowledge of Him
About the king at the beginning of this blog post…
What if I told you that the king of the kingdom within you loved you more than you love yourself? What if the king…
- …despises the idea of you being held captive, and has taken drastic measures to be sure you are set free?
- …is generous and never withholds anything from you unless it is for your highest benefit?
- …would never do anything to betray your trust in Him?
- …would defend you, protect you, and even die for you?
- …would never give up on you?
- …doesn’t force your allegiance, but inspires it by demonstrating He is worthy of it?
Paul’s take on the King
The apostle Paul explains a few of the reasons why his allegiance is to the King of the Kingdom within Paul. He writes,
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in the heavens and on earth is named, that He may give to you, according to the riches of His glory, with might to be strengthened through His Spirit, in regard to the inner man, that the Christ may dwell through the faith in your hearts, in love having been rooted and founded, that ye may be in strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, to know also the love of the Christ that is exceeding the knowledge, that ye may be filled to all the fulness of God; and to Him who is able above all things to do exceeding abundantly what we ask or think, according to the power that is working in us, to Him is the glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus, to all the generations of the age of the ages. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Most believers would agree that living in subjection to Christ the King in the Reign of God or Kingdom of God is better than being one’s own “king.” It usually happens like this. They first believe God exists, and then they believe He can be known. And although some people take longer than others, eventually they feel like He is worth knowing, because in Christ, He makes Himself known to them. But as He makes Himself known, many believers don’t believe the knowledge of Him. Some of them don’t believe the knowledge of Him out of ignorance, that is, they simply haven’t been exposed to it yet, while other don’t believe the knowledge of Him because of reasons I’ll mention shortly.
We’ve slapped a label on the knowledge of Him, or at least, the attempt to gain the knowledge of God. We call it theology.
C.S. Lewis said,
In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk… an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But mind you, I’m a religious man too, I know there’s a God, I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”
Now in a sense I quite agree with that man. I think he probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will also be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper.
When God reveals Himself, our tendency is to embrace any notions of what we think He is and reject anything about Him that goes against our current understanding. I think that’s why Paul prayed for believers to have the strength to comprehend. Why would believers need strength to comprehend? Let’s look into it.
1840 eksisxýō (from 1537 /ek, “completely out of from” which intensifies 2479 /isxýs, “aggressive strength, filling a need or void”) – properly, “strength at work,” such as overcoming difficulties in understanding (“getting past knowledge-gaps”). It is only used in Eph 3:18, referring to apprehending (decisively laying hold of) the fuller dimensions of knowing the Lord (His love, calling, presence). — HELPS Word Studies
Perhaps like many blog readers, you like to scan the page and read what jumps out at you. If so, you may have scanned past the definition above. Or maybe you read it in its entirety but didn’t happen to notice something very important. See that little word ek? Does it look familiar? We’ve seen it before…
1537 ek (a preposition, written eks before a vowel) – properly, “out from and to” (the outcome); out from within. 1537 /ek (“out of”) is one of the most under-translated (and therefore mis-translated) Greek propositions – often being confined to the meaning “by.” 1537 (ek) has a two-layered meaning (“out from and to”) which makes it out-come oriented (out of the depths of the source and extending to its impact on the object). — HELPS Word Studies
It is the word from in the phrases, “from death to death” and “from life to life.” Strength is necessary to move out from preconceptions about God and into the knowledge of God. Where does this strength come from? It comes from “love having been rooted and founded” and this love, according to Paul, is “of the Christ that is exceeding the knowledge.” If we don’t comprehend the love of God in Christ, we won’t have the strength to retain the new wine when the knowledge-gaps are being filled. We can’t know Him to the extent that He is revealing Himself, because the old wineskin breaks when it is filled with new wine. The love of Christ “that is exceeding the knowledge” gives us the capacity to gain knowledge of Him without bursting a seam.In the next blog post, we’ll explore the significance of “from death to death” and “from life to life.”