Here is the context of this statement:
Then the scribe said to him, “Excellent, Teacher. You have spoken the Truth, for we have but one God and there is none other except Him. And to love Him with all our heart and with all of our understanding and with all of our soul and with all our strength – and to love all others as oneself – is greater than any burnt offerings or sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the sanctuary of God.” And no one ventured to ask him anything more. (Mark 12:32-34)
What about kingdom of God?
Many Bible versions translate Jesus' statement as:
"You are not far from the kingdom of God."Such a translation would indicate that Jesus is stating that the man was not currently within the kingdom of God. It would indicate that God's kingdom was somewhere else, and that God does not own the earth or material world too.
This would contradict the very nature of the Supreme Being - that He owns and controls all of existence. The notion that God's kingdom was not far for this man would indicate that this place - this material world - is not within God's kingdom.
Rather, everywhere is God's kingdom. God is the King of everything. Therefore, His kingdom is everywhere. Yes, we are all in the kingdom of God.
In other words, God is the King of everything. And to believe otherwise would be to deny God's existence as God.
Consider another statement made by Jesus in response to something said by a pharisee, as translated in The Lost Gospels of Jesus:
Later, after being asked by the pharisees when the sanctuary of God will appear, he replied, “The sanctuary of God does not appear through observation. Neither can you declare, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Because the sanctuary of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)Now if you have any doubt about Jesus' statement translation, here are the same two verses according to the New King James Version:
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21 NKJV)So you can see how confusing this statement sounds as translated with "kingdom of God." The confusion is because the word "kingdom" typically means a location. How could a location be "within you"?
Again, the problem is with the word "kingdom." It is a mistranslation.
What is the sanctuary of God?
The Greek word βασιλεία (basileia) means, according to the lexicon, “royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom.”
As such, the reference is to God's complete authority over everything. The term is not referring to a particular location as some translations indicate.
Rather, the term refers to a particular consciousness. The consciousness of taking refuge in the Supreme Being. The consciousness that the Supreme Being owns everything including me and my body and everything that surrounds me. The consciousness that I am God's child and everything I have and everything I have accomplished has come from the Supreme Being.
When the word "kingdom" is replaced with "sanctuary" we can understand that one can have sanctuary in God within one's heart by changing their consciousness.
The consciousness change is taking refuge in the Supreme Being rather than taking refuge in the temporary forms of the physical world.
Why did Jesus use this term?
This term is consistent with the ancient society and culture during Jesus' physical life. During ancient times, tribes and nations fought each other vigorously for territory. Those kings who were strongest provided protection to their citizens. In other words, the king provided refuge, or sanctuary, to his citizens.
In the same way, God also provides refuge to those who seek Him. He provides sanctuary to those who seek refuge in Him. In this way, one may enter into God's sanctuary, but also God's sanctuary can be within because seeking His refuge comes from the heart.
This notion of refuge is also revealed in David's writings:
If you say, "The LORD is my refuge," and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. (Psalm 91:9-12)
Can we freely take refuge?
Each of us has been given the freedom to love God or not. We can each choose to take refuge in God or not. For those who don't want to take refuge in God, the Supreme Being has created a myriad of distractions in the form of the phantasmagoria of this material world.
In other words, we can choose to take refuge in our family, our wealth, material possessions, our physical body, our friends or the public (fame), or any number of sensual attractions.
Or we can take refuge in a combination of all of these things, through the vehicle of this physical body.
The problem is, none of these things will bring us any happiness. None of this will bring us any fulfillment.
None of these things will last either. Everything in this material world is fleeting. Friends, family, fame, wealth, sensual pleasures - these are all temporary things. They will vanish at one point or another. Friends and family will move away or forget us or die at some point. Fame will dry up. Wealth will come and go. And sensual pleasures are momentary.
Furthermore, everything vanishes from us when this physical body dies. Poof. In a flash, everything we are connected to in the material world is torn from us at the time of death. This includes children, spouse, family members, coworkers, friends, fans, house, money, occupation - everything is snatched from us when we leave the physical body at the time of the body's death.
So how can we take refuge in those things? How can we gain sanctuary in those things? We can't.
When we are leaving our body at the time of death we will depart from all of these things. We will be left naked with nothing except our consciousness.
But if we take refuge in God - sanctuary in God - that consciousness will depart with us at the time of death. And that consciousness will guide us as we travel to our next destination.
While everything is fleeting within the material world, this is not so with God. The Supreme Being is always there for us. He is always loving us. He is always wanting the best for us. He is always ready to exchange a loving relationship with us.
God never abandons us - even when we abandon Him.