“You are not far from the sanctuary of God.” (Mark 12:34)

What about kingdom of God?

Many sectarian translations will translate Jesus' statement as:
"You are not far from the kingdom of God."
But such a translation would indicate that Jesus is stating that the man was not currently within the kingdom of God - that it was close by but he was not in it.

This would contradict the very nature of the Supreme Being - that He owns and controls all of existence. Such a 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, everywhere is his kingdom. Yes, we are all in the kingdom of God.

But Jesus didn't say "kingdom of God." He said "sanctuary of God" - as translated in The Gospels of Jesus. (The translation to "sanctuary" is explained here.)

What is the difference? The difference is that we may all be in one part of God's kingdom or another. But this isn't the same thing as taking refuge in God.

You see, each of us has been given the freedom to love God or not. We can each choose to take shelter in God or not. For those who don't want to take shelter 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 shelter 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 shelter 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 death.

So how can we take permanent shelter in those things? How can we gain sanctuary in those things? We can't.

But we can take permanent refuge in God. We can take permanent shelter in God. Thus we can take sanctuary in God.

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.

He never abandons us - even when we are abandoning Him.

But getting to a point where we take sanctuary in God - when we completely take shelter in Him - isn't easy for folks like us - who relish dwelling in the material world. Why? Because we are self-centered. We want to please ourselves - or extensions of ourselves - our family members. As such, our world revolves around ourselves. Our consciousness thus doesn't sync with the consciousness of the spiritual realm - where everyone is loving and serving the Supreme Being - and loving each other.

But we can grow spiritually, and gradually develop this consciousness. This is Jesus' point about the scribe. We can see this from Jesus' response to what the scribe said to him, after Jesus explained that loving God was the most important instruction:
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)
As as we can see from Jesus' life and example, one can regain this consciousness of loving God and taking refuge in God while dwelling within the physical realm. The location is not the important matter. It is the consciousness. This is why Jesus said the scribe was not far off - because his consciousness was approaching the consciousness of love for God.

This is why Jesus also said on another occasion:
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)
Thus, we can separate completely the notion of location from Jesus' statement about the sanctuary of God. The kingdom of God is everywhere. But the sanctuary of God can only be accessed from within the heart of a person who is loving God and taking refuge in God.


The New Testament verses in this article are quoted from the Gospels of Jesus: The Devotional Translations.