imminent domain (1)

To most modern people the term “kingdom” always implies a place, whether one is thinking of the United Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom. Yet the Greek term that we often translate “kingdom” (basileia) and more importantly the Aramaic term that Jesus likely used (malkuta) do not always refer to a place. Sometimes they refer to an activity or a condition instead. … I would suggest that we use “dominion” instead of “kingdom” since it can refer to an activity (God exercises or has dominion over us and we are in turn ruled by God) or a place (God’s Dominion is where the divine rule is manifest). Lest all this sound like an exercise in theological abstractions and mere semantics, we need to remind ourselves that the Dominion of God rather than the church was the featured subject of all of Jesus’ parables and much of early Christian preaching. …

Church folk are apt to mistake the Dominion for the church. A moment’s reflection will show, however, that the two terms do not refer to exactly the same entity. For one thing, none of us are praying for the church to come, but every time we say the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to send his Dominion. For another thing, we don’t talk about obtaining or inheriting the church, but we certainly use these terms about God’s Dominion. Nevertheless, one can say that God’s Dominion can be seen within the church, if by church we mean the people of God. There is a sense in which when God is ruling and saving and transforming his people so that they become the Dominion of God, the church is at least the place where that Dominion can be seen and experienced.

Ben Witherington in Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom of God and Its Celebration (pp.2,3-4)