What do you suppose a person with no Bible knowledge might envision when hearing the phrase, “Seek the Kingdom of God.” Maybe a knight on a white horse setting forth on a noble quest to find the ideal land where God rules in a splendid castle? People who have been around the Bible and church have a general idea of what this phrase is supposed to mean, but isn’t there a way to say this more clearly?
In English dictionaries, the first sense of “kingdom” is a geographical area over which a king or queen rules. And some dictionaries include the people who live there.
So what is the Kingdom of God (or of heaven, which means the same thing)? You may be surprised to realize that seldom, if ever, does it refer to a place. Depending on the context, “kingdom of God/heaven” in the Bible refers either to
a) the subjects of the King (people), or
b) the rule of the King (an event), or His reign as we’d more naturally say.
What if our Bibles had “reign” in the verses that speak of the latter, such as Luke 8:1: “…proclaiming the Good News of the reigning of God.” And where it refers to the subjects of the kingdom, what if our Bibles made that clear as well, such as in John 3:3: “unless a person is born again, he cannot be part of that/those over which/whom God reigns.” This might sound a bit awkward in English, but it’s how languages work in the country where we work. And it’s accomplished by just changing the prefix on the word! So a translator who is doing his/her job needs to study carefully to see what aspect of God’s rule is in focus each time it’s mentioned, and use the correct prefix. And the words come to life!
By the way, here’s a worthwhile post I read today about the reign of God in our lives: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2012/11/is-jesus-christ-is-king-the-lord-of-my-life-a-slogan-or-a-fact/