Strange words – unusual to us! When Jesus taught us to pray, “let your kingdom come…”?
The concept of kingdom is unfamiliar to us. The term might prompt us to think of the United Kingdom, comprised of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. We tend to think in terms of geography, boundaries, and landmass when actually we ought to be thinking in terms of government.
The term kingdom is used over 300 times in the English New Testament. Frequently it is used in the sense of a nation. But more often the term kingdom is used to refer to an orderly community of people governed by a roaring authority. A close parallel for us would be to think of kingdom as administration of a President, such as the Obama or Trump administration. It has to do with authority and rule.
There is a sense in which God the Lord is the great King over all that he has created. His providential rule and authority demonstrate his dominance over creation. But this is not what Jesus refers to in teaching us to pray, “your kingdom come.”
Further, the kingdom of our Father in heaven is not a political kingdom. At his trial, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king. Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)
Jesus was not concerned with creating a political superpower or in establishing his kingdom by force. This is rather striking inasmuch as the Bible consistently shows a fierce conflict going on between God and his archenemy Satan.
Near the beginning of human history, two rival kingdoms have been at war. Augustine (400 A.D.) accurately and artfully described this conflict in his influential book. The City of God describes the flow of history recorded in the Bible as a struggle between two kingdoms. From the Fall of humankind into rebellion against God, there have been two family lines or peoples – the people of God and the people of Satan. Each of these two kingdoms has its own ruler, its own people, its own desires, and its own destiny.
The battle was engaged in the Garden of Eden; the conflict continues throughout the biblical storyline, through the present, and into the future. Obviously, this is a huge topic; volumes have been and still could be written regarding it.
The biblical account shows that Jesus is the promised and long-awaited King, of the royal family of David. He is the Messiah – Christ, who preached the good news of the kingdom during his days on earth. In fact, he said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
The good news of the NT is that the Messiah has come. Jesus is the son of David, who suffered, died and rose again before entering into his glory. He did this to provide salvation – to reclaim a people for God. Now he is on the throne. He said that all authority in heaven and earth has now been given to him. The book of Acts is an account of what the Messiah, King Jesus, does from the throne. He sends divine power to earth. He rules over his people by his word and spirit. He extends his kingship from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital of the known world. The book of Acts concludes its record of the open-ended story, as Paul preaches the kingdom of God and teaches boldly about Jesus Christ. Even now, King Jesus is subduing all nations and making them his disciples as he works through the church.
The decisive battle has been won, but the war is not over yet. Christ has established a new order, new values are becoming real, but the old still lingers. Christians live in the tension of this already and not yet. Our Lord is on the throne, but all his enemies are not yet under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Although we know that we are accepted in God’s sight because of Christ and that our sins have been forgiven on the basis of his sacrifice for our sin, we still stumble into sin. This tension between the already and the not yet presses us to pray, “establish your royal rule, O Father! Your kingdom come!
This tension has been expressed by the history of World War II. In June 1944, the Allied Armies paid the costly price of establishing a beachhead in Europe. They broke through German defenses with a successful invasion that spelled the doom of Hitler’s army. This was D Day, June 1944. The war was not over until May 1945. The day of victory is known as V Day. For almost a year, there was fierce fighting, much hunger, pain and suffering by those in Europe. The church is praying between the D Day of God’s invasion and the V Day of his total victory. The liberation has begun; please complete it, O Lord. Make us completely free.
The Heidelberg Catechism explains how to pray this petition of the Lord’s Prayer by dividing it into four requests.
- Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that we submit to you.
- Keep your church strong and add to it.
- Destroy the devil’s work and thwart every conspiracy against your Word.
- Do this until your kingdom is complete and perfect.
Our times will have a conclusion. But we must pray your kingdom come until our time is complete. O Lord make us completely free.