May 20 – What Is God’s Kingdom?

Your kingdom come.—Matt. 6:10a

“Kingdom” is not so much a geographical territory as it is a sovereign dominion. When Christians pray “Your kingdom come,” they are asking God to rule through Christ’s future enthronement, His coming reign over the earth. The Greek for “come” indicates a sudden, instantaneous coming and here refers to the coming millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4). Jesus is not speaking of some indirect effort by human good works to create a godly society on earth.

God’s coming kingdom will be a kingdom on earth but not a kingdom of this present world system. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). No human kingdom fits with God’s, which is why even the best measures to improve society are mere holding actions that only retard sinful corruption until Christ returns to establish His perfect kingdom.

Jesus came to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43), and there is no other gospel but the good news of His kingdom. Even during His final days on earth He was faithful to teach the apostles things concerning that kingdom (Acts 1:3).

Yes, the kingdom has a past element that encompasses the Old Testament patriarchs (Matt. 8:11). The kingdom was also present during Jesus’ earthly ministry because He, its king, was “in [people’s] midst” (Luke 17:21). In a sense that is true today as believers are members of God’s invisible kingdom. But the particular focus of our prayers regarding the kingdom should be future, as we hope for the visible one to come.

ASK YOURSELF
What will you miss the least about earthly life when the fullness of His kingdom becomes your forever reality? Doesn’t that give you something to really look forward to? Let the genuine hope of this occurrence bolster your hope as you live through the coming day.[1]

God’s Program

Thy kingdom come. (6:10a)

Frances Havergal wrote these beautiful words of tribute to her Lord in her hymn “His Coming in Glory:”

Oh, the joy to see Thee reigning,

Thee, my own beloved Lord.

Every tongue Thy name confessing,

Worship, honor, glory, blessing,

Brought to Thee with glad accord.

Thee, my Master and my Friend,

Vindicated and enthroned,

Unto earth’s remotest end,

Glorified, adored, and owned.

Our greatest desire should be to see the Lord reigning as King in His kingdom, to have the honor and authority that have always been His but that He has not yet come to claim. The King is inseparable from His kingdom. To pray Thy kingdom come is to pray for the program of the eternal Deity to be fulfilled, for Christ to come and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. His program and His plan should be the preoccupation of our lives and of our prayers.

But how self-centered our prayers usually are, focused on our needs, our plans, our aspirations, our understandings. We are often like tiny infants, who know no world but the world of their own feelings and wants. One of the greatest struggles of the Christian life is to fight the old sinful habits, with their constant and unrelenting focus on self.

Even problems and issues outside of ourselves can cloud our supreme concern for God’s kingdom. It is our responsibility to pray for our families, pastors, missionaries, national and other leaders, and for many other people and things. But our prayers in every case should be that God’s will be done in and through those people, that they would think, speak, and act in accordance with God’s will. The best we can pray for any person or for any cause is that God’s kingdom be advanced in that person or that cause.

The holy purpose of the divine Father is to exalt Christ in the consummation of history when the Son rules and reigns in His kingdom. The Talmud is right in saying that if a prayer does not name the kingdom of God, it is not a prayer (Berakoth 21a).

The greatest opposition to Christ’s kingdom, and the greatest opposition to Christian living, is the kingdom of this present world, which Satan rules. The essence of Satan’s kingdom is opposition to God’s kingdom and God’s people.

Basileia (kingdom) does not refer primarily to a geographical territory but to sovereignty and dominion. Therefore when we pray Thy kingdom come, we are praying for God’s rule through Christ’s enthronement to come, His glorious reign on earth to begin. Come translates the aorist active imperative of erchomai, indicating a sudden, instantaneous coming (cf. Matt. 24:27). It is the coming millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4) of which the Lord is speaking, not an indirect effort to create a more godly society on earth through the progressive, human-oriented work of Christians.

To pray Thy kingdom come is to pray for God’s kingdom, the kingdom over which He, and He alone, is Lord and King. It will be a kingdom on earth (v. 10a), but it will not be a kingdom of this world-that is, of this present world system. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus told Pilate (John 18:36). No human kingdom could dovetail with God’s kingdom, even partially. Sinful man could not be a part of a divine reign. That is why we do not advance God’s kingdom by trying to improve human society. Many good and worthy causes deserve the support of Christians, but in supporting those causes we neither build the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ or bring it closer. Even the best of such things are but holding actions that help retard the corruption that will always and inevitably characterize human societies and human kingdoms-until the Lord returns to establish His own perfect kingdom.

The kingdom of God, or of heaven, was the heart of Jesus’ message. He came to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). There is no other gospel but the good news of the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Always and everywhere He went, Jesus preached the message of salvation as entrance to the kingdom. He even stated that He “must preach the kingdom … for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). For the forty days that Jesus remained on earth between His resurrection and ascension He spoke to His disciples “of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

God’s kingdom is past, in the sense that it embodied Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11). It was present in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, in the sense that the true divine King was present “in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21, lit.). But the particular focus of our praying is to be on the kingdom that is yet to come.

God now and always has ruled the kingdom of the universe. He created it, and He controls it, orders it, and holds it together. As James Or comments, “There is therefore recognized in Scripture … a natural and universal kingdom or dominion of God embracing all objects, persons, and events, all doings of individuals and nations, all operations and changes of nature and history, absolutely without exception.” … (cited by Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom [Winona Lake, Ind.: bmh Books, 1980], p. 22). God’s is an “everlasting kingdom” (Ps. 145:13), and even now “His sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19; cf. 29:10; 1 Chron. 29:11–12; etc.).

But the most obvious fact of life is that God is not now ruling on earth as He rules in heaven (Matt. 6:10c)-and it is the divine earthly kingdom we are to pray will come. Our praying should be for Christ to return and to establish His earthly kingdom, to put down sin and enforce obedience to God’s will. The Lord will then “rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:27; cf. Isa. 30:14; Jer. 19:11). After a thousand years His earthly kingdom will blend into His eternal kingdom, and there will be no distinction between His rule on earth and His rule in heaven (see Rev. 20–21).

The Greek of this verse could be translated “Let Thy kingdom come now.” There is therefore a sense in which we pray for God’s kingdom to come presently. In a present and limited, but real and miraculous way, God’s kingdom is coming to earth each time a new soul is brought into the kingdom.

First of all, the kingdom comes in this way by conversion (Matt. 18:1–4). So prayer should be evangelistic and missionary-for new converts, new children of God, new kingdom citizens. Conversion to the kingdom involves an invitation (Matt. 22:1–14), repentance (Mark 1:14–15), and a willing response (Mark 12:28–34; Luke 9:61–62). The present existence of the kingdom on earth is internal, in the hearts and minds of those who belong to Jesus Christ, the King. We should pray for their number to mightily increase. Praying for the kingdom to come, in this sense, is praying for the salvation of souls. Every believer should seek others who can sing, “King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be” (“Lead Me to Calvary,” by Jennie Evelyn Hussey).

The kingdom for which we are to pray, and of which we now have a taste, is of infinite value. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field” or a “pearl of great value” which a person sells all his possessions to buy (Matt. 13:44–46). Its value is so great that each of those parables emphasizes that the procurer sold all he had to purchase salvation (cf. Matt. 10:37).

Second, the kingdom comes now through commitment. The desire of those already converted should be to respond to the rule of the Lord in their lives now so that He rules in them as He rules in heaven. When we pray as Jesus teaches, we will continually pray that our lives will honor and glorify our Father in heaven.

The call for the kingdom to come is also related to the second coming of the Lord. John says in the last chapter of Revelation: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).

In that day, our prayers will finally be answered. As the hymn by Isaac Watts begins, “Jesus shall reign where’ere the sun does its successive journeys run. His kingdom spread from shore to shore, ’til moon shall wax and wane no more.” Paul emphasizes that waiting for the kingdom to come in its final form is not so much looking for an event as for a person-the King Himself (1 Thess. 1:10).[2]


10a. Thy kingdom come. For the meaning of the concept “kingdom of heaven” or “of God” see pp. 249, 250. The second petition implies the following:

  1. It is only when the heavenly Father, on the basis of the Son’s atonement, and through the operation of the Holy Spirit, rules in men’s hearts that true and lasting betterment in individual, family, social, national, and international conditions can be expected (Ps. 20:7; Zech. 4:6).
  2. This is a prayer. In the history of missions it has been demonstrated again and again that the coming of the entrance of the reign of God into human hearts requires earnest prayer (Matt. 7:7; Mark 9:29; Acts 4:31; 13:3).
  3. Until the moment of the second coming there is need for this prayer; for, though the kingdom is here already (Luke 17:21), it is still absent from many hearts. In fact, there is every reason to doubt that progress in evangelization is keeping pace with progress in iniquity.
  4. The transforming grace and power of God is required before a man changes from the ardent yearning, “My kingdom come,” and from the boast, “By my own effort I am already on the way to the realization of this goal,” to the humble petition, “Thy kingdom come.” As to the boasters and their fall, think of Korah and his company (Num. 16), Sennacherib (Isa. 37:10–13, 37, 38), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:30–33), Edom (Obad. 1–4), Haman (Esther 3–7; especially 5:11, 12), Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:21–23), and “the rich fool” of the parable (Luke 12:18–20).
  5. Prayer for the establishment of the kingship of Christ in human hearts does not exclude the necessity of work. There must be preaching, visits to the homes, Bible translation and distribution, follow-up work, etc. Cf. Acts 20:17–38; 1 Thess. 2:9–12.
  6. “Thy kingdom come” is clearly a prayer for the progress of missionary activity (Rev. 6:2);

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Does his successsive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore

Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

(Isaac Watts)

  1. The desire of the supplicant is, however, not only that the kingdom mar come extensively but also that it may more and more be established intensively, that is, that he himself and all those already converted may increasingly acknowledge God in Christ as their sovereign Ruler:

Fill thou my life O Lord my God

In every part with praise,

That my whole being may proclaim

Thy being and thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,

Nor e’en the praising heart

I ask, but for a life made up

Of praise in every part.

(Horatius Bonar)

Just as the first petition already implied the second, so the second implies the third, for God’s kingdom will not come unless his will be done. [3]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 149). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 379–381). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 330–331). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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