Your kingdom come
Matthew 6:10 ESV
Continuing our study of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus now teaches us to pray for God’s kingdom to come. We pray to God as our Father in heaven, and we petition that His name would be exalted as holy. Next, we pray for His kingdom to arrive.
In many ways, this petition is a branch of hallowing God’s name, which could also be said of the rest of the prayer as well. Yet each petition seems to flow out of the previous one almost like Russian nesting dolls. Hallowing God’s name encompasses the other five petitions, but still each petition spins out of the one before it. God’s will being done is a fundamental marker of His kingdom’s coming. God’s people looking to Him for provision is an aspect of God’s will being done. Forgiveness and the ability to forgive are daily needs as much as food. Finally, sorrow over sin naturally leads to pleas for deliverance from future sin and its effects. Likewise, God’s name is hallowed wherever Christ reigns as king over His kingdom.
We will split our study into two sections. First, let us define what kingdom we are asking to come, and second, we will clarify what it means to pray for the kingdom to come.
The most basic answer to this question is simply: God’s kingdom. Jesus’ description of the kingdom here is your, referring to our Father in heaven. Of course, we need to get slightly more detailed than this. Graeme Goldsworthy gives this definition: “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing.” Indeed, any kingdom requires a king, a people, and a location, and we find these three elements throughout the Scriptures as we encounter the kingdom of God.
Eden is the first glimpse of the kingdom, where Adam and Eve lived under God’s glorious and sovereign rule. However, they attempted to usurp God’s throne by rebelling against His command, and they were exiled from paradise’s realm. Soon God began building an earthly kingdom through the offspring of Abraham. After bringing Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites, out of Egypt, God led them into Canaan, the land He promised to their ancestor. For hundreds of years, God ruled as their king with judges to act as His arbiter, but the people of Israel rejected God, demanding a human king to rule over them. After the first king ended in disaster, God anointed David as king. This man after God’s own heart was far from sinless, yet he found favor with God. The LORD then made a covenant with David that one of His descendants would sit on his throne forever. Unfortunately, David was the height of the Kingdom of Israel. Roughly five hundred years later, Jerusalem was razed, and Israel ceased to be an independent kingdom.
By the time of Jesus’ ministry, Jerusalem was resettled and the temple rebuilt for nearly five hundred years; however, the Israelites were under the rule of Rome, after being rule by the Seleucids, after being ruled by the Egyptians, after being ruled by the Macedonians, after being ruled by the Persians, after being ruled by the Babylonians. During His time, Israel (or the province of Judea, as it was called) was ruled by King Herod the Great, who was actually a governor who referred to himself as king. God’s people, therefore, longed for God to fulfill His promise to David, to raise up a descendant of David to reign over a restored kingdom. For generations, they begged God to send His Anointed One, the Christ, the son of David, to deliver them. Then finally, the 30-year-old carpenter’s son from Nazareth began to preach this message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
The kingdom’s arrival was the centerpiece of Jesus’ earthly ministry. All of His miracles were acts of authenticating His message. After He specifically told His disciples, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:23). Jesus often began His parables with the words “the kingdom of heaven is like” (Matthew 13:31, 20:1). Jesus responded to those who called Him the Son of David (Matthew 15:22, 20:30) and is called this explicitly by Matthew in the first verse of the first chapter of his Gospel.
While standing before Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea, John records this telling conversation with Jesus:
John 18: 33-38 | So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
The question over whether Jesus is the promised king over God’s people is equal to Jesus asking His disciples who they said He is. It is the question that John asked from prison (Luke 7:20), “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Is He the eternal king? Is He the one who will restore us to the paradise that we lost? The four Gospels seek to answer these questions, and the rest of Scripture rightly either points forward or backward to them for good reason. The good news of the Bible is that Jesus is King and that He has brought God’s kingdom to earth.
The kingdom of God, however, did not result in the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel as the Jews had hoped. Instead, Christ sowed a seed (no larger than that of a mustard seed), which even now is growing into a tree strong and immovable. Jesus inaugurated His heavenly kingdom on earth through His crucifixion and resurrection.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they rejected God’s kingdom and plunged themselves and their offspring into the domain of darkness. Over this dark realm, sin reigns, and death lays claim its inhabitants. Into this inglorious void of chaos and misery, we were exiled from the presence of God. Yet Jesus, our Champion and King, met sin and death in combat to rescue His people. After taking our sin upon Himself and absorbing the sting of death in our place, Jesus burst the chains of death by rising from the grave. By this work of Christ, God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). In other words, in Christ, the Father rescuing people from the kingdom of darkness and establishing them as people of His kingdom, under the reign of Christ.
Christ is the king, His disciples are the people, so what about the place? Currently, God’s kingdom is still not of this world. No physical manifestation exists in parallel to the way that Israel was God’s kingdom in the Old Testament. Instead, the kingdom is spiritual and heavenly, residing in the lives of its people across the globe. Even still, we await the day that Christ will return to consummate the kingdom by making His reign and rule a physical and visible reality. On that day, the heavens and earth will be renewed, and our bodies will be resurrected. We will then dwell forever with God, eternally free from the sorrows of sin.
Until that day, we gather together in anticipation of its arrival. While God’s kingdom has no physical location for now, each week we assemble to testify that one day that will change. Just as the celebration of Passover commemorated the sparing of Israel’s firstborns by the blood of the lamb and anticipated the blood of the Lamb which washes away our sins, so our gathered worship celebrates the resurrection of our Lord and anticipates His final triumph. This gathering, therefore, provides a physical representation now of the kingdom which will one day come in the flesh.
God’s kingdom, therefore, is both already and not yet. It has come and is even now arriving. The decisive battle against the domain of darkness has been won, yet the war lingers on a little longer. Every day its territory grows and expands. The nations continue to rage, but one by one they each collapse. The gates of hell buckle and fall as the King of Glory marshals His saints to victory, and He will not cease until His enemies are made His footstool.
YOUR KINGDOM COME
Now that we have briefly surveyed what the kingdom of God is, we address the very purpose of our study: what does it mean to pray your kingdom come? Since the kingdom is both already inaugurated but not yet consummated, we are essentially praying for it to come both fully and to come now.
Let’s begin with praying for the kingdom to come fully. John appropriately prays this prayer at the end of Revelation (22:20), crying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” The return of Christ will bring about the consummation of God’s kingdom, so praying for the second coming of Jesus is a prayer for God’s kingdom to come. If a kingdom requires a king, then we are praying that Christ return to place all things under His feet.
This prayer is also for the end of the world as we presently know it. We pray for sin to be eradicated once and for all. We pray for pain and sorrow to cease. We pray for God’s glory to be made visible and to bask all of creation in its splendor. We pray for all things to be made right, for the world to be made new, for the created order to be restored.
Furthermore, it is a prayer for our own glorification, for the resurrection of our bodies to new and everlasting life. We are praying for the collective people of God to be united around His throne, to see the universal church together at last, gathered from the ends of the earth and the spans of time.
If such a kingdom truly is our blessed hope, it should frequently be in our prayers. Praying for the kingdom to come fully is evidence that we truly desire God’s kingdom to supplant the kingdoms of this world. But Jesus also teaches us to pray for God’s kingdom to come knowing that such prayers will also nourish and feed those longings within us.
O brothers and sisters, our citizenship is in heaven; therefore, let our affections be heavenly that we would keep from being like those “with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19-20). “For the set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). May this prayer for the kingdom’s coming keep our minds from meditating over things that will not endure.
We also pray for the God’s kingdom to come now. Christ has already established His kingdom, and it is even now advancing. Therefore, we pray that it would come all the more here and now.
First, we pray that Christ would reign as King. This begins with us. When I pray your kingdom come, I am praying for Jesus to rule over my live. I am submitting myself to Him all over again. This is necessary because we so often desire the grace of Christ without His control. Confessing Him as Savior is easier than proclaiming Him Lord. Yet if Christ is the King, let His reign begin with me that in all things I would submit to His direction and commands. Notice that this is essentially the same as belonging to God as we discussed previously. We are not our own because we belong to the King of kings. Thankfully, we know that this King is both all-powerful and entirely good, so casting ourselves at His service is the most glorious action that we could ever take.
Second, we pray that God’s people would be empowered by God’s Spirit. We pray for ourselves and our brothers and sister to be bold in proclaiming the good news. The New Testament gives us portraits of the early church being zealous to declare the gospel, while also giving us glimpses of their prayers for greater boldness. A lack of evangelistic zeal is likely linked directly to failing to pray for such empowerment by the Spirit.
Furthermore, we rarely view the spread of the gospel in the same that Paul did. After declaring to the Corinthians his determination to “become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some”, he goes on to state:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Take note that the finish line here of Paul’s race is to win people for Christ. Like any athlete trains himself to win the prize, Paul trained, disciplined, and controlled himself to make the best of preaching the gospel.
We also pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters to conquer sin. As long as we live, sin will continue to dwell in our flesh. As with Cain, sin is perpetually crouching at our door. Verse 27 of the above text likely refers to Paul’s battle against sin, so that he would not be disqualified after proclaiming the gospel to others. Only those who hold on to the end will be saved, so let us run the race with endurance. Let us fight to the finish. Let us kill our sin lest it kill us. Let us battle viciously that we would not be those whom Watson describes:
A man may forsake his sins, oaths, drunkenness, uncleanness, and yet come short of the kingdom. He may forsake gross sins, and yet have no reluctance to heart-sins, pride, unbelief, and the first risings of malice and concupiscence. Though he dams up the stream, he lets alone the fountain; though he lop and prune the branches, he does not strike at the root of it. Though he leaves sin for fear of hell, or because it brings shame and penury, yet he still loves sin.
Finally, we pray that God’s kingdom would continue to move further into the world. The prayer Psalm 67 is a cry for the kingdom to come: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way would may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (vv. 1-4). Our longing is to see disciples of Jesus being made among all the nations of the earth because we know that true and lasting joy in found in Christ alone. We pray for message of the gospel to go forth to the ends of the earth, to those who have never heard, and we pray the prayer of Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.”
We pray for the kingdom to come because we know that those outside God’s kingdom will one day be enveloped eternally in the domain of darkness. This damnation is unimaginable, yet Watson paints a vivid portrait:
A servant under the law, who had a hard master, at every seventh year might go free; but in hell there is no year of release when the damned shall go free; the fire, the worm, the prison are eternal. If the whole world, from earth to heaven, were filled with grains of sand, and once in a thousand years an angel should come to fetch one grain, how many millions of ages would pass before that vast heap of sand would be quite spent! Yet, if after all this time the sinner might come out of hell, there would be some hope: but this word ever breaks the heart with despair.
There is no hope for those who reject the kingdom of heaven. Thankfully, the harvest is plentiful, so we must pray to the LORD for laborers to both sow and reap the fields of the earth. Our God is not a tyrant; it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32). He delights to give good gifts to His children, and He gladly gives this one as well. Therefore, let us seek it ourselves and herald it to others.
Mya we be bold in this pursuit! The kingdom is a buried treasure of infinite price, but we can only afford to buy the field if we sell all that we have. Abraham left his life in Ur to live as a nomad in the land that God would give to his descendants. The Apostles lost their lives for declaring Jesus to be Lord. Athanasius suffered exile and slander for defending the deity of Christ. Luther lived in perpetual threat as a condemned heretic of the Catholic Church for preaching justification by faith alone. Tyndale was executed for translating the Bible into English.
The list goes ever on of those “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38), of those who considered the glories of this world as rubbish in comparison to the riches of Christ and His kingdom. Theirs was the narrow path, the hard road that few will find and fewer still will endure. Yet that path alone leads to life everlasting and the eternal kingdom of joy.
O brothers and sisters, let us tkae up our cross, crucify ourselves daily, and endure with joy the light, momentary affliction of this life.
Let us seek first God’s kingdom with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Let us proclaim the good news of the kingdom to those enchained in darkness.
Let us pray for the coming of the kingdom of God.