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22. May Your Kingdom Come (Matthew 6:10a)

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May your kingdom come

Matthew 6:10a (NET)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Christ teaches his disciples how to pray. Though the disciples had probably prayed their whole lives, they still struggled with it and were confused about it. We’re often like that as well.

Christ teaches that our first petitions should be consumed with God—his name, kingdom, and will. Then our prayers should be consumed with others and ourselves—our daily bread, trespasses, and deliverance.

When we come into God’s presence, we must recognize him as our heavenly Father. He cares for us, loves us, and has good plans for us. However, he is not just our Father individually, but also corporately. Christ taught us to pray “our Father”—meaning that we must bring what’s best for the family before him and not just our own requests. “In heaven” reminds us of God’s rule. He rules heaven and everything under it (Ps 103:19), and therefore, he must continually be revered.

“May your name be honored” reminds us that we must be consumed with God’s fame—people knowing and honoring him. We must pray for that continually. The great problem of humanity since the fall has been us being consumed with our name and glory, instead of God’s. That was the first temptation—to be like God. It was not only how Adam and Eve fell (Gen 3), but also how the people at the Tower of Babel fell—they wanted to make a name for themselves (Gen 11). In prayer, we must be consumed with God’s name and not our name.

Next, Christ calls believers to pray for God’s kingdom to come. What is God’s kingdom and what does it mean for it to come? As we consider this petition, we’ll answer these questions and apply it to our lives.

Big Question: What is God’s kingdom and how do we pray for it to come?

The Kingdom of God

Interpretation Question: What is the kingdom of God? Are there different aspects to it?

The kingdom of God is a major theme in the New Testament. In the first three Gospels alone (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), it is mentioned 103 times.1 John the Baptist taught that the kingdom of heaven was near (Matt 3:2). Christ preached the kingdom from village to village (Mk 1:14, 38, Luke 4:43). This means that the Jews were aware of this kingdom and waiting for it. It was already a major part of their theology before John and Christ arrived.

Therefore, what was Christ referring to in his petition for the kingdom to come? There seems to be various aspects to the kingdom of God, which has created a lot of confusion.

God’s Universal Kingdom

Scripture teaches that God sovereignly rules over everything as king. Consider these Psalms:

Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything.

Psalm 103:19

The Lord owns the earth and all it contains, the world and all who live in it.

Psalm 24:1

This is often called God’s universal kingdom2, which is an unchanging and everlasting rule. Everything in the universe and all who live in it are part of this kingdom (cf. 1 Chron 29:11-12, Dan 4:34-35). God is always in control, and in one sense, his will is always done (Eph 1:11). However, Christ seems to be referring to a different aspect of God’s kingdom, since it is still to come in its fullness.

What then is he referring to?

God’s Earthly Kingdom

Christ is referring to God’s earthly kingdom, which won’t be fully realized until Christ returns and reigns on the earth.3 This is clarified by the third petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” On earth, God’s will is not always done, and therefore, his earthly kingdom has not fully come.

When did God’s earthly kingdom begin?

There are past, present, and future aspects to this kingdom. It began with earth’s creation. When God created the earth, he was the king, and Adam and Eve were to rule under him as vice regents. He told them to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, to till the garden, and to fill the earth (Gen 1:28). However, when Adam and Eve sinned, God’s kingdom was lost (Gen 3). Satan, who tempted Adam and Eve, became the ruler of this world (2 Cor 4:4, John 12:31, Eph 2:2)—even though his rulership was still under God’s sovereign rule. The world now does not submit, as it should, to God’s rule. Men and women seek their own kingdoms, and they war to have it. Satan rules men through his invisible forces (Eph 6:12). His desire is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He continually fights against God’s plan and rule on this earth.

In Genesis 3:15, after the fall, God prophesied that there would be a male child who would come from the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. Satan and his dominion would not rule forever. There would be a seed who would destroy it. From there, the prophecies about the seed continue: He would be the seed of Abraham and all the nations would be blessed through him (Gen 22:18). He would be the seed of Judah, and he would be a king whom all the nations would submit to. Genesis 49:10 says: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him.”

When God delivered Israel from Egypt, he again established his kingdom on the earth. His plan was that through Israel, and eventually the messiah, the nations would be brought to worship God. On Mount Sinai, God gave them his laws. As they obeyed his laws, the surrounding nations would declare how great and wise they were and be drawn to Yahweh (Deut 4:6-8). God ruled over them and gave them the land of Canaan.

However, like Adam and Eve, Israel began to reject God’s rulership. When Samuel was judging Israel, they asked for a king like the nations around them. This is how God responded to Samuel, “Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is me that they have rejected as their king” (1 Sam 8:7).

However, God would use even this. After their first king, Saul, who was a bad king, God gave them David, a good king, though he had many flaws. God promised David that from his seed there would come a king who would have an everlasting rule. Second Samuel 7:13 says, “He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent.” This was the messiah promised to Eve, Abraham, and Judah. He would be the King of Israel and rule the earth from there.

The Prophetic books abound with prophecies of the Davidic King and his rule. Probably the most significant are the prophecies in Daniel. Daniel 2:44 says:

“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed and a kingdom that will not be left to another people. It will break in pieces and bring about the demise of all these kingdoms. But it will stand forever.

Daniel had just finished interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. He described how there would be four major kingdoms successively ruling, and finally, a last kingdom that would rule forever. The first was Babylon, the second Persia, the third Greece, and then Rome; the final kingdom would be the kingdom of God. It would crush all the kingdoms and bring them to an end.

Daniel 7:13-14 shares more about this final kingdom:

I was watching in the night visions, “And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed.

The coming ruler, the messiah, is called the “Son of Man.” This is Luke’s favorite term to use of Christ. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” It was a messianic term. He was the coming king who would rule the world. This is what John the Baptist was referring to when he declared, “The kingdom of heaven is near!” This is what Christ was referring to as well. In accordance with Daniel’s prophecy, Christ brought an eternal kingdom during the rulership of Rome that would eventually crush all the kingdoms of this world (Dan 2:44).

However, in what would seem to be a tragic turn of events, when the King came, he was rejected by his people. The Jews rejected the promised Davidic King—the Son of Man.

What happened to this final kingdom conquering the kingdoms of this world, as Daniel 2 prophesied? Even within Daniel, the first and second comings of Christ are not distinguished. Yes, the final stage of Christ’s kingdom will conquer all the kingdoms of this world. He will be given the kingdom from the Ancient of Days, and then he will come to the earth on the clouds (Dan 7:13, Mk 13:26, Rev 1:7). However, at his first coming, he came as an infant, born to a virgin. He came as a poor, humble king. Before going to the cross, he declared that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36)—it was a spiritual kingdom (Lk 17:21). But at Christ’s second coming, when he comes in the clouds, his kingdom and will, will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Rev 11:15, Matt 6:10).

This is why many Jews were so confused and some rejected him. They were expecting the messiah to immediately conquer all kingdoms and all sin and bring an everlasting righteousness and rule on the earth. However, those accompany his second coming.

Mysteries of the Kingdom

The Interim Stage

While on earth, Christ taught what he called “secrets” or “mysteries” of the kingdom (Matt 13:11). These realities were not fully known in the Old Testament—he revealed them through his teaching on the earth. He taught that there would be an interim period before the final stage of the kingdom. When Christ came, he brought a spiritual kingdom. He told the Jews that the kingdom of God was in their midst (Lk 17:21). Christ brought a spiritual rule. Amongst the kingdoms of this world, there is a spiritual kingdom that will eventually become a physical kingdom on the earth.

In Luke 19:11-27, he gave the Parable of the Minas, where he describes this interim period: A man from a noble birth distributes minas to his servants and then goes to another country to be recognized as king. In the meantime, these servants were to faithfully use their minas—referring to gifts and talents—to make a profit. When the anointed king returned, he rewarded his servants with the administration of cities. In Acts 2, Peter said that at Christ’s ascension, Christ sat at the right hand of God until all his enemies were made a footstool for his feet (32-36). When Peter preached this, he quotes Psalm 2, a royal psalm. He was declaring that Christ was the promised king. In heaven, Christ has been anointed; we are now waiting his return. When he returns, the faithful stewards will be rewarded, and the unfaithful judged.

A Mixture of True and False Disciples

In Matthew 13, in the Parables of the Weeds and Wheat (v. 24-30, 34-38), Christ taught that this kingdom would be a mixture of the saved and unsaved. There would be many who profess Christ but live lives of iniquity—proving that they are not truly born again. At the end of the age, the angels will take the weeds—those who don’t truly know Christ—and throw them into hell, while the true disciples—the wheat—will enter the kingdom. Sowing weeds in a field was not uncommon in ancient times. When farmers wanted to harm their competitors, they would sow weeds in their fields. They did this to hinder the harvest. Satan is doing that today with God’s kingdom. Because many in the church profess Christ but live like their father the devil, people commonly become disillusioned with the church or leave the faith altogether. They’ve seen so much hypocrisy and corruption in the church that they find the faith hard to believe. This is the current state of the kingdom.

This same principle is taught in the Parable of the Net (Matt 13:47-50). A net is thrown into the sea—gathering good fish and bad fish. The net is the kingdom and the fish are people in the kingdom. The bad, which are false professors, are thrown into the fire by the angels. This is the state of the current kingdom—a mix of false and true believers. We must understand this lest we become disillusioned and also turn away.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced this corruption in the church? How have you seen or experienced people who have turned away because of it or who are disillusioned? How do you minister to those people?

Explosive Growth of the Kingdom and Filtration of Evil

In Matthew 13:31-33, Christ gives two parables: The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast. These two seem to illustrate some of the same truths. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, a tiny seed is planted but grows into a large tree where birds come and nest. This illustrates the explosive growth of the kingdom. When Christ died, he had 120 followers praying in an upper room (Acts 1:15). However, in Acts 2, the Spirit falls, Peter preaches, and 3,000 accept Christ. Later, another 5,000 men come to the Lord, not including women and children (Acts 4:4). The kingdom rapidly expanded and continued to expand as missionaries began to spread throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. Now, Christianity is the largest religion in the world with billions of followers—one-third of the world’s population.

When the parable describes the birds nesting in the tree, it probably represents the influx of evil into the church—false teachers and false doctrine. In an earlier parable, the Parable of the Sower, the birds represented the devil stealing the Word from people’s hearts (Matt 13:4, 19). In the same way, there is a new cult every day. There are many damning doctrines throughout the church—drawing professing Christians away from the narrow way to God. It’s amazing to watch historically conservative denominations around the world continually become liberal—far away from their founding beliefs and practices.

As mentioned, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast are similar. Yeast is put into sixty pounds of flour until it worked all the way through the dough (Matt 13:33). There are differing interpretations of this parable: It could represent the explosive growth of the kingdom or it could again represent the evil (false teaching, false teachers, and acts of evil) that would be in this temporary kingdom. Those who think it represents evil focus on the fact that yeast, or leaven, is a common symbol for sin throughout Scripture. Christ warned the disciples to be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees—referring to their false doctrine (Matt 16:6, 12). In referring to sin, Paul said that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough (1 Cor 5:6).

This spiritual kingdom would have explosive growth, but as it grew, the enemy would sow not only false believers but also lots of false doctrine—leading to many evil acts. Certainly, this has been seen throughout the history of the church. In the Crusades, thousands of Jews were killed in the name of Christianity. In the Middle Ages, many believers were put to death by other “believers” over their beliefs—sometimes these beliefs were orthodox. During this interim period, there are weeds, bad fish, birds, and yeast—all referring to something evil.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced the continual leavening of true doctrine with the false throughout the church? How can believers know what is true? How can we help those who are caught in false teaching?

The Millennial Kingdom

Before Christ ascended to heaven, the apostles asked him this in Acts 1:6: “So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” They were still waiting on the kingdom where Christ would rule from Israel as the Davidic king. It is interesting to note that Christ doesn’t rebuke them. He simply says, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority” (v. 7). The fulfillment of this happens in what is called the millennial kingdom in Revelation 20, which will happen after Christ returns and ultimately in the eternal state referenced in Revelation 21. Revelation 20:4-6 says:

Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. These had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or hand. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

There is some controversy over the millennium. Some believe that there is no future 1,000-year millennium and that we are currently in the millennial kingdom. This belief is called amillennialism. When amillennialist read Revelation 20, which talks about the binding of the devil, the resurrection of those who died during the tribulation period, and the 1000-year rule of Christ, they believe that refers to Christ ruling in heaven now, that Satan is in some way currently bound, and that Christians have been spiritually resurrected with Christ—for them it doesn’t refer to a bodily resurrection. After this period of time, Christ will return and bring the eternal state (Rev 21)—with perfect righteousness—which is the kingdom we are all ultimately praying for.

Another view is called post-millennialism. Like amillennialism, post-millennialist don’t believe in a literal 1,000-year kingdom but that we are in this millennial kingdom now. Postmillennialism differs with amillennialism in that it believes the earth will continually get better, as the gospel spreads, until the earth is converted into a peaceful and righteous utopia, and then Christ will return. When Christ returns to this perfect utopia, that will be the eternal state—the final stage of the kingdom for which we are praying. This view is not very popular today.

Historically, the most popular view is called premillennialism, which takes a plain, or more literal, reading of Revelation 20. After Christ’s return, he will rule in Jerusalem for a thousand years (v. 4, 9). As this reign begins, those who died in the tribulation will be resurrected to reign with Christ (v. 5). The believers who never died in the tribulation will have children who will eventually rebel against Christ after the 1000-year reign when Satan is set free to tempt the nations (cf. Is 65:17-25, Rev 20:7-10).

During the millennial kingdom, there will still be evil on the earth. Initially, it will just be the evil within the hearts of those who don’t have redeemed bodies yet or who haven’t yet been born again. Because of this, Christ will rule the earth with an iron scepter (Rev 2:27, 12:5, 19:15, Ps 2:9). Zechariah 14:16-19 describes Christ’s rule during the millennial period:

Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the Lord who rules over all, and to observe the Feast of Temporary Shelters. But if any of the nations anywhere on earth refuse to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord who rules over all, they will get no rain. If the Egyptians will not do so, they will get no rain—instead there will be the kind of plague which the Lord inflicts on any nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and of all nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

Isaiah 2:4 says Christ will “judge disputes between nations; he will settle cases for many peoples.” Christ will rule with an iron scepter until Satan is released and causes the final rebellion. Revelation 20:7-10 describes this rebellion and Christ’s judgment:

Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea. They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever.

Some struggle with God setting the devil free again during the millennial kingdom. They say, “Why? That doesn’t make sense!” However, we could make the same argument for God allowing Satan to roam the earth and tempt the nations during this stage of redemptive history. In some way, Satan, as all things, works for the glory of God and the benefit of his people. Romans 9:22-24 says:

But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Eternal Kingdom

Finally, after Christ again wipes out all evil in the millennial kingdom, there will be a rule of complete righteousness. Revelation 21 says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more death, sickness, or sin. This is the final stage of God’s kingdom. This is the kingdom that we are ultimately praying for.

Application Question: In what ways is God’s kingdom past, present, and future? What mystery aspects of the current kingdom stood out to you and why? What are your views on the controversial text of Revelation 20? Is the millennium something that is happening currently or will happen in the future? How should Christians handle secondary doctrines like the millennium, where many orthodox Christians differ in their beliefs?

Praying for the Kingdom

Interpretation Question: What does it then mean to pray for God’s kingdom to come?

1. To pray for the kingdom to come means to pray for the salvation of souls.

Since this kingdom is currently present in spiritual form, it expands as people truly receive Christ and enter his kingdom. When we pray for the kingdom, we should pray for the gospel to be preached, missionaries to be sent out, and for people to receive Christ as their Lord.

2. To pray for the kingdom to come means to pray for people to obey God’s will.

Every kingdom has its rules and norms that citizens must follow, and that is true for God’s kingdom. His laws are found in God’s Word. In fact, many believe the third petition, “your will be done,” is simply a form of Hebrew parallelism.4 That means it is restating “your kingdom come” in a different way. When the kingdom comes, all people and the rest of creation will obey God’s perfect will. Further support for this is found in the fact that in Luke’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, “your will be done” is omitted (11:2-4). When God’s kingdom comes, his will, will be done. We should pray for world leaders to submit to and defend God’s laws, for parents to teach them, for children to obey them, and all people to proclaim and practice them. The final stage of the kingdom is the place where the King’s will is always done. We must continually pray for this.

3. To pray for the kingdom to come means to pray for Christ’s return and his eternal rule on the earth.

God promised that a future king would come and crush the head of Satan (Gen 3:15, 49:10). Christ accomplished this through his death and resurrection, but the ultimate fulfilment of this promise won’t happen until Christ throws Satan into the lake of fire, from where he will never tempt anyone again (Rev 20:10). We should pray for Christ to come and bring eternal justice, righteousness, and peace.

4. To pray for the kingdom to come means that we are willing to be a part of bringing this kingdom.

Though God promised that his kingdom will come, he has chosen to use both the prayers and the acts of his saints to bring it. Hypothetically, if believers don’t pray, then his kingdom won’t come (cf. Ez 22:30). Therefore, when we pray for his kingdom to come, we are taking part in God’s kingdom work. Prayer is as important, if not more important, than evangelism, teaching God’s Word, caring for the hurting, etc. When we pray for the kingdom to come, we willingly submit ourselves to the King’s Lordship and take part in bringing his kingdom to fruition.

Are you willing to daily pray for the kingdom to come?

Application Question: How can we reconcile the need to pray for the coming kingdom when God has already promised it? What does this teach us about God’s purpose in prayer? How should this affect how we pray for other prophecies?

Conclusion

This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is probably the petition most people tend to pray in vain. Literally, “your kingdom come” can be translated, “your kingdom come now.”5 It is a desire for it to happen immediately. Are you really ready for Christ to come today? Most would probably say, no. They want Christ to come after they finish graduate school, after they get married, after they have kids, or after they retire and enjoy it for a little while. The reality is most don’t really want Christ’s kingdom to come now. They want their own. Therefore, as we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we must constantly repent of selfishness—our desire for our own kingdom. We must repent of our plans and bring them before the Lord and say, “Your will be done.” Are you really ready for God’s kingdom? If so, let’s pray until God brings it in its fullness. Lord, come! Lord, come! Amen.

Application Question: Do you feel like you are ready for and desire that Christ would come immediately? If not, why not? If so, why?

Copyright © 2019 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

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1 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 170). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 380). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 380). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (Third Ed., p. 243). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

5 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (p. 381). Chicago: Moody Press.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Kingdom

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