“Your kingdom[*] come….” (Matt. 6:10) Jesus instructed his apostles, and therefore his followers, including us, to pray for God’s kingdom to come. That is a curious instruction, as many Jews at the time believed that the Messiah would overthrow the Roman occupation of Judea and return the land to Jewish rule. They were bitterly disappointed when that did not happen.
Did the disciples not pray hard enough? Did God fail to answer the prayer Jesus instructed them to pray? What does that mean for us today? We need to look back at the First Century for the answer.
The Zealots were the sociopolitical faction of the Jews in the First Century. They had an “inviolable attachment to liberty” and desired God to be their only Ruler and Lord. (Antiquities 18.1.6, by Josephus) What that meant for them was overthrowing Roman rule and putting the Jews in control of their own land. They undoubtedly believed Jesus was the Messiah who would accomplish that goal.
The Zealots did, in fact, accomplish what they desired. They inspired a rebellion in 66 A.D. and overtook Jerusalem in that year. The establishment of Jewish rule in Judea was short-lived, however. The Romans fought back with a vengeance, destroyed Jerusalem, razed the Temple and subjected the land to Roman rule once again in 70 A.D.
While the first century zealots may have hoped that the Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom, God had something completely different in mind. Jesus told his disciples one day as they exited the Temple “not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Mk. 13:2) He was speaking of the Temple, of course. He was alluding to the future destruction of the Temple which has not been rebuilt to this day.
When the disciples asked him about the timing, Jesus launched into an end times description of “wars and rumors of wars,” famines, earthquakes, tribulation and false prophets, and said that the “gospel of the kingdom [basileia] shall be preached in the whole world” before the end will come. (Matt. 24:14) The kingdom Jesus instructed His disciples (and us) to pray for was not what the Zealots were hoping for.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God was coming, He responded this way:
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21) Some versions translate the phrase, “in your midst” as “among you” (HCSV & ISV) and others as “within you” (KJV, ASV, ERV). After saying the kingdom is in their midst, Jesus said:
“For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17: 24-25)
When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate and was questioned, he answered,
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)
Clearly, the kingdom Jesus spoke and instructed to pray about is not an earthly, worldly kingdom. Jesus said it was in the disciples midst (and, therefore, in our midst), but He also said it was to come.
The Old Testament foreshadows the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God, but the establishment of God’s Kingdom, viewed through the lens of Christ, is like two mountains in the distance: 1) the first peak is the introduction of Jesus who lived and died for ours sins and was resurrected to provide us entry into God’s Kingdom, both presently within us as we accept what He has done and believe, by faith, as we submit ourselves to His salvation and authority over our lives, and ultimately in being raised with Christ to live eternally with God; 2) the second peak is the establishment of Christ’s rule on earth in the Millennium.
When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are praying both for the establishment of God’s rule and His bounty in our own hearts, as well as in the hearts and minds of those for whom Jesus died, as well as for the Church, that God would reign in the body of Christ, and finally for His eventual second appearing at the end of the age when Christ will establish a new heaven and a new earth. He will reign supreme over all things in that day.
In the meantime, the most immediate thing for which we pray is the establishment of Christ’s rule in our own hearts as we yield to Him as our Lord and Savior. We also pray for the manifestation of His kingdom in our lives, in our churches and in the world.
What a glorious thing that God has allowed us entry into His Kingdom now, in our present lives, where He reigns in our hearts. What a wonderful God He is that He rules with peace and love. What great promises He has given us that, when Christ appears in glory, we will also be with Him! (Col. 3:4)
Lord, Your kingdom come!
[*] 932/basileia comes from 935/basileus (“king”) and properly means “kingdom; the realm in which a king sovereignly rules”. Basileia is constantly used in the New Testament in connection with the rule of Christ in the hearts of believers with a view toward a universal rule on the physical earth in the Millennium (G. Archer). The kingdom (basileia) is “now but not yet” – “here but still future” as Christ, the King, now rules in the hearts of believers living in faith. Faith (4102/pistis), the in-birthed persuasion of God, and “the kingdom” are closely associated in the New Testament. The Kingdom of God is already present and supreme in the hearts of believers (those who live in submission to Christ) who experience the Kingdom through faith (the inworking of God’s persuasion). Basileia is commonly used in the phrase, “the kingdom of God (heaven)”, meaning “the kingdom that relates to God (the heavens)” – a spiritual, rather than a physical reality. The kingdom refers to the rule of God, first in us, and in the future universally. It refers to God’s dynamic reign (kingly rule) that extends from the heaven(s) to the earth. The “kingdom of the heavens” occurs half as much as the “kingdom of God” and stresses the manifestation of the kingdom of God in and through His followers – magnifying the Lord who extends the privilege of His rule to people who receive Him.
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