“The widespread assumption today that ‘the kingdom of God’ denotes another realm altogether, for instance that of the ‘heaven’ to which God’s people might hope to go after their death, was not on the first-century agenda. When Jesus spoke about God’s kingdom, and taught his followers to pray that it would arrive ‘on earth as in heaven’, he was right in the middle of first-century Jewish theocratic aspirations…so as…to tell the story of how Israel’s God becomes king of the whole world.”
When I was a kid, I loved to play “King of the Mountain” with my friends. We would go to a large dirt mound (either at a construction site or somewhere around the school playground) and basically fight for the top of the mound. Of course, it was always pretty difficult to stay on top of the mound if you weren’t the strongest, tallest, or just plain biggest one of us all.
King and Kingdom are not words that we are all that familiar with in America. Yes we know what they are, but few of us have ever lived under the rule of an actual “king” and so our perspective of this is slightly damaged. We have a President, (some would argue who acts like a king) however, we don’t live under the authority of a single authoritarian figure who makes all the decisions without the necessary support of the rest of his government.
A king is the leader of his country. The buck stops with him (or his queen).
Thy Kingdom Come
Jesus, in his model prayer, which we have affectionately named “The Lord’s Prayer” begins his prayer with a complete focus upon God. God as Father quickly shifts to God as King. For the first century hearer, in this case, one of Jesus’ disciples, it would have been very clear what Jesus was trying to communicate…a new Kingdom under which they should submit their lives.
These young men that Jesus had as apprentices in the way of the Kingdom, were already under another kingdom, the kingdom of Rome. Rome had conquered their land and was the supreme law of the land. They were essentially slaves to Rome and forced to pay taxes and homage to the king of Rome, the Emperor Caesar.
Jesus came and began talking about a new Kingdom, one that was near, but also not of this world.
Today, I think might be my favorite part of the prayer we are learning how to pray. For it is this Kingdom “coming” that I believe most of us in the church today have missed out on for most of our lives.
Growing up in church, I was taught a lot about morality, a lot about politics and how I should vote, a lot about witnessing to people and trying to see them come to Christ, and a lot about the church and involvement there. But something I rarely, if ever heard about was the “Kingdom of God”. My understanding of it was that the Kingdom of God was Heaven in the sky, by and by, where we go when we die.
But Jesus central message was the good news of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of the Heavens. It wasn’t just about how we could go to heaven when we die, it was about God bringing His Kingdom here to break-through in people’s lives here and now on the earth. There has always been the hope of heaven, but Jesus came to make a difference in your life…today. Now. Here. In the Present.
What the Kingdom is NOT
I want to be clear.
Jesus’ Kingdom was not about politics. It was never about a political ideal or power play for His followers to launch out on as their mission. As I said before, that was a lot of what my church upbringing taught me. But I believe political “jockeying” is a diversion from the true message and central theme of Jesus’ life and teachings.
Jesus’ Kingdom was not about religion. “Religion” is a relative term these days, but the sense I get as I read the Scriptures is that Jesus was really uninterested in creating a new religion for people to follow. His biggest arguments were with people who claimed to be “religious” but who were really power hungry, bigoted, racist, fools. Again, I believe religion is a diversion from the true message of Jesus.
Jesus’ Kingdom was about the breaking in of God’s rule and reign, God’s powerful presence, and God’s awesome reality onto the people of planet earth. Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection all served to illustrate the proximity and nearness of the actual Kingdom of God in time and space to our broken and messed up world.
Pray for the Kingdom Come
God is constantly and repetitively working in and around this world to break through into the lives of human beings. He is relentless in his pursuit of us. He invaded our world at the birth of Jesus, influenced our timeline by literally splitting time in half (A.D. and B.C.). Every major work of art, literature, architecture, and more all bear the fingerprints of a Creator who wants to be seen and known.
He is not hiding in the shadows. His Kingdom is not far off in outer space.
It is here. It is advancing now. It is coming. Everyday.
And when we pray “Your Kingdom Come…” we are asking God to open our eyes to see the ways in which God is breaking through into broken humanity in tangible ways.
The Kingdom Made Tangible
That is why our service, our tangible giving, our presence in our cities, and our co-existence and collaboration with the world to bring about an end to injustice, poverty, human slavery, oppresion, mistreatment of children, and all of these things matter…because they are ways in which we bring the Kingdom to earth!!! The way the world knows that the Kingdom is coming is when God’s people rise and become active participants in a Kingdom not of this world. When we tell better stories, share like family does, celebrate and party better than anyone else does, and bless our neighbors and our cities like no one else does… then people will see the Kingdom come.
Praying for God’s Kingdom to come means being willing to be the catalyst through which God’s Kingdom can be made tangible to the people around you. You can’t ask God to bring His Kingdom and not be willing to let Him do it through you.
This is the essence of praying “Your Kingdom Come.”
This is the central reality of what it means to follow Jesus in this world.
Have you ever thought to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” meant any of these things? Has anyone ever explained this to you? The Gospel…(a.k.a The Good News) is that Heaven is closer than you think, God is closer than you realize, and Eternity is now. You don’t have to wait until you die to come alive. Pray and ask God to bring His Kingdom in and through your life today.
There are lots of great books out there about this subject and I encourage you to find the time to begin reading more about the Kingdom. Jesus spoke about it in just about every parable. His ministry here on earth was to elevate, illustrate, and illuminate for us the truth and reality of God’s actual Kingdom rule and reign. These authors have done an excellent job of giving a primer on a better understanding of the Kingdom of God. I encourage you to grab a copy of their work.