One of the most famous of prayers is that model prayer, taught by Jesus, which begins, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)
Millions upon millions have recited this prayer since our Lord first taught it, finding comfort in its familiarity. Yet the Scriptures teach us that we should pray with both the right spirit, and with the understanding. (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15) Jesus did not want mere rote from His followers – He was encouraging them into an active and meaningful prayer life. Which means that we should understand what we pray.
So what of the phrase, “Your Kingdom come?” Jesus told His followers that they should pray for such a thing, and some years after the death of Christ, the Spirit of God saw fit to include those same instructions in the Gospel of Christ, so that Christians might learn to pray accordingly.
What does that phrase mean?
Different men are going to provide different answers to that question, often depending upon their understanding of the Kingdom. We want to make sure that we understand the phrase, not according to the private interpretation of men, but as Jesus meant for us to understand it.
The Kingdom was quite an important subject to Jesus, and to His apostles. When Jesus came preaching, He preached, “repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (cf. Matthew 4:17). He was encouraged by the desire of others around Him to enter the Kingdom, and foretold that it would be established in the lifetime of His hearers. (cf. Luke 16:16; Matthew 16:28)
There are those who believe that Christ failed to establish His Kingdom as He wanted to; that He was thwarted by the unbelief of the Jews. Such, when they pray, “Your Kingdom come,” look for the coming of the kingdom at some future date. These same, one would assume, must think that Christ was in error in his prediction concerning the kingdom coming in the lifetime of those who were personally listening to Him preach.
Yet, following His resurrection, Jesus claimed the authority of a king (cf. Matthew 28:18), and, in answer to the anticipation of His apostles concerning the establishment of the Kingdom, told them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit. (cf. Acts 1:6-8). They thereafter considered themselves to be in the Kingdom. Which is why Paul could tell the Colossians that they had been transferred into the Kingdom by the power of Christ (cf. Colossians 1:13). Peter told his readers that they were a “holy nation,” and John declared Christ has “made us a kingdom.” (cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 1:6, ESV).
The clear teaching of the apostles and Christ lead us to the conclusion that the Kingdom is already here, on earth. This Kingdom, of which Christ preached so often, is the church, and it is a spiritual, or heavenly, Kingdom. This is why Jesus said concerning the Kingdom, “my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
In a very real sense, the Kingdom of Christ has already come. We should not be praying for Christ to establish His kingdom; He already did that, and quite successfully. The Cross was His coronation. The Resurrection was the proof of His kingship. He is, even now, the King above all kings, for He sits on His eternal and divine throne, as declared by the Word of God. (cf. Acts 2:30; Hebrews 1:8, 4:16, 8:1, 12:2; Revelation 3:21)
Yet, Jesus also said concerning the coming of this spiritual Kingdom, when questioned about its arrival by the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20b-21; NKJV)
The Kingdom has come to the earth, the King has been crowned, the Law of Christ has been given in the Gospel, but we are not to be looking for an earthly kingdom with visible borders and landmarks. Rather it is a Kingdom that comes into you, as a spiritual realm into which you have been spiritually born anew. (cf. John 3:1-6)
We don’t have to pray for the Kingdom to be established, but we should be praying for God’s kingdom to come fully into our lives, so that we might partake of the blessings therein. Likewise, as we see those around us, lost in sin, we should be praying for the Kingdom to come into their lives, so that they too might be blessed. And, having so prayed, we should then act, that God’s will might be done in our lives, on earth, even as it is in heaven.
If you would like to know more about the Kingdom of Christ, the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.