The Lord’s Prayer: Your Kingdom Come Matthew 6:9-15
3/3/2019 9:58:26 PM
March 3, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Matthew 6:9-15
In seminary, one of the hardest courses I took was the Intro to the NT with Dr. Richard Longenecker. The lecture was 3 hours long on Wednesday morning and we all eagerly looked forward to our mid-morning break so we could shake the cramps out of our hands from so much writing! Dr. Longenecker is a pretty big deal in NT studies and he had a lot to teach us! His exams were legendary too. (Interesting note, my Dad taught at a seminary in Chicago for a year where Dr. Longenecker had taught previously. People compared my Dad’s exams to his!)
Dr. Longenecker spent some time studying in Basil, Switzerland. There he, himself, studied under the famous NT scholar Oscar Cullmann. Longenecker told us the story that Cullmann was a very understated lecturer. He would lecture sitting down behind a desk at the front of the room, except for one day each year! One day a year Cullmann would be so animated he would lecture standing in front of the desk! The next day, he would go back to sitting behind the desk. That one day upon which Dr. Cullmann was so animated was the day he lectured on the Kingdom of God.
Oscar Cullmann, you see, was the man who developed the image of the Kingdom of God as two overlapping ages.
We’ve seen this diagram before. Along the bottom, from left to right is the blue line representing the Present Age, Kingdom of This Age, the Age of Sin. Right in the middle is the cross. This mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the pivotal point in all of history. Beginning at the resurrection of Jesus, along the top, is the golden arrow representing the Kingdom of God/Age to Come.
The line on the right represents the RETURN of Christ, the resurrection of the Righteous and the Day of Judgement. Take note that after the return of Christ, the Present Age ENDS! The Age of Sin will be no more and all that continues is the Kingdom of God.
We’re working through a series on the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve come to the second of 6 petitions or requests, “Your kingdom come.” We’re going to see what this means and why it matters.
What It Says
Please remember, in Matthew, the Lord’s Prayer is intended to form a structure off of which we can build our own prayers. In Luke, it seems that the prayer can legitimately be used word for word if used intelligently and not just as empty words repeated by rote.
Last week we considered what it means to hallow or honour God’s name, which represents his character and who God is at the core of his being. Today we consider the second request, “your kingdom come!” What, in the world, is God’s kingdom?!?
The Greek word for kingdom is “basileia” which means the authority to rule. Why does this matter? Because we tend to think of a kingdom as a place. We think of the kingdom of Great Britain, or the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We think of countries, or regions, ruled by a king. Because of this, we tend to misunderstand the
Kingdom of God as a political regime or a country ruled by God. This is incorrect! Consider, for instance, the parable of talents. The master goes away to receive a kingdom- the authority to be king in his own country. If you know the parable, the master comes back to his servants and is now king, not of a different country, but of the country that he had left! He went away to get a promotion from the emperor. Historically, this is what happened to Herod the Great, the grandfather of Herod Antipas who was king in Jesus’ day. Herod went to Rome to receive the kingdom of Judea- he went away to receive a kingdom! He then returned to his home country with the authority to rule it as a king.
When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying for his authority to be respected on earth as in heaven. Remember, from last week, “on earth as in heaven” applies to all 3 of the first petitions: hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done!
We see God’s kingdom, God’s authority, most clearly in the ministry of Jesus. We see justice, healing, reconciliation, provision of food for the needy, etc. Most importantly, though, in Jesus’ we see his death and resurrection. That is, we see sin payed for and death conquered so people can be reconciled to God.
Forgiving others as we have been forgiven is the most profound way in which God’s authority is recognized. This is included in 5th petition, “forgive our debts” and REPEATED in v. 14-15! Think of the parable of the unforgiving servant who is forgiven a great debt, but refuses to forgive his fellow servant’s small debt. The forgiving master is furious and retracts the great forgiveness originally extended to the first servant! Forgiveness of sin, then, is a mark of the KoG coming on earth- first in Jesus, then in Jesus’ disciples who are God’s adopted children.
What It Means
So what does this mean? First and foremost, we must keep our definition of God’s kingdom (or in Matthew Kingdom of Heaven) in mind whenever we read about, speak of or pray for God’s kingdom. It’s about God’s authority, not a place or political entity.
When we speak of God’s authority, an immediate topic that should come up is our rebellion against that authority! You don’t have to live long to realize that not all is right in the world! Turn on the TV, browse the internet and you will come across lots of ways in which God’s authority is most definitely not being recognized or submitted to.
At its heart, sin is rebellion against God’s authority. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God’s authority and chose to evaluate and then break the one rule God had given them. In doing so, they put their own authority above God’s authority. They put themselves on the throne of their own lives.
So when Jesus teaches us to pray “Your kingdom come” he is talking, in part, about an end to our sinful rebellion against God. But the kingdom of God is more than just our repentance. As you read the NT, there are a couple different facets to the kingdom of God: The kingdom of God is described as both present and future, internal and external, immediate and progressive.
As Mark describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus began by preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand,” literally, “pounding down the door!” So the kingdom of God is a present reality, it is near. On the other hand, Jesus says at the Last Supper that he will not drink the cup of the Passover again until he drinks it in his Father’s kingdom. So the KoG is future too.
The kingdom is internal. It is about our own hearts recognizing and submitting to God’s authority. It’s about being a disciple. The kingdom is also external. When the kingdom of God, the authority of God comes, there is peace among people. The poor are clothed, the hungry are fed, the sick are cared for! This was evident throughout Jesus’ ministry- he was constantly bringing God’s kingdom, God’s authority into his society.
The kingdom is immediate. Jesus says the thief on the cross will be with him in paradise that very day; it is progressive or future as the parables of growing seeds describe. It starts small, grows and then is fulfilled.
This is where this diagram starts to help us. The kingdom of God breaks into the world with the coming of Jesus. He obeys God’s authority himself, as well as demonstrating that authority in his ministry. Throughout Scripture, God says that to do his will is to care for marginalized people, and that’s exactly what Jesus does! Jesus also demonstrates God’s authority over sickness, over religious law, over demons and even over storms! Finally, with the resurrection, Jesus reasserts God’s authority over sin and death! Thus at the resurrection of Jesus we see the in-breaking of the Age to Come, the KoG in a powerful way.
That’s all at the cross. After the cross, when Jesus returns to Heaven, as described in Acts 1, the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost in Acts 2. The Spirit brings the kingdom or authority of God in a profound new way in the hearts of God’s people, of Jesus’ disciples. The Spirit applies the work of Christ to us through repentance and faith, further establishing God’s authority over sin and death in our hearts. This is part of the progressive aspect of the kingdom- it grows in individuals, it grows in the world within them, and it grows within the church- the collection of God’s people.
Ultimately, though, the kingdom of God will not have fully arrived until Jesus returns. Then, when he comes back, we will all be raised from the dead and he will sit in judgment over humanity. He will finish his conquest over sin and death and establish the rule of God on earth for eternity. He will then make all things new, redeeming creation. That’s all indicated by the purple bar on the right side of our diagram. After the Day of Judgment, the Present Age, the Age of Sin, the Kingdom of this World, will end. It will be no more and all that will remain in the unchallenged rule of God. That is the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven!
God is steering the ship of history towards this goal of his kingdom coming on earth. It may not always seem like it. There is still evil in this world. We still see rebellion against God’s authority. Christians die. Christians suffer. God’s name is not universally hallowed. We see sin in the world. We see sin in ourselves. So it’s not always obvious that history is headed towards this great goal! That is part of the hiddenness of the kingdom. It’s part of the progressive nature of God’s authority. Remember the parable of the treasure found buried hidden in a field! But God’s sovereignty means he is still steering history in this direction.
Cullmann himself, who lived through WWII, had a helpful illustration to describe these overlapping ages and the difficulty of our experience of God’s kingdom and the Age of Sin at the same time. He used the illustration of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces invaded Europe from England. That marked the doom of the Nazi forces. It didn’t defeat them completely, but it meant they had no way to win. But final victory in Europe, VE Day, took 11 more months. During that time, the Nazis fought hard, Allies died, and many battles had to be fought. But D-Day assured people that VE-Day would eventually come.
The resurrection of Jesus assures us of the defeat of sin. The return of Jesus will complete the defeat of sin. These are the two points in the diagram- the cross and the vertical line. In the meantime, there is a lot of work to do. There is “mopping up” to do. There is still danger, pain and even death, but defeat is no longer an option for God’s people!
Praying for God’s kingdom to come lifts our gaze beyond our immediate circumstances and reminds us of his certain final victory. Too often in our prayers, we focus on what we want, on what we (think we) need. Our prayers for deliverance extend just as far as our own discomfort. Our prayer lives, like our whole lives in the West, become very self-centred. Praying for God’s kingdom to come reminds us that we are part of a much bigger enterprise. It reminds us that God has a plan that he is carrying out not just for us, but for the entire cosmos and we happen to be a part of that! It reminds us that although we are deeply loved and dearly bought, we are still small pieces of God’s grand plan for all of history.
What are we to do with this? We’re looking at the Lords’ Prayer not just for the sake of theology, but in order to grow in our own understanding and practice of prayer.
Jesus wants us to come to prayer as an adoring child comes to his or her loving Dad. With that affection, respect and love, we come to our Heavenly Father with a primary concern of seeing his name known and respected! Then, our next greatest concern is that his authority as king be recognized and honored on earth as in heaven.
Respecting God’s authority to rule begins with our own hearts. At the heart of all the problems in our lives, our relationships, our circumstances and the whole world is the problem of sin. Sin is our general attitude of rebellion against God, which shows up in our thoughts, desires, dreams and actions. These are all fallen and in rebellion against God’s authority. So Jesus teaches us to daily pray a prayer of submission to God, a prayer of repentance and humility.
Praying for God’s kingdom to come is an act of submission, repentance and humility. Having recognized God is our adopted father through Jesus, wanting his name to be set above for special use, we know that begins
with us and that we are naturally in rebellion against him. So Jesus wants us to daily turn back to God, to daily re-submit our thoughts to God, our will to God, our desires, hopes, goals and dreams to God, to surrender our autonomy to God. This is the personal, internal aspect of praying for God’s kingdom to come.
Praying for God’s kingdom to come is a prayer for change in our world. Just as we are asking for a change in our own hearts, we are praying for an end to the effects of sin in the world around us. This means praying for an end to injustice, an end to poverty, an end to crime, an end to corruption, and end to greed, an end to pollution, and end to violence and abuse in the entire world. It means praying for Christians to be released from prison, for prayers to be answered, for healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. And, again, it’s a prayer for this to begin with us. It’s a prayer to cooperate with the Spirit to bring this about in the world to the best of our ability, obediently following the Spirit. As Christ’s hands and feet, we are the Spirit’s agents of change!
Praying for God’s kingdom to come is a prayer for the return of Jesus. It’s amazing how often, in the comfortable West, we shrink at the return of Christ. We want to finish our degrees, watch our kids grow up and get married, enjoy grandchildren, travel in retirement, etc. And so we hope that Jesus doesn’t return “too quickly.” We somehow think that anything we can experience on this earth can hold a candle to how awesome it will be when Christ returns! So our prayer is a prayer for change in our own desires too.
Praying for the return of Christ means praying to want the return of Christ. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer, or use it as a guide for our own prayer, we must remember to pray for our own desires to change- that we would want Jesus to return even if it means an end to our own (shabby) goals!
Praying for God’s authority to come means praying for growth in our own discipleship as well as that of others.
We pray for the progressive advance of God’s authority which means a growth in our own walk with Jesus and others’ walk with Jesus too. This means more people coming to know Christ, more of those who know Christ living more like Christ! It’s a prayer for discipleship in ourselves and the church universal. [cont]
The primary way this happens is through the Word of God being proclaimed. The Word of God is the primary tool the Spirit uses in the lives of God’s people, bringing them to saving faith and shaping them to be more like Christ.
So it’s a prayer for our pastors, teachers and leaders as well as one another. It’s a prayer for right doctrine to be faithfully preached, for the Bible to be faithfully taught, for the Bible to be learned so we know what God’s kingdom is like!
Bearing all of this in mind, let’s stand and pray together as Jesus taught us…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. In Jesus name, amen!
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