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    The Lord's Prayer

    Thy Kingdom Come (Mat. 6:10a)

    by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith (1999)

    The central of the three first petitions, "Thy kingdom come" makes the first petition concrete. God's glory is manifest and His name is praised when His kingdom comes. But the expression "Thy kingdom" is ambiguous. What exactly do we pray for when we say, "Thy kingdom come"?

    The Kingdom Established

    The whole created world is God's kingdom and He has ruled it from the time He made it, as many of the Psalms make clear.

    The LORD reigneth,

    he is clothed with majesty;

    the LORD is clothed with strength,

    wherewith he hath girded himself:

    the world also is stablished,

    that it cannot be moved.

    Thy throne is established of old:

    thou art from everlasting. (Ps. 93:1-2)

    Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

    and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.

    (Ps. 145:13; cf. 96:10; 97:1; 99:1; 103:19; etc.)

    According to the Bible, the creation itself is a kingdom over which God rules absolutely. When we speak of God's kingdom as the creation, we obviously cannot pray for it to come, for it is already here. Nevertheless, the fact of this creation-kingdom is the basis for our prayer that the kingdom come.

    The Kingdom Ruined

    The kingdom of God established in creation was a covenantal kingdom to be ruled directly by God's image, to whom authority was delegated. Since God is Lord and King over all, man, His image, must also be lord and king. Man's dominion over the created world, moreover, must be real. If man were created as a mere puppet, he would not be able to manifest the glory of a personal, free God of love. To Adam, then, a very real, though subordinate, dominion was granted.

    When Satan successfully tempted Adam and Eve to exercise their dominion in defiance of God, he incited a revolution. Adam and Eve stood with Satan against God, which means that they actually stood under Satan, for his power and wisdom far surpassed theirs. The fall brought about the ruin of God's kingdom and the loss of man's position as king under God. God could have cast Adam and Eve into everlasting fire with Satan and started all over again, but instead He planned their salvation. And that meant also the re-construction of His kingdom.

    Since covenantal lordship is historically meaningful, as long as the covenantal leaders in history were sinful men who followed their father Adam, the de facto rule of the kingdom of this world was in the hands of Satan. Thus, Satan was able to say to Jesus, "All these things [the kingdoms of the world and their glory] will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." (Mt. 4:9). Though Satan had the actual control over the kingdoms of this world, he exercised that control only so far as God allowed. For covenantal rule to be meaningful in history, man had to make real choices and rule as a free creature, not a puppet, but God did not, by giving Satan and man a measure of freedom, relinquish His own sovereign control. Though His hand is invisible, His rule is inviolable.

    The Kingdom Reclaimed

    What was needed was a new Adam, a new covenant head who would obey God and rule righteously. The second Person of the eternal Trinity, therefore, became man and took upon Himself the work of redemption. The salvation which Jesus accomplished and its full manifestation for which Jesus taught us to pray was not merely the salvation of a few "souls" out of a corrupted creation. Jesus came to wholly undo the effects of Adam's sin, to redeem the world and rebuild the kingdom of God.

    The prayer "Thy kingdom come" looks back at the original creation and the kingdom of God that was established there. In this petition we are seeking a restoration of a situation in which the world is not in rebellion against God. Of course, we are seeking much more than that also, for the original creation was immature in every way. The coming of the kingdom requires not merely innocence, but a mature commitment to God and His glory. It requires also a new humanity in Christ, filling the world with His praise and thereby fulfilling the dominion mandate (Gn. 1:26-28).

    The salvation of the individual and the salvation of the world proceed according to the same basic plan and unfold through the same stages. We are accustomed to think of individual salvation in complex terms. First, our salvation is a past tense reality. We have been saved from the time we believed in Jesus (Rm. 5:1). Second, our salvation is a present tense process. We are being saved by the work of the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cr. 3:18). Third, our salvation is future. We are not fully saved in history. Only at the the resurrection, when we receive our glorified bodies and join the new humanity in a perfect world, will our salvation be complete (Rm. 8:17ff.).

    The salvation of the world proceeds along the same lines. First, Jesus definitively saved the world by His death on the cross (Col. 1:19-20; 2:15). His death was the judgment of the world and Satan (Jn. 12:31; 16:11). By His redeeming work, Jesus, the lamb of God, earned the throne and has been set up as King over all (Rv. 5:9-14). But the work of salvation is not finished. Satan is still active in the world (2 Cr. 4:4), even though his power has been curtailed (cf. Mt. 12:28; Lk. 10:17, 18; Ac. 26:18; Rv. 12:9; etc.). Thus, the second aspect of salvation is seen in Jesus presently leading His church in a warfare against Satan and his kingdom (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 6:10 ff.; etc.). By the power of the Spirit and the word of the Gospel, Jesus will prevail (Mt. 28:18 ff.). Third, the salvation of the world is future. The kingdom of Christ, which is presently growing, will finally fill the world (Dn. 2:44).

    For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:

    and the government shall be upon his shoulder:

    and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,

    The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

    Of the increase of his government and peace

    there shall be no end, upon the throne of David,

    and upon his kingdom, to order it,

    and to establish it with judgment

    and with justice from henceforth even for ever.

    The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Is. 9:6-7)

    Our Prayer

    What we are praying for, therefore, is that the kingdom of God may grow, that the nations of the world may be converted to faith in Christ, that we ourselves and all who believe in Him may grow in our obedience to His commandments. We are seeking the historical manifestation of the rule of God through the obedient rule of His image man. God is glorified when men keep their covenant with Him and rule as kings under Him. The greater His Church -- not the Church as an institution, here, but as the people of God -- becomes, in freedom, love, knowledge, power, and dominion, the greater the manifestation of God's glory in the world. To seek God's glory in a concrete manner, we must seek the growth of His Church, both quantitative and qualitative growth. By our daily love and obedience to Christ we extend His kingdom in this world and, little by little, fulfill the prayer that His kingdom may come.

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