Matthew 6:10

Your kingdom come,

       your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven. [1]

As we have been studying what church history has assigned the name the Lord’s Prayer, we have learned that the words “Our Dear Father in heaven” give us the foundational awareness from which we are to offer our prayers. Worshipful prayer begins by celebrating the blessing of having an intimate family relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

That foundational awareness leads us into the foundational petition, “Hallowed be your name.” When we commune in prayer with God, this first petition draws us upward rather than inward. We are expressing a desire for God to be glorified, set apart, and honored by all his creatures. This is how we begin to submit to his will rather than demanding that he submit to ours.

Our upward momentum increases with the second God-centered petition, “Your kingdom come” (10a). Since the prayer is structured like a Hebrew psalm, the grammar demands that we understand that “Your Kingdom come” and “your will be done” are enlargements on the petition that God’s name be hallowed. God’s name is set apart in holiness and when his Kingdom is consummated, his will shall be done by all the citizens of his Kingdom. So, prayer for the Kingdom is to be part of the pattern of our prayer life.

That brings us to the puzzling question, “What is God’s Kingdom?” Bible teachers and commentaries differ greatly in answering that question. The Bible presents so many aspects of God’s Kingdom and presents them in so many lights that it is impossible to give a short answer that is not somehow incomplete or misleading. Is this Kingdom past, present, or future?

There is a sense in which the Kingdom is past because God has always ruled over his creation and over all history. But at the same time, it is also present and future. God rules today and he will continue to rule throughout eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ declared to the people of his day that “the Kingdom of God is within you” (referring to the work of his spirit within the citizens of his Kingdom; Luke 17:21). Yet, he also instructed his disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come.” The more we study what the Bible says about the Kingdom, the more we realize it transcends any of our temporal and geographical concepts.


It may sound obvious, but the most important thing to be said about the Kingdom of God is that it is God’s Kingdom. That means his Kingdom is exalted far above all of the kingdoms of men and is infinitely superior to them. “Historians tell us that the world has known twenty-one great civilizations, but all of them have endured only for a time and then have passed away. Egypt was once a mighty world power; today it is weak. …Babylon was mighty, but today it has passed into history and its former territory is divided. Syria, once strong, has become an archeological curiosity. Greece and Rome have fallen.” [2]

In the Old Testament age, God’s Kingdom came to be represented in the theocratic state of Israel. God used Israel to judge their surrounding pagan cultures. And he raised up nations to punish Israel when they adopted the demon idols of those pagan cultures. God sent the Kingdom of Assyria to attack and enslave the rebellious northern tribes of Israel. He raised up the Kingdom of Babylon to attack and enslave the idol-worshipping southern Kingdom of Judah. He also destroyed both Assyria and Babylon as punishment for their cruelty to Israel.

In that age, if you wanted to come to the one true God you had to come through the people of Israel, through their laws, their priests, and their temple. When the incarnate Christ began his ministry, he announced the Kingdom in a new form.

No longer did anyone have to become a Jew to worship God. God no longer worked through the nation of Israel. God’s new king was the Lord Jesus Christ who was also the new and true temple. In him alone was true and eternal forgiveness of sins. In him and by him a new race of people is being created.

God’s new covenant came through Christ and extended to people of every tribe, tongue, nation, and political ideology. No modern nation has a covenant with God. No political nation-state takes the place of Israel in God’s great plan for the ages. America is not Israel and God made no covenant of works with this nation, despite the claims of Joseph Smith or modern conservative talk show pundits. God’s Kingdom work is done among his people who are scattered across the globe but united through the Holy Spirit, Word, and sacrament.

Kingdoms of men rise and fall across the pages of history. The United States, Russia, and China are at the pinnacle of current world power. But none of them will escape the unchangeable law of God. God raises up human kingdoms for his own purposes and his own glory and he lets them slide into oblivion for the same reasons.

God allows a man or a group of men to rise above others in power. The triumph of the group brings pride, and God removes them, bringing them into the jaws of death. Men rise and fall, but above all the seething course of human history God reigns. God is sovereign over human history, even over those realms that are now in rebellion against him. His kingdom prevails. This aspect of the expression “the kingdom of God” brings comfort to those who would otherwise be in turmoil or anxious about chaotic world events. Hence, Jesus told his disciples to be anxious for nothing (Matt. 6:25–34), and he added that although there would always be “wars and rumors of wars,” nevertheless, his followers were not to be troubled by them (Matt. 24:6).[3]

Praying “May your Kingdom come” does not suggest that God has not been or is not now sovereign King, that his reign is only future. As the psalmist sang, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). This petition for the coming of the Kingdom is a desire for a new and unique manifestation in the future just as the Kingdom changed from the nation-state of Israel into a worldwide multicultural spiritual Kingdom in Christ Jesus.


God’s Kingdom was present in the past and it will come fully consummated in the future. And there is also an aspect of God’s Kingdom on earth by which he is seeking in the present to bring into being a race of humans obedient to himself and in tune with his purposes in history. In one sense, this began long before Christ’s incarnation when YHWH promised King David an eternal throne (2 Samuel 7:11-12, 16).

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth and began his formal ministry, God’s Kingdom came literally and physically in Christ. The Kingdom was in Christ. And because Christ was in the world, he preached that the Kingdom of God had come among men. Paul, who went about “preaching the Kingdom of God,” defined it by internal, spiritual aspects of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Unfortunately, many churchmen moved on from the ideas we have been exploring to the erroneous assumption that because the Kingdom of God comes wherever men believe in Christ and respond to the gospel, the Kingdom in this sense will inevitably go on expanding until all, or nearly all the world, trusts into Christ. Many further teach that this will usher in a great age of peace, prosperity, and biblical law-keeping.

This view was immensely popular in the late 19th century, but it is completely false. A man by the name of Sydney L. Gulick popularized the view in a book called The Growth of the Kingdom of God. He wrote that Christian powers had increased the territory under their rule from about 7% of the world in 1600 to 82% by 1893. Obviously, Gulick confused national Christendom with biblical Christianity. The popularity of this view plummeted amidst the reality of two world wars. Unfortunately, it has had some minor resurgence in our day. It is even more unfortunate considering that the Lord himself spoke in such warning tones against it.

Jesus never promised that the Kingdom would go on expanding until it conquered the whole earth. In fact, he taught pretty close to the opposite of that idea. He taught that sizable portions of the world would never be converted, that the devil’s children would be present in the church until the end, that his rule would only come in totality at the close of time and only be established by his power and in spite of the bitter animosity of men toward their Creator.

If you are wondering where Jesus taught such things, then you are studying the right book of the Bible this morning. Matthew 13 records an entire series of Jesus’ Kingdom parables. There are seven Kingdom parables in Matthew 13, beginning with the sower who planted a field and ending with the story of the dragnet in the sea. These are Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom in the world and a preview to the course of church history.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus pictures a man slinging seed in a field. Some of the seeds fell on a hard surface and were devoured by birds; some fell in shallow ground, sprang up quickly, and were scorched by the sun; some fell among thorns and were choked out before they could grow; some fell on good ground where it produced in some cases 100 handfuls of grain for the handful that was sown, and others 60 for one, and in still others 30 for one.

He explained the parable to his disciples, saying the seed was the Word (the Word being Christ himself) and that the Word would have different effects in the lives of those who encountered it. Some hearts would be so hard they would not receive it at all, and the enemy’s minions would snatch it away.

Others would receive it as a novelty, like the men of Athens in Paul’s day, but they would soon lose interest, particularly in the face of persecution. Another class of people would become bored by the gospel and allow their delight in the devil’s world to eclipse the Good News. Only the fourth group would be made-up of those who would receive Christ and in whom he would take root.

If this parable means anything logical at all, it means the church age is a seed-growing age in which only one part of the preaching of the Kingdom of God will bear fruit. The parable destroys the idea that the preaching of the gospel will be increasingly effective and will inevitably bring worldwide triumph for the church.

The second parable makes the same point with even more clarity. In it, Jesus pictures a man sowing grain in his field after which an enemy comes in and sows weeds. The true wheat and the weeds must be allowed to grow up together because uprooting the weeds would uproot the wheat also. Both wheat and tears would exist together until the harvest, at which time the grain would be gathered into the barns and the tears would be burned.

Jesus then explained to his disciples that the field was the world, the wheat were those who belonged to him, and the tares were the children of the devil. According to Christ, the church would always contain within it those who were God’s true children and those who were the imitation children belonging to the devil. Because both the wheat and the weeds would look the same, no one was to try to separate the two on this earth so that no believer would perish with the unbelievers. Jesus is point was that these worse than ideal conditions will remain until the end of this age.

The other five Kingdom parables make similar points. The extension of the Kingdom of God in this age will always be accompanied by the devil’s influence and will always be imperfect. The parable of the mustard seed points to the unusual growth of church structure. The parable of the leaven teaches that the Kingdom of heaven in this age will always encompass evil.

The stories of the field with treasure in it and the pearl of great price tell of the sacrifice Christ made to own us for himself. The final parable, the parable of the dragnet, points to the day in which the son of man will judge all humanity. In that day, the great dragnet will be pulled to shore, and those who have been made righteous by trusting into the person and work of Christ will be gathered to the Lord while the flotsam and jetsam will be put away from them forever.


It should be obvious from the incomplete nature of the Kingdom of God as we observe it today, that there is yet to be a Kingdom in which the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ will be totally recognized and completely unopposed. Jesus taught this. He not only told his disciples that this age was the establishing of his spiritual Kingdom, but he also taught that there was to be a literal, future, consummated Kingdom as well.

His disciples were aware of this teaching. This is why they asked and after the resurrection, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). He answered, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (vv. 7-8). Jesus confirms the fact of the consummated Kingdom but tells them it is none of their business to know when that will happen.

For us, the work of the present Kingdom of God falls in the last of his great statements in Acts 1. We are his witnesses, and we are to bear the message of God’s rule through Christ throughout our cities, states, nation, and world. In this age, God is calling out a people to himself. He is taking people of every imaginable condition and from every part of the globe and turning them into people in whom Jesus Christ is present and in whom something of his righteous character can be seen.

Though it is not given to us to know the time of its consummation, Christ’s Kingdom is coming in all of its eternal fullness and perfection. When he comes again, Christ will judge the world and set up his perfect, unopposed, eternal Kingdom. This concept in the original text that is translated as “your Kingdom come” is so grammatically strong, the early church father Tertullian changed the order of the prayer, placing “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” before the phrase “your Kingdom come.

Tertullian believed that when the consummated Kingdom arrived there would be no need to pray, “your will be done” because everyone would be free of sin and naturally performing God’s will. Regardless of his reasoning, he accurately understood that “your Kingdom come” is a prayer for the final, consummated Kingdom whose citizens finally have hearts completely unchained from our present sin natures. In that day we will be pure, our lying and deceit, distrust and shame banished, our hiding places and prisons gone, and all our words and actions done to the glory of God.

The consummated Kingdom will fulfill human longing for the perfection we lost yet still crave. Every human instinctively longs for what the apostle Paul described as “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). The promise of the eternally perfect Kingdom drives us to pray more fervently in this world of death and sin. We cry out with a sense of urgency, “May your kingdom come!

The Kingdom of God is coming. There will come a day when eternity dawns and the angels sing, “the Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). His reign will be universal, as Jesus promised:

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom [visible, unbelieving Israel] will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[4]

John the Revelator, who sees the great bird’s eye view of the Kingdom throughout past and future history, describes the consummation of Christ’s Kingdom this way:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” [5]

John’s response, found in the next to last verse of the Bible is, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:10.

[2] Boice, 178.

[3] Boice, 178–179.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 8:11–12.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 21:1–8.