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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.