Sermon 4

The Lord’s Prayer

Petition Two: “Thy Kingdom Come”

Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.


John the Baptist was surrounded by excited crowds when he shouted in the desert, “The kingdom of heaven is near.” The sense of anticipation grew when, a little later, Jesus echoed John’s words as He began His ministry in Galilee. “The time has come,” He exclaimed, “The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15).

God’s kingdom was obviously central to Jesus’ mission and message. When He taught His disciples how to pray, He told them to ask God, “May your kingdom come.” When He sent His disciples out on their first preaching expeditions, it was the kingdom of God that was to be at the heart of the good news they were told to spread (Matt 10:7).

Jesus used the phrase often and described the preaching of the kingdom as an obligation laid upon Him (Luke 4:43; 8:1; Mark 1:38). But while there are more than one hundred references to it in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it occurs only rarely in the New Testament outside the Gospels, and the Old Testament does not mention it at all. It was special to Jesus.

When the Baptist’s hearers were told, “The King is coming,” what would they have expected? Their image of a king would have had three major features: a person of power, status, and a person who would be a national figurehead. The great moment of God’s royal intervention and subsequent defeat of Israel’s enemies, forecast so urgently by the Old Testament prophets, was about to arrive. In fact, with Jesus’ arrival on the world scene, it had already come. In Jesus, the kingdom of God had become a reality.


Nevertheless, Jesus’ expectant audience was in for a shock. He certainly was the promised King, but He turned their ideas about God’s rule upside down.

  • They were expecting a display of power, but Jesus taught them that the focal point of God’s kingdom was the gentle, merciful empowerment of the weak and disabled members of society. He crushed the powers of evil in a stunning series of miracles and taught that His kingdom was for the suffering, not the rich and powerful (Matt 5:3, 10).
  • They were expecting a parade of status, but God’s King was not born with a silver spoon in His mouth. He began His human life in the squalor of a stable (Phil 2:5–8). He turned His back on conventional royal respectability by spending His time with those whom the rest of society regarded as inferior—lepers, foreigners, and women. And He left life carrying a cross, not waving a royal banner.
  • They were expecting a national figurehead, to rid their land of Roman occupation and establish Jewish supremacy. Jesus refused to fill that political role. There was to be no passport control that favored Jews at the entry point to God’s kingdom (Matt 28:18–20).


In Jesus’ hands the kingdom of God becomes a dynamic idea—“rule” rather than “realm.” In the New Testament the kingdom of God is not the territory over which God reigns as an earthly king reigns; it is the sovereignty of God, a state and condition of things in which God rules and reigns supreme.

To be a citizen of the kingdom of God is to accept and obey its laws, as would be required for citizenship in any earthly kingdom. If the kingdom of God means the sovereignty of God, then no man can be within that kingdom unless he submits himself to the lordship of God in perfect obedience to His requirements. But the qualification for entering it is not the right kind of birth certificate, but rather a radically changed lifestyle characterized by repentance and faith. There are patterns of behavior totally incompatible with a genuine submission to God’s rule. For example, no man can enter without a forgiving spirit (Matt 18:3) or without a certain attitude toward his fellow men (Matt 25:31–46).

While there are certain conditions of entry to the kingdom, there are things in life that can conspire to keep a man out of the kingdom—for instance, riches (Mark 10:23–25) or the inability to make a clearcut decision (Luke 9:6). Further, the invitation to enter the kingdom can be refused (Matt 22:1–14), the opportunity to enter the kingdom can be lost (Matt 25:1–13), and the privilege of entering the kingdom can be taken away (Matt 8:11, 21–43).

Conversely, all who submit to His sovereignty and place themselves under His dominion find that His royal power is immediately available to cancel the power of their past sin, and by His Spirit and His presence are enabled to overcome their present sin (1 Cor 6:9–10).

It should be noted that nowhere in the teaching of Jesus is the kingdom defined. Yet it is illustrated by parable, and its invitations and demands are consistently stressed. The kingdom is indeed a present reality. The kingdom is preached (Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:15). The kingdom is proclaimed (Luke 9:60). The good news of the kingdom is announced (Luke 8:1). The kingdom may be received (Mark 10:15). The kingdom may be entered (Matt 5:20). The kingdom is within you, or among you (Luke 17:21). Only a reality, which is already given and already present, can be spoken of in such terms.

There is also a “now, but not yet” dimension to Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God. Although God’s rule is powerfully present in His own words and actions, His stories-with-a-purpose (the parables) paint word pictures of slow growth as the kingdom (now His church) is gradually established, like yeast in dough or a small seed’s slow transformation into an impressive tree (Matt 13:31–33).

The final outcome, however, is inevitable. When Jesus comes again to wind up the history of the world as we know it, the kingdom of God will be displayed in total triumph. This, then, is an eschatological prayer. We look up and forward—up to God who reigns, and forward to the day of victory when the enemy’s death sentence is pronounced (1 Cor 15:25). Like it or not, all creation will submit to His power. His royal status will be blazoned from one end of the universe to the other. And He will emerge as His church’s great figurehead as it demonstrates “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph 1:23; see also Phil 2:9–11; Matt 24:30).


Finally, the kingdom of God begins within, but it is to make itself manifest without. It is to penetrate the feelings, habits, thoughts, words, and acts of him who is the subject of it. For this we pray when we say, “Thy kingdom come.” We desire that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will reign over our lives, which are His, and which He has redeemed.

Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.

Rex D. Edwards is a former vice president for religious studies at Griggs University.

2019 Third Quarter

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