Present or Future Tense?
The petition “Thy kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer reminds us of one of the earliest heart-cries of the followers of the crucified, risen Lord Jesus – maranatha – “Come, Lord!” The history of Christianity has seen a stubborn either-or when it comes to “eschatology” (matters pertaining to “the end”); some have obsessed over “the next life” in such a way as to devalue daily “mundane” life in this world. For such, “Thy kingdom come” is almost a kind of boredom with the world, and a plea to move on to deeper spiritual things. We might call this this the escapist Church.
A second tendency would be to ignore a future kingdom altogether and just sort of “make do” with the challenges of life today. For these, “Thy kingdom come” is a mere sentiment, not to be taken too seriously. We might call this the comfortable Church. Life is not so bad for them, so these believers do not dwell too much on “hope.” Hope tends to be more important for those who experience, on a regular basis, the deep brokenness of a world twisted by sin.
The Lord’s Prayer and Nazis
What would it mean, though, to take the Lord’s Prayer seriously as a Kingdom teaching from the King? Ultimately, praying “Thy kingdom come” is a very dangerous prayer – at least it was meant to be. Think about it this way – in 1937, New Testament theologian Ernst Käsemann was arrested for his resistance to National Socialism in Nazi Germany. The major catalyst for his arrest was a sermon he gave on Isaiah 26:13 – “O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but we acknowledge your name alone.” In the audience were some Gestapo officials who reported him to authorities on the charge of treason. He was jailed for almost a month. For Käsemann, to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, the “Kingdom of God,” was to challenge the evil kings of the world (see Psalm 2) – and they do not like to be challenged.Praying “Thy kingdom come” is a very dangerous prayer – at least it was meant to be Click To Tweet
When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” it is not just praying, God do what you want, and I will sit here and wait patiently. It is a missional prayer – I look around me and I see the horror of the “kingdoms of the world and their glory” when they submit to the devil (Matt 4:8), and I long for the virtues of the “Kingdom of God” as imagined in the Beatitudes – humility (5:4), empathy (5:5), integrity (5:6), mercy and grace (5:7), transparency (5:8), seeking goodwill for all (5:9), and courage to do what is right no matter what (5:10).
I am reminded of what is written in Hebrews 11. So many Old Testament heroes lived by faith, knowing the promises of God but never living to see them fulfilled. Hebrews says that, while they did not meet these (fulfilled) promises, they “greeted them from afar” and in the meantime confessed “they were strangers and foreigners on the earth” (11:13). They continued to seek a “homeland” (11:14).
Longing with King Jesus
It is rather this way for believers and the Kingdom of God with King Jesus. We have been given the promise of the consummation of the Kingdom of God. Jesus brought the kingdom, he inaugurated it. But we still live in a broken world and we wait for full redemption.
In the meantime, neither do we ignore what is yet to come –no, we long for it – nor do we obsess over the future to the neglect of today. We are called to plant the kingdom within the world, to live as ambassadors for the kingdom in a foreign land as we dwell as resident aliens. As St. Paul tells the Philippians, we are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). That does not mean we ignore our earthly life, but rather we live out the ideals of the heavenly country in the earthly realm.
I believe when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are affirming three things
- The world has turned away from the kingship of God to its self-ruin
- We long for the fulfillment of the divine promise for a righteous and just society (hence, “Thy will be done”) – O Lord, end the injustice and suffering we have created in sin!
- In the meantime, we serve as ambassadors of King Jesus, calling all those around us to live according to the “Bill of Virtues” of His Kingdom – humility, empathy, integrity, mercy, transparency, goodwill, and courage to do what is right no matter what.
Let us pray boldly then, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.We are called to plant the kingdom & live as ambassadors in a foreign land. Click To Tweet