“Your kingdom come.” Matthew vi.10 NASB
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus made it amply clear that our prayers must reflect divine priorities instead of being dominated by our selfish agenda or even by our apparently legitimate needs. Prayer for the sanctification of God’s name, the arrival of God’s Kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s will on earth, therefore, are top priorities in the Lord’s Prayer. Prayer is not just a mechanism to get things from God; but a divinely appointed vehicle for the advancement of God’s purposes on the earth. The wonder of God’s government that let’s mortals be active links in the whole process!
The “Kingdom of God” was not an entirely new concept to the Jewish people who listened to the teachings of Jesus Christ. For centuries, Jews looked forward to the arrival of a Messiah, a King in the line of David, who would restore Israel’s glorious Kingdom. The new order that they anticipated is described in glowing terms in the Prophets.
Despite their eager expectation, most Jews failed to recognize Yeshua as the Messiah. Jesus Christ came to His people without the fanfare and fireworks that mark the arrival of a long awaited King. His Kingdom wasn’t an earthly political entity; instead, it was heavenly and spiritual in nature. He offered no resistance to Roman occupying forces; nor did he incite his followers to rebel against any ruler.
John the Baptist and Jesus announced the imminent arrival of this heavenly Kingdom. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew iii.2) They did not say that the kingdom would arrive several centuries later. The urgency of their message was evident in their teachings and actions. The common English usage “till kingdoms come” does violence to the teaching of Jesus that the kingdom of God was at hand. Besides, the arrival of the Kingdom would be both a joyous occasion for the righteous and a terrible day of judgment for those who reject their Messiah. This was why the Jews were commanded to repent.
Following Jesus’ teaching, the disciples eagerly looked forward to the coming of God’s Kingdom and prayed for its arrival. Letters to the early church reveal how Christians of the first century prepared themselves for the arrival of the Day of the Lord. They hoped that the old order of worship, including sacrifices and the Temple – that which were already “obsolete and aging” – would soon “disappear.” (Hebrew viii.13)
Did God answer the apostles’ prayer? Or was the announced imminent arrival of the Kingdom a false alarm? Did such a Day arrive when the old order of worship was wiped out and judgment meted out to those who rejected the Messiah?