The Coming of God’s Kingdom
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 102)
by Bob Burridge ©2012
When sin was introduced into God’s universe there were those who challenged the King of Glory’s rightful authority and power to rule all things. He lost none of his sovereignty, but it became obscured in the eyes of the fallen beholders.
As hard as it may be for us finite creatures to understand, the challengers were part of the eternal plan. Their rebellion came as no surprise to the one who decreed it to reveal his justice and grace.
The great power struggle in this spiritual battle is led by Satan, the great deceiver and enemy of us all. His impossible ambition is to be free of the kingship of God the Creator. In the temptation of Adam the whole human race was brought into that conflict. We struggle today on the current battle-field of that cosmic war. Evil strives to suppress God’s display of glory in every area of human life. The confusion over who is King, over who is Lord of all and of your own life personally is a more serious concern than most people realize.
The second petition in the Lord’s Prayer is, “… Thy kingdom come … “
God’s Kingship and Kingdom are major themes in Scripture. The Old Testament is filled with promises about God establishing his kingdom. In the New Testament the word “kingdom” is used about 160 times. In the Book of Acts the Apostle’s Message is called the preaching of the Kingdom six times. God obviously considered it to be a very important thing for us to know about.
The kingdom idea is hard for us to understand today. Our modern political and social systems are nothing like the ancient ones. Most of us have grown up without a king of any kind. In my country our leaders are chosen by elections, and pledge to preserve the constitution which was designed to limit the authority and power of those who hold office. When they fail to do well they can be voted out of office. If leaders break laws they can be charged, tried, and if found guilty put in jail.
Even the Kings and Queens we know from our more recent English heritage are constitutional monarchs. They are limited by law, and by elected representatives who actually make the laws and set the policies for their nation.
The ancient concept of kings and kingdoms was very different. The king was totally sovereign over his subjects. His word was law, and there was no appeal. What he said was right simply because he said it. Individuals were thought to exist for the King. He controlled the military and the police to restrain his enemies and lawbreakers. God’s rule over the universe and over his church is not like that of our modern states. In his providence he permitted that ancient system to develop so that he might used it to reveal his kingship over all that is.
As Creator, he rules with absolute Sovereign authority over all things and all other beings. His word is law simply because he made things to be a certain way. Everything exists for Him. His glory is always the highest good. He alone has infinite power to preserve his kingdom and to protect his people.
When we pray, “Thy kingdom come” we are not asking for it to arrive because it has not yet come. God is absolutely sovereign now, always was, and always will be. He is not waiting to become king. His Kingship, and therefore his Kingdom, has always been totally everywhere. There is only one true Kingdom, because there is but one true King, one Sovereignty, one Dominion that is over all.
Because God allowed sin into his creation, his Kingdom is not always clearly perceived or understood here on earth. Sin distorts God’s Kingship in the eyes of fallen creatures. The result is the acceptance of false ideas about his Kingdom, and the rise of a Kingdom of Deception.
The Head of State of that Kingdom of Satan is not really sovereign at all. His words are not law in any true sense of the word. His power is limited by the one higher than himself, the one who made him. Satan cannot preserve and protect his people. He cannot deliver on his promises to his followers. He only deceives, abuses, and dooms them.
History is filled with rivals to the thrones of Kingdoms. Bible history is filled with stories about usurpers in Israel and the other ancient nations. Even King David had to deal with his son Absolom who tried to take over the kingdom from his father by using spies, deceit, and military force.
Anyone can call himself a king, but is not what makes him one. Satan, from the beginning, has envied God’s power and authority. He has deceived people’s hearts, and lured nations into his anti-god ways. He feeds a culture of immorality, addictions, violence, and perverted religion.
He also knows the importance of God’s kingdom in the lives of God’s children. He knows that a right understanding of it brings comfort and encouragement, and weakens his claim to power. So he promotes a distorted view of all the world, and of God. He wants to confuse you, and make people believe him, and fear his false claims.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes what this prayer petition means in question 102. It answers this way:
“In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.”
The answer breaks down into three parts. When we say “Thy Kingdom come”,
1. we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed;
2. we pray that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it;
3. we pray that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.
Satan is a liar from the beginning.
His kingdom is a deception. He has no real power over us. We should not believe his lies, or be taken in by his deceptions about what he claims to be able to do.
In human wars, the enemy tries to make it look like he is winning, even when he is not. He hopes the fear factor will dishearten the brave and empower the critics of the war. That kind of propaganda has been used in wars as long as history has been written. The same tactic is used by the forces of Satan in the cosmic battle here on earth.
God’s Kingdom has been progressively destroying the false kingdom all through history. The first attack on the human race was in Eden. It was a tragic attack, but it was quickly answered. God revealed why he allowed Adam and Eve to be taken in by deceit. He announced his plan to use a child born of a woman to totally defeat Satan and evil. The amazing plan of redemption, the reality of grace and mercy, and the power of his divine love were suddenly displayed in a way the enemy had not anticipated. The gospel promise was a devastating blow to the enemy after his first human attack.
Though the attacks that followed were fierce, at each stage the Kingship of God was made more clear. The depravity in the time of Noah was answered by a great flood, but Noah was saved by grace. When the nations of the earth drifted off into paganism, by grace God blessed one tribe of his choosing, the family of Abraham. When all seemed lost after hundreds of years of captivity and enslavement in Egypt, when Israel no longer bore any resemblance of a nation, God raised up Moses. The victory at the Red Sea and in the law being given at Sinai proved without any doubt, God still ruled as Sovereign Lord in a Kingdom emerging little by little through the ages.
The Kings of Israel showed what a mess we make of God’s kingdom when human greed takes over and tries to usurp the power and glory of God. Each time God raised up his Prophets to point out the hard to admit but indisputable reality: God was king, and this is his kingdom both to those who like that fact, and to those who do not.
Then Jesus came, the promised Messiah, God himself in real human flesh. He went to the cross innocently to suffer for all the guilt of all his people. The promise of Eden was completed on that hill just outside Jerusalem. Satan’s doom and ultimate defeat was sealed by the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior.
Then the church was born. It expanded from a group of cast out Jews to become a major force in the world. It has been infiltrated, its name and reputation compromised, perverted, and confused. However, the true church lives on declaring God’s Kingdom, and rescuing lost souls.
We fight in that continuing battle
against the Kingdom of Deception.
It is the job of this church, of you and me, of all true believers in all faithful churches, to continue to declare God’s kingship and glory. Not just that he is king over the elements, natural laws, and nations, but also as the loving Redeemer-King who rules wisely, and blesses his covenant people.
First, do your best to expose the lies. You have God’s truth in your Bible. It is your duty to keep improving your understanding of what is says there. You also have the Holy Spirit enable those you talk with to understand the message. Stay active in prayer to the King of kings asking for his transforming power to work in you and in others. Tell people what you know God said, and help them become a part of the true Kingdom. The lies cannot stand up when exposed to the truth.
Second, do not let sin run things in God’s Creation and Kingdom. Do not let it rule in society in general, or in his church where his kingship is specially seen. Impose God’s principles wherever you can to restrain the workings of sin. That means being a responsible citizen and a good neighbor. Support and vote for leaders who are most likely to persevere and promote God’s principles. Do not be taken in by the promises of politicians that they will give you personal privileges or material advantages.
Third, let people know that Satan is a defeated enemy. Tell about the victory of Jesus over Satan at the Cross. This is a fact, even though the critics of God’s kingdom make it look as if it was not the victory it is.
In Matthew 12:28-29 Jesus assured us that his miracles proved that God’s Kingdom had come to them. There he said, “if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”
God’s Kingdom had come to his listeners already in the special way promised by the prophets. If that was not true, he would not be commanding the demons. But he was. The Kingdom of Messiah had come in this special way during the earthly ministry of Jesus.
Satan was being bound by Jesus at that time, not at some future time. He was the “strong man” Jesus spoke of. His deceptive kingdom was being plundered even then, and it continues to be plundered now. Captive souls were and are being set free. In John 12:31 Jesus told us that Satan was already being dethroned. He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
This was something happening at that time, “now” as Jesus put it. Satan was being cast out of the throne he falsely claimed. In the verses that follow Jesus connected this victory with his coming death on Calvary.
Though the final Judgment is yet future, the defeat of Satan is a past fact of history. The Apostle Paul told us about this disarming of the enemy in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
It is an accomplished fact. God’s promise in Eden was fulfilled by Jesus Christ on the cross. The seed of the woman had come in Bethlehem. Though he suffered, he crushed the head of that old serpent the Devil. However, Satan is still active in the death throws of an imagined but impossible take-over.
John explained this bondage of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3. He describes God’s angel coming down with the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. It says in verse 2, “He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;”
Verse 3 describes this bound condition of the enemy of God in this church age, “and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. …”
How is it that Satan is bound now but still obviously very active? This verse explains it very clearly and directly. It says he is no longer able to deceive the nations, the gentiles. After the Cross, when this Deceiver King was defeated and bound, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church at Pentecost. The Gentile age had begun. No longer would only the Jews be God’s people. God was taking back his world from the defeated enemy.
The term “thousand years” is regularly used in the Bible to represent the whole of something. For example, Psalm 50:10 tells us that God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.” There are many times more hills in this world. Many more than that in Israel alone. His is not telling us that on all those other hills God has no control of the cattle. It uses that number as was common in the Hebrew language as a term meaning “the whole of all the hills.” There are many examples of this representative use of that number: Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 90:4, Psalm 91:7 to cite a few.
In this case it means this entire age of the Christian Church on earth, the whole time Satan’s power to deceive the nations is taken away. In that way he remains bound. The Kingdom promise to Abraham was fulfilled. God had told him that through his descendants (one of whom was Jesus) all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).
Though that Devil will be loosed again at the end of this age, he is doomed. For now, his powers are more limited than at any other age in history. The gospel has no national limits and is advancing until all God’s people are saved.
Tear the lie to pieces. Leave nothing left of it in the hearts of those you love. Jesus completed the promises. Satan was dethroned. The evil powers were disarmed, and Satan was bound. One day he will be utterly and completely silenced. Satan is doomed. His lies about what makes life fun and what gets you what you want are exposed.
So the Fourth duty is to rescue captive souls through the gospel of Christ. This leads us into the next part of the Catechism answer, “… that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.”
My dad fought in World War II as an Army paratrooper and medic. He fought in several campaigns including the Rhine Crossing and the Battle of the Bulge where he was decorated with the Bronze Star. His stories of it are captivating.
Wars are hard and horrible things. Sometimes an enemy becomes so threatening and deadly that he has to be stopped by force. After the battle, when the evil aggressors are out of power, there has to be rebuilding. If not, the devastated country becomes a breeding ground for more violence. We also can help the people oppressed by former regimes to get back to their lives.
My dad also served in the occupation forces in Germany trying to build an orderly ally where there was once a dedicated enemy. Some of the stories he tells of the confrontations he faced there are as interesting as the war stories.
We have seen how difficult reconstruction can be in defeated countries where terrorism flourished. Some have not wanted to be stabilized. This was also true at first in Berlin, in Tokyo, and in other countries that were once vicious enemies. The reconstruction work in some of those cases took many years or even decades.
What is true in our human wars is also true in the great cosmic war in which we all serve soldiers. Reconstruction is not just to change outward structures. In the case of God’s Kingdom, we have an advantage. Christ changes the hearts of those rescued from the enemy. He places in them a desire to conform to the ways of their Savior. Yet we are not to leave them unattended. We are to guide and help one another to grow spiritually by the use of the means of grace God has entrusted to us.
We are to advance the true Kingdom as we take the ground held by the enemy. We need to be building up the Kingdom of God’s special Covenant with his people. Once someone is rescued from spiritual death and bondage, they need to learn to be free and to become part of the Lord’s army to promote his good ways.
The Kingdom of Grace is where God
specially rules among his Covenant People.
God’s kingship is more than just his sovereignty and power over people and things. There is a special way that God is king. He redeems his people from sin and makes them his adopted children. By his Covenant Promises he bind them together into a spiritual nation, a Kingdom of God. This Covenant Kingship is only realized in those redeemed out of the Kingdom of Satan.
There is only one way to become part of this covenant kingdom. We enter by an act of God’s grace. Grace is the undeserved redeeming love of God for his people. Becoming a Christian is never something you earn. If you do good things it is because you were changed by Christ’s unmerited love. Grace alone has always been the way into the Kingdom of the Redeemed. The Bible says repeatedly that nobody is justified by his own deeds or efforts.
In Genesis 6:8 how was it that Noah obeyed God when others did not? It says, “He found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Abraham became father of God’s nation because God chose him when he was nothing. He is the prime example in the New Testament books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews to prove that it is not what men do, but what God does, that redeems a person. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 7 that God chose his people by his lovingkindness, by grace alone. David many times wrote about how all the good he ever did, was by God’s lovingkindness to him. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “… Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
When a person is rescued from the grips of Satan’s Kingdom of Destruction, he is naturalized into this Kingdom of God by grace alone. In that new citizenship he begins to see God for the Loving King that he is.
Those who trust in themselves or in the intercession of the church for their salvation, may imagine they are true children of God, but biblically they cannot be. It is only by grace, evidenced by faith in Christ alone, that anyone can be assured that he’s a citizen of God’s spiritual Kingdom. Only by grace can a person come to appreciate the covenant promises and the King’s unfailing care.
The Kingdom of Grace is an advancing kingdom.
Lives have been rebuilt out of the rubble of Satan’s Kingdom all through history. God turned the fall of mankind in Eden into a stage for revealing the greatest promise ever. He showed that Satan did not succeed in his attempt to destroy the human race. Instead Satan became an unwilling participant in the display of God’s glory, in the demonstration of the Creator’s justice, mercy, and love.
God rebuilt a judgment destroyed world, repopulating it through Noah’s family. He rebuilt the shattered life of a man named Moses. In the desert in his old age, God transformed him into a leader of the Kingdom of Grace. Through him, God took a humiliated population of slaves, and made them his Covenant Nation. Later, when her Kings rebelled, God sent Prophets to point the way to spiritual reconstruction.
The Kingdom of Grace advanced even more though the coming of Jesus Christ. He carried out what was promised from the beginning, and only hoped for until then. In his holy life and by his death on the cross Jesus paid the ransom for all his people. He became King over his Covenant People in a more visible and open way than before. He came to reign forever over the house of Jacob in a kingdom that would have no end. Hebrews 1:8 tells us that in Psalm 45:6 it was describing Jesus when the Psalmist wrote, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church at Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter explained that this was all part of the advance of the Kingdom. He said that this resurrected Jesus now rules on David’s throne. Within a generation, in 70 AD, judgment fell upon apostate Israel and the desecrated Temple. A new form of the Kingdom of Grace advanced to greater glory here on earth.
All through the history of that church, this Kingdom has been advancing. More are brought in day-by-day, one-by-one, as God’s plan unfolds.
This doesn’t mean that every year the number of Christians alive on earth is greater. There are times when true Christianity has been a small minority on earth. But always, every day, a greater percentage of the total elect are brought in. In the time of the Apostles only a small part of the Kingdom had been extended. There were yet millions of Christians to be born and believe.
Where are we now? Are there millions more? or is the total of the elect almost all brought in? We cannot know. Maybe 99.99% of all those chosen by grace are already saved, or maybe billions are yet to be set free from sin’s bondage.
Maybe there are more tragedies to come before then, to show the horrors of sin, and to demonstrate that the Kingdom of Satan cannot deliver the things it offers in its lies. As you see evil in its throws of death in desperation doing horrible things around you, remember that evil is defeated and is squirming in futility to be free of God’s grip. But evil is doomed. Reconstruction is underway in God’s territory.
Now and then stories are published in the local news about how it seems that US Highway 19 is never complete. I moved to this area of Florida in 1963. This road has been under some type of repair ever since then. Locals have said that it is not as much a road, as it is a construction site. As one reconstruction area is completed, needs crop up in ones repaired in the past. The job seems never to come to an end.
That is not that way it is with the Kingdom of Grace. How much longer before the reconstruction is complete? We don’t know. But until the Lord appears in all his glory and judgment, we have work to do here and now. We are the occupation army put here to rebuild out of the rubble.
When our house was destroyed by a tornado in 1992 the people of our church showed up with boxes, pick-up trucks, and black plastic bags. We sifted through the rubble to retrieve what we could, then the bulldozers came to get rid of the rest.
When the church I pastored was damaged with fire in 2004 there was a day when we all came here to clear out what we could salvage. Then the demolition of the damaged parts took place so we could rebuild. The result was a better building than we had before.
God’s Kingdom advances similarly. By his grace we see the rubble cleared away which had been left in us by the damage of sin left in the wake of its former rule in our lives. By his work in us, we strive to demolition all that remains of the ugly ways of wickedness. In its place we rebuild according to God’s plan. Transformed hearts show their gratitude and love of the Savior by putting on the ways of the new relationship we have as redeemed children. (Colossians 3:5-10)
Like US-19, it may appear that the job is never going to be finished. But there will come a time when your life and the lives of those you love in Christ will be finished, matured in glory, and the plans completed. It’s with that great expectation that we pray anticipating that the Kingdom of Grace will be advancing as it fulfills God’s promises in each believer, and in the larger plan for all of creation. God tells us that our prayers are effective. He uses them in completing his will on earth.
In Matthew 13 Jesus made some simple comparisons to help us understand this truth. He likened the Kingdom to a mustard seed. It begins very small, but grows to be immense (13:31-32). He also said it is like leaven. Just a small piece expands the whole batch of dough (13:33).
The Kingdom of Grace advances until all God’s children are brought in, meanwhile individuals grow spiritually to appreciate it more, and we work together as a family to increase its influence on everything and everyone you know. While you labor for Christ to the best of your ability, empowered by God through Christ, pray, “Thy Kingdom come.”
This Kingdom is still imperfect. We still struggle with sin and fail to fully appreciate God’s sovereign glory.
But there will come a yet greater and complete revealing of God’s Kingship at Christ’s return.
Therefore, you should also pray that
the Kingdom of Glory will be hastened.
The Kingdom of Glory is God’s Kingdom when all the promises are fulfilled perfectly. It’s that time when all sin will be eradicated, when the Kingdom of Satan will no longer exist as a viable enemy. It will be when all God’s people are united by Christ into the Spiritual family of their Heavenly Father.
It comes at the end of this age when Jesus Christ returns in final judgment. The ones he graciously redeemed will be taken into eternal glory. The rest will receive what we all deserve if it was not for our Savior’s death in our place.
But how long until he comes? No one knows. The time is fixed unalterably in the perfect plan of God.
So then why should you pray for the hastening of this Kingdom of Glory? You certainly would not want God to change his perfect and wise plan to speed up the cosmic calendar. If he has decreed that it would be best not to come yet, only a fool would want to make it come sooner.
God uses his people’s prayers not as a way to change his plans, but to carry them out. When you pray for this final day to come, you show your excited hope and expectation by faith of the coming age of glory. You show how much you confidently long for God’s Kingdom to reach its fullest visibility and perfection.
This is what Jesus meant when
he taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come …”.
God uses your prayers and obedience as his means of carrying out his plan.
1. Pray for the destruction of Satan’s Kingdom. Be busy exposing its lies, and telling God’s truth. Limit sin’s acceptance by those around you through the encouragement of God’s ways. Treat Satan as a defeated enemy who is on the run. Expect to be used by our Savior in rescuing captive souls from their spiritual bondage
2. Pray for the advance of God’s Kingdom of Grace in the world today. Build up God’s Kingdom by diligent faithfulness to God as your King. Tell others about God’s saving grace. Bring the lost to church, and explain the gospel individually. Romans 10 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Humbly and prayerfully attack the remains of sin in your life and in the world around you by the power of the Risen Savior. Improve people’s understanding of God as the Sovereign King over everything. In place of the rubble left in people’s lives by the rule of sin and Satan, help them build a new life centered on Christ and God’s word.
3. Pray that the perfect and eternal Kingdom of Glory would be hastened. Jesus is going to return. That is a fact. We cannot know when it will happen. When he comes, everything God promised and warned about for our era will be completed. Be ready for that moment. Missionary Jim Elliot died as a martyr bringing the gospel to people in sin’s bondage. In 1951 he wrote this in his journal, “When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.” Do not be in a position of having issues that would make you pray to delay his coming. That would be exactly the opposite of what Jesus teaches you to do.
One day your prayers will be ancient history. The redeemed will look back upon the dim memory of this earthly life, and will enjoy the daily reality of the Kingdom of Glory. Make your citizenship there sure. Be a good patriot of God’s Kingdom by hastening its perfection by your prayers and thankful obedience.
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)