Before the Throne: Your Kingdom Come

Sermon by David Strain on September 12

Matthew 6:9-13

Well do keep your Bibles in hand and turn now to the New Testament scriptures and to the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 6. We are exploring the teaching of the Lord Jesus in the gospel records on the subject of prayer. And for the last few weeks we have been working our way, phrase by phrase, through the Lord’s Prayer. And this morning we come to the second request, the second petition, of the Lord’s Prayer. And so we pray, “Our Father, Your kingdom come.” The first petition is, “Hallowed be Your name.” The second, “Your kingdom come.”

And as we consider it together, I want to notice four themes in particular. First, the kingdom for which we are praying implies there is a King. The kingdom has a King. Secondly, that we are praying for the kingdom implies citizenship. The kingdom has a King and the kingdom has citizens. In the third place, that we are praying for the kingdom to come implies resistance; there is hostility that has to be overcome in order for this kingdom to advance. And so the kingdom is in conflict. The kingdom has a King, the kingdom has citizens, the kingdom is in conflict, and finally, Jesus teaches us that the kingdom is coming. There is a sense in which it is already here, inaugurated, but there is a sense in which we wait for its consummation, for its final arrival in all its wonderful glory and fullness. The kingdom is coming.

And so that’s the outline. Have you got it? The kingdom has a King. The kingdom has citizens. The kingdom is in conflict. And the kingdom is coming. Before we get into all of that, let’s pray together and then we’ll read the Scriptures. Let us pray.

King Jesus, You rule by Your Word and Spirit in Your Church, and we pray now that by that same Word and Spirit Your governance of our hearts might be known and felt as You make us more like Yourself, for Your own honor and glory, for we ask this in Your name, amen.

Matthew chapter 6, beginning at verse 9. This is the Word of God:

“Pray then like this: 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Amen, and we praise God that He has spoken in His holy, inerrant Word.

I hope you will agree that there is great value in the regular recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Over time, it becomes like spiritual muscle memory. It’s theology, it’s language, it’s structure, it’s cadence and rhythms become a part of us, part of our instinct, part of how we think and pray. It becomes part of us. But there are dangers too, of course. With so much else, familiarity can breed contempt and we forget all too easily, don’t we, what a mighty thing prayer is; what a mighty thing this particular prayer really is. A couple of stories to illustrate how mighty this prayer is.

In December 1989, the Securitate, the Romanian secret police, arrived at the doors of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Timisoara to arrest their pastor. But a crowd of parishioners had gathered to form a human shield to block their path. Soon the crowd had grown and began to flood the surrounding streets. In no time at all, the protest outside the Hungarian Reformed Church had swollen actually into a revolution. Forces loyal to the dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, fired machine gun rounds into the crowds. Many hundreds of protestors lost their lives, and yet still the surge of momentum toward freedom marched on.

On Friday, December 22, the Baptist pastor, Reverend Peter Dugulescu, was on a balcony overlooking the city’s Opera Square when official word reached him of the overthrow of Ceausescu. After introducing himself to the crowd, the pastor related the harassment he had suffered at the hands of the Securitate, including a staged car accident in 1985 that left him with a deformed arm. He shared that, “He had undergone other difficulties and problems but that God had protected me and I was alive by His grace. Then,” said Dugulescu, “the people started to shout enthusiastically, ‘God exists! There is a God!’” With some 150,000 people in the square, Dugulescu then did something truly revolutionary. He asked the crowd, who had lived for so long under a brutal atheistic regime, to pray together. Without being asked to do it,” wrote Dugulescu, “all of them knelt down facing the cathedral and I prayed in the microphone and they repeated after me. What I had realized was that throughout the manifestations in Timisoara there was a strong religious accent. After so many years of atheistic education that was systematically carried out among the youth and people. This shout, this hunger for God, burst strongly several times a day. About five times they would pray together this prayer and would shout, ‘God exists!’” And what was the prayer they prayed that day, kneeling together in the public square in defiance of years of aggressive, communist atheism? “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come…” Five times a day they prayed the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray and the brutal oppression under which they had lived for so very long came crashing down.

On 9/11, when hijackers captured Flight 93, Todd Beamer was able to access the phone on the airplane and called Lisa Jefferson, an operator for GTE, to tell her what was happening on board the flight. Eventually Todd reported, “We have hatched a plan. Four of us are going to rush the hijacker with the bomb. After we take him out, we’ll break into the cockpit. A stewardess is getting some boiling water to throw on the hijackers at the controls. We’ll get them and we’ll take them out.” And then he paused and said, “Lisa, will you do one last thing for me?” “Yes, what is it?” she replied. “Would you pray with me?” And so just before Todd Beamer and the others made their attempt to save Flight 93, just before Flight 93 went down so tragically, these words were prayed together. “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come…”

The Kingdom has a King

Praying the Lord’s Prayer together ought never to be a mark of deadly tedium. Praying the Lord’s Prayer is spiritual dynamite. And that’s especially so, actually, when we pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come.” Notice first of all that praying for the kingdom implies that the One to whom we are praying is a King. “Your kingdom come,” we say. The kingdom has a King. Isn’t it easy to domesticate God? To reduce Him to a cosmic therapist whose main function is to make us feel better about things or treat Him as little more than a sort of Santa Claus for the rest of the year – you know, someone to whom we can send our prayer wish lists in the hope of getting something nice out of Him so long as we’ve been good enough. Isn’t that all too often how we treat Him? But the Scriptures know nothing of such a God, do they? The only God who is there, the Bible tells us, the only God worth calling on when hijackers strap bombs to their chests and take over the plane that you are traveling on, the only God worth calling on is King. He is Sovereign. He is Lord.

The Kingdom of Creation and Providence

And I want you to see that the Bible actually speaks of Him as King in two, quite distinct ways. First of all, the Bible speaks of God as a universal King. Psalm 103 verse 19, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 115 verse 3, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” Psalm 47 verse 2, “The Lord, the Most High, is to be feared. A great King over all the earth.” Daniel 5:2, “The Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom He will.” Ephesians 1:11, “God works all things according to the counsel of His will.” God is King of all things. He presides over everything – over time and trees and molecules and molehills and politicians and pundits and polls and pandemics. He sits enthroned in the heavens and He reigns over all. God is a universal King, and as such, He governs what we might call the kingdom of creation and providence. He governs the days, the rising and the setting of the sun, the turning of the seasons, all the days ordained for us are written in His book before as yet one of them has come to be. He knows the end from the beginning. He is the Lord of the nations before whom all the peoples are as a drop from the bucket. Princes rise and fall, empires grow and decline, kings and presidents and prime ministers come and go. But God the Lord over them all. He is the King of a kingdom of creation and providence.

The Kingdom of Redemption that comes through Jesus Christ

Now, this is important – when we pray in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come,” we are not praying for that kingdom, the kingdom of creation and providence. After all, that kingdom is not capable of coming. It is here already in all its fullness. It knows no decline or any increase. God is absolutely sovereign right now and He presides over all things in the kingdom of creation and providence. When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are praying for another kingdom because God is a King in another sense. He is not only the absolute and universal King of creation and providence; He is the King of a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for His own possession whom He has redeemed from every tribe and language and nation. He is the King of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ who rules over His Church and whose kingdom is a spiritual and redemptive kingdom. And so when Jesus came into the world, you remember how He summed up His Gospel message – “The kingdom of God,” He said, “is at hand.” “There’s something new breaking into the world with My arrival on the scene.”

In fact, in Luke 17:20, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When would the kingdom come?” And He replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here is it,’ or, ‘There.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Do you see the point He is making there? It’s actually a stunning claim when you think about it. Jesus was telling them that in Him, with His appearing, His public ministry, His very person, the kingdom of God itself had broken into the midst of human history in a new way.

In his commentary on Matthew 18, the second century theologian, Origen of Alexandria, noticed that Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a king who wished to settle his accounts with his servants. “The kingdom of heaven is like a king,” Jesus says in Matthew 18. Isn’t that interesting language? The kingdom of heaven is like a king. Now listen to Origen’s reflection on that comparison. “If it be likened, if the kingdom of heaven be likened to such a king, and one who has done such things, who must we say that it is but the Son of God? For He is the King of the heavens, and as He is absolute wisdom and absolute righteousness and absolute truth, is He not also absolute kingdom? Jesus,” Origen says, “is absolute kingdom.” Actually that’s an odd Victorian translation of what Origen actually said. He’s using a little Greek word, “auto,” which when attached to the noun is saying something extraordinary. What he really says when he says, “Jesus is absolute wisdom, absolute righteousness, absolute truth, absolute kingdom,” he’s really saying Jesus is wisdom itself, righteousness itself, truth itself, and Jesus is the kingdom itself. The kingdom in Himself. He is “autobasileia” – the kingdom in person; the kingdom in Himself. In Jesus, the rule of God breaks into the world. And so the saving, redemptive kingdom for which we are praying when we say, “Our Father, Your kingdom come,” in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we’re not praying about a place or a political platform – that’s important – or about a social program – that’s important. We are praying for the saving, personal reign and rule of Jesus Christ in the hearts and lives of sinners through the Gospel. That’s what we’re praying for in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer. That’s the kingdom in view here.

That’s why in John 18:33 Jesus told Pilate – you remember His interview with Pilate just before His crucifixion? He told him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting that I might not be delivered over to the Jews, but My kingdom is not from this world.” What is He saying? He’s saying, “My kingdom is not a political kingdom and it does not advance by earthly, human, political means. It is a spiritual kingdom; a kingdom that redeems sinners from the clutches of the enemy and makes them children of God,” which is important because it teaches us not to conflate any particular social or party-political or geo-political or nation-state with the kingdom of Jesus Christ. When you pray, “Your kingdom come,” you’re not really praying for the triumph of the Republican Party, just so we’re clear! You’re praying for the extension of the Gospel around the world. You’re not draping the cross in the Star Spangled Banner or the Union Jack for that matter. You’re not baptizing the foreign policy of any particular country in the world.

“My people who are called by My name,” 2 Chronicles 7:14, is not talking about the United States of America! “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, I will hear from heaven and forgive them their sin and heal their land.” Who are, “My people”? It’s not Great Britain. It’s not the United States. It’s not France or Germany or Poland. “My people” are the redeemed of the Lord, narrowly identified with Israel, for whom Solomon was praying. And now in the new covenant age, who are “My people who are called by My name,” who here are to repent? It’s the Church of Jesus Christ. So when you pray 2 Chronicles 7:14, you’re not praying for this land, which I want to encourage you to do, by the way; pray for this country. But when you pray, “Your kingdom come,” you are praying for the advance of the good news about Jesus, and we do need to be clear about that, not to confuse the kingdom of creation and providence with the kingdom of redemption that comes through Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom has Citizens

And that brings me neatly to the second thing that I want you to see here regarding the kingdom for which we are praying when we say, “Your kingdom come.” First, the kingdom has a King; a King who redeems. Secondly, the kingdom has citizens over whom the King reigns. And we should ask, “Is everyone in the world automatically a citizen of this kingdom for which we are praying here in the Lord’s Prayer?” To be sure, everyone is a citizen of the kingdom of creation and providence simply by virtue of their birth, right? By being a creature, you live in the realm of the creation over which the Creator reigns. Like the child of an immigrant to the United States born in this country, automatically becomes a citizen of this country. Is that all it takes to become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven? Natural birth? Well no. We’ve already said, haven’t we, that the kingdom that we are praying for here in this second petition is a spiritual kingdom, and so you enter it not by natural birth but by spiritual birth. It is a kingdom that comes from above and so we must be born from above to become citizens of it. Otherwise, why would Jesus teach us to pray, “Your kingdom come, let Your kingdom grow, let it advance, let there be more people who join it,” if everyone is automatically a citizen of it simply by virtue of their natural birth? No, we are praying not just for creatures but for sinners, that they might enter the kingdom. They find themselves right now outside of, by nature, but God might make them citizens by His grace.

That’s exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus, you remember, in John chapter 3 in His interview with Nicodemus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you are born again or born from above you cannot see the kingdom of God. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” You can neither perceive the spiritual reality of Christ’s redemptive kingdom nor can you even enter it as a citizen unless you are born from above. So what are you praying for when you pray, “Your kingdom come”? You are praying for new birth. You are praying for spiritual resurrections. If you would be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, you must be born again. You must be born again.

And that actually helps us get right to the very heart of this second petition of the Lord’s Prayer. What are we praying for? We are praying, “Our Father, through the Lord Jesus, save sinners. Take away their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. Raise the spiritually dead. Give them new birth.” We are praying, “Father, raise my unconverted spouse, Lazarus-like, from the tomb of his unbelief.” We are praying, “Father, in my school, in my classroom, at my workplace, among my friends, help me to be a faithful witness to the Gospel so that perhaps through me some of them might enter the kingdom and bend the knee to King Jesus.” We are praying, “Father, save my covenant child, my little boy, my little girl, who has received the sign of the covenant promise in Christian baptism. You have put Your name on them, O God, and You have made promises to me and to them to be a God to me and to my children and to my children’s children. Keep Your promises, O Lord, and follow the sign with the reality that it speaks of – new life! Wash their sin away. Unite them to Jesus. Grant them personal, saving faith and true repentance.”

Do you pray like that, I wonder? That’s what we’re praying for when we pray, “Your kingdom come.” It means to plead with God for more and more people to become citizens born from above, of the kingdom of heaven, living under the saving rule and reign of King Jesus. The kingdom has a King. The kingdom has citizens.

The Kingdom is in Conflict

The kingdom, thirdly, is in conflict. That’s implied, isn’t it, in the prayer itself as we ask for the kingdom to come, to advance? It implies that there is some resistance that must be overcome in order for the kingdom to make progress. “At once,” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “the question arises, ‘Why do not all men bow before the sacred name? Why is not every man on this earth concerned about humbling himself now in the presence of God and worshiping Him and using every moment in adoring Him and spreading forth His name? Why not?’” The answer is, of course, because of sin, because there is another kingdom, the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness. Colossians 1:13, Paul says, “The Father has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of His love.” There is a domain, a kingdom of darkness, from which we must be rescued. It resists and rejects and rebels against the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. And so when we pray, “Father, Your kingdom come,” we are praying for the toppling of Satan’s dominion in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls.

You remember the apostle Paul taught us in Ephesians chapter 6 that, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” And so he says we are to, “put on the whole armor of God so we can withstand the onslaught of the evil one.” But we are to do it all, if you keep reading through Ephesians chapter 6, in a very particular way. Do it all, he says, “praying, at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Take the armor of God praying, with all prayer and prayer and keep alert and persevere, praying for everybody.” That’s what he’s saying. Pray and pray and pray and pray. That is what we are doing when we say, “Our Father, Your kingdom come.”

We are marching into a warzone, calling on the commander in chief to send reinforcements. We’re calling on Jesus to keep His promise to build His Church that the gates of hell might not prevail against it. Prayer is not an optional peacetime telephone to call the heavenly delivery boy to bring you another pizza. Prayer is a wartime radio we cannot do without, designed for use on the frontlines while the bullets of the enemy fly. Were we more alert to the clash of the kingdoms, more aware of the power of prayer in a spiritual warzone, I dare say we would not neglect it nearly as much as we do. And I doubt there would be so many moral and spiritual casualties of Satan’s assaults among us as there are. The kingdom has a King. The kingdom has citizens. The kingdom is in conflict, do you see.

The Kingdom is Coming

And finally, wonderfully, gloriously, we are reminded here the kingdom is coming nevertheless. All the hostility of the evil one notwithstanding, the kingdom is coming. Yes, in one important sense it is already here, ever since Jesus was born and lived and obeyed and bled and died and rose and sits at the right hand of God as the King of kings, the kingdom has come. The kingdom of God has been among us, as Jesus says, saving sinners by His Word and Spirit and grafting them into the Church. The Puritans called the present, inaugurated kingdom of Jesus Christ “the kingdom of grace.” But there is still a not-yet dimension to the kingdom of grace, isn’t there? There’s still opposition to the rule of Jesus Christ. There’s still hatred of His claims, resistance to His Lordship. There’s still the final victory of grace over all things yet to come. The inaugurated kingdom is yet to be consummated. One day, the kingdom of grace will give way to the kingdom of glory.

Thomas Watson wrote, “The kingdom of grace is nothing but the beginning of the kingdom of glory. The kingdom of grace is glory in the seed and the kingdom of glory is grace in the flower. The kingdom of grace is glory in the daybreak and the kingdom of glory is grace in the full meridian. The kingdom of grace is glory militant and the kingdom of glory is grace triumphant.” Isn’t that lovely? “The kingdom of grace is glory in the seed. The kingdom of glory is grace in the flower. The kingdom of grace is glory militant. The kingdom of glory is grace triumphant.” I love it because it rings with that same note of final surety and certainty with which the Scriptures universally ring when they speak of the Christian’s hope. They all resound with the same message, don’t they? In our darkness they remind us the bright, full sunshine is coming. When the devil seems to advance all around us, they sing, “Good news! Jesus the King will return!” As Psalm 2 puts it, “The Father is going to give Him the nations for His inheritance. The Father is going to make His enemies a footstool for His feet.”

And so press on. Hear the reminder of the certainty of final glory yet to come every time you say, “Your kingdom come.” The Church amidst suffering for a season here, one day soon will become the Church celebrating forever hereafter. “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun, does its successive journeys run. His kingdom stretch from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.” And so when we pray, “Our Father, Your kingdom come,” we are praying in the hope of glory. We are lifting our eyes to the horizon line, in eager expectation of the Lord’s soon appearing. As we look all around us at the rubble and ruin of sin on every hand and we see the wreckage of human lives shattered by the fall, we are repeating the apostle John’s heart cry, “Even so, come Lord Jesus! Come! Bring sin and Satan and suffering to an end at last. Silence evil. Establish justice at last. Make the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ at last.” And though we long that He might do it now, today, our cries nevertheless are to ring with faith that however long the dawning of that day may yet wait, we do have the assurance that it is nearer now than when we first believed.

The kingdom has a King and He reigns already in the hearts of sinners whom He has saved by His grace. And the kingdom has citizens, delivered from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. And yes, the kingdom is in conflict, and so when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are marching into the combat zone. But let us never forget that the kingdom is still coming. Praise God that is it. One day, every cry, since Jesus first gave us this prayer, that through to the heavens, “O God, Your kingdom come,” will be answered all at once and Jesus will return in absolute victory and every eye will see Him and every knee will bow to Him and He will have in all things the supremacy on that great day. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Let’s pray together.

O God, we bow before You and we do pray with renewed urgency seeing sin festering in our own hearts, in our fellowship, in our city, around our country, around the world, the evil and wickedness of men, the tragedy and brokenness of life this side of Eden, this side of the new creation, and we do pray, come Lord Jesus, come. Bring sin and sorrow and suffering and death and Satan to an end. Topple His kingdom finally and absolutely and reign. Till that day dawns, O Lord Jesus, give us persevering grace and use us, use us in this week ahead to speak a word for You that perhaps by our instrumentality You might call those in the domain of darkness into union with Jesus Christ, delivering them from the domain of darkness and transferring them by Your mighty resurrection power into the kingdom of the Son of Your love. For we ask this all in His name, amen.

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