The Lord’s Prayer is a familiar Bible passage, and most Christians have said these words many times: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). However, do we know what we’re asking of God? What is His kingdom, where is it, and who is a part of it? Since God’s will at present is not carried out perfectly on earth, Jesus was obviously talking about a future kingdom.
In the Old Testament, God promised Israel a literal earthly kingdom with the Messiah ruling over the world from Jerusalem. And this was exactly what the Jews expected Jesus to do—overthrow Rome, exalt Israel as head over all the nations, and bring abundant blessings of prosperity and peace. They correctly understood the character of the kingdom but failed to recognize that before it could come, the Messiah must suffer and die for the sins of the people, as prophesied in Isaiah 53:1-12. Jesus came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin so those who believe in Him could be reconciled to God, receive eternal life, and become heirs of His kingdom.
Read Acts 1:1-8; Acts 3:11-26
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from these passages. Then read the sections, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
After spending 40 days teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God, Jesus didn’t refute their understanding that the kingdom would one day be restored to Israel even though the nation had rejected its Messiah. He simply said they couldn’t know when that would happen, and explained their mission was to serve as His witnesses.
The Jews expected Jesus to overthrow Rome and bring abundant blessings of prosperity and peace.
And that is precisely what Peter did in Acts 3. He pointed out Israel’s sin in disowning and killing Jesus and called the people to repent so that “times of refreshing” and “the restoration of all things” would come (vv. 19, 21). Both these phrases refer to the kingdom, which was prophesied in the Scriptures. When the nation of Israel finally recognizes Jesus as their Messiah and repents, God will send Jesus back to them to establish the Messianic kingdom. (See Zech. 12:10; Matt. 23:39.)
Read Matthew 13:24-43
The delay of Israel’s promised kingdom was no surprise to Jesus. He used many parables to illustrate the kingdom of heaven as it would exist before His return to rule from Jerusalem. From these parables in Matthew 13, we learn that the present kingdom of God is characterized by growth. It began very small with just a few of Christ’s disciples and has continued to grow throughout history as the gospel has spread throughout the world.
The present kingdom of God began very small with just a few of Christ’s disciples and has continued throughout history.
The second characteristic is that “the sons of the kingdom” and “the sons of the evil one” presently coexist in the world, and we can’t always distinguish who the true believers in Christ are (v. 38). However, this blending will cease at the “end of the age” when the Son of Man returns, sending angels to remove the wicked from the earth (v. 39). Jesus came the first time to seek and save the lost, but when He returns to set up His kingdom, it will be a time of judgment. Scripture describes how He will sit on His glorious throne and separate the righteous from the wicked (Matt. 25:31-46).
Write your thoughts in a journal.
At times certain biblical statements about God’s kingdom seem at odds. However, if we understand that Christ is now in heaven ruling over His people as Lord but one day will physically return to set up His kingdom on earth, the apparent conflicts will resolve. In the following pairs of passages, the first one speaks of God’s kingdom as it is today, and the second refers to Christ’s earthly rule when He returns. In each category, how do both references fit together?
• Signs: Luke 17:20-21 and Luke 21:25-33.
• Location: John 18:33-36 and Zechariah 14:1-9
• Conditions: Romans 8:16-25 and Isaiah 11:1-10
• Prosperity and Blessing: Matthew 5:3-12 and Isaiah 65:17-25
Knowing how to enter the kingdom is crucial for each of us personally. Look up the following passages and note what is required for entry.
Christ is now in heaven ruling over His people as Lord but one day will physically return to set up His kingdom on earth.
• Matthew 7:13-27
• John 3:1-21
• 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
• In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told His disciples to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. Considering the context in verses Matt. 6:25-34, what do you think it means to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness? How can you tell if you have not made it a priority?
• As long as we’re on the earth, we are living in the kingdom of this world. That’s why 1 Peter 2:11 refers to Christians as “aliens and strangers” who are “to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” How does 2 Peter 1:3-11 encourage us to live in a manner worthy of God’s kingdom?
• Now read Revelation 5:6-10. In His future kingdom, what awesome privilege does the Lord give to His redeemed people?
• We often become absorbed in the responsibilities and pursuits of earthly life and forget that we belong to a heavenly kingdom. As you read through the Bible, pay attention to passages that mention God’s kingdom, and take note of any commands or admonitions.
• Here’s an easy way to increasingly shift your focus to God’s kingdom: Pray the Lord’s Prayer repeatedly in the coming month, realizing that one day His kingdom will come, and His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. Now imagine the joy of living in such a world, and thank God for His amazing future kingdom.