THY KINGDOM COME
Robert Wurtz II
When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (Luke 11:2)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is what John the Baptist preached, Jesus preached and the Apostles preached.The word Kingdom is used in connection with this theme over 100 times in the New Testament. The subject is so pervasive, that one cannot help but notice it continually as you study the scriptures. Yet in modern times, the Kingdom emphasis in evangelism and church life is not nearly as pronounced. We need to ask, what is the Kingdom that was preached in the New Testament, and why is it essential to the Gospel message? We will look to answer these questions and see how they apply in our everyday lives.
As in Heaven
The LORD Jesus Christ, in setting about to teach the disciples to pray, instructed them in the right way to pray, that is, what theme should be our first priority in prayer; Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. The word kingdom can be broken down into two words: king and domain. It is translated from the Greek word basileia with a root basileus that means ‘foundation of power’. We translate basileus typically as king or sovereign. The kingdom of God motif originated with the theocratic kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament. The word theocratic simply means ‘God’s-Rule’. Israel was established in the land and designed to ideally reflect the reality of the heavenly kingdom in which God’s will is carried out absolutely. Israel failed in demonstrating this reality and came under the dominion of many other kingdoms. Jesus wanted the disciples to pray that the Kingdom would come and that God’s will would be carried out on earth as it is in Heaven. This is only possible in places where God Almighty is reigning absolutely as king. That is a very simple start to our subject.
Overcoming a democratic mindset
One of the challenges we face as we go forward in our study is that most people in the Western World live under some form of democracy. Kingdoms in the biblical sense are not democracies, they are places where a king rules with absolute power and authority. In America we are used to having a voice and a vote, but in a true kingdom- it is the kings will that is done, not the peoples. Transporting ourselves into this type of culture is a very difficult thing to do.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world where the will of God was done as it is in Heaven? What if everyone in the world maintained their base personality, but had a nature like Jesus Christ who in His humanity was utterly submitted to God? He did always those things that He saw His Father doing. He lived by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. Unlike Moses that disobeyed God and was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, Jesus Christ utterly sanctified the Lord in the eyes of the people. That is to say, He obeyed God in such a way that God was exalted into His rightful place in the eyes of men. Jesus left no one with the impression that God could be disobeyed or trifled with. This is the primary requirement for any person in the Kingdom of God; we must obey God resolutely. This is why Jesus told the Disciples, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20) In other words, if they were in Heaven with the way they obeyed God- they would have to be cast out as was Satan and His angels. The Pharisees, according to Stephen in Acts 7 did always resist the Holy Ghost as did their fathers. Resisting a king in His kingdom is an invitation for the sword. The religious leaders simply were not qualified to be in the Kingdom of God. They wanted to be obeyed and exalted. They set up their own rules, fences (traditions) around the Law that made the word of God of no effect. This is why John the Baptist preached repentance as a first order. We can’t even talk about going on with God until there is a willingness to come under His authority.
In the Regeneration
It has been nearly 2000 years since Jesus gave this direction to the disciples. Did He mean that we should pray that the Kingdom would come many thousands of years in the future? We know that in the REGENERATION Jesus Christ is going to sit on the throne of His glory. (Matthew 19:28) So there is a sense in which the Kingdom of God is coming eschatologically. This word simply means in the end times. But what about now? The religious leaders were not obeying the King, though they were very religious. As we will learn later, many of the Jews wanted a king that would relieve the oppression of Rome. This is why the disciples asked Jesus this very question Acts 1:6, wanting to know that if He would now restore the Kingdom to Israel. It is obvious that they still did not understand what Jesus and John the Baptist meant when they referred to the Kingdom of God. Jesus said that one has to be Born Again in order to seethe Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) Why? Because they that are still rebellious in Adam are moving in the enemies kingdom. The things of God are foolishness to them because they are spiritually discerned. The disciples and religious leaders believed the Kingdom of God was going to come with observable signs and that Israel would be made to rule the earth in a way similar to the time of King David. One of their primary Messianic concepts was that the Messiah was coming as a conquering king. So when Jesus died on the cross the disciples were totally disillusioned. They were ready to take up swords and call fire from Heaven, but Jesus is telling them to put them away and that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. Here they had their conquering king, capable of walking on water, healing wounds, creative miracles and raising the dead. Who in a time of war would not want to go into battle with that kind of king at your side? But they had it all wrong. Why? They had a militant understanding of the Kingdom of God.
Jewish Expectations of a ‘Kingdom’
By the time John the Baptist appears on the scene, the Jews had been suffering terribly as a client state under many oppressors for centuries. These oppressions would serve to forge Messianic concepts during the 400 silent years. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been carried away to Assyria and subsequently passed into legend. The Babylonians carried off Judah leaving the hopes of a future kingdom in shambles. After they returned under the Persians they still suffered terribly at the hands of oppressors. Alexander the Great then conquered much of the known world passing into Jerusalem where he was shown the book of Daniel where God had already shown Israel that Alexander was coming. Because of this Alexander passed on into Egypt. (ca. 332 BC) This started a huge push towards Hellenization (Greek influence) of the Jews- to the dismay of many of the traditional Jews that desired to retain their Hebraic roots. When Alexander died his kingdom was divided up leaving Israel sandwiched between the Ptolemaic Kingdom based in Egyptin the south and the evil Seleucid empire based in Syriato the north.
A type of the AntiChrist
When Antiochus IV Epiphanes(ca. 215–164 BC), became ruler of the Seleucid Empire in 175 BC he decided he would install the High Priest of his choice rather than the one God chose. This was met with resistance and eventually serious conflict. Epiphanes, a type of the AntiChrist, raided the Temple and set up the false god Zeus. He then sacrificed a pig and placed the blood in the Holy of Holies as a precursor to the Abomination of Desolation. The Maccabees (a name that means ‘hammer’) were a band of Jewish Freedom Fighters that overthrew the Seleucid’s (ca. 165 BC), rededicated and purged the Temple- setting up the Hasmonian dynasty. Practicing Jews celebrate this event as Hanukkah. They ruled until 63 BC, when the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem and subjected Israel to Roman rule. The Hasmonian dynasty officially ended in 37 BC when the Idumean Herod the Great became king of Israel.
Jesus arrives on the scene
When we get nearer to the time of Jesus, the Romans had been oppressing the people with taxation and other things until a real desire for freedom was born. This desire eventuated in what historians refer to as The Jewish Freedom Movement. It is important that we bring this out now because Jesus was going to preach the Kingdom of God and the Jews were going to pour their concepts and ideas into His words that were totally contrary to what He was saying. As today, people change very slowly. Old concepts die hard. So we need to look at the Jewish Freedom Movement sufficiently to understand the backdrop of what was going on in peoples understanding as Jesus would teach.
Some movements are like rivers that are difficult to trace the source. Rather than embark on a history lesson, I want to first look briefly to a group known as the Galileans. You will recall Jesus speaking of the Galileans that Pilate had mixed their blood with their sacrifices in Luke 13:1-3. Their leader Judas of Galilee was mentioned by Gamaliel in Acts 5:37 as having been killed by the Romans. I suppose we could say that the Galileans ‘evolved’ into what is known as the fourth philosophy in Judaism known as the Zealots. The other three philosophies of Judaism most important in the New Testament period (the time of Christ and shortly there after) were the Pharisees, Sadducee’s and Essenes. The Zealots and similar Jewish Freedom groups were known to be ruthless killers. They believed in taking the kingdom by brute force. However, there was so much dissension within the Zealots as time went on, that it is more accurate to call them a “tendency” or an “ideology” than a “sect.” Before it was over they were at war within themselves. Such is the case with many radical movements. We can generally trace their history from the time of the Galileans (led by Judas of Galilee) until the Zealots fled to Masada and committed suicide in ca. 70AD. According to Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 18.3 –18.23 their main doctrine was as follows:
1) Only GOD may be called LORD or ruler (sole rule of God).
2) They had an ‘invincible love of freedom’.
3) The people must cooperate with God for His intervention.
4) They had a deep and bitter resentment of the Roman census.
The disciples were greatly influenced by the conquering king Messianic concepts. This is why they were so disillusioned and confused when Jesus refused to take up a sword as they had hoped. Again, because this dominated their minds all throughout our Lord’s ministry we read the question, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6b) He didn’t do it prior to the cross event, so are you going to restore the Kingdom now? Understand that many people even today are primarily focused on Jesus bringing in His Kingdom in some great end-time event. Some even take this as what Jesus was talking about when He stated, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. But it has been nearly 2000 years and it does not stand to reason that Jesus would be having every generation pray for something to come that is so distant in the future. Yes, the Kingdom is coming and praise God for that! But there is another sense that God has in mind that we have to grasp or we will miss the whole point of the New Testament. Jesus said it this way, And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God does not come with observation: Neither shall they say, Look here! or, look there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21-21)
King in Israel
Although Israel and later the Northern and Southern kingdoms may have had many kings, God always desired to be their King. This is why it is so shocking to know that after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD that the Pharisees fled to Yavneh (Jamnia) and started a religion on the premise that authority is NOT IN HEAVEN. . These men were so deceived and diabolical, that they actually believed they could overrule God himself. This religion has come down to us as Rabbinic Judaism. But God started His theocratic rule over His people from the Wilderness Tabernacle inside the Throne Room; i.e., the Holy of Holies above the Mercy Seat and Ark of the Covenant. Ron Bailey in his landmark book, The Better Covenant states,
“This would have been the pattern for a desert chieftain; his personal residence would be at the heart of the camp. The residence in this case will be a tent, not unlike the tents of his people but much grander. It was called The Tabernacle; just a name for a tent. Lots of ceremonies would take place here but at its heart its simple purpose was to be a place where God could ‘dwell’, and that idea is built into one of the Hebrew words which is used to describe this structure; the Mishkan a place to lodge.”
God ruled from the Tabernacle, more or less, until the days of Samuel. We have this sobering event recorded that marked an end for that reality and the beginning of a misguided series of theological notions; Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:4-7) Although God came in a marvelous way to Solomon’s Temple, the stage was now set for the eventual eviction of God as ruler over Israel. They had totally missed God’s intention. He wanted to live among them and rule among them on earth as He did in Heaven, but they would not. This eventuated in the rule not being ‘as in Heaven’ but ‘not in heaven’.
King in Me?
Between what the Pharisees and the Zealots were teaching there is little surprise that the people were totally confused by exactly what Jesus meant by ‘kingdom’. The Jews, and I dare say even the disciples, wanted Israel to have its boot on the neck of the Gentiles as a reprisal for all of their sufferings. This ‘knock heads and take names’ mentality was so in play that the disciples suggested calling fire down from heaven on the Samaritans. Jesus told them that they knew not what manor of spirit they were of; For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:56) They were obviously not on the same page.
There is a proverb that states, Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24) That is a way of saying that a wise person seeks understanding for themselves that they apply it to themselves, but a fool is always looking someplace else to apply wisdom. In other words, we are not concerned about God being King in us, we want God to be king over everything and everyone else. But it has to start IN me, not in my neighbor or not in our city and government. If the people that are called by God’s name don’t obey Him as King, why should anyone else? Keep in mind what we said earlier, the word kingdom means kings domain. Anywhere that God is reigning as king is God’s domain or ‘kingdom’. Is it starting to make sense now? Is it possible for the Kingdom of God to come now? Certainly it is so long as we understand that man to live a manor of life like unto Jesus that lived by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God?
When Israel went into Jerico they saw how powerful their God was to bring victory, but the KEY is that they had to obey God absolutely and to the letter. If they would obey God on earth as He is obeyed in Heaven, they would never lose a single soldier in battle. Their enemies would flee before them like scalded dogs. But the moment disobedience comes into the picture and the people no longer obey God as He is obeyed in Heaven, then God refused to drive their enemies out from before them. This is a most powerful truth. This is why James reminds us, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) Submit in the Greek is a military term that means to be subject to or come under the authority of. It is in the aorist ingressive imperative, meaning we must do it in such a way that it is an ongoing reality in our lives. It is not something we do when we want something from God, but something we are in a continual state of. The Devil flees because we are under the authority of God as King. Satan has no place in that environment and can be put to flight speedily. But why should the enemies of God flee when the people called by His name will not obey? We cannot boss the Devil around when we are living in disobedience. In fact, only in as much as we are directed of God can we even live on this earth. We don’t perform our own will, we live like foot-soldiers waiting for orders from the King. Jesus was utterly in subjection to God the Father as His King, so when He declared the word of God to Satan He was moving in the Kingdom of God.