“Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Many of us have been taught to pray the Lord’s Prayer since we were children, but how many of us know what it really means? What exactly is the Kingdom of God? What does it mean for the Kingdom to come, and what is our role in expanding the Kingdom? These are questions I explore in depth in my book Cracking the End Time Code.
The Davidic Kingdom The very first mention of a Kingdom occurs in 2 Samuel 7:16, where the Lord promises David: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” However, for many years it did not look as if this promise would come to pass. After David’s son Solomon, the kingdom split in two, and the northern kingdom Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC, while the southern kingdom Judah was conquered by Babylon in 587 BC.
God then reiterated His intention to bring about an everlasting Kingdom in the book of Daniel. In Ch. 2, King Nebuchadnezzar is given a dream of a giant statue. It has a head of gold, a chest of silver, thighs of bronze, and feet of iron and clay. Daniel interprets this dream as four great empires which were coming to rule the earth.
Gold – the Babylonians
Silver – the Persians
Bronze – Alexander and the Greeks
Iron and Clay – the Roman Empire
All of this happened exactly as prophesied. The last event, however, is the most interesting (Daniel 2:34-44):
“While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth…. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. “
The Jews understood the prophecy to mean that God was going to fulfill His promise to David in the time of the fourth empire, the Roman empire. Indeed, Jesus was born to the House of David during the reign of the first great Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Jesus performed signs to prove He was the One who was to come by giving sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, and preaching the good news to the poor. (Luke 7:18-23). He further fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy of the king coming “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9) in the triumphal entry to Jerusalem. And before He was crucified, on trial before Pilate, Jesus acknowledged that He was indeed a king, and that “it was for this purpose that [He] came into the world.”
After Jesus’ resurrection, His followers saw His rising from the dead as vindication that Jesus was, indeed, the heir of David and the prophesied King who had established a Kingdom that would never end. And before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples “all authority on heaven and earth” that had been given to Him, to reign in His place until He returned.
Expansion of the Kingdom
The early Christians proclaimed that Jesus was Messiah and King, now enthroned at God’s right hand. This put them on a collision course with the Roman empire, because their confession that “Jesus is Lord,” meant that Caesar was not.
When the emperor Constantine converted in 312 AD, and persecution against Christians ceased, the church historian Eusebius theorized that the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God had been divinely established together. The prophecy of Daniel, however, suggests otherwise. The Kingdom came to destroy the empire. (Does this sound like Star Wars?) Let’s look at what we learn about this destruction: * The other four are ALL broken into pieces. The Kingdom will crush all of the empires and bring them to an end. * There is no trace left of the other empires. The wind sweeps them away. * The Kingdom of God becomes a huge mountain and fills the whole earth. * The Kingdom will never be destroyed or replaced. It will endure forever.
This is what the Kingdom is and has been doing throughout its history. If you stand here at this end of history and look backwards you can only say that the Kingdom of God has been a success. Look at the numerical estimates of the Kingdom’s advance in history. It started with only 120 people in the upper room. It expanded rapidly in the book of acts into the tens of thousands of people (Acts 4:4). It has continued to expand so that now the ratio of Christians to unbelievers is 6 to 1. Only 40 years ago it was 20 to 1. Christianity is an explosive religion, and it continues to explode in our time.
The character of the Church is also advancing. It is not a monotonic increase, but an overall increase with squiggles along the way – like the increase of the stock market. (“Of the increase of His government there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7)) Think of Church 600 years ago. Very few Christians were able to read the Bible for themselves, and most thought you had to go through a priest, or saint, to approach God. Even 150 years ago, Church was mostly a very formal setting with a preacher in robes, a formal-sounding hymn, etc. There was very little mention of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers. In contrast, the contemporary church is, on the whole, much more alive and real. We as a people are drawing closer to God. The rule of God is advancing even within His church.
But that’s not the whole story, the presence of Christianity in history has changed the world in very significant ways. The actual way of life has changed. For example, the end of slavery. This is a Christian idea and Christians made it happen. The list and ways is much too long for this post. The point though is that are larger and larger part of the planet is acknowledging God, and that this has brought God’s ways into human life in some measure. Is this how you think of the Kingdom of God?
Jesus said the Kingdom was like leaven in dough. When the yeast, which is a fungus, gets into a piece of dough, it grows very rapidly and changes the dough. The presence or incarnation of yeast in the dough is an aggressive and transformational element. That’s exactly what the Kingdom of God is. When God’s Kingdom is truly incarnating through you and the church around you it is aggressive and transformational. Think about the early Christians. They started off as a small, persecuted group, but within a few generations they had evangelized most of the Roman empire and put an end to such societal evils as gladiatorial combat, and infanticide.
In other words, the incarnation is an infiltration. Jesus taught His disciples to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, “on earth as it is in heaven.” This includes salvations, of course, but it is about so much more. Heaven is full of love, joy, and peace, so that is what we are to carry into every situation we enter. Heaven is full of God’s beauty and truth, so that is what Christians in the arts and entertainment, and in the academy, bring, Heaven is ordered for created beings to thrive, so that is what Christians in leadership and government work towards.
On the flip side, anything that is not allowed in heaven, is put on notice when the Kingdom of God arrives. There is no sickness in heaven, so we eradicate it by all the natural and supernatural means at our disposal. There is no lack in heaven, so we clothe the naked and feed the hungry, multiplying food if necessary. There is no oppression in heaven, so we set the captives free wherever we find them.
The Advancing Kingdom
Wherever the power of Satan is in operation, you are there to despoil it. The strong man has been bound (Mark 3:27), and we are plundering Satan’s kingdom of its citizens. According to Zephaniah 2:11 we are literally “starving” the gods of the Earth.
We’re not taking over earthly kingdoms any more than Jesus accepted the rule of the world from Satan, or set himself up as Caesar. We have not come to rule the kingdom that is here. We’re bringing in another Kingdom. Proclaiming another Kingdom is going to create conflict, even though it is a Kingdom of Peace led by a Prince of Peace. Legally speaking, this is actually why Jesus was killed – he claimed to be King, not Caesar or Herod or Pilate. .
The systems of this present world did not ignore Jesus, and they do not ignore us. We don’t ignore them either. Every place where Satan has a toe hold, we’ve come to bring the nature of Jesus instead. You want slaves? Sorry, you can’t have them. We’re making that illegal. You cannot operate your demonic Kingdom here. You want segregated water fountains? You can’t have that either. Killing unborn babies? Nope.
At the same time, a society governed by Christian principles should not be confused with coercive Christianity. Jesus did not coerce or encourage his disciples to do so. The leaven is working its way through the dough. Our goal is not takeover, it’s transformation. As long as there are unbelievers on this earth — and there will be until He returns — the government of this world will remain in place, but our influence has been transforming that government to look less like Caesar, and more like the Jesus . That’s not just what we’re praying for “thy Kingdom Come,” it’s what we’re doing.
To read more about the coming of the Kingdom, and why I believe in it, check out my book Cracking the End Time Code.