After establishing our relationship to God (Our Father), his whereabouts (in Heaven), and reminding us of our obligation to revere him (Hallowed by your name), Christ presents his first supplication: to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Steve Urban, the author of the Mere Christianity Study Guide, asks, “What do you think was most important to Christ? Really think about this. Was it his birth? Was it his ministry? Was it his crucifixion or perhaps his resurrection? The answer is, while each of these was important, none of them was the most important.”
Urban contends that Christ, more than anything else, wanted his hearers to understand the kingdom’s nearness, reality, and urgency. Throughout the Gospels, Christ’s teachings are permeated with references to the kingdom of God. The angel Gabriel tells Mary that her Son’s kingdom will “have no end” (Luke 1:30-31,33). John the Baptist taught of repentance, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2). When Christ began his public ministry, he taught that the purpose of his teaching was to, “preach the kingdom of God to other cities.” (Luke 4:43). Some of Christ’s first words in every gospel had to do with the preaching of repentance because his kingdom was near. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount mentions the kingdom of God nine times. In fact, the kingdom of God is mentioned in the New Testament seventy-two times, and the book of Matthew alone talks about the kingdom of heaven thirty-two times. From Matthew through Acts, from John the Baptist to Christ to Paul, the nearness of Heaven’s kingdom is preached.
We Americans cannot relate to kingdom rule. After all, our country was created out of a rebellion against a kingdom. Our view of a monarchy involves oppression, class rule, and unfair treatment of its subjects. We are used to freedom and republicanism, where the people influence through government and are not ruled by it. But like anything else in this world, earthly kingdoms are stained and perverted versions of something God created as good. The kingdom of God is a perfect kingdom ruled by a perfect King. And those of us who bow to that King are its royal subjects.
In Matthew 13, Jesus describes his kingdom as a weed-infested field waiting for the harvest, as a mustard seed that will grow into a great tree, as leaven that will rise into nourishing and fulfilling bread, as a hidden treasure or a valuable pearl worth more than all the other riches on earth, and as a dragnet whose contents will be sorted. God tells us in Matthew 6:33 to seek God’s kingdom above all things.
In Matthew 13:51-52, Jesus calls his followers, “scribes who have been trained for the kingdom of heaven.” He said those who have had this training are, “like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” R.C. Sproul said the concept of the kingdom of heaven, “unites the teaching of the Old and New Testaments, as a thread that runs through them and weaves the testimony of the whole Bible.” The Old Testament tells of a kingdom whose King will rule over all; “a Messiah who,” as Sproul continues, “will make manifest the kingdom of God and a priest who will redeem his people.”
The kingdom of God came to earth in the form of a baby. That baby grew and preached the kingdom’s nearness, foretold for centuries in the Hebrew scriptures and consummated in him, the person of Jesus Christ. We are, right now, in the age of the growing kingdom, waiting with bated breath for Christ’s angels to bring us to our place in the eternal kingdom. We need not wait, however, for our kingdom citizenship to become a reality. The kingdom has come and is now in our hearts as we wait for the day we see it with our own eyes.