The second request Jesus tells his disciples to pray in Luke 11:2 is “Thy Kingdom come.” As I claimed in a previous study, some folks believe that, if we are praying for God’s Kingdom to come, our prayer implies his Kingdom must not yet be present. However, this isn’t so in the light of Luke 10:21, where Jesus rejoices and addresses his Father as “Lord of heaven and of earth!” Our Father cannot be Lord of earth, unless his Kingdom is present upon the earth. Moreover, the exact same tense of the verb “come” in Luke 11:2 is used for the verb “forgive” in Luke 11:4, and certainly we can’t be asking God to forgive our sins at some future date. Therefore, if this logic is sound, how should we understand our asking our Father to cause his Kingdom to come? In what sense must it yet come, if it is already here?
In some ways our request “Thy Kingdom Come” could be compared with the Normandy Invasion in June of 1944. While the invasion didn’t end the war, the establishment of an Allied beachhead on the European continent signaled the end of the Nazi war effort. In a similar manner, the success of the Seventy in Luke 10 established a beachhead on the earth for God to reign. At present he doesn’t reign over the whole earth, but Jesus’ rejoicing in Luke 10:21 may be interpreted to signal such an event will come to pass.
The success of the Seventy is the seed that will bring that moment about. The King or Messiah was present in Luke 10:21, and so were those willing to submit to his reign. That amounts to a kingdom no matter how one looks at it. And, the fact that the King’s subjects were engaged in a successful campaign shows that the Kingdom of God was able to spread or be enlarged.
Thy Kingdom Come is not a request for land or a nation for God to rule, but a request for the hearts of men to yield to the reign of Christ (John 6:37, 45). The world is interested in land, but God is interested in hearts. Therefore, his Kingdom is not of this world (cf. John 18:36). That is, the interest of God and the interest of men are not in competition. God doesn’t want what men have. The fact is, God had placed the rule of this world in the hands of men long ago (cf. Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8:4-6), and it is not God’s intention to change that (Romans 11:29). The fact is that God wants men to rule the world. Nevertheless, God’s throne is the heart of men. God reigns from the hearts of men, and therein lay his Kingdom (cf. Luke 17:21).
The problem is that mankind rebelled from God in Eden. Man wished to reign over the works of God without any input from God. God’s initial intention was to make man in his image, or to create man to act in this world in a manner that reflects God’s character. In other words, God intended to leave his fingerprint upon his creation through mankind. The events of Genesis 3 changed all that, not that it changed God’s original plan, but it changed how mankind intended to behave. We have no authority over good and evil. We are helpless to cause evil to work out for good. We wage war to establish peace, but real peace eludes our efforts. We labor for riches, but are never satisfied with what we have attained. We seek to understand, but push God out of our knowledge, and in doing so our wisdom becomes foolishness. Without God in our hearts to guide our efforts, we are unable to really succeed in anything we do.
Although it might be construed that Revelation 11:15 contradicts the idea that God is not in the business of ruling nations. Notice that, although the nations have come under the reign of God and the Messiah, they are angry that this has occurred (Revelation 11:18). In other words, the nations were still autonomous. They didn’t suddenly become one super nation under the reigning Messiah. Jesus reigns in the kingdoms of men to bring judgment upon the nations, and to raise up leaders in those nations that would cause world events to transpire in such a manner that God would judge the world for its deeds. In the past men came to power in the nations in order to establish empires at the expense of the nations under the power of the leading nation. God’s will is to break that power, and permit each nation, weak or strong, to rule itself. In the process, God will judge each nation for abuses.
Our request, thy Kingdom come, is not for God to establish his nation on earth, but for him to establish his throne in the hearts of men. He has done that, and continues to do so through our effort at spreading the Gospel of Christ, in the same manner the Seventy did in Luke 10. Our thoughts are not like God’s thoughts (though they should be), and our ways are not like God’s ways (though they should be – cf. Genesis 1:27; Isaiah 55:8). We are engaged in a great spiritual war (Luke 10:1-20), the great battle of God Almighty (Revelation 16:14), and our implements of warfare are quite unlike those of this world (2Corinthians 10:3-5). We are not concerned with conquering nations or changing governments. Rather we are concerned with conquering hearts, and a heart yielded to God will act properly in this world, no matter which nation he hails as its citizen. National borders mean nothing to the Gospel, because the Gospel is not concerned with ruling nations (cf. John 18:36).