Thy Kingdom Come (Jan-Feb 1998)

By Matt Dabbs

by Steve Weathers
January – February, 1998

30When I set out for a Florida elementary school in the early ’60s, my Flintstones lunch box firmly in hand, I was given two injunctions: one, parental; the other, congregational.

First, in the event of a Cuban missile attack, I was to leave campus immediately – without asking permission (The independence implied in such an act dizzied me.) I was to walk east on Lake Shore Drive. My mother would head west on Lake Shore Drive, I was told, and we would meet. I believed this unreservedly. All around us Western civilization might be in meltdown. Fleeing students (with their less-fortunate lunch boxes) might be vaporized. But my mother would find me, I was certain, and we would be safe.

More important still was the Lord’s Prayer. I was not to join in on the phrase “Thy kingdom come,” for that would be unscriptural. It was a firm conviction in our local congregation: on the Day of Pentecost, the kingdom had come in the form of the New Testament church. So joining in with the other children (benighted souls, in my eyes, from the sectarian world about us) would constitute a denial of this clear biblical teaching. Again, I complied without question.

The Lord’s Prayer prohibition didn’t strike me as too strange. After all, I was accustomed to being different. I was about the only kid in Monday’s lunch line who had not seen Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color the night before. (It came on at 6:00 p.m., of course, the same time as our Sunday evening worship.) One more difference didn’t matter much. Refraining from that unscriptural phrase, falling silent while others around me unknowingly mumbled heresy, wasn’t too bothersome. Each morning after the Pledge, head bowed and eyes closed, I stood alongside my desk and was discretely orthodox.

My parents – and my childhood church, for that matter – were right about a lot of things. Their record for accuracy continues to grow even to this day. So much so that, in the event of a nuclear shoot-out, I suspect some internal homing device will kick in and I’ll strike out in a straight-line trajectory for Lake Shore Drive, regardless of where I may be in the U.S. at the time. I’m almost certain of it.

But I’m not so certain anymore that “Thy kingdom come” must be interpreted solely in the past tense.

I believe, of course, that the kingdom did come, as described in Acts 2:1-41, in the form of the New Testament church. I believe the divine counteroffensive to retake a sin-entrenched planet was launched at around nine in the morning, Day of Pentecost, 33 AD (or, more accurately due to a calendar error, 29 AD). I believe the Holy Spirit on that day established a beachhead in the hearts oand minds of humanity.

But isn’t the divine counteroffensive still going on? Isn’t the kingdom still in the process of coming?

In 1944 an excited whisper spread westward across Europe: “The Allies have landed!” It was true. At the cost of great carnage, the Allies had established a slender beachhead on the Continent. But I suspect that for months afterward, French farmers, Italian peasants, Greek fishermen, and Jewish internees continued to pray each night, “May the Allies come.”

Just as we continue to pray today, “Thy kingdom come.” There’s a lot of the planet that has not yet been liberated. Truth be told, there’s a lot in my own heart that has not yet been liberated.

Think too, about the elaboration that follows: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This clause, I’m convinced, is an amplifying echo of the preceding one. When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” in other words, we’re asking that God’s will may be done in the here and now – fully, faithfully, finally – just as it’s always being done in heaven by hosts of unfallen angels. It’s a tall order. It may take a while. So long, in fact, that there’s a sense in which the kingdom will not be fully realized until Christ’s final appearing (2 Timothy 4:1). Until that planet-wide submission is an accomplished fact, therefore, the entire prayer remains relevant.

There’s actually one problem with praying, “Thy kingdom come.” As Alan Redpath has remarked in Law and Liberty, “You cannot pray ‘Thy kingdom com’ until you have prayed ‘my kingdom go.’ ” We first must be willing to abdicate our personal throne, in other words, turning it over to One whose divine right to rule is, after all, more impressive than our own.

I’m afraid the reason the kingdom has not come in all its fiery fullness in my own life – that cheek-turning, tongue-restraining, anger-renouncing, flesh-denying kingdom – is because I’ve reserved a corner of my personal throne for local autonomy. I pray fervently for the rest of the planet, but my own heart remains disputed territory. This won’t do. “To pray ‘Thy kingdom come’ is searching and demanding,” J.I Packer has said in I Want to Be a Christian, “for one must be ready to add, ‘And start with me.’ ”

In actuality, this is the frightening phrase I’m tempted to omit. This is the one that bothers me. This is the one where I tend to fall silent: Start with me.Wineskins Magazine

Steve Weathers

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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