These words are famously spoken by Jesus when he is teaching his followers how to pray. Many, like myself, were taught to repeat these words as a form of prayer. Which is hilariously nonsensical considering that just before giving this model for prayer Jesus said “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again…” (Matt 6:7). So this must mean that Jesus wasn’t giving us words to say in prayer but concepts. Given how badly the scriptures are applied in that case we can’t imagine that those teaching this practice have a strong grasp about other concepts, such as what exactly is this kingdom Jesus said to pray for? According to the bible, what is God’s Kingdom?
First, let’s see this famous verse, Matt 6:9, 10 “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” Clearly, this is addressed to God and he is being petitioned for his kingdom to come. Jesus’ outline for prayer or ‘model prayer’ is asking for God’s will to be take place where? In heaven but also where? On earth.
This harmonizes with this passage toward the end of Revelation:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4
This again shows that this kingdom is something on earth. Inhabitants of what place have tears in their eyes? Who are in need of relief from mourning, outcry, pain and death? Isn’t this what we currently have on earth? So this passage must be describing relief for earthling mankind from our current woes. It solidifies that promise by also highlighting that these things are part of those “former things” which will pass away, making way for the “new earth”.
The earlier part says that a New Jerusalem comes “down out of heaven from God”. Jerusalem was the seat of power for the ancient kingdom of Israel. This “New Jerusalem” is a symbolic depiction that shows us that the seat of power will be heaven-based. This ties into what Jesus told Pilate “My kingdom is no part of this world” (John 18:36) And it also helps us understand Jesus reaction to crowds wanting to make him king. John 6:15 “Then Jesus, knowing that they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain all alone.” His kingship wasn’t to be given to him by humans. He knew it was to be given by God and so he waiting on him to give it.
Continuing on that last statement we can turn to Daniel and we find this event being described:
I kept watching in the visions of the night, and look! with the clouds of the heavens, someone like a son of man was coming;
and he gained access to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him up close before that One.
And to him there were given rulership, honor, and a kingdom, that the peoples, nations, and language groups should all serve him.
His rulership is an everlasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom will not be destroyed.
-Daniel 7:13, 14
Jesus often referred to himself as ‘son of man” (Matthew 20:28, Mark 14:21, Luke 19:10). This perhaps was to help his followers connect him to this “someone like a son of man” to whom is “given rulership, honor, and a kingdom…”.
Daniel is an interesting book to read in regards to this question of what is God’s Kingdom because it contains two visions about it. Daniel chapter 2 tell us of a dream given to Nebuchadnezzar of a large image with a gold head, silver arms and chest, copper abdomen and thighs, iron legs and then feet of clay mixed with iron (Daniel 2:32, 33). Daniel relates that the head of gold represents King Nebuchadnezzar himself (Dan 37, 38). He then makes it clear than this image shows a succession of world powers, verse 2:39 “But after you another kingdom will rise, inferior to you; then another kingdom, a third one, of copper, that will rule over the whole earth.” So from this we know that when the stone crushes the image and becomes a mountain (Dan 2:34) this pictures divine intervention on earth. Daniel 2:44 makes this act even more clear: “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom”. If it’s replacing those previous world powers then it follows that this is describing a world government established by Jehovah himself.
Back to Daniel chapter 7 we have a similar set of clues. The first part of the chapter describes Daniel’s vision of four great beasts Daniel 7:2-8. Then someone helps him understand the meaning at verse 17 “These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will stand up from the earth.” So later when “the holy ones of the Supreme One” take “away his [the final king] rulership, in order to annihilate him” (Dan 7:25, 26) we know we are talking about kingdoms or governments on earth. Thus, when verse 27 says “and the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One” we know that this means governing the earth.
These ideas match Revelation 20, where a small group of humans are given authority, indeed they are said to serve with and under Jesus:
And I saw thrones, and those who sat on them were given authority to judge.
Yes, I saw the souls of those executed for the witness they gave about Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had not worshipped the wild beast or its image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand.
And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for 1,000 years.
…they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.
-Revelation 20:4, 6b
So we get to learn a little about the structure of God’s Kingdom. This special group of people who were “executed for the witness they gave about Jesus and for speaking about God” are logically humans, and they’ve been given a position of power to “rule as kings with Christ”.
No doubt such a kingdom would function lovingly toward it’s subjects. Jehovah gives authority to Jesus and in turn Jesus gives a measure of authority to some humans. Jesus lived as a man having stayed perfectly faithful in a world separated from God, and those ruling under him will have lived as imperfect humans who maintained their integrity. (Hebrews 2:17, 18)
My main focus is to show how the theme of the Kingdom is throughout the Bible and it’s very clear that it is not just in heaven, but is indeed something that will be on the earth. We could call it “God’s Government”, I suppose, since ‘Kingdom’ may sound old-fashioned to your ear, but the function is the same. Let’s end with a few more scriptures that demonstrate this:
“Just a little while longer and the wicked will be no more;
you will look at where they were, and they will not be there.
But the meek will possess the earth,
and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.
the righteous will possess the earth and they will live forever on it”
-Psalm 37:10, 11, 29
No more will there be an infant from that place who lives but a few days,
Nor an old man who fails to live out his days.
For anyone who dies at a hundred will be considered a mere boy,
And the sinner will be cursed even though he is a hundred years of age.
They will build houses and live in them,
And they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage.
They will not build for someone else to inhabit,
Nor will they plant for others to eat.
For the days of my people will be like the days of a tree,
And the work of their hands my chosen ones will enjoy to the full.
They will not toil for nothing,
Nor will they bear children for distress,
Because they are the offspring of those blessed by Jehovah, and their descendants with them.
“They will sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one will make them afraid,
For the mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken.”
“I will raise up one shepherd over them, my servant David, and he will feed them.
He himself will feed them and become their shepherd.
And I, Jehovah, will become their God,
and my servant David a chieftain among them.
I myself, Jehovah, have spoken.
And I will make a covenant of peace with them,
and I will rid the land of vicious wild beasts,
so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forests.
I will make them and the area around my hill a blessing,
and I will cause the rain to fall at the proper time.
Blessings will pour down like the rains.”
The next time you hear someone say something like “my vote is for Jesus” ask them if they support God’s Government.