Heidelberg 123: The Second Petition—Your Kingdom Come (2)

HeiligGeist200We have already seen some of the difficulties that come with both an over-realized and under-realized eschatology. In contrast to both we should see that the Gospel of Mark presents our Lord Jesus as proclaiming neither a fully realized, earthly kingdom nor a purely future kingdom. “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mark 1:14, 15). Judas was disappointed, along with others, because Jesus did not fulfill their expectations of a political, earthly dominion. Our Lord explained to Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, it is not of this world but it was certainly in the world. The kingdom is at hand (ἤγγικεν). Jesus’ was casting out demons because the kingdom had arrived (Matt 12:28). The time to repent and believe is now, because the kingdom is present (Luke 10:9, 11; 11:20). Nevertheless, the Kingdom of God was not fully realized in history. It is semi-realized. As citizens of the Kingdom of God we participate in spiritual, heavenly realities (Mark 10:15; Acts 14:17) but there is a future realization of the kingdom in fullness (Mark 9:47; 14:25; Luke 19:11; 1Cor 6:9, 10). Christians are citizens of the heavenly kingdom (Phil 3:20).

Thus we confess:

123. What is the second petition?

“Your kingdom come,” that is: So govern us by Your Word and Spirit, that we submit ourselves to you always more and more; preserve and increase Your Church; destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against you, and all wicked devices formed against Your Holy Word, until the fullness of Your Kingdom come, wherein You shall be all in all.

When we pray for the kingdom to come, we are praying for something spiritual, not something ethereal but for the realization of God’s reign in the earth which is to be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we say that the Kingdom of God is spiritual we mean that it is of the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God in the hearts, minds, and wills of believers. It is, in the first instance, a prayer that we, to whom the Spirit has graciously given new life and with it true faith and through faith union and communion with Christ, would be increasingly conformed to Christ. When we pray for sanctification, for mortification (putting to death the old man) and vivification (the making alive of the new), we are praying for the coming of the Kingdom of God. The kingdom is God’s. We are its grateful recipients.

The prayer is corporate. Though we might not be use to it, the older Reformed writers and the Reformed confessions tend to associate the visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God with visible, institutional church. When, in its original version, Belgic Confession art. 36 says “Kingdom of Christ” it was referring to the visible, institutional church. Heidelberg 82, it is the ministry of visible church to make use of the keys of the kingdom. When one is excommunicated, one is excluded from the kingdom of Christ (Heidelberg 85). It is through the external call of the gospel that the Spirit brings the elect into the kingdom of God (Canons of Dort 3/4.10). Westminster Confession 25.2 identifies the “visible church” with the “kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God….” The Kingdom of God is indeed, as the  Westminster Larger Catechism (102) says  “kingdom of grace.” It may not seem like much to the world and indeed, judged by external appearances it is not much. In this, however, she is much like her head and Savior Jesus. He was not regarded as much and so he was crucified as a failure and disappointment. We know how that turned out. On the third day the tomb was empty. Not long after that he ascended to glory. The crucified Savior became the cornerstone of a building (the church) that neither the religious authorities nor secular authorities could have imagined. 2,000 years later the Spirit is using his church to bring his elect to faith all across the globe, despite the efforts of false religions, hostile cultures, and government persecutions to prevent it.

When we pray for the advent of the Kingdom of God we are praying that the Holy Spirit would use his appointed weapons, the Word and church discipline to conquer spiritual enemies. Our Lord never promised a glorious millennium on the earth but he is nevertheless crushing his enemies under his feet (1Cor 15:27). Just as the cross was a paradoxical way to defeat his enemies so to the suffering of the church is a paradoxical, unexpected way to defeat the Evil One and his minions but that is how he has promised to operate, through the foolishness of the gospel (1 Cor 1:21–25). There is a place between naturalism (which views the world as closed to spiritual forces) and hyper-spiritualism (which sees demons around every corner). Christ is risen. He is ascended. He is ruling the nations with a rod of iron (Ps 2:9). He has crushed the serpent on the cross and he is crushing him. The Evil One may afflict us but he has now power over us. He has been defeated. No principality, no authority, no power (Rom 8:38; Eph 3:10; Eph 6:12; Col 1:16; Col 2:15) can contest him. He has defeated them all.

Our Lord Jesus announced the inauguration of his Kingdom. By his Spirit, through the preaching of gospel, he is conquering his enemies and making them willing and grateful citizens of his kingdom. His visible church is his embassy to the world. The sacraments are his signet ring, certifying the truth of his promises to those who believe. His kingdom has not yet be realized in its fullness but it shall be when he returns and he is all in all. When he comes in royal glory “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Rev 1:7).

Here are all the posts on the Heidelberg Catechism.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!