Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
“Your kingdom is an eternal kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord supports all who fall, and lifts up all who are bent over. Everything looks to you in anticipation, and you provide them with food on a regular basis. You open your hand, and fill every living thing with the food they desire. The Lord is just in all his actions, and exhibits love in all he does. The Lord is near all who cry out to him, all who cry out to him sincerely. He satisfies the desire of his loyal followers; he hears their cry for help and delivers them. The Lord protects those who love him, but he destroys all the wicked. My mouth will praise the Lord. Let all who live praise his holy name forever!"
The kingdom of God speaks of God’s perfect rule and reign which by its very nature cannot be limited or confined to the church or a particular geographical area. The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of the Creator of the heavens and the earth; yet it is not the reign of someone who stands on a distant hill and shouts out orders. Instead God’s rule and reign is something awesome to behold because God has chosen to come close to the rebel who seeks to run and hide. Because of this we can say that the rule and reign of God is His salvation-creating activity. It is the work of the supreme Holy One who actively seeks out the lost and chose to enter the human race as a servant-king, who gave His life so that we could live. Therefore the kingdom is about unconditional love grace and mercy.
Seven-hundred years before Christ was to be born, Isaiah prophesied the forth-coming Messiah in the following words: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6) and in John’s gospel we read of Jesus saying, “He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). In Jesus the law-giver has come to the aid of the law-breaker.
The law of God’s kingdom is the Law of Agape love, (1 John 4:8) and in Jesus we see exactly how that love is meant to be portrayed (v9-10). In Jesus we see a heavenly King who regarded no-one as insignificant or too far from His redeeming grace. Neither did He see anything as too small or insignificant to warrant His attention. Unlike so many around Him, Jesus did not write off the tax collector (Luke 1:1-9), the adulterer (John 8:10-11) or a Centurion and his servant (Luke 7:3ff). In Jesus we see that God’s rule and reign clearly speaks of His power and authority brought to bear on our lives with the purpose of reconciliation and restoration. He has come to set the captives free (Isaiah 42:6-7).
A ruler stoops low.
In Jesus we see the true King of Kings with His people. He is the Mighty One, clothed in flesh, who carries a ‘staff of authority’ in His hand as the Great Shepherd who comes with the offer of life to all who embrace His invitation. Therefore, in Jesus we find a King who does not seek to curtail true freedom, but who came to deal with that which so often imprisons us – our sin (Rom 3:23). His purpose is to make us fully His, rooting us in His work and helping us grow through all that He has provided. From this we see that His kingdom rule and reign is about being released into freedom and maturity through understanding that we are His and that all the promises are “yes” in Christ as we embrace this truth in and by the power of the Holy Spirit, (Rom 14:17, 1 Cor 4:20). Then we will grow as sons and daughters of the living God (2 Cor 6:18), adopted into His family (Eph 1:5) and with no record of our past failings (1 Cor 13:5). God wants us to be free as can be seen from the following testimony.
Chai Ling was a young college student in Beijing and found herself as one of the leaders on the student uprising in Tiananmen Square in 1989 where so many students were massacred. Chai Ling managed to escape and, as China’s most wanted woman, made her way to America. She is now a Christian and in her book, ‘A Heart for Freedom” she wrote, “I now see that the thirst I had is the longing for freedom placed in our hearts by God. Only when I came to know God could I truly begin to comprehend his unique purpose for my life. I’ve since been given renewed strength, healing, and insight to explain my perspective on China’s past, the meaning of the Tiananmen movement and God’s future plan.
. Chai Ling in, A Heart For Freedom, p 9
God is very much for us whilst being against what we have become by way of our own mistaken choices and deeds just as any father would, seeing a child adopting a lifestyle that will ultimately distort and destroy their son or daughter. As our heavenly father God seeks to resurrect us from the existence of our damaged lives and breathe new life into our heart. Therefore Gods rule and reign is like a treasure that we should seek with all our hearts and minds (Matthew 13:44). Let’s also remember that, as Matthew 13:45-6 clearly reveals, God has also given up everything to reach out to us.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: a King who reaches out to all people.
Heaven is spoken of as God’s dwelling place from where He exercises His rule and reign (Isaiah 66:1) and the amazingly good news for us is that although sin separates man from God, God has not let go of this world, nor did He ever intend to do so (Eph 1:4, Titus 1:2, 1 Peter 1:19). In this respect heaven is interacting with earth, right now and the heartbeat of heaven is seen in Jesus who seeks to restore that which was lost to its rightful home. In our throw-away society we need to recognise that God is a covenant-keeping God who seeks to heal and restore (Jer 30:17, Ps 23:3, 107:19-21), and will never give up on you.
In Hebrew thought there is no real distinction between the heavens that declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and the dwelling place of God (Psalm 123:1). We also see that communication from a heaven that is present is seen throughout scripture, whether it is Jacob’s stairway (Gen 26:12), or the death of Stephen who looked into heaven and said, “I see heaven open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56). Further on in scripture we read of a person being caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2), and in Rev 4:1ff John tells us of being called to the throne of God in heaven. In this sense we are not called to see heaven as ‘out there somewhere’ but as a place where God resides and, in His grace and mercy alone, a place we can know about and one day experience.
One day there will be an end to suffering (Rev 7:16-17). There will be a resurrection where all that is evil will not only fall away (taken away as if wrapped up like old robe, Heb 1:10-12) but be completely destroyed as the world is renewed (Romans 8:19-21) and morphed into its full glory as heaven and earth meet (Rev 21:1-5: refreshed and renewed). Jesus is the One who will return in all His glory. He is also the ever-present One through the Holy Spirit and is the Shepherd who tends His flock. As I write this I am reminded of a story I once read which reminded me of His care and concern for us.
In his book, Let me tell you a story, Tony Campolo speaks of the love of his mother. He lived in a city where it was too dangerous for him to walk to school alone, so his mother paid a girl who was a few years older than Tony to walk with him. As Tony grew older he thought that the amount paid to the young woman was too much and told his mother that he would walk himself to school for a nickel a day. It took a long time for him to persuade his mother to let him to do this but eventually she gave in and told him she’d give him the money each day as long as he saved it to buy Christmas presents for his sisters.
A few years after his mother had died Tony was talking about the incident to his two sisters and commented on his independent spirit. This is what he then writes:
“My sisters laughed at me and one of them said, “Did you think that you went to school alone and came home alone? Every day when you left the house Mom followed you. And when you came out of school at the end of the day, she was there. She always made sure that you didn’t notice her, but she watched over your coming and going, just to makes sure you were safe and that nobody hurt you."
T. Campolo in, Let me tell you a Story, pages 9-10
At times we will all go through situations and circumstances that take us by surprise and life is not always easy. Yet let us never make the mistake of thinking that God is not with us or that God does not care. In a very real way heaven and earth co-exist, and understanding this helps avoid the mistake of divorcing the spiritual from the physical. Heaven is not ‘somewhere over there’ it is the place from which Gods heart reaches out to you and I right now.
God reaching out: Jacob and a stairway from heaven (Gen 28).
In Genesis we find a man called Jacob who is seventy miles from his home at a placed called Bethel where his grandfather Abraham had once returned after a lapse of faith in Egypt.
Up until this time Jacob had never heard God speak to him and someone who had deceived his father in order to secure a birthright. In many respects Jacob probably thought there was no way in which God could be concerned about him or have the slightest interest in communicating with him. Apart from this Jacob was away from his local territory at a time when most people believed in local deities. To all intent and purpose, Jacob had left his family behind, and assumed he had left God behind. Yet God had not deserted His plan, and Jacob was about to see that God was very much present. There really is hope for us all.
Whilst Jacob was sleeping at Bethel, God entered the picture, and Jacob has a dream of a stairway which clearly revealed a God-given connection between the physical and spiritual world. In giving the dream God shows Jacob part of the unseen world that was and is always going on. God appears at the top of the stairway, and points out that He is the Lord (covenant keeper) who is God – the Sovereign ruler of the heavens and earth (Gen 28:13). He is the all giving one (v13) through whom all people are blessed (v14) and the One who would be with Jacob and would watch over him, not leaving him until he had done what he had promised (15). The same God is with us today to help us on our journey. He has not left us or forsaken us (Heb 13:5), yet if we close our minds we will miss the God who is always present. Apart from this, the presence of angels ascending and descending the stairway reveals that there is a whole host of activity that is often invisible to the naked eye, yet very much present. Be encouraged; you are part of His kingdom under the rule and reign of agape love – you are not alone.
In every room in every town there are radio and television waves which are present yet cannot be seen. Switch on the radio or TV and you can tune in to what is already present. It is when we genuinely want to know God and desire to live our lives His way that we begin to see more of the One who is always there. I wonder how many times we have thought God was not with us, when in reality He was very present – we just couldn’t see Him because of our filled and anxious lives.
Jacobs’ response on awakening from his dream was to acknowledge that until that point he had not been aware that the Lord was present (Gen 29:16-17). Jacob then declares that the place is, “the house of God, the gate of heaven” (Gen 29:18).
In a sense heaven and earth touch – there is a connection – and in John 1:51 Jesus we read of Jesus likening Himself to this ‘gateway’ in saying, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man," the “I am the gate” One of John 10:7. It is through Jesus that we experience the presence of God (John 10:7-10) and, in God’s eyes, are (in position), ‘seated in heavenly realms’ through His work alone. Heaven is open to us and we need to see our lives from His perspective.
We have been raised up.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
In the above verse ‘coming ages’ refers to both the present and the future and speaks of a quality of life here and now as well as a future that is steadfast and certain though the work of Christ. Through Christ the blessings and power of heaven are manifest in the realms of earth through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Therefore in “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking to see and experience more of His presence and power in our lives and the lives of those around us so that we may bring Him glory.
“…come near to God and He will come near to you.”
Through the grace and mercy of God He encourages us to not only talk about His word but also walk in the power of his Spirit and demonstrate that power in compassionate acts of mercy, grace and restoration.
If we are going to live in the Spirit and experience kingdom living we need to desire His ways above all else. This desire for what is good and right is part of what righteousness is all about. Righteousness is not about my achievements, but about desiring what is right and being open to the leading and power of the Holy Spirit in all things. I may fall flat on my face at times, but God sees the heart and accepts that which is offered to Him even though others may not see it.
His presence and how we often get in God’s way.
Have we ever really stopped and asked ourselves how much of the presence of God we really want in our lives right now and are we prepared to deal with the issues that prevent us from experiencing kingdom power and authority? For example, the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-20) did many things that were very commendable yet found it difficult when Jesus put His finger on the real issue that prevented Him from moving forward (v22-23). Elsewhere we find an older son in the story of the prodigal who at first glance appeared to be living the right way, yet inwardly was getting it all wrong (Luke 15:28f) as well. As Jesus says, life is lived on the inside first and foremost and we need to give the whole of our lives to Him at all times.
When we are open to the Lord there is nothing that has to prevent us from engaging with God (Rom 8:37-9), yet like it or not, we can often be the ones who prevent ourselves from receiving blessing For example, many Christians have a wrong idea about peace, assuming that it is the avoidance of trouble. In reality it is the presence of a person (the Holy Spirit) who remains with us no matter what we are going through. Because of wrong ideas we can sometimes become too preoccupied with getting a peaceful life and end up more dedicated to comfort than to change. In living this way we seek to feel good yet ignore the need for transformation by the Spirit of God (Rom 12:2).
The things around our lives will affect us and rightly so at times, yet God does not want us to be controlled by them. King David understood this when he wrote: “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you” Psalm 32:9.
In all ways we need to recognise that we are part of a much bigger picture than first meets the eye. We are part of His story and in many respects heaven is closer than we think. In fact there is on-going activity right now. Therefore, for us, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is an attitude expressed in prayer whereby we recognise the presence of God’s kingdom and our need of His rule and reign in our lives and in the world around us in all that we do and say.
The Kingdom at Hand.
The power and authority of the King of Kings is present right now in the presence of the Holy Spirit but perhaps we need to adjust our thinking a little before we will see this? Perhaps we need to see afresh that when Jesus came He brought kingdom living within our grasp? Through His gracious intervention and empowerment of our lives all His resources are available for us, not to use at will, but to engage with as we serve Him in the bigger picture. As one man once put it, “Jesus wants us to see reality from God’s perspective and to learn to live from His world toward the visible world.” But what does “living from His world towards the visible world” entail?
Living from His world towards the visible world means that I allow His words to define life and all that goes on and not my own experiences. For example, I accept who I am in Him no matter the circumstances. I am made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), adopted into His family (Eph 1:5) and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) who is spoken of as a deposit (Eph 1:14) guaranteeing the life to come. I am a Temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16) indwelt by the Holy Spirit and cherished and dearly loved.
Don’t be like some Christians who have, in a sense, been dressed in the most amazing clothes (like the prodigal on his return (Luke 15:22) by God, yet who lives as if they were still among pigs. Think about it - do we really see the ever-present One or have we allowed circumstances to cloud our vision of the One who has set us free?
Encouragement: God allows a servant to see the bigger picture.
In 2 Kings we read of the King of Aram being hell-bent on capturing Elisha. The king had sent out a large contingent of his army and they surrounded the city where Elisha was staying with his servant Gehazi.
Early one morning when Gehazi had gone out to collect firewood he totally panicked on seeing the army of the enemy camped around the city. In a way I am sure many of us can understand something of how he felt! All too often things come along and surprise us and we react out of self rather than act out of heaven so to speak.
Gehazi rushed in to tell Elisha what was going on and in doing so was able to be blessed by a man who was open to seeing the Lord in every situation. In this sense Elisha was working from heaven to earth and led by the Spirit and not controlled by the flesh. This is what Elisha had to say to Gehazi…
Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha."
2 Kings 6:16-17.
In a real sense we all need to view life with ‘heavenly eyes’ so to speak, with “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” speaking of the attitude and willingness to seek God’s perspective before all else, no matter what is going on. Yes, God does work in extraordinary ways at times, yet this does not mean we are always going to see chariots of fire! In the way God reaches out to us personally, there is the extraordinary blessing of His presence because the person we have offended most has come to us, forgiven us and restored us to the place of blessing. This is something we should always be thankful for - we are not on our own and are much loved sons and daughters and recipients of great love, grace and mercy. Something of this grace and mercy can be seen as we continue to look at the story in 2 Kings 6.
In 2 Kings 6 we read that the army of the enemy was blinded and led into the city where they could easily have been overpowered and destroyed. However, instead of having them killed, Elisha instructs people to feed them and then lets them go free. How many of us would have written this sort of conclusion to what had been going on?
We have a heavenly Father whose angelic host praised God at the creation of the world (Job 38:7) and who are involved in the work of restoration and reconciliation. The heavenly host sang praises at the birth of Jesus, heaven rejoices over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10) and there will be a day when the Lord Jesus returns with an army of angels (2 Thess 1:7) to bring about the complete destruction of evil and fullness of salvation for those who are His. Although this world is separated from the Lord because of sin, God is still reaching out in amazing ways and extraordinary grace: heaven has not stopped interacting with earth and God is very interested in you and always has been.
Heaven reaching out to earth.
In Genesis we see God taking the initiative in reaching out to a fallen Adam and Eve. He had given them a world of beauty and order and offered nothing but love and when they turned from Him this love was not quenched. He calls out to them and provides them with garments (Gen 3:21) which, in one respect, points forward in history to the ultimate sacrifice of His own Son (John 3:16) in whose work redeemed man is clothed (Gal 3:27). At every turn of the pages of history, heaven interacts with earth.
The page turns and we see God reaching out to Cain (Gen 4:6) and also speaking through an often-ignored Noah who is eventually raised from the floodwaters of judgement in an ark covered in pitch. In this we have a pale picture of how Christ lifts us from the place of judgment and surrounds us with His presence. God continuous to reach out, even though man does not always respond, so great is His love and desire for all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).
History moves on and heaven continues to reach out to earth as is seen, for example, in the angelic beings who approached Abraham (Gen 18:2, 19:1) and later went on to deal with Sodom and Gomorrah. In this incident we see both judgement and mercy. Abraham was allowed to intercede, cities were destroyed, and yet Lot was rescued. God loves the sinner whilst remaining totally against sin.
In continuing to walk through God’s history of redemption we see, as mentioned earlier, a stairway with angels ascending and descending (Gen 26:12) and, shortly after this the place of two camps where the angels of God met a struggling Jacob (Gen 32:1-3). Later Jacob wrestles with God and God blesses Jacob when Jacob admits what he is really like.
In grace, mercy and the power of God, Jacob is to become Israel which means ‘Prince with God.’ In the Ancient Near East a king would send out his son (the prince) to deal with evil in the empire and so princes became known as ‘one who consumes evil.’ Through Israel and despite Israel’s many failings, the Messiah – the Prince of Peace – would eventually come and vanquish the enemy (Isaiah 9:6, Acts 10:38, 1 John 3:8). As Paul writes, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39). Heaven interacts with earth through the One who is gracious beyond comprehension with a grace that is present for us right here and now.
History exists because God ordained that there would be a story of redemption written across the failure of man and so, at every turn of the page, we see God’s mastery over evil and grace towards the rebel. As we continue on a journey through scripture we move past the Exodus after seeing Pharaohs magicians have their strength consumed (Exodus 7:12, 8:19) as the master of nature reveals His power (Ex 7-11, 12). In the Exodus God had systematically removed everything that Egypt trusted in, whether satanic beings, false idols or the value of their crops and livestock. Man is not to live by bread alone but every word that comes from the mouth of God. Slaves were released from those who saw them as little more than objects and through miraculous intervention we find them passing through the Red sea to safety. Then, even though they struggled with rebellious thoughts we find them being cared for in their desert wanderings (Exodus 13:21-22).
In all the events of the Exodus and shaping of the people of God during their desert wanderings, we see a clear contrast between Pharaoh’s failure to hear the cry of the marginalised (Ex 5:15-18), and God’s concern for all His people. In the desert wanderings we see the powerful signs of covenant blessing with bread coming from heaven and water appearing from a rock (Ex 16:4, 17:6 Nehemiah 9:15; 1 Cor 10:3-4). Clothes and shoes did not wear out and God led His people by a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. A barren desolate desert had become a place where grace, mercy and love could be experienced first-hand.
Years later the Jordan parts (Joshua 3:15f), and in doing so Israel have a clear reminder that the One who is with them is the One who parted the Red Sea. Israel enters Canaan and the supernatural food from heaven ceases and they begin to eat from the land (Joshua 5:12). Joshua is then challenged and encouraged as the commander of the Lord’s army appears and tells him that he is standing on holy ground (Josh 5:13-15). This supreme commander is none other than the Pre-incarnate Christ, seen in that He receives worship which is something no angel would have allowed (Rev 19:9-10). Heaven interacts with earth and in Jesus we have Immanuel - God with us.
The city walls of Jericho collapse as the Israelites raise their voices to the Lord (Heb 11:30) and, as the pages of the calendar turn, God continues to reach out to His people in extraordinary ways through prophets, priest and kings. Hundreds of years later, dreams would be given to kings (eg Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel 2:1), and the hand of heaven would write words of judgment on a pagan kings dream–wall (Belshazzar: Daniel 5:25). During this time God also reveals His grace, mercy and power through a displaced Daniel and his friends, and allows Daniel to see some of the events that would occur at the end of time (Daniel 7:9). God is always about His business and you are His workmanship (Eph 2:10).
Scripture continually reminds us that God’s throne will last forever and ever and all power and glory are His as in generous grace, amazing mercy and breath-taking loving-kindness, the power of heaven touches earth as the glory of God is revealed.
As we walk through history we see God continually revealing Himself as the Master of all, whether speaking through Jonah, a spewed up prophet in a pagan city (Jonah 2:10, 3:4) or through a nameless young girl snatched into slavery, leading to the healing of a pagan army commander (2 Kings 5). Other incidents include the glory of the Lord filling the Temple (1 Kings 8:11) and chariots of fire and horses of fire separating Elijah from Elisha at the time of Elijah’s departure in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Isaiah has a vision and sees the head of the covenant seated on a throne, high and exalted (Isaiah 61:3) and grace and mercy is seen yet again as heaven touches earth and an angelic being leaves the throne of grace to release a struggling Isaiah from sin (v6-7). Decades later the King of Glory is seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3ff) whilst standing by the river Kebar, in the land of captivity (Babylonian Empire). Babylon and all that opposes us may be big, but God is always bigger.
When God moves, nothing remains the same and God is always about His business of bringing redemption to this world and every event in the Bible is recorded because God is about His business of redeeming our fallen world. He is the true King and the law of His kingdom is the Law of Agape-love (1 John 4:8). In all He does, we see the glory of the Lord; amazing acts of grace, mercy, power and love that clearly point to who He is.
At the birth of Jesus, we see the glory of God shining around Shepherds (Luke 2:8-10) as the heavenly armies proclaimed His arrival. Later, on what became known as the Mount of Transfiguration, we read that the appearance of Jesus’ face changed and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning (Luke 9:29-31) with Moses and Elijah appearing with Him in glorious splendour and in doing so revealing something of our future destiny in Him. One day, He will return in all His glory (Mt 25:31, 2 Thess 1:7, Rev 1:14).
The appearance of the glory of God, in whatever form or way in which God chooses to reveal Himself, clearly establishes the truth that God desires to be with man. God is like a shepherd who protects and nurtures the sheep and a king who surrounds and protects his people for as David writes, “But you are a shield around me, O Lord you bestow glory on me and lift up my head” (Psalm 3:3).
Through Christ’s death and resurrection the promised Spirit is poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2) and two unlikely people, a fisherman (Peter) and a condemning religious scholar (Paul) are transformed and share the gospel, sometimes with accompanying signs and wonders. During this time period we also read of an angel appearing to an evangelist called Philip (Acts 8:26) and sending him to meet an Ethiopian eunuch struggling with his understanding of scripture. God is willing to reach out to all who seek Him as countless ex-Muslims who initially received dreams and visions of Jesus continue to testify.
In position we are those who have been raised with Christ, seated in heavenly realms (Eph 2:6) and blessed (Eph 1:3). In experience we are learning to live out what God has done for us in the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25) as heaven interacts with earth. Through grace and mercy we have received an inheritance that can “never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4-5), as we are shielded by God’s power whilst we await the fullness of our salvation (1 Peter 1:5). Right now, if we are open to His leading, His divine power is at work within us concerning everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).
God is about His business. He sees every hair on our heads (Luke 12:7), delights in working with the most unlikely of people (e.g. Matthew the tax collector Matt 9:9), sees the widows two small coins (Luke 21:2) and a glass of water given in His name (Mark 9:41). Heaven is interacting with earth and YOU are part of His story. Be encouraged.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Written and produced by Pastor Jem. 2017.