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).
We 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.