Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 48

Q. 123. Which is the second petition?
 
Thy kingdom come”;[1] that is, rule us so by thy Word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to thee;[2] preserve and increase thy church;[3] destroy the works of the devil,[4] and all violence which would exalt itself against thee; and also, all wicked counsels devised against thy holy Word; till the full perfection of thy kingdom take place,[5] wherein thou shalt be all in all.[6]
[1] Matthew 6:10;  [2] Psalm 119:5;  [3] Psalm 51:18;  [4] 1 John 3:8; Romans 16:20;  [5] Revelation 22:17, 20;  [6] 1 Corinthians 15:15, 28.


Commentary

The second petition of the Lord’s Prayer,—“Thy kingdom come,”­—is one of the most commonly misunderstood petitions in the prayer today. Many recite the prayer week after week, thinking that it is a call upon God to bring on the millennial rule of Christ upon the earth. “Only when Christ is sitting as King on the throne in Jerusalem and there be peace in the world, will this prayer be answered,” they say. “This world in its present state is hopeless. It is getting worst and worst, and therefore our prayers should be that Christ would come quickly to establish His Kingdom,” they add.
 
This common notion, which has arisen out of a Zionistic Dispensationalism, was foreign to our fathers in the faith, and might even have been regarded as heretical were it proposed as an interpretation of our Lord’s words. Far more meaningful and biblically consistent is the interpretation of our fathers, which may briefly be summarised in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

In the second petition… we pray, That Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened (WSC 102).

The astute reader may notice that the Heidelberg Catechism does not say we are to pray for the hastening of the kingdom of glory, but we must realise that in praying for the advancement of the kingdom of grace, we are praying for the hastening of the kingdom of glory, for it is when the full number of the elect be brought into the kingdom that the kingdom of glory will find its culminative fulfilment. This same idea is expressed in the Genevan Catechism, which reads almost like a commentary of the two catechical statements already mentioned:

Minister. What understand you by the kingdom of God in the second petition?

Student. It consists chiefly of two branches—that He would govern the elect by His Spirit—that He would prostrate and destroy the reprobate who refuse to give themselves up to His service, thus making it manifest that nothing is able to resist His might.

M. In what sense do you pray that this kingdom may come?

S. That the Lord would daily increase the numbers of the faithful—that He would ever and anon load them with new gifts of His Spirit, until He fill them completely: moreover, that He would render His truth more clear and conspicuous by dispelling the darkness of Satan, that He would abolish all iniquity, by advancing His own righteousness.

M. Are not all these things done every day?

S. They are done so far: that the kingdom of God may be said to be commenced. We pray, therefore, that it may constantly increase and be carried forward, until it attain its greatest height, which we only hope to take place on the last day on which God alone, after reducing all creatures to order, will be exalted and pre-eminent, and so be all in all (1 Cor 15:28) (Tracts [Calvin Translation Society, 1849], 2.76–77).