LORD’S DAY 48
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;1 preserve and increase Your Church;2 destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against You, and all wicked devices formed against Your Holy Word,3 until the fullness of Your kingdom come,4 wherein You shall be all in all.5
 Ps. 119:5; 143:10.  Ps. 51:18; 122:6–7.  1 Jn. 3:8; Rom. 16:20.  Rev. 22:17, 20; Rom. 8:22–23.  1 Cor. 15:28; *Ps. 102:12–13; *Heb. 12:28; *Rev. 11:15; *1 Cor. 15:24.
Christianity is not a private matter, nor can it ever be. When Christ ascended into heaven in the sight of His disciples, He said, “All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18) If we believe in Jesus, then we believe that His authority extends over all the earth. However it is also clear that His kingdom, which is also His Father’s kingdom, is not acknowledged by many and is not fully in force anywhere. But of course we love Christ and believe His rule to be a very good thing, and therefore it is every Christian’s desire to see the kingdom of Christ fully implemented everywhere. There is always disagreement about what exactly this kingdom consists of or how this full realization will happen, but the fact of it is something every Christian desires and looks forward to.
The Catechism teaches us that this rule first of all extends into the heart of each believer. It is a rule of Word and Spirit. One cannot overemphasize the importance of this fact. Israel under Moses had a form of government divinely suited to them, but because God did not rule in their hearts the result was disastrous. Their whole history was characterized by rebellion ultimately leading to death, and it was precisely because the kingdom was not present in their hearts (with only a very few exceptions) that they were not a godly people.
In promising the restoration of Israel, the prophets often bring up this exact point, and make clear that this coming restoration will be accomplished by the Spirit of God working the rule of God in the hearts of His people. Ezekiel 36:25-28 is representative:
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (Eze 36:25-28 NKJ)”
This internal rule is foundational, and the Catechism recognizes it by mentioning it first. Everything else flows out of it. Using the instrument of the Church, God spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, and as individuals come to faith and have this rule established in their hearts, the church likewise grows. Everywhere it grows it counters the works of the devil, both by sanctifying individual believers and by externally restraining Satan’s evil, as we see in all societies where Christianity takes root. As the church grapples with various issues, doctrinal and practical, it has formulated arguments against the deceptions of Satan which arise both within and without the church. This process continues until the work is done. Some Christians see this happening with the establishment of an earthly golden age which will persist for a long time before Christ returns. Some see this fullness achieved only when Christ Himself comes back and throws down opposition, which opposition will have continued until that second coming happens. But however you read those particular texts and prophecies, our job right now is clear, to advance the kingdom of God in our own hearts by repenting and believing, and encouraging others around us within our sphere of influence to do the same.
This is the whole reason Christ died, in order to clear away the obstacle of guilt through forgiveness of sins so that the Spirit of God could institute this rule in the hearts of His people.
One thing that we must therefore not do is try to build the church without this internal rule of the Spirit. Many have theorized that they could make their churches large by any means possible and then the rule of the Spirit of God in people’s lives would follow. But this gets things backward. Jesus told us in Matthew 28 that our response to the fact of His universal authority must be to make disciples. This is the nature of the church, and even accepting the truth that many will become part of the church in an outward way without being disciples, we must never accept this state of affairs. If we are to be faithful to the truth of what the church is, then we will continually be about the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ. If we lure people in with the promise of entertainment or worldly blessings, then we have subverted the purpose of the church. We must call people to the church with the promise of the kingdom, the promise of discipleship and the internal spiritual rule of Christ.
Similarly, while Christians are right to be involved in politics as citizens, we must never make the mistake of thinking that the kingdom of God can be advanced in the political sphere in the absence of the internal rule of God in people’s hearts. We should advocate for justice for the weak and oppressed and for laws which reflect Biblical truth, but we should always recognize that without conversion to the gospel, all these efforts are ultimately in vain. Government at its best only restrains sin; it can never be the kingdom of God or implement this internal rule of the gospel.
The advancement of the kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of people is our fervent desire, and the spiritual nature of this goal shows how completely dependent on God we ultimately are for this, and therefore we pray sincerely, “Thy kingdom come.” Every Christian will desire the kingdom to continue its victorious march through our own hearts and through the hearts of all God’s people all over the world, and the gates of hell will not be strong enough to keep that kingdom out.