As we continue our examination of the Lord’s Prayer, we come to the second petition – “Thy kingdom come.” In this petition, we call upon God with the hope that Jesus will return soon to take us all to the kingdom of heaven where we can bask in the glory of our true King for all eternity. No kingdom has ever existed on earth that can match the beauty and justice of the heavenly kingdom that awaits us.
Jesus teaches us that, at some time, known to God alone, He will descend from heaven in His second coming to call His people home with Him.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Mathew 25:31-34)
Here, the sheep refer to the people who have been loyal to the King and have worked to live according to His holy will. The goats represent those who have denied or rejected Him and, as a result, have not merited the inheritance of the kingdom. We declare our belief in Jesus’ words regarding his second coming every time we recite the Apostle’s Creed: “He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and His kingdom shall have no end.”
Have you ever wondered if we are living in what is referred to as the ‘end times’ described throughout the Book of Revelation? It is the subject of countless movies and books describing its inevitable arrival (and it certainly feels like we are at times). As humanity suffers through wars, diseases, natural disasters, polarization, crime, and many other devastating situations, it is easy to imagine that we might actually be currently living through the apocalypse. The truth is, that we are living through the end times right now – and have been since Jesus walked the earth. The Catechism tells us, “The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst” (CCC #2816). In other words, the end times began when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. His Presence, therefore, remains with us to give us a taste of the heavenly kingdom while we endure the difficulties that ensue as the earthly kingdom is destroyed. Now, you might be thinking that 2,021 years is quite a long time for it all to be considered the official end of things. However, we must remember that time is a human constraint and God is eternal. Therefore, to God, the last 2,021 years have been no more than a blink of an eye.
When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” it is a cry from our hearts that we are ready and waiting for Jesus to return to us and take us home. An early Church apologist, Tertullian (155-220 AD) said:
Even if it had not been prescribed to pray for the coming of the kingdom, we would willingly have brought forth this speech, eager to embrace our hope. In indignation the souls of the martyrs under the altar cry out to the Lord: ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’ For their retribution is ordained for the end of the world. Indeed, as soon as possible, Lord, may your kingdom come!” (CCC #2817)
What Tertullian is saying is, that even if Jesus had not taught us the Lord’s prayer, it would be our natural inclination to long for His second coming and to request that it be imminent as we look forward to joining Him in His heavenly kingdom. (Side note: Tertullian was a great theologian, and we still use many of his writings today. However, he fell into heresy later in his life and was, therefore, never declared a saint.)
Despite knowing that we are currently living in the end times, we cannot just lay down and give up. We still live on the earth and must participate in society. “Ever since Pentecost, a decisive battle has been joined between ‘the flesh’ and ‘the Spirit’” (CCC #2818). I’m sure we all have a sense of this battle in our own minds, hearts, and bodies. Every day we are faced with temptations to sin and to ignore the will of God for our lives. Therefore, we are to call upon the Holy Spirit, given to us at Pentecost, to empower us in this battle so that we might triumph, with His help, in order to inherit the kingdom. With His grace, we can fight this battle. We are also called to use our God-given gifts to grow His kingdom by evangelizing through the way we live our lives. “Man’s vocation to eternal life does not suppress, but actually reinforces his duty to put into action in this world the energies and means received from the Creator to serve justice and peace” (CCC #2820). Since God’s heavenly kingdom is perfect justice and perfect peace, then we ought to strive to bring those virtues to the world as much as possible now.
How does knowing you live in the end times change your perspective of the world and your life? The next time you pray the Our Father, allow your plea for His second coming to be heartfelt. Believe with faith that His timing will be perfect and that the delivery of the gifts that await us will be well worth the wait.
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