By Ron Kidd
he Lords prayer is undoubtedly the most familiar passage in the entire Bible. It begins, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" Matthew 6:9-10. However, do we really understand what Jesus is saying; are we sufficiently aware of what we are being taught to pray for? For example, Jesus prays for Gods kingdom to come, he petitions God that His will might be fulfilled in the earth. But what do we know about the kingdom of God? Where will it be? when will it be established? Who will enjoy its benefits and how can people enter into Gods kingdom?
These are very important questions, because Jesus informs us that not everyone will enter Gods Kingdom"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God
We want to begin our examination by considering what we know. The ministry of Jesus Christ was consistent from beginning to end. Jesus began his ministry in Galilee saying, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Three years later he committed the same message to his disciples, "And he (Jesus) said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Moreover, Jesus emphasized the importance of the gospel message when he said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16).
In other words knowing and understanding the gospel message is a matter of life and death.
What was the substance of the gospel? It was the Kingdom of God. We read "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14). Therefore when Jesus prayed "Thy kingdom come" he was seeking the fulfillment of the gospel message.
The Gospel and Abraham
It is generally assumed that the gospel was peculiar to the preaching of Jesus Christ, but this is not the case. The gospel preached by Jesus was in fact two thousand years old. This is confirmed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians where he says "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Galatians 3:8). If therefore we can determine what God said to Abraham, then we will appreciate more fully what is meant by the kingdom of God.
Who exactly was this man Abraham? Evidently he occupies a prominent place in the purpose of God; his name occurs over two hundred times in the Bible, of which sixty are in the New Testament. He is identified as the father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1). He is called "the friend of God" (James 2:23). He is described as the "Father of the faithful" (Romans 4:16-17). These are very impressive credentials indeed and because of Abrahams faithfulness Jesus declared that he would be in the kingdom of God: "And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11).
Abraham lived nearly two thousand years before Jesus Christ in a place called Ur of the Chaldees. According to archaeology it was a city of no mean standing in the ancient world, enjoying a prosperous life style. However it was an idolatrous society. It was here that God appeared to Abraham and invited him to leave his country, his people and his family (Genesis 12:1). In return for his obedience God made certain promises to Abraham. We will discuss these shortly, sufficient to say at this point that none of the promises could be realized without Abraham having an heir. Unfortunately he was childless and seventy five years old.
The quality of Abrahams faith is evident in the way he approached his dilemma, the Bible records that "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief: but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform" (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham believed that God could do what was humanly impossible and he demonstrated his faith by responding with affirmative action and leaving Ur.
Is it any wonder then that Abraham is given such prominence in the Bible? Because of his faith Abraham, will become the "heir of the world" (Romans 4:13). And not only that, but everyone who is prepared to manifest the same quality of faith will receive the same reward. We read, "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (Galatians 3:9).
The Importance of the Promises
We should not underestimate the importance of this man and the promises he received. Time and again the Bible directs our attention to the gospel preached unto Abraham. Consider the following verses:
"Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Romans 15:8).
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4).
"And if ye be Christs, then are ye Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29).
From these verses we learn the following: the ministry and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ confirmed, or ratified, the promises God made to the Fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These promises provide the basis for eternal life and the opportunity to enjoy the promises is possible only by belonging to Jesus Christ.
The Substance of the Promises
Beginning at Ur, God revealed His promises to Abraham over a period of fifty years. Each time further details of Gods promise were added or expanded upon. The following verses provide a comprehensive summary:
"And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed". (Genesis 12:2-3).
"And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him" (Genesis 12:7).
"And (God) said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:16-18).
The main features of the promises may be summarized as follows:
The last point provides us with a link to the apostle Pauls words in Galatians 3:8"In thee shall all nations be blessed". Thus we have confirmation that the gospel has its roots in the Old Testament and it concerns all nations. Notice also the reference to the land. What land is God referring to? This aspect figures quite prominently throughout the promises. Consider these words which God spoke to Abraham: "And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever" (Genesis 13:14-15). The promise is repeated in chapters 15:18; 17:8; 22:17.
Abraham was standing upon one of the mountains in Israel and the land before him was the land of Israel. Indeed, Abraham was invited to walk through the length and breadth of the land (Genesis 13:17).
In view of the fact that the promises of God involve the land, we would expect evidence of the same teaching in the gospel taught by Jesus, and this is precisely what we find. At the birth of Jesus the angel announced "good tidings" (or the gospel) to the shepherds at Bethlehem saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). Jesus taught the people saying, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). And he prayed that Gods will might be done "in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).
From beginning to end, the Bible clearly teaches that Gods purpose is to reward faithful men and women with eternal life on the earth. It was never intended that Gods glory should be restricted to the heavens, God created the earth to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18), and we read "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD" (Numbers 14:21).
Clearly then the kingdom of God is to be established on the earth and this is the message of the gospel taught by Jesus Christ and understood by Abraham.
The Promises were Never Fulfilled
The scriptures inform us that when God gave the promises to Abraham He provided the ultimate guarantee by confirming His word with an oath. We read in the letter to the Hebrews "because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself" (Hebrews 6:13). However upon investigation we find that God has not yet fulfilled His promise. When Abrahams wife died he had to purchase a small parcel of ground to bury her. In the New Testament we read, "He (God) gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child" (Acts 7:5). The Bible describes Abraham as a "Sojourner in the land of promise, as in a strange country" (Hebrews 11:9). In fact we learn that Abraham never expected to receive the promises at that time:
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).
Thirteen hundred years later the prophet Micah shows that the promises were still unfulfilled, for we read,
"Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old" (Micah 7:20).
Later still during the ministry of the apostle Paul, he directs his listeners to the promises of God saying, "Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come" (Acts 26:7). The promises remained unfulfilled in New Testament times.
Does this mean that God is unfaithful to His word? Not at all. Remember, Jesus said that Abraham will be in the kingdom of God, and God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The problem is resolved when we realize that the promise of God, or gospel, was not restricted to Abraham. The apostle Paul makes the following observation when discussing Abraham and other faithful individuals, "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40). In other words the reward of eternal life will be granted to Abraham alongside other faithful men and women of all ages.
The Fulfillment of the Promises
The fulfillment of the promises was contingent upon Abraham having a seed. We are told that this seed will inherit the land, this seed will possess the gate of his enemies and in this seed all nations will be blessed. We are not left to speculate who this refers to, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, for we read, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ: (Galatians 3:16).
The birth of Jesus saw the beginning of the realization of this promise. John Baptists father rejoiced with the following words:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people. That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear" (Luke 1:68-74).
The first advent was for the purpose of "confirming the promises made unto the fathers" (Romans 15:8) and this Jesus did by means of his death and resurrection. Jesus sacrifice brought about a deliverance from the enemy of sin. This is the idea behind the phrase "sit in the gate of his enemies" (Genesis 22:17). The gate was the place where the ruler of a city sat in judgment (2 Samuel 15:2-6; Daniel 2:49) and sin is depicted as ruling as a king (Romans 6:12).
The work of Jesus in subduing his enemies will be completed when the kingdom of God is established. We are told that Jesus "must reign, until he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). The context of these words describes the resurrection of the dead at the return of Jesus to the earth (verses 20-25). It is at this time that the kingdom of God will be established, for we read, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:1).
God will fulfill His promise to Abraham at the return of Jesus Christ and the gospel of the kingdom of God will be realized. Then truly all men shall be blessed. Psalm 72 paints a picture of Gods kingdom:
"Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the kings son. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, from the river unto the ends of the earth...Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him...His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended: (Psalm 72:1,8,11, 17-20).
Blessed with Faithful Abraham
Jesus said "That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11). Who are the "many" that Jesus is referring to? The answer is those who share Abrahams faith. Abraham, we are told, rejoiced to see the day of Christ, "and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). Our faith in Jesus must be equally strong for it is "faith in Christ Jesus" which allows us to become "children of God" (Galatians 3:26).
Abrahams faith was exhibited by his obedience in separating himself from a world of idolatry. Our faith also must be demonstrated by becoming associated with the Lord Jesus Christ in the God-prescribed act of baptism:
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christs then are ye Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:27-29).
What are we going to do about it? Not everyone that claims to follow Christ will enter Gods kingdom, such a privilege is reserved for those who do the will of God. What is it that God desires? Let Jesus Christ remind us:
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16).
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