Matthew 6:10, Thy Kingdom Come

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.

//So ends my book about Revelation. Father and son recite these words in prayerful anticipation of the day their Messiah will bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, setting up a very real and political world power.

Perhaps no other verse in the Bible so epitomizes the confusion between early Christians over how to interpret the life and death of Jesus. Did Jesus already bring down the Kingdom of Heaven as was expected of the Jewish Messiah, or is he coming back another day to bring it? All early Christians agreed that Jesus had or would have a profound effect on the world; they just disagreed over how and when. Matthew’s Gospel anticipates the Kingdom arriving soon by force, while Luke argues that the Kingdom has already arrived peacefully: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke’s understanding of the Kingdom was very different from Matthew’s. The epistles continue the argument, some siding with Luke, some siding with Matthew. Revelation sides very definitely with Matthew, promising a real and immediate bloody victory by Christ, with 200,000,000 enemies vanquished, and a new kingdom quickly established from within a New Jerusalem on earth.

Two thousand years later, the dream of a coming kingdom has yet to die. But how are we to relate to the original, first-century beliefs? How do we get inside the heads of early Christians, to understand the excitement of a coming kingdom on earth? The philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that there are two types of knowledge: knowledge by description versus knowledge by acquaintance. Storytelling can help bridge the difference, which is why I was determined to write my book as a combination of both fiction and nonfiction. I hope to share with you the percolating excitement among early Christians about the coming Kingdom.

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