On Earth as in Heaven

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The next two phrases in Jesus’ prayer—“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”—are one sentence in the Greek text. These phases repeat the same thought in different ways. Together they express, in a highly emphatic way, the idea that we want God’s desires to prevail in our lives, not ours. With this prayer, the disciple radically commits heart and mind to the attainment of God’s holy kingdom on earth.

The synoptic Gospels begin citing John the Baptist’s famous phrase: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 3:2) In the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist introduces the phrase, kingdom of heaven, while Jesus introduces the phrase, kingdom of God, in the gospels of Mark and Luke. Thus, while the Baptist focused on judgment, Jesus’ stressed salvation (Matt 3:10; Matt 4:23).

Where does this kingdom language come from? [1]

This kingdom language hints at a restoration of the Garden of Eden. In Eden we see a picture of a world uncorrupted by sin. Adam and Eve rest with God and have access to the Tree of Life. Before the fall, there is no death, no strife, and no corruption. After the fall, there is death, strife, and sin. The kingdom of heaven restores the uncorrupted world of Eden.

One clue of this creation theme echoing Eden is the appearance of strange animal behaviors and spiritual beings. In Isaiah, for example, we read:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isa 11:6)

In Jesus’ birth and resurrection accounts, angels appear (e.g. Luke 2:10, Luke 24:4). Not surprisingly, the tree of life returns in the Apostle John’s vision of heaven (Rev 22:2).

What are we to conclude? The restoration of Eden in God’s new kingdom presents an image of hope. The resurrection of Christ has inaugurated a new kingdom that has not yet been fully realized. In praying for this new kingdom to arrive, we look beyond the present death, strife, and sin to hope for the joy that is to come.

[1] Strassen and Gushee (2003, 22–23, 35) draw a parallel between the beatitudes in Matt 5:3-10 and Isa 61:1-11. Their focus on Isaiah is attractive because Jesus himself cites Isa 61:1 already in his “call sermon” in Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19).

References

Stasssen, Glen H. and David P. Gushee. 2003. Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

On Earth as in Heaven

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

You may also like

Leave a Reply