A few weeks ago I heard a radio preacher quote part of the Lord’s Prayer. He quoted, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). He said that the Church today is not just sitting by and watching the world go to pieces. We are seeking to change the world now, to bring it in conformity to God’s will here and now.
When I heard this, I was shocked. The preacher is well educated. He knows the Word of God. He knows that he left out a key part of that quote.
The words immediately before those are, “Thy kingdom come.” When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” that is asking the Lord Jesus to return now. This world is not going to do God’s will until it is changed by Christ’s return. The Lord said so.
“The world…hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7). There is no hint there that the world would change after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. Indeed, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the wicked co-exist alongside the good seed until the end of the age (Matt 13:38ff.). See also, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). The world was, is, and will be wallowing in darkness until the Lord establishes His Millennial kingdom.
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). That was true of the Apostles. And it is true of all who follow Christ.
About 15 years ago I was in one of the largest Bible churches in Texas, maybe in the world. The pastor was talking about two Old Testament concepts, justice and peace. He said that while the Lord’s kingdom will be characterized by justice and peace, we must not wait till His return to see that in our world. He said that it is our job as the Church to institute justice and peace in our cities, our country, and via missions, in every country on the globe.
That. Is. Not. Our. Mission. We are called to be lights in the darkness (Matt 5:14, 16; Phil 2:15). We are to share the message of everlasting life with a world that needs that life. We are to disciple those who come to faith.
When we evangelize and disciple people, are we changing the world? Yes and no. The world system was, is, and will be in opposition to God and His plan. We can’t and won’t change the world system. But if by “the world” we mean the total amount of good done in the world, yes, we can see the total amount of good done in the world increase by leading people to faith in Christ and teaching them to walk by faith. However, that will not make our society into one that does God’s will. Those who believe and follow Christ are a very small group (Matt 7:13-14).
When I was in seminary I was taught that we who go into the ministry should not be political activists. We should vote, yes. But we should not be involved in political rallies, should not be attending marches, and should not confuse our service for Christ with political goals. I was told that if we go into the ministry, we should give up any political goals.
Maybe I was taught wrongly. Each person in the ministry must decide that. The Scriptures do not give much information on that issue.
But one thing is clear. We will not usher in Jesus’ kingdom unless and until He returns. We will not institute justice and peace. We will not change the world system. We can shed some light in the darkness. But we will not eliminate the darkness.
Is that pessimistic? I think not. It is realistic. I think it is hubris to think that we do not need the return of Christ to change our world. We are to live each day longing for our Lord’s return (cf. Matt 24:40-44, 45-51; Luke 19:16-26; 1 Cor 9:24-27; 2 Tim 2:12; 4:6-8; 1 John 2:28). The Lord Jesus in the last chapter of the Bible says, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev 22:20a). The Apostle John responds, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20b).” That is what we mean when we pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”