Sermon: Thy Kingdom Come
Scripture: Matthew 6:10
In this week’s lessons, we learn what the kingdom of God is and how it manifests itself on earth.
Theme: How the Kingdom Does Not Come
Unfortunately, many teachers and churchmen have gone from the statements that I have just been making to the totally erroneous assumption that because the kingdom of God comes wherever men believe in Christ and respond to the gospel, the kingdom in this sense will inevitably go on expanding until all or nearly all of the world believes. And they have devised a theory by which the Church militant becomes the kingdom of God on earth.
This view was a very popular one in the nineteenth century, but it is totally false. It is false biblically, and history itself has destroyed it. Let me give you an example. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a man named Sidney L. Gulick wrote a book called The Growth of the Kingdom of God that was subsequently translated into Japanese in an attempt to persuade Japanese students to become Christians. The book was more restrained than some, but its argument was based on what the author believed to be the demonstrable success of the preaching of the kingdom of God in the growth of Christian influence in the world and the increase of church adherents.
He wrote, “The Christian powers have increased the territory under their rule from about 7 percent of the surface of the world in 1600 to 82 percent in 1893, while the non-Christian powers have receded from about 93 percent to about 18 percent during the same period. At present the Protestant nations alone rule about twice as much territory as all the non-Christian nations combined.” He added, “During the first ninety years of the religious history of the United States more persons have come under the direct influence of the Christian Church than during the first thousand years of Christianity in all lands combined.”1 Needless to say, the Japanese were hardly convinced by this line of argument. And since the equation between the truth of religion and world dominion had been made so eloquently, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the resulting war in the Pacific was the natural result, rather than the conversion of the country.
Today the harsh reality of two World Wars, a cold war, and the acknowledged decline of the influence of the Christian religion in this country and elsewhere have taken the enthusiasm for this sort of reasoning out of everyone.
The surprising thing about this line of reasoning, however, is that it was followed in spite of the fact that the Lord Himself spoke in such warning tones against it. You say, “What do you mean? Didn’t Jesus teach that His kingdom would go on expanding until it conquered the whole earth?” No, He did not! In fact, He taught almost the opposite. He taught that large portions of the world would never be converted, that the devil’s children would be present even in the Church until the end, and that His rule would come in totality only at the close of time—and that even then it would be established only by His power and in spite of the continuing and bitter animosity of men.
You say, “Where did He teach that?” Well, the answer is that He taught it in a whole series of parables, called the parables of the kingdom, recorded for us in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. There are seven parables in that chapter, beginning with the sower who went forth to sow and ending with the story of the dragnet. They are intended to preview what we would call the last nineteen centuries of Church history in this light.
1Sidney L. Gulick, The Growth of the Kingdom of God (Chicago: Student Missionary Campaign Library, and New York: Revell, n.d.), 28, 162, 164.
Describe the erroneous view mentioned about the kingdom of God. What are some arguments against it?
What did Jesus teach about the expansion of the kingdom?
Prayer: Ask the Lord to bring many people into His kingdom, through the means that He Himself has ordained in His Word.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Philip Ryken’s message, “Kingdom Come.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)