Why does “till kingdom come” imply a very long time or never? Jesus will return and the Kingdom of God will come to this earth sooner than most imagine!
As someone who is eagerly waiting “till Kingdom come,” I have to admit I am not thrilled by some of the meanings associated with that phrase.
Especially when Wikipedia points out that idiomatically it can mean “never.”
“Till Kingdom come” meaning
So I checked other sources. According to Farlex Idioms and Slang Dictionary, the English idiom “until kingdom come” means, “For a very long, indefinite amount of time; forever.” McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs adds, “Until the end of the world; forever.”
You can see this in the Coldplay song about a love so strong that he’d wait “’Til Kingdom Come.”
How did “till Kingdom come” come to have these meanings? Likely because human beings have been waiting for the Kingdom for several thousand years.
Abraham lived about 4,000 years ago, but Jesus said he will be a key figure in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:28). Abraham waited for God’s Kingdom all of his life. He gained motivation by visualizing its capital city, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Yet they were among the many faithful people who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
And the apostle Paul, like the other apostles, expected Christ’s return and the Kingdom to come in his lifetime (1 Thessalonians 4:15).
Even while imprisoned, Paul was consistently “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).
Years later, the apostle John, in his sunset years imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, was given visions of that wonderful Kingdom, but also of the terrible times that would come first. He recorded these in a book called the Apocalypse, or in more modern Bibles, Revelation.
Jesus said several times He is coming quickly. But as His followers have discovered over the millennia, God’s definition of quickly is not always our definition.The book of Revelation, though full of plagues and tribulations, ends with this encouraging promise from Jesus Christ:
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). His followers will serve with Him as kings and priests in His glorious Kingdom (Revelation 1:6).
Watching and waiting and avoiding burnout
Jesus said several times He is coming quickly. But as His followers have discovered over the millennia, God’s definition of quickly is not always our definition.
(There are many reasons for this difference of perspective. One is that God knows that we are mortal, so “the dead in Christ” will be resurrected at His return (1 Thessalonians 4:16), without having to experience the passage of time.)
So, in the meantime, Christians strive to follow Jesus’ instructions, such as:
- “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
- “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).
- “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (verse 46).
- “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
End of the world?
These instructions were all part of an answer Jesus gave to the disciples’ questions, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
The influential King James Version (the main English version for hundreds of years) used the phrase “the end of the world,” but the New King James is more understandable to modern ears. It is not the world in the sense of the planet itself that will end, but the disastrous age of human misrule that will be replaced by the Kingdom age, under God’s government.
You can study Jesus’ signs of the end times and of the second coming of Christ in this Olivet Prophecy (so called because it was given on the Mount of Olives, the very place Jesus Christ will stand when He returns, as Zechariah 14:4 and Acts 1:11-12 show).
Some of the signs Jesus gave include:
- Religious deception (Matthew 24:4-5).
- Wars and rumors of war (verses 6-7).
- Famines (verse 7).
- Pestilences (disease epidemics and pandemics, verse 7).
- Earthquakes (verse 7).
- Persecution of followers of Christ, including attacks from within the Church (verses 9-10).
- Lawlessness (verse 12).
- Jerusalem surrounded with armies and the “abomination of desolation” set up (verse 15; Luke 21:20; see our online article “Abomination of Desolation”).
Learn more about these end-times signs in our online article “Understanding the Olivet Prophecy.”
The visions God gave to the apostle John fill in many details of the last days of man’s sinful and destructive rule of the world, under the unseen sway of Satan.
John describes the last 3½ years of unprecedented evil and suffering (Revelation 11:2-3; 12:14; 13:5). During that time, events will happen quickly, “till Kingdom come” at Christ’s return.
In spite of a succession of terrifying disasters and plagues designed to bring people to repentance and set the stage for the Kingdom of God, most will refuse to repent (Revelation 9:20-21). So God will send seven last plagues (Revelation 16; see our online article “What Are the Seven Last Plagues of Revelation?”).
Even after all this, John records that “men blasphemed God” (Revelation 16:21). Misguided men will even fight Jesus Christ at His return (Revelation 19:19)!
But the battle will be over quickly as the Lord God Almighty takes His great power and begins to reign (Revelation 11:15).
Soon, all those times of trouble will be eclipsed by the time of peace and joy that will spread around the world thanks to the righteous rule of the King of Kings over the earth.
The good news of the Kingdom of God!
Jesus proclaimed “the glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). This good news was the message He commissioned His Church to continue to preach (Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15).
This message of the Kingdom of God includes “the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
Some of my favorite prophecies of the Kingdom of God include:
“All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You.
“They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.
“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations” (Psalm 145:10-13).
“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it.
“Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’
“For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
“He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
“But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:1-4).
Praying “Thy Kingdom come”
Until then, God’s people continue to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). They will be helping preach the good news of the Kingdom of God and be eagerly watching for it to come.
They will be fervently praying, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) till Kingdom come!