In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to pray,
Often this gets translated “on earth as it is in heaven,” following the Book of Common Prayer. Christians tend to interpret this concept, “As in heaven, so on earth,” because we assume heaven already follows God’s will, and so we’re praying earth would do likewise. (That is, unless we’re Calvinist and assume God sovereignly makes his earth already follow his plan… evil notwithstanding.)
Thing is, we’re reading a whole lot into the Greek word ὡς/“as.” Hence we never bother to ask the fairly obvious, hidden-in-plain-sight question: Does God absolutely, sovereignly rule over heaven?
“Of course he does,” is the knee-jerk reaction. If God gets his way anywhere, certainly it’s in heaven. Because God’s the absolute ruler of heaven. Either it’s where his throne is [Ps 11.4, Rv 4.2], or heaven itself is his throne [Is 66.1, Mt 5.34], with all the armies of heaven ready to carry out God’s commands [1Ki 22.19]. We imagine God’s kingdom already exists there. The issue for us Christians is bringing this kingdom to earth. That’s why we pray, “As in heaven, so on earth.”
Thing is, if heaven’s where God absolutely, sovereignly always gets his way, why did a war break out there?
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12.7-9
We assume God always gets his way in heaven, but at some point in heavenly history he clearly didn’t. ’Cause Satan defied him. Just as Adam and Eve disobeyed him on earth, Satan challenged God’s will in heaven. Just as Adam and Eve had to be banned from paradise, Michael had to chuck the devil, and a whole lot of its confederate angels, out of heaven.
Y’see, since God is love [1Jn 4.8], he wants to love his creation, and wants his creation to love him back. If it lacks free will, creation can’t do that. Involuntary love isn’t love; it’s just programming. So God had to take the massive risk of imbuing all his creatures with free will. That’s not just his creatures here on earth. It includes all his creatures in heaven.
Satan’s very existence indicates not just earth has a sin problem. Heaven has one too. And heaven needs to be fixed same as earth.
Hopefully you’ve read Revelation’s happy ending:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21.1-4
Hadn’t you ever noticed the scriptures’ various statements about the new heaven? How, at the End, God is gonna wipe away the existing heavens, and make them new too [Is 65.17, 2 Pe 3.13]? Now, if heaven’s already perfect, why would God do such a thing? He certainly wouldn’t need to. Destruction for its own sake? That’s entirely unlike God.
Used to strike me as weird too. That is, till I realized heaven’s not perfect. That’s why Jesus wants us to pray, “Make your will happen both in heaven and on earth.” Both places need fixing—and to be made one, so God can live in the new Jerusalem with his people forever.
Jesus hasn’t gone to heaven where things are shiny and perfect, and is just waiting for just the right time to roll ’em out to us. He went there to prepare a place for us [Jn 14.2-3]. It wasn’t already there. It needed building. Arguably he’s still building it… and once done, he’s gonna take us to it. Or, as Revelation describes the new Jerusalem, bring it to us. Either way.
So when we’re praying for God’s will to be done in heaven and on earth, we’re praying for God’s kingdom in this world… and we’re praying for God’s kingdom on the new heaven. We’re praying for the present and the future. We’re praying the kingdom at the End is as perfect, as full, as God wants it to be. Since he wants to save everybody, we’re praying as many as possible get in [1Ti 2.4]!
Yep, our prayers are affecting the construction of the new heaven. Because these prayers change our attitudes. Change how we’re gonna think about God’s kingdom. Change how we’re gonna contribute to the kingdom. If we want the new Jerusalem filled, we’re gonna participate in its filling. We’re gonna invite more people into the kingdom. We’re gonna share Jesus with more people. We’re gonna include more people in our kingdom activities. We’re gonna make more disciples for Jesus. We’re gonna strive to actually do God’s will.
The new heaven begins with what we’re doing here on earth. We’re not just gonna passively pray, “Thy will be done.” We’re gonna obey it, and go get the new heaven some future inhabitants.
So keep praying it.