the next world
In the gospel of Matthew, 6:9-13, Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples:
King James Version (1611):
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
The phrase kingdom come is a loose, originally slangy, use of the petition Thy kingdom come (= May thy kingdom come). In A Letter to Dr. Priestley’s Young Man (1794), the English clergyman Edward Evanson (1731-1805) wrote:
If Dr. Priestley and other readers of the Acts of the Apostles for so many centuries have not read the Christian Scriptures with unprejudiced attention sufficient to observe [that Silas is the author of the Acts of the Apostles], there is no reason why you and I should give up the use of our understanding also in compliment to any groundless system however early formed. lf we do, we must not presume to understand the plain and only sense of the kingdom of God, nor the meaning of that prayer which it is our duty daily to use: for neither the writer of the Gospel of Matthew nor any of those who for so many centuries have received it as of apostolic authority can have rightly understood either. Indeed so little hath that petition of the Lord’s prayer been intelligibly explained, and so ignorant are the generality of people of its meaning in the end of the eighteenth century, that a ludicrous and popular Poet of our own times repeatedly uses the expression being sent to kingdom come, to signify being put to death.
The phrase is first recorded in Dialogue, &c. of Old Women, published in The Leeds Intelligencer of 16th July 1771:
My Jack will have great glory here,
And bliss in kingdom come.
In The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure of March 1793, an article titled On the Misapplication of Wit contains the following:
Another very fertile subject of little wit among little wits [...] is Death.—It is astonishing what pains are taken, that death should never be mentioned by its proper name. [...] We hear of one man who has ‘hopt the twig’— a second has ‘kick’d the bucket’— a third ‘has supt up his liquor’—a fourth has ‘gone to kingdom come’— a fifth has been ‘fetched at last’— and a sixth ‘is dead as mutton,’ or ‘gone to Davy Jones,’ &c. &c. &c. Those, who think these expressions are witty, must, however, confess that they are not new; for they have been in vulgar use as long as the present generation can remember.
But kingdom come is also used to refer to the millennial kingdom of Christ. In A Dedication to some new Friends, the foreword to Old Kensington (1873), the English writer Anne Thackeray (1837-1919) wrote:
Sometimes new friends meet one along the midway of life, and come forward with sweet unknown faces and with looks that seem strangely familiar to greet us.
To some of these new friends I must dedicate my story. It was begun ten years ago, and is older than my god-daughter Margie herself, who is the oldest among them. She is playing with her sister and her little cousins in the sunny Eton nurseries. [...]
Eleanor cannot talk, but she can sing; and so can our Laura at home, and her song is her own; a sweet home song; the song of all children to those who love them. It tells of the past, and one day brings it back without a pang; it tells of a future, not remorselessly strange and chill and unknown, but bound to us by a thousand hopes and loving thoughts—a kingdom-come for us all, not of strangers, but of little children.