Friday, May 27, 2011

My Favorite Book

In the course of a person’s life there will only be a few people that will truly make a lasting impact. That impact may come in person, or it may come through a book they have written - Dr. Alva J. McClain is such a person for me. The former president of Grace Theological Seminary published a work entitled “The Greatness of the Kingdom” in 1959 (ISBN# 0-88468-011-3) whose 556 pages literally opened up the Scriptures to me in a way that thousands of sermons never had. The book is an inductive study of the Kingdom of God from Genesis to Revelation. The Kingdom of God is in a certain sense the grand theme of the Bible from creation to consummation and provides the key for understanding both the first and second coming of Christ.

McClain unpacks that theme by first establishing the reality of a “Universal Kingdom of God” which exists without interruption throughout all time (Ps. 145:13). This Universal Kingdom includes all that exists in space and time (pg. 24-34) and is generally controlled via providence as administered by the eternal Son (Col. 1:17). McClain rightly notes that the Universal Kingdom can not be identical with the kingdom for which our Lord taught His disciples to pray (Matt. 6:10). McClain names this other kingdom “The Mediatorial Kingdom” in which God rules upon the earth through the agency of a human mediator.

What follows from here is a fascinating Bible study filled with profound insights as McClain traces the origin and development of that Mediatorial Kingdom from the first Adam to the second. In this journey, the history of the nation of Israel is retraced, the Mosaic covenant explained, and the decline and eclipse of the Davidic monarchy detailed (pg. 41-129). Following this, he turns his attention to the Mediatorial Kingdom in OT prophecy (pg. 135-254), unpacking the concept of the “Day of the Lord” and the person of the coming Mediatorial King. Perhaps the most encouraging and spiritually uplifting portion of the book is found in the section devoted to the blessings of the coming kingdom (pg. 217-254). For those who wonder what heaven will be like, I believe we have a wonderful picture detailed for us by the prophets in the splendor of Messiah’s coming earthly kingdom. God made man body and soul and declared His creation “very good” (Gen. 1:31), therefore, we have every reason logically and biblically to assume that the eternal state will be a place where that very good creation will be on permanent display.

The second half of the book is devoted to the Mediatorial Kingdom in the New Testament with considerable attention given to its prominence in the Gospels and the Book of Acts (pg. 259-430). When John and Jesus came preaching and announced “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17), McClain rightly notes that they neither offered, nor did the people need an explanation of this kingdom or the Gospel associated with it (Mk. 1:14-15). They could only have understood those words in their original OT context of the promised Davidic rule.

Almost 100 pages finish out the book by tracing the Mediatorial Kingdom through the Epistles and its consummation in the Book of Revelation when the Son delivers up the Mediatorial Kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24) and The Universal and Mediatorial Kingdom become one.

Having just finished my fourth reading of The Greatness of the Kingdom, I can confidently say that it is, in my opinion, the most definitive treatment of the subject of the Kingdom published in the 20th century and to date has not been refuted by those who would seek to spiritualize the kingdom as something within us. As McClain rightly notes, the kingdom of God is never said to enter into man – man enters into it.

Summer is almost upon us and you could not invest it better than to take up this book in one hand and your Bible in the other. Sit back, relax and go for a journey of a lifetime – you will never regret it. Maranatha!

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