What I’m Reading: The Greatness of the Kingdom

Greatness of the KingdomI’ve been intending to read Alva J. McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom for quite some time, and my recent Dispensations course at DBTS has given me the “shove” I needed. I’m about 125 pages in, and I’ve enjoyed it so far. Dr. McClain was a tremendous communicator, and I wish he had been able to write the other books he had planned to publish.

What I’ve read thus far has focused strictly on the OT instruction regarding the kingdom. McClain insists that “the background of the New Testament idea of the Kingdom must be found in the Old Testament.” (p. 19) In chapter 4, he distinguishes between the biblical concept of God’s “Universal Kingdom” (He has always reigned and always will reign in the sense of sovereignty) and the prophecies of His particular reign over men on the earth in what McClain terms His “Mediatorial Kingdom.” What is interesting to me at this point is that McClain sees this Mediatorial Kingdom—or at least the “idea” of it—extending back to Eden. So it’s not (if I understand McClain correctly) unique to Israel, though it was obviously particularly established through David’s line in history. Interesting.

His insights into OT history are extremely helpful. I’m learning much about Scripture, not just the Kingdom. Whether or not the book will alter my understanding of the Kingdom remains to be seen, but I’m enjoying it very much.

I’ll probably have more comments to add below as I get further into it. Feel free to share your own perspective. I know it’s been an influential book for many.

By the way, I don’t know that this book has ever been read on the beech before, but it was last week during my vacation in Michigan. Not your typical sand & sun fare. :)


17 Responses

  1. Chris crosses over to the Dark Side. . . although I’m sure he will still be understanding of other viewpoints. [heh,heh]

  2. McClain’s writings are great. He and Erich Sauer are two I wish could be cloned into our generation, to write again and afresh, against the background of where we are today. Two of many

  3. The late Jesse Boyd taught us six “aspects” of one Kingdom in prophecy classes at BJU. He listed these different aspects:

    1. Ultimate Aspect – sovereign rule of God over all creation
    2. Spiritual Aspect – rule of God in the hearts and lives of his people
    3. Historical aspect – rule of God over the nation Israel
    4. Mystery Aspect – rule of God over professing Christendom
    5. Messianic Aspect – rule of God over the nations of the earth during the Millennium
    6. Eternal Aspect – rule of God over his redeemed universe

    I’d be interested to know if McLain’s view coincides with pastor Boyd’s views.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. You don’t have to go to DBTS to read McClain’s book, Don!

    My understanding is that it’s even sold in the BJ Bookstore, so don’t worry, it’s safe. :-)

  5. Hey, I wasn’t wanting to read it, Chris is doing that for me.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  6. I remember reading this for McCune’s class on the Kingdom; awesome book. I’m with you on the things one can learn from AJM’s systematic analysis of Scripture.

    Why were you reading in a tree on vacation? :-)

  7. Wow, Dan. That picture with you in a Michigan hat is hard to look at. As for the beech, I was in a tree because everyone knows that a self-respecting fundamentalist pastor wouldn’t be caught dead on a beach. Did you think it was a typo?

    Mark, I haven’t said I’m crossing anything. Just reading a book. In a tree.

  8. You stated, “What is interesting to me at this point is that McClain sees this Mediatorial Kingdom—or at least the ‘idea’ of it—extending back to Eden. So it’s not (if I understand McClain correctly) unique to Israel, though it was obviously particularly established through David’s line in history.”

    I think you have misunderstood AJM. Cf. the title of chapter 6–“The Establishment of the Mediatorial Kingdom in History.” There is a difference between the idea of the mediatorial kingdom, a phrase which AJM uses, and the existence of such. The MK is a phase of the UK (pardon the abbreviations; don’t get confused!), but they should not be construed as identical.

  9. I read it. And because I don’t want to discuss dispensationalism that’s all I’ll say. BUT, I think his comment on hell right near the beginning of the book somewhere is worth the entire book. Powerful.

  10. This one?

    “The strange notion that the devil is the king of hell has no basis in divine revelation. God is the King of hell, just as He is the King of everything else in time and space. And because this is so, that everlasting prison-house of the lost will not be the noisy and disorderly place that is sometimes imagined by the popular mind. There is no more orderly place than a well-disciplined prison, even under imperfect human government. There will be no riots in hell. For all those who reject the mercy of God in Christ and recognize no final argument but force, there will be force without stint or limit, the force of a divine government from which there can be no escape, either now or hereafter” (p. 25).

  11. Dan,

    I do understand the difference between UK and MK. At least I think I do. When I referred to the MK (or the idea of it) beginning in Eden, I wasn’t speaking of the UK at all. I was thinking of AJM’s ch. 5 (which is addressing MK, not UK). McClain starts the chapter (which deals with God’s mediating his earthly rule from creation on) as follows:

    “The Mediatorial Kingdom may be defined tentatively as: (a) the rule of God through a divinely chosen representative who not only speaks and acts for God but also represents the people before God; (b) a rule which has especial reference to the earth; and (c) having as its mediatorial ruler one who is always a member of the human race.” (p. 41)

    Anyway, your understanding of AJM is that ch. 5 is addressing the MK idea which existed from creation, but that the actual MK wasn’t established until Sinai (ch. 6)—is that right?

    It’s an important question, I think, because AJM insists that all attempts “to erect an absolute separation between the historical kingdom and the future kingdom of prophecy…have failed and must fail….In a very real sense there is but one Mediatorial Kingdom of God.” (p. 42)

    If that’s the case, it seems that determining a starting place would be pretty vital.

    BTW, I’m not pretending to be an authority on the Kingdom or AJM. I’m learning as I go, or at least trying to.

  12. Ditto on the authority thing!

  13. I read this several years ago, and then read portions of it again last fall in preparation for preaching through Acts. Revolutionized my understanding of Scripture. A must read for every preacher.

    Incidentally, (Don), BJU recently published a book by Thurmond Wisdom on the Kingdom that is essentially McClain. I’ve only read about half of it, but I found it to be excellent so far. It reads almost like a novel.

  14. Hi Scott

    I actually am reading Dr. Wisdom’s book right now. Four of us up here read books together and then get together for fellowship and discussion. This is our current book. (I picked!) I have just started it, and find Dr Wisdom to be highly entertaining as a writer. He was always a favorite preacher when we were at school.

    Still… any comment on my six points? Are they talking about the same thing or is that something else entirely?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  15. […] Make Fun of “Already, Not Yet” I’ve been reading Alva J. McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom, and I thought I’d compare it to an understanding of the kingdom that is a bit broader. To […]

  16. Hi,

    I haven’t read McClain’s book on the Kingdom yet but I’ve looked at his books on Romans (the Gospel of God’s Grace) and Daniels 70 weeks – and they’re great.

  17. I have just ordered the book ‘The greatness of the Kingdom.’
    This is a subject i am very keen on…

    I am re reading ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ by D. Pentecost right now. It seems very similar to Mclains.
    Has anyone read this? How do you think it compares.

    I happen to run across a very interesting quote the other day….

    By Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

    “About the time of the end, a body of men will be rasied up who will turn their attention to the prophecies, and insist on their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamor and opposition”

    Does this describe you? Amen. Go for it!


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