The Kingdom Offered at Christ’s First Coming

July 2, 2013

Alva McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom,” in chapter 23 (Christ’s Ministry in Preparation for the Interregnum) considers in some depth the question of Jesus’ offer of the Kingdom to Israel at His First Coming.  Addressing the controversy behind that idea, McClain well observes:

Those who cavil at the idea of an offer which is certain to be rejected, betray an ignorance, not only of Biblical history (cf. Isa 6:8-10 and Ezek 2:3-7), but also of the important place of the legal proffer in the realm of jurisprudence.  (p. 344)

Indeed this is one of those teachings with apparent contradictions. S. Lewis Johnson expressed the many questions and difficulties as he addressed his audience with these questions, interacting with the audience response (in this message): Was it really offered?  Was it foreknown that it would be rejected, this offer?  Was it foreordained that they should reject it?  Could Israel have responded at the first coming?

Or, as Dr. Johnson summarized it here:

Unfortunately, many people gained a great deal of credence among evangelicals by affirming that our Lord really offered a kingdom apart from a cross.  He never offered a kingdom apart from a cross, but He did offer a kingdom.  He offered the kingdom, however, through the cross.  It’s possible to make the other error, and that’s to say He never offered an earthly kingdom at all.  These are two errors, it seems to me, one on one extreme, the other, the other. He did offer a kingdom, but it was through the sufferings.

As an example of one of these two errors — in the first eschatology audio MP3 series I listened to a few years ago (a very lengthy one), the teacher rejected the idea that Jesus actually offered a kingdom, objecting to the Classic Dispensational (and Arminian) idea that “Jesus offered the kingdom to the Jews, and if they had accepted it He would have brought the kingdom then — but instead He had to switch to plan B.”  He noted one of the parables that taught the idea of a postponed kingdom, and the point that Jesus “even refused it when the people tried to push it.”

But the issue is more complex than that, as noted above.  As to the specific point that Jesus “refused it when the people tried to push it,” that is one of the very things McClain brings up.  Yes, in Jesus’ earlier ministry He refused it (John 6:15), but something changed at the Triumphal Entry: an occasion where the people did openly praise and refer to Him as king; the Pharisees noted what His followers were saying and objected to it, asking Jesus to silence them; and Jesus noted that if these were silent the very rocks would cry out.

From this chapter in McClain’s Greatness of the Kingdom, the following specific points show the genuine, official offer made to Israel, at the Triumphal Entry:

  1. The Journey to Jerusalem: the significance of that city as the royal city of the King
  2. The Preparation for His arrival – the nation was largely represented; 70 messengers sent ahead, taking time over a period of up to 5 months before the event.
  3. The Royal Entrance into Jerusalem.  On pages 347-348 McClain notes:  “It has been said by anti-millennial writers that the animal ridden by our Lord was intended to show humility and indicate that the Kingdom He came to found would accomplish its purposes by “peaceable” means and wholly without the use of force…. If Christ had wished merely to display His humility, He would not have ridden at all, for it would have been humbler to walk with the disciples.”

Regarding that Royal Entrance into Jerusalem:

  • Sending two disciples to a nearby village to get the colt of a donkey.  Matthew only quotes the first part of the full prophecy in Zech. 9:9-10.  If Matthew had believed in a ‘present Messianic reign’ ushered in by the first coming of the King, here would have been the time and place to cite in full the details of Zech. 9:9-10, but he says not a word about the wondrous things of verse 10.
  • Actions and praises of the people: awareness of the regal meaning of His entry into Jerusalem.
  • Deep significance in the very language with which the multitude expressed their joy, with references to the King of Israel, the son of David.
  • The very protest of the Pharisees against the acclamations of the multitude.  The Pharisees knew that previously our Lord had requested silence upon His disciples with reference to public acclamation of His regal claims and that He steadfastly resisted the popular movement to “make Him a king” (John 6:15)
  • The answer of Christ: a radically new junction has arrived in His career upon earth.  No longer is there any place for verbal silence. If these keep quiet, even the stones would cry out.
  • The moving lament of our Lord as He beheld the city, and the judgment He pronounced upon it, prove that a crisis-point is reached here in the history of Israel in relation to the Kingdom.
  • The acts of our Lord immediately following His entry into the city – cleansing of the temple, followed by other physical wonders.
  1. Pam S.
    July 3, 2013 at 6:19 am

    The Arminian view always characterizes God as reacting to human decisions. Arthur Pink once described it as theology “from the pit of hell”.
    God’s decrees were made in eternity past and in time they all come to fulfillment, as they must if He is a sovreign God.
    Linda, thanks for making this clear. How do you find Alva McClain’s book compared to other’s who have written on the subject of the Kingdom, like Pentecost, Ryrie, etc.

    • July 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Hi Pam. I haven’t read anything from Ryrie yet, but read Pentecost’s “Things to Come” a few years ago. That book seemed more broad in scope, covering several topics including Ezekiel’s war, and the rapture timing, the overall disp premillennial view. Alva McClain’s book is easier reading (writing style) than Pentecost, and focused on one topic (the Kingdom itself) rather than several different issues. As such, I think I’m learning more from this book and its topic, the details of the Kingdom itself — the mediatorial kingdom in all of scripture, starting with Old Testament history and prophecy, then the gospels and the New Testament.

      Have you read anything from Pentecost or Ryrie?

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