Posts Tagged ‘Alva McClain’

The Kingdom Offered at Christ’s First Coming

July 2, 2013 2 comments

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.

Supersessionist Fascination with the Holy Land, and Israel’s Great Future

May 24, 2013 2 comments

Another true and timeless quote from Alva McClain’s “Greatness of the Kingdom” (p. 253):

some of the most incorrigible opponents of a millennial religious center in Jerusalem, at the same time have an untiring enthusiasm for “trips” to the Holy Land here and now.  Surely it is a great privilege to walk where the Son of God once lived, suffered, and died. If this be so, how much more wonderful it will be to go there when He is once more there in visible manifestation and glory.

In recent months I have observed this very phenomenon: a church pastor —  strong supersessionist (no future for Israel), Amillennial Preterist, old-earth creationist — who yet shows “untiring enthusiasm” in sharing pictures from his trip to the Holy Land last year.  Such interest has even resulted in a lengthy Sunday School series for the main adult Sunday School class, complete with slides, diagram drawings and general geography and archeology sessions, and such trivia as the size of Jerusalem (in acres) at various times in biblical history. (Among the trivia: Jerusalem was 44 acres in size in Jesus’ day.)  The lessons go into all the details in the biblical accounts of how the men in Hezekiah’s day affected the water supply, and other basic information that I tend to think of as appropriate for general, secular education.  Certainly geography and archeology of the Holy Land is of some interest, even to natural man, as something concrete and part of our natural world.  Yet where is the spiritual content of such a series, in light of the massive biblical revelation?

The biblical references in this series are basic and well-known to serious students of God’s word, but such a topical series comes across as disappointingly shallow.  Consider the great depth and riches of what God’s word has to say regarding Israel (past, present and future): the great biblical covenants (especially the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants), and (as especially brought out in Alva McClain’s great work) the beginnings and details of God’s Mediatorial Kingdom in Israel, in Old Testament History and Prophecy.  Then Israel’s apostasy and what that actually meant: not that the nation itself was completely cut-off and divorced from God, but that judgment fell on particular generations – and yet, as SLJ observed:

There are people who look at the Old Testament and say, ‘All fulfilled, of no real use to us today.’ That, the apostles would have been strongly against, for that was their Bible. And all that they taught they related to the Old Testament teaching. In fact, the epistle to the Romans is really nothing more than an Old Testament theology written in the light of the coming of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of those promises in Him. The Jews have a future. Their place in the program of God in the present time is similar to that of a train which is passed onto a siding — the purpose of God has passed them by, not because they have no future but because they did not believe.

Also the prophecies regarding Israel’s present condition, such as the prophecies of Balaam, and especially of Hosea (Hosea 3:4-5):

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

Oh the great riches in God’s word concerning Israel past, present, and especially future in the kingdom of God upon the earth, as described in so many passages of scripture, the Old Testament prophecies as well as great references in the gospels and New Testament passages.  Yet, as Alva McClain observed over half a century ago (that which is still true) some professed believers rigorously oppose the idea of God having anything future to do with Israel, and yet they are content with and even have unending enthusiasm for trips to the Holy Land.  Many of us have never had opportunity to visit the physical sites of the Holy Land, and perhaps never will get that opportunity in this life, yet we can dig into the treasures of God’s word regarding the nation Israel, and God’s purposes for Israel and the Gentile nations in the future Kingdom of God upon the earth. Indeed, “how much more wonderful it will be to go there when He is once more there in visible manifestation and glory.”

Prophecy and Application: Principle (Alva McClain) In Practice (Spurgeon)

March 20, 2013 2 comments

From my recent readings — Alva McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom and sequential reading through Charles Spurgeon sermons — comes a rather interesting parallel: a stated principle from McClain, followed by a good example of that principle in the same day’s Spurgeon sermon reading.

In McClain’s chapter concerning “The Nature and Interpretation of Prophecy,” (p. 141), comes this great point:

just as in any proper interpretation of Old Testament history Joseph is always Joseph and not Christ, even so in prophecy Israel is always Israel and never the Church. This does not mean that the preacher may never take a prophecy concerning Israel and apply it to the Church.  But he should always know what he is talking about, and make certain that his hearers know, so that there can be no possible confusion between the history and its typical application, or between a prophecy and any so-called “typical interpretation.” (emphasis in original)

Next came Spurgeon sermon #399, “A Peal of Bells.”
I’m not sure that Spurgeon necessarily made application specifically to the Church, but clearly he made application to our everyday lives in this age (and a very good and convicting sermon, too).  But before expanding on his application in his textual style of preaching, Spurgeon first explained the primary meaning and focus of his text, Zechariah 14:20:

There are days yet to come for whose advent we may well be eager!  There is the day when Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim—for all the Church of Christ shall be one in spirit. There is the day when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. There is the day, too, when Israel shall be restored to its own land—when its country shall be called no more desolate, but Beulah; and no more forsaken, but Hephzibah shall its name be—for the Lord delights in it. There is specially the day of the Second Advent —that day of days for which I think all other days that went before were made, that day which shall be the summing up, the total of all ages—for the fullness of time shall come—and Christ, in the fullness of His Glory shall reign among the sons of men.

Yes, Spurgeon, as a covenantal premillennialist, described some things in different terms than I would use, such as the statement “for all the Church of Christ shall be one in spirit” at the end of the second sentence.  Still, though, he explained and expressed his understanding that these events are “days yet to come,” as contrasted with the now past events of the First Advent (in the sentences preceding the above quote).  The primary meaning and the application are thus both clearly presented.  Also I consider that if Spurgeon had immediately launched into his application part without first explaining the literal meaning of the passage, such approach would have greatly distracted me from appreciating the application, burdened with the though, “that’s not what the text is about.”

Spurgeon here further revealed his literal approach to the word of God, avoiding the time-compression error so well described by McClain a few pages earlier:

we shall find in Old Testament prophecy no absolutely continuous and unbroken chronology of the future.  The prophets often saw together on the screen of revelation certain events which in their fulfillment would be greatly separated by centuries of time. This characteristic, so strange to Western minds, was in perfect harmony with the Oriental mind which was not greatly concerned with continuous chronology.  And the Bible, humanly speaking, is an Oriental book.

The unyielding determination of numerous commentators to pour the events of Old Testament prophecy into a rigid mould of unbroken time, has led to disastrous results. … it has led directly to a scheme of interpretations which is the main foundation of highly erroneous eschatological systems.
(Concerning Isaiah 9:6-7):  now consider what happens if an unbroken mould of continuous time is clamped on the prophecy. Because the regal Child did not immediately take the literal throne of David to rule the world, it is argued that such a thing will never come to pass. And then, to preserve the assumption of unbroken time-sequence which cannot allow room for any literal fulfillment of the second part of the prophecy at some future time, the throne of David on earth is changed into the throne of God in heaven, and Messiah’s reign is reduced to the “influence of the Gospel or the rule of God in the “hearts of men.” (emphasis in original)

The Greatness of the Kingdom: Alva McClain’s Classic Work

March 6, 2013 5 comments

Greatness-of-the-KingdomI’m now reading through this often recommended book, Alva McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom,” considered one of the best treatments concerning an oft-neglected topic: the kingdom of God as presented in the scriptures.

I still have a long way to go in reading this, but for now just sharing a few great quotes and observations. McClain looks at the mediatorial kingdom as presented in scripture, beginning with the Old Testament theocracy in the nation Israel, with chapters that consider the mediatorial kingdom in history, and the mediatorial kingdom in the prophets. The mediatorial kingdom actually began – not with the monarchy in Israel, kings Saul and then David, but much earlier – with the nation coming out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership. One interesting observation concerning the importance of Moses’ leadership and the mediatorial kingdom:

By no device of exegesis can the force of this great prophecy (Acts 3:19-23), considered in relation to its original context and sense, be watered down to fit the theory of a “kingdom of grace” existing only in the hearts of men. On this point the terrible fate of Korah and his followers, as a swift judgment upon the rebellion against Moses, stands as a clear testimony as to the meaning of the prophecy concerning the regal authority of that coming prophet who will be a greater than Moses.

A good introductory comment concerning our attitude toward the subject:

it should be held axiomatic that any conception of the Kingdom of God which rests in large part upon a certain interpretation of a single text or passage of the Bible must be regarded with deep suspicion. In this category are the systems built around such passages as, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) or “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19) …. The doctrine of the Kingdom should be determined by an inductive examination of ALL the Biblical material on the subject, and it should not have to stand or fall by the inclusion or exclusion of isolated passages.

Also, this note concerning proper meaning and use of the term “spiritual”:

It is high time that this perfectly good term (“spiritual”) should be rescued from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of theologians who, either consciously or otherwise, have been under the spell of Platonic philosophy. Wherever and whenever we find God establishing a direct and personal relationship between Himself and other personalities, whether as individuals or as a group, regardless of place or conditions, such a relationship must be regarded as basically *spiritual* in nature.