Since starting seminary in June 2014 I have read 17,000 pages of literature representing about 160 works, mostly books and academic journal articles. While nearly all of it has been enjoyable and the vast majority has been beneficial, it is only occasionally that I run across a book that is truly monumental. These are the special few – the books you would beg to have with you if stranded on a desert island.
One of these books for me is Alva McClain’s “The Greatness of the Kingdom.” Here is a book, written in 1959, that is capable of laying the theological foundation for a lifetime of better Bible understanding and study. And what could be more valuable to a Christian? For knowing God rightly is the only way to love and obey him more perfectly. And there is no greater obligation laid upon man.
McClain takes on a mountainous challenge: taking the reader through the whole of the Canon tracing the idea of the Kingdom of God. In fact, McClain makes a strong case that – beginning to end – the Kingdom is the unifying idea of all of Scripture.
One might assume that the idea of God’s universal reign being mediated through an earthly Kingdom started with the kings of Israel. But this is not the case. McClain identifies the Kingdom idea as early as the dominion mandate in the garden of Eden. He traces it throughout early human history up to the time of the Exodus and the forming of the nation of Israel at Sinai under its God-given constitution, the Law of Moses. He points to Moses as the Kingdom’s first human mediator, then to the prophets, then to the obvious mediators, the kings of Israel. After Solomon, of course, God’s manifest Kingdom on earth goes into decline until it is finally snuffed out with the Babylonian captivity. But all is not lost. God’s universal kingship is still a reality, and the earthly manifestation of that Kingdom is only in abeyance – it is not lost forever.
McClain leaves the Old Testament and heads to the Gospels, where Jesus comes as a humble babe and grows up in Israel as one of their own. During his incarnation he offers to re-establish the Kingdom on earth, but his people reject him as King and crucify him. For forty days after his resurrection he gives final preparations to his disciples for the next period of history (in which the Kingdom will remain in abeyance) – the Church Age.
McClain goes on to trace the Kingdom idea through the Epistles and Revelation, during none of which is the Kingdom physically reestablished on earth. But the promise of Scripture is that one day God’s Kingdom will be re-established on earth.
One day Christ will return and re-establish his manifest divine rule. In that day, when God fulfills his promise and answers the prayers of his people, we, the Church, will also reign with Christ for 1,000 years. After this 1,000 year reign Christ will win the final battle (importantly, within history) before destroying the present heavens and earth and creating a new one.
If McClain is right, the Kingdom is the big idea that runs all throughout Scripture. It is the clothesline, so to speak, that we hang the rest of the garments on. And he makes a compelling case.
McClain has been helpful in piecing together the overarching theme of Scripture and bringing clarity to many points over which I have tripped and stumbled in the past. I’m grateful for his help.
Our Father which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth,
As it is in heaven.