Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Kingdom

About two-and-a-half years ago, I started reading The Greatness of the Kingdom by Alva J. McClain (see "New Book"). A friend had recommended it, so I picked up a copy and started working on it.

I finished the book this morning. It is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read. I whole-heartedly encourage you to buy a copy and read it. It's amazing.

Now, the fact that it took me more than two years to read is suggestive.  Some of that is because I was reading a lot of other things at the time. Some of it is that I tend to do everything inconsistently, especially reading: it's not at all uncommon for me to read several hundred pages of a book, then put it down for months or even years before picking it up again (I've got bookmarks in at least a half-dozen books at any given time). But in this case, I found the book bogged down significantly in the middle. It seemed to get a little dry, and it took months for me to work through it, sometimes no more than a page in a day. But once I got to around page 300, I found I had trouble putting it down.

I've been interested in the Biblical teaching about the Kingdom for many years. I spend a lot of time around Dispensationalists, who seem to fear the word "kingdom." But at some point I realized my reticence to study the Kingdom was not based on Scripture. The Scripture spends a good deal of time discussing the Kingdom, indeed the book of Acts ends with this description of Paul's ministry:
 30 ¶ And he remained two whole years in his own hired lodging, and received all who came to him,
 31 preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all freedom unhinderedly. (Acts 28:30 & 31, JND)
So certainly the Apostle considered the Kingdom of some importance.

What I love about this book is, it studies the Kingdom from a dispensational perspective. While unapologetically premillenialist and dispensationalist, it's also a passionate and enthusiastic study into Christ as King.  McClain doesn't shy away from the place the Church has as part of the Kingdom: indeed, he almost exults in it.

McClain's book is a study of the Kingdom from Genesis to Revelation. It's written as a text-book, and it's very matter-of-fact. That's probably why I found the middle of it quite dry. But it's not a boring book: not by any means.

What I found most amazing in the book was McClain's study of the four Gospels in relation to the Kingdom. There's no doubt that the Kingdom was the main focus of the Lord Jesus' earthly ministry, and McClain expounds it brilliantly and clearly. His discussions of the Triumphal Entry and the Olivet Discourse are well worth the time, effort, and expense of getting a copy and reading it through.

I've now read three of McClain's books: The Greatness of the Kingdom, Law and Grace, and Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks.  The Greatness is by far the longest book I've read by McClain: Law and Grace is  a very short book, while Daniel's Prophecy is little more than a pamphlet. Nevertheless, I've become a real fan of McClain's. He does an excellent job of arguing simply and carefully from Scripture, without becoming too abstract or theoretical.

If you're going to read The Greatness of the Kingdom (and you should), I recommend you check out either his book on Daniel's 70 weeks, or even The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson first.  An understanding of Daniel 9 will be helpful to McClain's treatment of the Lord's earthly ministry.

I made the comment quite some time ago that McClain is kind of like Darby, but a lot easier to read. I meant that as a compliment. But where Law and Grace is almost a prĂ©cis of JND's teachings on the subject, and Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks is a sort of summation of The Coming Prince,  I haven't read anything that goes into this of depth on the Kingdom of God.  The book is a masterpiece, and everyone should read it.

Friday, May 10, 2013


Shan left a comment  almost a year ago:
Mark, just a quick question: a blogger friend recently noted this:

"The holiness of God, or holy, or sanctification, or any word in that family, is not mentioned in the Bible between the 7th day of creation (Genesis 2:3) and Moses (Exodus 3:5). That's quite a gap! It seems like the topic should have come up with Abraham. Or Isaac. Or Jacob. If it did, it didn't make it into the Biblical record."

Any thoughts on why that might be?

I stewed over this for quite some time.  But it was during some (unrelated) reading that I found an answer. I've given the answer a lot of thought, and I think it's correct. So I'm going to pass it on. I think the article that caught my attention was Darby's comments on Exodus 15 in the Synopsis. I was going to copy some of his comments in here, but it's really long.

The key is Psalm 93:5
holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for ever. (JND) 
The issue in Exodus is that God has taken up a habitation with men:
 44 And I will hallow the tent of meeting, and the altar; and I will hallow Aaron and his sons, that they may serve me as priests.
 45 And I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and will be their God.
 46 And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, who have brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst: I am Jehovah their God.  (Exodus 29:44--46, JND)
God told Moses that He had taken the children of Israel out of Egypt to "dwell in their midst". This is something quite different than His relationship with the patriarchs.  It's true that Abraham was the friend of God, but there is not a word in Scripture that God dwelt with Abraham. We don't read about God dwelling with men until Exodus.

God's habitation introduces the responsibility to holiness.

From Exodus on, there is a history of God's dwelling with men. When Joshua led the people into the land, they set up the Tabernacle at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). We've gone over the history of the ark and its location before (The Tabernacle at Gibeon), so we needn't repeat it here. But Psalm 78 details God's rejecting Shiloh and choosing Jerusalem as the place where He would put His name.  Jerusalem remained the place where God put His name until the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost (Acts 2). Notice this occurred in Jerusalem. Now, Paul says, the assembly is the "habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).

God will once more choose Jerusalem as the place where He puts His name: that's plain from the prophets (Zechariah 1:17, 2:12). It is God's intention that His King will reign in Zion (Psalm 2), but that day hasn't come yet. It will: Christ will descend onto the Mount of Olives and come up into Jerusalem through the east gate (Zechariah 14, Ezekiel 43).

So to answer the question: holiness (or sanctification) is connected with God's habitation. In fact, "holiness" is first mentioned in Exodus 15, which is also the first mention of God's dwelling place:
 11 Who is like unto thee, Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like unto thee, glorifying thyself in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
 12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
 13 Thou by thy mercy hast led forth the people that thou hast redeemed; Thou hast guided them by thy strength unto the abode of thy holiness. (Exodus 15:11--13, JND)
There is no question that God is holy, and always was. It's not like Abraham got a free pass, consider Genesis 17:1
And Abram was ninety-nine years old, when Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said to him, I am the Almighty *God: walk before my face, and be perfect. (JND)
Abraham was told to "be perfect". So we ought not to think that God's standard was low for Abraham. But the issue of holiness comes out of the responsibility of God's habitation. It's God's dwelling with men that brings the responsibility for holiness (cf. Numbers 5:2--3).

1 Timothy is interesting in this light: it's the epistle of how to behave oneself in God's house (1 Timothy 3:15). There is a responsibility in the house of God that is over and above the responsibility of the redeemed creature.

There is a tendency in "evangelical" Christianity to reduce everything to the individual. Scripture is full of teaching about God's dealing with individuals, but that's not the whole counsel of God. The whole counsel of God includes what I call "dispensational responsibility". This is really the bulk of Paul's epistles: there is a thing on the earth called the assembly (or church, or congregation, or gathering if you prefer), which Scripture calls the "habitation of God in the Spirit."  There is an order to be observed in the assembly, which is given in 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, etc. The order of Scripture isn't very popular today, but it's what God has laid out, and it's what He calls us to now as 2000 years ago. This is above and beyond individual justification, redemption, and salvation. It's how God calls us to behave in His house.

Well, I can feel a rant coming on, so I'll end this now.  Shan, I hope this answers your question.  I freely admit I got this from Johnny D., but as I've mulled this over, read Scripture, and researched the question, I've become convinced he was right. So I wanted to pass it on.