Notes to the Seven Churches (10)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

The Book of Revelation – (Revelation Chapter 1 Verse 1)

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We come now to the text of Revelation itself. John, the apostle is the author, under, of course, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Timothy 3:16). He is in exile on the island of Patmos. These prophetic visions were given to him by 95AD is believed. The visions were given and the writing of them are simultaneous (v19). John is ordered to write in a book the things that he is shown (v11). Which is completed and sealed, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). In fact, in the highest sense, it is Christ’s book (v1). We interpret the book by its contents, along with, of course, the rest of Scripture. God is the revealer, and Christ is God revealed. God’s revelation always comes, is always mediated to us through Jesus Christ. It is Christ as God who speaks to us in all Scripture. And there is no higher authority than Christ, he is Lord, of all. Thus, the book of Revelation reveals Christ to us, who controls, governs everything that falls out in his creation (Matthew 28:18). The theme is how that he comes and is coming through the age we call the millennium, the new testament age that is, from the ascension of Christ to his return in glory. It is history views from above.

The first three verses are a summary of the entire book, its origin, its subject matter, its nature and its purpose. It gives believers a heavenly perspective of redemptive history and reveals the one who is the Lord of history. In the death of Jesus Christ was the victory over Satan, his servants, or followers (v1), are to repeat that victory, by enduring suffering through their many tribulations. They are called to be more than conquerors. They are shown the heavenly realm, with the Lamb upon his throne being central. The goal of the new creation is set before them, with the sovereign Christ both redeeming and judging. The intention is to motivate them to worship God in obedience to his word. The meaning of the name of the book. It has been referred to as John’s apocalypse, this English word expresses the dramatic, destructive. The Greek rendering is both simple and plainer, meaning revelation. It is akin to a statue which all covered over ready at the appointed time to be unveiled for all to see. Here in the book of Revelation the hidden counsel of God is unveiled, made known. It cannot be known unless God reveals it, it needs to know, but is only spiritually discerned. Just as all the rest of Scripture (John 5:39). It answers the question for us as to what Christ has been doing and is doing, from the time of his exaltation to the end of the age. As we shall see, he is very busy. John, remember, knows Jesus Christ intimately, but at the sight of him, he falls as one dead (v17). For him, the exalted and glorified Christ is he who dominates and controls all history’s events and people. Not Presidents, Prime Ministers, kings, beasts, the world, death or hell, but Jesus Christ. He the Lamb in the midst of the throne is LORD.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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Notes on the Exodus (63)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Persecution  (Chapter 5 Verses 10-19)

There is also psychological pressure here also. Pharaoh derides the message from God, he deems God’s words to be vain. The intent, of course, is to undermine the faith, the trust of God’s people. The response is much the same today, when men are told that the Scriptures are God’s authoritative revelation, or of man’s total depravity and unpreparedness to die. That natural man is unfit for the presence of God, of the solemn and serious issues at stake, or the consequences of neglecting such (Hebrews 2:3), and the answer? The same, vain words. Through the media, a major false prophet of the modern age, an anti-Christian instrument, the world is always seeking to undermine the faith and trust of God’s people. It is the same antagonism towards the gospel as see here in Pharaoh. The result sadly, in many instances, is that many turn to ideas and ways that actually subvert the claims of Christ. No, they don’t deny him outright, or the authenticity of his word. But they place on an equal par other ideas and philosophies, worldly concepts, Egypt’s humanism. Thus, paganism enters the church regarding how people should live, how people should be changed, what man’s real needs are. The sinfulness of sin, man’s depravity and fallen nature are seldom preached. The law of God is not heard. Little wonder there is little conviction of sin amongst us while there is pressure to conform to these other ideologies. The Bible clearly warns against other systems of morality (Isaiah 5:20). The change is a devious one, the word for sin is exchanging for shortcomings, mistakes. I spoke with a Christian Pastor just the other day, he has been warned never to use the word sin in the context of his ministry. They contrive ways of explaining man’s condition other than the fall, of needing salvation other than through the cross, the saving work of Christ. Succumbing to the psychological pressures of the day. It is claimed that God is still in it, but help is sought from other sources than God. They seek to amalgamate God’s ways with Pharaoh’s, the world’s. Scripture is God’s very own word, and alone set the parameters for the Christian faith. Their divine status more than implies that to disbelieve, dislike, or disobey is akin to disbelieving, disliking, and disobeying God himself. It must all be believed (Luke 24:25; Acts 24;14).

But that’s not all, there is the physical pressure (vv12-14), it is brutal. It is easy to see the forces at the back of all this, demonic. Keep the people pre-occupied with the physical and they will have less or no time to think about the spiritual. Persecution comes in different ways, sometimes it is psychological, sometimes it is physical, sometimes it is quite subtle. For decades now in the West we have been persecuted with material prosperity, it is as much a killer as any physical persecution. The god of materialism has been worshiped for so long, we are now trapped in a spiritual emptiness, faithless, godless. Our society is as humanistic, pagan as ever was Pharaoh’s Egypt. A bankrupt humanism. We are the grandchildren of Pharaoh. We have turned to vanity (1Samuel 12:21). Now? No answers, no sensible diagnosis as to our own condition. We have developed a culture of death, we are evolution’s children, stuck in a primordial mud of our own making. Because like Pharaoh we have refused to bow in humble submission to the Almighty, we have exchanged the truth for a lie. This and more is why the church must fulfil its true calling, for the only answer to this hopelessness is the gospel that addresses the human enslavement, and brings the amazing prospect of freedom, rescue, even an exodus.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (9)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The Signs of His Coming – (Revelation Chapter 1 Verse 1)

Some of the issues we have already seen, that there is only and ever just one church, on covenant which includes both Jew and Gentile, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). We have observed from Scripture that the majority of mankind are not saved, the true church is ever both small and despised “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32); “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). We have also seen that the Antichrist didn’t come in AD.75, but is yet to come, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things” (2Thessalonians 2:13)? But there are other factors which we must bring to bear on this matter. The world is not being brought under a Christian influence. I have heard recently a couple of Post-Mil guys from the USA saying that they are making great progress there in bringing their country under the influence of God’s word. I don’t know what the USA they are looking at, but it’s not the same one that I’m looking at. Wars are not disappearing, they are in fact increasing. Wickedness abounds and wars increase, just as Jesus said they would (Matthew 24:6f). Whilst lawlessness continues we are not and do not expect to be removed from the scene, but are told to endure to the end. This is our expectation, “and if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22).

The other signs we are told to expect, apostasy, a falling away of a staggering degree (Matthew 24:10f; 1Timothy 4:1f). We are to expect one, only one resurrection at the return of Christ in judgment (John 5:28f). No one knows the day or the hour when this will be, but we are told it is near (1Peter 4:7; 1John 2:18). These are some of the precursors to the sudden appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, our calling is to an attitude of sobriety (1Peter 4:7). Not to stagger through life ignoring reality. Not scoffing as some will and do (2Peter 3:4f). We are called to rejoice, not be sad that this world order is coming to an end, but filled with hope, because our redemption draws near. We are to watch, to observe the signs of his coming (2Peter 3:11f). We are strangers and pilgrims, this is not our home, our home and our desire is for heaven, not a Christianised world, however, pleasant that may seem. We are to be sober and watchful an attitude that engenders prayer. As lawlessness increases and abounds we seek refuge in the secret place of the highest. In order to receive strength to endure the trials and temptations that will befall the saints of God in the last of the last days. We are to pray for Jesus to come, come, Lord Jesus, come, come quickly.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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Notes on the Exodus (62)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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Bricks Without Straw  (Chapter 5 Verses 10-19)

We have seen that Pharaoh has been given ample opportunity to repent, such however was not given to him. However, this means he was left without any excuse whatsoever. God must be seen to be justified when he judges, so for this, the wickedness of the wicked must be clearly manifest. It must stand out, it must be evident that they will not humble themselves. The way of obedience is made plain, clear, easy to them, thus, in their disobedience, they are exposed as being without excuse. God will be just when he judges. Pharaoh’s response to God is one of haughty defiance (v2), cloaked in the garb of ignorance. It is wanton rebellion, a blatant refusal to the Almighty. Do not be surprised that God intimated that his purpose was to harden his heart (Exodus 4:21). But the refusal has an effect on God’s people. The purpose of Pharaoh we must see and understand clearly is driven by the powers of darkness (Ephesians 2:2), to break down any hope of freedom. The devil whispers in their ears, you will never be free. Neither Moses nor Aaron is any match for either Pharaoh or the powers that drive him. Remember the demands of Moses are based on the revelation of God, this is where Moses confidence lies, God has got his back. Otherwise, his plans are folly. It is no different with ourselves, if we view things from just a human perspective, we begin to sink beneath the waves of discouragement and hopelessness. Our gospel, the commission is likewise a revelation from God, and his demands are exactly the same today, to the Pharaoh’s of this world and the powers of darkness that drives them. “Let my people go!”

So Pharaoh’s tactics change (v9-10). The chain of command works from the bottom up, the Israelites, the rank and file workers, then section leaders who would be Hebrews. It’s much the same way the Nazis worked, with Jewish police in their concentration camps, with Egyptian work bosses over them. It would be the latter who would mete out the physical stuff, cruel, and impervious to any human plea. Pharaoh, of course, he thinks he is in the place of God. He is about to learn a serious lesson, he is nothing, nobody, a man of straw. Contrary to all such creatures, including our own society’s humanistic assumptions, there is the over-riding and supernatural issue that all of history’s events are governed by God himself. Men neglect God at their peril, to do so is to invite judgment, just as Pharaoh himself did. The use of Jewish police is a cunning one, it deflects the blame, the criticism because the slaves are never certain as where the pressure is coming from. It keeps them guessing, divided, arguing amongst themselves, blaming each other. As long as they are kept doing this, they will never stand (Matthew 12:25). It will take a lot of grace to mould and shape them, to make them God’s people, united, standing as one, ready to fight God’s enemies and not one another. Would to today’s church please take note?

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (8)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The Binding of Satan – (Revelation Chapter 1 Verse 1)

As we continue from the previous note you will begin to see what I mean by much of the book of Revelation being symbolic. Look at verse four of Revelation chapter twenty,” and I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded”. Are we to take this as being literal, is this how we shall wander around heaven, headless, how utterly grotesque? These are the saints who have already died and are now reigning in heaven. They are full of the heavenly perfection and glory. The others, the wicked unbelieving, they do not love but perish forever (v5). The same symbolism is seen also in verses two and three concerning Satan. It is expressing spiritual reality, Satan being a spirit being, therefore, could not be bound physically, this taken literally would be another absurdity. So who does Satan being bound then mean? Well, it is certainly not by the church. The chain is a great chain (v1), which symbolises the great power by which he is bound, much more power than the church wields. The chain figures the power that binds him, that of the sovereign Christ himself. The bottomless pit signifies that he is placed where his movements and operations are restricted. It is shut and sealed (v2), signifying also the firmness of this binding. And lastly, we are given the purpose for this binding, “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until..” (v3). The nations of Gog and Magog that is.

We must ever remember that throughout redemptive history, beginning to end, there are always two seeds. And we show the development of two lines, or two seeds if you like. All the way from Eden we have the development of the seed of Satan, the serpent. And the seed of the woman, the elect of God. Both, through the ages, grow and multiply. The seed of the woman is all those donated to Christ by his Father, the church in other words. The fulness of the seed of the serpent is the kingdom of the Antichrist. The latter represented by the nations, Gog and Magog. Satan’s “little while” (v3) when he is loosed to deceived those nations, will result in the manifestation of his empire, the kingdom of this world, Satan’s empire. This culminates, ends with the appearance of the man of sin, the son of perdition (2Thessalonians 2:3). Simultaneously, under the long-suffering of God’s grace, when the last of the elect is born and brought to repentance and faith, and so the full harvest of God’s children is gathered in. The eternal purpose and pleasure of God are reached, the church is saved out of the world, to God’s eternal glory. It is then we will witness the second coming of Christ, and there is only one. That is after the great events revealed to us in the Bibles. The binding and loosing of Satan, the besieging of the beloved City, the gathering of the hordes of Gog and Magog. However, in the meantime, we, the church, are not to be sitting around idle all the day. But preaching and teaching the gospel. We do so knowing God has yet a remnant according to the election of grace, we do so in an attitude of pessimism. But neither are we looking for a future Christianised world. This old world order, for now, is Satan’s territory, under his sway (1John 5:19). But a change is coming, God’s new heaven and the new earth, in which will only dwell righteousness, when, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). More to follow.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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