HELL!

“JUST SUPPOSING”

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“Supposing there is a hell, such as the Scripture speaks of, one at the remotest distance from God and life eternal, one where the worm of a guilty conscience never dies and where the fire of the wrath of God is never quenched (Isaiah 66:24). Suppose, I say, that there is such a hell, prepared by God, as there is indeed, for the body and soul of the ungodly to be tormented in after this life. Suppose hell is real and tell me if it is prepared for you, if you are a wicked man. Let your conscience speak. Is it prepared for you? And do you think if you were there now that you could wrestle with the judgment of God? Why then do the fallen angels tremble there (Isaiah 24:21-22)? Your hands cannot be strong, nor can your heart endure in that day when God will deal with you (Ezekiel 22:14)” (Written by John Bunyan).

 (James R Hamilton)

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Notes on the Exodus (75)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Lineage of God’s Servants  (Chapter 6 Verses 10-30)

We are reminded here of the humanity of God’s servants (v14-27). Some may find the lists of names in the Bible somewhat boring, but you would be surprised at some of the gems that are to found amongst them following careful study. The genealogies, of course, are of much importance, especially so for the Jews. If you claimed to be anybody you had to show you had pedigree. But here it sets Exodus and its leaders in the context of biblical history and identifies and focuses on the main players. We have the ancestry of Jacob and Moses (v14-17). The Bible is very careful on this point, especially regarding the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The link here to the Patriarch’s is proof of Aaron’s lineage, regarding his priestly function. This is important for Aaron due to the important role he has to play. It is authentication of his credentials before the Jews. You recall how following Moses complaint of his own inadequacies how Aaron was appointed his assistant (v13). Both are shown to be of the lineage of Levi. So the Lord’s people can have no complaint regards their pedigree. But there is also a demonstration of grace here. Perhaps you recall how both Levi and Simeon were placed under a curse, disqualified from leadership (Genesis 49:5-7). But in spite of that fact, these are chosen instruments in God’s plan of deliverance for his people. If God chose his servants on the basis of where they naturally came from and their past records, God would have no servants (2Corinthians 2:16). Next we have the credentials of the Levites (v18-25). They were given a place of permanent leadership from the Exodus to the resurrection of Christ. In worship, religious education, health and welfare amongst the people of Israel. Moses was given great authority under God. The biblical pattern of the transmission of wealth and power was not always necessarily to the first-born. It went often the godly and capable seed. Even in the case of Caleb, it went to his daughter. The first-born according to nature was not always the first-born in God’s sight. It is of grace, sovereignly so.

All this is of great importance to the Jews. Remember they are crushed in spirit (v9). They are exhausted by their labours and seriously lacking in courage. Here God is providing them with new, fresh leadership. The people needed to believe deliverance was a possibility. They needed to believe that God was on their side, that he was for them, not against them. They are a reminder to the church today in its present condition. Israel has been in Egypt to long, so long in fact that Egypt is established in them. They not only need to get out of Egypt, they need to get Egypt out of them. Alas, many never did. The church in the West today is little different. It has imbibed the world’s principles, its counselling methods, its music etc., etc. To find a church where God himself enough, is nigh on impossible. A.W. Tozer said a long time ago, It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God.” If ever the church needed new and fresh leadership it is now, with faith in the dynamic of its own message. Men, courageous, reformed and reforming, protestant and biblical. The courage to get us out of Egypt and get the Egypt out of us. But we, the people, need to believe that deliverance is possible. We need a Moses. But, wait a minute? We’ve got one! He sits at the right hand of the throne of God on high having finished his earthly work. So deliverance is possible. But when will we the people of God believe it?

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (20)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The Church at Ephesus – (Revelation Chapter 2 Verses 1-7)

It must be kept in mind that the conditions that you see here in the seven churches are the conditions that you see in the church throughout the entire age. To some lesser or greater degree and differing points in the New Testament era. And you will these conditions in the church today throughout the world, again to some lesser or greater degree, both the negative and the positive. There are times when she will be found in a state of revival, other times of apostasy, or persecution and tribulation. So these messages are sent to the whole church in every period of history, even to your church today. To the first three churches, the message is repent, to the other four, the message is to only a remnant left within the churches. Ephesus was the first church amongst the Gentiles. It was also the centre of Paul’s missionary work. It was sending church, it sent missionaries out to other regions, it was a glorious work indeed. It was a seaport, the gateway into Asia Minor. The seven golden candlesticks represent the church in its perfection. The seven churches that are in Asia (v4), that’s the church universal, the church on earth, in all her imperfection. It is in the eyes of God essentially holy, yet she is still earthly, and sinful. She is still open to rebuke, to challenge, to warnings and threatenings. She may even be in danger of extinction. That is the threat here if she does not repent quickly. The candlestick will be removed if she ceases to represent the golden candlestick, that is to be a bearer of Christ’s light to the nations of the world. The letters come first and foremost to the office-bearers, to the messengers, the angel of the church (v1). The pastor(s), or elders of the church. Then to the members of the church at large. But this is the first, Ephesus. It is very large, it is active, it is full, with a lot going on. You would look at such today and you would think this is a very good church, just what my family need. There’s ministry for the kids, the youth, there’s music, and it is absolutely sound in terms of doctrine. What more could you want? Jesus commends the church for its orthodoxy (v1-3).

Ephesus was the home of Diana, not the princess, but the one that fell from Jupiter (Acts 19:26ff). It was a hotbed of idolatry and Diana was a very profitable idol. But the trouble started with a man called Demetrius, whose god was money  (Acts 19:24ff). So when Paul came to Ephesus preaching Jesus, bidding men repent of their idolatry. Had some of that idolatry wormed its way into the church? However, Paul foresaw this coming, as he was leaving he warned the elders. “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be alert” (Acts 20:25-31). It was a battle zone, the reason Paul wrote to them (Ephesians 6:10ff). Because behind that idolatry in Ephesus was embedded demonic powers. So without the full armour of God the church is vulnerable. So they are reminded that Christ is in the midst of them, watching and working. And a call is issued them and to us to be faithful to him. And that involves not just the head, the intellect, but the heart also. So what was the problem here, was it the pastor, the board of elders? Had the fire gone out? As the church got bigger, perhaps there had been some compromise of some sort. It’s an awful thing to see, a young man perhaps who you knew years ago, just a the beginning of his ministry, on fire. But now you see him and the fire’s gone out of his belly. Perhaps he used to preach sovereign grace and election, but there’s opposition come in and so he begins to cut his cloth to suit. And slowly but surely the fire dies within him. Or maybe it was the congregation. They had been sitting under faithful ministry for so long, but they’ve become so familiar with the truth? You know what I mean, they might not say it aloud, but the attitude is, yes, I’ve heard all this before, I know it all. And there is no longer any personal response to the word of God. There is but one word for Ephesus, repent!

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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Notes on the Exodus (74)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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Go!  (Chapter 6 Verses 10-30)

God reiterates his intentions regarding his people Israel, which he will carry through in his own power. He takes full responsibility for redeeming them and taking them to the promised land. It was God who would do this, not Moses. It is God alone who can bring us out from under the burden of sin, with its guilt and shame. God himself makes it very personal (v7). They were God’s by his choice, not theirs. Their spirits are broken, crushed but God remains committed to them. This has a profound effect on Moses also. He must have been sorely discouraged. But this is the experience of many Ministers. Remember how Jesus was bitterly criticised, devalued and opposed, but he was never deflected from his ministry. There is much more to come for Moses too, but he too kept on. We are all warned as to what we will face through the generations, “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me” (John 15:18-21). In the meantime God sends his servant back to Pharaoh (v10). Redemption always as its price, in this instance, it is pay-back time for the Egyptians. Israel will be redeemed by judgment. The mighty acts of God’s judgment upon them will be the occasion of Israel’s liberation. As it was with Noah and his family, God saved his church by means of judging the then world. The gates of hell will never prevail against God’s church (Matthew 16:18).

The message again is “go” (v10). Moses complaint in response is the people won’t listen to him so how will Pharaoh listen? Moses is perhaps still thinking in terms of Pharaoh being impressed, moved by mere rhetoric. Alas, it takes more than that to shift a dead sinner. It’s not by eloquence, erudition, by might or by power (Zechariah 4:6). The Lord refuses to allow his servant to dwell upon his own limitations. God is not limited. The answer for Moses as for the people has been given (v6-8), the being, the character of God. Who, what God is and what he has solemnly declared he will do. God will not allow his people to lie comfortable and content in their slavery. Maybe you yourself in your own path of obedience are faced with problems, setbacks, and discouragements? Perhaps even doubts as to your own abilities and adequacies? Well, bring to mind who it is that you serve. It is the same God Moses served, the constant, unwavering, dependable, “I Am.” He hasn’t changed one iota. Hw who has promise you salvation, given you the privilege of service. Will he not also provide everything else needed? In “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises” (2Peter 1:3-4). Get a hold on God, who and what he is, steadfast, immovable, a rock, a fortress, he is everything you need to to forward. Go!

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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The Cosmic Christ!

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A sovereign Christ I have,
He rose up from the dead;
He shed his blood to save,
And now the price is paid.

He sits upon his throne,
Up high in heaven above;
O’er sin and hell he’s won,
For all that him will love.

The cosmic Christ his rule,
Is right across the board;
In heaven and earth and over all,
Jesus Christ is Lord.

Fear not, fear not my people,
I work things for your good;
Doubt not that I am able,
To bring you back to God.

He’s Alpha and Omega,
The first the very last;
God and Christ, Jehovah,
His steadfast love’s the best.

(© James R Hamilton, written 25th, February 2016)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (19)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The Comfort of the Church – (Revelation Chapter 1 Verses 9-20)

We have been shown the characteristics of Christ and those characteristics are sustained throughout the entirety of the book of Revelation. He is one to who power and worship belong. This is what it means to be a Christian, to worship Jesus Christ. The person who fears Jesus has nothing else to fear. He moves in the midst of his suffering church, always. Through the age-long conflict against the evil of the world-power, I will be with you to the end of the age, he says (Matthew 28:20). This is of immense comfort to the church today, in the future, and to John here, “fear not” (v17), he is told. It’s an awe-inspired fear that has gripped John. For here before him is the one who transcendent over time, who governs all things and is the force behind and cause of all history. Jesus Christ is not straining to have his voice heard in the world, his voice sustains it. But it is trust in his utter and absolute sovereignty that dispels the fear and despair that would cause us to compromise with the world. The fear not’s of the Bible, they are for God’s people, the church, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). That is not spoken to Israel as a nation, it is spoken to God’s elect, the Israel of God, the church of God.

Why ought the church and John not to fear? Because here is the evidence of his sovereign power (v18). His completed work, his beautiful life qualifying him to be our substitute. His death and resurrection, these are historical factors upon which our faith is based. And the evidence of his sovereign power is this, that he has power over the realm of death. It has no hold on him. He defeated death. And it has no hold on those who trust him. So the church faced with trial, persecution, tribulation throughout the age, is tempted and caused to fear, what? Death! So he is telling us to be assured, I am the one who has the keys of death and hell in my hand (v18). I, Jesus, have conquered these realms. So that patient persevering endurance will be rewarded with victory over the grave. So John has to write, write what (v19-20)? This is not the same as verse eleven, this plural, “Write therefore the things” (v19). One, the things of the past, what has just been revealed to him. Two, the present, the present state of the church, which we are just coming to. Thirdly, afterward, the things that will fall out to the church in the New Testament age. John is also to send them to the churches, the seven churches, i.e., the entire, the whole church. For her edification and comfort. So she will be ready, prepared for the sufferings and trials, ready to overcome. If this book of the Bible is taught, and regularly, in spite of all the controversy, the church will ever be on a prepared footing for whatever is thrown at her. It must be taught, it is a sin not to send this book to the church today. May Ministers and leaders who fear to preach it be given repentance and courage to send this message from Christ to his people. When this is done the church will be living on the edge, not for the world, but for the world to come. We have another key here (v20), which enables us to understand what has been said, this interpretation comes from Jesus himself. So this book is relevant for every day and generation. It is not given for us to peer into the future, but to enable us to live today, one day at a time, in the midst of the afflictions, tribulations and persecutions we are faced with now. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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Notes on the Exodus (73)

Exposing the Exodus”

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The Reassurance Given  (Chapter 6 Verses 1-9)

This now is for the people of Israel (v6-9). The book of Exodus is a God-centred book, with a God-centred message instructing us in the way of a God-centred life. Whatever we face in life it is vital, most important that we know who God is and that we trust him as he has called us to do. When trouble comes if we are not grounded in the biblical doctrine of God we are going to be all over the place. Note here the number of I’s in the text (v6-9), seven. All full of grace, promise, faith builders in other words. One, I will bring them out from under Egypt’s tyranny. Two, I will deliver them from slavery. Three, I will redeem them. Four, I will make them my people. Five, I will be your God. Six, I will bring you into the promised land. Seven, I will give you the land for a heritage. Each one is prefaced with “I am the Lord.” Remember what his name means? Faithful, dependable, constant, unchanging covenant God. Could it be he is saying the Israel, and perhaps to you also, “get your eyes off of your circumstances, your oppressors, and get your focus on me?” The One with whom all things are possible. They, you, may have failed in the past, and most certainly will in the future but nothing can change the biblical fact, that those who are truly God’s by the right of redemption, are his forever. Nothing can change his love for them. It’s true some become prodigals. They wander, do the stupid, become rebellious, waste their time and resources and opportunities. But they remain his people. What assurance’s he gives us, this is the blood-bought right of every Christian (1John 3.14). Our assurance lies in the very fact that we now believe. There was a time we did not believe, had no thought or care to think about God, let alone believe. But something’s happened a change has come over us, now we find ourselves believing him, his word. God worked that change in us, not we ourselves (Ephesians 2:10).

Surely this is an exposure of their unregenerate hearts (v9), the majority at least as their history proved. Never been changed, circumcised. In New Testament terms, never been born again. Ignorant of God’s grace, unable to understand, and to hold on to his gracious promises. Relief will never come until the blood of the cross is applied by the Holy Spirit. They can’t hear the words of Moses, they’re too busy complaining and grumbling. But are there not many like this in our world today, wherever we live? People with broken spirits, hopes and lives, crushed by unbearable experiences? Doesn’t God say he will not break the bruised reed, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3)? God didn’t abandon these grumblers. On the contrary, he seemed to understand and care for them. Maybe we need to learn to be more like God, in this sense I mean, not laying burdens on folk they’re not able to bear? Maybe helping them to bear the burdens they already have. Doesn’t the New Testament speak of sharing one another’s burdens? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Next we will see that God gives them a specific charge, the command to go (v11). Moses went, we must never forget that he went. It is not always what a man says, in the end, it is what he does that matters. When God gives you a definite command what do you do? “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him” (Matthew 21:28-32). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7.21).

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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