Reformed Witness Hour - September 2023

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September 2023

September 3

The Emergence of the

Anti-Christian Kingdom

Reveleation 17:9-17

Rev. W. Bruinsma

September 10

The Man of Sin Revealed

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

Rev. W. Bruinsma

September 17

Peace Shall Destroy Many

Daniel 8:23-25

Rev. W. Bruinsma

September 24

The Great Tribulation

Matthew 24:9-22

Rev. W. Bruinsma

WBruinsma 2017

In September we will continue with Rev. W. Bruinsma's series on Christ’s return.


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Covenant Reformed News - April 2023

Covenant Reformed News

April 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 12


Objections to the Salvation of Ishmael and Hagar Answered

I. Two main arguments have been made against Ishmael being a child of God. First, there is his sin of “mocking” Isaac (Gen. 21:9). Ishmael’s transgression occurred at a “great feast” celebrating the day of Isaac’s weaning (8). If Isaac was about three, Ishmael would have been about 17. He was jealous over his younger brother’s higher status: “Everybody is making such a big deal of this little pipsqueak but no one held such a party when I was weaned!” Ishmael undoubtedly sinned in attitude and behaviour, but any child in a covenant home would have struggled had they been in his situation.

The book of Genesis also records iniquities committed by Abraham and Sarah. In chapters 12 and 20, Abraham lied about the identity of his wife and she played along with the deceit. Aged Sarah laughed inwardly in unbelief, when she was told that she would bear a son (18:12). Then she lied about it when the Lord Himself rebuked her (13-15). Just as the transgressions of Abraham and Sarah are no proof of their reprobation, given that Scripture elsewhere teaches that they were believers, so too with Ishmael’s sin in Genesis 21, given the five arguments for his salvation in a recent News (XIX:10).

Second, on two occasions God told Abraham that His covenant would run not in Ishmael’s generations (17:20) but in Isaac’s: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him … my covenant will I establish with Isaac” (19, 21), for “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (21:12).

But this does not mean that Ishmael perished everlastingly for the contexts of both passages in the life of Abraham prove the contrary. Genesis 17 asserts that Ishmael “lived before” God’s face in covenant friendship (18, 20) and was blessed by Him (20), as was Sarah (16), the mother of all godly women (I Pet. 3:6). Genesis 21 not only affirms that Jehovah was “with” Ishmael (20), the preposition of spiritual communion, but it also twice declares that He answered teenaged Ishmael’s prayers: “God heard the voice of the lad … God hath heard the voice of the lad” (17).

In Genesis 17 and 21, the Lord predicts that the Old Testament church and people of God would descend from Isaac, as would the Messiah. But no such promise was given regarding the generations of believing Ishmael. They would turn away from the Most High so that the Ishmaelites became enemies of Israel, God’s people. In this, Abraham’s son Ishmael is similar to Abraham’s believing nephew Lot (II Pet. 2:7-8), for Lot’s sons, Moab and Ammon, became the Israelites’ inveterate adversaries.

Romans 9:7 explains that the true spiritual “seed of Abraham” were not in the generations of Ishmael (or even of the descendants of the sons of Keturah; Gen. 25:1-4) for “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” quoting Genesis 21:12. Likewise, Noah’s son, Japheth, was godly but the covenant line continued in the family of Shem.

Romans 9 makes a further distinction regarding the 12 tribes that descended from Jacob, Abraham’s grandson: “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel … That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (6, 8).

II. An argument against Hagar being a child of God has been made from Genesis 16. That chapter records pregnant Hagar despising Sarai her mistress (4-5) and fleeing from her (6). Our response is that Hagar’s sudden elevation occasioned her sin of pride, for the Egyptian slave girl had become Abraham’s concubine and now she, unlike Sarai, had been granted conception. Why did Hagar run away? Sarai dealt harshly with her (6). Then, when the angel of the Lord—the pre-incarnate Christ—told her to return to her mistress and submit to her (9), she obeyed, in accordance with the fifth commandment.

None of this means that Hagar was lost. Remember the five points for her salvation developed in the last issue (XIX:11): (1) Would godly Abraham really have taken an unbeliever as his concubine? (2) The honour of the first appearance of the angel of the Lord in Scripture was given to Hagar and He came to her twice (16:7-14; 21:17-19)! (3) God heard her prayers and affliction (16:11). (4) Hagar confessed Jehovah’s comforting presence (16:13). (5) God told her “fear not” (21:17)!

III. Having considered two arguments against Ishmael’s salvation and one argument against Hagar’s salvation, we turn, finally, to an argument against the salvation of both of them. Some claim that Galatians 4:22-31 teaches that Hagar and Ishmael perished. They add that this passage is in the New Testament which interprets the Old Testament.

The answer is that what we have in these verses is an “allegory” (24), that is, a sort of extended metaphor, as the text itself teaches: “Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children” (24-25). Obviously, Hagar is not, literally, a covenant or a mountain. The idea is that Hagar represents these things allegorically.

To sum up, as recorded in the book of Genesis, Hagar and Ishmael (historically, individually and personally) were saved, as demonstrated by the five arguments concerning each of them in the last two issues of the News. However, in Galatians 4:22-31, Hagar and Ishmael are presented allegorically. In Paul’s polemics against the Judaizers who were corrupting the churches in the Roman province of Galatia, he uses the fact that Hagar was (economically and socially) a “bondmaid” (22) or “bondwoman” (23, 30, 30, 31) and Ishmael was “of the bondwoman” (23) as her “son” (22, 30, 30) to represent slavery or “bondage” to the law (24, 25; cf. 3, 9). Having already explained and proved the truth of justification by faith alone in Christ alone without the works of the law (1:1-4:21), the apostle presents this gospel doctrine figuratively in the form of an allegory to make it especially memorable (22-31), without contradicting the historical record in Genesis or damning two of God’s Old Testament saints. Rev. Stewart


The Double Procession of the Spirit

A reader asks, “Why is the ‘Filioque clause’ essential doctrine? What clear texts do we use for this and what bearing does this have relating to the gospel? Is this a gospel issue in that, when the eastern church rejected it, they were departing from Christ?”

First, some explanation: the word “Filioque” means “and from the Son.” This Latin word or English clause was added to the Nicene or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by the western church in AD 1014 and led to the schism between the western and eastern (later the Eastern Orthodox) churches in AD 1054. The Eastern Orthodox Church still rejects this addition to the creed and its doctrine.

The Nicene Creed, as written at the (first) Council of Nicea in AD 325, ended, “And in the Holy Ghost.” At the (first) Council of Constantinople in AD 381, this article of the creed was enlarged to read, “And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets” (an article concerning the church, baptism, the resurrection and the world to come was also added to the end of the creed at that time).

In AD 1014, the Latin-speaking or western church added the word “Filioque,” so that the article reads in English translation, “And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”

The phrase “and the Son” establishes the double procession of the Holy Spirit, the truth that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, and so by implication the Filioque also establishes the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. It is the confession of most of Protestantism. “The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the word, wisdom, and image of the Father; the Holy Ghost is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son” (Belgic Confession 8). “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son” (Westminster Confession 2:3).

The word “procession,” then, is used to describe the relationship between the Father and the Spirit, and the relationship between the Son and the Spirit, and the unique character of the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity.

The relationship of the Father to the Son is that He generates or begets the Son (He is the Father in relation to the Son). The relationship of the Son to the Father is that He is generated or begotten by the Father (He is the Son in relation to the Father).

The relationship of the Father to the Spirit is that He sends out or breathes out (spirates) the Spirit (the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father; Matt. 10:20). The relationship of the Spirit to the Father is that He proceeds from or is sent by or is breathed out by the Father (He is the Spirit in relationship to the Father).

And the relationship of the Son to the Spirit is that He sends out or breathes out (spirates) the Spirit (the Spirit is the Spirit of the Son; Gal. 4:6). The relationship of the Spirit to the Son is that He proceeds from or is sent by or is breathed out by the Son (He is the Spirit in relation to the Son).

It must be understood that words like “begotten” and “proceeding” do not mean that the Son or Spirit have a beginning or are in any way less than the Father. They describe the eternal relationship between the Persons of the Trinity and their unique personalities. In other words, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son.

These relationships are reflected in the revelation of the three Persons in time, that, is, the Father is also the Father of Christ in His human nature and Christ is the only begotten Son incarnate. The Spirit, as the Spirit of Pentecost and the Spirit of Christ who lives in the church, is also sent by and proceeds from the Father and the Son. That is only to say, of course, that God, in time, reveals who and what He is eternally and as the blessed Trinity. This is an important point for, if the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in time, then the same must be true in eternity.

The last two points in the above list are what the Filioque controversy is all about. Protestants believe that there must be perfect symmetry, harmony and equality in the Trinity, and that the Spirit does proceed, eternally and in equality, from the Father and the Son. This is denied by Eastern Orthodoxy. Do the Eastern Orthodox Churches, therefore, deny the full divinity of the Spirit or the full equality of the Spirit to the Father and Son (the old heresy of Arianism)? Church history shows a tendency in Eastern Orthodoxy towards Arianism, a tendency to make the Spirit in some sense subordinate to the Father and the Son. If this is true it would make the matter a gospel issue indeed.

Is this matter of double procession biblical? Yes. John 15:26, a passage where the English word “proceeds” is found, teaches the double procession of the Spirit: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” This sending or proceeding of the Spirit in time to the church reflects the eternal Trinity. Both in eternity and in time, therefore, the Spirit proceeds from, and is sent by, the Father and the Son.

The references in Scripture to the Spirit as the Spirit of the Father (Matt. 10:20) and of the Son (Gal. 4:6) also teach the double procession of the Spirit. The Son declared that the Spirit “shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14). We have no doubt, therefore, that the double procession of the Spirit (from the Father and the Son) is not only Reformed doctrine but biblical teaching.

How glorious is the Triune God: three in Persons and one in Being! How inscrutable is the holy Trinity: the Father is of none, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Spirit eternally proceeds from both the Father and the Son! “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7-9). We must worship Him alone for “his greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3)! Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
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Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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PRC Foreign Missions in the Philippines - March 2023 Newsletter


Missionaries: Rev. D. Kleyn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) & Rev. R. Smit (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


Dear members of the Protestant Reformed Churches, warm greetings from the Philippines. We are enjoying some milder weather here right now. But although December through February are our coolest months, our overnight lows are rarely below 75 degrees F. These lower temps feel cold to most people here, but “cold” isn’t really part of our vocabulary when it comes to the weather. Just lately our daytime temps have started climbing into the high 80s and low 90s. The “hot season” will soon be here. Usually, March through May are the hottest months, and then the rainy season begins (June through October).

We and the Smits are all doing well here. Sharon and I are both well again after our recent surgeries. We thank the Lord for His care and goodness through it all and for enabling us to return to our life and work in the Philippines. It is good to be with our Filipino brethren again as well as with the Smit family. We thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, too.

In connection with news on our families, the Smits recently received approval from Doon and the FMC to take a furlough this year. They hope to take a longer one this time, the Lord willing, from June through December. This will not only serve as a good time of refreshment, but it will also enable them to spend time with their immediate family (especially their children), as well as to help one of their sons who is graduating from high school with his move to the USA.


The most significant, recent activity for all of us was the visit in January of two delegations from the PRCA. The first delegation, representing Doon PRC and the Foreign Mission Committee, and which came as part of their supervision of the work of the missionaries, consisted of Caleb Woiwood and Doug (& Lisa) Brands. The second delegation, representing the Contact Committee, was made up of Sid Miedema and Rev. Martyn (& Larisa) McGeown. This CC delegation came with the purpose of visiting, encouraging, and becoming better acquainted with the PRCP, our sister church here in the Philippines. Apart from some missed flights and lost luggage, their travels went well. They stayed with the missionary families, and thus we had plenty enjoyable fellowship with them all.

The delegation from Doon and the FMC was able to accompany us over a weekend to Southern Negros Occidental (SNO) to meet the pastors and the churches there, something they were able to do at church on Sunday as well as at the pastors’ classes on Monday. All the delegates worshiped at least once in each of the two PRCP churches here in Manila (Berean PRC and Provident PRC). Also, Rev. McGeown preached on both Sundays he was here, one Sunday in each of the two churches.

The two delegations overlapped for about a week, which enabled them to hold combined meetings with men from the PRCP, as well as with us missionaries. Much discussion took place concerning both our PRCA’s current work here, as well as the future of our denomination’s labors within and for the PRCP. This included talking of such things as the effects of the controversy and schism upon our denominations, the future of seminary instruction, the strengthening of sister church relations between our denominations, a possible transition of the work here from being Foreign Mission work to being exclusively the work of our Contact Committee, and the PRCP’s desire to have a minister on loan one day, the Lord willing.

The visits by the delegations were timely and a good encouragement to our missionary families as well as to the saints and churches here. We thank the delegates for visiting, and our churches for sending them. A special thanks also to the wives who came along, something that our wives truly appreciate, as do also the ladies in the churches here.

Our Work in the PRCP

Both Rev. Smit and I continue to help out as needed in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippines (PRCP). Most of the work we do now is in Provident PRC, which congregation is vacant. We help with pulpit supply, which includes a monthly visit I make to Provident’s outreach work in Guiguinto. Rev. Smit leads a weekly Bible study, and I teach Provident’s catechism classes. Rev. Smit does also preach one Sunday each month in the Berean PRC, which frees up Rev. Ibe to visit the Berean’s outreach work in Gabaldon. Another area of our work in the PRCP is assisting the Classis with church visitation, along with taking a turn (with Rev. Vernon Ibe) in chairing the classis meetings.

Up to this point in time, what has especially kept us busy as missionaries is the work of seminary training. As you know, a few years ago we had three seminary students here, but two of them withdrew from the seminary when they left the PRCP during the schism and split in May of 2021. As a result, just one seminary student remained. However, the remaining seminary student was advised by Committee #1 (the Theological School Committee), at the end of December, not to proceed with his seminary training for academic reasons. This decision was approved by the recent PRCP Classis (Feb. 25). The result is that we missionaries are now no longer involved in providing seminary instruction in the Philippines.

All of this was disappointing for everyone here, for the need of ministers of the gospel is urgent. Currently the PRCP has only one pastor (Rev. Ibe). More laborers are needed for the Lord’s harvest, as we know is also the case in the PRCA. Much prayer is needed, along with words of encouragement to young men who may be suitable for the gospel ministry.

What also contributes to the uncertainty of the seminary here (i.e., in addition to not having any students) is that the PRCP has indicated that they would like to use the Theological School of the PRCA for the training of their future students, the Lord willing.

These recent changes have significantly reduced the amount of work we are doing within the PRCP. The seminary took up the lion’s share of our time, with each of us preparing and teaching new courses each semester. However, we know and believe these changes are according to the Lord’s perfect will. We are confident therefore that all these things do and will continue to work for good for both us and the churches here.

Our Work in SNO

The changes regarding our seminary work have made us wonder if we can now concentrate our work in the churches in SNO (Southern Negros Occidental). But first a brief summary and update regarding this work.

To date our work in SNO has usually consisted of a monthly visit during the week to provide instruction to a group of pastors who, along with their congregations, are interested in learning more of the Reformed faith and becoming better established as churches. Due to Covid restrictions, however, we were unable to visit SNO for over two years (from February 2020 until May 2022). In May of 2022 we again resumed our visits. And since September, we have included a Sunday in our visits so that we can also preach and teach, at their request, in their churches. The instruction for the pastors is then given on the Mondays we are there, usually all morning and into the early afternoon. Rev. Smit is currently lecturing in Dogmatics (Christology), and I in Homiletics (sermon making).

There are five pastors and five churches involved in this work, though not all the churches are properly constituted as Reformed churches. The churches range from having about 75 members down to approximately 10 to 15 members. It continues to be the desire of these pastors and their congregations to become part of the PRCP one day, if possible and the Lord willing. Our work is being done therefore with that goal in mind. For that reason, we have also provided instruction in the past in the Church Order. We hope to return to the Church Order again with a view to helping the churches which are not yet properly instituted to become so, guiding them in the formation of a classis (presently they are independent congregations), and assisting them in their desire to join the PRCP.

There are various things that need to be sorted out and decided regarding this work, including the question of when the PRCP might become involved in SNO. We pray the Lord will make His will and way clear. We wait on Him therefore to see what He has in store for us with regard also to these labors in the Philippines.

That brings the news to an end. Please remember the saints here in your prayers. We thank the Lord for your faithful support of and interest in the work and in the churches and saints here. Be assured of our prayers for you all and for our Protestant Reformed Churches.

In the love of Christ, Rev. Daniel Kleyn


Reformed Witness Hour Newsletter - April 2023

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News from the Reformed Witness Hour

April 2023


Help Us Get the Word Out!

This month we have five Christ-centered, Gospel-themed messages to share!


In April, we will continue with the Calvinism series by Prof. Cory Griess. Prof. Griess is a Professor at the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary.

April 2
Irresistible Grace (1) 
John 6:37

April 9
Irresistible Grace (2)
John 6:44, 65-66

April 16
Preservation of the Saints (1)
John 10: 27-29

April 23
Whosoever Will (Rev. Hoeksema)
Revelation 22:19

April 30
Preservation of the Saints (2)
John 10:27-29



New Radio Stations

We have exciting news! In March, we aired our program on two new radio stations. Both of our new stations are with Salem Radio. One is on WGTK 94.5 FM in Greenville, South Carolina and the other is WLQV 92.7 FM/1500 AM in Detroit. These stations have been selected in collaboration with the Domestic Mission Committee. Our goal is that these stations will be mission field–focused and that we will create interaction with the listeners for the purpose of measuring our outreach in these areas. Join us in praying that our program will be used through these stations to share the Gospel!

Sermon Audio Featured Messages

So far in 2023, there have been over 4,000 downloads of our messages through Sermon Audio, podcasts, and the web. We continue to be encouraged by increased site traffic and message downloads when we feature one of our messages on the Sermon Audio website.

On average, over the past year, each featured message receives about 200 downloads the month in which it is featured.


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Covenant Reformed News - March 2023


Covenant Reformed News

March 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 11

Was Hagar Saved?

Was Hagar, the wife or concubine of Abraham and the mother of Ishmael, saved? As with the spiritual condition of Ishmael, whom we considered in the last issue of the News, there are differences of opinion among orthodox Christians on this question, with some claiming that Hagar was not a believer and others reckoning that she was a child of God. Similar to last time, I will give five biblical arguments from Genesis in support of the position that Hagar was saved by God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ.

1. Do you really think that father Abraham would marry or take as a concubine an unbeliever and that holy Sarah (Heb. 11:11; I Pet. 3:6) would have presented an ungodly woman as a wife or concubine to her husband (Gen. 16:1-3)? This is Jehovah’s testimony regarding Abraham’s faithfulness in his household, the church: “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; [so] that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (18:19).

God’s people must marry “only in the Lord” (I Cor. 7:39). Believers are forbidden to enter into wedlock with an unbeliever: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (2 Cor.6:14,15).

2. The messenger of God appeared to Hagar. In fact, the very first recorded appearance of “the angel of the Lord” in Scripture is His conversation with Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14). Moreover, the angel of God spoke twice with Hagar, with the latter interaction being recorded in Genesis 21:17-19.

A careful consideration of these passages in Genesis 16 and 21, as well as a study of the angel or messenger of the Lord in the Old Testament, reveals that He is God, even an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. Hagar was the recipient not only of the first Christophany in the form of the angel or messenger of the Lord but of two of them! Both appearances were favourable to her. Are we really to think that Hagar was ungodly?

3. God answered Hagar’s prayers (just as He answered Ishmael’s prayers, as Genesis 21:17 records): “the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction” (16:11).

In naming Hagar’s son “Ishmael,” which means “God heard,” the pre-incarnate Christ would have us remember, whenever we read or write or say or hear or think the name “Ishmael,” that Jehovah answered Hagar’s prayers. Moreover, this text specifically states that God heard her “affliction,” for He cares for His people in their suffering and hearkens to their cries (cf. Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7; 4:31; 6:5; Isa. 63:9). Remember Scripture’s testimony regarding whose prayers Jehovah answers and whose He does not: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9); “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

4. Hagar made a good confession of God’s gracious speech to, and vision of, her: “she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (Gen. 16:13).

Hagar wisely and thankfully memorialized this marvellous meeting and the wonderful God who met with her in Jesus Christ: “Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi” (14). The three parts of “Beer-lahai-roi” mean, roughly, “well-living-seeing.” If the reference is to God, Hagar calls it “the well of Him who lives and sees me.” Others reckon that the verbs “living” and “seeing” refer to Hagar herself, so that her point is, “I live after seeing Him at this well.” Some think that the name is deliberately ambiguous and so is designed to include both meanings. We do not need a definitive answer for our present purposes. Whatever the precise import of the name “Beer-lahai-roi,” like the name “Ishmael,” it underscores Jehovah’s mercy to Hagar and her piety.

Homer C. Hoeksema makes the following astute remarks regarding Hagar in Genesis 16, the chapter from which we have derived the last four arguments: “There are ... facets of this history we must not ignore ... we note that the Lord comforts Hagar. She is the recipient of a wonderful revelation through the angel of Jehovah, the Old Testament manifestation of the Christ (Gen. 16:7ff). The Lord reveals his favor to Hagar and promises to multiply her seed exceedingly. Hagar commemorates this revelation by naming the well where the angel of Jehovah appeared to her Beerlahairoi, ‘the well of him that liveth and seeth me’ (Gen. 16:14)” (Unfolding Covenant History, vol. 2, p. 157).

5. The messenger of the Lord told Hagar not to fear: “the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad” (21:17). Unbelievers have everything to fear! Where in His Word does God ever tell the wicked not to fear dying or Him?

There are three other instances in the book of Genesis when Jehovah tells people, “Fear not.” All of these commands are addressed to the believing patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob): “the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (15:1); “And the Lord appeared unto him [i.e., Isaac] the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (26:24); “And he said [to Jacob], I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation” (46:3). Thus Hagar is included in Isaiah’s exhortation of all those whom Jehovah has “created” and “formed” by His grace, including us: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (43:1)!  Rev. Angus Stewart

Christ’s Reign as King

Our question for this issue of the News was sent by a reader who was asked by a dispensationalist, “Reformed believers hold that Christ is now reigning as King on His throne, but what about Matthew 25:31-34, II Timothy 2:12 and Revelation 5:10, which, on the surface, seem to imply that He is not yet reigning as King?”

Dispensationalists, as represented by the Scofield Reference Bible notes and those connected with Dallas Theological Seminary, believe concerning the kingship of Christ:

  1. that Christ is King only of Israel, that is, of physical Jews, and has a different relationship to the church of which He is not King but Head (this is part of their belief that Israel and the church are two different peoples of God);
  2. that Christ’s reign as King will only begin with the restoration of the Jewish nation to the land of Israel, with the rebuilding of the temple and the reestablishment of the throne of David in the earthly city of Jerusalem. This will mark the beginning of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ in Jerusalem over the Jews and will be the fulfilment of all the Old Testament promises to Israel.

Many postmillennialists also use language that implies that Christ must still be crowned King, and will not be until a future golden age is ushered in and all the world Christianized. Then this world will become the kingdom of God but not until then.

We believe that the true Israel, spiritual Jews, are the people of God, the church, gathered from both Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament. “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2:28-29). “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

Because believing Jews and Gentiles are one people of God, we believe that Christ is King of both, of the spiritual Israel as well as of the New Testament church. “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:11-12). “Lord” is very similar to “King” in Scripture.

We believe, then, that Christ’s reign as King is not merely future but also present. As the eternal Son of God, of course, His kingship is without beginning or end (I Tim. 1:17). As the One born in due time and in the likeness of our sinful flesh, His coronation and kingship begin with His exaltation. The risen Christ declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). At Christ’s return, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:24-26).

What, then, about the verses mentioned in the question?

Matthew 25:31-34 states, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Dispensationalism presupposes that the judgment described in these verses takes place a thousand years before the end (dispensationalists believe in three or more judgments), at which time Christ’s kingship over the Jews will also be established. That is reading an awful lot into the passage! These verses describe the final great day of judgment at our Lord’s second coming: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).

What we have said regarding Matthew 25:31-34 applies also to II Timothy 2:12 and Revelation 5:10. In all three cases, dispensationism merely presupposes an earthly rule of Christ over the Jews for a thousand years before the end, something these verses do not even mention!

Moreover, the biblical truth of Christ’s bodily return is not just that He will come but that He is coming! The Lord Jesus told the sanhedrin at His trial, “I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

The present New Testament rule of Christ as King over all things on behalf of a church gathered out all nations is important. If He is not my King, then I owe Him no allegiance. If He is not King of the church, then I have no part in His kingdom. If He is not King of kings and Lord of lords now, then I can have no confidence that all things must work together for good to those who love God. If He is not King now and my King forever, then I have no idea where my citizenship resides, except, to my lasting grief, in some earthly nation that will soon be no more.

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Covenant Reformed News - February 2023

Covenant Reformed News

February 2023  •  Volume XIX, Issue 10


Was Ishmael Saved?

Was Ishmael, the son of Hagar, saved? There are differences of opinion among orthodox Christians on this question, with some claiming that he was not a believer and others reckoning that he was a child of God.

In this article, I will give no less than five biblical arguments in support of the position that Ishmael was saved by God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ. I shall present the points in the order in which they arise in the first book of the Bible, from Ishmael’s thirteenth year (Gen. 17), to his expulsion from Abraham’s camp (Gen. 21) and to his death over a century later (Gen. 25).

(1) Ishmael lived before God. In answer to Abraham’s prayer, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (17:18), the Lord responded, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee” (20). Was Abraham merely asking God for the continuation of Ishmael’s physical life? There is no indication in the inspired narrative that Ishmael was sick or in danger of expiring. Instead, Abraham here prayed for Ishmael’s spiritual life. After all, the grand subject of Genesis 17 is the covenant of grace! Father Abraham was concerned here with Ishmael’s covenant life, that is, everlasting life in Jesus Christ. Jehovah answered this prayer for Ishmael lived before God as His covenant friend. This is the prayer of all godly parents, themselves the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, regarding their children: “O that our sons and daughters might live before thee in Christ!”

(2) Ishmael was blessed by God. Jehovah’s response to Abraham’s prayer for his son is not only, “as for Ishmael, I have heard thee,” but also, “Behold, I have blessed him” (20). Surely, Ishmael is blessed by God (20) with the divine favour, as was blessed believing Sarah (16). Remember too that the blessings of Genesis 17 are covenant blessings in the coming Messiah!

This second point regarding Ishmael’s salvation reinforces the first. (1) Ishmael lived before God as (2) one blessed by God. In answer to Abraham’s prayer, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (17:18), the Lord responded, “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him” (20).

(3) God answered Ishmael’s prayers. Genesis 21:17 states this twice and unambiguously regarding Ishmael: “God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad.” Here is the teaching of Scripture regarding whose prayers Jehovah answers: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9); “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31).

The connection between these three points is obvious. Ishmael (1) lived before God and (2) was blessed by God, and (3) God heard and answered his prayers.

(4) God was with Ishmael. “God was with the lad,” Ishmael (Gen. 21:20), as He was, for example, “with” Abraham (22), Jacob (28:15) and Joseph (39:2, 3, 21, 23), just as Jehovah is “with” all of His elect and believing people. The word “with” is the preposition of God’s covenant fellowship with His saints in Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

Let us restate the four points made so far, emphasizing the prepositions. Ishmael (1) lived before God, (2) was blessed by God and (4) was with God. No wonder that we read twice that (3) God answered his prayers!

(5) Ishmael was gathered unto his people at his death. After his 137 years in this life, Ishmael “gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people” (25:17). The statements that, at death, an individual was “gathered to/unto his people” or a group were “gathered unto their fathers” are significant references in the early books of the Old Testament to the blessed life of God’s people beyond their deaths.

This terminology is first used of father Abraham. Dying at the age of 175, he was “gathered to his people” (25:8). Some 90 or more years before, the Lord had promised Abraham, “thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace” (15:15). The godly “people” and “fathers” to whom Abraham went at death include Terah, Shem, Noah, Methuselah, Enoch, Seth, Adam and Eve. Also like Ishmael, “Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people” (35:29), as did Jacob (49:29, 33).

Besides these three great patriarchs in Genesis, Ishmael was gathered unto his people like the two sons of Amram and Jochebed: Aaron (Num. 20:24, 26; 27:13; Deut. 32:50) and Moses (Num. 27:13; 31:2; Deut. 32:50). The faithful generation that conquered the promised land under Joshua was also “gathered unto their fathers” (Judg. 2:10).

Thus in Genesis, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Judges we have 13 occurrences of the phrase “gathered to/unto his people/their fathers.” These references include six believing individuals—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron and Moses, as well as Ishmael (who marks the second use of this terminology)—and one godly generation, that of Joshua.

At the death of God’s people, they are buried as to their bodies. As to their souls, believers are gathered unto their spiritual fathers and people by Jehovah in His infinite mercy through the crucified and risen Christ.

To sum up this article, we have looked at five key testimonies: two from Genesis 17, two from Genesis 21 and one from Genesis 25. Their united testimony is that Ishmael was saved. After all, in this world, (1) Ishmael lived before God; (4) God was with him, (2) blessed him and (3) answered his prayers. When he left this world, (5) God in love gathered Ishmael unto his people. What more could one want? Rev. Angus Stewart


Felix’s Trembling

Our question for this issue of the News is: “In Acts 24:25, when Paul ‘reasoned’ with Felix of ‘righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,’ Felix ‘trembled.’ This man is viewed by many to be an unbeliever for, instead of believing the gospel that Paul shared with him, he sent the apostle away: ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’ How do we explain the trembling of this (apparently) unregenerate man apart from a gracious work of the Spirit, convicting him of his sins and bringing him to an acknowledgment that what he heard is the truth, though he rejected it? Surely unbelievers wouldn’t have any concern for these things, for there is ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom. 3:18)?”

It would seem from Scripture that trembling before God and His Word is a mark of God’s people, an evidence of repentance, of the true knowledge of God and even of humble gratitude for what God has done as Saviour (Ezra 9:4; Isa. 32:11; 66:2, 5; Jer. 33:9; Hab. 3:16; Mark 16:8; Acts 7:32). The wicked in Israel are commanded to repent and tremble before God in Jeremiah 5:21-22: “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?”

Surely it is true that God’s redeemed people tremble at the knowledge of their own sinfulness and of how near they were to eternal punishment in hell. Especially they tremble at the fact that they have sinned against God. They tremble when they see something of His glory and majesty, and when they behold the greatness of His salvation. Trembling is, for the believer, a mark of grace and of God’s work of salvation in Christ.

However, it is also true that the ungodly can and do tremble before God. In Deuteronomy 2:25, God promised that the heathen Canaanite nations would tremble when they heard of Israel’s victories east of the Jordan (and of their passage across that river into the land of Canaan). Jeremiah 10:10, looking ahead to the end, says that the nations will tremble at God’s wrath: “But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” This is of the same nature as the trembling of Felix.

Many think that such trembling is an evidence of a common or preparatory grace of God, shown to those who are not yet regenerated or who may never be saved. This is wrong. Trembling before God is either an evidence of saving grace or only an evidence of unbelieving terror.

There is nothing in Scripture that suggests any change of heart or repentance on the part of Felix. That he knew something of the true God is likely for he was married to a Jewess (Acts 24:24) but this was no saving knowledge. That he knew something of the gospel is stated in Acts 24:22 and is no surprise, since he ruled the area where Christianity had its roots. His dealings with Paul show him to be wicked and unbelieving. He was interested merely in a bribe and in doing the Jews a favour (26-27). He trembled because Paul talked to him about righteousness, temperance and judgment, for he was unrighteous, intemperate and under the judgment of God.

Was this the work of the Spirit? Was it a gracious work of the Spirit? Did it show some knowledge of, and conviction for, sin? That it was the work of the Spirit is without doubt, for all things are of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. This is not to say, however, that it is a gracious operation of the Spirit in the heart of Felix. How could there be any grace in it when it produced nothing of value and only made the suffering of Paul longer and greater? How could Felix’s trembling be anything but terror before God, entirely lacking saving knowledge, for all he cared for was money and the opinions of men? There is nothing of a gracious operation of the Spirit in that. Indeed, the word translated “trembled” is a word that simply means “frightened.” Felix was frightened, as the ungodly often are when God shakes them out of their complacency.

The most important passage that reflects on Felix’s trembling is James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The word translated “tremble” describes not the feeling of terror, so much as the shuddering and shaking that results from extreme fear. The devils shake at the thought of God but their shaking is neither a gracious work of the Spirit, nor evidence of conviction for sin.

The fear that unbelievers sometimes show and the knowledge (non-saving and not gracious) that they have of God is explained in Romans 1:18-32. God manifests Himself to them in their consciences and in the things that are made, the creation: “that which may be known of God is manifest in them” (19). The knowledge of God that they have does not have anything gracious in it. It only leaves them “without excuse” (20).

Thus this knowledge of God bears no good fruit in them. They do not glorify Him or show thankfulness to Him (21). They turn the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator (25). Their idolatry is not evidence of some felt need for God, that they all have a “God-shaped hole in their hearts,” but is instead proof that they do not want to serve Him. What is more, turning from God, they fall into the vile affections which are so much a part of our society. Their unsaving and ungracious knowledge of God produces in them the sin of homosexuality (26-27).

Do they know God? Yes, they do. At least, they know His eternal power and divinity (20). Does that knowledge of God have any saving value? It does not. It only produces, in the righteous judgment of God, more wickedness. Is there any grace in that knowledge of God? There is not, for grace does not lead to the unnatural affections mentioned in Romans 1. Does God have His purpose in making Himself known to them? Yes, He does. He leaves them “without excuse” now and forever (20).

Romans 1 explains Felix’s trembling, as does the Word of God in James 2:19. God did what Ezekiel 32:10 describes: He brandished His sword before Felix through Paul’s testimony and Felix trembled for his life. What a difference between the trembling of Felix and that of Habakkuk, who said, “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble” (3:16). That is trembling by grace and with profit, trembling that finds rest in Jesus Christ. Rev. Ron Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: • Live broadcast:
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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