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Covenant Reformed News - April 2019


Covenant Reformed News

April 2019 • Volume XVII, Issue 12

Zechariah’s Day of the Lord (6)

The first article on “Zechariah’s Day of the Lord” (Zech. 14:1-15) proved that these fifteen verses predict Christ’s second coming, including events that immediately precede it and the new creation that it ushers in. In the next four instalments, we treated four of the six main themes in this passage: the plundered city (1-2), the coming God (1, 3, 5), the holy war (3, 12-15) and the movements of Judah’s mountains (4-5, 10-11). Now we will cover one of the remaining two topics: the flowing of living waters (8). Next time, Lord willing, we will consider the sixth and final motif: the change in cosmic light (6-7). All of this is a demonstration of the gracious, global and exclusive kingship of Jehovah for the salvation of His elect church in Jesus Christ: “the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one” (9).

In Zechariah’s vision, as one might have expected, the movements of Judah’s mountains (4-5, 10-11) affect the flowing of living waters (8). Such was needed because Jerusalem lacked a river, having only springs. King Hezekiah had built a channel to bring these waters into the city itself (II Kings 20:20) but it was still barely enough, especially in summer droughts.

The Old Testament prophets picture the glorious, coming salvation in terms of living, that is, not stagnant but flowing, water. First, Joel speaks of waters flowing east from the temple: “a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (3:18). Second, Ezekiel also envisions water flowing east from the temple; he speaks of it getting deeper and deeper, until it can only be crossed by swimming, before adding that it will heal the Dead Sea (47:1-12).

Zechariah 14:8 goes further, for the living waters from Judah’s capital city will never fail in any season and will flow not only east to the Dead Sea but also west to the Mediterranean: “it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.”

At this, the premillennialists exclaim, “Isn’t the [earthly and literal] millennium going to be wonderful! Believers of Jewish descent are going to have a well-irrigated land!”

The problem with premillennialism is that its sights are far too low and earthy. This fits with its faulty hermeneutic: its literalism regarding Old Testament apocalyptic imagery. It refuses to let Scripture interpret Scripture and especially will not allow New Testament Scripture interpret Old Testament Scripture.

What was John shown in Revelation 22:1? “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The “water of life” or the living or flowing waters spoken of by the prophets are here described as “pure” and “clear as crystal.”

What is the source of these life-giving waters? Jerusalem (Zech. 14:8) or, more specifically, its temple (Joel 3:18; Eze. 47:1), where God has His throne, symbolized by the ark of the covenant. Revelation 22:1 is even more explicit: “the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

The idea is that the Triune God rules through the Lamb, Christ crucified. What is the water of life that flows from the Triune God through Jesus? The Holy Spirit. He is the water and river that brings life in the new heavens and the new earth. The Judaizing premillennialists are fixated merely on physical, running water in Palestine!

Even the true, enlightened saints in the Old Testament knew better than premillennialism. Psalm 46:4 declares, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.” But there is no literal river in Jerusalem, either in the days of the old or the new covenant!

So to what is the Psalmist referring? The Holy Spirit who invigorates and refreshes God’s children, for the Most High is in the midst of Jerusalem by His blessed Spirit. He is the Spirit of Christ crucified and risen, since the Lord’s death for us has not only purchased the forgiveness of our sins and everlasting righteousness, but also the Holy Spirit, who is poured out on the church in this age (Zech. 12:10) and is the flowing river of the age to come (14:8).

What shall we say regarding the development of the imagery of the mountain movements and the living waters together? First, the Mount of Olives divides and moves north and south, creating a valley to the east of Jerusalem (4). Second, this has two results: it removes a formidable barrier to the east, enabling the flight of God’s people (5) and the flow of the waters of life (8). These last two pictures speak of Jehovah’s gracious, saving work in Jesus Christ, both the preservation of His elect saints and the gift to us of His life-giving Spirit, respectively. Rev. Stewart


Herman Bavinck: “Now it is true that [the] future is depicted [in the Old Testament Scriptures] in images derived from the historical circumstances that then prevailed, so that Zion and Jerusalem, temple and altar, sacrifice and priesthood, continue to occupy a large place in it. But we must remember that we ourselves do the same thing and can only speak of God and divine things in sensuous, earthly forms. One reason God instituted Old Testament worship as he did was that we would be able to speak of heavenly things, not in self-made images but in the correct images given us by God himself. The New Testament, accordingly, takes over this language and in speaking about the future kingdom of God refers to Zion and Jerusalem, to temple and altar, to prophets and priests. The earthly is an image of the heavenly ... The New Testament views itself—and there can certainly be no doubt about this—as the spiritual and therefore complete and authentic fulfillment of the Old Testament” (Reformed Dogmatics, 4:659, 660).

Deep Issues Raised by the Intermediate State

In the February News, I answered a question concerning the intermediate state, that is, the state of the soul between the believer’s death and the final coming of Christ, when all the bodies of the dead shall be raised. I say, the state of the soul between the believer’s death and the final coming of Christ but we must remember that the question also can be asked concerning the impenitent wicked. Do their souls go to hell, while their bodies remain in the grave until the resurrection? Yes (Luke 16:19-31). Quite naturally, however, the discussion almost always concerns the elect.

Although the question I face now was submitted by the same person who asked the last one and although the question I am going to answer is not clearly stated, I think the reader is concerned with those who were raised from the dead by the Lord or by His prophets, that is, brought back to this life.

There are a number of such cases in Scripture. Elijah and Elisha both raised young boys, born in the apostate Northern Kingdom, from the dead. The bones of Elisha were given power by God to raise an unknown man from the dead, when his body was hastily thrown into the prophet’s grave, as those who were going to bury him had to flee for their lives from a Syrian raiding party (II Kings 13:20-21). The Lord also raised the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain and Lazarus.

These last three whom Christ raised were raised in an interesting order, for each was dead longer than the one whom He previously raised. The daughter of Jairus was raised shortly after she died, the son of the widow of Nain was raised as he was being carried away to be buried and Lazarus was raised after he had been dead for four days and already buried.

I said in my earlier article that the only possibility for the intermediate state of those brought back to this life was that God prepared some special place for their souls until their bodies were raised. Such provision of their souls would be a kind of short period of soul sleep. But the Bible does not give us any information about this question and we can only speculate.

There are other aspects to this question of the intermediate state that only make the question more difficult.

The Scriptures teach that during the history of this world, before the coming of Christ and the final resurrection, the souls of believers are consciously in heaven. The word of Christ to the thief on the cross was that today he would be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43). The fifth seal, when opened, reveals the souls of the elect under the altar who are eager for their fellow saints to join them in glory when their cause would be vindicated (Rev. 6:9-11).

It is highly unlikely that, when Lazarus and the others I mentioned died, they were taken to heaven. Anyone who has been in heaven would not want to return to this present, fallen world, for he would take on a depraved human nature once again after he had tasted the delight of moral perfection. This is not even mentioning going from the glory and joy of Christ’s presence back to the misery of this corrupt and violent earth.

This brings up the question of the Lord’s resurrection and exaltation. Christ arose from the dead and appeared to His disciples and others in the forty days between His resurrection and ascension. Where was Jesus during those forty days? Was He in heaven? Did He only return to earth for His ten or eleven appearances? Or was He in this earthly creation somewhere for forty days, though invisible?

The appearances themselves include aspects that we do not understand. He appeared in different forms to different people (Mark 16:12). He may have appeared to Mary as a gardener. Did He ever appear without nail holes in His hands to the disciples?

There is a striking passage in John 21 where we are told that, when the Lord appeared to some of His disciples who were fishing, they wanted to ask who He was but they did not dare, for they knew it was Jesus. They thought they recognized Him, but they were not sure and wanted desperately to ask (12).

When the Lord appeared, He did so in a way that would lead one to the conclusion that He had been with them all the time but that He was invisible. When He twice stood before His disciples in the upper room in John 20, He passed through locked doors or walls (or simply appeared), and knew exactly what they had been talking about. He was there all the time but they could not see Him. Had He not told them, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20)?

Stranger yet, when we go to heaven and when our bodies are raised to be joined with our souls, we will not need, nor be able, to eat earthly food. Yet our Lord, in the period before His ascension and exaltation at His Father’s right hand, ate fish and honey in the presence of His disciples (Luke 24:41-43) in His resurrection body.

So the questions multiply—and I have no answers to them. They are puzzling and outside the realm of our experience. In fact, the wonderful works of God are, after all, works that belong to heaven, but burst into our earthly creation to reveal to us that God is the God of His people and that His work of salvation is from heaven, not from this earth. It is a marvel beyond us. No wonder that, when God’s works are revealed in Christ, they are more distant yet from our understanding, though they are performed right in front of us. When heaven breaks into our earthly creation full of sin and death, one will stand with one’s hand over one’s mouth, and be filled with awe and wonder.

The wicked deny it all and will not believe what they cannot explain. The righteous bow in humility and confess it all to be true, for our God saves us in Christ—a wonder of grace that takes eternity to understand and to praise the One who does such miracles.

I have written all I know of what the Bible teaches us. There is more, far more. I cannot wait to see it all. That will be glory, the glory of our Triune God! Prof. 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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South Wales Lecture

Thursday, 6 June
 7:15 PM

Rev. Angus Stewart

(pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church, N. Ireland)

The Burnt Offering

The first sacrifice in the history of the world and in the levitical offerings (Lev. 1), what is the idea of the burnt offering? How does it picture the sacrifice of Jesus Christ? What are the lessons for the people of God today?

Venue: Margam Community Centre
Bertha Road, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2AP 

Book Table (including DVDs,
CDs & pamphlets) 
Coffee & tea provided afterward

The Amazing Cross
Herman Hoeksema 
(160 pp., hardback) 

“The vicarious suffering of the Lord must occupy a central place in the consciousness of faith and in the preaching of the gospel. On the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ depend all of salvation.” So states the author of these powerful meditations on the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, giving us all the reason we need to read them and digest them, to believe on the Christ presented in them and magnify the God of our salvation whose work is set forth in them. (The 13 chapters of this book were originally published as part of Herman Hoeksema’s longer work, When I Survey.)

Only £11.00 (inc. P&P)

Order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells,
N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!

Christ’s Presence in the
Lord’s Supper

10 classes on Belgic Confession 35 (Vol. XXIX) on CD in an attractive
box set 

How is Jesus Christ present in the Lord’s Supper? What are the views of Rome, Lutheranism and Anabaptism? Why is the Reformed doctrine biblical? Listen and learn about the second sacrament our Lord gave to His church!

(1) Introduction and the Doctrine of Transubstantiation (Matt. 26:26-29)
(2) Transubstantiation: What Remains or Is Added or Subtracted? (I John 1)
(3) The “Miracle” of Transubstantiation (Mark 14:22-25)
(4) “This Is My Body”—Grammar (Luke 22:7-23)
(5) “This Is My Body”—Other Arguments (John 6:32-65)
(6) Lutheran Ubiquity (Phil. 2:1-11)
(7) Lutheran and Romish Views Compared (I Cor. 15:40-48)
(8) Lutheran Arguments for Ubiquity (Eph. 4:1-12)
(9) Reformed and Anabaptist/Baptist Views Compared (1)
(Matt. 26:26-29)
(10) Reformed and Anabaptist/Baptist Views Compared (2) (I Cor. 10:14-22)

£10/box set (inc. P&P)

Listen free on-line or
order from the 
CPRC Bookstore
by post or telephone
7 Lislunnan Road, Kells,
N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!
Last modified on 09 May 2019