Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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November 2011  •  Volume XIII, Issue 19


The Lamb Takes the Book (2)

In the last News, we saw Jesus Christ take the book and so execute the eternal decree of God with respect to all things (Rev. 5). Christ the Lamb is spoken of as a mighty "Lion" to assure John of His victory (5). Lions have a loud, terrifying roar (cf. 10:3; Amos 3:8). Lions have long, sharp teeth to seize and rend their prey (their bark is not worse than their bite!). Their jaws are strong and their hold is firm. The power of lions is proverbial (Prov. 30:30; Judg. 14:18). Lions know their strength and so we speak of someone being as "bold as a lion" (Prov. 28:1). David argued that he could take on Goliath because he had slain a lion (I Sam. 17:34-37).

Lions are kingly (they not only roar and rend, but they also reign!). Is not the lion the king of the beasts? King Solomon had twelve lions on the steps to his throne (I Kings 10:20). Jesus is the descendent of kings. He came from Israel’s royal tribe as "the Lion of the tribe of Juda" (Rev. 5:5). When He was prophesied as a king from Judah (Gen. 49:10), Judah was described in terms of a lion (9). Christ came from Israel’s greatest royal figure: "David" (Rev. 5:5). David was the first king from Judah, a great conquering king and the head of a dynasty lasting over 400 years. Christ is an eternal, victorious king. 

Christ is the "root" of Jerusalem’s kings, as prophesied in Isaiah 11:10. Christ is not only the descendent or off-spring of David; He is "the Root of David" (Rev. 5:5; 22:16). Christ, not Jesse, is the origin and source of King David. Christ’s Spirit was in David making him like Christ. Christ’s power brought David to the throne and wrought his victories. Thus, David is a type and picture of Christ’s kingship. As David was enthroned by God and executed His will in protecting and governing His people and destroying His enemies, so the Lord Jesus perfectly rules in the kingdom of God.

Christ’s lion-like power and royalty are required for His taking the book. Only a king is fit for these environs, for, in Revelation 5, God is seated on His throne as the universal ruler and even the 24 elders are royal figures with crowns and thrones. Only a king is fit for the task. The task involves a royal commission from Him who sits on the throne. The task involves sitting on a royal throne (cf. 22:1). The task involves exercising royal dominion over the whole universe in executing God’s all-encompassing, sovereign decree.

Christ appears here as a slain Lamb for as such He obtained His victory on the cross. Notice that the elder speaks of a Lion (5:5) and, behold, instead of a roaring, rending, royal lion, we see ... a Lamb (6)! A lamb is a small, white, woolly creature. A lamb is helpless and weak (Luke 10:3). Moreover, this is a little lamb. Only a "slain" lamb has less strength than a little lamb (Rev. 5:6). A lamb is a stark contrast to a lion. All fear lions; none fear lambs. Lions are wild carnivores; lambs are domesticated herbivores. Lambs feed on grass; lions feed on lambs.

Christ, however, is not just any Lamb. He is the Lamb pictured in the Old Testament. He is the Passover Lamb whose blood stayed the sword of the avenging angel. He is the Lamb of Isaiah 53:7 who receives a portion as the great One (12). He is, in short, the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). As the Lamb "slain," He is the sacrificial Lamb. God appointed Him as such before the world’s foundation (Rev. 13:8). God imputed to Christ all the sins of His people and He bore God’s wrath against our iniquities by dying in our place and redeeming us by His blood (5:9). The cross was the Lamb’s historical, decisive, irrevocable victory. There Christ purchased the elect, defeated Satan and the world, and made glad the heart of the Triune God! He is now the exalted Lamb. The slain Lamb lives, through His resurrection from the dead. The Lamb slain on earth stands in heaven in the midst of the throne, the beasts and the elders, through His ascension.

Christ must be both Lion and Lamb to open the book. The exalted, kingly Lion must first be the humble, priestly Lamb. The victorious Lion’s power comes through the victim Lamb’s weakness. The silence of the Lamb breaks forth in the roar of the Lion. Christ is worthy to take the book since, as the Lion, He has the power, and, as the Lamb, who shed His blood for us, He has the right. No wonder no one else could open the book!

The lowly, weak Lamb has royal characteristics. The Lamb has "seven horns"—omnipotence (6). The Lamb has "seven eyes"—omniscience (6). The Lamb has received the Holy Spirit in all His covenant fullness (6). The Lamb comes and takes the book and rules the universe (7)! All in heaven worship the only One worthy to open the book (8-14)!

This Word of God gives us a glorious vision to help us when persecuted and distressed. Revelation was originally written to a people oppressed by the typical Roman Empire. Today, the final Anti-Christian kingdom is not yet here in its full form (Rev. 13), yet we too feel its tug. We are tempted to put money, pleasure and material comfort above the kingdom of God. We are pressured to water down Christ’s truth for false ecumenism and syncretism. We are persecuted in various forms for the Word of God.

Behind all things, heaven rules. Often we look only on the earthly events, but we must look up and keep looking up at the vistas of the better world. The book is the source of all that happens. Men and earthly calamities are only means. The ultimate cause of all things is the eternal plan of the Triune God. The victorious Lamb is on the throne; our Saviour executes God’s decree! As the priestly Lamb, He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. The same Lamb, whose love led Him to shed His blood for us, still loves us. He who died for us will keep us. We may and will lose individual battles, personally and corporately, but we share in the final and universal triumph of the Lamb. The "wrath of the Lamb" (6:16) will destroy those who attack His blood-bought church.

If we do not believe this, we will "weep much" in defeat (cf. 5:4-5). We will have no heart for the fight. We will be easily overcome by our trials. Christ has conquered on the cross and reigns over all: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (12)!   Rev. Stewart

Are All Infants Dying in Infancy Saved? (2)

In the last News, I began a discussion of several texts quoted by a reader that are claimed as biblical proof that all children who die in infancy are saved. The text I treated was Ezekiel 18:1-4, 20.

I wrote the last article, however, under a misconception. I have since learned that the reader’s question is not: Are all the children of believing parents who die in infancy saved? The question is much broader: Are all the children of believers and unbelievers who die in infancy saved? There are those, chiefly though not exclusively, to be found among Baptists who hold to this position. As a matter of fact, Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, who himself held to the baptism of the children of believers, also held that all infants who die in infancy are saved. I briefly alluded to this idea in my last article, but failed to realize that this was the main question at issue.

And so we must consider if the texts appealed to prove that all infants of believing and unbelieving parents who die in infancy are saved. Presumably, this also includes all aborted babies, both those destroyed by spontaneous abortion and those slain by human interruption of the pregnancy.

The next text is Jeremiah 32:18-19: "Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give  every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."

The point in quoting this text is, it seems, this: verses 18 and 19 might appear to contradict each other. How should we understand these verses to avoid this? The seeming contradiction is apparently in the fact that verse 18 speaks of God recompensing the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children, while verse 19 speaks of the fact that Jehovah sees all that men do and gives to every man according to his doings. Presumably, the statement that God gives every man according to his doings is interpreted to mean the reward of grace, of which the New Testament speaks repeatedly. So, if I understand the argument correctly, the apparent contradiction lies in the children suffering for the iniquity of their fathers and yet being rewarded with the reward of grace. And so, the conclusion is that the children to whom the iniquity of the fathers is recompensed do not include infants, because verse 19 promises them a great reward. Hence infants are saved. Now, that is a rather convoluted explanation of the text and the reasoning here seems specious. (I hope I am not misinterpreting what the questioner means; if I am, he must feel free to correct me.)

The context of this powerful text is this: Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, yet Jeremiah was told to purchase a parcel of land. How utterly foolish to buy land when Judah is overrun with Chaldeans. But Jeremiah was instructed to buy land as a sure guarantee that God would bring His people back again to the promised land, which also He did after seventy years. In response to this seemingly impossible promise of a return, Jeremiah prays. It is a wonderful prayer, but it also suggests that Jeremiah does not understand how that will be possible, for the Chaldeans have devastated the land and Jerusalem is about to be captured. It all seemed to be hopeless.

The fact that God recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children is something I explained in the last News, and I will not repeat what I said. We ought to notice, however, that Jeremiah is admitting in his prayer to God that Jerusalem’s and Judah’s woes are brought upon them justly. And this is the point of verse nineteen. God is just in all His ways. God gives to every one of the sons of men according to the fruit of their doings. This is not a reference to the reward of grace; it is a reference to what God in His justice is doing to Judah for its sins.

Jeremiah wonders how it is possible for Judah ever to return. Read verses 24-25. But what is the Lord’s answer? "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" (27). Now read the rest of the chapter. It is profoundly moving. Yes, Jerusalem shall be chastised for her sins. But, behold, I will gather them out of all countries ... And they shall be my people, and I will be their God ... But read for yourself the whole chapter—and marvel at the greatness of the mercy and power of Almighty God. His covenant is absolutely unconditional!

The next text is Deuteronomy 1:39: "Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it."

The argument here for the salvation of all infants dying in infancy is: "The people of Israel were kept out of the promised land because of their unbelief, but Deuteronomy 1:39 tells us that the little ones and the children, who were too young either to believe the ten bad spies or not to believe the two good spies, would go in." The argument is, I presume, that Canaan is a picture of heaven, and just as the children of those who perished in the wilderness, though they did not either believe or refuse to believe the ten wicked spies, went into Canaan, so children who die in infancy go to heaven.

It is immediately obvious that there is something seriously wrong with the argument. The children who entered Canaan were not children who died in infancy, but were children who had grown up and become men and women. Deuteronomy is talking about what happened years before the nation heard Moses give the laws of Deuteronomy while Israel was in the plains of Moab and near the Jordan. The text itself says this, for it is talking about what happened "in that day."

Deuteronomy 2:14 tells us that Israel left Kadesh-barnea (whence the spies were sent out to Canaan) thirty-eight years before they crossed the brook Zered and entered Moab, soon to conquer the promised land. Thus the youngest children who were alive at Kadesh would have been thirty-eight when they entered Canaan. It all seems so obvious that I may be missing the point. If so, the reader may write it again. Prof. Hanko

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