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Is It In You? (Revelation 10:1-11)

March 15, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Happy Ever After (Revelation)

Topic: Revelation Passage: Revelation 10:1–10:11

Happy Ever After

Is It In You?
Revelation 10:1-11
(One Mission: I am Not Ashamed )
March 15th, 2015

 

I. Revelation Recap

Over the past six months, God has blessed us with the opportunity to dig into the amazing book of Revelation. As the first of our five firm footholds reminds us, this is, in light of the book's opening words, this is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). This morning we have arrived at Revelation chapter 10. Turn there if you haven't already done so.

So let's talk again about where we are in this revelation. A sealed scroll representing God's plan for ultimate justice has been fully opened by the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. We saw in our last lesson that the breaking of the seventh seal not only represented the implementation of God's decree, but also that this implementation began with the sounding of seven trumpets. Chapters 8 and 9 revealed that the sounding of the first six trumpets represented the kinds of great wars, devastating plagues, satanic oppression, and natural catastrophes that all of us have read about in history books or seen on the nightly news.

But to be clear, I don't believe God's word allows us to identify every coup d'etat, cataclysm, or catastrophe in the last 2000 years with the sounding of the six trumpets. I think we would need to be in the privileged position of a prophet to make those kinds of pronouncements about this or that headline. No, I believe what Revelation is revealing is that in the generations that followed the days of John and the seven churches, God did use these very things as judgments against and warnings for unbelievers in the Roman world.

Does God still use such things in that same way today? I think He does. But that's a question we can revisit as the larger picture of the Revelation become clearer to us.

 

II. The Passage: “The Mystery of God Would Be Fulfilled” (10:1-11)

Now, before we look at the eleven verses that make up this short chapter, let me remind you of what we might expect to read here. Like the first four seals in chapter 6, the first four trumpets of Revelation 8 seems to stand apart from the final three trumpets (remember, four is a symbolic number that usually has some connection to the earth). This organizing principle is confirmed by the fact that the last three trumpets are also described as three “woes” in 8:13 and 9:12.

Look back at 9:12 for a minute. There we read...The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come. In light of that, we might expect to find these words in 10:1...The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. But that verse is not found in verse 1 of chapter 10. Instead, it's found in verse 14 of chapter 11. Clearly, the second woe is to be identified with the devastating horsemen who kill a third of the earth in 9:13-19. So why is this statement about the second woe not inserted into the text until the middle of chapter 11?

Well, it's important to remember that just as the six trumpets follow the “four, then two” format of the six seals, we also find an interlude interrupting the flow of the narrative, just like we saw in chapter 7. Just as chapter 7 disrupted the progression from the sixth seal to the seventh seal, here, the section that runs from 10:1-11:14 also disrupts the progression of the revelation, this time between the sixth and seventh trumpets.

Why is all of this imporant? Because it is extrememly helpful in understanding what is being said in 10:1-11:14; because it alerts us to the fact that we need to take this section as a whole. Now, we will dig into more of this next week as we move into chapter 11. Right now, we need to understand how this section begins.

 

A. Description of the Mighty Angel (10:1-4)

Breaking chapter 10 into three smaller parts, we find in verses 1-4 that God has given us a description of the mighty angel who will dominate this chapter. Let's look at those verses...

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. [2] He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, [3] and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. [4] And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

So as we've seen before, notice the Old Testament palette with which this description is being painted. The cloud, the rainbow, the shining face, the pillars of fire, the roaring voice, all of these are images used in the Old Testament to describe the presence, power, and protection of God. This is not God who's being described here, but it is His angel. And that OT language and the gigantic stature of the angel, all of it is meant to convey the awe-inspiring and divinely profound nature of what is taking place here. I like how the write and pastor Eugene Peterson put it...

“...John's apocalyptic angels are one way. Not the plump darlings of the Ruben's oils, or the giggling, tinsel-fringed girls in Christmas plays, but real angels, apocalyptic angels—vast, fiery, sea-striding creatures with hell in their nostrils and heaven in their eyes.”

John must, the seven churches must, we must listen very carefully to this angel and consider his mission with the utmost seriousness. I mean, honestly, which of us would not be trembling if we saw a creature like this towering over us and calling out with a voice that rattled our bones?!

I also want you to see that John once again finds himself on the earth. In chapters 4-8, John was taken in the Spirit or in spirit to a symbolic representation of God's throneroom/heavenly temple. But here, he seems to be on a seashore (maybe on Patmos), and, still in the Spirit, is watching this colossus descend out of the sky.

Of course, the most mysterious part of this vision is mention of “the seven thunders” in verses 3 and 4. Since the OT routinely talks about “God thundering” when He speaks, this is most likely a reference to the perfectly powerful (remember, the #7) voice of God. As the mighty angel calls to heaven, heaven responds. Now we know that what was revealed by “the seven thunders” is intelligible to John, because he's about to write down what he's heard. But another voice, probably Jesus, instructs John to seal up that revelation; to not write it down.

But why? Why does John get to know what “the seven thunders” declared and not us?
I think there's something critical about maintaining humility in the midst of receiving revelation. In II Corinthians 12, Paul described how God kept him humble in light of amazing revelations he saw and heard. We need the very same thing.

The book of the Revelation should never inspire pride in us. We should never be puffed up because of what God has graciously revealed. Why? Well one reason is what we see here: we don't know everything. God has revealed His purposes, but not every detail of His plan. I think the words of Deuteronomy 29:29 are a helpful and humbling corrective for us...

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

 

B. Declaration of the Mighty Angel (10:5-7)

So having been provided a profound description of this mighty angel, in verses 5-7 we go on to learn something about the declaration of this same angel. Look with me at verse 5...

And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven [6] and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, [7] but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

Right away, in light of verses 5 and 6, we get a sense of the significance of how John described the angel's location in verse 2: one foot on the land, one foot in the sea. And now, echoing the angel in Daniel 12:7, the angel raises his right hand to heaven. Can you picture the triangle that has now been formed?

And that same triangle is made with words in the angel's oath from verse 6. Again, with OT language, he swears by Him who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it. So the imagery supports the importance of the declaration. It is a message that all creation must hear.

But what is this declaration? We heard it there at the end of verse 6, and into verse 7: there would be no more delay, literally in the original language, there would no longer be time or any time; we might say, “that time has run out”. And why is that? Because the seventh trumpet is about to sound! And when that happens, the angel makes it clear that God's plan will be fufilled. What plan? The one he described for both the prophets of the Old Testament and those in the early church. It's the mystery the Apostle Paul also wrote about...

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

 

C. Delivery of the Mighty Angel (10:8-11)

As we move into the final verses of chapter 10, we realize that the description and the declaration of this mighty angel are all leading up to the delivery he is making, from Jesus to the Apostle John. And no, it's not a pizza. Listen to what John tells us in verse 8...

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” [9] So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” [10] And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. [11] And I was told, “You must again prophesy about [or I think more accurately, against] many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

One of the things I did not mention about verse 1 of this chapter is the significance of the word “another” in the phrase “I saw another mighty angel”. Well, wait a minute. Was there an earlier “mighty angel”? There was! Listen again to Revelation 5:1, 2...

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. [2] And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”

So it seems there is a connection between mighty angels and scrolls. Do you see that? The first mighty angel spoke of an unopened scroll and asked who could open it. The second mighty angel comes with a “little scroll” that is already opened, or unsealed, and delivers it to John. I don't believe these are the same scrolls, and we'll talk more about that next week.

But notice it is Jesus who instructs John about the scroll. And his words are, once again, drawn from the Old Testament. Listen to Ezekiel 2:8-3:3...

“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” [9] And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. [10] And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” [2] So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. [3] And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3)

So the similarities between Ezekiel and John should be obvious. This is a symbolic way of describing the prophet's commissioning. But think about the differences between these passages as well. There is no mention in Ezekiel of the scroll's bitterness, that is, of giving the prophet an upset stomach. But that idea may be connected to what Ezekiel tells us about the contents of the scroll: and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.

And while Ezekiel was sent to the rebellious house of Israel, John is commissioned to speak again to or against “many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” As we will see in the coming chapters, John will continue to speak about God's judgment against, as 6:15 lists them...the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free...The cry, “How long?”, coming from the souls under the altar in 6:10, that question is about to be answered.

As the theologian Leon Morris expressed it...

“God has one purpose through the ages and it comes to its climax at this point. From the very beginning he has planned to bring his people to salvation, and thus his wholw prupose is coming to its culmination. It involves the judgment of evil, but also the deliverance and vindication of his people. John's readers are to reflect that the mighty world forces of which they were so conscious, far from being triumphant, are about to be overthrown decisively.”

 

III. 'Sweet and Sour' Witnesses

But think about that imagery for a minute, the imagery of what is “sweet” and what is “bitter.” Or, since I am a lover of Chinese food, maybe we can say, “sweet and sour”. Think about what John's commissioning teaches us about being 'sweet and sour' witnesses for Christ. What is the symbolic significance of John eating the book, just as Ezekiel had to do 600 years earlier. Again, I think Eugene Peterson sums it up well...

“Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of your life. Witnesses first become what they then say. If witness is to be anything more than gossip about God, it must be the word internalized.”

Is that how you think about being a witness for Jesus? Yes, John has the unique privilege of hearing what the seven thunders revealed. He stands alone in terms of that experience. But his experience of 'eating' the word should not be unique.

Twice a month, we feed on the Word who became flesh, don't we? We come to the Lord's Table and feast on Jesus, don't we? But the symbolism of that table, the symbolism of being nourished and sustained by the cross of Christ, should also connect us with the symbolism of Revelation 10.

Several years ago you may remember that Gatorade had an ad campaign in which various athletes were pictured sweating drops of the colorful sports drink, with every flavor represented. Do you remember that? Do you remember the tag line for that campaign? Is it in you? (2x) Shouldn't that be a key question for us after reading Revelation 10.

Yes, we should be on the edge of our seats, straining to understand the angel's message and the contents of the little scroll. But we should also identify with John, knowing that the gospel is at the heart of this message, for as we will see in Revelation 19:10..the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

When you 'eat' the word of God, when you allow it to go deep inside you, you will exerience the bitterness of its message. But wait. How could the gospel be bitter or sour? It's bitterness doesn't come from what it promises for those who receive it, but from what it promises for those who reject it. Without the wrath of God, we cannot understand the message of Jesus. That is the very thing He saves us from.

What is there for those without Christ but lamentation and mourning and woe. But the reality of that judgment and wrath to come should sober us and even unsettle us, just like it symbolically did to John's stomach. Having already been linked back to Ezekiel, remember what God expressed to that prophet...

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)

Do you hear the emotion in God's voice? Do you hear Him pleading? Shouldn't we also have a sour stomach in light of the fate of the lost? Shouldn't that drive us to pray for and plead with them? Even to weep for them, as our Lord Jesus did over the condemned city of Jerusalem?

The gospel is a hard word, but it's not only that. First and foremost, it is a sweet word. It is a sweet word of forgiveness, of mercy, of new life, of grace, of blessing, of love. In the same way that this message should unsettle us in light of the lost, it should also thrill us in light of being found; that such a thing is even possible for rebels like us. Is it your daily discipline to rehearse the sweetness of the gospel in your life. Brothers and sisters, savor your salvation. Don't take it for granted. God wants to use that sweetness in your mouth, not only for your pleasure, but also that its sweetness would flow from your mouth.

This passage should affect our prayer life, shouldn't it. We should be praying in light of it: “Father, feed me your word; let me feast on your gospel. And like John, let me experience both the bitterness and the sweetness, that my heart might be broken for those without Christ and that my mouth might be opened so they would be with Him and know the sweetness of life.”

Yes, our witness depends on understanding the content of the message we share. But God is also working on the content of our heart as we share. He is forming in us a heart like the heart of Jesus, so that we will truly be 'sweet and sour' witnesses.

Let's pray even now for Him to do that very work in us. 

More in Happy Ever After (Revelation)

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November 15, 2015

I am Coming...Come! (Revelation 22:6-21)

November 1, 2015

A Tour of Our Future Glory (Revelation 21:9-22:5)