Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Revelation 10 : THE MIGHTY ANGEL AND THE LITTLE SCROLL

Let us  recall  again  the general scheme of the Book of Revelation, so that we may  retain a clear view of the whole  book.  We saw  the seven seals , broken by  the Lord Jesus Christ  in Chapters 5-8:5.  When the last of  these seven seals  is broken,  the end has  come! The kingdom, the plan of God  shall have come.  
The vision of the seven seals gives way  to the vision of the   seven trumpets,  six of which we considered  last week.  The  seventh trumpet  will  only be revealed  in chapter 11,  after an interlude   in chapter 10, which we will consider today. In chapter 16 we will consider the vision of the  7 bowls.   
Seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls  -  this is the pattern  of the book of Revelation.  The relationship between these  seven seals, seven trumpets and seven  bowls   are, as  Herman Hoeksema points out,  both contemporary and successive [1]  :
“On the one hand, they are contemporary, so that in principle the  bowls  begin at the same time that the seals are broken and are realized throughout the history of the present dispensation, side by side and at the same time. But on the other hand, they are also successive, so that there is an increase in the element of judgment. And as we study them, we feel that we are gradually led on to the time of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. “

So, the trumpet judgments following the seal judgments   are indicative of  an increase in the intensity  of judgment.
Last week we saw  that the first four trumpets revealed  divine  destruction upon  creation- or as we would call it ‘natural disasters‘. The fifth trumpet  revealed  the  work of Satan  in the world- with particular reference  to the suffering of non – Christians  in this world . The sixth trumpet spoke of the letting loose of the four angels who are bound by the river Euphrates,  being authorized  to kill  one-third   of mankind.  We are eagerly waiting for the revelation of the 7th trumpet in  11:15 ff !

Now,  one more  interesting aspect  about the book of Revelation. Within the  revelation of the cycles  of seven  seals, trumpets and bowls  we find  some  ‘interruptions‘. One of these we have already  looked at  in connection with Chapter 7.  In the light  of these terrible judgments  the question is  this:  “Who can stand?”  and “what  happens to Christians – God’s people  at this time of suffering and tribulation?“. In  the seventh chapter the Lord shows us that in the midst of these trials   His people are sealed (kept by grace). They  shall become the heirs of the great and glorious salvation that is promised to them.  The purpose of that interlude was to comfort Christians  in the midst of tribulation.  This same  feature we find  again  in Chapter 10 which is an  interlude before  the blowing of the  seventh trumpet.

The Mighty Angel
In this vision  John sees another  mighty angel coming  down from heaven. (10:1)  This appears to be  a vision of the Lord Jesus  Christ  Himself.  The  similarity   with the description given in   Rev. 1:13-16
Note  firstly : He is wrapped up in a cloud  ( see also 1:7) -  the symbol of divine majesty, as it is coming for judgment. Secondly,  … “ with a rainbow over His head “  - the   symbol of the grace and the faithfulness of God in keeping His covenant, especially with a view to all creation. Thirdly , “ His face was like the sun” ( 1:16) ;  Fourthly,  “His legs  like pillars of fire.”  ( 1:15)  

Clearly, He appears here  as the glorified Lord  now in His  capacity  as the  great Judge of heaven and earth,  ready  to   confront  the enemies of His kingdom. This is not  the  well known picture  of the Lord Jesus  as our High Priest  and Mediator. He is coming  wrath.  In the  closing verses  of chapter 9  we found that mankind at large, despite  all the temporary  judgments that had already come upon the world,  did not repent, but continued in their  idol worship. He is now coming to judge this  world.  The purpose of this vision  is not evangelistic. No call to repentance. This is  a  final curtain –  final judgment!

He has a little scroll  open in His hand,  with His right foot  upon  the sea of the earth and the left foot  on the  land of the earth (10:2). We shall just now  return to the  little scroll  in v.8.  The earth and the sea  upon which His feet are planted are symbolic of all the world.  That kingdom of the world, the earth and the sea  had been taken captive by Satan  for a little while, but the appearance of  Christ  changes everything.  By setting His feet upon these  He indicates that  He  has all things in subjection  to Him.   This reminds us of Psalm 110:1 :  "The LORD says to my  Lord, “Sit  at my right hand, until I make your  enemies  your  footstool."  Also  1 Cor. 15:25  reminds us  that “ He must  reign until  he has put all enemies under his feet."[2]     
He is the Lord of the earth. It may not seem so now. It may seem as if the  people of this world  do as they please. It seems  as if  there is no  God  that rules or cares.  The Bible reminds us  however that suddenly , in a twinkling of an eye  He will be there ( see 1 Thessalonians  5:1-10 ;  Matthew  24:36- 51).  That is the effect of the 10th chapter ! Chapter 9  ends  with chaos, atheism  and hardened hearts, BUT SUDDENLY,  in chapter  10 there is the appearance  of Christ. 
So when you look at your world  today , and you see the  increase in immorality and wickedness and atheism  and faithlessness ,  then remember that the last chapter of earth’s history has not been written.  Here is the last chapter  :  He has a little scroll in His hand !  The Lion is roaring (10:3   reminiscent  of Amos 1:2) , and if the lion roars, it befits all the lesser creatures of the earth  to remain quiet! [3]

The Seven Thunders
The thunder is  the  Word of God [4]  as it thunders out in judgment.  “Seven thunders”  -  Seven [5] is  the symbolic number of perfection. The  thunderous word  proclaimed here  speaks  with  complete and   final  authority . The  thunders speak  in human language, and  John is  ready to write down what they speak, but  he  receives the command to seal up their revelation and not  to write them down. All we know  is that   they  are symbols of judgment.  But why mention them  if we can’t know the content?
It has been suggested  that  this is a little like Jesus use of  the  parables. His people  understand their contents  and meaning , but the  uninitiated -  the blind and deaf  (the unbelievers- the world at large ) do not see,  hear and understand.[6]   

The Meaning Of The Little Scroll
What is this little scroll  (first  mentioned in v.2) ? It certainly is not the same  scroll as mentioned in 5:1. That was a closed, sealed scroll  sealed with seven seals. This one is small and open.
The scroll in  Chapter 5   was a progressive  revelation  of the  history of the world  and the  coming kingdom of God.   This little scroll , which  John is now called to eat (v.9) makes  him  a prophet . It is the  symbolic  word  of all that John still has to prophesy. He has already  revealed much to us in the previous 9 chapters. But there is more to come.  This little scroll  contains the message of the seventh trumpet.  If we look at the rest  of the  book  of Revelation  we  begin to realize  there  are huge  things still to come. He will speak  of the fate of the holy city and of the temple and of the two witnesses who are killed in the city and taken to heaven on account of the testimony which they give. He speaks of a terrible  conflict between the woman who gives birth  to a  male child, and the dragon who attempts to destroy the child but fails. He speaks of the beast which comes out of the sea and the beast out of the earth, and of the terrible things that they do in the earth. He speaks of the development and power of Antichrist and his  aggression towards and  oppression  of   God’s people. He makes mention of Babylon, the great harlot, describes her greatness among the nations of the world, but also pictures her final destruction. He pictures the effect of the outpouring of the seven bowls. He speaks of the binding, but also of the loosing  of the devil and of all that follows.  And only after all this has happened, he pictures the heavenly Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness shall dwell.

In  a nutshell :  the  revelation  which John  must still pass on to us is  huge!  But note  what John must do with  this message. He must not simply   inform the church of its contents. No! He must  eat it and  make it part of himself.[7] He must love it and embrace it. The truth of this prophecy must take hold of him.  
Note also  that  this  message, whilst it was sweet in his own mouth [8] was bitter in his stomach.
That is the effect of the gospel. It is always sweet to the believer, but when the story has to be told to  those who oppose the message,  it turns bitter.

But there is another  more personal  and profound  dimension to it also , and anyone  who has been preaching  and feeding  upon the gospel  for a while  will know exactly what John is  saying here.  The process of assimilation and digestion of the Word of God  is often a painful one,  because the power of sin is still in our hearts and minds. The Word of God,  sweet as  it was when  we first  swallowed  it  by faith, is often  painful to digest  until the medicine of the Word of God has done its work and transformed us.

This is  especially true  for  the word of this prophecy.  True,  this  book speaks of redemption and of salvation,  and  of heavenly glory and of  a new creation,  and of  eternal life. But the book speaks of this only after it has  presented us   a picture  of  a battle with sin and unbelief  and of  a battle  with  faithful witnessing, and  of self-denial and suffering.  It is the road of battle for the kingdom of God. It is the road of persecution and mockery  that you have to endure  from  the world. And that is hard.   It  causes inward pain. It is not what you  had wanted, but it is  this  bitter battle  revealed in the   book  that transforms you. Jesus  told you this: “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart. I have overcome  the world.”  (Jn 16:33) . So, do not focus on the present  light and momentary afflictions. (2 Cor. 4:17)  Focus on the end – on the reward !

May that  be your experience.  Take this Word  - sweet to your taste because it is the Word of God. Swallow it. Do not rebel against it.  Eat it. Hide it  in your  heart.  May it have this result, that when it begins its work of transformation, the truth of the book  which may at first seem painful as it kills  the old man in you,  … that it may transform your desires  for the kingdom of God  to  come! Amen.



[1] Herman Hoeksema : Behold He cometh, p. 335
[2] see also Eph.  1:22
[3]  In 1871 the Finnish missionary Martin  Rautanen  was once preaching  to  king Tsheya of the Ongandjera  people (  a sub-tribe  of the Ovambo people), and the king  was disruptive   were  sitting under the word of God, and Martin  Rautanen  told him that earthly kings must be silent when  the King of kings speaks by His word.  This story reminds me of another king ,  James the 6th of Scotland  who was notoriously rude when attending worship services. The Presbyterian  minister Robert Bruce was preaching , and in his usual manner , king James began to speak to those around him.  Robert Bruce paused , and the king fell silent. He continued preaching, and the king started talking again. He then stopped him and addressed him directly :” When the lion roars all the beasts of the field are quiet’: the lion of the  tribe of Judah is now roaring in the voice of His gospel , and it becomes all  the small kings of the earth to be silent (D.C. MacNicol, Robert Bruce: Minister in the Kirk of Edinburgh , Banner of Truth- quoted in  1 Samuel , by D.R Davies ( Christian Focus publications)  p.108
[4] See also  Rev 8:5
[5] The number  seven occurs throughout the entire book :  seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls  -  when all of these seven are realized, the kingdom has come.
[6] As is the case in Isaiah  6:9-10 , where Isaiah speaks a message that the people cannot  hear or understand. The same is true for the gospel : “ The natural person does not accept  the things of the Spirit of God for they are  folly to  him, and he is not able to understand them , because they are spiritually discerned. “ ( 1 Cor 2:14)  
[7] Also Ezekiel 3:3
[8] See also   Psalm  119:103 ; Psalm 19:10 

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