************ Sermon on Revelation 10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 7, 2008
"The Angel and the Little Scroll"
The Revelation of Jesus Christ comes to us in written form. This is very important. It is a piece of literature. When you look at it as literature, you realize John has organized his material. To help you understand the passage in front of us, I want to outline for you the literary structure of Revelation.
After being summoned to the heavenly throne room, John watches as a series of three judgments are unleashed on earth-dwellers, on those people who have adopted the vain philosophies of this world, on those people who have rejected God and Christ and the Gospel. First, John sees the seven seal judgments. Then, John sees the seven trumpet judgments. Finally, John sees the seven bowl judgments. Three groups of seven.
Now, remember what happened between the sixth and seventh seal judgments? There was an interlude, an intermission, in TV language we would call it a commercial break. In this intermission, John turns our attention away from judgment and to salvation, from those who are being judged to those who are being saved. In this intermission, John looks at God's people from two perspectives. First, he looks at God's people in terms of the 144,000 who receive the seal of God on their foreheads – they are marked as belonging to God and under His protecting care. Second, he looks at God's people in terms of a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.
Remember, the Revelation is a piece of literature. It has literary structure. So, we should not be surprised that the same thing happens between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments as happened between the sixth and seventh seal judgments: there is an interlude, an intermission. And, again, our attention is drawn away from the earth-dwellers, those who are objects of God's judgment, to the people of God.
Revelation 10, the passage in front of us this evening, is the interlude between the blowing of the sixth trumpet and the blowing of the seventh trumpet.
Remember the theme of the first interlude: God's protection of His people. The theme of this interlude is the vindication of God's people. As with the first interlude, it can be broken up into two parts. The first part, which we are looking at today, is made up of Revelation 10. The second part, which we will look at next time, is made up of Revelation 11:1-14.
How will God vindicate His people? What is the message of the interlude between the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets? In Revelation 10, God promises to vindicate His people by the final judgment of their enemies. In Revelation 11, God promises to vindicate His people by a glorious resurrection.
When we look at the first part of the interlude, Revelation 10, we see three things: an angel that John sees, an oath that John hears, and a calling that John receives.
I An Angel
A We are told that John sees an angel. John has seen all sorts of angels so far. John has seen the seven angels of the seven churches of Asia Minor in the right hand of Jesus (Rev 1:16,20). John has seen the twenty-four elders who surround the throne of God – they are dressed in white and have crowns of gold on their heads (Rev 4 & 5). John has seen the four magnificent living creatures who worship God day and night – each of them has six wings and are covered with eyes all around (Rev 4,5,6). John saw a crowd of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand; they encircle the throne and worship God and Christ (Rev 5). John saw the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds (Rev 7). John saw the seven angels to whom are given the seven trumpets (Rev 8). John saw the angel who mixes on heaven's altar the smoke of incense with the prayers and cries of the Gospel martyrs (Rev 8). John saw the angel of the Abyss, even Satan, and the thousands of fallen angels who serve him (Rev 9).
John has seen so many angels. But now he sees another angel. This is not just an ordinary angel. This is an absolutely magnificent angel:
(Rev 10:1-2) Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. (2) He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land ...
John has seen mighty angel after mighty angel. So, what is so different about this angel? This angel is a colossus, a giant. How do I know that? Because he has one foot on the land and the other foot in the sea. He is not a little cherub; he is more like the Jolly Green Giant and then some.
Furthermore, this angel reflects the glory of God. Why do I say that? Because features that are used elsewhere to describe the Father and the Son are used here to describe this angel.
We are told that the angel was "robed in a cloud." Clouds often accompany the presence of God. For instance, we see clouds when God met with Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 19) and at the Tent of Meeting (Ex 33 & 40). At the transfiguration of Jesus, a cloud appeared and enveloped Jesus and His three closest disciples (Lk 9). When Jesus ascended into heaven, it was a cloud that hid Him from the sight of His disciples (Acts 1). According to the Psalmist, God "makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind" (Ps 104:3). Now we are told that the angel is "robed in a cloud." Notice, the language that is used for God is also used for the angel. This reminds us, at the very least, that the angel comes from the very presence of God Himself.
"With a rainbow above his head." Do you remember the other rainbow we have seen in the Revelation? It was in the heavenly throne room in Revelation 4. There, we were told that "a rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne" (Rev 4:3). When God's people think of the rainbow they cannot help but think of the Flood and God's judgment. At that time everyone died except for those saved in the ark. After the Flood, God hung His bow in the sky as a sign of His covenant mercies and faithfulness. So, the rainbow speaks of God's mercy towards Noah and His justice towards the unbelieving.
"His face was like the sun." Do you remember the portrait of Jesus that John painted for us in Revelation 1. Jesus' face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance (Rev 1:16).
"His legs were like fiery pillars." Do you remember where else we see fiery pillars? Isn't it during the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings? By day the LORD went ahead of the people in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night (Ex 13:21-22).
Just like Moses reflected the glory of God (Ex 34:30), so this mighty angel reflects the glory of God.
B "He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand." Where else have we seen a scroll and a hand? Go back to Revelation 5:
(Rev 5:1) Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.Remember how John wept and wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even look inside it? But then the Lion Who is a Lamb came and took the scroll and opened the seals one by one.
What we have in front of us this evening, in the hand of the mighty angel, is the same scroll. "Well," you might say, "it can't be the same scroll because in chapter 5 it is called a 'scroll' and here it is called a 'little scroll.'" And, in chapter 5 it is closed whereas here it is opened." In the Greek, the same base word is used in both places. And, don't forget, the scroll is now open because Jesus – Who alone is worthy – has slit the seals and opened the scroll – both revealing its contents and setting those contents into motion.
Do you remember when we looked at Revelation 1:1 – it was only 32 sermons ago – that I talked about a holy transmission? I explained to you that there were five links in the transmission chain: God, Jesus, an angel, John, John's audience. The Revelation was given from one link to the next. In Revelation 5, when the Lamb took the scroll, we saw the Revelation pass from God to Jesus. In Revelation 10, when the angel comes down from heaven, holding the little scroll, we see that the Revelation has passed from Jesus to the angel. At the end of Revelation 10, when John eats the scroll, we see that the Revelation has passed from the angel to John. And, when John is told – also at the end of Revelation 10 – to prophesy to the people, we see that the Revelation has passed from John to the churches.
Why, then, is the Revelation called a "little scroll" in chapter 10? Think of who is holding it! In the hand of the huge, big, gigantic angel it must have looked very small. And, don't forget, at the end of the chapter John is required to eat it – so it can't be too big.
So, in the second interlude, John sees an angel.
II An Oath
A In the interlude between the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets, John also hears a number of things. John hears the mighty angel who "gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion" (Rev 10:3). We would not expect the big, gigantic angel to have a Mickey Mouse type of voice. We are told that the angel's voice matches his size – he roars like a lion. Loud, lots of volume, scary and terrifying.
B The angel's roar triggers a response: "when he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke" (Rev 10:3). What did they speak? We aren't told because John was not allowed to write down their message.
(Rev 10:4) And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."Do you remember where we hear something similar? This is an echo of Daniel 12:4, where Daniel is told to "close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end." In other words, it is God Who determines when Daniel's vision is to be revealed; and, according to His will, that time has not yet come. Likewise, in Revelation 10 – God, according to His will, has determined that the message of the seven thunders is not ready to be revealed; in fact, God is in control, and the saints do NOT need to know all the details.
C "Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven." When do you raise your right hand to heaven? Isn't this done when you swear an oath? Isn't this done when you take the oath of office, or swear that you are telling the truth? The mighty angel is about to swear an oath.
What, exactly, does he swear? Four words in the Greek, six words in the English: "There will be no more delay!" No more delay of what? No more delay of judgment. No more delay of justice. No more delay of punishment. The earth-dwellers, unless they repent and believe, will get their due.
(Rev 10:6,7) There will be no more delay. (7) But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.What mystery is this? The mystery of the full Gospel message, a mystery already announced in the Old Testament: salvation for believers, judgment for unbelievers.
"No more delay." Isn't that the problem faced by the Gospel martyrs? Their souls are under heaven's altar and their cry is, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood" (Rev 6:10). To those Gospel martyrs it seems like there has been delay after delay. But isn't this a universal problem? Isn't this as big a problem today as it was when the Revelation was being written? Wasn't this even a problem in the Old Testament? In the psalms alone, we hear the phrase "how long" repeated 22 times in 15 verses. "How long?"
The answer is given here: "no more delay."
D "No more delay." How do we know for sure? Because the mighty angel swears this by the only thing greater and bigger than himself – the Lord God Almighty Who lives for ever and ever, the Lord God Almighty Who created the heavens and the earth and sea and all that is in them.
"No more delay." How do we know for sure? Let me ask you, how is the angel standing? "He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land." We are told this three times: verse 2, verse 5, verse 8. In the Bible, to have your foot on something shows your sovereignty over it. In this light, consider the words of the Psalmist:
(Ps 110:1) The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."Eighteen times in the New Testament, this verse is applied to the rule of King Jesus. Think of the image: a mighty conqueror stands with his foot on the chest or head or neck of a captured enemy. He can do with that enemy whatever he wants. He is sovereign. He is in control. As for the enemy, he is in a state of total subjection. The mighty angel stands with a foot on the land and on the sea. He has authority over the land and sea and everything in them. And, with the voice of God and as the representative of God, he thunders out, "No more delay."
But there is more. In Revelation 12 & 13, we meet an unholy trinity of a great red dragon – Satan – and two beasts who serve the dragon. The first beast comes out of the sea. The second beast comes out of the earth. Now, go back to the image of the mighty angel standing with one foot on the sea and the other foot on the land. Do you see the message? The mighty angel, as God's representative, has authority and sovereignty over both the beast of the sea and the beast of the earth and the devil they serve; he has authority and sovereignty over the worst that Satan can offer. So, standing where he does, this angel means it when he says, "No more delay."
"No more delay." Unbelievers should repent when they hear this. But most won't. Unbelievers should tremble when they hear this. Their knees should be shaking. They should be calling for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them for the great day of God's wrath has come (Rev 6:16-17).
III A Calling
A Lastly, in the interlude, John also receives a calling. Listen to verse 8:
(Rev 10:8) Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land."Can you imagine a man, an ordinary man like John, going on his own to the huge, big, gigantic angel? Of course not! John needs a command to do this.
B Now, listen to what is written down in verse 9:
(Rev 10:9) So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey."If you are a student of the Old Testament, this should sound very familiar. The image comes from Ezekiel 2 & 3:
(Ezek 2:9-3:3) Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, (10) which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. (1) And he said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." (2) So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. (3) Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
How can the Word of God be sweet in the mouth and sour in the stomach? Ezekiel knew. To receive the Word of God is a delightful thing, a wonderful thing. What a blessing it is to have the Word of God. You all know this; it is because the Word of God is so sweet that you are here this evening. I think of what the Psalmist says,
(Ps 119:103) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (cf ps 19:10)Ezekiel was so blessed to be the recipient of God's Word. But there is also much bitterness that comes along with this Word – the bitterness of pronouncing judgment upon unbelievers, of calling sinners to repent or else.
Like Ezekiel, John finds the Word of God is sweet in the mouth and sour in the stomach.
(Rev 10:10) I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.What a joy it is to receive revelation from God. What bitterness it is to pronounce judgment upon those who will not repent, who remain defiant, who refuse the Gospel.
Listen, now to the last verse (verse 11). Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." You "must" – remember, every "must" in the Revelation is a divine must. God has ordained it and commanded it. Who is John to ignore this?
"You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." This is not the first time John is commissioned or called in the Revelation. In Revelation 1, John is commanded to write down what he is shown (vs 11,19). In Revelation 4, John was called up into heaven to see what must take place.
"You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings." John's message for the nations is sweet like honey and sour like stomach acid. It is the message of the angel: no more delay; repent and you are saved; remain in your sins and you are judged.
I want to ask you, I need to ask you: Is Jesus your Judge? Don't forget, He is invincible, He is sovereign, His foot is on the land and on the sea. So, there is no escape from Him. For you, the Word of God becomes bitter and sour.
Is Jesus your Judge? Or, is He your Savior? Let me tell you, if you receive Jesus as Savior, you escape the inescapable judgment. And, the Word of God becomes sweeter than honey.
Judge or Savior? That is the question. That is the option. One or the other because "There will be no more delay."
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