John and the Little Scroll
Before we begin our study of God’s word, I want to remind you of where we are right now. Two weeks ago we looked at the sixth trumpet judgment, which was the worst plague so far in the book of Revelation. In this horrendous plague, we saw how one third of humanity will be killed by an army of demonic horsemen. We talked about how devastating the plague will be, but at the same time we talked about the perfect holiness and justice of God. Our God is full of mercy, but there comes a time when God stops giving mercy, and He starts giving justice. Several of you commented how the righteous justice of the Lord did not scare you for your own sakes, but did scare you for the sakes of the lost. Remember, for those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ, our eternal destinies have been sealed, and we will never face the wrath of God. But we should be scared for the throngs of people around the world who have never accepted Jesus Christ, many of whom have never even heard of His name. As children of God, it is our solemn privilege and duty to tell those who have never heard, so that as many as possible can escape the wrath to come. And now, we move on from this cataclysmic event, and we move on to Revelation chapter ten. So if you aren’t already there, I ask you to turn to Revelation 10, and we’ll be reading all 11 verses.
“And I saw another mighty angel come down from Heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, ‘Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.’ And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to Heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, Who created Heaven, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: ‘But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets.’ And the voice which I heard from Heaven spake unto me again, and said, ‘Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.’ And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said unto me, ‘Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.’ And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, ‘Thou must prophecy against before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.’”
Let’s pray and ask God to assist us as we study His word.
As I was studying this chapter, the first question that popped into my mind is where this all fits in the grand scheme of the book of Revelation. And as far as our seven-year timeline goes, we can’t know for sure. But at least in John’s vision, this event happens between the sixth and seventh trumpet. And if you read all twenty-one chapters of the book of Revelation in one sitting, you still might scratch your head and wonder what this chapter adds to the big picture. At least I scratched my head. And let me preface our lesson by saying that this chapter does have a huge lesson to teach us, and it’s not a fun lesson to learn.
But before I divulge what this chapter has to show us, let’s look at some of the specifics of the chapter. Notice in verse one how a mighty angel came down from Heaven. This verse tells us four descriptors about this angel. First, it is clothed in a cloud. In the Old Testament, God would often clothe Himself in a cloud when He was coming down to earth. Also notice that this angel had a rainbow on his head. Rainbows are often associated with God, and especially with the promises of God, like after Noah’s flood for instance. The third thing about this angel is that its face shone as the sun. John said the exact same thing about Jesus in Revelation chapter one. And the final thing to notice about this angel is that its feet resembled pillars of fire. Once again, this is a direct parallel to the vision of Jesus in Revelation one.
Notice what verse two says about the angel. This verse says that the angel has an open scroll in his hand (remember that while some of our Bibles say “book” for clarity, the word is actually “scroll”). It also says that the angel had one foot on dry land, and one foot on the sea. Now, there are a couple of different theories about what this means. The Jewish rabbis talked about a mighty angel named Sandelfon, and he was more than 500 miles tall. So, this angel could clearly have one foot in the water and one foot on land. But, since the Bible never mentions Sandelfon, there’s a good chance that he is just Jewish myth. Personally, I believe that the angel standing on water and land simply means that the message he bears carries extreme authority from the God who is the God of the water and the land.
And, just so you know, many over the years have believed that this mighty angel is Jesus. But I have two concerns with that. First off, Jesus is never called an angel in the book of Revelation. Second, later on in verse six, the angel swears by God, and Jesus would not need to do this, because He is God. And I realize that many of the descriptors of the angel point towards him being divine, but I believe that the cloud and the rainbow and the other things about him simply point out that he speaks with the authority of God, because his message is God’s. But I don’t believe that he is God himself.
Verses three through seven tell us about the message of this mighty angel. He is said to have the voice of a lion. And even cooler than that, when he speaks, the voice of seven thunders rings out from Heaven. And these seven thunders told John something extremely important. To see what the thunder told John, look at verse four. “And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, ‘Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.’” Do you see what happened here? The thunders told John something, but before John could write it, a voice from Heaven (presumably God) told John not to write the words that the voice of thunders spoke to him.
You know, since we have started our study of the book of Revelation, we have literally looked at over 160 verses of Scripture. Now clearly, we have not understood every prophecy, but we can at least have theories. But now here, God doesn’t even let us hear the prophecy! How are we supposed to decide what it means if we don’t even know what it is!
And as if the mystery can’t get any bigger, verse seven tells us that when the seventh trumpet begins to sound, the mystery of God that God began revealing through the prophets will be fully revealed. And yet, when we read about the seventh trumpet being blown, the Bible doesn’t record the revealing of the big mystery! In other words, something else happens that God doesn’t clue us in on! God has a mystery that He isn’t telling us.
In a few minutes, we’re going to talk a little more about this mystery of God, but before we do that let’s look at these final verses. In verse eight, a voice from Heaven tells John to take the little scroll from the angel. And when John took the scroll from the angel, the angel told him to eat it. Sounds like a pretty strange request, doesn’t it? And so John ate it, and in his mouth it tasted as sweet as honey, but when it went down to his stomach it made his stomach very bitter. Did you know that John wasn’t the first prophet in the Bible that God told to eat a book? Does anyone know who the first prophet to eat a book was? Yes, it was Ezekiel. And in the case of Ezekiel, the scroll that he had to eat was full of really bad news, on both the front and the backside of the scroll. So what does this eating of the book thing mean? And really, I think that for both Ezekiel and John, the answer is the same. The eating of the scroll represented them proclaiming God’s message to the people. Does anyone in here have any ideas why the scroll tasted sweet at first? I mean, the scroll for Ezekiel had bad news, but it still tasted sweet. Any ideas? Most commentators believe that it tasted sweet because it always tastes sweet to obey the Lord’s commands, just like we’ve been learning from Psalm 119 in Sunday school. I tend to agree with that. But then notice that it became bitter in their stomachs. I think that the bitterness refers to their sadness over the fate of the judged. Ezekiel and John were not sorrowful for their own sakes, but were sad that so many were about to be judged by God. Does that sound familiar to anyone? To me, it sounds just like our response to Revelation chapter nine. So in other words, I believe that it was sweet at first, because it is fulfilling to obey God’s command; but then it made them sorrowful because of what it meant for those who would be judged.
And that, in brief, is Revelation chapter ten. But I promised you that this chapter had a big lesson for us. And while most of the time, the lesson learned comes from what the text says to us, tonight’s lesson comes from what the Bible doesn’t say. What am I talking about? I mentioned earlier that this chapter has left many people scratching their heads. Many wonder what the voice of thunder said to John that he wasn’t allowed to write. Many wonder what the mystery of God that will be revealed is. And yet, when the day is finished, it is all still a mystery. The simple fact is, we can’t know the mysteries of God unless He reveals them to us. And this little fact should remind of us how great God is, and how miniscule we are compared to Him.
And, you know, the Bible is full of mysteries. Take for instance how the Trinity works. Many theologians have described the Trinity in beautiful ways, but our finite minds simply cannot grasp the truth of three persons in one Godhead. But in my humble opinion, the biggest mystery in the Bible is not what the voice of thunder said in Revelation chapter ten, and it’s not even how the Trinity operates. For me, the biggest mystery of the Bible is how salvation works. You know, there is a whole branch of theology that’s sole purpose is understanding the science of salvation. It’s called soteriology. Soteriology tries to understand the nuts and bolts of what happened when Jesus died, and how His death reconciles us to God. And yet, after almost 2,000 years of trying to understand how we are saved, we still don’t have all of the answers. In other words, just like Paul said, it’s a mystery. The Bible says that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, and whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Church, I can stand before you and say that I understand why Christ died for me, but I would be lying. The truth of the matter is, it boggles my mind. So all I can do is take the Bible at its word, even when I don’t understand why things are the way they are. In other words, the mystery of God forces us to have a little thing called faith.
So just to give you a little confession, I don’t know everything that is going to happen in the last days. But what I do know is that the God who holds all of the answers is the God who sent His Son to die for you and for me. I don’t know all of the mysteries of God, but not knowing fills me with a sense of awe toward God. And I hope it does the same for you. I hope that seeing these verses from Revelation ten has reminded all of us of two things. First off, it reminded you that we don’t have all of the answers yet. But the second thing is reminds us of is that we serve the God that does have the answers. And that, my brothers and sisters, should fill us with unspeakable joy.
Let’s pray together.
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