Monday, October 20, 2008

Revelation 10, "There Should Be Delay No Longer"

Before the seventh trumpet is sounded, John watches Jesus lay claim to the planet, give Sovereign notice to Satan that his rule has been vanquished, and openly proclaim that He will no longer delay the outpouring of His fierce wrath.

v.1-4 "And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on His head, His face was like the sun, and His feet like pillars of fire. And He had a little book open in His hand. And He set His right foot on the sea and His left foot on the land, and He cried with a loud voice as when a lion roars. And when He cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write: but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them'."

This event has its roots in Chapter Five. You might recall that Jesus, seeking to fulfill His promise to restore Israel into their land and to establish His Kingdom upon their throne of David, came forward as the Kinsman-Redeemer of Israel and took hold of the title deed to the earth.

The deed, a rolled up scroll bound with seven seals, required the Kinsman to remove the seals to complete the transaction and thereby reclaim the possession. So Jesus, as the Kinsman of Israel, removed those seven seals, each in turn, and as we have read, resulted in judgments proposed for the first half of the tribulation.

Now we come to the events in this passage. With all seven seals removed, the scroll open, and the transaction complete, our Kinsman Jesus proceeds from heaven and lays claim to His possession. And in a show of absolute power, He gives Sovereign notice with a loud proclamation to heaven and hell that He is ready to rid His possession of His enemies, to spiritually restore and deliver Israel, and to take dominion over the earth.

"Because of the fierce anger of the Lord, He has left His lair like the lion; for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the Oppressor, and because of His fierce anger" (Jer.25:37,38)

Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing what it is that the seven thunders utter. John understood it and “was about to write” but was adamantly prohibited from revealing it. It's not for us to know, at least not for now.

It should be noted that some commentators do not see this "mighty angel" to be Jesus Christ. However, I tend to agree with the others, given the description and context, that this "angel" (which simply means "messenger") is Jesus.

v.5-7 "And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up His hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets."

This, dear ones, is that defining moment in time when God makes the decision that "enough is enough." When, after long millenniums, His patience with evil is fully spent and the outpouring of His fearful wrath will no longer be delayed. Jesus, reminiscent of Daniel's vision (Dan.12:7), lifts His hand to heaven and swears "by Him who lives forever and ever" “there should be delay no longer”.

Why would Jesus swear by the name of God, given that He is God? Because He can swear by no one greater than Himself as God (Heb.6:13).

Okay, now let’s consider the meaning of the remarkable passage:

“...but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished..."
Foremost, notice that it's not at the "sound" of the trumpet that the mystery of God is finished, as if it's one short trumpet blast, but "in the days of its sounding". In other words, this blast continues to be sounded. As we’ll soon see, the seven "bowl" judgments initiated throughout the remaining days of the Tribulation, all of which finish the works of God in this present earth and usher in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, occur because of this blasting.

The phrase “the mystery of God would be finished” speaks of the mystery that has always surrounded God’s timetable for these last days. For God has consistently remained silent, even under cross-examination, to reveal the time. The prophet Daniel, for instance, was refused an answer when he asked about it (Dan.12:5-9). When the Apostles did likewise Jesus said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matt.24:3,36). In other words, dear ones, the date for these last days will remain a mystery known only to the Father until God openly declares it at the appointed time revealed by this passage.

v.8-10 "Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, 'Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.' And I went to the angel and said to Him, 'Give me the little book.' And He said to me, 'Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.' And I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter."

It's unlikely that John virtually ate the book, and should instead be considered a characterization more in keeping to that of the prophet Jeremiah who said, "Your words were found, and I ate them" (Jer.15:16). Or those of the Psalmist who wrote, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps.119:103).

Okay, but why is John commanded to eat the book, and what book does John eat?

The command is most similar to that given years earlier to the prophet Ezekiel who also was instructed to eat a scroll (see—Ez.3:1-3). And from his account, we can discover the purpose. For God told him "Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them…" (Ez.3:10-11). In other words, Ezekiel needed to digest fully the words of the book into his heart so he could later testify to it. This is precisely what John does with this Revelation.

Regarding the book John is commanded to eat. Some commentators believe that it’s this Book of Revelation, concluding strongly that this passage refers to a book, not a scroll, and therefore cannot be the self-same scroll taken to be the title deed to the earth referred to earlier (see—Chapter 5). But I disagree. In Ezekiel’s case, he ate a “scroll of a book” (Ez.2:9); suggesting at least, that a book and a scroll need not be mutually exclusive. Moreover, the issue concerns the words of God written on the document, not the document itself. And though it’s true that the Revelation is the Word of God, it seems unlikely that John would be commanded to digest it before its completion.

Therefore, I hold to the opinion that the “book” John is instructed to digest fully into his heart is the title deed to the earth. And here's a suggestion why John finds it both sweet and bitter. First, there was the “sweet” assurance evidenced by the “unsealed” book that God had redeemed the land and therefore would fulfill His promises to restore Israel spiritually (Hos.14:4-7). Secondly, the knowledge that the Nation must endure the holy fire of God's purging before it would receive her Messiah, in what is called "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer.30:7), was "bitter".

v.11 "And He said to me, 'You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings."

These final words simply tell John that there's more to come. That the Revelation is not yet complete, and that John must record even more about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings not yet shown to him.

[Beginning with the next chapter, we'll see this fulfilled. John is about to be shown in closer detail specific persons and nations that play a key role in the Tribulation]

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