Pastor Scott Andrews | November 13, 2022
Well, this has been an eventful week, hasn’t it? Just a week ago, the prognostications for Tuesday’s midterm elections were positive – or negative – depending on your political persuasion or party. Then Tuesday came and went, and it was not the speculated red wave, but merely a red ripple, and then this morning, not even that. Lots of speculation as to why – the polls or pundits were wrong, early voting favors a certain party, let’s blame it on Trump – he’s an easy target. And we still don’t have the final numbers as to control of the House. Fingers crossed, moaning, groaning, hoping. Then to put an exclamation on this woeful week, we ended with tropical storm Nicole, gray, windy, flooding, dumping several inches of rain.
It’s a good thing, isn’t it, that our hope is not in horses or chariots, kings or presidents, governors or Congress, Republicans or Democrats. It isn’t, right? Perhaps your spirits are a bit like the weather the last few days – dark and gray – rainy days and Mondays always get me down. And you’re feeling discouraged, even depressed. Blue. Well, you are in the right place today. Because there is coming a time when national and global events will be much worse – directed toward Jesus and His followers – and the message today is, cheer up – heaven wins. Keep prophesying, John.
Oh, you thought since you voted Tuesday, and your party won or the other one lost, things would be okay? That maybe our national course could be corrected? Close the southern border, lower gas prices, control out-of-control inflation and pending recession, deal with global warming, wrest control of our public education system away from the liberals and back to the parents? That’s what you thought? Where is your hope? You do know, a usually conservative state in the northwest just voted to allow a child to die who was still alive in a so-called botched abortion? A botched abortion is when the child is born, still breathing – so the vote was to allow the baby to die – kill it outside the womb. Molech is alive and well in our country.
It seems clear our world, certainly our nation, is in significant moral, spiritual, political, and economic decline. Now, many don’t think so – they call it progress. There’s even a movement in the so-called church called progressive Christianity that adopts many ideals and values of our culture – and denies many of the orthodox truths of the Christian faith. That’s progress.
It’s also interesting to note, in the midst of this decline, there are movements within Christianity called theonomy or reconstructionism. While technically distinct, there is much of overlap between the two. Not always, but typically, theonomists and reconstructionists hold a postmillennial position. I won’t take the time to address all the nuances of theonomy, but the word comes from two Greek words, theos and nomos – that is, God’s law. And the belief is that society – all societies – should be governed by God’s OT moral and civil law. That the only answer to our societal woes is, regardless of the form of civil government – democracy, republic, monarchy, totalitarianism, etc. – the only answer for our world is to be submissive to God’s law. The problem, of course, is even Israel, who received God’s law, was never able to obey it – hence, we have the New Covenant by which Jesus and the gospel are the only ultimate answer.
Why do I bring this up? For two reasons. One, as I suggested, many if not most theonomists are postmillennial. What does that mean? The idea is that as the church grows and transforms society through God’s law, then we will usher in a golden age of righteousness – a millennium, if you will, when civil government is at least highly influenced by the church, and righteousness will reign supreme. And once that happens, Christ will then return – a postmillennial second coming.
Here’s a simple question for you – does that seem to be happening? Is that what we see happening in our nation and in our world? I know, they would argue, of course not – that’s why we need to move toward theonomy or we’ll always be in a mess. No, we’ll always be a mess until Jesus comes back.
Here’s the second reason I bring it to your attention today. Are we unknowing theonomists? Have we unconsciously thought that if we could just cast the right vote last Tuesday, get the right people in office, that we could right the ship? That we could avert national disaster? That this or that party would help righteousness prevail? You do understand, this world, without any nation’s exception, is headed, irrevocably, to destruction. We will not usher in a golden age, after which Christ will come. The golden age will only come when He comes.
To be clear, I’m not saying to not be engaged in politics – I’m not saying to not vote. Tana and I did – and we saw a few of you on Tuesday morning. I am saying that we do not put our hope here. My brothers and sisters, we are citizens of another country – and we long to see Christ return. We long for a city whose architect and builder is God. Then, and only then, will all things be made right. So cheer up – Jesus is coming back. You say, well, I wish He’d hurry up, because this place is a disaster – now you’re sounding biblical.
So, as we’ve been studying through the book of Revelation – it sure doesn’t look like theonomy and postmillennialism have the answer. It seems, rather, that things will get worse and worse – until the return of Christ. So don’t pin your hopes here. Don’t be discouraged or depressed if your candidate or party didn’t win. Keep your eyes fixed on the eastern sky. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. That’s biblical. How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You come and make things right?
We arrive today at Revelation 10 – oh, and by the way, here’s some more good news: I’m going to cover the entire chapter today! We are just about to finish the second series of judgments – the trumpet judgments. Remember, there are three sets of seven judgments – the seals, the trumpets and the bowls. Let me put the outline of the book back up to remind you where we are:
- The Prologue (1:1-8)
- The First Vision of Jesus Among the Seven Churches (1:9-3:22)
- The Vision of Heaven (4:1-5:14)
- The Seven Seals (6:1-8:1) Notice the pattern here.
- The First Six Seals (6:1-17)
- An Interlude (7:1-17) – focused on believers.
- The Seventh Seal (8:1) – which seems to contain the seven trumpets.
- The Seven Trumpets (8:2-11:19)
- The First Six Trumpets (8:2-9:21) – which we just finished last week.
- An Interlude (10:1-11:14)
- The Seventh Trumpet (11:15-19) – which seems to contain the seven bowls.
- The Seven Signs (12:1-14:20) – which is another interlude.
- The Seven Bowls (15:1-16:21)
- The Triumph of God (17:1-20:15)
- The New Heaven and New Earth (21:1-22:5)
- The Epilogue (22:6-21)
Listen, this has been a most difficult book to study and teach, but I’m loving it – it’s a great book – and the timing could not be better. It’s just what we need to hear in these days of disaster. And if your party won, and you’re celebrating in the streets, your hopes are in the wrong place, too.
We just finished the fifth and sixth trumpets in chapter 9 where God began pouring out unprecedented wrath on earth dwellers or unbelievers. In the fifth trumpet, locusts with scorpion tails and stings were released from the abyss to torment people for five months. And remember, while they longed for death, death eluded them.
But then came the sixth trumpet. Four fallen angels and their demonic armies of fierce horses and riders of 200 million or twice myriads of myriads were released. They were given authority to kill one third of the earth’s population of earth dwellers. And yet, incredibly in the last two verses of chapter 9 – this was shocking – this was something to be discouraged about – in the last two verses we find they still refused to repent of their idolatrous worship of demons, and of their sins of murder and sorceries and immorality and theft.
Bringing us to our text today. There is this interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, just like there was between the sixth and seventh seal. The interlude in chapter 7 contained two visions – one of sealing the 144,000, and one of a view of heaven with the 24 elders, the four living creatures, the myriads and myriads of angels, and people in white robes from every nation, tribe, people and tongue worshiping God and the Lamb. We saw further these people’s robes had been washed white in the blood of the Lamb. Remember, it was meant to be an encouragement at the end of the six seals in the midst of mayhem and destruction.
So also, this interlude – almost two chapters long – is made up of two visions – and is also meant to encourage us. And the timing is impeccable. If you find yourself discouraged by the events of the week – more – the events of the last few years in our broken world – we get some much-needed encouragement today. So let’s read the text, Revelation 10.
Isn’t that encouraging? Hold on – I think it will be. It’s an odd text – but we remember this is apocalyptic literature and is filled with meaningful imagery – imagery that means something. Let me give you the outline:
- The Strong Angel with the Little Book (1-4)
- The Strong Angel’s Oath (proclamation) (5-7)
- John Consumes the Little Book and is Recommissioned (8-11) Is it for just John, or is it for us to consume the book and share God’s truth – even though it will cost us.
So here we go. In those first four verses we see another strong angel coming down from heaven. He says another strong angel, because a strong angel in chapter five called out, “Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?” Because of the similarity of this chapter with Daniel 12 which we’ll look at shortly, some want to suggest this is Michael the archangel. Might be, but we don’t know for sure. We do get an incredible description of the angel:
- He comes down from heaven.
- He’s clothed with a cloud.
- He has a rainbow on his head.
- His face shone like the sun.
- And his feet (and probably his legs) were like pillars of fire.
Does that description sound at all familiar? Some of it sounds like the description of Jesus in chapter 1 – face like the sun, feet of burnished bronze. Not only that, when Jesus comes from heaven, we see over and over He will come in the clouds. Not only that – this angel has a book in his hands – and we remember Jesus was the one who took the book from His Father and opened it. This has caused some with warrant to suggest this is Jesus.
However, I would say, Jesus is never called an angel in this book. Of the 67 times the word angel is used – it never refers to Jesus lest it be here. Further, in verse six, he swears by Him who lives forever and ever and created all things. That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would say.
So most agree this is a strong angel who shared a close proximity to God and reflected many of His attributes. His face shone because he was close to God – like Moses after he met with God on the top of Mt. Sinai. (Peter and John, Stephen) The point is, he’s obviously a very important figure – angel – who comes with a message from God – that’s what an angel is, a messenger of God. So he reflects the glory of God. The rainbow perhaps represents the mercy of God – because that’s what rainbows actually mean. And the cloud perhaps represents the presence of God – as we see God or Christ enveloped by a cloud.
Now, verse 2 does say he has a little book in his hand. Lots of discussion about the little book. Is it the same book Jesus received from the Father in chapter 5 and opened when He broke the seals in chapter 6? Which would mean, the book went from the Father to Jesus to the strong angel to John. Or is it different, and if so, how so? Is it a part of or a chapter of the book, which contains the rest of the story or Revelation? We don’t really know for sure, but it seems to be further revelation from God concerning the end of this age and the next.
Notice, as God’s representative, this angel puts one foot on the sea, and foot one on the land – representing God’s sovereignty over all the earth – all that has happened or is about to happen. Do we need to hear that today? God is sovereign over everything. Three times the description appears – when he comes, when he swears an oath, and when John approaches him to receive the book. At three significant times in the vision – again, God is sovereign and sends the angel, the angel declares an oath by God, and the angel gives John the book.
When the angel arrives and takes his place, he cries out with a loud voice – just like the first strong angel in chapter 5. This one sounds like a lion roaring – commanding everyone’s attention. The word also speaks of the low rumbling of cattle or oxen – that loud, low rumble that sounds with authority. Now notice, when he cries out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. These seven peals of thunder mean something – John calls them the seven peals, as if they are known to the readers. Interestingly, many point to the 7 times the voice of God, thunders in Psalm 29:
3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
The Lord is over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful,
The voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
Seven times, the voice of the Lord thunders – it is powerful, majestic, it breaks cedars, it hews out flames of fire, shakes the wilderness, makes the deer calve, strips the forests bare. Many would perhaps think of this well-known Pslam – the voice of the Lord thunders. Of course, we also know the number seven in this book speaks of perfection, so perhaps it is a perfect voice of thunder or authority. Back in chapter 4 when we received our first glimpse of heaven – and God on His throne – we read, “Out of the throne comes flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.” We’ve also noted that whenever we read that phrase, flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, it is usually in the context of judgment. So these seven peals of thunder come at the end of the awful trumpet judgments and before the terrible bowl judgments.
But don’t miss, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices, and when the seven peals of thunder had spoken. That’s interesting, while loud and thunderous, these seven peals said something intelligible. In fact, John was ready to write it down. We remember back in chapter 1, Jesus told John to write down in a book what you see – write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. John is writing as he is receiving these visions – he doesn’t want to miss anything.
And yet, as he is getting ready to record what the seven peals of thunder said, he hears a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.” A few thoughts about that. First, there has been no end to speculation as to what the seven peals of thunder said. Which is interesting, since the voice from heaven said, don’t write it down – people reading the book of Revelation should not know what was said. But that hasn’t kept people from guessing!
Second, it tells us that we don’t know everything. While God has revealed to us through John what He wants us to know – we don’t know everything, and that’s okay, because we’re not God. It’s fine to know exactly what He wants us to know – nothing more, nothing less. It perhaps should keep us humble, and keep us from speculating.
Now, this command to seal up what was spoken reminds us of Daniel 12, which I mentioned earlier. In fact, it’s clear there are many parallels between Revelation 10 and Daniel 12. Both are talking about the end of time, and both are told to seal up what was said – presumably until the proper time. You see, if what the seven peals of thunder was never going to be revealed – what was its purpose? Why would John even record it? Anyway, look at Daniel 12 with me:
1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.
2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
3 “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
4 “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
5 Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river.
6 And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?”
7 I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.
I’ll get into that this Spring when we study the book of Daniel in a core class, but the point I want to make is that Daniel was also told to seal up the book until the end of time. Notice the man dressed in linen above the waters of the river – likely an angel – raised his right and left hands to swear by Him who lives forever. Notice also that the answer to “how long will it be until the end” is for a time, times and half a time – which we will begin seeing in the rest of Revelation.
So our strong angel raised his right hand and swears by Him who lives forever and ever – that is by our eternal God, and who created everything – by our eternal creator, speaking again of His sovereignty – that there will be delay no longer. What does that mean? Very simply, that the end has come, and the events at the end will no longer be delayed. He goes on in verse 7 – when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet in chapter 11, then the mystery of God will be finished – I believe with the quick unfolding of the successive seven bowl judgments. The mystery of God will be consummated quickly.
Now, in Scripture, mystery refers to things previously hidden but now made known. It usually refers to the gospel and certainly includes that here – but also includes all of God’s plan – the culmination of all things that John is unfolding in the book. We would never have known what the end entails – this mystery of God’s rescue of the righteous and judgment of the wicked – without this book. And when we arrive at this point of the judgments in the future, the end will come quickly.
And notice that this has been preached – that’s an interesting word. It’s the word we use to speak of preaching the good news – evangelizing. Here, it is the good news of God finishing His eternal plan as has been told to the prophets – both Old and New Testaments – culminating in John.
Bringing us to our last point and conclusion in verses 8-11 – John Consumes the Little Book and is Recommissioned to keep Prophesying – even though, the prophecy will include bitter elements. Look at verses 8-10. The voice from heaven – likely either from God on His throne or from the Lamb – speaks again. Go, take the book which is in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land. So John goes and tells the angel, give me the book. The angel gives further instructions, take the book and eat it. That’s weird, but it fits prophetic and apocalyptic literature. It will be bitter in your stomach, but sweet in your mouth. So John did – and it was sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach.
Again, we have an OT allusion here. When Ezekiel was called to prophesy, he too was told to take the scroll God gave him. It was filled with lamentations, mourning and woe. It was a message to rebellious Israel who would not listen to Ezekiel. That’s a bitter result. But he was to prophesy anyway. God told him to take the scroll and eat it – and it was sweet like honey in Ezekiel’s mouth. We’re not told it was bitter in his stomach like John, but it likely was. Why do I say that? Because the words he shared were words of judgment to which the people would not listen. Just like here – people will hear about and experience God’s wrath, but they will not repent.
So, John was to eat the book which would be sweet in his mouth. All through the Scripture, we find God’s word is sweet. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Is that the way we see and value God’s word – sweeter than honey, more precious than gold. Even though it has difficult truths. That’s what this bitter in his stomach means. Most agree that the words left to be shared include further judgment of the earth dwellers. And, it includes the continued persecution of the righteous. But don’t miss, it also includes the vindication and rescue of God’s people. While troubling and challenging, this is meant to be an encouragement – it will be sweet, and bitter. But God is in control.
Look at verse 11, “And they [who is they? The peals of thunder, the voice from heaven, the angel?] and they said to me, “You must prophecy again concerning many people and nations and tongues and kings.” That’s interesting – usually this string of different people groups includes the gospel reaching all people and nations and tribes and tongues. But here, the list includes kings. Why? Because, John will prophecy to everyone – even kings are under God’s authority. Even presidents and governors and both houses of Congress. You see, in chapter 11, after the seventh trumpet is sounded, we read, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”
Bringing us back to our introduction as we close. Where is all this headed? Every people, nation – even this nation if we still exist – will one day be ruled by the King of kings – when the kingdoms of this earth have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ – who will reign forever and ever. So, where do we pin our hopes? Where do we place our allegiance? Cheer up, my brothers and sisters – God is in control.