As we have worked our way through Revelation I have tried to remind us about the situation of those who read the letter for the first time. We must remember the persecution and perseverance of the brothers and sisters who were living under the heavy hand of Roman oppression.? Emperor Nero was the first Roman Emperor to brutalize and execute Christians, but he was not the last.
In the second century there was a young woman named Blandina who felt the heavy hand of the Empire bear down upon her because of her faith in Jesus. There were many Christians who were tortured in various ways: some were placed in stocks, some put in dank, dark prison cells where they died of starvation or disease, others were exposed to lions, bears, or bulls that ripped them to pieces in the Roman Coliseum.
Blandina was arrested under Emperor Marcus Aurelius? reign. Blandina was tortured beyond belief when they tied her to a tall post and used her body to taunt the wild beasts. Although her torture was designed to scare the Christians of her day into recanting their faith, Blandina?s torture had the opposite effect.? Seeing Blandina?s body hung on a post reminded her fellow believers of Jesus hanging on the cross.? The wild beasts didn?t kill Blandina so the guards took her down from the post and threw her back in prison.? The Christian History Institute records how Blandina, full of courage and faith, was eventually killed.
On the last day of the contests in the amphitheater, Blandina was again brought in with Ponticus, a boy of about 15. Every day they had been brought to witness the sufferings of others and pressed to deny their faith and swear by idols. Ponticus died first, and Blandina remained the last. She had encouraged many others and saw them go on before her to Jesus. Now she was ready to hasten after them. She faced her death rejoicing-as if being called to a marriage feast rather than wild beasts. The report stated: After the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. ( http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/ )
????????? In the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius we read even more about Blandina?s faith, torture, and her final testimony before her tormentors.
?Blandina was filled with such power, that her ingenious tormentors, who relieved and succeeded each other from morning till night, confessed that they were overcome and had nothing more that they could inflict upon her. They were amazed that she continued to breathe after her whole body was pierced and torn asunder. In the midst of her sufferings, as she for a moment revived, she repeatedly exclaimed, ?I am a Christian; no wickedness is carried on by us!?
????????? Blandina?s faith had a lasting effect on those who witnessed her bold faith in the face of death. If you ever get the chance to travel to Amiens, France make sure you stop by the Saint-Leu Catholic Church so that you can see the marker which reminds all of the visitors of this great woman?s faith.
????????? How do suffering Christians find the courage to bear up under such pain and torture? Did the torture and execution of those early believers cause other Christians to flee for their lives or stand firm in the faith? Justin Martyr, who wrote between 150-160 A.D, wrote these words about the effect of the torture of Christians on other believers.
Though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but, the more such things happen, the more do others in larger numbers become faithful. ?(Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 110.)
How do frail human beings find the strength to stare their executioners in the eyes and stand strong? How could those who looked on the atrocities have been strengthened instead of scared to death? I believe the answer rests for us in the interlude between the 6th and 7th Trumpets of Revelation. The interlude that I am talking about is found in Revelation 10-11, the section of Revelation that we will be studying for the next two weeks. Let?s take a look at Revelation 10 this morning. Read along with me.
1Then 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. 2He 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, 3and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4And 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.” 5Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! 7But 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.” 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.” 9So 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.” 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. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:1-11 NIV)
This is an interesting section of Scripture from the standpoint that it is a repetition of what we have already seen between the sixth and seventh seals. After the breaking of the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12-17 we have an interlude before the breaking of the seventh seal in Revelation 8:1. Revelation 7 is the interlude, the sealing of the 144,000. This is the same progression that we find in the blowing of the seven trumpets found in Revelation 8:2-11:19. After the blowing of the sixth trumpet and before the blowing of the seventh trumpet we find another interlude, the interlude is found in Revelation 10-11.
Let?s see if the focus and purpose of the interlude found in Revelation 7 has any connection with the focus and purpose of the interlude in Revelation 10-11. The footnote for the sealing of the 144,000 in The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible says,
The announcement of the seventh seal is dramatically delayed while the saints receive assurance that God knows and looks after them in the midst of calamities depicted in 6:1-17. They are sealed from harm with a mark of ownership and protection and given perfect rest in the end. Such promises hold for saints throughout the church age, just a they held for the seven churches in the first century. (The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, pg. 2064.)
G.K. Beale sees more than a similarity in the two interludes of Revelation 7 and 10-11. He writes in his commentary, The Book of Revelation.
The literary parallel of delay between the sixth and seventh seals and between the sixth and seventh trumpets suggests a thematic parallel. Chapter. 7 shows that Christians are sealed against the spiritually destructive harm of the six trumpet judgments. Chapter 11:1-13 reveals that Christians are sealed so as to bear an enduring and loyal witness to the gospel, which begins to lay a basis for the final judgment of those who reject their testimony. (G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, pg. 521.)
????????? I hope you didn?t miss the comment that the followers of Jesus are protected ?spiritually.?? Next week, when we get to chapter 11, we will read about the death of the two witnesses killed because of their faith. The message of Revelation is about the victory of Lamb, the Lamb who was slain and yet lives. The victory of the followers of Jesus is a victory won in the midst of suffering, trials, and tribulations, not a victory won in the lap of luxury free from the cares of life!
????????? Our Scripture for today can be broken down into four sections: 1) The descent of the mighty angel (verses 1-3a). 2) The seven thunders (verses 3b-4).? 3) The angel?s oath (verses 5-7). 4) The commission of John to continue to prophesy (verses 8-11). Let?s begin by taking a look at the first section.? In verses 1-3a we read,
1Then 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. 2He 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, 3and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. (Revelation 10:1-3a NIV)
????????? Who is the ?mighty angel?? Is he Jesus? God? Or he is Gabriel, the angel some believe appeared to Daniel in Daniel 12:7? I can see how people could hold different opinions based upon the text for the following reasons. First of all, the attributes ascribed to the mighty angel are attributes that are found in connection with God in many places. Let me give you an example. In the Bible, God or Jesus are the only ones who come to earth, or are surrounded in heaven, by clouds. In Exodus 19:9, as Moses was preparing to meet with God on Mt. Sinai, we read,
9 The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said. (Exodus 19:9 NIV) ?
????????? In Leviticus 16, after Aaron?s sons, Nadab and Abihu, had died because they had not followed the requirements God had set for offering incense, we read,
1The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. 2The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. (Leviticus 16:1-2 NIV)
????????? Last of all, in Daniel 7, Daniel sees ?one like a son of man coming with the clouds.? Read along with me.
13“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.? 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV)
????????? Secondly, we could go through each of the attributes listed in Revelation 10:1-3a and show how these attributes are characteristic of God or Jesus alone.? ?Robed in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, face appearing like the sun, legs like fiery pillars, holding a scroll, feet planted on earth and sea, and shouting like a lion??each of these point us to one of two identities: God or Jesus.
????????? On the other hand, there is no place in the Bible where Jesus is identified as a ?mighty angel.?? There are three occurrences of ?mighty angels? in Revelation and the other two places clearly do not refer to Jesus. John MacArthur writes,
Christ could not be described as an angel exactly like the other angels, since they are created and He is the uncreated, eternal God. (John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11, pg. 279)
????????? So, who is this ?mighty angel??? At the very least he is the representative of God who has descended to John to give him a message from God. Don?t spend so much on trying to figure out who the angel is that you miss the message of God?s messenger. The mighty messenger of God comes to John and is holding a ?little scroll? in his hand.
????????? In our next section of Scripture we find the seven thunders speaking to John. What do they say?? We have no idea because after John hears them speak he is told to seal up what they had said. Read along with me from Revelation 10:3b-4.
3bWhen he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4And 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.”(Revelation 10:3b-4 NIV)
????????? We are learning that ?thunder? like ?fire? in Revelation is associated with judgment. We have seen this in Revelation 4:5; 6:1; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18. In Revelation 8:5 we read,
5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5 NIV)
????????? The loud voice of the thunders leave no question in John?s mind who is speaking?a message from heaven has come and John is all ears. This is not the first time that the Lord?s communicated to His servants in a thunderous voice. In Psalm 29 we read,
1A psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.? 3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty 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; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the LORD strikes with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert; the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” 10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 29:1-11 NIV)
????????? What was revealed to John by the seven thunders we do not know because John was forbidden to write it down. This is the only place in Revelation where John is commanded not to write down his vision. It?s not the only place in Scripture where we find this command. In Daniel 8 we read,
6 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”? 27 I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. (Daniel 8:26-27 NIV)
????????? After Daniel was given another vision in Daniel 12 we find that Daniel is told to go on his way because the words are ?closed up.? Read along with me beginning in verse 8.
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” 9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. (Daniel 12:8-9 NIV)
????????? I have to tell you that as we have been going through Revelation I have noticed that there are Bible teachers who make no bones about knowing everything there is to know about this book. I have a tough time being so bold. The things that I can understand I want to understand, but I am constantly reminded of Deuteronomy 29:29.
9 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV)
????????? There are some things about life, troubles, trials, the end of time, and eternity that I just don?t know. I, and all of us, see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), Scripture tells us. I don?t have trouble with the things I don?t know, it is living what God has revealed that gives me fits. I find my wayward heart leading me astray. I find my commitment waning. I see sin seeking to lead me away from God?s will. I can trust God with the things unknown, because He has been so faithful in the things He has made known.
????????? Let?s look at our next section of Scripture found in Revelation 10:5-7 where the mighty angel takes an oath. Read along with me.
5Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! 7But 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.” (Revelation 10:5-7 NIV)
????????? The mighty angel has a message. It?s not a message he has dreamed up, but it is a message from God. This is what is meant by the phrase, ?he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that it is in them, the earth and all this in it, and the sea and all that is in it.?? Throughout Scripture we find that God is Sovereign. He is Lord of all and Lord over all! There is nothing in the heavens that is outside of His control. Nothing in the history of the world on planet earth has ever taken place without His knowledge. Even the depths of the sea are not deep to our God?He is the King of the sea!? In the opening chapter of Revelation we read,
7 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 NIV)
????????? In Nehemiah 9, after the wall around the city had been rebuilt and the people of God had come together to celebrate what God had done, we read,
5And the Levites– Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah– said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.? 6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:5-6 NIV)
????????? What was the focus of the worship service in Jerusalem that day? It was the sovereignty of Almighty God!? What should be the focus of each and every worship service we attend?the sovereignty of our God!? He rules! He reigns!? He is the King of all kings!? He is the Lord of all lords!? He alone is God!
????????? What is the message that the mighty angel brings to John and which will be read in each of the seven suffering churches of Asia Minor??
?There will be no more delay! 7But 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 is the ?mystery of God??? It?s interesting that this Greek phrase, ?usth,rion tou/ qeou/? is used to describe Jesus in Colossians 2:2. Let?s read verses 1-3.
1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3 NIV)
????????? We see a similar reference to Jesus in Romans 16:25-27 where we read that the mystery has now been revealed in Jesus. This revelation has been made known so that we might believe and obey God. Read along with me.
25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him– 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.? (Romans 16:25-27 NIV)
????????? We can believe God. We can take Him at His Word. He is the Lord of history. He will not sit and idly watch the nations thumb their noses at Him. He has come to us in the past, He is coming today, and He will continue to come until that great and glorious day when He wraps it all up and brings history to a close. He comes to you and me and the people of the world in one of two ways today my friends. He comes to us in Jesus to reconcile us to Himself, but if we reject His Son then He will come to judge and His judgment is just.
He came to those who persecuted the Church in the first century and the trumpets of judgment sounded for those who turned a deaf ear to the trumpet blasts. The trumpet is sounding in our day?in the Sudan, in China, in Afghanistan, in South Vietnam, and around the world wherever believers are suffering at the hands of their oppressors!? ?The trumpet is also sounding in this sanctuary this morning. How long will you turn a deaf ear to God?s will for your life?
????????? In our last section of Revelation for this morning we find John commanded to take the little scroll and eat it. Read along with me beginning in verse 9.
9He 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.” 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. 11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.” (Revelation 10:9-11 NIV)
????????? The ?scroll,? the Word of God tasted sweet to John, but it turned his stomach sour. Isn?t that the way it is with God?s Word? How sweet is the Word of God to those who love God and yet it brings a bitterness as we watch the world turn away with disdain and disgust to the ways of God. John?s stomach turns sour because the unbelieving world will not listen, persecution will continue, and the Church will have to bear up in faith until the final victory of the Lamb.
????????? Ezekiel was given a very similar call in his day. In Ezekiel 2:7 and following we read where he was given a scroll to eat. Read along with me.
7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.? 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”? 9 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. Ezek 3 1And 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. 4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel–? 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.? 7 But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. (Ezekiel 2:7-3:7 NIV)
????????? God?s Word is sweet to those who love the Lord. We are to share this Word with those in our community, but we should not be surprised when they will not listen. We should not be surprised when we hear of our brothers and sisters being persecuted. We must stand strong and live faithfully.
????????? What will you do today? You have heard the Word of the Lord. You can hear the trumpet?s blast. Will you walk away and face the future apart from God or will you bow your knee His glorious Son and begin a new life in Christ today?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
April 23, 2006