Posted by: stpowen | September 15, 2012

Revelation (6). The Mighty Angel and the Little Scroll

Revelation (6).  The Mighty Angel and the Little Scroll

Romans 1:16.  ‘For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.’

Read Revelation 10.

In the last article we looked at Chapters 8 and 9, and considered six of the seven Trumpets of Warning.  We saw that these trumpets are in fact God’s  judgements coming upon the earth all through the Gospel age and that their purpose is to lead men and women to repentance.  Yet we saw that by and large people do not repent.  But the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold and silver, brass, stone and wood’ (9:20).  Of course we see this today.  God’s judgements on the world, whether physical, financial or ecological, are very obvious.  C. S. Lewis wrote, ‘Pain is God’s megaphone.  He whispers in our pleasures, but shouts in our pain.’   Yet neither pleasure nor pain seem to bring people to repentance.  If the judgements make people think about God at all, they only rail at Him for spoiling their fun.  If this was all the story- if the seventh trumpet sounded straight after the sixth,  mankind’s predicament would be truly awful.  Locked into its own folly and rebellion against God, helpless to save itself and doomed to death and to face the outraged justice of God after a few short years of meaningless life.

If humanity is to be saved, therefore, help must come from another source.  Chapters 10 and 11 mark a parenthesis before the sounding of the seventh trumpet in 12:15 just as Chapter 7 marked a parenthesis before the opening of the seventh seal.  If the six trumpets were all that there is, then there would be no hope for the world; nothing would remain except the fear of a final judgement, but these two chapters refer to the Gospel, the great hope for mankind.

The chapter opens with a picture of ‘another mighty angel.’  The description of him is very similar to that of the Lord Jesus in Chapter 1.  He is coming with a cloud (1:7), his face is like the sun (1:16) and his legs are like pillars of fire (1:15).  He also has a rainbow around his head which reminds us of the description of God in Ezek. 1:28.  So is this angel the Lord Jesus?  Perhaps, but nowhere in the New Testament is our Lord spoken of as an angel {1}, and it is made clear in 22:8-9 that angels are not to be worshipped (cf. also Heb 1:4, 13; 2:16).  Also, this angel swears by God (v6), which doesn’t seem appropriate if he were indeed the Lord Jesus.  If it is not He, then the angel certainly speaks with His authority.  The references to a cloud and to pillars of fire speak of the way that God guided the Israelites in the wilderness (Exod. 13:21 etc.).

In his hand (v2), the angel holds a little book or scroll.  This is not to be confused with the scroll of 5:1.  That one was sealed; this one is open.  That one represented the Decrees of God; this one is the Gospel.  It is now open; the mystery of Christ is now revealed to the saints (Col. 1:26).  The Old Testament types and shadows have found their antitype.  The angel stands with one foot on the land and one on the sea, symbolizing God’s control over the whole world.  Truly He ‘Bestrides the world like a Colossus’ {2}. 

The angel cries out (v3) ‘with a loud voice as when a lion roars.’  This represents the voice of God (Hosea 11:10; Amos 1:2; 3:8).  When the Lord roars from Zion, people are warned of impending judgement.  The ‘seven thunders’ have the same significance (Psalm 29:3-4).  Theirs is not an inarticulate sound, but  an articulate voice.  Seven, of course is the number of completeness and perfection.  John is told to ‘seal up’ what the thunders say and not to write it down.  In 22:10, John is told not to seal what he has written.  The allusion is to Dan. 12:4, 9.  There, Daniel is told to seal up what he has written until the end of time.  Here, John is told not to write.  We are not told everything by God (Deut 29:29).  We are not to speculate as to what these thunders might have been saying.  It is to remain a mystery.  ‘Truly You are God, who hide yourself, O God of Israel, The Saviour!’ (Isaiah 45:15).

Then the angel, still with the land and the sea beneath his feet, claiming thereby all the earth as God’s domain, raises up his hand to heaven (cf. Dan. 12:7).  Today in court a witness raises his right hand when taking the oath.  God lifts His hands in Deut 32:40 as He makes a declaration.  The angel swears 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’ (V6).  A solemn pronouncement this!   The angel is declaring that these words are absolutely sure.   The world has been tried in the balance and, like Belshazzar’s Babylon (Dan 5:27), found wanting.  Its doom is sealed, and the date for execution is set.  But what of the ‘mystery of God’ (v7), which should be finished ‘in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel’?  The Gospel of Christ is the mystery of God (1 Cor. 2:7; Col. 1:25-27), foretold by the prophets and revealed in these last days.  The angel is declaring that the time is short; Christ might come at any time; the proclamation of the Gospel will be only for a set time before the End (cf. Matt. 24:14).

Verse 8.  ‘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.”’  The voice is undoubtedly that of the Lord Jesus, as in verse 4.  Until now, John has been only a spectator in this vision.  Now he enters, as it were, his own dream to take a part in it.  God uses human instruments to achieve His gracious purposes.  The little book can only be the Gospel.  It is open so that all may read it, yet so few do, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing’ (1 Cor. 1:18).  Yet it is God’s chosen means of salvation; there is no other, and God has entrusted it to weak human beings like you and me.

John is instructed to eat the book, and he does so.  It is not enough to taste it (Heb 6:5).  We must take its message, every part of it, into our innermost being.  The allusion is to Ezekiel 3:1-14.  The scroll that Ezekiel received was filled with ‘lamentations, mourning and woe.’  The Gospel contains God’s righteous judgements against the world, yet also God’s way of salvation.  It is sweet when we hear it, but bitter when we see it rejected and we experience separation from former friends, relatives and loved ones because of the Gospel.  Note the contrast between Psalm 119:129 and 136.  The Lord Jesus declared, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother; and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;’ and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matt 10:34-36).  If this is true in Britain and America (and it is), how much more is it true in Moslem and Hindu countries, and in North Korea?  Jeremiah experienced the same mixture of joy and grief when he received God’s word (Jer 8:20-9:2; 20:7-12).

Those who have travelled by aeroplane will know that in the safety instructions passengers are informed that in the event of air pressure, oxygen masks will come down from the ceiling.  One is advised of the importance of ensuring that one’s own oxygen supply is assured before helping anyone else.  In the same way, it is important that anyone wishing to preach the Gospel to others should first make sure that he himself has savingly received the Gospel into his heart, and knows and understands what the Gospel actually is.  He must eat the book.

In v. 11, John is ordered to prophesy, that is to make known the contents of the little book, to speak forth the words of God.  The Greek preposition epi, which the NKJV translates as ‘about,’ could equally be rendered as ‘before’ or ‘against.’  As we shall see in Chapter 11, the reception to this prophesying  is generally hostile, as indeed it was in the time of the Lord Jesus (John 1:10-13), yet always, if we are faithful to our calling, there will be some who will hear us and be saved (Acts 17:32-34).

Notes.

{1}  In the Old Testament, of course, the pre-incarnate Christ is often referred to as the ‘Angel of the Lord.’

{2}  Shakespeare:  Julius Caesar.  The term Colossus comes from the giant statue of a warrior constructed on the island of Rhodes which is nearby Patmos where John was imprisoned (1:9).  It was accounted one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

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