We continue our study of the seven trumpets. Again these trumpets symbolize the judgment of God against rebellious sinners. They are expressions of God’s wrath against those who oppose him.
This series of events and calamities, both natural and spiritual, came together with the revealing of the scroll with seven seals. Each seal unfolds God’s plan in the last days leading to the destruction of everything. There were opened because of the slain Lamb who was worthy to bring everything into completion.
And as a way of encouragement, we learned from John how God protects him own. The elect of God are sealed and numbered. They were guaranteed a protection here on earth and place in heaven where God dwells. Until finally God appears and there was a great silence in heaven signifying his glorious presence and symbolizing how he acted in haste. There were no more delays.
As we come to the last trumpet, John will again encourage us his readers. Between the sixth and seven trumpets he again began a series of interludes showing how believers are going to persevere until the end. In the midst of living between the first and second coming of Christ, the church’s mission is to bring the gospel to the nation. We preach Christ and Him crucified and call them to faith and repentance.
Part 1 we will hear about the Angel and the Little Scroll. Part 2 we will continue with the Two witnesses and then end with the Seventh Trumpet. This completes the third cycle and will lead us to our next section about symbolic histories from Revelation 12 to 19.
Before we begin, let us pray.
The Angel and the Little Scroll
Verses 1-7: Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
There are again several questions I would like us to focus on answering from this section in Revelation chapter 10. To help guide us navigate this topic, I grouped them into three sections. 1) Who is the angel and what was his purpose? 2) What are the seven thunders and why was it kept secret? 3) What was the scroll John ate, why is it bitter sweet, and does it mean to us now as a church?
The angel reflects the glory his master our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus sent his angel as a messenger to John to reveal to him what must take place until the end. This plan revealed to John came from God (the Father) who sits on the throne. It is opened by Jesus himself as the slained Lamb standing near the throne.
The purpose of the angel is to become messenger of God to us. Some concluded the angel was Jesus himself. This seems more unlikely given the transmission of revelation follows the path we laid down previously. We read the same line of transmission from Revelation 1:1 which states: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” So the path here is clearly given by God the Father, revealed by Jesus, sent by the angel, and received by John. That marks four links. Later on we will find us the fifth link which includes us the church whom John preaches to.
Now, angel brings with him a little scroll. While the word scroll and little scroll may seem to differ in size as some of us might interpret, scholars ascertain they refer to the same thing when used here in Revelation and even in ancient times. The little scroll carried by the mighty angel is the same scroll opened by Jesus himself in Revelation 5. The scroll represents the unfolding of God’s plan or the events taking place in the last days. This scroll contains seven seals and when fully opened, they reveal to all us the final staging point between the end of the this age and consummation of the age to come.
But between the seals of God’s plan unfolding and trumpets of judgment blasting, there appears to be another set of seven set to put into motion. The angel carrying the little scroll took an oath between the seas and lands. These places symbolize those affected by the calamities of the seals and judgment and from there the angel roared like a lion signifying the sound of thunder. The angel then commanded not to write them down and keep it to himself. Instead, he directed his attention to the seventh and last trumpet. What do these mean?
Thunders in the Old Testament testify to the terrifying nature of the law when spoken by God himself. We can read these rumblings and thundering even way back when Israel was at the foot of Sinai waiting for God to reveal his law to them (Exodus 19-20). Lion roaring, on the other hand, symbolizes God’s prophetic judgment. When the prophet Amos speaks of God’s terrible judgment, he wrote: “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:7-8)” And If these represent God’s judgment why keep it a secret?
Rev. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger considers the whole nature of the book of Revelation is to reveal things from God. He sees it as a paradox when John is commanded to keep this particular “revelation” as a secret. Yet we are reminded here an important doctrine of Scripture. We read from Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” So while there thing revealed to us some remain secret. We cannot know as God knows. Let us settle with what God reveals to us and trust them to sufficiently reveal for us his will. But what is purpose of keeping it a secret?
Riddlebarger points us to verses 6-7 which reads, “that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” The purpose is to cut short the great tribulation. God rescues in haste and again, he does not delay. There is nothing left to reveal except the final trumpet call. And what does this symbolize? As to not preempt the seventh trumpet, let us not go into detail but for now know that it alludes to the trumpet blast referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality (verses 51-53).” It refers to the general resurrection of all believers. We will go back to this topic again next week when we study the second sermon point the Two Witnesses.
verses 8-11: “Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
We are done answering the first two set of questions and let us proceed answering the last set. What was the scroll John ate, why is it bitter sweet, and does it mean to us now as a church?
This scene alludes to the events described by the prophet Ezekiel. Angel asks the prophet to eat the scroll. Eating or chewing means to internalize. The Word of God are revealed to us and we are called to internalize. This was the purpose of eating. John as a messenger of God’s final plan in the last days has been given to him to he himself can receive it and later on we will find out he was commanded to preach it to the nations. What is the message he must speak? What is the nature of his message?
The message is bittersweet. It sweet because it contains comforting words of protection and rescue but it also bitter because it speaks of judgment and tribulation. The message shows us the both the mercy and veracity of God. In the reformed tradition, we refer to this twofold nature of God’s Word as the law and gospel. The gospel message reconciles believing sinners to God but it also comes to us in judgment exposing our misery and sins brought to us by the law. At the same time but in a different sense, the same gospel message condemns unregenerate sinful men and women who rejects God’s law and continually rebels against it and God. This is why for John the message is sweet as honey, it becomes bitter to the stomach because some will remain unrepentant despite of sweetness. This is the kind of message John brought us in his book and this is the message we as a church will bring to the nations and to the end of the world.
Jesus himself declares “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).” This is what John receives as his mission. And in turn, those who receives his message accept it as their mission as well. The church’s mission is to bring this message of the kingdom as a testimony to the all nations. This bittersweet message will come us as a message of reconciliation but for some, it is a message of condemnation. For that we will suffer the consequences of persecution and even death. In the midst of this great tribulation, our mission is to proclaim this gospel even though the whole world will come against us and attack us. Jesus warns, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours (John 15:20).” Tertullian from the early church reminded us “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Yet Jesus in his final beatitude encourages us , “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12).” And God promises to return in haste as we are reminded again when he kept secret the seven thunders. When the final trumpet sounds, we will all resurrect with Christ in glory!
ZCRC(Imus), let us continue to bring the message of God’s kingdom to this sick and dying world. And may the Lord continue to sustain us in the midst of great suffering and persecution. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.