Friday, December 12, 2014

BITTERSWEET (Revelation Chapter 10)

Revelation 10:8-10, “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.”

Some things are sweet—think honey.  Other things are bitter—think orange peel.  Some things, like dark chocolate, are bittersweet—they exhibit both characteristics.  Life experiences can be bittersweet.  Webster’s defines bittersweet as “being at once bitter and sweet; pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret.”  The latter part of this definition relates to John’s experience in eating “the little scroll” (Cf. Revelation 10:9).  It “was sweet as honey” in John’s mouth, but when he had eaten it his “stomach was turned bitter” (Cf. Revelation 10:10).

Between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments another interlude takes place.  This interruption speaks to God’s patience with respect to enacting the pending judgments which will fully manifest His wrath.  John in his vision sees a “mighty angel” coming down from heaven (Cf. Revelation 10:1).  The angel is gloriously adorned with a cloud and with a rainbow over his head (Cf. Revelation 10:1).  He has a face that was like the sun and legs like pillars of fire (Cf. Revelation 10:1).  “His right foot (is) set on the sea, and his left foot on the land” (Revelation 10:2).  He “who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it” is at work to bring all things in subjection to Christ.  The “mystery of God” is soon to be fulfilled (Cf. Revelation 10:7). 

The angel holds a scroll.  It is the same scroll spoken of back in chapter 5.  It was handed from the Father to the Lamb who alone was worthy to open it (Cf. Revelation 5:1-7).  The little book represents the title deed of the earth.  It contains the judgments of the tribulation through which the Lord Jesus Christ works to take possession of the earth.  Some of these judgments have already taken place.  The seventh trumpet will soon be sounded and loud voices will proclaim, “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Cf. Revelation 11:15).  The scroll speaks to both pending triumph and judgment.

In a scene reminiscent of the prophet Ezekiel’s experience, John is told to “take and eat” of the scroll (Cf. Ezekiel 2:9-3:3; Revelation 10:9).  The message of Ezekiel’s scroll was full of “words of lamentation and mourning and woe” (Ezekiel 2:10).  He ate of that scroll and found it to be “sweet as honey” (Ezekiel 3:3).  John ate of his scroll.  It was sweet to his mouth, but bitter to his stomach.

John MacArthur has commented on this, “When I think about the coming of Christ, it has a sweetness, doesn't it to you?  It means my Christ is glorified.  It means He takes over the world destroying Satan and demons.  It means the Kingdom comes, sin is conquered, salvation is revealed, Christ reigns.  That's sweet.  But it also means blood and wrath and vengeance and judgment and hell.  Anyone who loves Christ can sense what John was experiencing here.  The blessings of God are sweet, every message of hope, of blessing, of glory, every message of liberty, salvation of goodness, every promise of heaven is sweet.  Every touch of love, every kiss of grace is sweet.  But oh the bitterness of judgment!”

The bitterness of pending judgment should work to motivate us to share the gospel.  The gospel is a bittersweet message of bad news and good.  The bad news is that we are all born as sinners deserving of judgment (Cf. Romans 3:23; 6:23).  We are by nature children of wrath (Cf. Ephesians 2:3).  The unbeliever is destined to eternal destruction in a place called hell.  That part of the message is bitter, but praise God that there is good news, a sweet part, to tell.  God’s love was manifest to us in the death of His own Son (Cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8).  Jesus has borne our sin, once for all, at Calvary that we might be saved (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Salvation is by grace through faith in Him (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9; Acts 16:31).  There is a bitter cost associated with sin.  But great sweetness to be enjoyed in knowing Jesus (Cf. 1 Peter 2:3; Psalm 34:8).

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