The End of the World: “Sweet and Sour Scroll” – Revelation 10

We’ve all heard the saying: “The truth hurts!” Usually it is said to us in the context of some lack in us that is being pointed out by someone who may be a bit less than sensitive to our feelings. We MAY KNOW something is true – but we don’t LIKE that it is true. Truth comes in both sweet and sour sauces…

 Some Biblical truths are incredibly sweet – it may just be that we aren’t focused properly.

Melvin Newland wrote this story:  “Have you heard the story of the farmer who was discouraged with his farm? So he decided to sell out & move somewhere else. He engaged a realtor to look the farm over & prepare a sales ad. But before putting it in the paper, the realtor called & read the proposed ad to him, saying, “See if this meets with your approval.” The ad spoke of a good location, a well maintained house, sturdy barns, lush pasture lands, a beautiful pond, fertile soil, & a great view. The farmer listened carefully, & then said, “Read that to me again, slowly.” So the realtor read it to him again. Finally, the farmer said: “No, don’t print that ad. I’ve changed my mind. I’ve always wanted a place like that. I’m not going to sell.

We do have positive truths that we need to recall. We have great and precious promises in God’s Word to be sure, and sometimes we are too swift to pass over their power as we are distracted by the darkness of this current world. 2 Peter 1:4 reminds: “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

Peter loved the word “precious” and used it concerning: Precious Faith– (1 Peter 1:7, 2 Peter 1:1), Precious blood– (1 Peter 1:19), Precious stone– (1 Peter 2:4-6), Precious Lord– (1 Peter 2:7) and Precious promises– (2 Peter 1:4). He emphasized to the beleaguered followers of Jesus that God had great things for themBECAUSE HE DOES. They were precious promises ROOTED IN GOD’S NATURE and BACKED BY GOD’S POWER:

  • In Numbers 23:19 and the story of Balak, the Word of God tosses out this nugget: “19“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said it, and will He not do it? Or has He ever spoken, that will He not make it good?
  • 2 Peter 3:9- “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
  • Eph. 3:20,21- “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

I read words of God’s promises and I am lifted. I see more clearly His power, and His love. He hasn’t left His people poor and without hope… yet those promises are not the only ones that I read about – especially when I open the last book of the Bible. These  truths of the Word – equally true in all eternity, are not sweet. They hurt us deeply inside. They make us sick to think about.

On many an occasion I have stood above the six foot hole as the casket was lowered down into it. I have led in prayer and celebration of a believer’s life – it is one distinct privilege I have as a Shepherd. Death is no foe, and it is not a point of fear to those of us who have trusted Christ and His Word. Yet, I have wept both inside and out, when the casket contains one who stubbornly and vocally refused Christ and salvation. The thought that all their chances to know Him are gone makes me sick.

Key Principle: Sometimes the truth hurts – but God has called us to speak the truth.

We must not be unloving, but we cannot dismiss the truth and act like the judgment of God is not as real as the blessing of God. Believers of every generation have been tempted to do so, but the whole counsel of God shared in His Word is sacred. We cannot pick and choose.

Let me show you the story of a man in the first century who got sick on tough truth. Our story began with a time of silence in Heaven – as the angels and living creatures before the throne were silenced at the coming of the judgment on the earth.  As silence slipped away, Heaven thundered and the earth shuddered at the blast of the Trumpets– one after the other, and brought a succession of pummeling judgments to our planet. Grass and trees across one third of the earth were consumed by the falling of fiery hail. The seas of salt water were impacted, as one third of them were poisoned by a volcanic type eruption that began from a mass thrown from above. A star called wormwood embittered the fresh drinking water streams and springs. Just when it looked like there was nothing that could be worse, the darkness and light that men had counted on – sunrise and sunset –were disrupted by the ash clouds that blocked the sun and moon from shining onto the fragile and struggling planet.

As if life on earth hadn’t already become a living hell – hell’s demons were released from the bottomless pit. We don’t know what they were, but we know whose they were – the locusts with the faces of men worked for the Wicked One. There is no question that at his direction, they hurt and maimed – causing despair and drawing men and women to cry out in agony. In the face of their terror, another judgment was released. Poised on the edges of the lands of the eastern cultures of Mesopotamia – where God originally called forth Abraham and much of the Bible’s first stories unfolded… were angels that were set to draw the final curtain to one third of mankind. Billions of lives hung in the balance as God’s emissary released word to unleash a 200 million strong army on the weakened sons of men. From their mouths and from their tails, they spit an agonizing sting that crippled their victims.

Was this a poetic description of a Satanically backed army of a nation? It is impossible to be sure. We can know what their impact, however. They brought such indescribable suffering that it is unimaginable men and women would not repent… but the text is clear. People held on stubbornly to their pagan beliefs – like a man whose logic has evaporated: as Revelation 9:20 reminds: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.”

For a few moments, John stopped the progression of judgment to offer a personal note about his experiences. Revelation 10:1-11:14 is actually a parenthetical vision. This isn’t the first time John employed this technique. When the story of the seven seals was played out in Revelation 6 and 7, John stopped after six seals while the seventh seal was not yet open – and offered a picture from two visions (7:1-8; 11-17). In the case of the trumpets, he does it again, and the seventh trumpet is preceded by two visions of what he saw (10:1-11; 11:1-14). In the midst of the judgment, Jesus had him focus on something else – the consolation and encouragement of believers in the grip of the downward spiral of the planet. There are only eleven verses:

Revelation 10:1 I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; 2 and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; 3 and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. 4 When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.” 5 Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE EARTH AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE SEA AND THE THINGS IN IT, that there will be delay no longer, 7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets. 8 Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11 And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”

The very last sentence reveals the problem of the passage… John was sick by what he saw, and the Lord had to PUSH him to keep telling the whole story. We are no different today than our older brothers and sisters in the faith. Many want the “LIGHT BIBLE” – the kind with only six commandments and a 3% tithe. We want the celebration of Heaven without the punishment of Hell – the joy of prosperity without the lessons of leanness. We get beat up in the world, and we don’t want to hear negative words in church. “I come here to get lifted!” one lady said…. And I totally understand. The fact is that so do I. I want to say positive and fun things more than you want to hear them! The problem is, sometimes the TRUTH HURTS, and we are only served by being honest about that.

Go back to the beginning of what we read. The “strong angel” of 10:1 is one character that is described in 5:2, here, and in 18:21. We cannot tell if the being is the same, but we can tell that there are varying degrees of power committed to angelic beings. Perhaps a few own BOWFLEXES and it is more obvious they use them. With streets of GOLD, perhaps GOLD’s gym has franchised in Heavenly places – I just cannot say. A four-fold description of this angel is included: Revelation 10:1 …clothed with a cloudrainbow was upon his head… face was like the sun… feet like pillars of fire.

 (1) He was “clothed with a cloud” – a Hebrew reference that denoted God’s presence in the case of the Temple’s dedication, or Sinai’s Law – that spilled into Revelation usually in the context of God’s wrath and judgment – in Revelation 1:7, Jesus will come again “with the clouds” (cf. Dan 7:13).

(2) He had a “rainbow upon his head” – an apparent Hebrew reference to the glory of God as in the words “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ezekiel 1:28). Revelation 4:3 says that God has such a rainbow encircling His throne.

(3) “His face was like the sun” may be a Hebrew reference to the authority or boundaries of God, as in the words . “And God made two great lights; the greater light [the sun] to rule the day” (Genesis 1:16). In Revelation 1:16, Jesus’ face “shone like the sun”.

(4) “His feet like pillars of fire” may well allude to the strength of the being to reap judgment.  Clearly the fire throughout the book is a powerful graphic allegory of God’s judgment. The  “pillars of fire” are reminiscent of Israel’s wilderness guidance system, where God provided a “pillar of fire” to guide the Israelites at night and a “cloud” by day (Exodus 13:21-22). We should remember that the pillar of fire not only guided them, but also protected God’s people (Exodus 14:24) as directed by God.

The angel announced with God’s presence, God’s glory, God’s authority and boundaries, and God’s enduring strength – the time for the last set of judgments was at hand…

Revelation 10:2 moves our eyes to his HANDS AND FEET. In his hands, he grasped a little scroll.  With his feet, this colossus spanned both the earth and the sea. One Pastor wrote: “This angel would win any game of Twister hands down.” The angel appears to be taking final possession of God’s stolen kingdom. Final judgment will claim the world for Christ, as God takes back what is rightfully His (Ps 2:6-8). This is powerfully encouraging, but the price of the takeover is sickening to John.

The little scroll may well be different from the scroll Jesus Christ unrolled in 5:1, mentioned again in 6:1, simply because John used a different word to describe it. In fact, he chose a Greek term not used elsewhere in the letter… we just cannot know for sure.  More than likely, the bulk of judgment completed – this was a fragment of the balance of the last set of judgments that were yet to happen – a piece of the same scroll.

Revelation 10:3 looks like the scene of one about to give a testimony in court – as they “raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth!” His opening cry brought calamitous sound in Heaven – again showing his power. Lions roar and all the animals know the King has spoken. “The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion…” (Proverbs 19:12). There were SEVEN PEALS of thunder… and by now you are getting used to the idea of the seven. Here is may refer back to Psalm 29:3-9 where seven thunder peals are portrayed as the voice of the Lord:

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 peals of thunder responded to the roar – but John was told NOT to write down what was revealed. Not everything he saw and heard were offered for prophetic delivery. Just as Daniel was told in Daniel 12, God has not revealed in Scripture all the judgments that will take place on the earth during the great tribulation. God’s Word is all true, but not complete – by His own intention. In 2 Corinthians 12:4 Paul shared that he “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak”. Prophetic revelation is only partial (1 Corinthians 13:9), so we must interpret with caution and humility.

This angel “lifted up his right hand to heaven” -a gesture offered to demonstrate an oath (cf. Gen 14:22; Dt. 32:40; Dan. 12:7).” The oath carried a message that was CHILLING to John… The delay of God’s judgment was no more.

The God who IS was about to act. The God who created all things, was now claiming His creation. It is no accident that the key philosophical issues of our time revolve around these two truths—the existence of God, and creation

Our world cries out that all things were put here in random chance… there is no God and there is no purpose. Naturalism has won the hearts of our universities and our museums – but NOT the hearts of our people. The church stands yet today, proclaiming in the public square that a fool believes there is no God. A fool believes that man evolved and the world is getting progressively more enlightened. A fool seeks pleasure – much more than truth. We will not slip quietly into the night – our job is not yet finished. Fools may have found a following, but God’s Word stands sure. The cold night of naturalism will bring about a brutish society, bent on personal fulfillment and drowning in lust. The night comes, so we work with the truth – there IS a God in Heaven, He DID create what we are and see… and every eye will one day see Him.

The angels cried out “Time is up“—like a teacher administrating a test. Time for pencils down. Evils defeat is about to be unsealed. God didn’t even want the details to leak to His enemy – so they are unrecorded. He is going to do something that will blindside the wicked one – something none of us have even thought of – but it IS coming.

Judgment isn’t a sweet truth to the stomach. John was told to take the scroll and eat it. The initial taste wasn’t sour, but when it hit his stomach, it was sickening. He was given a commission to KEEP GOING with the truth of the Word. Don’t stop speaking out My Word, said the Lord… “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” Was it easy? No. Was it essential. Yes.

Not all truth is sweet. We must take God’s Word to the nations, but not until we have digested it and it has become part of what we are. Weak believers, unsure of the Word and its power need not apply to go elsewhere. They need to chew some more before going anywhere. In our mad dash to get people who are zealous, we must not jump to sending out those who have not digested the truths of the Word. The Bible is to be taken INSIDE. It is to do a transforming work. It will sober up the silly – and ground the flaky. We are struggling today as God’s church because we simply want to resist the process of learning God’s Word. We want the bullet point, fortune cookie, quick fix version of the truth. We can’t reach a world until God’s Word reaches US.

We possess the astounding privilege of a personal Bible to read – something most believers never had in history. Yet most wait for someone to spoon feed them truth. Men and women, God doesn’t force-feed His Word – but rather requires us to take it in hand, and ingest it in heart. The Word of God is called bread (Matt 4:4), milk (1 Pet 2:2), meat (1 Cor 3:1-2), and honey (Ps 119:103). We are supposed to be pouring it into our lives… and the lack of it will show in the anemic, un-resistant church. Often Madison Avenue has more influence than our Bible – because our people haven’t done their work.

Even more often – it isn’t YOU – it is US…those who open the book and teach it. We have backed down and made it easier than it really us.

Messages of the modern church abound but far too many of them are sweet. We are preaching messages about success and fulfillment, a positive outlook and a healthy self-image, but frankly there is little about sin and God’s holy wrath. We secretly hope that the Pastor will turn us to a “happy passage” on Sunday. Here’s a question posed by one Pastor: “ If judgment was near enough that the apostle John needed to be hardened by the eating of that scroll, should we not be more direct and more pointed in speaking to men and women about the realities of sin, righteousness, and judgment?”

To every teacher that is listening to these words, I want to tell the truth – being a true spokesman of God is no easy task. It requires a man or woman to be willing to tell people what they don’t want to hear. Don’t compromise truth to win a crowd – or you will lead them away from God’s purposes. Don’t skip the stomach ache- it comes with the book. God loves us. He wants us to know Him. He has made a way of escape. Yet, equally true is this: Jesus said most people won’t take the door of salvation and a walk with Him. Most will go the way well worn, and hope for the best.

Sometimes the truth hurts – but God has called us to speak the truth. We must not be unloving, but we cannot dismiss the truth and act like the judgment of God is not as real as the blessing of God. Believers of every generation have been tempted to do so, but the whole counsel of God shared in His Word is sacred. We cannot pick and choose. Remember these words from 2 Chronicles 36, at the end of the Hebrew Scriptures:

15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.

Don’t delay. Respond. God is waiting for His church to take Him seriously. Time is running out – and there are still many who will respond if we will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.