Angelic Prophecy (Revelation 10)

         Former NASA Engineer, Edgar G. Whisenant, wrote and published an American best seller, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988.[1]” Whisenant sent 300,000 copies of this book to ministers all over the country. Several pastors read the book and promoted it to their people. Overall, 4.5 million copies of the book were sold throughout the United States. Whisenant was quoted during the “end of the world” hysteria, “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I that to every preacher in town.” Well…you may have guessed it by now, but Whisenant was wrong. The world did not end in 1988, but his prophecy caused a world of damage. One man, Jason, wrote a review on Amazon, several years ago, I quote,

I too was one of the idiots who bought into this hysteria in 1988. I was a naive 21-year-old who put way too much faith into anything my church pastor taught. When he brought Edgar Whisenant to our church for a series of talks about the 88 reasons, I believed every word of it because my pastor believed it. As a matter of fact, belief in this book compelled my then girlfriend and I to marry much earlier than we originally had intended. We were taught that what is bound together on earth will be bound together in heaven and so we HAD to get married so we would be together after the rapture occurred. When the designated range of dates passed, I remember there being a lot of confusion and anger in the church and we ended up leaving. After several years of religious exploration dosed with much more skepticism than before, my wife and I both ended up rejecting Christianity all together. I'm not saying that his book caused us to become atheists, but it was a major catalyst for us to start thinking for ourselves about religious issues. In light of that and its novelty value now, I give it 5 stars. Oh, and we just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary!

There were several other reviews from people who bought into this destructive theology in 1988. Sadly, there people today who buy into the same interpretative principles of Whisenant, as Thomas Schreiner would say, “Newspaper Theology.”

            After my first sermon in Revelation, a visitor came up to me and said, “I can’t wait to hear you preach through Revelation. I mean with everything you see in the News the end has to be near.” They will probably leave dissatisfied after listening to this series as I have not interpreted Revelation yet through CNN or Fox News. There will always be a subset of the Christian community that thrives off charts and analysis of daily events in how they relate to the end of the world. Four years ago, my wife and I stopped at a hotel with our kids. It was late, and Ellen took the kids to the room while I went to ask the hotel clerk a quick question. After a few seconds, he found that I was a pastor and immediately launched into a long analysis of current events and how each event related to prophecies in Revelation. The only thing I learned from true conversation was my wife’s frustration that she had to put three young kids to bed by herself in a hotel in Kentucky. As a pastor, I get invited into “Newspaper Theology” more often than the average person. People are eager for specifics about prophecy, but there are certain things we will never know.

            We must be careful when we think about prophecy, because if not, we could be like Jason’s pastor and make statements that lead people away from the Lord. Jason trusted his pastor and his church. Their “Newspaper Theology” led him away from Christianity. One day he will stand before God and realize that not all prophecy is false. Jesus told his disciples about the final day in Matthew 24, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only….Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming…you also must be ready, for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

            As we turn to Revelation 10 this morning, let us ask the Lord to keep us awake and ready for that Day of his coming. Our goal is not to understand when he will come , but to be ready when he does.

Sealed Prophecy

            Jesus opened the seven seals of the scroll introduced in Revelation 5. There was an interlude between the 6th and the 7th seal. The seventh seal brought the blowing of the seven trumpets. The first sixth trumpets brought woe on the earth and those that dwell on the earth. After the sixth trumpet, there is another interlude in the vision before the sounding of the seventh trumpet at the end of Revelation 11. Revelation 10-11 are connected as they form a separate vision within the full vision of the book. It is unique to the book in that John is not a bystander to the vision but a participant. Revelation 10:1-4,

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.”

Revelation 8-9 appear to have the background of the plagues of Exodus while Revelation 10-11 have the backdrop of Ezekiel.

John begins by saying he saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. The first question we should ask is, “Who is this angel?” Many believe this angel to be the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This angel came down from heaven wrapped in a cloud with the only, God the Father and God the Son, having that description in the rest of the Scriptures. The description of the angel is also very similar to the description of the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16 specifically, “his face was like the sun and his legs like pillars of fire.” Also, in Revelation 4 and Ezekiel 1:26-28, God is described with a rainbow over his head. There are solid biblical reasons to think this mighty angel is the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this angel is not the Lord Jesus but a representative of the Lord Jesus. There are two main reasons I think this is merely an angel. First, nowhere else in Revelation does John refer to Christ as an angel. Second, following Thomas Schreiner’s observation, the angel swears by the Creator. Revelation 10:6, “and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven.” The angel does not swear by himself but by another.

Regardless, if this is an angel or Christ, both come with divine authority. The angel has one foot on land and the other one sea showing how his prophecy covers the entire other. His voice roars like a lion and as he calls out seven thunders sound out prophetic words, but we do not know what it said for as John was about to write down the prophecy, a voice from heaven says, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” There are certain things that God has not revealed to the saints but that only will be revealed at the final judgment. This should produce humility in believers. Only God knows the final end of history. Only God has all the answers. We are creatures and serve the Creator.

Revelation 10:4 should make us weary of anyone who tries to predict the exact time and hour of the end. There are things we will never know this side of heaven. Our knowledge is limited. The seven thunders have been proposed as seven more judgments like the seals, trumpets and bowls. Mounce has proposed that the seven thunders are judgments that God was going to send on the earth, but since the people did not repent at the seven trumpets, he was going to remove any chance of repentance by bringing the end. I am more inclined to believe that the seven thunders form another series of judgment on humanity that has not been revealed because of its extreme nature or to show God’s complete omniscience or all-knowing nature. There are certain things we will never know.

We should not speculate about the end and we should not listen to or endorse others who speculate about the end. Paul warns both Timothy and Titus not to speculate or wonder into myths. Let us recognize our creaturely state before a holy, wise, and just Creator.

Set Prophecy

            And although we want to be humble about the how of prophecy, we do not want to dismiss the prophecy. We may not know the details, but the end is still coming. Jesus told us that we do not know the day or the hour, but we are called to be awake and ready. Revelation 10:5-7,

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.

The mystery of God will be fulfilled. Mystery in the Bible is referred to things that were once hidden but are now made known. The mystery of God’s plan which has been hidden through the ages will be made known. We know from Paul’s writings that the mystery of God in Christ. Paul writes in Colossians, that he

became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 1:25–2:3)

Paul’s life was about making known the mystery of God in proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Come behold the wondrous mystery, Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory
See the price of our redemption, see the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold

            John says that when the seventh trumpet blast the mystery of God will be fulfilled. In Revelation 11:15, “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever.” Oh, how we should long for that day when the full and final mystery shall be revealed. Christ is the hope of glory. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Him we proclaim. His sacrificial death; his glorious resurrection; his magnificent return. This is a set prophecy. Christ is coming. Acts 17:30-31, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

            There are two extremes we want to avoid in prophecy. One is the hyper-prophetic Newspaper Theology looking for the final day in every headline in the news. While the other extreme is just as dangerous, a complete neglect of the final day. Many ignore thinking about judgment and the final day of God’s wrath on humanity. If we neglect to think about the coming judgment, we will most likely rarely warn people of the wrath to come. Jesus commands all people everywhere to repent. This angel spoke a word of prophecy with one foot on the land and one foot on the sea to communicate that his words apply to all. If the day is coming, have you warned anyone lately? Have you told anyone that unless they repent and turn to Christ they will face judgment? God has made a way of salvation through his Son. The lion of Judah, the root of David, the lamb of God. God sent his only Son into the world so that they world could be saved through him. Are we proclaiming this great truth?

            Paul’s ministry was simple. I read it above, Colossian 1:28-29, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” The end is coming. Jesus is the only hope. Let us labor and toil with all our God-given strength to help people know and believe in Jesus. We do not know the hour, but we know the hour is coming. Are you ready? Friend, if you do not know Christ as Lord and Savior, turn to him today. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Jesus died to save everyone who would turn to him in faith. Beloved, turn from your sins. Run from your idols. Do not stay in the dark but return to Christ.

            Listen again to John’s words from the voice from heaven, “but that in the days of the trumpet call to sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (added emphasis) Ezekiel, Daniel, and the rest of the prophets announced that the end would come, and it will. It may not come in the hour we expect but it will come. Are you ready? Will you help others be ready?

Sweet Prophecy

            The vision concludes with John being asked to eat the scroll. This is a clear parallel to the vision given to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3). The scroll is either the same scroll first referenced in Revelation 5 or this is a different scroll holding a different prophecy. There are strong arguments on both sides perspectives. The word in Revelation 5 and Revelation 10 are different but they have the same root which could be interchangeable. The scroll in Revelation 5 is sealed and contains the judgement of the seals, trumpets and bowls. The scroll in Revelation 10 is open and appears to hold the prophecy in Revelation 11:1-13. Either way, John is commanded to take the scroll and eat it as Ezekiel was commanded before his prophetic ministry. John is called to prophesy to the church what is to come.  Revelation 10:8–11

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.”

The word of God is always sweet because it is from God. It was bitter because of its message. God was going to send persecution on his people and judgment on the nations. Sweet and bitter.

            There are many times when the Word of providence are sweet and bitter. God allows persecution and trials to fall on the saints. Through many trials and tribulations, we will enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22) Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12). Although trials will come, we can count it all joy. God will not give us over to our persecutions but sanctify us through them. Naomi lost a husband and two sons in Moab. She returned home only to be called Mara, which means bitter. God gave her the bitter pill of providence, but she returned home at the beginning of the harvest. She could not see that through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, would come Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of King David. We never know how God will use the bitter pill of our own stories to bring about his sweet providence, but we know that God will use our trials and bring us safely into his heavenly kingdom. The Bible says that through many trials and tribulations we will enter the kingdom of God. We will enter. We will be in God’s presence. We will see Christ and all his glory. We will never weep again. We will feel no more pain. We will enjoy the pleasure forever more at his right hand. We will be his people and he will be our God.

The Word of God is sweet because he contains the precious promises of our Lord. How do you approach the Word of God? Is it sweet to you?  Psalm 119:103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” And Jeremiah 15:16, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” The Word of God will sustain you through many trials. We, like Ezekiel and John, must feast on the word of God for we do not live on bread alone but every word that comes from the hand of God. Do you feast on the word? Do you write it on your heart? Do you long to hear and embrace the Word of truth?

The word of God is always sweet as it will carry us through everything in life. It is bitter because it shares the reality of our suffering and persecution. The church will suffer in the last days. I do not believe that the church will be spared from the Great Tribulation through a rapture. I believe that God will keep his saints on the earth to witness their sweet trust in God amidst suffering. This has been the role of the church for 2,000 years. We hold that our light and momentary afflictions are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in Christ.

John is called to prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings. So far in Revelation, this phrasing has referred to the eschatological believing community around the throne worshipping the God and the lamb. (Rev 5 & 7). As the book continues to unfold, this phrasing will refer to judgment against those who reject Christ. It could be interpreted prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings relating to the church and their coming persecution. It could also be interpreted to prophesy against many people and nations and languages and kings relating to their facing the wrath of God in judgment. Most scholars who believe the scroll is the same one in Revelation 5 believe that it should be read as against the nations as a prophesy of judgment. The scholars who believe that it is a different scroll in Revelation 5 typically believe that it should read as about referring to the persecution that will come upon the followers of Christ. As so often is in the book of Revelation, one interpretation leads to other interpretations throughout the book.  

We do not want to get lost in either interpretation but understand what it means for both groups. If you do not repent and trust in Christ, you will experience the eternal bitterness of judgment. You will be liable to hell of fire. You will be thrown into the eternal prison and will never get out to you have paid the last penny. Or you may be in the other group. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will experience the temporary and momentary afflictions of life in a fallen world, before you are ushered into the kingdom of Christ for all eternity to experience eternal joy with God and his people on the new heavens and the earth. Which group are you? Bitterness in suffering now and eternal joy to come or momentary joy now and eternal bitterness forever.

Friend, there is hope and joy for you in Christ. No matter what you have done. No matter what sins you have committed. If you turn from your sins and trust in Christ, you will be forgiven. You will be united with Christ and his perfection will belong to you. He offers you salvation, will you arise and come to Jesus? Will you take him at his word? Will you take the sweet word of salvation and feast on your future hope with Christ?

Beloved, do not lose hope. The bitterness of pain and suffering and persecution and trials will not last forever. The Lord has fixed a day. The kingdom of this earth will become the kingdom of the Lord and Christ and he shall reign forever and ever.

I heard a story this week of Martin Luther when he was (allegedly) asked what he would do if he knew the Lord was coming today, he replied, “I would plant a tree and pay my taxes.” Luther was saying that I desire to live every day as if it was the day of Christ.

Beloved, live today for Christ. Hold fast to the gospel. Fight your sin. Love your spouse. Obey your parents. Share Christ with your neighbor. Labor hard at work. Study hard in school. Delight in God’s Word. Serve the Church. Give to the needy. And continue behold the Wondrous the Mystery of Christ in you; the hope of glory.


[1] Referenced take from Thomas Schreiner’s sermon of this text. The general outline of the sermon is also loosely based on this sermon as well.