The section we're at…from chapter ten through most of chapter eleven…is an interlude, of sorts. The purpose is to remind all faithful believers that God's kingdom will come. Up until now, there have been horrible events, driven by demons and demonic powers, as if having been belched out of the depths of hell itself. Sin has reached epic proportions. Saints cry out for vindication. While sinners continue to cling to their rebellious nature. As all of this is happening, Christians need to be comforted that all is still in God's control. Even though we can't always see it, God is still in charge.
As this interlude builds toward the blowing of the seventh trumpet, here's something to remember:
"GOD IS NEVER OBLIGATED TO BE MERCIFUL TO A REBELLIOUS CREATURE. HE DOESN'T OWE US MERCY."
- R.C. Sproul
The time for repentance is coming to an end.
Let's bullet point some key passages.
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head.
The word translated as rainbow is from the Greek word, "iris." It paints a splendorific picture of God's messenger bringing promise and hope. It is a thing of beauty for believers.
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.
From this point forward God will not intervene to give the wicked further opportunity to repent.
God is going to accomplish what He set out to do. There are things
happening that we know nothing about.
The end of history, as was the beginning, is under the sovereign control of God. Just because we can't see something happening doesn't mean it isn't. The seventh trumpet is about to blow.
Here's something you might want to write down:
THERE WILL BE NO MORE DELAY…THE TIME FOR REPENTANCE IS NOW!
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 word "announced" is from the Greek word, euangelion, which means "good news" or "good telling." It's where we get our word "gospel." In other words, here, we see how the hidden purpose of God has been "gospeled" to the prophets. What is about to take place is good news to the faithful who have endured suffering and
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.
There are two things going on here:
Anyone who loves Christ understands what John was experiencing here. The blessings of God are sweet. Every message of hope, of blessing, of glory; every message of liberty, salvation, goodness; every promise of heaven is sweet. Every touch of mercy…every kiss of grace…is sweet. As Psalm 119:103 says, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
But not so for the wicked. Oh, the bitterness of the price sinners will pay. And John must warn them, just as we must warn them, that the final destruction of evil is near.
Finally, we read in 10:11:
And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations
and languages and kings.”
There is no attention to racial, geographic, ethnic, or social distinctions. The only distinction is between those with the seal of God or those with the mark of the beast.
The final destruction of evil is coming.
Let's now catch our breath and review. God is working His sovereign will, even when we can't see it. In the same way, there are things happening around us that we aren't even aware of because we can't see them. But just because we can't see something doesn't mean it's not real or at work in an unseen reality.
Let me show you what I mean:
Show Boatload of Images.
These images illustrate the hidden spiritual realm. Some of these things we
didn't even know existed until a generation or so ago. Others were thought
to exist but there was no visual evidence of them. There are things happening in us and all around us that cannot be seen, touched, or smelled, but they are at work, nonetheless. Just as an electron microscope reveals what had been hidden since the dawn of time, so does The Revelation to John reveal the grand and glorious things God is doing to bring history to a close. God's sovereign purpose has always been at work to ultimately defeat evil.
So now chapter eleven.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
Verse one isn't talking about a literal building, but the Christian community who worship God. The measuring symbolizes the protection of believers against the demonic assault of the Antichrist.
But remember. This is not security against physical suffering and death. It is protection against spiritual danger.
We see these points especially in the fact that the faithful will be trampled underfoot by paganism. While evil will be allowed free rein for a limited time, believers will be spiritually protected. That is huge.
And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.
The key word in verse 7 is "testimony." It is from the Greek word, martus, which in English is "witness." What other word do you hear in martus? Exactly…"martyr." A martyr is one who gives testimony to the truth, which sometimes leads to persecution and death, as happens here. There is never a guarantee of protection from physical harm. In fact, faithfulness does not deliver them from death but, here, leads to death.
Following martyrdom, verse 8 captures the response of paganism to righteousness. The bodies of the dead are left to rot in the streets. In a culture that demands respect for the bodies of the dead, this is a blatant mocking of these faithful witnesses.
And so the ridicule and scorn continues:
For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.
Who said cancel culture was something new? Look at what happens when you speak the truth. Even in death, you are mocked. You are denied basic dignities in death. This is the scorn of the world for the church that has called lost people to repentance. That is wickedness.
When the followers of the beast…in other words, those who have rejected Christ…when the followers of the beast realize that those who have spoken the truth are dead, they are overjoyed. In fact, a proverbial holiday is declared, with celebrations that look a lot like what we do at Christmas. These celebrations are a perverse denial of
the truth that is about to hit, and hit hard.
Finally, the final scene before the blowing of the seventh trumpet:
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
God, and God alone, has authority over life and death.
As the witnesses are taken up into heaven, the only things those not killed by the great earthquake can do is come to a conclusion which they so stubbornly rejected up until this point - they admit the majesty and glory of God. Note it doesn't say they repent or change or throw themselves at the foot of the cross. It simply says the only thing they can do is admit reality. God is great.
We'll end here. Next week, we will be moving closer to the full expression of the holiness of God. Until then:
SOLI DEO GLORIA…
To the Glory of God Alone!