We all know that the church has a message of salvation for the world, but here is another, less obvious, aspect of it.
Revelation Chapter Ten features a mighty angel descending from heaven holding a little open scroll in his hand. Some commentators teach that this is a portrayal of Jesus Christ but I don’t hold to this for several reasons. In Revelation angels are never symbolic portrayals of something else – they are simply… angels. In any event, Jesus is NOT an angel, He is much, much greater than any angel ever could be (Hebrews 1:4) for He is God incarnate. I think that the confusion comes from the similar descriptions of Jesus and angels in the book of Revelation, but this is because all those who come from the heavenly realm are consistently described with words such as light, radiance, fire, glory, and so on.
In any event, the real focus is not on the angel but on what he is carrying – a small open scroll. We first encountered this scroll rolled up and held in the right hand of God the Father (Revelation 5). It represented the ‘title deeds’ to the earthly realm which humanity had forfeited when they rebelled in the Garden of Eden. It was sealed on the outside and Jesus alone was fit to take it from the Father and break open its seals. As each seal came away a voice boomed out the eviction order to the devil and his minions. Now, in the scene before us, Jesus has handed the scroll to a mighty angel to deliver to John, the representative of the church. Jesus instructs John to take the scroll and to eat it and tells him that although it will taste sweet on his lips it will turn his stomach sour. The Lord also commanded John concerning this message he had internalised, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (Revelation 10:11)
The essence of the prophetic declaration entrusted to John, and indeed the whole church, is;
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
The church has a prophetic duty to declare to the world, all who have not bent the knee to Jesus, that He is Lord of all, and that Satan has no rights and is simply an illegal squatter in the process of eviction. This is indeed a ‘sweet’ message… but it has some very ‘sour’ implications. The devil loathes the truth of this declaration and unsaved humanity both rejects it and reacts violently to it. So, wherever the church faithfully declares this message it suffers criticism, rejection and some form of persecution.
This prophetic mandate does not give us license to act in ways that Jesus neither modeled nor taught. To proclaim the lordship of Jesus does not equate to Bible-bashing or turn-or-burn aggressive ‘evangelism’. Jesus’ words to the world-weary are still: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). And Peter’s instruction regarding personal evangelism is still: ‘But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.’ (1 Peter 3:15-17)
There are two other aspects of Chapter Ten that I want to develop before progressing to the Two Witnesses of Chapter Eleven. The first concerns ‘mystery’ in scripture and the second concerns the immediacy of the ‘end days’ and the urgency this brings to our Christian witness. In preparation, why don’t you give some thought to the enigmatic ‘seven thunders’ of Revelation 10:3-4 and to the bold statement of verses 5 to 7.
When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.” Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”