October 25, 2020
Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 10-11 – Ministry Roles
I want to start off this morning by saying that our parade of barnyard animals at the church continues. We’ve had a cow, a chicken, a fox. And now this was the newest visitor who showed up-turkey pic. We’ve all known there’s a lot of turkeys at our church-but this is a turkey! And Betty first saw him on Monday and then as we were literally joking about it on Tuesday when I was heading outside we saw him again walking by. And our conclusion was what better place for a turkey to go this time of year than a church. Clearly this turkey was claiming sanctuary-the idea that a criminal could escape the fate of death by fleeing to a church-this turkey is escaping his fate of being someone’s Thanksgiving dinner by fleeing to our church. So he’s safe here-no one better get any funny ideas about fresh, wild turkey for Thanksgiving! But even now is everybody looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner? We’re about 4 1/2 weeks away-and I don’t know about you-but this is always my favorite dinner of the year. Christmas dinner is great, a Valentine’s Day meal at a restaurant is great-but for some reason all the food tastes the best at Thanksgiving! However-who usually finds themselves stuffed and in some sort of food coma later on? That while you’re eating the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie they taste so good you just keep shoveling it in-but later in the day your stomach-and your jeans-regrets it! Why did I eat so much? Thanksgiving is one of those days when I wish I had multiple stomachs to enjoy all that tasty food-my eyes are way bigger than my stomach. Does that ever happen to you? Happens to me a lot. But the time I remember most was several years ago when Monica and I had traveled from England to Switzerland and some friends had booked a ride on the Chocolate Train. Now let me explain lest you think that we we sitting on some sort of train made of chocolate that you could eat while riding. Basically this was a train that ran from Lausanne, Switzerland to Gruyeres, Switzerland where we stopped and toured a cheese factory and then from there we went to the Nestle Chocolate Factory-sort of like the Willy Wonka factory! And we saw how the chocolate was made and all the various machines-but at the end of the tour they said we’re taking you into a room where you can eat all the chocolate you want. You can’t take any with you or put it in your bag-but stay as long as you want because in this room all the chocolate you can eat is yours! And that was amazing-we were devouring chocolate-they had all sorts of different types. But in less than 10 minutes our stomachs hurt and we couldn’t eat another bite! All that rich, sweet chocolate made our stomachs sick! And the reason I bring this story up-other than the fact that I wish I could be back there and pace myself to eat more chocolate-is because that’s precisely what happened to John in the book of Revelation. He’s commanded to do some eating that’s going to make his stomach sick. Sounds like a good command, right?
As we continue our series on the book of Revelation we come to another intermission. We saw that in chapter 7 a few weeks ago-and we’re there again this week-and I don’t know about you-but after reading about the demonic locust hordes and the demonic lion-headed horse army an intermission doesn’t sound too bad! Time to stand up, stretch our legs and clear our head after all that widespread destruction and mayhem. And that’s exactly what happens when we come to-Rev 10:1. Now this angel is very different from the ones last week that were bound at the Euphrates river and set free to unleash terror and wipe out a 1/3 of mankind. This angel is majestic and mighty as John says-even mammoth when you read his description. And that’s a very apt description of God’s heavenly beings. If you never read CS Lewis’ book The Great Divorce I encourage you to do so. It’s a short but powerful read-and what stands out-and the reason I bring it up-is how big the people of heaven are. They’re basically intimidating, colossal giants. They’re full of goodness and mercy-but the point of being so big in contrast to the people of earth who are small, wispy and frail-is that those who are in God’s presence are full of life, they’re mighty and magnificent because of Him-and those who aren’t in God’s presence are just a shadow or a ghost of who they used to be. So this angel here is a massive heavenly being and John has this vision of how he’s come down to earth-he’s wrapped in clouds and rainbow. His face is shining brilliantly-like the sun because he’s been in God’s presence-and his legs are these massive burning pillars. Now this is symbolic language-I doubt that God’s angels actually have legs that are on fire! But the image is how he’s overseeing the planet as God’s representative-Rev 10:2-3. Try to imagine this mighty voice calling forth-like the great roar of a lion-which is answered by 7 peals of thunder. That’s a lot of noise! When John sees this vision it isn’t a quiet, peaceful little scene with some harps playing in the background! This is the loud crashing of heaven and all its fury-which John is trying to write down.
Notice this-Rev 10:4. So the words that came out of this crashing thunder aren’t written down. We don’t know what they said. John is told to seal them up. And as a point of interest-this is the only time in the book of Revelation that words are sealed up and not stated-and we’re left guessing what they might be. It’s sort of like somebody starting to tell you something and then saying-never mind, no big deal, don’t worry about it. Has that happened to you before? And all you can do is worry about and wonder what they were going to say! Tell me-what was it! Many Bible scholars believe that these 7 thunders would have been another set of 7 judgements on the earth. If you remember we had the 7 seals, then the 7 trumpets, the 7 bowls of wrath are coming-so that’s 3 sets of judgment-these 7 thunders could have been 7 more. 7 more catastrophic judgements released on the planet. But God-in His infinite wisdom-that’s God’s voice that was speaking from heaven-has decided to forget them. To bypass and skip over them. That earth won’t experience the 7 thunders of judgement. And for that we can all be thankful-but that means God won’t delay what’s going to happen. Look at Rev 10:5-6. God didn’t forgo the 7 thunders of judgement to stall out and give people more time. He didn’t put His plans on hold or say never mind, no big deal. It’s going to happen. And this angel is faithfully upholding his ministry, his role in all this by raising his right hand and swearing an oath. This is like swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This angel is swearing to uphold the ministry God has given him of ushering in the end times-Rev 10:7. And that mystery is now fully revealed in Revelation-that God is going to judge this sinful earth. He will hold it accountable for its deeds-but also set up His kingdom in which grace and mercy reigns forever and ever. And this is saying how that truth, that mystery of judgement and mercy-what an incredible combination-has already been revealed by God’s prophets long ago. Look at-Dan 12:1-2. Explaining and revealing that mystery is what Revelation has all been about. What was written so long ago is going to be fulfilled. This time of trouble is coming, God’s judgement wasn’t an empty threat to mankind-don’t push me too far or else…I mean it… It’s real, it’s coming, and as this angel has just said-without delay-Rev 10:6-7. What was spoken of way back then is going to happen. You can count on it-God’s Word is certain. So Pt1:The Angel’s Role: To say God’s timing for the world’s end is perfect. That’s what he’s telling us in this chapter. Here’s this magnificent, massive angel-someone that would make a football player or wrestler look like a little kid-but this great and mighty angel is telling us that God’s promises, the revelation of the mystery of His kingdom in the end times, will be fulfilled. And it happens in God’s perfect timing.
And haven’t we all wondered that? Haven’t we all thought why hasn’t God’s kingdom already come? Why isn’t the end here? Why hasn’t eternity begun? Why has planet earth continued? It’s only gotten worse-as 2020 has clearly showed us! Why not just call it a day Lord and wrap this thing up? Have you thought that or wondered that? I know I have. As a kid I remember being at church and hearing about the end times back in the 80’s-and also seeing movies about the end times that were filmed in the 70’s! So a year like 2020 sounded like something either super futuristic-we’d all have flying cars and be living on the moon-or there was no way planet earth would last until 2020-the end of the world would have been there long before. But this chapter is saying that God’s mystery of the world’s end, the arrival of His kingdom will be fulfilled, it will happen in His perfect timing-whether that’s now during these times we’re living in-or far off in the future. The passage of time doesn’t dictate or negate the fulfilling of God’s promise. And that’s a point we can’t forget. That just because a few more years or a few more decades go by-it doesn’t mean the world won’t end and God’s forgotten to bring about His kingdom. God’s not up there in heaven saying-I know there was something I was supposed to do. There was something on my list, something I had marked down on the calendar for 2020-what was that? As if the angels are trying to give Him hints-the world’s end Lord! The fulfilling of the mystery of God’s kingdom-which includes the worlds’ end-will happen in His perfect timing as this angel has testified. Look at 2 Pet 3:2-3; 8-10. And we saw that part of the verse a few weeks ago. This earth will be dissolved and laid bare. Its end will come. Daniel talked about it, Jesus talked about it, Peter’s talking about it-and now this is what John is commanded to talk about.
Listen to how it continues-Rev 10:8. And that open scroll is God’s Word. In essence it is the message of the book of Revelation that John is to read and soak up and communicate to us, to communicate to the world. This wasn’t a closed book for John or some mystery that only he was allowed to understand-but it’s open for everybody. So look at how the process is described-Rev 10:9. So there’s that command-there’s the eating that starts off really tasty and good-like devouring a table full of chocolates or your overflowing plate at Thanksgiving-but then quickly makes your stomach sick. And of course for John, the reason his stomach is sick isn’t because God’s Word is poisonous or has passed the expiration date and gone bad. God’s Word is perfectly good-but the truths it contains are hard and often bitter to swallow. Think about it-God is promising a new heavens and a new earth, He’s promising a perfect world filled with perfect people that lasts forever. Who could come up with a better plan than that? But to get there this world has to be dissolved and destroyed. And worse than that-unbelievers have to be judged and condemned for their sin. There is a sweetness and bitterness to God’s plan. And that’s what John is called to communicate-Rev 10:10-11. Share this message to the world that desperately needs to hear it. That’s Pt2:John’s Role: To say God’s plans for the world’s end can be tough to swallow. That’s so true-this visual of John eating God’s Word is so clear. The message of the gospel and the saving truth of Jesus is the sweetest things we will ever taste because it’s our source of eternal hope-and yet it is and it ought to be the hardest thing to swallow-because it means people are called to repent. That people are accountable to God for their actions-we all are because we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and not met His standard. And yet God has sent His Son Jesus to do what we can’t-to live that perfect life and meet that standard-and then die for us to forgive our sins. But if we don’t repent and turn to Him then we’re forever lost in our sins-and that is the most bitter truth we could ever taste. Like having eaten too much chocolate or been too stuffed from Thanksgiving and now our stomachs hurt-so should the truth of God’s Word make our stomachs hurt. Again-that’s not because it’s bad-it’s good, so so good-it’s the best message the world has ever heard-but for all who reject it there’s eternal pain and suffering. Listen to what one writer says-Exposition, 195. John’s role was to proclaim that truth so that the ungodly could turn to God and become godly. That’s the message of the gospel. Rom 5:6-8. That’s unheard of and truly remarkable when you digest what it’s saying. The Lord did not wait until we got our act together and started serving Him, He died for us while we were ungodly-when we were against Him and doing our own thing. But that’s how much He loves us! And we’re called to speak of that sweetness-but we’re also called to speak of it’s bitterness-that for all who reject this message there is judgement and condemnation.
Now obviously we’re not called to literally eat and swallow God’s Word. No one needs to think that they have to take a big bite out of their Bibles today or tear out a page of Revelation and eat it. I always remember that weird kid in school who would eat paper. Anybody remember a classmate trying to eat paper? I guess when math or spelling gets boring there’s not much else to do! We’re not called to literally eat God’s Word-but our minds need to read it and our hearts need to take it in and soak it up. When was the last time you digested God’s Word. Our role isn’t any different from John’s. We’re called to communicate a message that’s both sweet and bitter. We’re called to tell the world the truth-which is full of joy but also hard to stomach.
And that’s what the next 2 guys faithfully do. Listen to what John is told-Rev 11:3. So if you do the math-1260 days is 42 months or 3 1/2 years. So this means these 2 guys are preaching and prophesying during the 2nd half of the Tribulation when the Antichrist is ruling-and we’ll learn more about him in the next couple of weeks. But at a time when the world is literally at its worst, God raises up 2 men to faithful communicate the gospel, to faithfully communicate hope when all is collapsing. It says they’re clothed in sackcloth-that itchy rough material made from goat hair-sort of like wearing a burlap bag. But that material expressed penitence, humility and mourning. Here these 2 witnesses are mourning over the wickedness of the world, they’re mourning over the fact that world refuses to humble itself and repent before God. Think about it-these 2 witnesses are preaching at the very same time that these demonic locust plagues and demonic lion-headed horses are being unleashed on the planet. And remember from last week the response of people-Rev 9:20. They are literally seeing that before their very eyes-no wonder their hearts are heavy with mourning, pleading with people not to respond like that. What did Jesus say at the very beginning of His ministry-Mark 1:15. Here we are on the other end of history-when the end times have come-and the message is still the same. Repent and believe-and here’s 2 guys boldly and faithfully proclaiming that truth. So Pt3:Two Witnesses’ Role: To say repent while there’s still time. Over and over and over, God gives people the opportunity to turn away from their sins and turn to Him. God could have easily said enough’s enough, the end has come, this world is done, people will get what they deserve. And yet-even right up until the end God’s message of grace shines forth-Rev 11:4. And olive trees provide oil for lamps and lamps provide light. These 2 guys are shining the light of the gospel, the light of Christ in a very dark world! And look at how God empowers them for the task-a couple of famous Biblical characters will come to mind as you see this description-Rev 11:5-6. And Moses was the one who brought the plagues on Egypt and turned the Nile River to blood. Elijah was the one who prayed that it wouldn’t rain for 3 1/2 years and it didn’t. So there’s a clear connection of these 2 witnesses to Moses and Elijah. And there’s plenty of Bible scholars who think this could be those 2 guys having returned to earth-especially as they made a little cameo appearance with Jesus on the Mt of Transfiguration. Of course, Revelation doesn’t tell us they’re Moses and Elijah-so it’s safe to say these guys are like Moses and Elijah, in the spirit of Moses and Elijah having similar power and authority. Just like Moses confronted the stubbornness of Pharaoh, like Elijah confronted Ahab and Jezebel and the wickedness of the people, so these 2 witnesses are confronting the stubbornness and wickedness of the world. Back to Pt3.
And with all the destruction on the earth, with 2 powerful witnesses like this, once again you would think the world would immediately listen up. These guys have incredible powers given to them by God, supernatural judgements are taking place-it couldn’t be any clearer that God is trying to get the world’s attention. But what’s the response? Not an outpouring of repentance, but vengeance on these guys-Rev 11:7-10. So unbelievably at the world’s end, a new holiday is invented-Day of the Dead Witnesses! People are exhaling gifts-like a mini Christmas-because these 2 witnesses, these 2 guys who preached faith and repentance were killed. Glad we got those guys silenced-here’s a box of chocolates and a new sweater to celebrate! That’s how deranged and far gone the world is at this point! That’s how stubborn and wicked people have become. Don’t tell me to repent! Don’t tell me what to do or how to live my life! I’ll do what I want! And even in the face of God’s miraculous works and judgements-the world would rather celebrate the death of 2 convicting preachers than celebrate the saving grace of Jesus! And I wonder if it’s any different today? Is the world just as stubborn and resistant to the message of faith and repentance? What about you? We’ve talked a lot about repentance in this series-whether that’s to repent and turn to Jesus for the first time in your life (R repentance)-or to repent of things that keep you from following Jesus like you should (r repentance). Back to Pt3. Have you done that?
But here’s the truth we can’t forget-God always gets the last word. Look at what happens just as this new holiday is started and gifts have been unwrapped-Rev 11:11-12. Here’s an amazing glimpse of the gospel. Death isn’t the end for those who repent and believe in Jesus-resurrection is! The destiny of these 2 witnesses doesn’t end in death and lying there on the street for all to see. Their destiny is resurrection for all to see. I love the description-a breath of life from God enters them. The Lord raises them up to new life. He didn’t just revive them, these guys weren’t in a coma for 3.5 days. But like Lazarus was dead, like Jesus was dead in the tomb-after 3 days there was a resurrection. And that same hope is true for every believer-you and me. What these 2 witnesses experienced is a glimpse of what everyone experiences when they believe in Jesus-John 11:25-26. That’s the hope of the gospel! Do you believe it? Or look at 1 Cor 15:51-52; 54-55. That’s what’s being asked here in Rev 11-the world was celebrating the victory over these 2 dead witnesses, they were having a party and exchanging gifts, and just when they thought they won-when victory was secure-resurrection happened! And the world sees these 2 men come back to life and ascend into heaven to be the Lord. That was the victory! It’s the same victory, the same hope, the same reality for everyone who trusts in Jesus-including you and me today. Where are you at with this? Like the 2 witnesses, have you put your hope in Jesus, have you repented of your sins and turned to Him? Or are you more like that stubborn crowd, refusing to repent and glad that these guys were silenced? Look at the contrast-Rev 11:12b-14. What an ominous warning! If the 2nd woe wasn’t bad enough-there’s still 1 more to come! But here’s where I want to conclude today-Pt4:My role:We all have temporary roles, but an eternal resurrection. What’s my role? Like John or the 2 witnesses we’re called to faithfully eat and digest and soak up the truth of God’s Word and share it with the world around us. Will you be faithful in your temporary role knowing the eternal outcome-resurrection in Jesus? Or will you be left just looking up?