THE BITTERSWEET MESSAGE

Scripture Reading: Revelation 10:1-11

“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.” (Revelation 10:10,11)

Before we come to the last trumpet blast, which represents the final judgment, we have an interlude in chapters 10 and 11. There are two visions found in these chapters, which in essence make the same point. In chapter 10 we seed a strong angel with a little scroll in his hand. In chapter 11 we are given a vision of two witnesses. In both cases, the visions point to the spread of the gospel message and the church’s mission to be witnesses in an unbelieving world.

The first of these visions is about a strong angel who came out of heaven. He is majestic and powerful — “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire” (v. 1). Some believe that this is Christ Himself.

The mighty angel had a little scroll open in his hand (v. 2). The little scroll most likely is the gospel message. The angel called out with a loud voice and when he did seven thunders sounded. The seven thunders precede the seventh trumpet blast, and thereby signify, along with the first six seals and first six trumpet blasts, temporal judgments that will take place throughout history from the first coming of Christ until His second coming. We are not told what these judgments are — “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of the law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are some things that God does not intend to reveal to us. We must concentrate on the things He has revealed.

The focus is on the little scroll. John is commanded to take the little scroll and eat it (The imagery is taken from Ezekiel 2:8-3:3.). The message of the gospel is bittersweet. It is glorious and sweet to believers — “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). However, the presentation of the gospel message can be followed by persecution and bitterness — “Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long” (Jeremiah 20:8). This was certainly the case with many believers who were alive at the time of the writing of the book of Revelation. They were being severely persecuted.

The meaning is clear: John must understand and digest the message God gave him and he must experience both its sweetness and the suffering that may come from the faithful proclamation of the message. John was in exile on the Isle of Patmos because of his faithful witness to Jesus. As we have seen earlier, the book of Revelation was meant to be an encouragement to those who were going through times of persecution.

The chapter ends with John being recommissioned to the calling God had given him — “YOU MUST AGAIN prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings” (v. 11). We also have the responsibility to proclaim the message of the gospel to the whole world. Jesus will not return again until this message has been proclaimed throughout the entire world — “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed to the whole world for a witness to nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Like John, we must read and digest the message of the gospel. We must also be willing to face opposition when we faithfully hold to its teachings and proclaim its truths in this unbelieving world.

Lord Jesus, I know that You have called me to understand and digest the meaning and implications of the gospel. I also acknowledge that You have called me to be a faithful witness of the message of the gospel as long as I live. Give me boldness, wisdom and strength to faithfully proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to my neighbors, friends, co-workers, and those You bring into my life.

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