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The Bitter-Sweet

C. Jason Walker
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When God tells us how something will be before it happens, we find that when it occurs, it’s just like He said it would be. His Word Is Trustworthy!

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Illustration - Every Great Book From Bible
Every Great Book From Bible
So closely is the Bible allied with the literature of the world that DeWitt Talmage said, “Every great book that has been published since the first printing press was lifted has directly or indirectly derived much of its power from the Sacred Oracles.
“Milton’s Paradise Lost is borrowed from the Bible; Spencer’s writings are imitations of the parables; John Bunyan saw in a dream what Saint John had previously seen in a vision; Macauley crowns his most gigantic sentences with Scripture quotations.
“Walter Scott’s characters are Bible men and women under different names; Hobbs stole from this Castle of Truth the weapons with which he afterward attacked it; and the writings of Pope are saturated with Isaiah. The Bible is the fountain of truth from which other good books dip their life.” —Herald of Holiness
—Herald of Holiness
[Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 190.]
Main Thought: [Inductive - See Conclusion]
When God tells us how it will be before it happens, when it occurs, it’s just like He said it would be. His Word Is Trustworthy!
Sub-intro: Provide context and brief review of preceding chapters… (esp. 6ff).
Six trumpet judgments have been blasted across the face of the earth. The earth has been hit with …
• a fierce storm and a massive volcanic explosion that destroys much of the world’s industry and shipping commerce
• a meteoric mass that contaminated one third of the water supply
• an astronomical eclipse that temporarily wiped out one third of the daylight
• a demonic-like locust attack that caused unbearable torture upon the ungodly of the earth
• a second demonic-like military attack that killed one third of the ungodly and evil of the earth
It is now time for the seventh trumpet judgment to blast forth. But before it does, so much horror and destruction has hit the earth that the human heart cries out, “Is there no hope? Is the earth doomed? Is it to be a dead planet? Is it to be nothing more than a ball of molten lava floating through space like so many other dead planets and stars? Is all life to be destroyed? Is this the pessimistic and hopeless future of the earth?” No! A thousand no’s! All the destruction and devastation will take place upon earth, but there is to be a final triumph over evil and destruction. This is the great announcement of this passage. God’s eternal plan for salvation and for a new heavens and earth will be consummated.
⇒ All the prophets of doomsday are wrong. God is going to save all who will give their lives to Him, and He is going to make a new heavens and earth that will be perfect and last forever and ever.
⇒ All the prophets of humanism (man is his own god) are wrong. The earth is going to suffer convulsive and catastrophic horrors. The earth and its time are running down, and man himself cannot stop the process.
But this is the glorious message of these next four passages (chapters ten and eleven). God is going to conquer evil. This is the great announcement of the final triumph over evil.
[Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Revelation, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide, 1996), 140.]
describes the events that will occur at the middle of the seven-year Tribulation. This explains John’s repeated mention of the three-and-a-half-year time segment in one form or another (; , ; ). At the beginning of this period, the Antichrist began to make his conquest by promising to protect the Jews and assist in their rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. But after three-and-a-half-years, he will break his agreement, invade the temple, and begin to persecute the Jewish people.
However depressing the events of this middle segment of the Tribulation may be, God is not without His witness to the world. In are three important testimonies: from a mighty angel (), from the two special witnesses (), and from the elders in heaven ().
[Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 596.]

I. God’s Invitation ().

A. "Go & Take...” (v. 8).

Revelation 10:8 KJV 1900
And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
The voice - from verse 4 above, God.
Spake … again - I’m glad that God “speaks again...” even after He tells John to “seal up” the content of the seven thunders.
Go take - When God speaks, He instructs and commands… “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
Little book which is open - See JFB:
a little book—a roll little in comparison with the “book” () which contained the whole vast scheme of God’s purposes, not to be fully read till the final consummation. This other, a less book, contained only a portion which John was now to make his own (, ), and then to use in prophesying to others. The New Testament begins with the word “book” (Greek,biblus”), of which “the little book” (Greek,biblaridion”) is the diminutive, “the little bible,” the Bible in miniature.
a little book—a roll little in comparison with the “book” () which contained the whole vast scheme of God’s purposes, not to be fully read till the final consummation. This other, a less book, contained only a portion which John was now to make his own (, ), and then to use in prophesying to others. The New Testament begins with the word “book” (Greek,biblus”), of which “the little book” (Greek,biblaridion”) is the diminutive, “the little bible,” the Bible in miniature.
[Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 574.]
The angel which standeth… - See Thomas, who references Walvoord.
The symbolic stance of the angel reminds him for the third time in this chapter (cf. vv. 2, 5) of the angel’s complete authority over the whole earthly situation (Walvoord).
[Robert L. Thomas, : An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 72.]

B. "Give me the Little Book" (v. 9a).

Revelation 10:9 KJV 1900
And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.
John did as he was told, no questions asked, simply trusting obedience.

C. “Take…& Eat...” the Little Book (v. 9b).

John followed instructions VERY CAREFULLY. e.g. “Eat it up… I… ate it up...”
Belly - or, koilian, literally has the sense of the entire digestive tract.
Bitter…sweet - Understanding - Bitter in the Stomach; Sweet in the Mouth (God's Perspective).
As the great scroll of chapter 5 outlined the destiny of the entire human race, so the little scroll unveils the lot of the faithful in those last days of fierce Satanic opposition. It tells of the two witnesses who, when they have finished their testimony, are destroyed by the beast out of the Abyss (11:7). Like the crucified Lord their dead bodies are exposed for public contempt (11:8). The people of God as they faithfully bear their witness to the world are not delivered “from martyrdom and death, but through martyrdom and death to a glorious resurrection.”53 The prospect of no further delay in the fulfillment of God’s eternal purposes is sweet indeed. That it will involve a bitter prelude is hard to swallow.54
52 Taking ἐπί in the sense of “to” or “about” rather than “against,” as in .
53 Erdman, 99.
54 Lilje holds the book to be sweet and bitter at the same time since the commission includes both the announcement of wrath and the promise of succor (157); Beasley-Murray favors the same interpretation (175). Peterson writes of the “polarity of sweetness and bitterness” experienced by every witness (109). Others reverse the order and refer the sweetness to final blessedness (Kepler, cited by Morris, 139; Blaney, 462).
[Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 210.]

II. Our Meditation ().

Revelation 10:10 KJV 1900
And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

A. John “Took… and Ate” the Little Book (v. 10a).

Eating the book symbolizes internalizing its contents, because the eater can then prophesy (; ). But whereas Ezekiel was to deliver the message only to the house of Israel (), John will prophesy to “many peoples, nations, languages and kings” (), like Jeremiah ()—and the two witnesses ().14
14 Ezekiel also gave oracles to the nations (), as did other prophets (; ; ); but the particular scroll in addresses Israel. Though John technically prophesies here only to seven urban church communities, his message will be spread by others (see David Hill, “Prophecy and Prophets in the Revelation of St John,” NTS 18 [July 1972]: 401–18 [pp. 417–18]). For prophetic inspiration concerning all peoples, see Sib. Or. 3.162–64, 297–99, 518–19.
[Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 283.]
God’s Word is compared to food: bread (), milk (), meat (), and honey (). The Prophets Jeremiah () and Ezekiel () knew what it was to “eat” the Word before they could share it with others. The Word must always “become flesh” () before it can be given to those who need it. Woe unto that preacher or teacher who merely echoes God’s Word and does not incarnate it, making it a living part of his very being.
God will not thrust His Word into our mouths and force us to receive it. He hands it to us and we must take it. Nor can He change the effects the Word will have in our lives: there will be both sorrow and joy, bitterness and sweetness. God’s Word contains sweet promises and assurances, but it also contains bitter warnings and prophecies of judgment. The Christian bears witness of both life and death (). The faithful minister will declare all of God’s counsel (). He will not dilute the message of God simply to please his listeners ().
[Wiersbe, 598.]

B. "My Belly Was Bitter” (v. 10b).

- Assimilating - Sweet in the Mouth; Bitter in the Stomach (John's Perspective).
Illustration - Eating The Bitter Melon
Eating The Bitter Melon
The famous Oriental philosopher, Lokman, while a slave, being presented by his master with a bitter melon, immediately ate it all. “How was it possible,” said his master, “for you to eat so nauseous a fruit?”
Lokman replied, “I have received so many favours from you, it is no wonder I should, for once in my life, eat a bitter melon from your hand.” This generous answer of the slave struck the master so forcibly that he immediately gave him his liberty. —Walter Baxendale
—Walter Baxendale
[Tan, 1510.]
All have had the experience of eating something that was pleasant to the taste, but left an upset digestive tract later. Twice it has been noted that this little book was open. It may well be surmised that John therefore read what was written therein. It may be that John was pleased in what he read, however, the aftermath was bitter.
If the assumption is that the first portion of the next chapter revealed the contents of the little book, then it might be that John was pleased to read of the two witnesses and their ministry during the early years of the Tribulation. However, their untimely death and the desecration of their bodies would certainly be upsetting to him.
Others have speculated that the sweetness may have been the judgment of the persecutors of God’s people only to find out the day of wrath will focus in large measure upon his brethren, the Jews. It may be the bitterness is his realization of the judgment brought upon Israel during the Tribulation and the sweetness of their eventual conversion to Christ before it is over. But this is all speculation. The text does not explain either the sweetness nor the bitterness.
John thereupon did as instructed and ate the little book. As foretold, it was in his mouth sweet as honey, but left his belly bitter.
[David H. Sorenson, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary - Hebrews through Revelation, vol. 11, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary (Northstar Ministries, 2007), 442–443.]
All who love Jesus Christ can relate to John’s ambivalence. Believers long for Christ to return in glory, for Satan to be destroyed, and the glorious kingdom of our Lord to be set up on earth, in which He will rule in universal sovereignty and glory while establishing in the world righteousness, truth, and peace. But they, like Paul (), mourn bitterly over the judgment of the ungodly.
[John F. MacArthur Jr., , MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 288.]

III. Ministerial Motivation ().

Revelation 10:11 KJV 1900
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
Compelled to Forth-Tell
There is another very real application of this. Many folk begin the study of prophecy with enthusiasm, but when they find that it is applicable to their life and that it makes demands on them personally, they lose interest, and it becomes a bitter thing. Many people say, “I don’t want to hear about the Book of don’t like prophecy. It frightens me!” May I say to you that it is supposed to do that, but it should be in your mouth sweet as honey. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who like to study prophecy because of the natural curiosity to know the future, but they will discover that there is nothing in the Word of God that ministers more to a holy life than the thoughtful study of prophecy. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself …” (). To be a student of prophecy and live a dirty life will only lead to abnormality. The reason we hear so much abnormality in the interpretation of prophecy in our day is that the Word of God is not having its way in the hearts and lives of the folk who study it. It is unfortunate that people will get interested in prophecy but not in Christian living.
Years ago after I had recently come to California, I went to see Dr. Gaebelein who was visiting here. He said to me, “How do you like your church in California?” I told him, “It’s wonderful. I enjoy it, but there is something strange out here. [I have since learned that this is true everywhere, but I had not detected it before.] I can teach the Book of Revelation in my church, and it will fill up on Wednesday nights. But if I teach the Epistle to the Romans, I empty the church.” I never shall forget what Dr. Gaebelein said in his broken Prussian accent, “Brother McGee, you are going to find that a great many of the saints are more interested in Antichrist than they are in Christ.” I have discovered that he was accurate.
[J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, electronic ed., vol. 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 977–978.]
(4) We should follow John’s example, obeying even when the message we are called to proclaim proves bitter or does not make sense to us. Some circles, especially those that emphasize prosperity, condition audiences to expect only pleasant things from God; but his message is not always pleasant, though he always provides the obedient grace to endure it (cf. ; ).
(5) The message of Revelation concerns “many peoples” (10:11). No one is exempt from its warnings, and those most inclined to comfort themselves with the current ease of their society should take special heed. The cup of judgment will come to all people (), as will the suffering of believers ().
[Keener, 285.]
[Keener, 285.]


God desires a similar experience from each of His Disciples:
His invitation to "Go & take His words" leads to our desire to ask, "Give unto Thy servant Your words."
Upon reception of His words, we then are moved to meditate upon them, and assimilate them into the deepest and inward parts of our being.
Then, we receive the promise and motivation to redeem the time, and take each opportunity available to proclaim forth, "Thus saith the Lord!"
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