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Revelation 10 - The Mystery Revealed

Unveiled Hope: The Reigning Christ of Revelation  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:28
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Reconciliation in our nation will never happen apart from the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

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Introduction

The United States of America is tearing itself apart. Every day brings another story of a city that votes to defund its police department, or a white celebrity whose entertainment contracts are cancelled because of “racist behavior” from decades ago, or monuments to past military figures desecrated or destroyed, or calls for reparation payments for slavery and the abolition of the Fourth of July as a “white supremacist” holiday, or the perpetual shouting match between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter”. (And of course all of this racial hatred and animosity has been gleefully picked up by politicians on both sides of the aisle, each one hoping to use that hatred as a weapon against their opponent so that they can take control of the government in November.)
We are a nation in desperate need of reconciliation with one another, but we are utterly helpless to accomplish it. Our own attempts at reconciliation with each other mostly consist of one side condemning the other side for its sins and demanding apologies. But the apologies never seem to be sincere enough for those who demand them, and the attempts at “justice” never seem to go far enough for those who call for them. And this is because, deep down, our indignation over “injustice” is rooted in our own guilt before God.
I know that I am deeply guilty before God, so I deal with that guilt by demanding someone else repent to me so that I can convince myself that I am righteous. That trick may work for a while, but because my underlying guilt before God never goes away I have to keep demanding more and more repentance from others. That is why the “apologies” never seem to go far enough and the demands for “justice” are never satisfied—the self-righteousness they provide me always withers away in the fire of my unrepented guilt and shame before God.
As we saw last week, we are a nation that is deeply, irreversibly guilty before God for our murderous, immoral, thieving, idolatrous behavior. But rather than repent of the appalling evil of our deeds, we double down, trying to atone for injustice one hundred fifty years ago by applying a fresh load of injustice now. We try to quench the fires of racial hatred and animosity with the kerosene of our envy and guilt, and we wonder why neighborhoods keep going up in flames.
We need to understand that
Reconciliation in our nation will never happen unless God’s people proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What I aim to show you this morning from Revelation 10 is that in Christ God has put to death the sins of racial animosity and racial vainglory, and that the only way that a people can be free of those sins (and every other sin) is to repent and believe the Gospel.
In order for us to be able to see this, it is necessary for us to take a step back and recap where we have been so far in the Book of Revelation. We have seen that John wrote this book to seven churches in the ancient region of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), to prepare them for “the things that will soon take place” (Rev. 1:1). Like every other book of the Bible, Revelation was written to a first-century audience who needed to hear its message in their own context—and just like every other book of the Bible, we here today need to understand it in their context before applying it to our own.
Bible-believing Christians have taken many different approaches to understanding Revelation, and for purposes of this series, we are taking the perspective that much of the book concerns the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is because we take John at his word when he says that these things would happen “soon”—as well as Jesus’ repeated declarations of the destruction that would fall on “this generation”—the generation of Jews that rejected His appearing and murdered Him.
So with that understanding in mind, we see the book open with a description of the LORD seated on His throne (Ch. 4). In Chapter 5, Jesus Christ comes and takes a scroll from Him Who sits on the Throne—a scroll representing His universal dominion and reign over all creation (cp. Dan. 7; Matt. 28:18). In Chapter 6, Jesus begins opening the scroll by breaking six of its seals one by one, unleashing His conquest on Jerusalem with war, famine and death. Before the seventh seal is opened in Chapter 8, there is a pause while God seals His people with the mark of the Lamb before He breaks the seventh seal of judgment on the generation that murdered the Messiah. In Chapter 8 that last seal is broken and the prayers of the saints are answered as a series of judgments fall on Jerusalem, represented by angels blowing trumpets—the first four in Chapter 8 and two more in Chapter 9.
Here in Chapter 10 there is another pause before the last trumpet is blown (which we will see Lord willing next week in Chapter 11). In verses 1-4, John sees a mighty angel coming down with a little scroll in his hand. In verses 5-7, the angel announces that when the seventh trumpet blows “the mystery is fulfilled”, and then in verses 8-11 John takes and eats the little scroll, which is sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach.
So in order for us to make sense of what is going on here, let’s start off by understanding what John says in verses 5-7:
Revelation 10:5–7 ESV
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, 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 angel (whose identity we will examine in a few minutes) swears an oath by God the Creator that “there would be no more delay, but in the days of the trumpet call… the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to His servants the prophets” (v. 7). So the first question is, what is the “mystery” that is revealed when this trumpet is blown? It is a “mystery that has been announced to the prophets”.
Now, does that sound familiar to you at all? In the passage we read together earlier from Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes about “the mystery of Christ”,
Ephesians 3:5 ESV
which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
I believe that the “mystery” that Paul was talking about is the same “mystery” that is in view here in Revelation 10—that it is

I. The fulfilled mystery of reconciliation (Revelation 10:5-7)

This is the mystery that God is finally revealing when the seventh trumpet blows:
The end of racial hatred in Christ (cp. Ephesians 3:4-6)
Throughout the entire New Testament we see the generational hatred of Jew for Gentile, and Gentile for Jew. The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 was astonished that a Jewish man like Jesus would even speak to her (the rabbis at the time claimed that Samaritans were not even fully human, and that their girl babies were born menstruating).
The Old Testament Law required God’s covenant people to make a place for “the foreigner” to worship, and when Solomon dedicated the Temple in 1 Kings 8, he prayed that any foreigners who come from outside Israel to worship would find a place at the Temple to call on YHWH—but by Jesus’ day the “Court of the Gentiles” around the Temple had been completely taken over by retail space for selling sacrifices and exchanging money, with a sign posted at the edge of the Temple proper threatening death to any Gentile who tried to come closer. (That is why Jesus was so infuriated and threw the moneychangers out of the Temple, because they were deliberately preventing any Gentile from coming to worship God).
Even into the Book of Acts you see the continuing racial hatred for Jew versus Gentile—the Jewish Christians in Acts initially refused to allow Gentiles to join with them in worship. It wasn’t until Peter had a direct vision from God in Acts 10 that he even believed that Gentiles could be saved, and Paul’s famous confrontation with Peter later in the book of Galatians demonstrated that even for the Apostles it was hard to let go of the old patterns of racial hatred and animosity.
But the mighty Angel in Revelation 10 swears that the seventh trumpet will be the final judgment on all that hatred and animosity. As we will see, that judgment was a horrible, bitter one—but the result was that old racial hatred being swept away to make way for
The beginning of a new unity in Christ (Ephesians 3:7-12)
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 3:9-10 that he had been appointed by God
Ephesians 3:9–10 ESV
and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
In the Church God was demonstrating the miracle of Jews and Gentiles together in one body—no more hatred, no more racial pride and vainglory, no more “us” versus “them”—just us, together in Jesus Christ! The Church is God’s demonstration to the world and to the spiritual authorities in the heavens—that racial pride and hatred is dead in Christ!
The judgment that was coming with the sound of the seventh trumpet was going to be the death-knell for racial pride and hatred between Jew and Gentile forever—the mystery of reconciliation would be fulfilled. And in verses 1-4, we see that the angel that proclaims the fulfillment of the mystery was not just any angel, but He is Christ Himself,

II. The mighty messenger of reconciliation (Revelation 10:1-4)

Commentators on Revelation differ (in good faith) as to the identity of this angel, but here are the reasons I want to suggest that this “angel” (literally “messenger”) is in fact Jesus Christ. Read verses 1-2:
Revelation 10:1–2 ESV
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land,
This angel, this messenger, is “wrapped in a cloud”—as Jesus is described in Daniel 7, appearing “with the clouds of heaven”. He has a “rainbow over His head”—like the rainbow over the throne of God in Revelation 4. His face is shining like the sun, just as Christ appeared in Rev. 1:16. And His legs were “pillars of fire”—just like the presence of YHWH appeared to Israel in the darkness of their 40 year wandering in the desert (Exodus 13:22). And notice that this messenger stands with one foot on the “sea” and the other on the “land”. The “sea” in Revelation is used as a symbol of the Gentile nations (Rev. 17:15), and we have discussed previously how the phrase “the land” is a symbol for “The Land of Israel”, the “Promised Land”, “The Holy Land”. So this angel stands with authority over both Jew and Gentile--
He is mighty to declare reconciliation
Jesus Christ has the authority to declare the fulfillment of the mystery of reconciliation. He is the one who comes in the clouds of universal authority with the scroll of His authority open in His hand—the seals are broken, His judgment against His enemies has begun. He is the covenant-keeping God of the rainbow, He is the faithful presence of God for His people in the dark wilderness. And we see in verses 3-4 that He has authority that goes far beyond what John was permitted to write—the “seven thunders” are part of the judgments of Revelation, just like the seven seals and the seven trumpets and the seven bowls—but we never hear what they are! The purposes and judgments of the reigning Christ go far beyond what we can know—but we can trust Him always judge rightly!
Jesus Christ is the mighty messenger of reconciliation—He is mighty to declare reconciliation, and
He is mighty to accomplish reconciliation (Ephesians 2:14-15)
The mighty messenger swears by the eternal Creator God (Rev. 10:5-6) that the mystery of reconciliation will be accomplished because He Himself is the reconciliation! Look back at Ephesians 2:14-15 (p. 977):
Ephesians 2:14–15 ESV
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
The mystery of reconciliation—of Jew and Gentile coming together as one body—is accomplished in the body of Christ Himself! In His flesh He suffered and died on the Cross to put an end forever to the guilt and shame that drives racial hatred and animosity, the ultimate Innocent Victim sacrificed to satisfy the wrath of God against both Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, Black and White! And in the place of the two ancient racial enemies He created one race—one New Man—and brought the peace that had been impossible before!
But notice how Paul says Jesus accomplished this—how did He “break down the wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile? He did it by “abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances”—in other words, Jesus removed the barrier of Jew and Gentile becoming one by abolishing the Law. His once-for-all sacrifice for sin abolished the Mosaic Law forever. The Law of Moses will never again be a barrier to anyone coming to faith in Jesus Christ!
And this is how the seventh trumpet judgment accomplished the fulfilment of the mystery of reconciliation—because when the seventh trumpet is blown in Chapter 11, the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed. As long as the Temple in Jerusalem stood, there would be standing pressure for Gentiles to become Jews as part of becoming Christians. (And in fact, in the years before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 Christians were widely considered in Rome to be nothing more than a sub-sect of Judaism). And so when the seventh trumpet sounds, “the mystery is fulfilled”, and the last barrier to the full inclusion of Gentiles into the New Covenant People of God would be swept away along with the old Temple.
The mighty messenger of reconciliation declares the fulfillment of the mystery of Gentiles becoming full New Covenant members along with the Jews. And in verses 8-11, John is commissioned to declare

III. The bittersweet message of reconciliation (Rev. 10:8-11)

Look at verses 8-11:
Revelation 10:8–11 ESV
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 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. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
What happens here is a direct parallel to the prophet Ezekiel’s experience in the Old Testament, when he was prophesying concerning the destruction of Jerusalem:
Ezekiel 3:1–3 ESV
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
The bitterness that John experienced is mentioned a few verses later in Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 3:14 ESV
The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me.
Have you ever been talking with someone and you can tell what they had for lunch? John is given the scroll of Christ’s universal reign from Chapter 5, and he eats it, so that from then on when he opens his mouth to speak, his words will bear the fragrance of the universal reign of Christ. He is to declare this message for “many peoples and nations and languages and kings”—everyone he speaks to must hear in his words the reality of the universal authority and reign of Jesus Christ.
These verses tell us that there is both a sweetness and a bitterness to our bearing witness about the reign of Jesus Christ over this world. The first is
The sweetness of the Gospel proclaimed
There is nothing more beautiful and exciting than to declare the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a poor and hurting soul crushed by guilt and shame, and see that person delivered from that guilt as they come to Jesus Christ in repentance! The sweetest words that will ever come out of your mouth, Christian, are the words that invite a poor dying sinner to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ! Like the old Gospel song says, “Tell me the story of Jesus / Write on my heart every word / Tell me the story most precious / Sweetest that ever was heard!”
And if there is nothing sweeter than proclaiming the Gospel of the reigning Christ to a repentant sinner, there is nothing more bitter than
The bitterness of grace rejected
Depend upon it, Christian, that if you commit yourself to filling your mouth with the sweetness of Gospel invitation, you will experience the stomach-churning bitterness and disappointment of rejection and scorn from those who refuse to hear. John had to write in this book the bitter horror of the judgment of God on an unrepentant Jerusalem—he had to write the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple itself, the Old Covenant Throne Room of God on earth. He had to write of the end of the world for Jerusalem, the death and destruction and utter annihilation of the greatest symbol of the Old Covenant world! Throughout the judgments to this point the grace of God has restrained the destruction—only one fourth of the land affected in the seals, only one third affected in the trumpets. But still the people refused to repent of their wicked rejection of His grace, and so when the last judgments come down they will be utterly destroyed.
Beloved, we are witnessing in our nation the frenzy of hatred and malice that is borne of a people who refuse to repent of their guilt before God, and who instead insist that other people repent before them. Every so-called “solution” that our country propose to “end racism” will do nothing more than perpetuate the hatred, envy and violence of racial animosity and pride. By assigning more guilt to each other and demanding more “repentance” from each other, all we are doing is intensifying the hatred, mistrust and suspicion. The only way out of this Hell on earth we are creating for ourselves is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We fill our mouths with the sweetness of the declaration that the only way to atone for black sins, the only way to atone for white sins is through the red blood of Jesus Christ. Black Lives Matter needs to repent, the police departments need to repent, Antifa needs to repent, Fox News needs to repent, Mother Jones needs to repent, every Democrat and every Republican needs to repent. Every last one of us, “red and yellow, black and white” needs to come to the Cross of Jesus Christ for the reconciliation he purchased for us by His blood. And every rebellious refusal to repent will be utterly destroyed as His Kingdom is established.
So, Christian, proclaim this bittersweet message, in the authority of the One who stands on earth and sea, the One who is wrapped in the clouds of His universal authority, the One who perfectly keeps every promise He ever made, the One who guides you in the darkness of this present wilderness by the bright pillars of fire of His presence! Reconciliation in our nation will only happen when God’s people openly and clearly proclaim this Gospel, that when you come in repentance to the One Who shed His blood on the Cross, He will forgive all your sins—every last one of them—and He will make you part of His Body, along with every people, nation language and kingdom! He has sworn that it will happen, and He never fails! So call this poor, wretched, pitiful, blind and naked nation to come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Jude 24–25 ESV
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

Why do our country’s continued efforts to “end racism” never accomplish anything? What is missing from our calls for “repentance” for racism? How does the reconciliation that Jesus accomplished by His death solve the problem of our racism?
Why was John directed to “eat” the scroll of Jesus’ universal dominion? How did that affect the words that came out of his mouth? Think of the way your words come out of your mouth this week. Is your speech flavored with the sweetness of the Good News of the reign of Jesus Christ?
Read over the description of Christ in verses 1-3, how does the way Jesus is described in those verses give you courage to share the Gospel in the face of the “bitterness” of rejection? Where can you share the Gospel of reconciliation with someone this week?
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