by Roger McCay
9 October 2022
Sermon Passage: Revelation 10:5-11
Link to Audio Version
“Most news is bad: an earthquake, a hurricane, a murder, a scandal. Most news is also inactionable: there is nothing you can do about it.” So observes D.J. Marotta, in his insightful article “News as Spiritual Deformation.” And this is unhealthy. The limited actionability of so much of the nonstop news (piped to us from around the world) injures the soul. Such news causes “anxiety” rather than joy and contentment; “loss of agency” rather than a sense of ability to act with meaningful consequence; “anger” rather than peace; and “hate” rather than love. 
This is the result of a bait and switch perpetrated by the media. It draws on our desire to be like God, knowing everything. So it baits us, like the fruit of the forbidden tree before Eve. But we all know she should have left that tree alone and been content with the abundant fruit of any of the multitude of other trees all around her.
It is not that we shouldn’t keep tab on the big issues out there that effect our nation and our world, as they could end up effecting our communities and each of us individually. Rather, the problem lies more with an obsession for the news, with the constant scrolling, trying to get that fix, like an addict. Having been hooked, Marotta suggests:
“Christians who watch or read a lot of news usually end up hating, not loving, their neighbor. They have been spiritually deformed by truckloads of voyeuristic, inactionable horror stories. They perceive themselves as part of a small, heroic, minority of good people at war against powerful multitudes of the ignorant (at best) or the wicked (at worst).”
So rather than being like God (the bait), ungodliness is the switch. Marotta asks, “What’s the use of inactionable news? It doesn’t typically help me love the Lord our God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. It doesn’t typically help me love my neighbor as myself. In short, it’s typically of no use.”
Marotta’s solution to this problem is that we, particularly Christians, should restrict ourselves in our intake of news, with a focus on local news. And he doesn’t mean we should focus mainly on city level news, but more on the “hyper-local” level: “News about a neighbor with a cancer diagnosis; News about the young couple down the street having their first child; News about someone in the church who’s lost a job; News about someone’s coworker visiting church for the first time.” 
Yet, that seems so limiting, doesn’t it? Boring. But is it really? Think about it. How might such a local focus inform us? How might it be healthier, even sanctifying? Marotta answers:
“This news presents you with an opportunity to love, to pray, to serve, or to celebrate at the human level. As you respond to such local news, a different kind of formation will work within you. Anxiety will be replaced with confidence, helplessness with initiative, anger with delight, hate with love.”
It can be difficult to be content. But contentment necessarily means accepting limits, and limits are necessary on finite beings, like ourselves. Ignoring our limits is to ignore our humanity and to play with madness. Gluttony is unhealthy.
Now, as a quick review, a couple of weeks back we took a look at Rev. 10:1-4. There we considered how the “mighty angel” was Jesus, symbolically described by John. We also reflected on the nature of the words of the seven thunders. According to the wisdom of God, they were to be sealed up, preserved in heaven, unrecorded by John—forbidden knowledge (likely of the time of the church age, the present millennium of Christ’s reign).
Yet, as we see in our passage today, while some knowledge was forbidden, the Lord did reveal important knowledge towards his people’s edification—things he wants his people to know. Let’s begin. Verses 5-7:
5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 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, 7 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.
So, here, Jesus, symbolically standing on both the sea and the land, which points to his sovereignty over all the earth and all nations (both Jews and Gentiles) … the Lord Jesus raises his right hand and takes an oath, using the customary form of swearing. The raising the hand to swear an oath also fits with the dramatic legal imagery of the court of God and the scroll from Rev. 5:1, which we now see here, in part, in the form of the little scroll. And note that Jesus swears by God himself. This fits exactly with what we know of the Lord God, when he takes an oath, such in Gen. 22:16, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD.” We find this form in Isaiah and Jeremiah, and then in Amos 6:8, which says, “the Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts.” There is no higher power by which to swear than the Lord, thus the Lord Jesus here swears “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.” The Lord swears by himself, and the phrasing he uses here emphasizes the totality of the Lord’s sovereign rule as the creator of all things.
Further, the imagery of this passage alludes to Dan. 12:7, and not by accident. The context of the events in John’s time, to which the symbolism of Revelation, ch. 10 points, is harmonious with Daniel’s vision:
7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished.
Without delving too deeply here, Daniel’s vision, in Dan. 12:7, prophetically speaks of the time of the Roman-Jewish war, which lasted three-and-a-half years, culminating in A.D. 70, with the destruction of the nation of Israel and the razing of Jerusalem and the Temple, which was the final end of the Old Covenant with Israel. Thus John, once again, draws imagery from an OT prophet, here tying Daniel’s prophecy to the realities his (John’s) Apocalypse points.
So it was that Jesus swore there would be no more delay (v. 6). But, what does he mean? Delay of what? Well, the Lord’s revelation to John (John’s Apocalypse) was given to John circa. AD 65/66, sometime “just after the outbreak of the Neronic persecution and just prior to the outbreak of both the Jewish War and the Roman Civil Wars.” John tells us in Rev. 1:1, 3 that the things revealed were “soon” to take place as they were “near” in time. Such time references help clarify what was meant, in Rev. 6:11, where the instruction to the martyrs under the altar was to “rest a little longer.” Jesus now says there will be no delay—immediately referring to the days of the sounding of the seventh trumpet and the mystery of God having been fulfilled. As for the mystery, keep in mind the flow of the Revelation up to now. The Lord’s decrees, laid out in the scroll that the Father handed to the Son to be read and carried out, in Rev. 5 (followed by the breaking of the seven seals and what they entailed), and the prayers of the saints from Rev. 8:3-5 (followed by the blowing of the first six trumpets and what they entailed) have been critical elements of our journey in the Apocalypse. Those are still in play. Thus, the carrying out of the Lord’s decrees and the Lord’s answer to the prayers of the saints are included as aspects of the mystery of God, which was fulfilled (in other words already revealed and inaugurated), in the imminent days of the seventh trumpet’s sounding (Rev. 11:15).
But before we zero down on this mystery of God, quick review. What, again, was the scroll, in Rev. 5:1? Back when we were in ch. 5, we studied how the scroll was symbolically an official document with specific covenantal significance. It served as “a divorce decree” against apostate Israel (God’s adulterous wife) and it heralded the execution of the covenant curses (God’s wrath) upon them due to their unfaithfulness. Thus, its decree definitively announced the end to the Old Covenant under the law. On the other hand, the carrying out of its declarations would free up the inheritors of the Covenant of Grace (the bride of Christ, made up of believers from all nations, both Jew and Gentile) to experience the fullness of the New Covenant blessings under the gospel. In such a way, it announced both the carrying out of the curses and blessings of the Covenant of Grace, as announced by the Lord’s servants the prophets.
Now, back to Rev. 10:7—the mystery of God. Haven’t the Scriptures already told us what this is? Eph. 3:6, for example. There, the apostle Paul plainly states: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Paul also refers to this mystery in Col. 1:26-27 and the doxology of Rom. 16:25-26, the latter which says the mystery is “made known unto all the nations unto obedience of the faith.” In a nutshell, the mystery of God was the mystery of Christ, the revealed gospel (the good news) for all who believe—both Jew and Gentile. So, the announcement of Rom. 10:5 is that in the days of the blowing of the seventh trumpet, the New Covenant, in Jesus Christ, had blossomed in fullness, and the Old Sinaitic Covenant was brought to dramatic conclusion with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Heb. 8:13). No longer were the people of God confined to one small nation. The gospel had been preached to the nations by the work of the Apostles (Matt. 24:14; Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:6) and the people of God existed throughout all the nations, Christians who were free in Christ, citizens of the Kingdom of God.
And this was not something that just popped up out of the blue. The prophets (Rev. 10:7) had seen it and proclaimed it. All the messianic prophecies of the OT proclaimed the gospel of the things to come, in Christ Jesus. They spoke of these things happening “in the end of the days,” meaning, as Milton Terry puts it, “the last days of the eon or dispensation under which they were living.” Hence, Isa. 2:2 (likewise Mic. 4:1): “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it.” Indeed, the Apostles understood they were living in the last days of that era foretold by the prophets, culminating in the time of the Messiah’s coming. Terry explains:
In the same manner the New Testament writers consider themselves as living near the end of the age and making known the mystery of God in Christ, “who was manifested at the end of the times” (1 Pet. 1:20). This “end of the times” belongs, not to the era of the new dispensation [which would be the church age we are in now—in other words in our future], but to the concluding days of the old. So God spoke in fulfillment of Messianic promises “in the end of these days in his Son” (Heb. 1:1).
Jesus’ ministry and the time of the apostles’ preaching the gospel occurred in the “fulness of times” (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10). Like Heb. 9:26 tells us, “He [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” And as Paul understood, it was upon him and his contemporaries “whom the end of the ages ha[d] come” (1 Cor. 10:11). The times of which they spoke were the “days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel.” And please understand. Those days are all in the past for you and I, ancient history. Yet the times heralded by the seventh trumpet carry on. Rev. 11:15: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
Thus, the final period of history spoken of in Daniel (e.g. Dan. 12:7), brought to mind by John, in Rev. 10:5-7, the end of the time period of which both Daniel and John’s visions encompassed … that time had come; there was no more delay. The era of the Covenant of Grace, in the form of the Old Covenant (given at Sinai), had come to its end. The era of the Covenant of Grace, in the form of the New Covenant, was projecting forth into the future—the church age and the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, we come to Rev. 10:8 and the first part of v. 9:
8 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.” 9a So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll.
Like the Lamb of God took the scroll from the Father, in Rev. 5, so now John takes the little scroll from the Son, in ch. 10, as a sort of recapitulation of ch. 1, vv. 1-2. And notice John is not given the full scroll. Only the Lamb of God was worthy to receive that scroll. No, the little scroll, as we saw a couple of weeks ago, was only a portion of the message of that scroll, as the Lord withheld certain knowledge from us, according to his perfect will.
So, Rev. 10:9-10:
9b 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.” 10 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.
Here John hearkens directly to the scene of Ezekiel’s calling in Ezek. 2-3, which was our OT reading this morning. Like Ezekiel was called to proclaim the Lord’s Word, so also John was called. Where Ezekiel ingested a scroll, so also John ingested a scroll. In both cases the scroll was sweet in the mouth. Yet Ezekiel’s spirit was made bitter and John’s stomach was made bitter.
As for the sweet taste of the scroll, isn’t that like Jeremiah spoke, concerning the Word of God? Jere. 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
In the case of these prophets, including John, the revealed Word of God was a sweet joy, the gospel of grace and forgiveness. But then, even with the hope of the Lord proclaimed to them, Israel refused to listen, refused to repent, and thus faced the Lord’s judgment and wrath. This was a bitter thing. A cause of anguish. So it was for John, as his people rejected the Lord Jesus, rejecting the good news of his triumph and the salvation of all who believe.
But the call to proclaim the gospel was not ended with the fall of Jerusalem. Verse 11: “And I was told, ‘You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’” Now, the word “again,” here, does not divide one portion of the Book of Revelation from the other. John has not prophesied in the book. He has only received revelation. What v. 11 speaks to, rather, are the days after the sounding of the seventh trumpet. John, as an apostle, had spent his time proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ for all the years after the Lord’s ascension into heaven until the time of his reception of the Apocalypse. He then received this vision while imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, as part of Nero’s persecution of the Christian church, which had begun in AD 64. John would survive the tribulation, and his commission, here in Rev. 10:11, seems to be assurance to that truth. After the tribulation and the fall of Jerusalem, his call as an Apostle would continue. He would, as Terry put it, “proclaim the passing away of the old darkness and the shining of the new and true light of the Gospel (1 John 2:8).” He would continue to proclaim what the Lord revealed to him “about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” He would proclaim the gospel, the call to follow Jesus in the obedience of faith, a call sent out to the whole world.
Brothers and sisters, John’s prophecy about the nations speaks to you and I today. The mystery of God has been revealed, and we, as believers, partake in the benefits of his grace through faith. The Lord has concealed certain knowledge from us, sure. He has not revealed the march of the nations through the millennium nor the signs of his coming at the end of time, when Christ will come bringing the consummation of his Kingdom, the resurrection and final judgement. Yet the Lord, in his Word, has abundantly revealed more than we can fully grasp in a lifetime. He has revealed all that we need to know him, his work, and his will. He has revealed our condition as sinners and his mercy and grace to save us, in Christ Jesus. He has shown us the way, and called us to follow him.
We should focus our energy not on what the Lord has concealed: forbidden knowledge. Such a practice is unhealthy. The last two millennia (since Jerusalem’s fall) have been filled with all sorts of people, saying that the signs show Jesus is coming in their time. Yet, he didn’t. Time and time again such prognostications have been put forth ad nauseum. Yet they were all wrong. Iain Murray spoke to this phenomena, back in 1971:
All the scripture texts claimed as proof that the coming of Jesus Christ must now be close at hand have also been confidently so used in former generations. Not a few Christians in the past have been erroneously convinced that their age must witness the end. When the Teutonic barbarians overturned Rome and reduced a stable world to chaos in the fifth century A.D., many in the Church despairingly drew the wrong conclusion that the world could have no future. Even larger numbers did so at the approach of the year 1000, believing that the closing millennium would end the world. In the gloom of the fourteenth century such tracts appeared as The Last Age of the Church, and in terms very similar to that old title a great number have written since.
And my friends, the birth of a red heifer, which I’ve heard mentioned recently, has absolutely nothing to do with the end times, the book of Revelation, or Jesus’ final coming. I strongly advise you to avoid taking seriously the eschatology of those who’d tell you it does, or things like it. The underlying errors of their theology go deep. Grasping onto this and that and listening to those who would put forward such things (like the red heifer) is not good for anybody. Revelation is not a book that provides a series of checklists about what must happen before Christ’s final return. As Gary Demar puts it, in his book Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church:
If you wonder why generation after generation of prophetic speculation has been off the mark, this is it. A series of signs that can be fit together in puzzle-like fashion giving us a picture of when Jesus will return does not exist. All attempts to make predictions, even a generalized prediction that “the antichrist is most certainly alive” somewhere in the world today, or that one “expects the Rapture to occur in his own lifetime,” or that “we live in the generation that will see Armageddon,” are dangerous and unscriptural. 
And the worse part about it is that such things end up marring the credibility of the gospel. Like one man said, “Too much wild-eyed speculation could eventually discredit the essential message we are called to proclaim.”  Such speculation is a legitimate cause of derision, tainting the true message of Jesus Christ, giving unbelievers a reason to laugh and turn away. Let’s not get caught up in such nonsense, my friends. The Lord has not given us signs to look for in order for us to determine the time of his final return. Looking for what he has deliberately withheld from us is unhealthy.
Rather, let us focus upon what the Lord has revealed—the gospel of Jesus Christ for the nations. That is healthy knowledge. Let us be content with the Lord’s wisdom as to his choice of what he wants us to know. Let us study his Word diligently, the sweet joy of the Word of Truth. Let us seek out opportunities to study his Word, and be discerning of whom you allow yourself to sit under to learn, in Bible Studies, in the books you read, and in the preaching of the Word. Take advantage of the Biblical studies we provide each Sunday by coming to Sunday School and the evening service. The Words of the Lord, the Words of life are taught in these forums. Prioritize your time accordingly.
Let us live out the gospel, applying what he has revealed to us, following Jesus in obedience of faith. Let the gospel shine forth in your life as a result of your focus on the local news, focusing on the life and people of the place where the Lord has planted you for his purposes.
When you and I focus on these things, we shine as beacons to the world of the grace and love of our Lord in our discovery of opportunities “to love, to pray, to serve, or to celebrate at the human level;” we discover opportunities to share the gospel and opportunities to live out the gospel (witness in both word and deed). Since the Lord revealed the good news for the nations, we should focus on living the gospel where we are.
D.J. Marotta, “News as Spiritual Deformation,” 25 February 2021, The Gospel Coalition, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/news-spiritual-deformation/
 Kenneth Gentry, Introduction to Revelation’s Date, 4 Dec 2020, postmillennialworldview.com, accessed 7 Oct 2022, https://postmillennialworldview.com/2020/12/04/introduction-to-revelations-date/
 Cf. Terry, 127.
 Terry, 127.
 Ibid, 127-128.
 Terry states, 129: “The most natural explanation of this is that the reception of the word of prophecy is a sweet and precious experience; the eating of this word, as in the case of Jeremiah (15:16), produced immediate joy and rejoicing of heart. But that word contained so many announcements fraught with “lamentations and mourning and woe,” and destined to be treated in so many instances with derision and defiance (cp. Eze. 2:9; 3:7) that the sympathetic heart would often be made bitter by reason of the burden.”
 Terry, 129.
 Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), xix, quoted by Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, Fourth revised edition. (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), 210.
 DeMar, 158.
 Quoted in Kenneth L. Woodward, “The Final Days Are Here Again,” Newsweek (18 March 1991), 55, quoted by DeMar, 66.