54. Eat this book…

Our modern world is quite focused on eating. Food is culture, part of that which defines and determines our everyday. I once read that 95 percent of conversations in France centre on food (and the other five percent on how to avoid taxes!). It might not be true, though – it is not official statistics! Food and the art of dining are dominant cultural factors, exported to and fro between countries. Famine and hunger dominate parts of the world where the lack of food causes heartbreaking human catastrophes.

Food is life. We need food so often that it should be a constant source of thanksgiving when we have the privilege to live in certainty of our next meal. Here in chapter 10 of Revelation we learn the beautiful metaphor of eating the Word of God. It is indeed our daily bread to keep us alive. We have the honour to know the Bread of Life who gave His body on the cross. It is the perfect symbol of our focus in the Holy Communion. John calls Jesus the Word, in his Gospel and in this chapter he is commanded to eat the scroll. To be filled with Jesus, to be fed by Jesus himself is just as much the command to us, as to John in the midst of the vision.

Psalm 119 is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. It is one of the alphabetic poems in the Bible. Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas, one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins (in Hebrew) with that letter. The whole Psalm is about the joy and worth of the Word of God, the Scripture that reveals God’s love and goodness, His purposes and salvation. This is what we need daily.

The Word is our food. It is what we should feed on to fulfill God’s purpose for us, which is the way to live a life of excellence. In the words of CS Lewis:

He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. (The Weight of Glory)

Again the scene in the unseen is dramatic and tense. An angel with a face like the sun, just like the face of Jesus shone on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) and legs of fire, descends with a rainbow over his head – the authority and promise of the Covenant and the glory of the Throne (Ezekiel 1:28). It is clear that he comes from the Presence of God. He is clothed by a cloud.

Who makes the clouds His chariot,

Who walks on the wings of the wind, (Psalms 104:3)

Chapters 10:1-11 and 11:1-14 are a kind of interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpet. The sixth has already been sounded and the seventh is sounded only in chapter 11:15.

In this interlude the mystery of God is revealed – the mission of the church.

…he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

The angel stands with his one foot on the sea and the other on the land to illustrate authority over the whole earth. God’s power is not limited – it is everywhere. He speaks with the voice like the roar of the lion. This lion-voice is well known throughout the Bible – Joel 3:16, Hosea 11:10, Amos 3:8. Some commentators are of the opinion that this angel is the glorified Christ Himself. His voice compels attention and inspires awe. His voice is the voice of God. Psalms 29:1-11 is a beautiful description of the voice of God. An example in verse 3:

The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;

The God of glory thunders;

The Lord is over many waters.

The message is spoken and cannot be ignored.

The roll is unopened and small, which depicts a limited revelation for a time. John is ordered not to record the revelation. It is not to be passed on. This is a wonderful submission to God’s timing. He reveals just the right thing at the right time. In 2 Corinthians 12:4 Paul describes his own vision of heaven and makes is personal and specific, not to be revealed to everyone. It was more than his generation could take or understand.

We are warned not to talk about everything. God is the only one worthy of secrets. Secrets with others can destroy and disappoint. Gossip and a lack of trust are ruling the realm of the Father of lies, our enemy. A lying spirit inhabits gossip. Just an exaggerated tone of voice can change the quality of a story. Let our words be truthful and kind.

God orders secrecy. There is power in keeping quiet. There is a reason. Just as our enemy would like to keep sin secret to keep as captive, so the secrets of God in our life make us strong.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2)

To us some things are not clear. We live without full revelation. It is God’s glory to conceal and reveal to meet our need.

For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12)

The command to be quiet could also refer to the Gospel of John to be written after John returned to Ephesus.

 The mystery of God is a theme throughout the Bible. God has a plan and He reveals the plan as He chooses. (Romans 16:25,26. Ephesians 1:9,10 & 3:1-11), also regarding Israel (Daniel 9:24, 26).

The angel makes an announcement, affirmed by an oath. He declares that there shall be delay no longer. It could mean that the time is limited until the seventh trumpet. It is more likely that there is no time left to avoid the destruction of the Antichrist. (Hebrews 10:37)

The hour for sin to be revealed has come – 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The scene is set for the final conquest. The mystery of God is to be fulfilled. The full purpose of God with humanity will stand revealed. The mystery of God is Jesus. He was heaven’s secret until His life on earth, death and resurrection.

Life is difficult; evil holds sway, but the guarantee is total victory. All the wrongs will be righted and all the questions answered. Though evil may flourish, it cannot and will not be triumphant.

John has a choice to take the scroll. He is ordered twice, but he had the option to refuse. Revelation is never forced. It is always a choice to receive. He asked the angel to give it (10:9).

 He eats and describes the consequences.

 To eat something, is to allow it to become part of your inner being. God is not an accessory to be worn when the mood dictates. Ezekiel had to eat the scroll.

Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.  (Ezekiel 3:1,3)

The description of sweetness as we “eat” the Word of God, echoes throughout Scripture.

The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 

More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold;

Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.  (Psalm 19:10,119:103)

In the Jewish educational it was custom to learn the alphabet, while the letters were written in a mixture of flour and honey on a slate. If the students answered correctly, they were allowed to lick the slate.

For John the message of the vision is bitter and sweet. It is sweet to be chosen to proclaim God’s love and goodness, but bitter to see the consequences of man’s hard-heartedness and sin. It is always an infinite privilege to know the secrets of heaven, but the forecast of doom and terror is heartbreaking, even when ultimate triumph is promised.

The gospel is sweet in love, grace and mercy, but it also brings inevitable judgment, which is bitter.

Your words were found, and I ate them,

And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;

For I am called by Your name,

O Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” (Ezekiel 2:8)

In the words of this great prophet who are experiencing and recording the ultimate revelation of a triumphant Jesus:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

 

 

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53.My strength, my song, my salvation.

All things God made are good. Creation is a wonder to be studied and appreciated every day. We, the children of Adam, have never stopped naming and labeling the wonders God made for us to sustain our life and enjoy. Our process of naming and labeling is what we call science and it is a source of awe and inspiration to any child of God, confirming the splendour of creation. Nature is an amazing and inexhaustible source of life and stimulation. Japanese researchers have established that just a 15 minute daily walk amongst trees, could reduce tiredness and improve mental health significantly.

In the previous chapters we came under the impression of nature’s participation in the judgment of sin. Nature is fully synced with God and His plan and “waits” for the revelation of His fullness in renewing the earth.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19)

The fifth trumpet is sounded in the heavens with awful intensity. It is announcing something beyond nature – the demonic. The abyss (reservoir of evil) is opened to release superhuman terror. In the ancient world, stars were regarded as living beings, celestial and divine in nature, but here they are described as evil. The fallen angel is Lucifer, known as the morning star and the leader of worship in heaven.

The abyss was regarded as the intermediate place of punishment for fallen angels, false prophets, satan, all demons and the beast – all things evil. (Revelation 9:1,2,11,11:7, 20:1, 20:3). The final place of punishment is the lake of burning fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10,20:14-15). The abyss was part of the creation story. It was seen as the primeval waters mentioned in Genesis 1:6-7. It is the abode of God’s enemies. (Amos 9:3, Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 74:13) The prisoners in the pit are the disobedient hosts of heaven. (Isaiah 24:21,22) It is a place of horror and separation from God and therefore chaotic.

Smoke depicts deception. Deception is the act of propagating beliefs in things that are not true, or not the whole truth. It is a concept that presents itself as truth. The sun of truth that should bring light is darkened by the smoke from the pit. The atmosphere is changed into oppression and depression. It is when the “Sun of Righteousness” shines “with healing in His wings” that we are saved from deception. (Malachi 4:2)

Clear and wise vision is needed to expose deception. Through smoke one cannot see clearly. Vision and breathing are impaired. The revelation of Jesus is truth and the breath of God is the Holy Spirit. This is the core message of Revelation: Jesus as the king of heaven and of our hearts and the revelation of truth and clean air to breathe by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit changes the atmosphere in which we live, regardless of our circumstances.

The invasion of locusts is a symbol of destruction and described in Joel 1 and 2. Locusts bring starvations and destruction. Nothing escapes the utter devastation of locusts on the march.

The commentators agree that according to the natural characteristics of locusts Joel and Revelation are not exaggerating. The devastation they cause is beyond belief. All grass, bark of trees and every living thing are stripped away. Locust has the head of a horse, illustrated by their German (Heupferd) and Italian (cavaletta) names. In Hebrew they had five names:

gazam – shearer – destroys vegetation

arbeh – swarmer – immensity of the numbers

caal’am – swallower or annihilator

hargol – galloper – speed

tslatsal – creaker – sound

They are loosed to attack men without the seal of God on their foreheads, not the vegetation of the earth. The terrors are not literal; demonic torment is being described. Demonic locusts have the power of scorpions added. They hurt with extreme pain, but cannot kill. Death will be seen as escape, but not available. God alone has power over death and life.

When we look around us the torment of the demonic in our society is vicious and merciless. Often death looks like the only way to escape the pain.

Five months are the life span of locusts. It is only a limited time of destruction allowed. They are being described as something coming from a sci-fi movie. They resembled:

  • horses equipped for battle – ready for a fight
  • golden crowns – wealth and luxury
  • hair like women – the adultress luring the church into sin somewhat attractive like all evil. Harlots of ancient times showed hair to attract. Married women had to cover their hair to show commitment and fidelity to one man.
  • tail – to sting and hurt with agony and distress. A scorpion is the symbol of excruciating pain – Luke 10:19.
  • king whom is called in Hebrew Abaddon (destruction), and in Greek Apollyon (destroyer-king).

In the aguish of sin the people will wish for death, but cannot die. (Job 3:21, Jeremiah 8:3)

The horror mounts in 9:13-21. Demonic torment is not to destroy but to lead to repentance. It is only in the deepest darkness and pain that some will turn and acknowledge the power of salvation and redemption.

The locusts destroy but cannot kill. In Luke 10:19 Christ gives us power over all.

Listen carefully: I have given you authority [that you now possess] to tread on serpents and scorpions, and [the ability to exercise authority] over all the power of the enemy (Satan); and nothing will [in any way] harm you. [Amplified]

Serpents and scorpions are symbols of demonic activity. That is what we are seeing around us in the world today – this present age. It is as Paul says:

You were following the ways of this world [influenced by this present age], in accordance with the prince of the power of the air (Satan), the [the unbelieving, who fight against the purposes of God]. (Ephesians 2:2, Amplified)

The voice from the four horns of the golden altar depicts divine displeasure. It indicates that that the sins of men must have been very great, when the altar, which was their sanctuary and protection, called aloud for vengeance. (Benson Commentary)

The four angels bound at Euphrates could be the four sultans living east of the former Roman Empire around the eleventh century. The Euphrates river was the border of Israel and later the Roman Empire with the rest of Asia. The angels might be from the distant lands outside Israel. (Countries have angels – Daniel 10:13).

The most dreaded warriors in the world were the Parthian cavalry who lived on the other side of the Euphrates. They were extremely effective soldiers for killing. Jews were familiar with the concept of angels carrying out punishment.

A third of mankind depicts a limit to the destruction. Looking back in history, the fall of the Turkish Empire, ruled by sultans, following the Roman Empire, comfortably fits into this description of the sixth trumpet. Their rule was “bound” by the river. They never extended into Israel or Europe because of the strong rule of the church in Europe and the crusades into Jerusalem, but established a false religion in the east. As quoted from Matthew Henry’s Commentary:

 The sixth angel sounded, and here the power of the Turks seems the subject. Their time is limited. They not only slew in war, but brought a poisonous and ruinous religion. The antichristian generation repented not under these dreadful judgments. From this sixth trumpet learn that God can make one enemy of the church a scourge and a plague to another. The idolatry in the remains of the eastern church and elsewhere, and the sins of professed Christians, render this prophecy and its fulfilment more wonderful. And the attentive reader of Scripture and history, may find his faith and hope strengthened by events, which in other respects fill his heart with anguish and his eyes with tears, while he sees that men who escape these plagues, repent not of their evil works, but go on with idolatries, wickedness, and cruelty, till wrath comes upon them to the utmost. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary – my emphasis)

Benson’s Commentary meticulously follows the years of the conquests to underline the detail of this prophecy in the history of the Turks and the Greeks. For myself, I have to restrain my interest in the historic detail, which thrills and captivates me.

The more important theme here is that evil is under restraint – the concept of limitation. The presence of the church contains evil. Jesus gave us authority over evil as quoted above from Luke 10. We keep the destruction at bay and with our armour in Christ bring down the principalities and powers of darkness. This is our true calling.

The number of the cavalry is depicted as something beyond counting – twice ten thousand times ten thousand, which calculates as two hundred million.

 The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands;

The Lord is among them as He was at Sinai, in holiness.  (Psalm 68:17)

They were armoured in the colours of flames; fire and brimstone coming out of their mouths always a symbol of evil and destruction. The horses have heads like lions and tails like serpents. Serpent-tails bring hurt and harm.

The revelation of evil serves to clear the way for repentance. Harm and hurt must be brought to the Healer. His Grace is always available, even for last minute repentance and desperate pleas for mercy.

So often God is blamed for all the bad things in the world, without any personal knowledge of Him or turning to Him. The wickedness of idolatry is so deep and deceptive that idolaters refuse to repent in spite of the overwhelming evidence of God’s displeasure with them. (Psalm 115:8; 135:18). The unfortunate effect of sorrow and distress is in some people the hardening of their hearts.

The last verses of this chapter sounds like a lament from heaven, mourning the unbelief of the people, while stating the facts of worship to the demons and idols of gold, silver and bronze that cannot see, hear or walk and the sins of murders, sorcery (drugs and intoxication), sexual immorality and robbery.

I thank God for the details of the vision that help me to understand the overwhelming evil in the world today and the consequences of destruction and disease. Just a glance at the statistics of STD’s as one example of immorality, is shocking. The general recommendation to avoid these diseases, is having one partner or complete abstinence.

What a privilege to live in the realm of the Kingdom on earth, to know that there is a better life where my value as a person is not determined by my participation in the life of destruction. We, as children of God, can live in the shadow and protection of our almighty Father and stand against the devastation.

Let us sing the ancient Song of Moses: (Exodus 15)

“I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously;

The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my song,

And He has become my salvation;

This is my God, and I will praise Him;

My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.