Sermon: A Bittersweet Message To Proclaim: Revelation 10

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 2:1–3:15

“’Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.’ And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.’ And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. 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. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.’ Moreover, he said to me, ‘Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.’ Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: ‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place!’ It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. 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. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days” (Ezekiel 2:1–3:15, ESV).

New Testament Reading: Revelation 10

“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, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.’ 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. 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’” (Revelation 10, ESV).

Introduction

I hope that by now you are growing accustom to the rhythm of the book of Revelation. The book is highly structured and it is repetitive. Both the structure and the repetition are meaningful.

The repetition – the repeated, albeit varied, description of how things will be in the world in the age between Christ’s first and second comings – is meaningful in that it corresponds to the repetitive nature of human history. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. The book of Revelation portrays, through the symbol-laden visions shown to John recorded for us in chapters 6 through 8, how things will be in this world until Christ returns.

Two passages from the gospels, which record the direct teaching Christ, seem to sum up the overarching message of Revelation chapters 6 through 8.

The first has been cited many times already. It is in Matthew 24:6-8 that we hear Christ say to his disciples, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6–8, ESV).

This truth, taught by Christ in a most direct way, has been portrayed repeatedly and via symbol in Revelation chapters 6 through 8. This age will be marked by nations rising against nations, wars, rumors of war, famines, and natural disasters. This will be the norm. Their presence does not necessarily signal the end, but rather reminds us that the end will eventually come. God, by his mercy, will restrain evil until then. He will refrain from pouring out full and final judgment until the appointed time. But we should expect an intensification of wickedness and calamity on earth as the day of the Lord draws near. As it is with birth pains, so will it be when it comes to wickedness and trials and tribulations in the world. We should expect intensification.

This is what Jesus taught directly, and this is what the visions of Revelation 6 through 8 symbolize.

The second passage that comes to mind from the teaching of Christ in the gospels is John chapters 16 and 17. I cannot read these chapters in their entirety, but listen to the words of Christ in 16:33 as he prepares his disciples for life in this world in the time between his first and second comings: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).

This is the other overarching message communicated in Revelation chapters 6-8: Those who belong to Christ will experience tribulation, but they are to be at peace in the world. Why are they to be at peace? Because Christ has overcome the world, and they belong to him. He has won the victory so that to die in Christ is to live – remember Revelation 6:9-11. His people are sealed so that they might be preserved in the midst of tribulation – remember Revelation 7:3-8. And because they are sealed those who belong to Christ are also protected from the torments of the evil one  – remember Revelation 9:4. And do not forget that Christ, because he has won the victory, is able to bring his people home to glory – remember the vision of Revelation 7:9-17.

God will keep his people in the midst of tribulation in and through Christ Jesus. Jesus said it directly. The visions of Revelation have symbolized it for us.

The book of Revelation also urges the Christian to be comforted by the bittersweet thought that God is active in pouring out partial and perpetual judgments upon his enemies even now, and that he will indeed judge his enemies fully and finally in the end.

Therefore, the repetition of Revelation 6 through 8 is intended to drive these three points home: One, there will be tribulation in the world until the Lord returns and even the people of God will experience it.  Two, God will preserve those who are his in Christ Jesus in midst of it.  Three, God is actively judging his enemies now in partial ways, but he will judge fully and finally in the end. This thought should be bittersweet to the Christian. Sweet in that it will be the day when God makes all things right and new. Bitter in that no Christian would ever celebrate at the thought of, even a personal enemy, coming under God’s judgment, but would rather mourn (Ezekiel 18:23). We should remember that the final judgment will produce, not celebration in heaven, but solemn silence (Revelation 8:1).

I have taken the time to review in this way for two reasons.

One, I want to exhort you to think deeply about these particular truths before we move on from them. It is not that we will move away from these concepts completely, but the focus does shift rather significantly beginning with chapter 12, which we will come to shortly.

Two, I have reviewed in this way so as to help us get our bearings before jumping into this new and distinct portion of the book of Revelation.

Exposition

What do we have here beginning with 10:1 except another interlude. Do you remember that term? I used it before to describe the literary feature that we encountered near to the end of the seal cycle.

We were told at the beginning of the seal cycle that there were seven seals to be broken by the Lamb. John then proceeded to describe to us the breaking of the individual seals and the visions that followed – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 – and then something unexpected happened. We were led to anticipate the breaking of the 7th seal but instead the cycle was interrupted.

The interruption itself provided a sense of delay – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… the final judgment is not yet. But the content of the interlude was most revealing. It was there in Revelation 7 that we were shown the 144,000 sealed on earth followed by a vision of all the redeemed in heaven – an innumerable multitude from every tongue tribe and nation. The interlude communicated delay – final judgment is not yet – and it is also stressed the principle that God will keep his people on earth in the midst of tribulation and bring them safely home to glory.

It is no surprise, then, that we find the same feature in the trumpet cycle which has mirrored the seal cycle in many ways. How many trumpets are to be blown? Seven trumpets. How many have been blown? Only six. And now we have an interruption. The seventh trumpet will not be blown util Revelation 11:15.

If you were guess based upon what you have seen so far in the book of Revelation, what do you think will be emphasized in this interlude? Wouldn’t you assume that we would again see an emphasis God’s preservation of his people?

That is indeed what we have. Look ahead to chapter 11 verse 1.

It is there that John is “given a measuring rod like a staff, and [is]… told, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there” (Revelation 11:1, ESV). The temple, the alter, and those who worship there are protected, while the court outside the temple is “given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2, ESV). I’ll explain the text when we get there. For now, recognize the obvious point that it has to do with the protection and preservation of those who worship God on the earth as they are surrounded by the wicked.

The same principle is communicated, but from a different vantage point, with the “two witnesses”, who are called “the two olive trees” in Revelation 11:3-13. They serve God faithfully. They are killed by the wicked. “But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them” (Revelation 11:11–12, ESV). I’ll explain the text when we get there. For now, recognize that this passage has to do with God’s ability to bring his servants safely home to glory.

So the interlude of chapter 11 mirrors the interlude of chapter 7. The same overarching principles are communicated in both texts but in a different way, and with a different emphasis.

You’ve noticed, no doubt, that I have said a lot about the chapters that come before our text by way of review, and I’ve looked forward to the chapter that comes after our text, but as of yet I have said nothing about the text that is before us today. Let’s get to it now.

Here in chapter 10 we encounter a vision wherein John is recommissioned to prophecy concerning God’s judgments, which to John is bittersweet.

Indeed, John has already been prophesying in the book of Revelation. He has already been bearing “witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (Revelation 1:2, ESV). But here in 10:1 John is recommissioned as the chain of transmission that was verbally communicated in Revelation 1:1-3 is visually portrayed.

Do you remember then chain of transmission communicated in Revelation 1:1-3? “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1–3, ESV).

The prophesies of the book of Revelation come to us from God who gave them to Christ who gave them to his angel who gave them to John to reveal to the church. This chain of transmission was stated verbally in 1:1-3 but it has been symbolized progressively in the book of Revelation through the exchange of the scroll which was initially sealed with seven seals.

We have already witnessed the first step in the chain of transmission. Revelation 5:1: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals” (Revelation 5:1, ESV). No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was found worthy to open the scroll with the exception of the Lamb who had been slain but was now alive. “He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Revelation 5:7, ESV), and he began to break it’s seals.

Here we have a vision of the last stages of the chain of transmission as a mighty angel descends to give the little scroll, now opened, to John and God recommissions him to prophesy. The recommissioning at this point serves to highlight the fact that everything is about to intensify in the book and will have to do with the time of the end and the mysteries of God.

In 10:1 we read, “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” (Revelation 10:1, ESV). Some argue that this must be Christ himself given the glorious way in which this angel is described and the similarities with other passages that describe the glory of God and Christ. It is better, I think, to understand this being to be a mighty angel who comes from God and Christ and therefore represents them in a most powerful way.

In 10:2 we read, “He had a little scroll open in his hand…” (Revelation 10:2, ESV). We should not make too much out of the fact that before the “scroll” was simply called a “scroll”, but here it is called a “little scroll”. It is significant, I think, that the little scroll is said to be “open”. That is emphasized here in 10:2 and also in 10:8 where John is told to “the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel…” (Revelation 10:8, ESV). This is the scroll that was at first sealed but has been opened by Christ, given to the angel, who is hear seen giving it to John.

In 10:2 the angel is described as having “set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land…” (Revelation 10:2, ESV). This angel and the God who sent him has authority over land and sea. The scroll that he has will speak to God’s judgments over all that proceeds from land and sea – this will become important as the book of Revelation progresses.

In 10:3 we are told that the angel, “called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down” (Revelation 10:3–4, ESV).

How many cycles of seven are there in the book of Revelation. It is tempting to say “three” – the seals, trumpets and bowls – but really there are four if we include the thunders. They typically are not mentioned because the content of the seven thunders is not revealed, but rather hidden. John was commanded to “seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” This should remind us of Daniel’s experience when he, after receiving a vision, was told to “seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now’” (Daniel 8:26, ESV).

Commentators disagree over the meaning of the thunders being revealed to John and yet withheld from us.

Is this yet another way of God saying, “no more delay”? In other words, is this God saying that there will not be an ongoing recapitulation of cycles which communicate partial judgments – it’s time for the bowls of God full wrath to be poured out?

Or is this a way of communicating that, though the book of Revelation reveals much, it does not reveal all. There are some things about the time of the end which will remain mysterious to us and will only be known and understood as they happen. In other words, the book of Revelation advances what was revealed to Daniel, but the revelation is not exhaustive – somethings are left “sealed up”.

I prefer the second view, but it is not impossible to see that both might be correct. Perhaps both the end of delay and the ongoing presence mystery are meant to be communicated.

Look at verse 5: “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” (Revelation 10:5–7, ESV).

This great angel swears by God, who is the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all created things – heaven, earth, and sea – that there will be no more delay. The seventh trumpet will usher in a vision that signifies the consummation of all things – that is to say, the end. And what will be revealed in the bowl judgments will have only to do with the end – that is to say, the full and final outpouring of the wrath of God. No more delay.

And it will be in that day that “mystery of God [will] be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” The prophets certainly spoke concerning the time of the end. That it will come is certain. But there is much that we do not know. When will that day come? Only God knows. And what exactly will it be like? Only God knows.

In 10:8 John says, “Then the voice that I had heard from heaven (4:1; 10:4) 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’” (Revelation 10:8–9, ESV).

Certainly we are to remember Ezekiel 2 and the prophets commissioning to preach to Israel concerning the impending doom that would come upon them. Ezekiel was to call that people to repentance. He too was given a scroll to eat. In other words, he was to internalize the message, take it to heart, and live by it himself, before preaching the message to the people. The message was to him was both sweet and bitter. Sweet in that it was the word of God and contained promises concerning the future. Bitter in that his message would largely be ignored and would result in judgment.

I verse 10 we read, “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, ESV).

The message that John would to proclaim has to do, not with ethnic Israel, but with “many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” It is not hard to understand why his message is described as bittersweet. The message is bitter in that it has to do with the full and final judgment – the outputting of God’s wrath upon the ungodly. The message is sweet in that it describes the consummation of all of God’s plans, the day when all will be made right, and the ushering in of the new heavens and new earth.

Conclusion 

Are you ready for the Lord’s return?

“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:32–37, ESV).

Is the thought of his return and all that will happen on that day bittersweet to you?

Are you diligent to pray for the salvation of those who do not know Christ and to speak of him as the Lord gives opportunity?

 

 

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 10, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: A Bittersweet Message To Proclaim: Revelation 10

Week Of June 25th, 2017

WEEKLY READINGS
SUNDAY > Deut 30, Ps 119:73‐96, Isa 57, Matt 5
MONDAY > Deut 31, Ps 119:97‐120, Isa 58, Matt 6
TUESDAY > Deut 32, Ps 119:121‐144, Isa 59, Matt 7
WEDNESDAY > Deut 33‐34, Ps 119:145‐176, Isa 60, Matt 8
THURSDAY > Josh 1, Ps 120-122, Isa 61, Matt 9
FRIDAY > Josh 2, Ps 123-125, Isa 62, Matt 10
SATURDAY > Josh 3, Ps 126-128, Isa 63, Matt 11

MEMORY VERSE(S)
“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3, ESV).

CATECHISM QUESTION(S)
Baptist Catechism #87:
Q. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but daily breaks them in thought, word, and deed.

Posted in Weekly Passages, Posted by Mike. Comments Off on Week Of June 25th, 2017

Sermon Qs 06/18/17

Text: Rev 9:13-21 (read as group)
Notes: emmauscf.org/sermons
Begin with sharing general thoughts about the Sermon/Sermon Text
1. Discuss the various symbols, pictures, and representations discussed in this week’s text. Talk about what each one means and depicts and support with evidence for each. (See sermon notes)


Family Application: Discuss this week’s Catechism questions and share how to communicate these truths to your family.

Gospel Sharing Application: Share about ways in which you have been able to share, proclaim, display, or model the Gospel during this last week.

Suggested verse for meditation: “Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭9:13-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/rev.9.13-19.esv

Posted in Study Guides, Gospel Community Groups, Russell Schmidt, Posted by Russell. Comments Off on Sermon Qs 06/18/17

Sermon: The Sixth Trumpet – Four Destroying Angels, First Restrained, Then Released:  Revelation 9:13-21

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 46:1-11; 19–28

“The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: ‘Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle! Harness the horses; mount, O horsemen! Take your stations with your helmets, polish your spears, put on your armor! Why have I seen it? They are dismayed and have turned backward. Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste; they look not back— terror on every side!’ declares the Lord. ‘The swift cannot flee away, nor the warrior escape; in the north by the river Euphrates they have stumbled and fallen. Who is this, rising like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge? Egypt rises like the Nile, like rivers whose waters surge. He said, ‘I will rise, I will cover the earth, I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.’ Advance, O horses, and rage, O chariots! Let the warriors go out: men of Cush and Put who handle the shield, men of Lud, skilled in handling the bow. That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated and drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates. Go up to Gilead, and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt! In vain you have used many medicines; there is no healing for you… [verse 19] Prepare yourselves baggage for exile, O inhabitants of Egypt! For Memphis shall become a waste, a ruin, without inhabitant. A beautiful heifer is Egypt, but a biting fly from the north has come upon her. Even her hired soldiers in her midst are like fattened calves; yes, they have turned and fled together; they did not stand, for the day of their calamity has come upon them, the time of their punishment. She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away; for her enemies march in force and come against her with axes like those who fell trees. They shall cut down her forest, declares the Lord, though it is impenetrable, because they are more numerous than locusts; they are without number. The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame; she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.’ The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: ‘Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their life, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Afterward Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old’, declares the Lord. ‘But fear not, O Jacob my servant, nor be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished’” (Jeremiah 46:1-11; 19–28, ESV).

New Testament Reading: Revelation 9:13-21

“Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts’” (Revelation 9:13–21, ESV).

Exposition

When the sixth angel blew his trumpet John “heard a voice from the four horns of the golden alter before God…”

This golden alter has been mentioned many times now in the book of Revelation. In 6:9 John saw “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” under the alter. From there they cried out to God for justice to be served. What follows is a description of judgment, an answer to their prayers. In 8:3 it was upon this alter that John saw an angel offer up much incense along with the prayers of all the saints before the throne of God. And in 8:5 John says that “the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” This alter, then, has taken a central place in the book of Revelation. It has come to represent, on the one hand, the prayers of the saints in heaven and on earth coming to the ears of God, and on the other hand, the place from which the judgments of God are poured out upon the earth. The same seems to be true here in Revelation 9:13. John heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden alter. Are we not to assume that, one, judgment is about to be released, and two, that it is prayers of God’s people that precipitate the outpouring of the judgment.

The number four is used in the book of Revelation, as well as other places in scripture, to symbolize completeness especially in connection with the earth. We use the number four symbolically even today, referring to the ends of the earth as the four corners of the earth – north, south, east and west. The number four symbolizes global completeness. It is to here – to this four cornered alter – that the prayers of all the saints throughout all the world come. And it is from here that the judgments of God are poured out upon all the earth. Horns symbolize power in the Bible. It from this alter, with four horns on it’s corners, that the God’s powerful sovereign judgments are poured out.

What did the voice coming from the horns of the alter say? The voice from the alter addressed “the sixth angel who had the trumpet [saying], ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’” (Revelation 9:14, ESV).

The mention of “four angels… bound” here in this text should remind us immediately of the other bound quadruplets that we have encountered in the book of Revelation. The four horsemen of Revelation 6 and also the four angels called the four winds of heaven in Revelation 7:1-2 should come to mind. These spiritual beings were given authority by God to harm the earth, but they are described as being restrained until some appointed time, then they are released. The same is true here in Revelation 9. Mention is made of “four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”

The Euphrates River originates in eastern Turkey, flows through Syria and Iraq, joins the Tigris river, and then empties into the Persian Gulf. In biblical times, from the perspective of the Jews, the Euphrates River was associated with the enemy nations from the east who threatened them and who would eventually carry them into captivity. Put yourself in Israel and under the Old Covenant. Look east, away from the Mediterranean Sea, across the Jordan, far out into the wilderness. What do you think of when you consider that land where the Euphrates River runs? That is where the enemy lives. That is where conquering armies come from.

Quoting Dr. Dennis Johnson, “The Euphrates River had biblical and contemporary significance. In biblical history the Euphrates connoted a source of oppression and place of exile. Beyond the Euphrates River had stood ancient Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire that conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and Babylon, which had carried Judah into captivity. The Lord had humbled and dismantled Babylon through the rising power of the Medo-Persian Empire and had resettled his people in the land of promise. But prophets of the exile still spoke of foreign powers such as  ‘Gog,’ who would sweep down from the northeast, from the Euphrates, to afflict God’s people” (Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 150).

Johnson explains the contemporary significance of the Euphrates, saying, “For residents of the Roman Empire at the end of the first century [contemporary with the writing of the book of Revelation], the Euphrates was the eastern edge of the of Rome’s domain, beyond which were the threatening powers of the East, especially Parthia with its calvary of mounted archers, always harassing the Roman Empire’s eastern outposts. During the 60’s, after the conflagration that destroyed large portions of Rome and Nero’s disappearance, rumors flew in the capitol and the provinces that the megalomaniacal emperor had escaped to the east and was making preparations to reconquer the world at the head of the Parthian calvary” (Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 150).

Why do I read these excerpts from Johnson’s commentary? Well, they helps us get into the mind of the original reader of the book of Revelation living in 90 A.D. These were Christians who knew the Old Testament – they knew the significance of the Euphrates River, biblically speaking. And these were Christians living in a particular situation. To them, mention of powers pent up at the Euphrates meant something. It conjured up images of the marauding hoards that constantly assaulted their homeland. It probably also brought to mind the myth that Nero had fled there, and might return, bringing all manner of destruction with him. The vision shown to John is be understood with these things in mind. When the Christians living within those seven churches in Asia Minor to whom this book was addressed read the words, “release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates”, they would not have thought, I wonder what that will mean for Christian living 2,000 years from now, but rather, this image represents what has happened and what will happen time and again in human history – nation will rise up against nation, people against people, bring all manner death and destruction.

Mention of “angels bound at the Euphrates” has symbolic force. It symbolizes the fact we live in a world that is constantly on the verge of being given over to chaos and calamity. God, by his grace, restrains it; but he also permits calamities as a form of judgment upon the wicked. The voice from the alter addressed “the sixth angel who had the trumpet [saying], ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’” (Revelation 9:14, ESV).

“So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15, ESV). Notice that these angels were prepared, that is to say, made ready, for a particular task to be accomplished at a particular time – “the hour, the day, the month, and the year”.

The futurist believes that the “hour, the day, the month, and the year” is yet to come in our future. Tim Lahaye, a popular dispensationalist and futurist says, “There is no need to spiritualize, ‘the great river Euphrates’, considered by Bible scholars to be the greatest river of boundaries in the Bible… That these four evil angels are today (copyright 1999) bound in that area of the world is no accident, for it seems that some of the world’s greatest events took place near the Euphrates River” (Lahaye, Revelation Unveiled, 174). His view is that Revelation 9:13-21 describes something that will happen yet future to us.

Our view is that Revelation 9:13-21, though it describes events future to us, also describes events that were near in time to those who first to read Revelation, having received it from John in 90 A.D.

In response to Lahaye’s comment, “there is no need to spiritualize, ‘the great river Euphrates’”, I would say two things. One, I agree that we should not “spiritualize” the text if by that he means interpreting this passage as if it will never have any real fulfillment that manifests itself in the physical world, but only “spiritual” meaning or application. I do think that this text has been and will be fulfilled in the world through actual historical happenings. Two, though we ought not to spiritualize this passage in the way described above, we must take it as symbolic. The whole of the book of Revelation is filled with symbols. The book communicates truth via symbol. That is why our first impulse should be to ask, what does the river Euphrates symbolize, and what does the releasing of the four angels bound there, prepared for “the hour, the day, the month, and the year” represent in this vision?

In the mind of the futurist there are literally four fallen angels – angels of destruction – bound right now at the Euphrates (I suppose they have been there for 1,900 years or more) who are waiting for “the hour, the day, the month, and the year” so that they might do what they have been prepared to do.

The idealist, which is what I am, interprets the passage differently and begins by asking what do these things represent? And after discerning the symbolism associated with the number four, the Euphrates, and the principle of restraint and releasing, we then to move to ask the question, how has this been fulfilled in the past, and how might this come to be in the future?

Look at what happens when the angels are released. “So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15, ESV). Is this the final judgment? No, it is something less than that.

Then we are told that “the number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number” (Revelation 9:16, ESV). These mounted troops seem to appear out of nowhere. These four ungodly angels have power over these ungodly spiritual forces. Literally, their number is 200,000,000. This should remind us of what happened when the fifth trumpet was blown. The fallen star was given the key to the bottomless pit and when the pit was opened so many locust rushed out that the sun was darkened. So too, when the four angels are released, an innumerable hoard of evil spirits appear armed for battle and ridding upon horses.

Verse 17: “And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur , and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:17, ESV). These are ferocious creatures who bring about death and destruction.

“By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths” (Revelation 9:18, ESV). Beale notes that “elsewhere in the Apocalypse the same phrase [fire and sulphur] is always used in references to the final judgment of ungodly idolaters (14:10; 21:8) and of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (19:20; 20:10). Therefore, 9:17 speaks of a similar judgment, but one that precedes the final punishment. Likewise in the OT “fire and sulphur”, sometimes with “smoke,” indicate a fatal judgment (Gen. 19:24, 28; Deut. 29:23; 2 Sam. 22:9; Isa. 34:9-10; Ezek. 38:22)” (Beale, NIGTC, 510-511).

In verse 19 we read: “For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound” (Revelation 9:19, ESV). This should remind us of the description of the locust. It should also remind us that these are not literal horses, but symbolic. They represent demons in such a way that reminds us of their power, their ferocity, and their ability to deceive.

It seems to me that Christians living in America, or in any place that has not been touched by war or significant civil unrest for some time, have a particularly difficult time understanding what is symbolized here with the sounding of the sixth trumpet.

You and I live with a sense of security not enjoyed by all in the world today, not to mention the history of the world. Imagine what it would have been like to live in Europe in the 1940’s. Or put yourself in Korea living near the 38th parallel in 1950. Or imagine living in Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s. Somehow I think you might read Revelation 9:13-21 a little differently if you were living in those places at those times.

Certainly you would have thought, “this is being fulfilled now! I see it before my eyes. Death and destruction is all around me! Look at power of the evil one unleashed! Look at how sick and sinful humanity is!” Indeed, being surrounded on every side with death and destruction you would have been right to say, “it appears as if the four angels once bound at the Euphrates, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, have been released to kill a third of mankind.” If you had any knowledge of history you would also say, “this is not the first time”. If you had any understanding of human nature you would say, “this will not be the last”, unless the Lord returns.

My complaint against the futurist and the dispensationalist is not that they see the prophesies of the book of Revelation being fulfilled in the world today. I also believe that the visions shown to John are being and will be fulfilled. My complaint against them is that they busy themselves trying to find THE ONE EVENT that fulfills this passage or that exhaustively so that they might start their countdown clocks. The approach is misguided.

You would think that men and women, having had a taste of judgment and having seen with their eyes the depth of man’s depravity would turn from their own sin and to Christ. But look at verses 20 and 21: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:20–21, ESV).

This parallels the exodus. God judgments were poured out upon the Egyptians in the form of plagues, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He did not turn from worshipping his false God’s.

Let me draw your attention to four things before we close.

Intensification

First of all, notice the intensification that we see as the book of Revelation progresses.

Remember the how the seal cycle intensified as it progressed from seal to seal.

The first four describe calamity in general.

In the fifth the souls of the mortars cry out for justice.

The sixth describes the final judgment from an earthly perspective.

The seventh describes the final judgment from the heavenly perspective.

And notice the intensification from the seals to the trumpets.

1/4 to 1/3

The judgments poured out are less general and more pointed.

The imagery is more graphic

Notice the intensification from trumpet to trumpet.

In the first four the realms of creation are touched, disturbing the natural order of things, taking comfort and security from the earth dweller.

In the fifth, those who do not belong to Christ are tormented spiritually and physiologically, but in a limited way. For five months. The locusts cannot kill them.

In the sixth trumpet 1/3 of all the idol worshippers are killed.

We will see intensification as we move from the trumpet cycle to the bowl cycle.

The meaning is this, I think. The world – people and nations – tend towards evil, and not towards good. And therefore the judgments of God intensify accordingly in the lives of individuals and nations. And this pattern repeats itself, not only in the book of Revelation, but also in human history.

Applied To The World

It seems to me that the world is moving, not from bad to good, but from bad to bad, if not bad to worse. I disagree with the postmillennialist who is optimistic concerning the betterment of culture. I am optimistic concerning the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, but I question weather the world is going to become a better place.

“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to [Jesus] privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. ‘Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:3–14, ESV).

Applied To Nations

It seems to me that nations follow this pattern. They tend to degenerate over time, and not improve, morally speaking.

Applied To Individuals

And the same is true concerning individuals who do not know Christ. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing that Paul was talking about in Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:18–25, ESV).

Restraint

Secondly, notice the principle of restraint. The destructive angels who were eventually release were first of all bound.

And when they were released they were permitted to kill only 1/3 of the idolators – 2/3 of the enemies of God were spared.

To those who blaspheme God saying, “if there is a God then why is there so much suffering in the world?”, I say, “it is only because God is merciful that there is not more.” God would be right to judge all fully and finally now.

But he is merciful to all. And he unimaginably gracious to those whom he has determined to reconciled to himself through faith in Christ Jesus.

Permission

Thirdly, notice the principle of permission.

Certainly God will judge in a most direct way in the future. But he also judges by way of permission.

He gives men over to their sins, permitting them to walk according to their sinful desires so that they reap the consequences of their ways.

And he permits the evil spirits to at in this world. They are restrained – that we have already seen – but he does permit them to act so that he might bring about his judgments through them.

Preservation

Lastly, let me remind you of God’s ability to preserve those who are his.

What is described here in the sixth trumpet is God’s judgment poured out upon those who do  “not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor [do] they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” These are the ones judged.

This corresponds to the fifth seal. It is those who do not have God’s mark on them who come under his judgment. Christians suffer in the world, no doubt. But for the child of God the suffering is for good. It is to refine. The end of it is life. But for those not in Christ, the suffering is just judgment, and it’s end is death.

Turn to Christ, friend. Confess your sin to him, trust in him, cling to him always, and see that God is good and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Revelation 9:13-21, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: The Sixth Trumpet – Four Destroying Angels, First Restrained, Then Released:  Revelation 9:13-21

Week Of June 18th, 2017

WEEKLY READINGS
SUNDAY > Deut 23, Ps 112‐113, Isa 50, Rev 20
MONDAY > Deut 24, Ps 114‐115, Isa 51, Rev 21
TUESDAY > Deut 25, Ps 116, Isa 52, Rev 22
WEDNESDAY > Deut 26, Ps 117‐118, Isa 53, Matt 1
THURSDAY > Deut 27, Ps 119:1‐24, Isa 54, Matt 2
FRIDAY > Deut 28, Ps 119:25‐48, Isa 55, Matt 3
SATURDAY > Deut 29, Ps 119:49‐72, Isa 56, Matt 4

MEMORY VERSE(S)
“Nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10, ESV).

CATECHISM QUESTION(S)
Baptist Catechism #86:
Q. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A. The tenth commandment forbids all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

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Southern California Association of Reformed Baptist Churches

http://scarbc.org

Emmaus Christian Fellowship belongs to the Southern California Association of Reformed Baptist Churches (SCARBC).

The Constitution of the SCARBC states: “An Association consists of particular churches who have agreed to associate together at stated times, to obey the Word of God, to promote their own interests and the good of common causes found among them.”

The association holds tenaciously to the inerrant and infallible Word of God as found in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments in the Holy Bible (this being our only source of faith and practice), embraces and adopts the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 as the most accurate expression of that system of doctrine taught in the Bible. That Confession is the doctrinal statement and position (Strict Subscription) of the Association.

The association holds combined Sunday Evening Worship Services at various locations three to four times a year. We also work together on various projects and seek to strengthen one another in the most holy faith.

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Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies

http://irbsseminary.org

We are a fully functioning residential confessional Reformed Baptist Seminary – the first of its kind in history, rooted and grounded in the doctrine and practice of the Word of God as reflected in the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. This is the confession of our faith and a summary and just exhibition of the system of doctrine and religious belief which we believe is contained in the Holy Scripture, and therein revealed by God to man for his salvation.

We have a strong relationship with the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America and believe that an association of churches is the best method for cooperation in many areas, including ministerial training (this is at the heart of ARBCA’s convictions, directly expressed as a founding purpose). This seminary reflects the doctrine and practice of this association as a whole, and we believe this will allow for the proper balance of unity and diversity among our churches.

Serving not only Reformed Baptist churches internationally (We have already taught courses in Quebec, England, Ukraine, Zambia, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Far East), but also the broader Calvinistic Baptist movement, and local Baptist or Baptistic churches, our goal is to bring students from around the globe to study at our school and return to their churches prepared to further the cause of Christ there.

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Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America

http://www.arbca.com

The ASSOCIATION OF REFORMED BAPTIST CHURCHES OF AMERICA (ARBCA) was founded on March 11, 1997. On that day at the Cornerstone Church in Mesa, AZ the first General Assembly met to establish a charter membership of 24 churches from 14 states. Now in 2016 there are 59 member churches.

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warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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