Between advents is time when the lost are frustrated and tormented – frustration and torment comes in waves, some periods more intense than others. Trying to promote self-centered and Satan-directed agenda to detriment of church and Kingdom of Christ but cannot prevail. Experience torment as demonic forces are unleashed against them and attack directly as well as through means – pagans beating up on each other.
While all this, the 6 seal and trumpet judgments, is happening around the church and persecution to some degree happening to the church, what should the church be about? Building Fallout Shelters? Establishing a secure reservation? Praying for Jesus to come and get us out of here? get us off this sinking ship before she goes down?
We are given three perspectives of the church during period of tribulation – one between sixth and seventh seal, another here between sixth and seventh trumpet, and a third brief exhortation between sixth and seventh bowl. First perspective is from heaven, describing church as both militant and triumphant, the saints sealed and thus protected from wrath of God. Here we have perspective from earth, describing the mission of the church during the same period.
Although Satan is restrained and limited by God in what he can do toward the saints, he is far from powerless. Remember how he attempted to infiltrate and destroy seven churches:
Lies and deceptions about the true content of the Gospel to eliminate its power and neutralize the church; external source
Lies and slander about the character of God’s people to halt the spread of the Gospel and its influence; external source
Lies and deception about the true nature of godly living; internal source
Lies and deception about the content and meaning of God’s truth; internal source
Lies about their true spiritual condition; direct focus on individuals
Lies about their abilities and usefulness; direct focus on individuals
Lies about the source of a right standard, authority
Satan uses same tactics throughout the entire age; this interlude an encouraging reminder of how Christ has equipped his church to carry out her mission in face of opposition and persecution.
A. the messenger v.1-4
appearance – v.1, Ezekiel 1:26-28, Daniel 10:5-6 and Rev. 1:13-15
with a cloud – connected with Christ and his return: Matt. 24:30, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27, Rev. 1:7; also pillar of cloud: Ex. 13:21, 33:9, Deut. 31:15 leading the way, standing at the tent representing God’s presence; present at Jesus’ transfiguration: Matt. 17:5
rainbow – reminder of the “everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” Gen. 9:16
little book – v.2a and Rev. 5:1-5
scroll first seen in Chapter 5 – written inside and outside – whatever subject matter is addressed in scroll, it is treated comprehensively. sealed with 7 seals – whatever time period is addressed is treated completely. scroll represents will and plan of God for period from Christ’s first advent until second advent.
“no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.” Rev. 5:3 “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” Rev. 5:5
Lion has opened the scroll, has read its contents, purpose is to reveal contents so they are hidden no longer. Exalted Christ dictated contents of Chapter 2-3: “To the angel of the church in _____ write”. Here uses a different but effective means to reveal God’s message to the church.
posture and voice – v.2b-4a, Rev. 1:15, Rev. 4:5
sea and land – indicating two important truths: the one delivering message is sovereign of all the earth, the message being delivered is pertinent to all the earth. To plant the foot – declare possession and dominion over; regardless of appearances, conclusions drawn from listening to nightly news, Christ is firmly in control over creation.
a loud voice – like a lion roaring: “Certainly the sovereign Lord does nothing without first revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who is not afraid? The sovereign Lord has spoken! Who can refuse to prophesy?” Amos 3:7-8 Parallelism indicates the lion = sovereign Lord.
reinforced by response from seven thunders, reminding of “peals of thunder” emanating from throne of God, accompanying judgments thrown down upon the earth. Further indicates his sovereign rule, directing the specifics of revelation – seal up this, prophesy that.
not explicitly stated but description overwhelmingly points to Christ as identity of heavenly messenger. Major component of ongoing spiritual battle is deception, fact that Satan and his agents routinely appear to be what they truly are not. Highly unlikely that God would send messenger to his servant John who looks like and sounds like and acts like Lord Jesus but really isn’t. Not airtight argument but pretty convincing!
B. the message v.5-7
certainty – v.6a; see also Heb. 6:13
Matt. 23:22 “whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and the one who sits on it.” Matt. 5:34 “ Do not swear at all either by heaven, for it is God’s throne.” If creatures are instructed to not swear by heaven, this must be another instance of God swearing by himself “since he has no one greater by whom to swear”. As surely as God is God, this will occur; if it doesn’t, then God isn’t God.
authority – v.6b; from Creator to creation. sea and land (v.5), entire earth
Creator has power and authority to do as he pleases with his creation. What is to follow comes from God in role of Creator, sovereign over land and sea; applies to all classes of people without exception.
proximity – v.6c-7a; time is soon, no delay
χρονος – general word referring to time in many senses; here “no more (passage) of time” as in “no delay”. What is about to happen will happen without delay, quickly, suddenly. When time comes that first thru sixth trumpet (seal) judgments are nearly complete, final end of all things (seventh) will quickly follow.
finality – v.7b; salvation finished
mystery: God’s plan for his creation in general, salvation in particular in all its aspects. Mystery culminates in “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Rev. 11:15
continuity – v.7c; declared to the prophets
old news, not new news; promises made by God through all ages will indeed be kept
clarity – v.2, 8; book is open; does not contain everything comprehensively (see v.4b) but everything needful
The seven thunders will be sealed and not written down, and there will be no delay before judgment comes. When the seventh trumpet sounds, that is it! There will be no more time to repent, no more chances for unbelievers to renounce their own righteousness. Judgment day will come. The angel has sworn to it, and all of the mysteries of God’s eternal decree will have finally unfolded in human history. Everything revealed in type and shadow to the prophets of old will be accomplished. God will punish all evil-doers, destroy the Devil and all of his minions, vindicate and reward his people, and usher in the glories of the age to come. This, of course, would have been of great encouragement to suffering Christians in the first century. It is equally comforting to us. Everything will turn out in the end just as God has promised. There will be no cosmic surprises. Riddlebarger
C. the mission v.8-11
receive the message – given to John by the messenger just as scroll was given to Ezekiel. Clear indication that contents did not originate with John but had divine source.
digest the message – instructed to digest bittersweet message; take it in, chew it up, meditate on it, make it a part of who he was so it would be useful to him, useable by him. Message includes both blessing and cursing, law and gospel, encouragement and judgment. One facet of bittersweet: church will not experience wrath of God but will endure some effects of wrath of the Beast.
repeat the message – not for John’s consumption only
take all my words that I speak to you to heart and listen carefully. Go to the exiles, to your fellow countrymen, and speak to them – say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says,’ whether they pay attention or not.” (Eze. 3:10-11)
God intends message to be heard by all mankind. It is through the “church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) that message is propagated. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God. “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15, 17)