Saturday, January 23, 2016

... more thoughts on Revelation 10

This saga began here.

I apologize for the scatteredness of these posts.  Honestly, when the connections and understanding dawned on me, I was awake nearly an entire night, thinking through it all.  It is simple, yet complicated.  I wanted to explain my thoughts as simply as possible.  How I hope and pray that someone will bear with me and hear me out.

It seems to me that one of the biggest mistakes people make, when they study Revelation, is in assuming that it is all written out in a chronologically sequential order.  That assumption is probably based on our western mindset; it's how Americans and Western Europeans approach things.  One, two, three, you know.  Steps in order.  Ordered points leading to a conclusion.  To us, it seems the right way to do something.

I've read Revelation a number of times, probably at least six times.  Now, reading something and understanding something, those are two very different things.  I've studied Revelation, and portions of it, a few times.  Some of the studies have made more sense to me than others.  But, whether reading or studying, I've noticed something.  Certain themes, images and phrases keep rolling around and coming back again in Revelation.  For instance, the twenty-four elders keep falling on their faces, overcome with worship for Almighty God.  This happens in Revelation 4:10, 5:8, 7:11, 11:16, 19:4 (and in 1:17, John himself fell at the feet of Jesus, as though dead).  Now, certainly the awesome presence of the Lord could (and most likely will) cause this kind of worship to happen repeatedly in eternity.  However, I think we can also consider the possibility that this climactic moment of worship is, in fact, one climactic moment of worship--at the culmination of all that God has accomplished in Christ--that is so significant and stunning that the visions continually revert to describing it.

I say this because my understanding is that Hebrew rhetoric, unlike western rhetoric, is not linear.  Hebrew rhetoric is circular.  In Hebrew rhetoric, one considers a point, and then one circles around and considers the same point from a different angle, and again and again, until myriad angles have been examined.  This being the case, I think we ought to be very cautious before we plunge into Revelation assuming that it is written in a linear, chronological sequence.  No matter what else you may or may not agree with me on here, nobody can deny that Revelation 12 is out of sequence, a flash back in time.  Revelation 12 clearly describes the incarnation of Christ.

The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour the child as soon as it was born.  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter.  And her child was snatched up to God and to His throne.
Revelation 12:4b-5 (NIV)

If Revelation 12 is "out of sequence," why would we assume that the rest of Revelation is all (or mostly) in chronological order?  Perhaps rather than event-following-event-following-event along a timeline, we may be dealing with just a few major events, examined from multiple angles.

If this is the case, then I think it could be quite possible that Revelation 10 is a vision John was given to help him (and us) understand more deeply who Christ is, the grandeur and deity of the Christ whom John had pledged his life to follow while He was on earth as a man.

In my previous post, I explained how--after I had been frustrated by trying to figure out Revelation 10, but at a time when I was thinking about something entirely different--the Lord led me to Luke 9:21, where Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone who He was.  That reminded me of Revelation 10:4 when John was told not to write down what he had seen.  This connection was a huge clue to me: this chapter could be all about Jesus.  Revelation is, after all, "The revelation of Jesus Christ," (Revelation 1:1).

In my previous post, I proceeded to work through Revelation 10:1-3, verse by verse, trying to show through cross references how this idea could be supported.  I'll continue to work through the chapter that way, beginning by finishing what I was trying to say about Revelation 10:3.

Revelation 10:3a (NIV)
... and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion...

Jesus is the Lion of Judah, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy.  This was even mentioned earlier in  Revelation, in a clear reference to Jesus Christ.

Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
Revelation 5:5 (NIV)

Revelation 10:3b (NIV)
When He shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.

Seven is the perfect number, complete, fulfilled.  God's presence on earth is often accompanied by thunder and lightening.  The voices of the seven thunders in Revelation 10:3b immediately make me think of the voice of God at the baptism of Jesus--

When all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Luke 3:21-22 (NIV)

And it also makes me think of how God spoke at the Transfiguration--

Jesus . . . took Peter, James and John with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening . . . [A] cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him."
from Luke 9:28-29, 34-35 (NIV)

Revelation 10:4 (NIV)
And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."

This is where I first began to see that this might be a passage about Jesus, when God led me to Luke 9:21 (NIV)--"Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone."

The same command followed the Transfiguration, recorded in both Matthew and Mark--

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
Matthew 17:9 (NIV)

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Mark 9:9 (NIV)

Revelation 10:5-7 (NIV)
Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven.  And he swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay!  But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound the trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to His servants the prophets."

Rather than blathering on and on with my own words, I'm just going to give you some scriptures to read, and you can do your own reflecting on how they might relate to this passage.

So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.  The one who sent me is with me, He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him."
John 8:28-29 (NIV)

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said,
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offering and sin offering you were not pleased.
Then I said, "Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--
I have come to do your will, O God.
Hebrews 10:5-7 (NIV)

Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."
John 12:23 (NIV) 

"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  'Father save me from this hour'?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name!"
Then a voice spoke from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
John 12:27-28 (NIV)

Father, the hour has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You.  For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him.
John 17:1-2 (NIV)

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.
Matthew 26:42 (NIV)

When He had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished."  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
John 19:30 (NIV)

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.
Colossians 2:2 (NIV) 

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
according to his eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:10-11 (NIV)

(Actually, that Ephesians reference may also shed some light on what is going on in Revelation 11, too, but I'm not dealing with Revelation 11 today.) 

Revelation 10:8-11 (NIV)
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’

I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 
Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”

I feel that this part of the chapter is much easier to understand if we view the preceding verses as a revelation of the deity and perfect ministry of Christ.

If the little, open scroll is the prophecy of the life and times of Jesus Christ, and the vision is confirmation that Christ accomplished all that the Father sent Him to do, then for John to eat the little scroll would be for him to share in the life and ministry of Jesus.  John had done and was doing exactly that.

It gives special meaning to the opening of John's gospel when we see it this way:  

In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1 (NIV)

The Word is the scroll, and the Word is Christ.

To know and follow Christ is unutterably sweet, but also painful in this lifetime.

When Jesus was a baby at the temple, Simeon told Mary:

"This child is destined to cause the rising and falling of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul, too."
from Luke 2:34-35

Jesus tried to explain about the duality of weeping and rejoicing in the Christian life, before He went away:

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
John 16:20 (NIV)
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
from John 16:22 (NIV)

The end of Revelation 10, as it ushers into Revelation 11, discusses the time of weeping that Christ's followers will face.  But Revelation never leaves us there.  Indeed, it seems to me that God so mercifully desires the encouragement of our hearts, that He had John start out with visions of the culmination of glory in the throne room of heaven (Revelation 4-5) before He even began to reveal any of the intermediary difficulties.

The last verse here, Revelation 10:11, gives John the directive to go and prophesy about many peoples, nations, languages and kings. Now is the time to prophesy. Earlier, while Jesus was on earth, John had been told not to tell people what he had seen until after Jesus had died and risen again, but all that has now been accomplished. The time has come to bear testimony, to trust God and bear His gospel to the nations regardless of the risks. Revelation 11 will develop more on the theme of bearing testimony.

This, to the best of my ability, is my understanding of Revelation 10.  

I will leave you with one of my all-time favorite verses.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (NIV)

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