This week we are reading through Revelation 10-11. These chapters will conclude the opening of the seals which began in Chapter 6 and will set up the coming conflict between Christ and Satan.
The Interlude (Again):
Just as there was an interlude between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals in Revelation 7, so now there is an interlude between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets. This interlude comes in two parts: the Angel and the Little Scroll in Revelation 10 and the Two Prophetic Witnesses in Revelation 11:1-14. The overall purpose of these two digressions is to encourage and built-up the saints before the coming battle and ensuing martyrdom.
John sees an angel whom he describes as (i) coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud (ii) with a rainbow over his head, (iii) his face like the sun, and (iv) legs like pillars of fire. The angel’s description appears like God. It is God who comes to his people as a cloud at Mt. Siani (Ex. 19:9), who led his people through the desert in a cloud (Ps. 78:14), and is often spoken of as coming as a cloud (e.g. Ezek 1:4). The rainbow is the symbol of the divine presence (Ezek. 1:28, Rev. 4:3). The angel’s face shines like Moses’ after being in God’s presence on Mt. Siani (Ex. 34:29), and his legs are the divine pillars of fire that guided the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert (Ex. 13:21).
The angel also speaks like a lion, the very voice of God. Amos 3:8. It is this voice, as Amos says, that compels all who hear it to prophesy in God’s name. It is this leonine voice that first compelled John to write down his vision, that now compels the seven thunders in heaven to sound, and that further compels the church to proclaim the Gospel of the Lamb.
The angel then takes an oath in the Name of the Eternal One who created all things and that there will be no further delay. The oath itself is a rebuttal to Greek paganism and worship which sees other forces and a pantheon of gods as the agents of creation and the created order. The voice tells us that God preached the Gospel to his prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, but this message was veiled. Only now, is the fullness of the prophetic message being revealed through the witness/martyrdom of the church. (cf. Luke 24:27, Acts 3:18, Rom. 16:25, Col. 1:26). The shining face and the unveiling of the mystery of the teaching of the Old Testament is also a theme used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3.
The mightly angel who strides across land and sea carries a little scroll. John is told to take the scroll and to eat it. This command is similar to the divine command given to Ezekiel at his commissioning. Ezek. 2-3. Although the word of God is sweet as honey (Ezek. 3:3, Ps. 19:10), this sweetness gives way to the bitterness that God’s word will bring to John and to his audience. For just as the prophets were martyred (Matt. 23:31) so was John (by exile) and so will many in his churches. Despite the bitterness, however, the commissioning remains to prophesy to the world.
God’s message is that John and his audience are being directly commissioned to go out into the world making disciples of all nations. God knows that the church will be tempted to shrink back from its commissioning in face of its persecution. This is why the message is given, not by any ordinary angel, but one with the form and likeness of God himself, and why the commission but be fully consumed and internalized so that it cannot be forsaken.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is Rueben Rollups. Discussion about 7:15. Hope to see you here.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.Proper 28, 1979 BCP 236