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This was the last of the current series on Revelation.  We hope to pick it up again next year.

This passage can be taken in four steps;

1.       The vision of the angel,

2.       the sound of the thunders

3.       the angel’s oath,

4.       and John taking the scroll.

This is an unusual chapter in the book

because it's focused on John's experience;

he's a participant in what's going on,

not just someone who sees and hears things.

But the first step is simply seeing something;

another                mighty                  angel.

The first mighty angel appeared in chapter 5

when John saw the scroll sealed with seven seals in God’s hand,

and ‘a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice,

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” ‘

again we have a scroll, and a  mighty angel,

this time holding the scroll himself,

and this time the scroll is open.

It’s a little scroll.

The message is not long and complex.

The angel is described carefully;

every part of the description is an echo of the appearance of God

either from somewhere else in the bible

or from earlier in the book of Revelation.

But It is not such an overwhelmingly glorious description as, for example,

the description of Jesus in chapter one.

It’s more like descriptions of those who have been in the presence of God;

like the shining face of Moses,

or the angels of Daniel and Ezekiel. 

The meaning is that this scroll is from God,

even though it comes via an angel;

this angel comes direct from the presence of God. 

He comes with a message for everyone – it’s open.

And the message is not long and difficult; it’s a little book.

The second step is that the angel shouts, like a lion roaring;

again, like the voice of God,

and seven thunders answer.

There is, of course, debate about what the seven thunders are,

and the most likely conclusion is that it refers to the voice of God,

but John doesn’t say.

(Ps. 29 gives seven descriptions of God's thunderous voice.  For other instances of God's voice compared to thunder, see 2 Sam 22:14; Job 37:2–5; Ps 18:13; Isa 29:6; 30:30–31; Jer 25:30; Amos 1:2 And especially John 12.27 - 30)

He’s about to write what he heard – obviously he understood the thunder,

and he’s interrupted, and told to put his pen down.

He has to ‘seal up’ what he heard;

lock it away in his mind and heart.

There are two messages here.

One is for us all in relation to God;

we don’t need to know everything!

God has told us what we need to know

and shown us himself in Jesus Christ,

and come to meet us by His Holy Spirit.

Do we really need to know every last detail?

No, of course we don’t.

There comes a point when more details don’t add anything more.

For those who choose not to believe

why should they be convinced by seven thunders

when they willfully ignore seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls?

Like Abraham said, in Jesus’ story of Lazarus,

“If they won’t believe the law and the prophets,

why will they believe even if someone rises from the dead?

And for those of us who do believe,

we need to be content with what God has revealed to us already

and take the rest on trust.

I get a huge amount of Christian junk mail

and a constant theme in the mail-outs

is the invitation to hear “A fresh, new revelation,”

as though the Word of God changes from week to week.

God is not an ad-man.

He doesn’t need to titillate us with ‘something new and fresh’

because the ‘something old’ hasn’t gone stale!

If someone preaches to you a ‘new gospel’, “let them be accursed!”

In relation to God, let us be content with what God has given us

and not hanker after deceitful mysteries.

The second message to us in this section is in relation to our ministries.

Very often when we receive an insight from God

or hear God speaking to us

we immediately think about how we can put that word to work

amongst our friends and fellow Christians, and neighbours.

But that misses the point of our relationship with God;

he doesn’t just call us to work for him.

Jesus called the apostles, to be with him

and that he might send them out to preach. (Mk 3.14)

And there will come a day when preaching is finished

but Christ will still want us to be with him.

He doesn’t call us to be human doings

but human beings –

to be with him. 

Sometimes his word is not for us to use in ministry,

it’s just for us.

When we read the scriptures,

or receive insight from the Holy Spirit in our day-day lives,

or through journaling and meditation,

or however it is that God speaks to you,

very often it is to share and to build up others

– God is very keen for us to do that –

but sometimes it’s just for you.

You are more to God than a worker in the vineyard,

you are someone he wants to be with just for your own sake. 

Please don’t undervalue how much God loves to be with you. 

There is work to be done now – a harvest to be worked for –

but after the harvest comes the feast.

And everyone who works in the vineyard is invited.

So John seals up in his heart the words of the seven thunders,

and in the third step through this passage

the angel, standing on earth and sea,

and with his hand raised to heaven

swears by the God who made heaven, earth, and sea

and all that is in them,

who lives forever and ever,

that when the seventh trumpet sounds

God’s mystery will be fulfilled.

God’s mystery?

elsewhere in the New Testament the Mystery of God is the gospel;

the good news about Jesus that couldn’t be guessed beforehand

and couldn’t be understood through the prophets

 until he had come and made God visible in the flesh. 

The mystery of Jesus will be fulfilled;

the dead will rise together,

the old things will have passed away, the new come –

but that is getting ahead of ourselves.

The important point here is that God’s plans will come to their conclusion;

                the seventh trumpet will sound

                                and the end will come. 

God, through his angel, promises this. 

Now we come to the final episode of this chapter;

John is told to go and take the scroll from the angel.

He goes and asks for it

and again is told to take it.

And to eat it.

And it will be both sweet and bitter to him. 

Clearly this little scroll is God’s word to the nations,

                probably the Good News of Jesus;

so why should it be both bitter and sweet?

Where does the bitterness come from?

Perhaps if we read some of the back-ground, we’ll get a clue.

If you’re familiar with your Old Testament

you’ll have recognized that there are many similarities between this chapter

and episodes from the books of Daniel and Ezekiel. 

In ch. 12, Daniel has just been told to ‘seal up’ what he has heard

when he sees heavenly figures standing on both banks of a river,

one raises his hands to heaven and swears by the one who lives forever

that at the end of tribulation everything will be accomplished. 

                Just like what John has described here.

Daniel asks what the end of this will be

and he’s told, “10 Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined,

but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly.”

Many will be cleansed – that’s sweet –

                but many will continue to act wickedly. 

That’s sour. 

Again, John also echoes Ezekiel’s experience,

                who, in a vision, was given an open scroll to eat,

                                sweet as honey

And Ezekiel, Like Daniel,

and like John in Revelation Chapter 10,

is commissioned by God to preach to the people

and warned that he would not be listened to

but that he must preach the word anyway.

The word of the gospel is sweet

                but in calling us to be his witnesses,

God does not pretend that everyone will like it;

When he sent the twelve apostles out preaching,

Jesus said to them, 16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep

into the midst of wolves;

so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

17 Beware of them,

for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;

 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me,

as a testimony to them and the Nations. Matt 10,

And so John is told that he must testify for God,

to prophecy against the nations and their kings,

and this is bitter as well as sweet.

Because repentance does not come easily to the world.

One of my teachers once said, “We must learn how to be sinners.”

He did not mean we must learn to sin

but that seeing our selves as sinners is not something that comes naturally;

it comes through the teaching of the Holy Spirit

through the conviction of the word of God

                through the slow erosion of human pride and deceit

so that we can see our deeds as God sees them.

That is bitter – but it is the bitterness of reality.

There is as much sense in hating God for exposing our evil

as there is in hating the surgeon

who tells us that our legs have gone gangrenous

and must be cut off to save our lives.

It is bitter – but it is only buy accepting reality that we can live. 

Perhaps, in that sense, we could say that the gospel is bitter;

                that in order to talk of the goodness of God

we cannot avoid talking of the evil of humanity

and in order to talk of God’s grace and forgiveness,

we need to understand the depths of human guilt.

But the bitterness that John is given here is not that bitterness,

                                - the bitterness of the sinner seeing their sin –

                but is the bitterness experienced by God

                                when those same sinners refuse to turn from their sin.

That is a bitterness we, too, are called to endure,

along with the ancient prophets.

Just as John, in this chapter,

is called not just to see and hear the word of God

but to actively reach out and take it,

and to preach the word of God

so we are called likewise;

 we can't just be hearers of the word, but doers also.

The previous section, listing the first six trumpet judgements,

is information about what is coming to the world.

This chapter is for the church.

In the face of God's justice

we are called to be witnesses.

We're not going to go into Ch. 11 today

but we need to remember that it comes next;

- the story of two witnesses to God

and their martyrdom,

and their vindication by God.

Many prophets, and ultimately Jesus Christ our Lord,

                and in his train, his apostles and disciples then and now,

gave their lives for the sake of the message they proclaim.

Like them, we are given the open message of salvation;

and with it the warning that many will reject what we have to say,

yet, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”

When the seventh trumpet sounds

there will be no more time to preach the word.

Work while it is still daylight.

Preach the word in season and out,

 for the sake of the lamb that was slain.