Revelation: The Time is Near
“Are you ready?” It’s a question we might expect in everyday situations. A mother calls out “Are you ready” when it’s time for the school bus. A husband might ask his wife the question (however impatiently) when the time he set for them to leave has passed. “Are you ready for dinner?” may simply mean “Are you hungry?”
Context determines the weight of the question. “Are you ready … for a trip across town?” is not nearly as heavy as “Are you ready … for your move across the country?” The more significant the responsibility, the more serious the question. “Are you ready … for the wedding? is a big question. But it does not rise to the level of, “Are you ready … to get married?” “Are you ready … to graduate?” is much heavier “Are you ready … for graduation?”
Revelation 10 confronts every Christian with this question: “Are you ready to represent Jesus Christ in this world?” It’s a question that points to our second greatest responsibility. The first is to worship Jesus Christ. The second is to represent Him to the world.
Moments before Jesus departed the world, this encounter occurs with his disciples in Acts 1:6–8,
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus rebukes the disciples’ curiosity and issues a commission. “You will not know everything about the future but you will be my witnesses. You will represent me wherever I send you in this world. I will send my Spirit to you. And I will send you to the world.” Jesus’ words extend to every generation of the church.
John, one of the disciples with Jesus when he departed, receives a similar commission in Revelation 10. In this commission, he represents every Christian. In studying this chapter, I’m praying that you know Jesus Christ and that you see yourself in this commission so that you will be asking, “How can I be ready to represent Jesus Christ in this world every day?”
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. 2 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, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 4 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.”
5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 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, 7 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.
8 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.” 9 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.”
10 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. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
How can I be ready to represent Jesus in this world every day? Revelation 10 offers at least three answers:
I mean this answer in two senses. Immediately, we must recognize the angel of Revelation 10 as Jesus. Then we must recognize what this vision tells us about Jesus.
The Angel is Jesus
I know it’s debatable, but I conclude that the mighty angel that John sees and introduces in v. 1 is Jesus. He comes from heaven to earth as Jesus did. Whenever the Bible describes a figure coming from heaven in a cloud, it’s God. And this angel is wrapped in a cloud (v. 1).
The rainbow over his head is another divine symbol (v. 1). The previous reference to a rainbow was in 4:3, where it is around God’s throne. Now it is over this angel.
This vision looks remarkably like the one of God in Ezekiel 1:26-28. John describes this angel in terms that his readers associate with God. When the angel speaks, thunders sound (v. 3) as when God speaks (for example, Psalm 29). The angel sounds like a roaring lion (as God does in Amos 3:8, Isaiah 31:4, and Hosea 11:10).
John presents Jesus as the Angel of the Lord from the OT. On several occasions, before Jesus came to earth as a human being, he appeared or spoke as the Angel of the Lord (for example, Genesis 22, Exodus 3). The basic meaning of angel is “messenger.” Jesus is the ultimate messenger from heaven to show us who God is.
And Jesus is Lord
The angel is Jesus and Jesus is Lord! If we are going to be ready to represent Jesus in this world, then we must recognize who He is. This vision reveals Him as Lord in several ways.
Jesus’s face is like the sun (v. 1). He is glorious and holy. He is the source of pure light of truth and beauty. His legs are like pillars of fire (v. 1). John evokes the image of the Lord as a pillar of fire guiding the Israelites through the wilderness to the promised land (Exodus 13:21). Jesus is guiding his people through the darkness of this world to his kingdom.
The world is spiritually dark but Jesus remains sovereign over all. He is Lord over all creation. To plant a foot is to declare sovereignty over a place. Jesus plants one foot on the sea and one foot on the land (v. 2). He declares authority over both halves of creation. John draws attention to this fact again in v. 5 and again in v. 8. A triple emphasis. He is Lord over all creation. His lion-like voice reinforces his identity as King. Creation shakes with thunder when he speaks (v. 3).
Christian, recognize whom you represent. You represent the King. You represent the King who has authority over all things. You represent the King who shines in holiness and thunders in judgment. You are, to use Paul’s phrase, “Ambassadors for Christ.” You have been stationed in a foreign country from your homeland to represent the King of kings and Lord of lords. And the greater the kingdom, the more significant the appointment as ambassador.
Jesus left us in the world as “My witnesses.” Notice that in Revelation 10, John has relocated from heaven to earth. And in the vision Jesus has come to be with him. The same is true for you Christian. He has placed you in this world and He is with you.
Recognize whom you represent. This is essential to being ready to represent Him. And, knowing who He is, you will, secondly,
Internalize His Word
To be ready to represent Jesus, you and I must internalize his word. This is the point of the encounter between Jesus and John in Revelation 10. Jesus comes holding an open scroll (v. 2). He roars like a lion and seven thunders sound (v. 3). John attempts to write what he hears the thunders say. But God commands him not to do that (v. 4). Jesus then takes an oath to his Father that he will keep the appointed schedule for judgment that the prophets announced in the Scriptures (vv. 5-7).
God then directs John to take the scroll from Jesus, and Jesus commands John to eat the scroll (vv. 8-9). John does and finds that the scroll is sweet to the taste but makes him sick to his stomach, just as Jesus said it would (v. 10). Jesus then commissions John to prophesy (v. 11).
This little scroll is not the judgment scroll we first saw in Ch. 5. That scroll belonged only to Jesus Christ who is worthy to open it and act as Judge. The scroll in Revelation 10 represents Scripture, the Bible. It is the scroll that Jesus gives to us, His Word. It is the scroll that we must, like John, digest completely and thoroughly if we are to represent Jesus Christ in this world. We must internalize His Word. What do we learn about the Bible from the vision of Revelation 10?
First, the Bible is Christ’s book. It is his scroll. He is the Living Word of God and the Bible is the Written Word of God. The two perfectly harmonize. The Written Word bears perfect testimony to the Living Word and the Living Word bears perfect testimony to the Written Word. I believe the Bible is perfectly true because Jesus did. He insisted, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He also declared, “The Scriptures … bear witness about Me” (John 5:39).
When you take up the Bible to internalize it, you take up His book. It’s all about Him and His authority stands behind every word of it. What we think about the Bible will change how we handle it.
Second, the Bible is our food. Jesus tells John to eat the scroll. Digest it. For it to do its work, it must be swallowed bite by bite. Savor it as the choicest delicacy. Let it permeate every cell to bring life and nourishment.
We cannot just listen to the Bible any more than we can lick a carrot and think we have fed our bodies. We must read the Bible too. But reading must lead to study. And study to memorization. And memorization to meditation. Psalm 1 declares that the truly blessed person who represents God before a wicked world meditates on his Word day and night.
To internalize the Bible, to take it into our souls and let it saturate our thoughts and desires, takes time and effort. But we give more time and effort to prepare for other less important jobs. We will not be ready to represent Christ if the Bible is a bunch of fuzzy thoughts rather than a clear and constant meditation. Food is constantly at work in a healthy person.
Find a memory method that works for you and stick with it. Learn how to study the Bible for yourself. Get into a Bible study. Listen to good preaching. Attend a conference like “For the Church.” Make the sacrifice to internalize Christ’s Word.
The vision of Revelation 10 also tells us (third) that the Bible is bitter. Not that it is confusing. We can digest it. There are things that we are not to know. God does not let John write down what the thunders say (v. 4). We saw in Acts 1 that we are not to know the specific timing related to Christ’s coming in the future. Deuteronomy 29:29 declares,
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.
There are things in the Bible that are hard to understand but that is not the point of bitter here. The Bible is sweet to the believer’s taste because it so quickly “revives the soul” according to Psalm 19:7.
But it becomes bitter because, when representing Jesus, we have to grapple with hard truths in the Bible. God exists. He is sovereign. He is holy. Sin is serious. All people are sinners and stand guilty before God. No one can save himself. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. God will judge sinners. Hell is real. Hell is horrible. And hell is eternal.
We cannot disregard or distort these truths as we represent Jesus Christ in this world. We may want a Bible that is only sweet, but that is a failure to love lost people. To internalize His Word is to meditate on it until the Holy Spirit sets on our hearts a bitter burden to take the gospel to the world.
And that is the conclusion of this vision in v. 10. To represent Jesus Christ in the world is to evangelize. Recognize. Internalize. Evangelize. Jesus calls John to prophesy. In this context, he must speak the Word that he has internalized. Speak the good news (“evangelize”). Judgment is coming, but there is time to repent and turn to Christ.
Declare His Word as true whether people accept it or not. Prophesy. Speak it out. This is the mission of the church – to declare God’s word for the salvation of human souls.
Speaking is not everyone’s gift but it is everyone’s responsibility. Jesus tells his people to proclaim his message from the housetops, implying that it will happen in the everyday course of life, in the neighborhood not confined to the temple.
Speak my words again, Jesus says. You must again prophesy. You spoke to your friend once. Seek an opportunity to do it again. You showed greater boldness for Christ earlier in your Christian life. Show the same boldness again. You explained the gospel to your children yesterday. Explain it again today. You missed an opportunity last week. It will come again soon. Every opportunity, declare it again.
Jesus assures us in v. 10 that his word applies wherever we go and to whomever we meet. His word applies to people in various nations speaking many languages. His Word is for common people and kings. In Revelation, “kings” refers to people of power. Christ’s Word applies to the elites and the excluded. Christ’s gospel applies to every person you encounter. There is no interaction when the Bible is not relevant, where Christ is not present. Be intentional to talk about Jesus in a Bible way.
Are we ready to represent Jesus? The answer, sadly, is no. We can only strive toward that goal because he so perfectly represented us. He went to the cross, raised his arms before his Father, and swore, “No more delay. Let the judgment fall. Let it fall on me.
I will represent them as the sacrifice. By my oath, according to my Word, they will live. And, as My Spirit makes them alive to believe Me, they will speak My word. They will represent Me. They will be My witnesses.”
Lord, make us ready. Pray with me.
We face a task unfinished That drives us to our knees A need that, undiminished Rebukes our slothful ease We, who rejoice to know Thee Renew before Thy throne The solemn pledge we owe Thee To go and make Thee known
We go to all the world Your kingdom hope unfurled No other name has power to save But Jesus Christ Our Lord.