The fourth section of the standard covenant treaty involved the giving of the blessings and curses (Meredith G. Kline, “Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy” (Grand Rapids: William B. Eredmans Publishing Co., 1963), pp. 121-34, cf, Ray Sutton, “That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant” (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987)). Thus, in Revelation 10, 12 andtl4, we are dealing with the ratification of the New Covenant blessing under the authority of the strong angel. For example, in Revelation 10:1 -7, Christ swears in the New Covenant treaty before the Father, bringing the kingdoms of the earth into the kingdom of God (Rev 11:15).
In Revelation 8, 9 and 13, we see God unloading the curses of Deuteronomy 27-28 upon the rebellious nation of Israel. In the blowing of the seven trumpets (Rev 8:6-10:1), there is the absolute fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant curses, such that the stories chronicled by Josephus read like a commentary on Deuteronomy. By 70AD, the Jews had been subjected to curses (Dt 28:15-19), pestilence (Dt 28:20-26), oppression, violence and plague (Dt 28:27-37), famine and poverty (Dt 28:38-48), starvation and cannibalism (Dt 28:49-57), death and slavery (Dt 28:58-68). When Moses gave the covenant, he warned the Israelites of the consequences of disobedience (Dt 29:22-28), now it was time for the consequences to unfold.
Another point of interest is the sanctions section of Deuteronomy, where the Israelites were instructed to divide in half and stand on two opposing mountains: one mountain standing for blessings and one standing for curses (Dt 11:29). In Revelation 8-14, we see the same pattern followed. In chapter 8:8, the mountain of cursing is thrown into the sea, while chapter 14 shows the saints standing on the mountain of blessing, Mt Zion.
THE SEVENTH SEAL AND THE GOLDEN CENSER (Rev 8:1-5)
1. And when He broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to4hem. 3. And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer, and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne, 4. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5. And the angel took the censer, and he filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth, and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Finally, the seventh seal is opened to reveal another layer of seven, seven trumpets. This continues the system of sevens that characterises the whole book. The seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven golden lamp stands, seven spirits of God, seven thunders, seven plagues and seven golden bowls tell us over and over of the fullness and completeness of the book. Revelation is the book that brings all the scriptures to completion. It also brings the judgment s and covenants to completion and fullness. It brings the work of redemption to completion. It is the final, infallible statement of God’s purposes for Planet Earth.
Silence settles over heaven for half an hour as the seventh seal is opened. The events that follow lend a clue as to the reason for the silence. It took about half an hour for a priest to enter the temple, offer the incense mentioned in verses 3 and 4, and return to the courtyard. During this event, the worshippers waited quietly outside (Lev 16:13-14, Lk 1:8-21). Perhaps this is the case here also.
Following this awe-filled silence, the seven angels who stand before God are given seven trumpets. Trumpets were used throughout the Old Testament for many different reasons, several of which lend understanding to their use here. Firstly, trumpets were blown to proclaim the rule of a new king (2Sa 15:10, 1Ki 1:34, Ps 47:5). John’s seventh trumpet is the signal for the heavenly choir to sing their coronation song to the King of all Kings, praising the beginning of the kingdom of God on earth (Rev 11:15). Secondly, trumpets were blown as an escort to the Ark of the Covenant (Jos 6:1 -5, 2Sa 6:14, 1Ch 15:23-24). Particularly relevant is the use of trumpets as an escort to the ark in the fall of Jericho (Jos 6:1-5), because the fall of Jerusalem and the appearance of the ark are prophesied by John to occur at the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpets (Rev 11:13, 19). Thirdly, trumpets were used to summon the Israelites to war (Jos 6:5, Jdg 6:34, 1Sa 13:3). The irony here is that the trumpets of war are being blown against Israel herself. Fourthly, trumpets were used to sound an alarm, to warn Israel of approaching judgment and to urge national repentance (Isa 58:1, Je 4:5-8, 6:1,17, Eze 33:1-6, Joel 2:1,15). The sad thing about these trumpet blasts is that Israel did not repent, for Revelation 9:20 states: “And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands.”
John sees another angel with a golden censer, and to whom much incense was given. Because of a previous reference in Revelation 5:8, we know that the incense being offered is the prayers of the saints. To them are added more prayers, which are placed before the throne of God. The images being used here are from worship in the temple, where incense was placed just outside the curtain to the holy of holies. The priests burnt incense (sweet-smelling smoke), and the aroma drifted up, as it were, to the heavenly throne. This process was a picture of the true incense that drifts up to heaven, that is, the intercessory prayers of God’s covenant people throughout the ages. David recorded a personal example of the process and its results in Psalm 18:6-15.
The prayers being sent up to heaven here are requests for the judgment of God to be poured out upon the covenant-breaking Israelites. The prayers of the slain saints uttered in Revelation 6:9-10 are now about to be answered with a vengeance. The angel takes the censer, then fills it with fire from the alter of incense, and throws it to the earth. The message of this event is plain; God rains down judgment upon the earth in specific response to the intercession of His people. There is an absolute, unbreakable link between prayer and history. History is managed directly from the heavenly alter of incense and we, the people of God, are direct participants.
THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS (Rev 8:6-13)
6. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. 7. And the first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth, and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. 8. And the second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood, 9. and a third of the creatures that were in the sea and had life, died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10. And the third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters, 11. and the name of the star is called Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. 12. And the fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.13. And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
These first four trumpet blasts refer to a series of disasters that devastated Israel during the early stages of the Jewish wars of 67-70AD. This first trumpet results in the destruction of much of Israel’s vegetation. Josephus has left us with a graphic description of the environmentally disastrous effects of the Roman’s scorched-earth method of warfare: “The countryside, like the city, was a pitiful sight, for where once there had been a multitude of trees and parks, there was now an utter wilderness stripped bare of timber…the war had blotted out every trace of beauty.” (Josephus: “The Jewish War”, p. vi.i.i.)
The repeated use of triple curses affecting a third of the land indicates the partial nature of these curses. They are not meant to totally destroy the land but are a curtain-raiser to the main event—the siege of Jerusalem. Just as the Egyptians experienced ten increasingly destructive plagues, so these covenantal Egyptians were to experience increasingly destructive curses. In fact, six of the seven trumpets mirror the Egyptian plagues to some degree. Trumpet 1= plague 7, trumpet 2= plague 1, trumpet 3= plague 1, trumpet 4= plague 9, trumpet 5= plague 8 and trumpet 6= plague 8.
The second trumpet results in a great mountain burning with fire being thrown into the sea. Was this literally or figuratively fulfilled? The answer is found in Matthew 21:21-22 and Mark 11:12-23. While within sight of Jerusalem, Christ cursed a fig tree and used its withering to show the disciples the power of their prayers if they would pray against this mountain. Christ was not using an exaggerated example to teach about faith, but was talking about the mountain right in front of their eyes, Mt. Zion, Jerusalem! From as early as Exodus 15:17,
Israel had been symbolically connected with God’s holy mountain. Jerusalem itself was located on Mt. Zion (2Sa 5:7) and the temple was built on that original fortification. So Jerusalem, Israel and Mt. Zion were equivalent terms and every Israelite was familiar with their meaning. (Ps 9:11,74:2, 87:2, 137:3, Isa 2:3, 51:11 , Je 50:5, Am 6:1, Mic 4:2, Zee 9:9, Ro 9:33,11:26). The disciples knew exactly what Jesus was asking them to do. They were to pray for the destruction of Jerusalem. This point is verified when the story of the fig tree and mountain are put within their context in Matthew 21-24, most of which hammers home the same point: the destruction of apostate Israel. The point being made here in Revelation is that the prayers of the early church would soon be answered, Jerusalem (Mt. Zion) would soon be thrown into the sea.
Falling-star imagery is used in the Old Testament to portray the fall of nations. Isaiah 14:1-24 prophesies the destruction of Babylon by saying: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!” (Verse 12) Here the imagery is used for Israel, who has become Babylon (Rev 17:7).
Wormwood is a plant that is very bitter and causes dizziness. It is used several times in the Old Testament as a picture of the type of bitter curse God would bring upon Israel if they rebelled (Dt 29:18, Je 9:15,23:15, La 3:15). It is an apt way of portraying the bitterness of the curses about to come upon Israel.
The fourth trumpet results in the darkening of a third of the sun, moon and stars. The imagery here was long used by the prophets to depict the fall of nations and rulers. For example, Babylon (Isa 13:9-11), Edom (Isa 34:2-4), Israel (Isa 51:15-16), Egypt (Eze 32:7-8) and Samaria (Amos 8:9) and their respective leaders are all pictured as stars, suns and moons in freefall or destruction. Christ re-quoted Isaiah 13:9-11 in Matthew 24:29 to show the disciples that Israel’s leaders were also soon to fall. That same point is made again here. To interpret these passages literally would be completely missing the point, and that is so often the case when reading Revelation 8:12.
As an interlude between the fourth and fifth trumpets, an eagle flies across heaven warning John of the severe intensity of the coming trumpet blasts. This eagle is most likely the angel that resembled an eagle first seen in Revelation 4:7. The New Testament readers were already familiar with the trumpet-eagle-judgment imagery through their reading of the prophets. Hosea 8:1 warns the people of Israel to: “Put the trumpet to your lips! Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the LORD because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.” The eagle, as a bird of prey, was an appropriate symbol of the carnage about to be unleashed.
THE FIFTH TRUMPET (Rev 9:1-12)
1. And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth, and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. 2. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. 3. And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4. And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5. And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man. 6. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it, and they will long to die and death flees from them. 7. And the appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle, and on their heads, as it were, crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. 8. And they had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. 10. And they have tails like scorpions, and stings, and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11. They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss, his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon 12. The first Woe is past, behold, two Woes are still coming after these things.
All hell breaks loose with the sound of the fifth trumpet! Firstly, John sees a star that had already fallen from heaven some time previously, and to which the key of the bottomless pit is given. The star is none other than Satan, as will be explained in verse 11. However, there is prior reason to assume that this star is Satan. Back in Luke 10:18, after their return from a practical ministry assignment, Christ told His disciples that He had looked into the spiritual realm and seen Satan fall from heaven like lightning. In the Old Testament era, Satan had free access into the throne of God (Job 1:6-7, 2:1), but in the time of Christ, Satan was cast down to the earth, where he now dwells, stripped of his ability to deceive the nations. Believers now have authority over Satan (Lk 10:19) because of this defeat through Christ.
Satan is given the key of the bottomless pit, which is a common term for the prison of the demons (Lk 8:31, 2Pe 2:4, Jude 1:6). The point of interest here is that the keys to the bottomless pit (or Abyss) belonging to Christ (Rev 1:18) have been handed to Satan so that he can release thousands of demons upon Israel. This shows us how God sometimes uses Satan and the demons to discipline nations that have rebelled against Him. A similar thing happened in miniature when Christ was about to go to the cross. Satan had approached Christ and asked permission to test Peter. Christ obviously agreed, as He informed Peter of what was about to happen. The whole purpose was that Peter would learn to control his tongue, a lesson that had not yet been learnt despite three years of training! The result was a valuable lesson for Peter (Lk 22:31). God is sovereign and even Satan’s desire to steal, kill and destroy is sometimes harnessed for the purposes of God.
Out of the smoke from the pit come countless demons described as locusts and scorpions (Lk 10:19) raining down powerfully upon Israel. Christ had warned the Jews that this event was soon to take place. In Matthew 12:43-45, Christ told a story about a demon that was driven out of a man, but returned to find its old house swept clean. It then went and got seven other spirits, and they all possessed the man. Then Christ dropped the bomb! He declares to His listeners (verse 5): “That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” Israel had been swept clean of demons through Christ’s ministry, but by crucifying its king it had opened itself to an invasion of demonic spirits. The description of the frenzied mobs, the deluded false prophets, the loss of ability to reason, the mass murders, the cannibalism and destruction given us by Josephus testifies strongly to the activity of demons in the last days before the fall of Jerusalem. Only the Christians were immune from the sting of the demons, as had been promised back in Luke 10:19.
The limited power to torture for only five months sits well with the historical lead-up to the siege of Jerusalem. The procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus, spent five months in the year 66AD deliberately inciting the Jews to rebellion. He began in May with the killing of 3,600 peaceful citizens, and Josephus dates the beginning of the Jewish wars from this time (Op. cit. p. ii.xiv.ii – ii.ix.ix.). This was the beginning of the demonic convulsions that would lead eventually to the death of 1,100,000 people. But that time had not yet arrived. The work of Gessius Florus was a time of torment and stings, a time of seeking death but being unable to find it (Lk 23:27-30).
The detailed description of the locusts bears many similarities to the invading armies mentioned in the Old Testament. In Judges 6:5, the Midianites are described as locusts in number as they prepare to attack Gideon. God promised to send an army of horses like bristly locusts against Babylon (Je 51:27). In Joel, God also told the Israelites that He would send an army of locusts against them (Joel 1:4). God said the locust’s teeth were the teeth of a lion and it had the fangs of a lioness (Joel 1:6), that its appearance was like the appearance of horses (Joel 2:4), but that there would be peace at the end of the attack (Joel 2:25). In Nahum 5:17, the Assyrian guards are also described as a swarm of locusts. So, the use of locust/army imagery was common to the early readers of Revelation, and it was appropriate too, as Israel was right in the middle of the Middle Eastern locust-belt. From May until September (the same months that Gessius Florus incited the Jews to rebellion), swarms of the insects would migrate across the landscape devouring the ripening crops. This coming swarm, however, was going to be the deadliest the nation would ever see.
The king of the locusts is given the name of Abaddon and Apollyon, meaning ‘destruction’ and ‘destroyer’. Satan’s chief function as a fallen angel is to steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), so the name he is given here is in keeping with his nature. The destruction wrought by the five months of torment is only the first woe; two more are yet to come.
THE SIXTH TRUMPET (Rev 9:13-21)
13. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,14. one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet: “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15. And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they might kill a third of mankind. 16. And the number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million, I heard the number of them. 17. And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: The riders had breastplates the colour of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone, and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions, and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 17. A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths. 18. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm. 19. And the rest of the men, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk, 20. and they did not repent of their murders, nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality, nor of their thefts.
With the sounding of the sixth trumpet, John hears a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar. This altar is not the altar of sacrifice, but the altar of incense that stood just in front of the curtain to the holy of holies (Lev 4:17-18). The horns were used by the Levitical priests for the sprinkling of atonement blood so that Israel’s unintentional sin would be covered (Lev 4:13-17). The incense altar, as «we have already seen, is a picture of the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8, 8:3). The horns of this altar are now mentioned so that the readers of Revelation would know that their sins have been covered and nothing stands in the way of their prayers for judgment.
The river Euphrates formed the traditional northern frontier of Israel (Ge 15:18, Dt 11:24, Jos 1:4) and was the favoured invasion route for the numerous armies that had invaded Israel over the previous 1,500 years (G.B. Caird, “The Revelation of St John the Divine” (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1966), p. 108) (Je 6:1, 10:22, Eze 26:7, 38:6, 39:2). It is not surprising that this army was to come from this same region.
The number of the army that sweeps in from the Euphrates is numbered at two hundred million. Much fanciful speculation has gone into working out the logistics of mobilising an army of this literal size. But this is not a literal figure. As we have already seen in Revelation 7:4, the immense figures mentioned in scripture are given to communicate immensity, not precise numbers. The original Greek describes this army’s size as two myriads of myriads, a term taken directly from Psalm 68:17, where the chariots of God are numbered as double myriads and thousands of thousands. The Psalmist is telling us that God’s army cannot be numbered. John is doing the same, but also telling his alert readers that this approaching army is a huge army of divine judgment advancing upon Jerusalem.
As a matter of history, the Jewish rebellion in reaction to the locust plague of Gessius Florus during the summer of 66AD resulted in the invasion of Palestine by Cestius in the early months of 67AD. Cestius brought large numbers of troops from Antioch and its surrounding regions, an area that borders the Euphrates (Josephus, “The Jewish War” ii.xviii.ix). After destroying the surrounding towns, Cestius besieged Jerusalem. However, during one of his assaults, when victory was only minutes away, he strangely withdrew his forces and suffered heavy casualties. (Gaalya Cornfield, ed, “Josephus: The Jewish War” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p.201). This resulted in a few months’ respite, which enabled the Jewish zealots to organise a national defence force with which to fight the Roman legions when they inevitably returned.
With the Romans running with their tails between their legs, there was a distinct lack of national repentance coming from the Jewish camp. Thus, John says they did not repent of the work of their hands (verse 20). The Jews had so completely given themselves over to apostasy that neither God’s goodness nor His wrath could turn them from their murders, their sorceries, their immorality or their thefts.
THE WITNESS TO THE NEW CREATION (Rev 10:1-7)
1. And I saw another strong Angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud, and the rainbow was on His head, and His face was like the sun, and His feet like pillars of fire, 2. and He had in His hand a little book which was open. And He placed His right foot on the sea and His left on the land, 3. and He cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars, and when He had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. 4. And when the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write, and I heard a voice from heaven saying: “Seal up the things that the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them.” 5. And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up His right hand to heaven, 6. and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE EARTH AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE SEA AND THE THINGS IN IT, that there shall be delay no longer, 7. but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the Mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.
This angel is none other than Christ Himself, as the images used to describe Him are those which are used to describe Christ in other passages. Firstly, Christ is clothed with a cloud, an expression that brings to mind the heavenly glory cloud. This cloud is actually the swirling mass of angels that encircle the throne in heaven (Dt 33:2, Ps 18:9-10,68:17) and it is represented by the two cherubim on each side of the Mercy Seat in the Tabernacle. There is only one who can claim to be clothed in this cloud, and that is God Himself. Secondly, we see this angel with a rainbow above his head. This symbol has already been explained in Revelation 4:3 and comes from the rainbow that Ezekiel saw above the throne of God in Ezekiel 1:27-28. Thirdly, this angel’s face was like the sun, which fits the description of Christ in Revelation 1:16 and Matthew 17:2. Lastly, there is the picture of the angel’s legs that were like pillars of fire. This parallels the description of Christ’s feet in Revelation 1:15, where they are described as being like burnished bronze when it has been caused to glow in a furnace.
Christ is seen holding a little book and this little scroll is the book of Revelation that John was presently receiving. A fuller explanation of this image will come later in this chapter. The important point here is that Christ is seen standing, like the colossus of Rhodes, with one foot on the land and the other on the sea, a majestic figure of awesome proportions who rules over the sum total of creation (Ex 20:4,11, Ps 69:34, Isa 44:23). In particular, this reference to Christ standing on the sea and the land is a picture of Christ standing on Israel as the land (Rev 13:11) and Rome as the sea (Rev 1:7, 13:1). Christ is in charge of all creation but especially the two nations that confronted each other in that prophetic year of 70AD. “And he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.” Anyone who has ever heard the roar of a lion will have some idea of the incredible sound that split the air as John listened. Psalm 29 is given wholly to a description of the voice of the Lord, and needs to be read in order to better understand what is happening here. In other places in scripture, the voice of God is variously described as thunder, an earthquake, mighty rushing waters, a very loud trumpet blast, and lightning. It struck terror into the hearts of those who heard it (Ge 3:10, Ex 20:18, Mt 17:6).
A strange event now takes place. Seven peals of thunder uttered their voices in response to the roar of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Amazingly, John is prohibited from writing down the contents of their message. More than this, he was told to seal up what they said. Daniel was also told to seal up his prophetic message, and the reason he was told to do so was that its contents were meant for the time of the end (Da 12:4). John, on the other hand, was told not to seal up the words of his prophecy “for the timéis near” (Rev 22:10). From this, we can see why John was told to seal up the things the seven thunders had spoken. Their message concerned events that were off in the distant future. Some things God reveals, but some things He wisely withholds (Dt 29:29). This is another indication that the bulk of John’s prophecy is concerned with events contemporary to the establishment of the New Covenant.
When taking an oath in a court of law, it is often required that the right hand is raised before the oath is taken (Ge 14:22, Ex 6:8, Eze 20:5-6). The same is happening here, Christ is swearing by the court of heaven, giving His word that there will be no more delay in the accomplishment of the mystery of God, but that it will be finished and fully revealed to the world.
But what is this mystery? It cannot be something ‘mysterious’ in the modern sense, as it is plainly stated that the mystery was preached to His servants, the prophets. This mystery is the message of the New Covenant that was revealed to the prophets of old but withheld from the people of Israel (2Sa 22:50, Ps 18:49, 67:1-7, 117:1, Isa 11:10). Paul talks extensively about this mystery in the books of Romans, Ephesians and Colossians (Ro15:8-12, 16:25-27, Eph 1:9, 2:11-3:10, 6:19), Col 1:26-2:2, 4:3). Peter echoed the same thought in Acts 3:24-26, in fact, the entire book of Acts is the unfolding of this very mystery. It is the new unity in Christ between believing Jews and believing Gentiles (Eph 3:5-6) and the fulfillment of the prophetic promises through the Gospel. It is significant that this mystery is revealed at the sound of the seventh trumpet, as it shows the supremacy of the New Covenant. It is God’s perfect, complete plan. God’s Edenic plan is now back on course, a new creation has begun!
THE BITTERSWEET BOOK (Rev 10:8-11)
8. And the voice which I had heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me and saying, “Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.” 9. And I went to the angel telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it, and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was in my mouth sweet as honey, and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11. And they said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
The strange instruction that John is given, to take the book and eat it, has its precedent in the book of Ezekiel. That Old Testament prophet was told: ‘”Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.’ Then I looked, behold, a hand was extended to me, and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe. Then He said to me, ‘ Son of man, eat what you find, eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and He fed me the scroll.” (Eze 2:8-10 to 3:1-2). Ezekiel was commanded to eat a scroll symbolizing the prophetic destruction of Israel. John’s book is essentially the same.
As with Ezekiel, John’s prophecy tasted sweet but turned bitter in his stomach (Eze 3:14). Prophecy was so often a double-edged sword, sweet to the prophet to see God’s justice executed, yet gut-wrenching to see that so often the judgment s of God fell on God’s people, the Israelites. The inauguration of the New Covenant was such a sweet event for John to be a part of, yet that very inauguration would involve the total destruction of the once-holy city of Jerusalem, along with the demolition of its fabulously beautiful temple. It would result in the annihilation of John’s very own people and the mass murder of more than a million Jews. John was being told he would share the joy God felt as the New Covenant was unwrapped, but also share the grief God felt for the disobedient children of the Old Covenant.
THE TWO WITNESSES AGAINST JERUSALEM (Rev 11:1-14)
1. And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff, and someone said: “Rise and measure the temple of God, and the alter, and those who worship in it. 2. “And cast out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations, and they will tread underfoot the Holy City for forty-two months. 3.“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4. These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5. And if anyone desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies, and if anyone would desire