A Mighty Angel Appropriates the Land and Sea
THE MYSTERY FINISHED
In Revelation 9:20, we are told that even after the great battle of chapter 8, none of the wicked left on the earth at that time will repent of the wickedness which has brought so much misery in its train. Their own wickedness will not correct any more. Therefore, from this point, a new method is adopted. Jesus Christ begins immediately to prepare His coming to earth to set up His personal government.
Next, John saw a “mighty angel” descending from heaven to earth where John is. The Angel, clothed with a cloud, has a rainbow upon his head. It is said that Jesus will come with a cloud. The rainbow on His head means great glory and power and refers to the rainbow around God’s throne (4:3). As his face was like the sun, so was Jesus Christ’s face when John saw Him in His glory (1:16). “His feet as pillars of fire,” reminds us how John describes Jesus--“His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace” (1:15). For these reasons, we think this Mighty Angel is Jesus Himself. John saw Him, but He will not be visible to human eyes when He comes on this errand to earth.
You remember the seven-sealed rolls He alone was “worthy” to open and that He alone died to redeem this earth. This Mighty Angel holds a “little book,” a roll, spread open on His hand. I think it is one part of the seven-sealed roll, which contains a description of the boundary lines of the sacred region round about the place of God’s Temple at Jerusalem. With that description are the plans of the Temple, and all such things for Jerusalem to be rebuilt for the Lord’s reception.
The Mighty Angel cried with a loud voice; but what He said, we are not to know for the present. He said something which echoed like “seven thunders” throughout the whole world. In other words, some great proclamation is made throughout the earth. In Hebrews 12:26, 27, we are told of a time when His voice shook the earth when it was prophesied, “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” This verse is probably the fulfillment of that prophecy in John’s vision.
The whole world, then, will be thrown into commotion by this voice. People may not know what it means, that is, they may not hear words. However, they will feel that something terrible is about to happen. Or, the teaching could be that the “seven thunders” that utter their sounds might be some definite proclamation by heralds all over the world by God’s people, who have been made to understand the Lord’s message in the last moment that on a certain date Christ will destroy all impenitent sinners on the earth.
If this summation is correct, then we understand why John was not permitted to write down what the Mighty Angel said, which the seven thunders re-echoed. Had John done so, he would have made known when Christ is coming to destroy the wicked from the earth. It is not God’s wish for this fact to be known at least not until the time is close at hand.
It does seem as though John was looking upon that time, for the Angel adds to his announcement that, “There shall be no more delay” (not “no more time,” as the A.V. translates.) This declaration, then, may be God’s notice to an undesirable tenant (Satan and his family) that they must vacate. He intends to rehabilitate His kindred—believers--in their own inheritance. Presently, we shall see how Satan and his dupes rise up to resist this ejection and how utterly their resistance will fail.
The Angel plants one foot on the land and one foot on the sea to show He takes possession of both. God has redeemed the earth, and now He proposes to take possession. No further delay about the matter, for the time will be up when the seventh trumpet begins to blow. Mark the words well as translated in the R.V: “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then is finished the mystery of God, according to the good tidings which He hath declared to His servants the prophets (10:7). “In the days – the trumpet does not give a single blast but blows for a period of many days, we think, for twelve hundred and sixty days or three-and-a-half years (12:6). And that seventh trumpet, or the last trump, will begin to sound the moment “the mystery of God” is finished.
What is this “mystery?” Paul, the apostle, also tells us about a certain “mystery,” which we will study first. The Jews were a very proud race, especially in Paul’s day. They thought nobody was as good as they were and imagined themselves the only people for whom their God, Jehovah, cared. Other nations, who worshiped false gods, claimed to have gods—tribal gods--that belonged to no one but them. The Jews fell into the habit of thinking of Jehovah as a mere tribal god, copying the idea from the idolaters about them. Instead of wishing the entire world to worship Him, for the most part, they wanted to keep Him all to themselves.
When their God came to them in the form of Jesus Christ, they rejected Him and urged the Romans to crucify Him. For this reason, they were sorely punished by God in the destruction of Jerusalem. Since that time, the Jews have been scattered all over the world. Then, the apostle Paul, who was a Jew, was called to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. They were converted in very large numbers and became Christians. In course of time, these Gentiles were ready to believe that God was their God only and no longer God of the Jews. In this respect, they were as wrong as the Jews before them; for He is the one God of all the earth’s inhabitants equally.
Paul, the apostle, frequently warned the Gentiles who had become Christians not to think they were the only people for whom God cared. He said a “mystery” had been revealed to him that the Jews would presently repent and the two bodies of believers, those who were formerly Gentiles, would become one body in Christ Jesus. We cannot be sure when enough Jews, or “Israelites,” will be converted to bring the number up to what God has in mind in order that He will pronounce it “the fullness of the Jews.” When that moment comes, the mystery will be “finished.” In their dispersion, we have lost track of many of the Jews.
Why was it called a mystery? The reason is not because, as we might suppose, something was mysterious about the matter. The real meaning of the word “mystery” is something which must be explained in order to be rightly understood, not something merely mysterious. The only reason why it is necessary to explain over and over is the selfishness and racial prejudice of men, wishing to believe they are better in God’s sight than the rest of mankind. It is something not seen by sin-blinded eyes.
The angel proclaims the mystery as something which God “declared to His prophets” (10:7). It is nothing difficult to understand for those who read the Bible carefully, especially the prophetic portions which explain that Christ is to rule over Gentiles as well as Jews. (See Psalm 2.) Paul writes: “Ye have heard . . . how that by revelation He hath made known unto me the mystery . . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men (not prophets), as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promises in Christ by the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:2-6).
Now, do you clearly understand the matter? A great body of Christian believers, Jews and Gentiles, will fully come to some definite number which God has in mind. When that number is complete, then the seventh trumpet will blow. When He was on earth, the Lord said the Gospel must first be preached to all nations for a testimony before the end comes or before the present dispensation closes. Just as Enoch and Elijah were translated, this requirement is in order that this body of believers may be completed and prepared for translation. Then, Christ’s fierce punishment will come upon the wicked.
The Reverend Charles Wesley composed a beautiful hymn as a prayer for the Jews. We sometimes hear it sung in church, but how few take in the full meaning of the last verse!
The next time you sing the hymn you will understand it better, will you not? We do not know when that seventh trumpet will sound, indicating that “Christ’s mystical body” is completely finished to the proper number. However, we do know all true believers in Jesus Christ whether living on earth or “asleep in Christ” will pass through a tremendous experience during its sounding. About that time, such perfectly wonderful things happen all over the world. Being one of the first to be shown some of these things, John describes them before he tells what happens to believers.
John’s eyes are directed to Jerusalem and events happening there, for they are the most important of all. Up to this point, he has been shown things in other parts of the world; but now everything centers about Jerusalem. We must bear this fact constantly in mind in order to understand matters clearly.
John has been up in heaven all this time in his visions, looking down upon the earth. (1) He has been there ever since he was called up in Spirit by the words, “Come up hither” (4:1). Each vision since has been from the standpoint of heaven, which is John looking down upon the earth.
We are not told with certainty, but it seems most probable that the Mighty Angel, who put one foot upon the land and the other upon the sea, (10:2) took his position on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. With his left foot on Palestine, God’s holy land, John is told to go to this Mighty Angel and take the little book out of his hand, and John obeys. The Angel tells him, “Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly (stomach) bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.”
John took the book and ate it, he says. That sounds curious, for John could not actually chew up and swallow a book. Even we say of a book, “digest its contents.” That is what is meant here--John is to digest the contents of the roll, which is handed to him. In other words, he is to read the writing in it until he thoroughly understands and has mastered all its instructions.
John declared that the result was just what the Angel said: It was sweet as honey in his mouth. In other words, when he first read it, he was delighted beyond measure by what it said. However, when he took in the full meaning of all the words, then he found a very bitter sense. Although other Bible students give different explanations and only a few would agree with me, I will tell you what I think it all means. The most reasonable view is that the roll contained a description of the Temple to be rebuilt at Jerusalem. John immediately understood that Christ was coming to the earth again when this event occurred.
The glad news was like honey in his mouth for sweetness. After reading further and pondering, John discovered that he and Elijah were to descend to earth from heaven to prepare the way for Christ’s return. John realized that he would endure great personal suffering, which would not be what made John feel that bitterness. What made the book bitter for him to digest would be the terrible judgments that he and Elijah must inflict upon the earth’s wicked inhabitants and the terrible doom they must pronounce upon it. This responsibility would be bitterness indeed to John’s loving disposition.
Up to this point, John has been a silent spectator of all that is taking place in his visions. Now, he must become a part of the visions he sees. He sees himself take the roll, and he hears, “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues and kings.”
John prophesied, that is, preached the Gospel for many years after Christ was crucified. He prophesied when he wrote his Gospels and epistles. John prophesied when he wrote this revelation of Jesus Christ. In vision, he now is told that he must prophesy yet again before peoples, nations, tongues and kings. His prophesying in the early days of the church was mostly to Jews and more or less local although he went to live at Ephesus in his last days. Here is a world-wide commission being given to John. He will go all over the world preaching, or all these nations will come to Palestine to hear John. John, then, will come with Elijah to this earth to prepare for the Lord’s return. Throughout the history of the church, but not in large numbers, good people have believed that John was to be one of the “two witnesses” mentioned in the next chapter. I believe so, too.
I do not know how else to understand this curious place in Revelation where John ceases to be a mere spectator and becomes a part of the vision shown him. Nor, can I understand the word “again” in verse 11 unless it relates to something further than the writing of the Revelation. Otherwise, why should the roll have been so “bitter” as well as so sweet to John?
John had three tasks to perform besides his preaching:
(1) He is to measure and order a space cleared off of 1,000 feet in length and breadth for the Temple to be built. He is to measure, and order cleared off, a space 1,000 feet in length and breadth, to re-build the Temple on. The measurements are given in Ezekiel, chapters 40-43 and 45:2.
(2) He is to measure the altar of incense, which is to be about 4 feet square and six feet high (Ezek.41:22).
(3) And John was told to measure “them that worship therein.” This seems to mean, to measure off the proper number and the suitable persons to serve in this new Temple.
Such persons are carefully described in Ezekiel 44:9-16, where we read: “No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into My sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. And the Levites that are gone away from Me (backslidden), when Israel went astray, which went away from Me after their idols; they shall bear their iniquity… They shall not come near unto Me to do the office of a priest unto Me, nor to come to any of My holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they committed… But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near to Me to minister unto Me, and they shall stand before Me to offer the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God: They shall enter into My sanctuary, and they shall come near to My table to minister unto Me, and they shall keep My charge.”
Although we cannot understand all of this written before the time, John will evidently understand when the time comes for him to act. As one of those two witnesses, he will “measure” the worshipers and tell who is and is not allowed in the interior of the sanctuary when Christ comes again. Another prophet, Malachi, tells us: “Behold, I will send My messenger and he shall prepare the way before Me: And the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in . . . And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
This prophecy had an incomplete fulfillment in the purging of the Temple by Jesus Christ when He was here on earth. Its complete fulfillment will occur when He comes again and separates those who are worthy to enter His sanctuary with Him, called “the sons of Zadok” in Ezekiel, and other Levites who can only serve in secondary matters because of their previous fall into idolatry.
1. Verse 1 is just as correct if translated, “I saw another Mighty Angel going down to the earth.”