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THE SIXTH TRUMPET, PART 3

 

 

Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.” So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book.” And he said to me, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.” Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” Revelation 10:8–11.

 

The army of horsemen seen earlier under the sounding of the sixth trumpet defeated their own advancement in proclaiming the church built by Christ. The final strain of the sounding of the sixth trumpet is the appearance of Christ for the encouragement of His people, the servants of our God. He shows them His might and glory and with that appearance God speaks revealing to John the understanding of what is yet to come under the sounding of the seventh trumpet. John was told not to write it down; God has another way in which to make the understanding known.

 

Eat the Little Book

 

John is instructed to take the little book which is open and eat it. Keep in mind that this is a vision, and while John saw himself eating the little book, he was not literally eating a book; he only saw a picture of his eating a book. Since this is a picture in the vision, the person of John represents something other than himself and that picture is a picture of the church at the ending of the sixth trumpet.

God speaks to His church from heaven telling His church to take the little book from the hand of Jesus. Remember that the little book which is open is the Book of Revelation open to this very point, chapter 10. The church world has so confused the message of the Revelation that God’s church needs to look to the Christ of the Revelation to clear away all the confusion. Today we have millennialisms of all sorts with all kinds of raptures and tribulations. These make for exciting books, movies, and they fascinate people that listen to television preachers.

Among those that were the army of the horsemen we find under the sixth trumpet there are now conflicting messages on the Revelation. Many that once held the church-historic approach to the Revelation now hold a Preterist view, which takes the Revelation as coded messages against the Roman Empire that were historically completed by the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Some have escalated the church-historic view into radical positions in which they believe their particular group and view is the only correct view making their group the only true church of God and everyone else Babylon. And others have become so disgusted and disenchanted with the Revelation message that they want to have nothing to do with it. These all present a serious challenge to exploring the rest of the Revelation learning what we do not yet know.

God speaking from heaven is saying that all the different twists on the Revelation message are not good and are actually harmful to the spiritual health of His church as they misdirect its vision from God’s purpose in history to focus only on the present with little or no thought to the future. Church, do we trust Jesus? Do we really believe in His might and His ability to show us the continuance of the contents of the little book?

 

The Sweetness and the Bitterness

 

Jesus is willing to give us the little book only if we will be diligent in studying it to its conclusion. This is seen in His command to eat the little book. It is not that we must rip out chapters 11 through 22 and literally eat the paper upon which they are written.

We are to consume the revelation through prayerful, careful and somewhat scholarly study. By scholarly study I do not mean to go to a university and major in the Book of Revelation; I mean that we must use appropriate references and methodologies in studying the Revelation. Above all we must have an open mind and let Jesus teach us what He wants us to know. We must also be willing to let go of some previous teaching and explanations that have been handed down to us. Those things may have been helpful in the times they were popular but we must not be so dedicated to them that we overlook what Jesus would have us know about the Revelation.

Obviously the Bible is our first and primary reference but in using the Bible we must be careful to correctly use and interpret texts according to the subject matter and not according to our personal belief and prejudices.

Since we are following the church-historic interpretation we must be historically accurate. To do this we must use reliable histories and commentaries that are impartial and without bias. It would also be appropriate to read literature on the historic interpretation of the Book of Revelation from other backgrounds. While some of them can be fantastic and obviously off target, such as interpreting the locusts of the bottomless pit as B-17 bombers in WWII, there are some appropriate insights into history that can be helpful.

And we must always remember that Jesus is the one Who gives us the little book so we must constantly check with Him through prayer as we study and come to conclusions. He knows what is in it and just how much of it to give us at any time. Since we cannot eat the little book in one bite, it is a project that has to be done over time. For this reason we must not pontificate on the obscure and we must retrace our steps where we have been wrong.

In telling us to eat the little book Jesus tells us up front that it will make our stomach bitter. Albert Barnes helps make the meaning plain for us:

 

The meaning here is, that the effect which followed from eating the book was painful or disagreeable—as food would be that was pleasant to the taste, but that produced bitter pain when eaten. The fulfilment of this would be found in one of two things. (1) It might mean that the message to be delivered in consequence of devouring the book, or the message which it contained, would be of a painful or distressing character: that with whatever pleasure the book might be received and devoured, it would be found to contain a communication that would be indicative of woe or sorrow. Or (2) it may mean, that the consequence of devouring the book, that is, of embracing its doctrines, would be persecutions and trouble.

 

The bitterness is not in the amount of study that will be involved in receiving the rest of the Revelation, the bitterness will come from the reactions of people that hear or read the explanation who will be offended or otherwise object to what is revealed and turn on those Jesus uses to bring out the rest of the Revelation.

The Church of God Reformation Movement experienced such bitterness directed at them for their preaching the Revelation message as they understood it in the late 1800s. To some degree they brought it on themselves because of the judgmental attitude and exclusiveness they adopted. As they mellowed their approach in the late 1920s and early 1930s, there were split offs that picked up the harshness and sectarian use of the Revelation message. Divisions have actually happened over the interpretation of some of the symbols in the Book of Revelation.

Now that the church has learned better (I hope), the unbiased factual approach is more appropriate to teaching the message but even that will offend many people—in fact it will probably offend many that still hold a traditional church-historic view of the Revelation. Are we willing to be cut off, ridiculed, and set aside for what Jesus will show us about the Revelation.

But all progress moves through a bitterness phase as the newness upsets the status quo. Along with the bitterness of new discovery, Jesus also promises a sweetness like honey. Barnes says about this sweetness: “It would well represent the pleasure derived from Divine truth—the sweetness of the word of God—the relish with which it is embraced by those that love it.”

First there is the satisfaction of learning the truth as Jesus reveals it. After that there is a sweetness to be found in the association of people that respond favorably to the truth as it is revealed. There is a spirit of unity that forms around the truth of God’s word. This sweetness is not a little religious club or clique; it is fellowship together with the mighty Christ as He works to accomplish His purpose.

Verse 10 gives us the picture of John eating the little book. John eats the book and found it to be sweet in his mouth but his stomach became bitter. It happened just as Jesus said it would. So, to the church under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, be aware that you will find both greater unity and greater opposition because of what Christ has yet to show us. Are you willing to experience the bitterness? Sure, we want the sweetness but we cannot have it without the bitterness.

 

You Must Prophesy Again

 

 Verse 11,  And he said to me, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”

Right now it may appear that the message of the Revelation has been opted out by millennialism and sectarian strife over church-historic interpretations. We are at a standstill.

While the church world around us is fascinated with millenniums, raptures and tribulations our church-historic message seems to be of no interest. However, there are some people out there that have been disenchanted with our traditional teaching on the Revelation that are now picking up on a reasonable, rational, non-sectarian and truly historical approach to the teaching of the Book of Revelation.

The message is not dead. Jesus said, You MUST prophesy again. Barnes again is forward thinking in commenting on this statement:

 

The word “prophesy” here is evidently used in the large sense of making known Divine truth in general; not in the comparatively narrow and limited sense in which it is commonly used, as referring merely to the foretelling of future events. The meaning is, that, as a consequence of becoming possessed of the little volume and its contents, he would be called to proclaim Divine truth, or to make the message of God known to mankind. The direct address is to John himself; but it is evidently not to be understood of him personally.

 

The message of the revelation is not just about the church as a religious organization. Remember Revelation 1:1, it is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The Revelation is about Jesus and His working through His body, the church.

As we have learned the battle the church faced in history is not an argument over church organization and names; it is actually about the truths of the gospel, and the salvation from sin Jesus made possible through the atonement. Whenever the church has let up on, changed, or deviated from the gospel of Christ it always took a downward turn into some degree of apostasy.

Today the church both in its spiritual aspect and its outward aspect is at another low point in history. This is the second woe.

There are more notes to play on the sixth trumpet and only after they have been sounded can the third woe, the seventh trumpet, be sounded. But as John has been told to prophesy again, his prophesying begins in the next chapter when he is given a reed by which to measure the temple, the altar, and those who worship there.