Is the Gospel good news to you? Or is it merely news?
If the Gospel of Jesus Christ is mere news to you, then you do well to consider that which the six trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9 set before you.
The first four trumpets belong together. These trumpets have in view the undoing of the created order. The first four trumpets sound and creation itself is touched. Creation itself is shaken and undone. In view here are tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, monsoons, fire, wind, and all the devastating forces of nature. Here we learn that these things come forth from the throne of God Himself. With the sounding of the first four trumpets it is as though God Himself were undoing everything He has done in creation. The first four trumpets bring cosmic disorder. You can read about them in Revelation 8.
If the first four trumpets belong together, then the last three trumpets belong together. These trumpets do not have in view creation; they have in view man himself. The last three trumpets sound, and mankind is touched. The human race is shaken and undone. With the fifth trumpet blast we have the unleashing of the hordes of hell; so terrible is this affliction, man cries out for death, man seeks death, man wants to die; but death escapes him. You can read about in Revelation 9:1–12.
If you thought things were horrific with the sounding of the fifth trumpet, they get worse with the sounding of the sixth trumpet. With the sixth trumpet blast war is set before us—a composite picture of all the wars and rumors of wars that have occurred from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of His return. Here we find man mercilessly killing one another. Here we are confronted with the butchery, brutality, and bloodbath of war. One third of mankind is killed. You can read about it in Revelation 9:13–21.
These, then, are the six trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9. As terrible and horrific as they are, these six trumpets are only harbingers of the last trumpet that is yet to sound. If you think the sounding of these six trumpets—bringing about the undoing of the created order in trumpets 1–4, unleashing the hordes of hell in trumpet 5, bringing untold carnage and death in war in trumpet 6—if you think the sounding of these six trumpets is terrible and horrific, then imagine what lies in store with the sounding of the seventh trumpet on the great and terrible day of the Lord!
This, then, is the lay of the land. The six trumpets of Revelation 89 have been sounding from the time of Christ’s first coming; they will continue to sound until Christ comes again, and that with increasing intensity. Even now the trumpets are sounding! Even now God is active. Even now God is speaking—speaking through His mighty trumpet blasts—warning the world of the impending doom and judgment that is to come! The seventh trumpet is about to sound!
Before we get to that seventh trumpet, however, we are given an interlude in Revelation 10:1–11:14. We have been confronted with the first six trumpets in Revelation 8-9; we will be confronted with the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15–19. But now in Revelation 10:1–11:14, we are given an interlude. Even as we were given an interlude between the opening of the sixth seal and the seventh seal, so now we are given an interlude between the sounding of the sixth trumpet and the seventh trumpet.
This interlude, however, is not to be understood chronologically. It is not as though the six trumpets must complete their sounding, and only then do the events of Chapter 10 take place. The interlude of Chapter 10 is descriptive. It describes the life of the church as she lives in the midst of the world between the first coming of Christ and His return on the clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead. Chapter 10 reminds us, once again, that we are not spectators sitting in the stands watching the events unfold before our eyes; we are participants in the action. This is the history of the church.
His face is like the sun. Here is the healing in His wings! He dwells in the action. This is the history of the church. the action. This is the history of the church.
The Angel of the Lord
The interlude begins with the words of verse 1: “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” Whatever the identity of this mighty angel, it is clear that this angel is being set over and above the seven angels who sound the seven trumpets. In view here is no ordinary angel. In view here is an angel that excels all others. In view here is the mighty Angel of the Lord!
Elsewhere in Scripture, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar as she fled in the wilderness, speaking to her of her son Ishmael. She identified Him as the Lord Himself (Genesis 16). The mighty Angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham on Mount Moriah, commanding him not to slay his son. Abraham identified Him as the Lord Himself (Genesis 22). He appeared to Jacob and told him to return to the promised land. There He identified Himself as God (Genesis 31). He appeared in the burning bush to Moses and gave His Name: I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3).
In view here in Revelation 10 is no ordinary angel. In view here is an angel that excels all others. In view here is the mighty Angel of unapproachable light! He is Light!
the Lord. In view here is the Lord Himself! You are being confronted with Christ, the risen and exalted Lord of Glory! Note His description: John sees Him coming down from heaven. It is as though John is witnessing the second coming of Christ! He sees Him coming down from heaven, as if to judge the living and the dead!
He is clothed with a cloud. You remember the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night? You remember the thick cloud that appeared on the top of Mt. Sinai as God have His law? You remember the glorious cloud of God’s presence coming down and filling the tabernacle? Here is the Christ, clothed with a cloud! Behold, He is coming with clouds!
A rainbow is on His head. You remember the rainbow of Genesis 9? The waters of the flood have receded, the dry land has emerged, and God makes a covenant with all creation, promising never again to destroy the world with a flood, and He gives the sign of a rainbow in the skies. The Hebrew is the word for a warrior’s bow. But that bow is now held in the position of peace; not raised in the position of war to send forth its arrows of wrath, but held at the side in the position of peace. God will keep covenant; the rainbow is proof of that. That rainbow now surrounds the head of the Christ, signifying His covenant faithfulness.
His face is like the sun. Here is the Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in His wings! He dwells in unapproachable light! He is Light! His feet are like pillars of fire. Again, remember the pillar of fire by night, bringing light, warmth and protection for Israel of old.
Here, then, we are confronted with the risen and exalted Christ! This is the Christ, the King, all-glorious above! The mighty Angel of Revelation 10 is the Angel of the Lord! The mighty Angel of Revelation 10 is the Christ! He is the One with whom we are dealing in Revelation 10!
Notice also His position in verses 2–3: “He had a little book open in His hand. And He set His right foot on the sea and His left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars.” Note His position, and note it well: a little book open in His hand; His right foot on the sea; His left foot on the land; His voice crying out loudly. We will come back to His position and posture in a moment.
The Seven Thunders
Notice now what happens when He cries out with His voice: “When He cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them” (vv. 3b–4).
What are we to make of the seven thunders? As we have seen before, the number seven is the number of completeness, and John tells us that he heard the seven thunders, but he is not permitted to write down what he heard. Why not? Could it be that the seven thunders are intentionally hidden from us for the purpose, now in this interlude, of impressing upon us the comfort that is ours in Christ? The intent is to place these seven thunders before us, thereby underscoring their reality, but then intentionally to turn our attention away from them, thereby underscoring that which is of the utmost significance, namely: Christ!
In other words, our attention is not to be focused upon the seven thunders, though they are there! Our attention is to be focused upon Christ! The seven thunders are there, to be sure, but our eyes One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me!” The interlude fixes our eyes upon Christ!
Indeed, John focuses our attention once again upon the position and posture of the Christ, verse 5: “The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up His hand to heaven.” Christ now takes the posture of an oath: the little book in His hand, His right foot on the sea, His left foot on the land, his other hand raised to heaven to swear an oath. “The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up His hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (vv. 5–7).
The Next Great Act of God
Christ swears His oath before the eternal and living God, the Creator of heaven and the things that are in it, the Creator of earth and the things that are in it, the Creator of the sea and the things that are in it. Christ the Son swears an oath before the Father, and what is the content of that oath? There should be delay no longer! The seventh angel is about to sound, the mystery of God is about to be finished! This is the oath that the Son of God takes in the presence of His Father. There will be delay no longer! The seventh trumpet is about to sound! The mystery of God is about to be finished! Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come again to judge the living and the dead! This is the next great act of God: the coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead! When the seventh trumpet sounds there will be no more opportunity to repent! When the seventh trumpet sounds there will be no more opportunity to flee to Christ. When the seventh trumpet sounds the history of redemption will reach its consummation!
The only remaining act of God, in terms of the history of redemption, is His return to judge the living and the dead. Christ has sworn an oath before the Father, that there should be delay no longer, that the seventh trumpet is about to sound, that He is about to come again!
The Little Book
But then, look what happens next, verses 8–11. John is commanded to take the little book from the hand of Christ; he is commanded to eat it, and it will be sweet as honey in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach, and then he is to prophecy again to many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. The little book which Christ holds in His hand is the gospel, which proclaims the mighty acts of God in history for the redemption of His people—those mighty acts that culminate in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John must eat that book, and it will be sweet as honey in his mouth, even as it is bitter in his stomach. Such is the message of the gospel. What can be sweeter than the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? But that same gospel also brings bitterness, for as that gospel is preached, persecution breaks out against those who proclaim it, bringing bitterness.
The message of the gospel, then, goes forth. The message of Christ is the message of the gospel. It goes forth to peoples, nations, tongues, and kings. It goes forth to you. Do you understand what you are being confronted with in Revelation 10? Christ is even now standing, as it were, one foot on the sea, the other foot on the land, hand raised to heaven, swearing an oath before the Father, that the time is at hand. Such is the urgency of the gospel! The six trumpets have been sounding from the time of Christ’s first coming, they are sounding even now, but the seventh and last trumpet is about to sound. In God’s conception of things, there is no delay.
Understand the time in which you live–the heavens are about to open! It is as though the skies are about to be rolled back; the trumpet is about to resound; Christ Himself is about to descend. Is it well with your soul?
The message of the gospel goes forth to you. This message, presented to you in the interlude of chapter 10, is not intended primarily to warn the unbeliever (though it does that); it is intended primarily to comfort the saints. Your Savior has accomplished your redemption, and so certain is it that He will bring that redemption to its consummation, that He swears an oath before the Father that He will bring the consummation soon!
Do you think the undoing of the created order in trumpets 1–4 can undo you? Do you think the hordes of hell in trumpet 5 can shake you? Do you think the wars and rumors of wars in trumpet 6 can take you? Do you think the final judgment in trumpet 7 can separate you from Christ? Then consider the oath your Savior has sworn before the Father! Nothing in heaven, nothing on earth, nothing in the seas, can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even the final judgment!
We need this interlude. We need to know that amidst all the carnage of the six trumpets— amidst the shaking of the created order, amidst the unleashing of the hordes of hell, amidst war and rumors of war—that we belong to Christ! We need to know, even as we live in anticipation of the last trumpet, that in the final judgment, we belong to Christ.
This is the comfort of the Church. This is the message of the gospel. May it not be merely news to you. May it be, in every sense of the word, good news to you.
Rev. Brian Vos is the Pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan.