The Bittersweet Scroll

From Days of Vengeance, by David Chilton.
Pages 268-270.

[My comments are in bold brackets.]

—<Quote Begins>—

The Bittersweet Book (10:8-11)

8. And the Voice which I had heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, saying: Go, take the book that 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 peoples.

8-10    The instructions to take and eat the book held by the Angel are based on a similar incident in the life of Ezekiel, who was commanded to eat a scroll symbolizing the prophetic denunciation of the “rebellious house” of Israel (2:8-10; 3:1-3). This reference enables us to identify the book given to St. John as his commission, based on the New Covenant, to prophesy “lamentations, mourning and woe” against apostate Israel. The book is thus, essentially, the Book of Revelation itself. As with Ezekiel, the Covenant Lawsuit tasted to St. John as sweet as honey (cf. Ezek. 3:3), but his stomach was made bitter (cf. Ezek. 3:14). This should not be difficult to understand. St. John was called to prophesy about the victory of the Church and of the kingdom of God. A necessary corollary to the triumph of the righteous is the destruction of the wicked. The pattern holds throughout Scripture in the history of salvation: The same judgments that deliver us also destroy God’s enemies.

[Something to remember: to pray for the victory of the Kingdom of Heaven, in time and on earth, means to pray for the defeat of the enemies of that Kingdom, in time and on earth!

It is insufficient that the good guys win. The bad guys must lose.

Why? That is the way God wants it. That’s why.]

“Salvation and judgment are two aspects of the same event.”[1] Old Israel had turned from the true God to worship idols and demons; she had become a harlot and a persecutor of the saints, and had to be destroyed. And while St. John could rejoice in the victory of the Church over her enemies, it would still be a wrenching experience to see the once-holy city leveled to rubble, the Temple torn down and burned to ashes, and hundreds of thousands of his relatives and countrymen starved and tortured, murdered, or sold into slavery. All the prophets experienced this same emotional wrenching – which did not usually involve a rebellion against their calling (Jonah is a notable exception), but rather a deeply rooted recognition of the two-edged nature of prophecy, of the fact that the same “Day of the Lord” would bring both immeasurable blessing and unspeakable woe (cf. Amos 5:18-20).

[Even for the prophets – and all servants of God – there is no victory without pain. But, like Jesus, we must still work for victory. He carried His cross to reach His father’s goal, and so must we.

And – unlike Christ and the Apostles, but like Job, Abraham, Moses, David, and many others – it’s quite likely that we will taste some of the material fruits of victory even as we are on this world.

Our burden is less, and so the price we pay is smaller. And,as time goes on, there are more and more victories for God’s people in this life, just as our lives are far more comfortable than in the day of Christ or David or Moses or Abraham.]

It should be noted further, however, that a vast chasm separates the prophets from many of their interpreters in our own day. For while modern theologians will affect a weepy attitude over the sufferings of “humanity” in general, or in the abstract, the prophets suffered from no such humanitarian impulses.[2]

[Most modern theologians – especially those in the universities and seminaries – are a joke. Powerless to expand the Kingdom of God, or challenge His enemies. No wonder their irrelevant, pious babble is ignored by all, believers and unbelievers alike!]

The prophets grieved over the disobedient children of the Covenant. The bitterness St. John will experience is not over the fate of the Roman Empire. He grieves for Israel, considered as the Covenant people. They are about to be disinherited and executed, never to be restored as the Covenant nation.[3] The divorce of old Israel is necessary in God’s plan of redemption, and St. John both welcomes it and proclaims it with vigorous joy. Yet there is legitimate sorrow for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

[Tears, mixed with the joy.]

11       In the Old Testament background of the Book of Revelation, the Angel of the Lord is identified as the original Prophet (cf. Ex. 23:20-23; Deut. 18:15-19).[4] As such, He raised up and commissioned other prophets in His image, reproducing Himself in them (Ex. 3:2ff.; 33:14; 34:5ff.; 29-35; 2 Ki. 1:3, 15; 1 Chron. 21:18). For this reason, the prophets are often called angels (messengers), expressing their re-creation in the image of the divine Prophet-Angel (2 Chron. 36:15-16; Hag. 1:13; Mal. 3:1).[5] The same pattern is continued here: the Angel-Prophet, who proclaims His message while straddling the inhabited earth, commissions St. John to prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.

[Rest assured, those prophecies involve blessing and punishment in regard to how those nations and people and kings and language-groups obeyed or broke God’s commandments and laws!

It is justice and righteousness that concerns God the most.

According to His definitions, and not the Will of Our Betters.]

St. John’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Israel and the establishing of the New Covenant will encompass the nations of the world. Christ has announced the Gospel, the message of the universal sway of the Kingdom, to “His servants the prophets” (v.7), and now His servant John is to extend the proclamation of that Gospel to all nations. Christ has redeemed men from every nation (7:9). The mighty Roman Empire itself is ultimately an instrument of God’s will (17:16-17), eventually to be crushed and cast away when its usefulness has ceased (19:17-21; cf. Dan. 2:44). “The kingdoms of the world are but the scaffolding for God’s spiritual temple, to be thrown down when their purpose is accomplished.”[6]

[The nations and powers of the world don’t understand this very well.

Their understanding of their disposable nature in the hands of God will grow over time.

Whether they like it, or not.]

[1] See R. J. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule, pp. 19ff., 140f.

[2] For an incisive analysis of humanitarianism, see Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), pp. 39-87.

[3] That Israel will someday repent and turn to Christ is, to me, indisputable (Rom. 11; cf. Chilton, Paradise Restored. pp. 125-31). That is not at issue here. The point remains, however, that in order to be restored to the Covenant, Jews must join the Church of Jesus Christ along with everyone else. Israel will never have a covenantal identity distinct from the Church. For more in-depth discussions of the place of Israel in prophecy, see (in ascending levels of complexity) lain Murray, The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971); John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., [1959, 1965] 1968), Vol. 2, pp. 65-108; Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy” (I), Westminster Theological Journal 45 (1983), pp. 132-44; idem, “Israel as the Hermeneutical Crux in the Interpretation of Prophecy” (II), Westminster Theological Journal 46 (1984), pp. 254-297.

[4] See Kline’s discussion of this in Images of the Spirit, pp. 75-81, 91-95.

[5] Ibid., pp. 57ff.

[6] Thomas V. Moore, A Commentary on Haggai and Malachi (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1856] 1968), p. 80.

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