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Bitterness of the Gospel

Rejecting the gospel subjects us to the bitterness of the gospel, but accepting the Gospel offers us forgiveness and reconciliation with God. 

 

Revelation 10:1-11 1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. 4 And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” 5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

 

8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

 

Ever since I was a child, Palm Sunday has been one of my favorite times of the year. It connects me to my childhood tradition in Pakistan. My dad would wake up early to get palm branches for the services.

 

Why palm branches? Because, on Palm Sunday, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches, a symbol of victory, peace, and eternal life, all of which were rejected as the week unfolded. Some of the same people who called Him the “King of Israel” on Palm Sunday cried out later “We have no king, but Caesar!” (John 19:15).

 

Therefore, while Palm Sunday reminds us of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, it’s also a reminder of the bitterness of the Gospel when Jesus wept over Jerusalem and prophesized its destruction, for they failed to recognize their Savior, the Messiah Jesus.

 

How about you? Do you recognize your Savior, the Messiah Jesus? So, if you ask what the bitterness of the Gospel is, it is the bitter condemnation of God but if you ask where the bitterness of the Gospel comes from, when the word “gospel,” in Greek euangelion, means good news, I would say it comes from rejecting the Gospel.

 

What is the gospel? John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is the Gospel.

 

The problem is that most people fall under the bitter condemnation of God not because they don’t believe in Jesus but rather because they don’t embrace the gospel and live by the gospel. They need to know not embracing the gospel is embracing the bitterness of the gospel.

 

As we continue our series “Uncovering Revelation,” verse by verse, Revelation 10 puts the focus on the bitterness of the gospel. John took a scroll from the hand of a mighty angel and ate it. It was sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach because he was expected to prophesize the bitterness of the gospel and its condemnation so people may embrace the gospel.

 

The big idea for us today is that if we don’t want to face the bitterness of the gospel then we must embrace the gospel and live by it. Revelation 10 shows three actions that John took by being attentive, obedient, and faithful to the voice of God.

 

Be Attentive to the Voice of God

 

Revelation 10:1-3 reads, “1Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. 2 He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3 and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded.”

 

This passage temporarily intersects the sixth and seventh trumpets as a parenthetical chapter. It gives us a break to refocus on God and not on the troubles of the world. Ever since the first trumpet, we have seen nothing but hell on earth. Revelation 10 assures us that Satan is not in control though it may appear as such. It is to declare God’s sovereignty. Three things are seen here.

 

The Messenger. By and large Christian scholarship is divided into two views over the identity of the angel. One group believes that the mighty angel is Jesus because it matches the description of Jesus in Revelation 5. The other group believes this mighty angel is probably the archangel Michael because the description matches Daniel 12:1, 6-7. I don’t think this is Jesus because Jesus is the one who is running and directing this judgment campaign from heaven.

 

Besides, in the phrase, “another mighty angel”, “another” in Greek is allos which is “another of the same kind”, so it is another angel of the same kind that we noticed previously. The rainbow over his head suggests the covenant promises of God which are further enforced by the image of clouds and pillars of fire from the book of Exodus where they function as protection and guidance (Exodus 13: 21-22; 14:12, 24).

 

In the wilderness, the Word was given by God on two tablets of stone. Here, the Word is given by a special mighty angel of God on a little scroll. Though this angel is mighty and has come down from the very presence of God, nevertheless, it is not his identity that matters but his message that matters.

 

The Message. Revelation 10:2 references a little scroll, not the scroll with seven seals that Jesus holds. This scroll contains the prophecy that John must prophesize but what is it?

 

The Mystery. The angel stands on the sea and land which is indicative of his authority over both water and land, but it also shows his size. An intentional effort is made to draw our attention to the little scroll that he holds in his hand to show a comparison of the size of the messenger and the message.

 

Whether God’s message comes through a mighty angel, a mini book, or a man like John, the power of His Word remains the same and the power of the Word is the point.

 

So, be attentive to God’s voice regardless of the medium He chooses to speak. Also, there is no better medium than the Bible itself if you want to hear God’s voice.

 

Revelation 10 continues with verse 4, “4 And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” The seven thunders carried a certain message which John heard loud and clear and was about to write down, but he was told not to do so. This is the first time John is told to omit the revelation. Therefore, we do not know what was said but we do not need to know because what we do need to know is already revealed.

 

Verse 5-7 next says, “5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”  God wants us to know whatever was omitted will come to pass without any delay and the mystery of God will be fulfilled. 

 

My wife Sarah is by nature an extremely curious person and I am not. And it drives her crazy. My problem is that I don’t like speculation because I find it to be a waste of time. Some curious people spend much time on this section speculating what the omitted section might have been, but it is omitted for a reason that God knows. In the Bible, something is a mystery not because it is hidden but rather because it is unknowable by man unless God reveals it. So, we do not need to guess something that God tells us He intends to fulfill.

 

We can learn from John about being attentive to the voice of God. Listen to the voice of God, just as John did in the thunder, especially during thunder and storms in your life. Don’t be distracted by the thunder— focus on Jesus— on what is He telling you today. John listened, but just listening is not enough.

 

Be Obedient to the Voice of God

 

Revelation 10:8 reads, “8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” It is the same voice that told John to omit certain sections of the revelation that he obeyed.

 

In verses 9-10, John again obeyed as he took an action, “9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey. 10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.”

 

First, being obedient to God is to be ready to even face giants. Did you notice that John did not ask? He acted. He told the mighty angel who stood on land and sea. That takes courage and trust in the Lord.

 

In the days of King Saul, his army feared Goliath because they looked at the size of his shield, the size of his sword, and the size of this giant man. When David, merely a boy, challenged Goliath, they looked at the size of this little boy with no shield or sword but David looked at the size of His God who was greater and mightier than all armies of men. 

 

Second, being obedient to God is to act and not sit passively or react only when no option is left. John acted in obedience. He immediately went to the angel and once the angel gave him the book, he didn’t speculate, but ate it.

 

Why was the book sweet in his mouth and bitter in his stomach? It is because of its content. The sweetness comes from knowing that God has heard the prayers and he is answering by acting on the prayers ever offered for justice. The bitterness comes from finding out what that justice would look like. When John digested the Word of God, he experienced the bitterness of it against those who had been warned over and over again.

 

Jesus, when on the cross, did not ask for justice. He asked His Father for mercy for He knew that the bitterness of the gospel was that they did not know what they were doing by crucifying their Messiah. 

 

Be obedient to the voice of God. If God is speaking to your heart today, don’t harden your heart like the people who one day welcomed Jesus as their king for they believed in Jesus and a few days later demanded His crucifixion for they did not embrace His gospel. John listened and obeyed and he was faithful to the voice of God. 

 

 Be Faithful to the Voice of God

 

Revelation 10:11 says, “11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” The third action that John took is evident right here in Bible that we hold in our hands. In faithfulness, he prophesied what is written in this book and he sent it to the seven churches, and God preserved this prophetic word for us.

 

I was young and naïve as a missionary. I felt that God wanted me to go to Afghanistan right in the middle of the war. Everyone was against it, but I was, as I said, young and naïve. The thought that I had was, do I fear man or be faithful to the voice of God? So I went.

 

Regardless of the time, occasion, and content and how it may make others feel, we must faithfully proclaim the gospel.

 

First Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

 

Two thousand years ago, on Palm Sunday, when the Gospel Himself, God in flesh, to fulfill the prophetic words uttered some 500 years earlier from the mouth of Zechariah in 9:9, rode a donkey and entered Jerusalem. His own did not recognize Him. They welcomed Him as the king with palm branches a symbol of victory, peace, and eternal life but they did not recognize Him.

 

They were too focused on their life troubles and did not recognize their Messiah for they wanted a rebel, a warrior, and a king. If, only if, they were attentive, obedient, and faithful to the voice of God like John, they could have embraced the gospel and avoided the bitterness of the gospel.

 

The bitterness is there because grace, mercy, and forgiveness are absent. The bitterness is there because a great number will suffer eternal loss. The bitterness is there because the gospel did not save everyone. The bitterness is there because though God desired everyone to be saved, many will perish. The bitterness is there because finally, the justice of God will prevail.

 

To avoid the bitterness of the gospel, we need to embrace the gospel and live by the gospel. Rejecting the gospel subjects us to the bitterness of the gospel, but accepting the Gospel offers us forgiveness and reconciliation with God. 

 

Be attentive to the voice of God. Be obedient to the voice of God. Be faithful to the voice of God. John was the only disciple that was present at the crucifixion, because he was attentive, obedient, and faithful to the voice of God.

 

If you are not a believer and you happen to read this message, consider this to be a divine appointment and put your trust in Jesus. He died so that we may never die, He rose again so that we may live the eternal life He promised.

 

Study Questions

 

1.       Read Revelation 10:1-6 and discuss the mystery of the mighty angel whom John sees as the chapter opens. Does it matter who he might be? 

 

2.       Read Revelation 10:7 and discuss the mystery of God which the angel proclaimed must be fulfilled.

 

3.       Read Revelation 10:8-11 and discuss the mystery of the little scroll that was held in the angel's hand. Why might it be sweet in the mouth but bitter in the stomach?

 

Deeper Study Questions

 

1.       How do you propose to share the gospel so that the hearers are aware of both the sweetness and bitterness of the gospel? 

 

2.       Clear proclamation of the gospel is God’s solution to wake up the nations, even in the end times. How can your group do more to proclaim the gospel? Consider different options including social media.

 

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