The Bittersweet mystery of Christ

The Bittersweet mystery of Christ

Introduction

Revelation 10:1-11 ESV  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.”

Do you remember the scroll with the seven seals from Revelation chapter 5?

There was this scroll, that represents the end of history as we know…

The end of the world as we know it…

And only Jesus was found worthy to open it’s seven seals…

Revelation 5:1-7 ESV  Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  (2)  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”  (3)  And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it,  (4)  and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.  (5)  And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”  (6)  And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  (7)  And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

  • So Jesus takes the end times scroll and opens it up, seal by seal, and as He opens each seal some things begin to happen, including the release of the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse and the martyrs crying out for vengeance.
    • But there are a couple of things to note here…
    • We are now in Chapter 11, but we are still in the same scene of Revelation.
      • Remember, John’s job is to simply write down what he sees and hears, he is like a movie camera, his job is not to direct, interpret, or write his own thoughts… his job is to record.
      • And that is exactly what he has been doing this whole time, he has been recording what he sees and hears.
    • And no significant amount of time has passed between chapters 5 and 10, this is the same scene in heaven… sure, events were described which likely will take some time, but John did not live out all of those events, he only recorded what he saw as he stood in heaven with God.
    • And as such… take note of these two points regarding the scroll with the seven seals:
      • First: We don’t know what’s written in the scroll, it was never read… things happened when seals were broken… but we don’t know that the scroll said anything about those things or maybe it said something different.
      • Second: Christ, as far as we know, is still holding the scroll. It says right there in Chapter 5 that Christ took it in His hand and never does it say He put it down.
  • So now we get these events happening in chapter 10… what is going on here?

Revelation 10:1-3a ESV  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,  (3a)  and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring.

  • Who is this mighty angel? I think it is safe to say this angel is likely Christ.
    • Don’t get caught up on the word Angel, that simple means messenger, and does not always refer to an angelic being. In fact, Christ is called “The Angel of the Lord” a few times through out scripture.
    •  But more telling is this Angels description: He is wrapped in a cloud, and has legs like pillars of fire.
      • God in Exodus was described as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
      • He has a rainbow over His head, something God Himself is biblically described as having.
      • He has a face like the sun, something the Bible only uses to describe God’s face.
      • And finally He roared like a lion, Jesus is called in the Bible the Lion of Judah.
    • Moreover, He has one foot in the sea and one on land, which is a picture of complete dominion… complete dominance over land and sea.
    • So most commentators agree that it is pretty safe to say this is Jesus.
  • Now in this Mighty Angel’s hand was the little scroll from Revelation 5, again, we have no reason to believe Christ was not still holding this Scroll, so the idea this is Christ is further strengthened.
  • And now He is going to do something with this scroll, the end time scroll, it’s been unsealed, but it hasn’t been read.
  • There is something regal about a King opening a scroll and reading it’s contents aloud to the people… when a king reads a declaration from a royal scroll in front of all his servants… there is something very definitive about that moment isn’t there.
    • It is very conclusive when the King reads from a scroll, it is as if the King is declaring “I have said it, and so it shall be”.
    • There is no argument to be made, there is no discussion to be had. It is done, it is read, it is set.
  • And so Jesus, presumably, standing on earth and water, reads out what is on the scroll…

Revelation 10:3-4 ESV  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.”

  • Now John hears what is declared by this Mighty Angel, presumably what is written in the scroll… but he is told not to write it down. He is told to keep it a secret.

Revelation 10:5-7 ESV  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.

  • So after reading the scroll, the Mighty Angel swears to God in very specific language, that when the seventh trumpet is blown, there would be no more delay… the end would finally come.
    • Because at this point there has been delay.
    • The four horsemen were delayed, until God had finished sealing the elect.
    • The martyrs were delayed in their vindication until their number was complete.
    • Even the seven trumpets were only given authority for a third of the earth at a time… it was not a complete Judgment.
  • And now Jesus is saying “Things are fixin to change, there will be no more delay”.
  • Finally, John is told to consume the scroll… to fully digest it, to take it in, to understand it, to make it a part of him… and that, for John, is very bittersweet…

Revelation 10:8-10 ESV  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.

SHOW TITLE SLIDE

  • Today what I want to talk about is the Bittersweet Mystery of Christ.
    • You see there are two major themes here in Revelation Chapter 10… first is that what is written on the scroll is a MYSTERY.
    • And second, that the mystery is bitter sweet.

Revelation 10:10 ESV  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.

  • Here is the conclusion of God’s ultimate plan… The redemption story for mankind…
    • And it is sweet like honey… and of course it is… because it means we get to live with God in eternity!
    • But it’s bitter too… because look at all the pain and suffering that happens in revelation.
  • So that is what we are going to talk about in the short time we have left, the sweet and the bitter mystery of Christ Jesus.

Point One – The Sweet Mystery: A Just God Who Gives Grace

Revelation 10:10 ESV  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.

  • The Sweet mystery is this: We serve a Just God, who punishes wickedness, who punishes evil, who punishes those who hurt others.
    • “Vengence is mine, declarith the Lord” and for the most part, we rejoice in that.
    • We take peace in that.
    • There is a sweetness to know that those who did us wrong aren’t going to get away with it.
    • It is a sweet thing indeed to know that God is Just.
  • A sweet thing indeed, but even sweeter is the mystery of a Just God who gives grace.
  • What do I mean by that?
    • Well, the word Just means JUSTICE is always done.
    • If you break a law, a Just judge punishes you without partiality.
    • The just judge always uses a fair and balanced punishment system, regardless of who it was who committed the crime.
    • A just judge is not swayed by bribes, nor does he treat his family better than he treats his enemies… he is Just. Justice MUST BE SERVED.
  • And that is good news for us when it is concerning our enemies… but, not such great news is it for us when it is concerning… well… us…
    • Because we have ALL SINNED.
    • 1 John3:4 gives us the definition of sin

1 John 3:4 ESV  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 

  • So, when we break God’s law we sin. And a just judge punishes law breakers. And this is problematic when we compare this with Romans 3:23

Romans 3:23 ESV  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

  • So we then, as much as our enemies, deserve justice.
    • And this, dear friends is what makes the Gospel so sweet.
    • That God, in is love for us, found a way to bring justice to our sins, without bringing on a punishment for us that was too much for us to bear.
  • You see, the bitter sweet mystery is not really a mystery at all, not for those who have ears to listen… it is a mystery to most… but not to all…

Revelation 10:5-7 ESV  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.

  • Look again at that last line “THE MYSTERY OF GOD WOULD BE FULFILLED JUST AS HE ANNOUNCED TO HIS SERVANTS THE PROPHETS”.
    • The mystery has been revealed to some, to some of God’s servants…
      • I wonder, has it been revealed to you?
    • The pharisees did not know the mystery… but a tax collector, and some fishermen, and a physician had it revealed to them.
    • The kings did not know the mystery, but some wisemen from the east had it revealed to them.
    • Manny of the Rabbi’s and the Scribes, and the Teachers, did not know the mystery… but a small town virgin girl and her betrothed husband had the mystery revealed to them.
  • And the mystery is this, that God would give His grace… His undeserved favor, not just to His chosen people, the Jews, but to the wicked, evil, disgusting, unclean, heathen gentiles as well.

Colossians 1:27 ESV  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Timothy 3:16 ESV  Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

  • In Ephesians 6:19, Paul while in chains specifically says the mystery is THE GOSPEL:

Ephesians 6:19 ESV  and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

  • Now my question is: has the sweetness of this mystery been fully revealed to you… does it make sense, does it click… does it drive you with passionate focus to preach the Gospel to others…
    • Or do you still wish wrath on those whom wrath has already been poured out for.
  • You see, you deserved the punishment, but Christ took it for you.
    • In that way God is still Just, because the crime was still paid for.
    • It wasn’t you who paid for it, but God’s son, Jesus Christ.
    • And on the cross God poured out the wrath MEANT FOR YOU on His one and only son.
  • And if you can accept that then you must also know that Christ did not die for YOU ALONE!
    • Think of the person you hate most in life… the person who hurt you the deepest… the person who did you wrong… the person you are struggling to forgive.
    • Do you let your righteous anger toward them lead you to pray for their repentance, or for their judgment.
      • I hope, dear saints, that it leads you to pray for their repentance…
      • Because God’s wrath has already been poured out for them on the cross…
        • Should they simply accept the free gift of salvation.
      • And if God’s wrath has been poured out for them once already, why wish that it get’s poured out a second time for them?
  • The sweet mystery is that Justice WILL BE SERVED.
    • But sweeter still is that is HAS BEEN SERVED and is available to all.
      • Now at the end of the day, God and His people will be vindicated, and we can rejoice in that. It is certainly a sweet thing, but while we still have time, let us labor to bring those under wrath to repentance, so that they too can be under grace… amen?!
  • So point one is the sweet mystery… we serve a just God who offers grace.
    • Justice will be served to all, but in the same breath, grace is offered to all.
  • Now our second point revolves around the bitter mystery, a loving God who Gives Wrath.

Point Two/Conclusion – The Bitter Mystery: A Loving God Who Gives Wrath

  • And you know what, for the sake of time I am just going to conclude with this point…

Revelation 10:10 ESV  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.

  • As sweet as it is to know that Justice is coming and grace is offered…
    • It is still, sorry for the pun here, a hard pill to swallow that God is going to pour out His wrath.
      • There will be some, many even, who do not accept the grace of God.
      • And for them they face horrors much worse than what is described in the book of revelation.
        • Because after the 4 horsemen tournament the earth.
        • After the seven trumpets…
        • The demon locust who cause pain…
        • The fire and hail falling from heaven…
        • Plagues and sickness and famine…
        • After all of that they face an eternity in hell.
        • Look at what Jesus says in regards to repentance and hell…

Mark 9:47-48 ESV  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,  (48)  ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

  • A place where you never die, but you are constantly and eternally burnt with fire…
    • The thought of that happening to people who don’t know Christ… it makes my stomach turn.
      • And it made John’s stomach turn to… it was literally bitter in his stomach.
  • You see as great as God’s grace is, it is only great because God doesn’t force it on us… He let’s us chose, we are not robots who only can do what we are programed to do… and that means we get to chose to accept salvation or not.
    • But in that greatness is an awful, horrible, reality… there will be many who do not chose salvation, and because God is just He will pour out His wrath on them.

Matthew 7:13-14 ESV  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  (14)  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

  • And so we have the two great sides to the mystery of the Gospel… the sweet side and the bitter side.
    • The Sweet Mystery: How can a just God give me anything other than what I deserve? How can I go to heaven when I deserve hell?
    • The Bitter Mystery: How can a loving God, who cares for and loves all of His creation, send someone to hell for eternity.
  • And at the end of time these mysteries crescendo… as Christ stands on the earth and the water, as He reads the scroll that brings the end without delay… these mysteries are magnified and are very evident, very regal, and very final…
    • The martyrs will be vindicated… how sweet.
    • Justice will be served and God will be glorified… how sweet.
    • But the time for repentance will end… how bitter.
    • And many souls will be sent to eternal damnation… souls that could have been saved had they repented… how bitter indeed is this mystery
      • But again, these mysteries are not at all mysteries to those they have been revealed to… have they been revealed to you?
  • Gospel Call

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