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I saw another mighty angel … clothed with a cloud.
The word of assurance and consolation
The Book of Revelation is written for the comfort of the Church in presence of her oppressing foes. This word of consolation is of great preciousness and help to the suffering Church; for--
I. It is given by the Lord Himself. The strong angel “coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud,” can be none other than the Lord Himself. The surrounding symbols are His, and His alone. “The rainbow was upon His head”; “His face was as the sun, and His feet as pillars of fire.” It is the reflection of the Divine glory in Christ. When He cries the seven thunders utter their voices, and His great voice was “as a lion roareth.” From the word of such a one the Church may always gather the utmost comfort.
II. It gives the prospect and pledge of release. The suffering Church writhes in its anguish; but a definite limit is put to the days of sorrow. “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound.” This is not indefinite and uncertain: “There shall be time no longer”--there shall be no more delay. Relief is certain and speedy. This is assured by oath, even by the voice of the Angel who “sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things that are therein.” This oath is for truest confirmation.
III. The word of consolation and promise is given in the most solemn and assuring manner. This is seen in the whole vision--the person, attitude, message, oath, and surrounding testimonies.
IV. It is the truest, the utmost encouragement to hope. Upon this vision the Church should ever reflect in the time of suffering and fear. It is possible patiently to endure and hold out when a definite and assured prospect and pledge of relief is given. The words, “declared to His servants the prophets,” shall have their fulfilment; “the mystery” shall be “finished.” (R. Green.)
Aspects of Christ
1. The gospel and Church of Christ has mighty enemies, such as princes and the great men of the earth. Yet here is her comfort, that she has a mighty Angel, even that great Angel of the Covenant, Christ Jesus, the Almighty God, for her, to deliver her and confound her enemies, in the height of their pride.
2. By this mighty Angel’s coming down from heaven we see whence and whereby shall be the ruin of antichrist, to wit, not from the earth or the arm of flesh, but from heaven and the heavenly power of the Word of God.
3. He comes clothed with a cloud, to show the manner of His manifestation to His Church in His Word and sacraments, and that her knowledge of Him on earth is but obscure and only in part.
4. By the rainbow on His head we see that He comes to His Church with peace, and the assurance of the covenant thereof; and so shall He come in like manner to every humbled soul.
5. His face is said to be as the sun, whereby we see that as antichrist comes with darkness and the smoke of error, so on the contrary Christ comes ever with the light and brightness of truth.
6. His feet as pillars of fire, to tread down and consume His enemies, serve as a just and dreadful terror to His foes, but as a sweet and singular comfort to His elect ones, who are here trod upon and cruelly used. (William Guild, D. D.)
And he had in his hands a little book open.--
The little book; or, characteristics of revelation
“He had in his hand a little book open.”
I. The ambassador who beings it. Much may be learnt concerning any message that is sent by an earthly monarch from the character and rank and insignia which belong to the messenger. He who brings God’s message to mankind is one of no mean order, and the tokens of his authority are of the most impressive kind.
1. He comes from heaven. The Bible is not a merely human production.
2. It is mighty in its power. It was “a strong angel” that St. John saw, suggesting to him and to us the strength of that message which he was commissioned to bring. What trophies of its power has not the Bible won?
3. Its truths fill the soul with awe. The angel was “clothed with a cloud”--symbol this of the majesty and mystery that surround and invest the foundation-teachings of the Word of God.
4. But they are crowned with blessed promise and grace. “The rainbow was upon his head.” Though there be so much that we cannot penetrate or comprehend, nevertheless the predominant characteristic is that of “grace.”
5. They irradiate and illumine all our earthly life. “His face was it were the sun.” “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun” (Ecclesiastes 11:7).
6. And they shall never be driven forth or removed. “His feet as pillars of fire,” and verse 2. “He planted his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth.” His invincible power is signified by “the pillars of fire”; and his having set his feet upon the earth and sea tells of “the immovable steadfastness of the heavenly Conqueror against all the resistance of His enemies.” All Church history proves this. In many ages and places it has been death to keep a copy of the sacred writings. Wherever they were found, they were ruthlessly destroyed, and often they also with whom they were found. But every copy of the Bible that we possess to-day proves how partial and ineffective all such endeavours were. Glory be to God that they were so!
II. The description given of is. “A little book open.”
1. A book. The Bible is not the revelation itself, but the record of it. But without the record the revelation would not have availed us. Great scorn has been poured on the idea of “a book revelation,,’ and an immense deal of poor wit has been expended upon the idea that God should have used such mean materials as books are made of as the vehicle of His revelation of Himself. But the Bible is not the revelation, only its record; and it is reason for eternal gratitude that His revelation has been so given that it can be thus recorded. In what other way could the knowledge of God have been so well preserved or spread abroad?
2. Its seeming insignificance. It is “a little book.” In these days of gold and guns, when wealth and armies are thought to be the great means of accomplishing everything, the spiritual force that lies hidden in “a little book” counts but for little. But what hath not God wrought by it? And we may be grateful that it is little, and not a ponderous library which it would need a lifetime even to know part of, but one small volume which can be read and re-read and carried everywhere as we will. No doubt the littleness of the book here spoken of is intended to be in contrast with that vast volume told of in chap. 5., which was written within and without, so complete, so full, was it.
3. It is to be an open book. St. John saw it “open” in the hand of the angel. There have been and there are those who would have the Word of God closed, if not entirely, yet to large extent. God hath caused the vision to be written and made “plain,” so that the unlearned may learn, and the most simple comprehend.
III. The voices for and against it. We read that the angel cried with a loud voice, and that the seven thunders uttered their voices. Now--
1. The angelic voice suggests--
(1) The startling effect of the Word of God upon mankind. The angel’s voice was “as when a lion roareth.” So did the Word of God affect men. See when at the Reformation it was first freely given to Europe. How it roused men’s minds, awoke them from their lethargy, nation after nation heard the sound and broke away from the superstition and sins in which they had so long lived t And it is so still.
(2) The assured persuasion it gives concerning the mystery of this present life. The solemn oath of the angel (verses 5-7) did but represent what the Word of God accomplishes. As He gave, so it gives, solemn assurance that what now is--so much of it so mournful, so full of mystery--is not ever to be, but shall have an end. Life is a mystery now, even in these comparatively calm days of ours; but what must it have appeared to the persecuted, outraged Church of St. John’s day?
2. The thunder voice (verse 4). The question comes--Whence this voice of the seven thunders? It has, we think, been too hastily assumed that St. John is referring to the sevenfold voice of the thunder mentioned in Psalms 29:1-11. And, doubtless, in this book thunders are referred to as coming forth from the throne of God (cf. Revelation 4:5). But the true interpretation is given, we think, in the strikingly parallel passages in Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:4-9, where that which the prophet is commanded to “seal up” is not what God shall do, but what His people’s enemies shall do against Him and them. And so here, we believe, the thunders tell of the wrathful response, the angry mutterings of God’s enemies against His truth. And, thus regarded, they tell of the opposition the Word arouses in the world of the wicked. It has ever been so. Hence the Divine forces on the side of the Church and against her foes are what this book mainly reveals. It tells us, “The Lord is on our side; we will not fear what man can do unto us.”
IV. The directions concerning it. As it was with the “little book” so it must be with the Word of God.
1. It must be received as from God (verse 8).
2. It must be taken into the soul. This is the meaning of the strange command, “Take it, and eat it up.”
3. When so taken, it will produce both sorrow and joy. The first taste will be pleasant. “In thy mouth sweet as honey.” And it is so. Is it not a joy that we have a revelation from God at all; that we are assured God is “our Father which art in heaven”; that our salvation is “without money and without price,” for that Christ died for us? Yes; “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” are these precious truths. But the after-taste will cause distress and pain. Witness the Saviour’s tears over lost souls, and the like tears shed still by those who know “the fellowship of His sufferings.” That men should resist and reject such a Saviour; that we should so long have done so, and do not yet wholly receive Him--yes, this after-taste hath pain.
4. When eaten, it qualifies for witness-bearing for God (verse 11). This is the real qualification, this deep experimental knowledge of the power of God’s Word. All else is a naught compared with this. Only such God ordains to be His prophets. Thus doth this “little book,” though it meant not the Bible, tell of the Bible. (S. Conway, B. A.)
That there should be time no longer.
The end of time
“That there should be time no longer.” A tremendous asseveration, whether we regard the thing affirmed or the person who affirms it. Of the person making this asseveration we may say that there are traces about him, which, although he is called an angel, seem to identify him with our Lord Jesus Christ. In the first verse he is represented as clothed with a cloud; and the cloud vesture is stated in the Psalms to be the vesture of God Himself--“clouds and darkness are round about Him.” A rainbow encircles his head; and a rainbow is the well-known token of the covenant of grace made with us in and through Christ. “His face,” we are told, “was as the sun.” In the first chapter of this Book, John describes the countenance of the Son of Man to be “as the sun shining in its strength”; not to mention that one of the features of the glorified Christ, as He appeared at the Transfiguration, was this, “His face did shine as the sun.”
I. What may be meant by this cessation of time? Time, considered in itself, can never cease to exist. It must flow on and on to endless ages. Everything which happens must, of course, have a certain period of time, longer or shorter, in which to happen. The redeemed in glory will sing the praises of God and the Lamb. Time must elapse while they are singing those praises. If in the glorified body there should be a heart, it must go on, pulsation after pulsation, in never-ending succession. If in the new heavens and the new earth there should be anything analogous to that movement of the heavenly bodies which gives us day and night and the vicissitudes of the seasons, such a movement must necessarily ask time to proceed in--nay, as it proceeds, it must measure time. What, then, is meant by the announcement of a period when there shall be time no longer? Time, as I have said, must always flow on; but it may be annihilated to us, or in great measure annihilated. How this may be is not really an intricate or a subtle question, although it may at first sight appear so. It is generally and truly said that to Almighty God there is no such thing as time. If you understand this assertion, you will then find no difficulty in perceiving how time to us may be no longer. To say that to Almighty God there is no such thing as time, is only another method of expressing the truth (and be it said with the utmost reverence), that God has a perfect memory and a perfect foresight. There are many points of analogy between the mind and the eye. Imagine, then, an eye as free from the laws of the eye as you have been imagining a mind free from the laws of the mind. Imagine an eye not subjected to the laws of perspective, an eye to which things do not, as they recede from it, either diminish in size or fade in colour. It must be clear that to such an eye distance does not exist, just as to a mind endowed with perfect memory and perfect foresight time does not exist. One object may be placed a yard distant from the eye; another object may be placed a thousand miles distant; but if the latter of these objects appear of the same size, shape, and colour, and with all the same circumstantials, as it would if brought within the range of thirty-six inches to that eye distance is annihilated, and has no existence. And if God were to announce to any one that distance would be no more to him, this would be only another form of saying that his eyesight should be free from those limitations which are at present the conditions under which eyesight exists. Thus we have arrived at the last stage of our explanation. You have only to remember that the human mind, in another stage of existence, will be made competent for a far higher state of things than it can ever now attain, that its reach will be increased both as regards the past and the future, in order to comprehend the announcement that “time shall be no longer.” Our memory of all that has befallen us will then be perfect. Many events and sensations of our past career are buried away in the sod of the mind, trodden down into the soil, and overlaid by our more recent experiences. Of many very critical events, on our minds there is just a headstone, as it were, with a monumental inscription, giving in the coldest manner their name and date; but freshness, reality, and vitality they have none. Yet, even now, passages of our past history are, ever and anon, recalled to us with a wonderful vividness, by music, by odours, by long forgotten scenes, or by some other association of the senses. Sudden and transient flashings these, of a light which is destined one day to flush the whole mind, and to penetrate into its darkest recesses. The memory has really no more lost its deposits than the graveyard has lost the corpses entrusted to its keeping. Those deposits will one day start from the sod in all the freshness of new life, and stand up upon their feet “an exceeding great army.” Nor need we shrink from supposing that in that higher condition of existence the powers of memory and foresight possessed by the mind will be greatly enlarged, whether or not they be made, as regards our future experience, perfect.
II. Why the asseveration of the text is made upon oath. The reasons are obvious. First, its being made on oath argues its importance. We take an oath in matters of moment, not in trifles. Petty interests are felt to be beneath the solemnity and dignity of an appeal to Heaven. Secondly, an oath is an indication that the thing assevered appears till then in more or less uncertainty. It is the province of an oath to give assurance of something which was previously open to question.
III. To each one among us the abolition of time will be the hour of our own death. “This I say, brethren, the time is short.” Yes, that is the main point which the oath may be taken to imply--the infinite importance in God’s estimation of the time that remains to you upon earth. (Dean Goulburn.)
The end of time
I. What is meant by the end of time. Time, as far as man has any concern with it, is that portion of duration which is commensurate with the existence of our world, and which is measured by its diurnal and annual revolutions. It began when this world began to exist. The end of time, and the end of the world, are, then, expressions of the same import.
II. When will the event denoted by these expressions arrive? We learn from our text that it will arrive when the mystery of God shall be finished. God’s great object in creating this world and its inhabitants was to gratify and glorify Himself. Now, God at once glorifies and gratifies Himself when He displays His perfections in His works. Some of His perfections, as, for instance, His power, wisdom, and goodness, He displayed in the creation of the world; and they, as well as some other perfections of His nature, are still displayed in its providential government. But the principal display of His perfections is made in the work of redemption by Jesus Christ, the great object to which all His works of creation and providence ultimately refer. Agreeably, inspiration informs us, that for Jesus Christ all things were created; and that to Him there is given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him. When the purposes for which this kingdom was given to Christ, and set up in the world, are accomplished, the mystery of God, mentioned in our text, will be finished. Now the purposes for which this kingdom was given to Christ include two things. The first is, the complete salvation of all who are given to Him by the Father. The second is, the complete and final subjugation of His enemies.
III. What will be the attending circumstances and consequences of this event?
1. With respect to ourselves, considered as individuals, the end of time, or, which is the same thing to us, the end of our lives will be attended by circumstances, and followed by consequences, most important and interesting.
(1) We shall then be separated at once from all temporal and earthly objects.
(2) With the end of time our state of probation and our day of grace will end. We shall be removed from our present religious privileges and means of spiritual improvement.
(3) When time ends, eternity will begin. The moment in which we leave this temporary and mutable state, we shall enter a state which is eternal, and, of course, unchangeable.
2. The circumstances and consequences which will attend and follow the end of time with respect to the human race.
(1) When the end of time shall arrive, the general resurrection will take place.
(2) At the end of time, the day of judgment, the great day for which all other days were made, will arrive.
3. It remains only to consider what will then be the fate of the globe which we inhabit. Then the gold, the silver, the jewels, and all the glittering but delusive objects, for which so many thousands have bartered their souls, shall be destroyed. Lessons:
1. In view of this subject, however insignificant, how unworthy of an immortal being, do all merely temporal and earthly pursuits appear I
2. In full view of the end of time let me ask, are you all, my hearers, prepared for it? (E. Payson, D. D.)
The end of time
I. There is a period set at which time shall be no more.
1. Time had a beginning. There was a day, a year, that was the first, before which there was not another. But eternity was before, and will be after time; which therefore appears at present like a small island lifting up its head in the midst of the ocean.
2. Time has run from the beginning, and is running on in an uninterrupted course of addition of moments, hours, days, months, and years.
3. Time will come to an end. It has run long, but it will run out at length. The last sand in the glass of this world will pass. The period is set in the Divine decree, the last day and hour, though no man knows them.
(1) This present world shall be no more; these heavens and earth shall pass away by the general conflagration (2 Peter 3:10).
(2) New years shall be no more. The year will come, the month, the day, hour and minute, after which there shall never be another. Let us improve our years then for eternity, and count our days so as to apply our hearts to wisdom.
(3) The different seasons will be no more. There will be no more summer and winter, seed-time and harvest. There will be an eternal spring in heaven; but an eternal winter, as it were, in hell, where is gnashing of teeth.
(4) The business of this life shall be no more. There shall be no more tilling of the ground, tending of flocks, merchandising, nor trades. How unhappy must they be who have no pleasure nor satisfaction in anything else, since these are not to last!
(5) The means of sustaining this life shall be no more. There shall be no more eating, drinking, nor sleeping.
(6) Relations shall be no more. Time going dissolves them all, as fellow-travellers part when come to their journey’s end. There shall be no more magistrates and subjects, ministers and people, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants (Job 3:19). Only the relation betwixt Christ and His people as head and members, which is not of this world, shall remain; and so the relation to God as His children (Luke 20:35-36); who are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
(7) Space for repentance shall be no more.
(8) Tribulation and adversity of the godly shall be no more.
(9) The prosperity and comfort of the wicked (Luke 16:25) shall be no more.
II. The weight of this truth, and its concern to mankind.
1. That it is of weight and concern to them appears in its being sworn to them; which implies--
(1) That men are very heedless about it, and slow to believe it, and be impressed with it.
(2) A legal intimation made to them of its ending.
(3) That the period of time is unalterably fixed, the bounds of it set, beyond which it cannot go; for it is set by an oath.
2. The weight of the thing lies in these three.
(1) That then that which concerns mankind’s happiness or misery is completed; the state of probation is over, and the state of recompense takes place in perfection, both as to their bodies and souls.
(2) That then eternity succeeds the state of all for ever unalterable, no end to be expected more.
(3) That now or never must be done what is done for eternity.
Use. Then be exhorted suitably to improve this intimation of time’s ending.
1. Look beyond time, this world, and the state of things in it; carry your views into the other world, to eternity (2 Corinthians 4:18).
2. Lift your hearts from off the things of time, and set them on those that are eternal (Colossians 3:2).
3. Use this world passingly, as pilgrims and strangers in it (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
4. Let not the frowns of this world, the troubles and trials of the present life, make deep impression on us: they will not last.
5. Be not lifted up with the world’s smiles, nor value yourselves on worldly prosperity; for time will put an end to this also.
6. Improve time while it lasts, for the ends it is given you for.
(1) Laying a good foundation for eternity, getting out of your natural state into the state of grace, believing on Christ, and repenting of sin.
(2) Living to the honour of God, endeavouring to act in your sphere for propagating the name and kingdom of Christ.
(3) Serving your generation in usefulness to mankind, seeking to forward the spiritual and temporal good of others; as David did (Acts 13:36). (T. Boston.)
The mystery of God finished with time
I. We shall consider the mystery of God in His Kingdom among men.
1. We shall consider what that mystery of God is. A mystery is a secret or hidden thing.
2. I will show in what respects it is a mystery, the mystery of God; or that the kingdom of Christ, and His management, is a mystery, the mystery of God.
II. We shall consider the mystery of God as begun and carried on in time.
1. We shall consider the first opening of the mystery.
(1) In the promulgation of the promise of the gospel (Genesis 3:15).
(2) In the offering of the first sacrifices, with the skins whereof our naked first parents were clothed (Genesis 3:21).
2. We shall consider the gradual opening of the mystery. Of this we have an account in Hebrews 1:1.
3. We shall consider the progress of the mystery.
(1) It has never been interrupted since it began in paradise; the salvation of the Church has all along been carried on, and matters managed for that end.
(2) It has made such progress, that by this time it is drawing towards the period of finishing it.
(3) It is going on in our day, in the same powerful hand that has managed it all along.
But for a more full view of the mystery, as executed in time, we shall consider the eight following particulars of this mysterious kingdom, in every part of which there is a mystery.
1. The head of it, Jesus Christ, is a mystery. And He is a mystery, a mysterious Head:
(1) In the constitution of His person, being God and man in one person.
(2) In His offices.
(3) In all circumstances about Him.
2. The subjects of it, believers, are a mystery too. They are in the world indeed, but unknown to the world (1 John 3:1).
3. The erection and conservation of it is a mystery (Luke 17:20).
(1) The beginnings of it were very small; how vastly soever it has spread.
(2) The means of erecting and setting it up were very unlikely and unusual, viz., the despised preaching of the gospel (Psalms 110:2).
(3) The opposition to it from the beginning has been very great; yet it has made its way in face of all opposition.
(4) The means of keeping it up, even such as it was set up by. Not the power of the sword, but the preaching and teaching of the word of the gospel, and setting that home on men’s consciences; prayers, and tears, patient suffering even unto death (Revelation 12:11).
4. The seat of it is a mystery too.
5. The extent of it is a mystery, whether it is considered--
(1) In respect of the kind of jurisdiction He has in it.
(a) The kingdom of grace is in His hand.
(b) The kingdom of glory is in His hand too (Luke 22:29-30).
(c) The kingdom of providence is in His hand likewise.
(2) In respect of the bounds of it. It extends itself over both worlds (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:18).
6. The privileges of it are a mystery.
(1) Their union with Christ is a mystery (Ephesians 5:32).
(2) Their justification is a mystery.
(3) Their sanctification is a mystery.
(4) Their perseverance in grace is a mystery.
7. The life and practice of it is a mystery.
8. The manner of the conduct and management of it is a mystery. It is the manner of this kingdom--
(1) To prefer the most unlikely, baulking them that stand fairest for the preference in all human appearance (Matthew 20:16).
(2) To let things go to an extremity, to the utmost point of hopelessness, before a hand be put to help them, and set them right again (Deuteronomy 32:36).
(3) To give the sharpest treatment to the greatest favourites. This is not the manner of men, but it is the manner of God (Psalms 73:5; Psalms 73:14).
(4) To meet men with astonishing strokes going in the way that God bade them, while they have a fair sunshine that are going in the way of their own hearts (Ecclesiastes 8:14).
(5) To lay by accepted petitions, and let them long lie by, time after time, while yet unacceptable requests are quickly granted.
(6) To answer accepted prayers quickly with some one terrible thing or other, which yet are to be graciously and bountifully answered in due time (Psalms 65:5).
III. We are to consider the mystery of God as finished with time.
1. Let us consider when this mystery of God shall be finished.
2. Wherein does the finishing of this mystery lie? It lies in these three things following.
(1) The accomplishment of the remaining prophecies.
(2) The gathering in of all the elect.
(3) The completing of the salvation of the Church of the elect. This is the delivering up of the kingdom to the Father mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:24.
3. It remains to show the import and consequence of this finishing the mystery of God. It is of greatest importance to the honour of God, and to the children of men. For then--
(1) The eternal purpose of God concerning mankind is fulfilled; the contrivance laid from eternity in the depth of wisdom about them, is executed.
(2) The covenant between the Father and Christ, the second Adam, is then fulfilled on both hands.
(3) Then the whole frame of the ordinances, now or since Adam’s fall, in use in the world for bringing in of sinners, and edifying of saints, is laid by.
(4) Then the matter of the Divine conduct towards mankind is altered so that it is quite new (Revelation 21:5).
(5) Then Christ’s conquest is complete, His enemies made His footstool, which He is this day in expectation of (Hebrews 10:12-13).
4. Then the mystery is opened, and appears in a full light; though before veiled, the veil is then taken off.
5. There will be no more mystery of God; then it is finished.
IV. We shall consider the relation betwixt the mystery of God and time.
1. Time is the space appointed for the mystery of God its being executed.
2. The subsistence or continuation of time depends on the mystery. Had there been no mystery of God to have been carried on, time once polluted with sin, had ended soon after it began.
Hence we may learn:
1. Whence it comes to pass that there is so much stumbling of wicked men at the Divine conduct by Christ in the world. The matter is: it is a mystery, and their natural blindness hinders them to see it, so that they know it not (1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. How the godly come to have other thoughts of it; and true Christians admire the beauty and glory of it, which carnal men despise. It is the mystery of God, which He reveals to His friends and rearers of His name (Psalms 25:14).
3. No reason to despise religion because the world generally do so.
4. Time is not continued as a sleep without a design. Oh, that men would consider that it is lengthened out on a particular design; which, being compassed, it shall end for good and all!
5. It is not this world’s business, but Heaven’s business, that is the great design of the continuing of time.
6. The mystery of God must be a matter of singular excellency, and of the last importance, that for it time is continued.
7. The mystery of God has, in the execution of it, been of long continuance; but it is drawing to a close.
8. When there is no more time requisite for the mystery of God, there will be no more time for other things neither; time will end with it; for it is for the sake of it that it is continued. (T. Boston.)
Go and take the little book.
The making of a minister
(with Ezekiel 2:8-10; Ezekiel 3:1-3):--The symbolical scene in the case of Ezekiel was enacted over again in the case of John; only with such surroundings of majesty and magnificence as were but befitting after John’s humiliated but glorified Master had sat down on His throne in heaven. Now, in the first place, we see in that fine symbolical scene God’s own immediate way of making a minister--a book. A book plays a great part in the salvation of men. A book is brought down from heaven to earth--a book written in heaven lies open in the hand of the heavenly messenger, and the salvation “of many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” lies wrapped up in that little book. “Go thou,” said the voice from heaven to John, “Go thou and take the book.” Now that is being both said and done every day among ourselves. There is the Book, and there are the people, and there somewhere among the people is the man chosen of God to take the Book, and to make the Book his own, and then to carry it to the people; “Go,” the Spirit of God says to that man, “Go, leave all other occupations and all other pursuits; give thyself, body and soul, day and night, and all the days of thy life, to that Book.” “Take the book and eat it,” said the angel to the seer. You will observe that the angel did not say, “Take the book and read it.” Had it been any other book but the Book it was, to read it himself and to have it written out and sent to all the Churches would have been enough. But that was not enough for this Book. Interpret the Bible like any other book, it is the fashion of our day to say, and in some senses that is an excellent enough rule; but that was not the angel’s rule that day to John, All other books in John’s day were to be read, but this Book was to be eaten. Yes, eaten. Clearly, then, this is not an ordinary Book. Clearly this is like no other book. Job said: “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips. I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Eat, then, this same meal; eat it both minister and people; and eat it for your first food every morning. It will do for you what no earthly food, the best and the most necessary, can do; see that all its strength and all its sweetness fills your heart before you eat any other meat; read God’s Book, and have it next your heart to defend yourself against the influences of men that attempt to overthrow you. “Enough of that; bring me my Bible,” his widow told me one of my old elders used to say, as they read to him the morning newspaper; “enough of that; bring me my Bible.” The Word of God was more to that saint than all else, and his widow and I rejoice to tell the story after he has gone home to his rest. The Word of God was more to him than that which is to some of you your necessary food. But what does this mean--this extraordinary thing, “It was in my mouth sweet as honey, but as soon as I had eaten it my belly was bitter”? The best way, the only way indeed to find out all that means is to eat the same roll ourselves, and then to observe what passes within ourselves. Religion is an experimental science. Just you eat the Book now before you as Ezekiel and John ate it, and then tell us what takes place with you. I will tell you what will take place. The Word of God will be bitter in your mouth every morning, bitter with memories of yesterday and yester-night. Yes, the grace of God, and the abiding and abounding mercy of God, they are in His blessed Word always passing sweet to a penitent sinner. Ah, the truth is that the power, and the holiness, and the heavenly beauty of God’s Word is the daily and the sweet experience of all those who make the Word of God their earliest and their most necessary food. But after this, when this sweet Book descends into what David calls our “inward parts”; when the holy, and the just, and the good Word of God enters our guilty conscience and our corrupt heart, then there is bitterness indeed; for a sense of sin, as we so lightly speak, is then awakened in the soul, and with that new sense comes a new bitterness, compared with which the waters of Marah are milk and honey. “Son of man, eat that thou findest,” says Jehovah to Ezekiel in the vision. “Take it, and eat it up,” said the angel in like manner to John. Neither the prophet nor the apostle was asked or allowed to pick and choose, as we say. They were not to eat the sweet, and spit out the bitter. They were not to keep rolling the sweet morsels under their tongue, and to keep their inward parts strangers to their inward share of the Divine Book. I know this Scripture will not be sweet to all who hear it; but if it is at first bitter it must not be cast out. We must allow ourselves to read and preach and hear the whole Word of God. “Son of man, eat that thou findest”; and again, “Take the roll and eat it up.” It is a fine study to take up the Old Testament, and to trace all through it how prophet follows prophet, and psalmist follows psalmist, each several prophet and psalmist taking home to himself all that the prophets and the psalmist had said and sung before him; and then, having made the Book their own by reading it, by praying ever it, by singing it, by eating it, as the figure is, then when their own call came they prophesied prophecies, and sang psalms, new psalms, new prophecies as the people’s need was--never contenting themselves with just countersigning and repeating what any former prophet had said, what any former psalmist had sung, however great and however good in his time that prophet and psalmist had been. (A. Whyte, D. D.)
The “little book” may be taken to illustrate God’s redemptive truth, or the gospel.
I. The gospel is brought to man from heaven. The was in which alienated humanity can be brought into a loving sympathy with God transcends human discovery. Divine messengers brought this “little book” to man, and Christ embodied it.
II. This gospel is to be appropriated by man. “Eat it up.” The spirit of this “little book” must become the inspiring and the regnant spirit of our being.
III. This gospel has a twofold effect on man. “Sweet” in its disclosures of infinite love and promises of future blessedness; “bitter” in its convictions of sin, reproofs, and denunciations. It produces in the soul sorrow and joy, sighs and songs; and its bitterness will remain as long as one particle of depravity continues in the heart.
IV. This gospel, appropriated, qualifies man for his mission (verse 11). (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Take it, and eat it up.
On eating books
There are many different kinds of books in the world.
I. There are some which have nothing in them. They are not directly harmful, but neither are they of much good. When you have read them you can scarcely remember anything that they contained. They are very much like a kind of pastry which we call “trifle.” The moment you put it into your mouth it vanishes into thin air. Beware of books which only please you for the moment, and do nothing that would make you better or wiser.
II. There are other books which are stupefying. They dull the senses. They are like what we call “opiates,” which make men feel heavy and stupid. Be careful never to read books which merely please by soothing and dulling the senses.
III. There are other books which are unduly exciting. I do not object to a reasonable amount of interest. Every book worth the reading must in one sense excite us; but I am not now speaking of books which excite you by the amount of true knowledge which they give, or noble enthusiasm which they impart, but those which excite you by the feverish curiosity with which they fire you. I earnestly warn you against every book which makes it more difficult for you to do your every-day duty.
IV. There are other books which are very hard to digest, I have no doubt some of you think, for instance, that books on arithmetic or English grammar are very indigestible; but if you take a little at a time, and masticate that well before you take more, you will find that even hard books will agree with you wonderfully, and that you will be stronger and better for having taken them. Children suffer from indigestion, in learning difficult tasks, by taking too much at a time. The great secret of success is to take a little often, and to see that you learn well every little lesson, and thus make it your own, before you take more.
V. There are other books which are decidedly poisonous. Take care that you do not eat them. These books speak well of sin, and kindly of evil. Beware of any book that does not agree with the Bible in its estimate of good and of evil.
VI. And now I want to tell you of this one Book--The Bible--Of which you need never grow weary. (D. Davies.)
The proper use of Divine truth
Divine truth is not something for intellectual speculation, it is not something for memory, but diet for the life. It must be transmuted into the moral blood, and sent through the heart into every fibre of our being. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The Word of God to be pondered
“Read the Word of God much,” said General Gordon, “but chew it more.” That is pondering. Make a practice of it; make a rule of it. (Bp. Talbot.)
Thou must prophesy again.--
Rules for Christian effort
I. Christian effort must be personal. “Thou.” The faculties of the individual man must be excited to activity in the cause of God. The most magnificent achievements of the human mind have been wrought out in lonely musings and lonely labours. If we would hew the rugged forms of our fellow-men into the symmetry and grace of Christian discipleship we must not be content to give subscriptions for evangelistic purposes; but we must feel a responsibility that is all our own, and while acting in brotherly union we must also act as if we had been specially called to a task in which no one has so much to do as ourselves.
II. Christian effort must be proportioned to personal ability. “Thou must prophesy.” John had the prophetic gift, and he was to use it. God has called thousands to His work, and though all cannot do the same thing, all are to do their best in that which they can do. A man with a divided mind, with his mind in part intent on his own ease, and in part only on the work of the Lord, will accomplish nothing worth naming. But let him unite his faculties, let him bring all the strength and all the determination of his soul to bear on the task to which he is called, let him throw the glow and enthusiasm of his nature into his duty with the bold avowal, “This one thing I do,” and though a thousand difficulties withstand him, he will sweep on to the consummation of his plains.
III. Christian effort must be repeated. “Thou must prophesy again.” Nothing great can be done all at once. It was only after many struggles that Wilberforce succeeded in the abolition of the slave trade. Nor are we to think that any strange thing has befallen us, or to deem it a reason for suspending our labours, if months or even years elapse before we see the moral and religious reformation at which we are aiming. We cannot reasonably expect that rude, ignorant, vicious men will all at once be transformed into melodious Davids, magnificent Isaiahs, or saintly Johns. We cannot reasonably expect that Babylon will come crashing to the ground at our first shout, and its ruins start at a touch into the majesty of a holy city. We shall have to “prophesy again”; we shall have to repeat our efforts before we see “the pleasure of the Lord prosper in our hand.”
IV. Christian effort must enlarge the scope of its movements. “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples,” etc. The more we do, the more we see there is to do. Patriotism owns that this is a land which, from white cliff in the south to sternest precipice in the north, is worthy of any labour and any self-sacrifice. If the statesman will contend from early evening until the morning crimsons the windows of the Senate House for measures by which he intends to enlarge the liberties and increase the happiness of the people--if the soldier will stride over the field of deadly fight and rush through the fiery breach that the foeman’s drum may not be beaten in our street, nor the foeman’s flag be lifted among our old ancestral oaks, it surely becomes us to raise ourselves to the level of Christian patriotism, and to stretch out our prayers and our labours so that they shall include the whole nation. (G. Marrat.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Revelation 10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16