FOCUS ON REVELATION - LESSON 13

God's Team Wins
Revelation 10:1-11:12

Have you ever witnessed a remarkable comeback on the playing field? Many baseball fans remember the New York Mets in the 1986 Series. They lost the first two games at home against the formidable Boston Red Sox. It seemed the Sox were going to sweep. But the Mets came back and won the Series—to everyone's amazement. New York broke out in a huge celebration. More recently the Buffalo Bills, led by back-up quarterback Frank Reich, rebounded from a thirty-four point deficit at halftime to win a playoff game over the Houston Oilers. The fans went crazy in the stands. There have also been courageous comebacks by individuals that inspired people everywhere. Dave Dravecky came back from major surgery on his pitching arm to win a game for the San Francisco Giants. Nancy Kerrigan, after a brutal assault, managed to skate her way to a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics. These are people who triumphed when the odds were stacked against them.

As you read the book of Revelation, especially the prophecy of the seven trumpets, it does seem like the odds are stacked against God's people. Earthquakes, burning cities, massacres, and pestilence loom on the horizon. But we're going to discover that, in the middle of death and destruction, God throws up His hands and says, "Time out! Take a deep breath. I have good news. It looks bad, but our team is going to win!"

God's encouraging message about a great comeback is interwoven throughout chapters 10 and 11, between the sixth and seventh trumpets. I'm glad that when discouragement and despair threaten, God cares enough to pause and say, "I still turn the Earth and move the galaxies. I won't let your life spin out of control."

Read Revelation 10:1-7.

As we've seen in chapters 8 and 9, God's people are being viciously attacked by Satan. How does God respond? He sends an angel to the rescue. What encouraging news! And it's a "mighty angel" who comes down from heaven. God wants to make sure we know there is power in what He does.

1. John describes an angel that he sees in Revelation 10. What is the angel clothed with? (Revelation 10:1.)
  
A cloud.
   A golden robe.

   A brilliant light.

2. What did John see above the angel's head? (Revelation 10:1.)
    
A palm branch.
  
A bolt of lightning.
  
A rainbow.

3. What did the angel's face look like? (Revelation 10:1.)
  
The sun.
  
The moon.
  
The stars.

4. What did the angel's feet look like? (Revelation 10:1.)
  
Burnished bronze.
   Pillars of fire.
   Flashes of light.

The angel holds an open scroll, or book, in his hand; he's standing with one foot on the sea and the other on the land. When the angel speaks, his voice rumbles across the earth like the roar of a lion or resounding thunder. Some commentators point out that this angel is the same one described in Daniel 12:5-9. Daniel pictures a "man clothed in linen" similar to the angel in Revelation 10. This Being is identified as Jesus. He has just given Daniel prophetic information Daniel can't fully understand. Daniel wants to know when the events, symbolically laid out for him, will take place. The response is, "Go your way Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (vs. 9). Daniel is also told that at the time of the end the book will be opened (understood) and "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12:4).

In other words, Jesus has a message for the whole world (as shown by His feet resting on both sea and land) which will be given and understood at the time of the end. This message was sealed in Daniel's time. The book so dramatically opened in Revelation is the sealed part of the book of Daniel. Now it can be fully understood. Remember, Revelation 10 is spotlighting events right before the seventh seal which announces the second coming of Jesus. Therefore, we can conclude that just before Christ returns, the book of Daniel will be unsealed—that is, opened—and its message understood.

 

The following chart shows the parallels between Daniel 12 and Revelation 10.


Read Revelation 10:8-11.

We must remember that not all the prophecies of Daniel were sealed—just those pertaining to the time of the end. The main prophecy that Daniel could not understand was the 2300 day/year prophecy of Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 9. The angel told Daniel that at the time of the end, people would begin understanding that sealed prophecy. We can identify this time of the end mentioned in Daniel 8, as a period beginning in 1798. Just as predicted, over 200 years ago, believers began to intently study the sealed prophecies of Daniel. As a result, the understanding of end-time prophecies, which had been neglected for some time, increased dramatically. Revelation 10 reflects this experience in God's command to John:

5. What did God tell John to take from the angel's hand? (Revelation 10:8.)
   A golden trumpet.
   A large key.
   A little book.

6. What did John do next? (Revelation 10:10.)
   He blew a loud note on the trumpet.
   He used the key to open a locked gate in heaven.
  
He ate the little book.

7. How did John describe this experience? (Revelation 10:10.)
    When John blew the trumpet, all the angels of heaven came and helped God's people in
         their struggle against Satan and his angels.
    When John unlocked the gate to heaven, he entered in and saw wonderful things that he
         couldn't describe.
    When John ate the little book, it was sweet in his mouth, but became bitter in his
         stomach.

After carefully studying Daniel's prophecies, many nineteenth-century Bible scholars and church members concluded that the "end time" of Bible prophecy began in 1798. Some also concluded that the 2,300-day/year prophecy would end in 1844. They were correct in calculating these dates, but assigned them a mistaken meaning. These Christians thought Jesus would return to Earth in 1844. The prophecy actually refers to Christ's final judgment preparations for His second coming.

Many of those alive in 1844 lived in eager anticipation of Jesus' soon coming. Many signed their letters, "Yours in the blessed hope." One stated, "This was the happiest year of my life." Another recalled, "My heart was full of glad expectation." Understanding Daniel's prophecies, opening that sealed book, was sweet to the taste. But when their interpretation proved wrong and Christ didn't return they experienced bitter disappointment. Some turned away from their faith. Others managed to work their way to a different understanding of what Daniel meant.

Even though discouraged, this small group of Adventists, believers in the Second Advent (second coming of Jesus), many of them in their teens and twenties, went on to make an impact in the world for Christ. They tried to follow God's command in Revelation 10:11: "You must prophesy again." They still believed the gospel message could revolutionize planet Earth; they had a burden to help men and women everywhere get ready for the return of Jesus.

Gospel outreach flourished during this time period of the open book. Joseph Wolff, a Jewish believer from Germany, made a great impact all over the Middle East with his prophetic preaching. Edward Irving led seven hundred ministers of the Church of England who spearheaded a prophetic revival in Great Britain. Other champions of the Advent Awakening included Lacunza, a Jesuit priest in South America; Bengal, a minister of the Lutheran Church in Germany; Gaussen, a minister in Switzerland; William Miller, a leader in the United States, and even a group of children preachers in Scandinavia. They all preached the same message—-Jesus is coming soon! The Spirit of God led people living in different countries, and in some cases studying independently, to speak the same message!

The Message of the Open Book

What is the essential message of the open book? It is the gospel story! It reveals the God whose love caused Him to come to this earth and die for you and me. And He is coming soon to Earth because He longs for us to be with Him. So even though dates and historical events are sometimes useful to understand, don't get bogged down in the details. If you forget everything else, remember this much: God loves you and has set a date, a time when He is coming to be with you. He's excited about this great rendezvous. His prophecies are really love poems that say excitedly: "Be dressed and ready when I come. You don't know the day or hour, but you'll know when it is close!"

Have you ever had a pleasant experience that turned into something bitter? If yes, what helped you deal with the disappointment?

If you are currently going through a difficult personal experience, remember that Jesus is waiting expectantly for you to reach out and accept His free offer of assistance. What would you like to say to Jesus right now?

Read Revelation 11:1-6.

Revelation 11 is highly symbolic, as you can tell. Let's start with a summary of key events.

Verse 1. John takes a reed (a tape measure) and is told to measure three things.

8. What three things does an angel tell John to measure in heaven? (Revelation 11:1.)
   The height, length, and width of the wall of the Holy City.
   God's temple, the altar, and those who worship there.
   The distance around God's throne, the height of the tree of life, and the width of the river of life.

Verse 2. John is not to measure the courtyard outside of the temple. That is to be given to the Gentiles for 42 months, or 1260 days.

9. The angel tells John that power will be given to: (Revelation 11:3.)
  
"the faithful people of God."
  
"the twenty-four elders who are around God's throne."
  
"my two witnesses."

10. The two witnesses are identified as: (Revelation 11:4.)
   the two highest angels in heaven.
   the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing before God.
   the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter.

Verses 5 and 6 show us the power the two witnesses wield over the earth.

Wow! This all may seem as far-fetched as a science fiction account of aliens invading our planet. But it's actually a very unique description of the power of the Word of God. The two witnesses represent the Bible, the Old and New Testaments. They're also pictured as lampstands and olive trees. This is familiar biblical imagery.

In John 5:39, Jesus identified the Scriptures as, "these are they which testify (witness) of me."

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said the gospel would be preached to the world as "a witness to all the nations."

In biblical times olive oil was used to light lamps. Psalm 119:105 states, "Your (God's) word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:130 says, "The entrance (understanding) of Your words gives light."

The two witnesses are called olive trees and lamps because the Old and New Testaments are our main sources of spiritual light.

The point then of verses 1-6 is that the message of the Bible is the standard (measuring instrument) for determining who belongs to Jesus and who belongs to Satan. That investigative process is what began in heaven in 1844. Jesus will come when that process is complete, when it is openly and fairly determined whose side everyone is on—Christ's or Satan's.

John relays a special word of caution in Revelation 22:18,19. He says that if anyone adds or detracts from the book of Revelation, "God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book." God wants to safeguard His message because His message leads us to salvation. And those who deliberately oppose or distort God's truths, sent to the world by Jesus who died that we might live, forfeit that special relationship between God and His followers.

Read Revelation 11:7-10.

This is a description of Satan's vigorous attempt to destroy the Bible. From a previous study we learned that the 1,260-day/year period extends from A.D. 538 to 1798. During this time period those who are not God's people, identified as Gentiles in chapter 11, oppress Christians and attempt to suppress the Word of God. During the closing years of this prophetic period, the French Revolution actually launched an all-out assault on Bible truths for three-and-a-half years.

Princeton University professor R. R. Palmer refers to this time as an "earthquake" in his book The Age of the Democratic Revolution (2 vols). That's exactly what John pictured in Revelation 11:13—"a severe earthquake." The French Revolution was noted for its opposition to Christianity. During the Reign of Terror, as many as fifty people a day were decapitated by the guillotine.

The "beast" from the "bottomless pit," which John describes, is a symbol of the anti-Christian stance of the French Revolution and its war on the Bible.

The references to Sodom and Egypt represent spiritual decay. Sodom was destroyed because of its moral degradation and defiance against God. The Egyptians challenged God directly with their own idols and were destroyed by plagues.

In summary, God's Word was trampled on by men, but there is hope, there is light at the end of the dark tunnel!

Read verses 11-14.

Now we come to a time of great triumph. Now we come to the time when God's team wins!

11. What happens to these two witnesses after they are persecuted for their faithfulness to
     God? (Revelation 11:11.)
    The breath of life from God enters them, and they stand on their feet.
   They are placed on thrones at the right and left hand of God in heaven.
   The ones persecuting them ask their forgiveness and admit that the charges against them are false.

12. What command comes from heaven for the two witnesses? (Revelation 11:12.)
   "Leave wicked men and women to continue in their sins; your work is finished."
   "You must preach the gospel for three more years on the earth."
  
"Come up here to heaven."

13. After a great earthquake kills 7,000 men, what do the rest of the people do? (Revelation 11:13.)
   They are afraid and give glory to God.
   They continue to defy God and disobey His commandments.
  
They hide in the mountains until the danger is past.

These verses describe what followed the final three-and-a-half years of the French Revolution's grisly rule of the guillotine and the suppression of the Bible. Christianity awakened to a great revival. Bible truths were rediscovered and championed as never before. In the end, some of the greatest skeptics had to acknowledge the power of God. The French Revolution slid down into the very earthquake it had caused, while the Bible reclaimed its place of honor in the hearts of people around the world.

These are some of the key events in the awakening of faith.

  • In England, John Wesley and George Whitefield sparked a great evangelical revival.
  • Foreign missions entered a new era. Henry Martyn, a twenty-five-year-old Cambridge graduate, arrived in India as a missionary in 1806. Henry proclaimed, "Let me burn out for God." His same spirit was seen in Judson of Burma, Carey of India, Morrison of China, Moffat and David Livingstone of Africa. Their witness energized thousands of Christians worldwide. As boys and girls knelt beside their beds at night they promised God they would follow Him at any cost—and follow Him they did!

Bible societies exploded onto the scene. Around 1800, Joseph Hughes, a Baptist layman, felt impressed by God to provide Bibles inexpensively for the people of Wales. As his vision for Bible distribution intensified he asked, "Why not the world?" In 1804, a few years after the French Revolution had peaked, Hughes and others founded the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1816 similarly dedicated believers created the American Bible Society. These societies have made a tremendous impact. Each year they distribute millions of Bibles, New Testaments and other Christian books in hundreds of languages.

The Bible Cannot Be Defeated

Yes, God makes sure that His Word "lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23). He invests it with His own unconquerable life. Powerful human leaders may seem more alive than any printed book. But after they become statues, the Bible still comes to life in human hearts everywhere.

Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades.
But the word of our God stands forever

Isaiah 40:7, 8.

American revolutionary Thomas Paine once said, "I sincerely detest" the Old Testament. Thomas Paine is dead, but the Bible he detested is still creating spiritual revolutions. The skeptic Voltaire used his considerable wit and intellect to attack the "superstitions" of the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus. Voltaire is dead but millions of Christians are still celebrating Christmas and Easter.

Jesus said, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

The words of the Bible not only have life; they are able to give life. Like a buried seed germinating into a blossoming plant, the Word of God in our hearts blossoms into a whole new way of living. Peter described it as "having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23). (God Cares, Vol. 2, Maxwell, pp. 295, 296.)

§ § §

The letters of Jacob the candlemaker sent from the town of Bruge to his wife in 1569 are remarkable for their cheer and tenderness. He reminds his "affectionately beloved and chosen wife" of God's promise: "He who touches you touches the apple of His eye." He speaks of the time when God will wipe away all their tears and about the wonderful things God has prepared for those who love His appearing. Jacob's letters are full of encouraging words from the Scriptures.

What makes these letters even more remarkable is that they were penned in prison by a man about to be burned at the stake as a heretic. Jacob had decided to take a stand on the Word of God against certain religious traditions. During long hours of interrogation he was threatened and told to submit to the wisdom of his superiors. Jacob replied, "I do not rely upon my own wisdom, but I rely upon the words of Christ." This lone candlemaker managed to resist the enormous pressure of church authority because he remained "satisfied with the simple holy Scriptures." And that powerful Word of God enabled him to keep on sending out letters of encouragement to the very end, when he died in the flames "with intrepid spirit."

Are you standing on the Word of God today? People all over the world are polarizing, taking sides. Some choose Satan's way of force and intimidation. Others remain faithful to Christ's gospel of love and grace. We are living on the brink of the Kingdom of God; we are living between the sixth and seventh trumpets. We need an unshakable place to stand. We need to build our lives on the life-giving Word of God. We need to take a stand with Jacob the candlemaker, and lift up our light in this dark world.

To think about: What kind of commitment would you like to make to God right now?

Prayer

Father, I want to understand and follow Your Word no matter what the cost. Help me to know Your will for my life as I study what You have to say to me in the Bible. And help me follow You. Thank You in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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