Bittersweet Word

Title: A Bittersweet Word

Bible Book: Revelation 10 : 1-11

Author: Johnny L. Sanders




The “Religion” section of the local Gannett paper is now the “Faith and Values Section,” but nothing has changed. While there are hundreds of Christian churches in the area, the carpetbagger paper not only assumes the liberal position on political issues, it also seems to feel that it is their responsibility to level the playing field between Christianity and paganism. The front of the “Faith and Values” section for October 23, 2004, was nothing short of free publicity for Islam. While there are Muslims who are good citizens, all - let me repeat, ALL - terrorists attacks are coming from Islamic fanatics. Furthermore, millions of those who are not terrorists are a part of a world wide Islamic scheme to spread Islam, destroy Israel, bring western culture to its knees, and establish Islamic regimes around the world, with Western Europe the first big step on the way to conquering America. Let me warn you, this could possibly be a signal that we are drawing closer and closer to the fulfillment of various prophecies in the Book of Revelation. I have always been skeptical of those who make such statements, but current threats have me wondering about joining them! [Since writing this, Islamic fanatics have subdued Spain in a day, attacked England, paralyzed France, and intimidate the rest of Europe - that is just sermonizing, not a specific news report.]

I subscribe to the basic tenets of the premillennial view of Eschatology, the study of end-time events. I did not arrive at that position lightly. My father in the ministry preached about the Second Coming and events associated with it. I heard a lot of preachers in my youth but very few sermons on the Second Coming of the Lord; many alluded to it, few if any dealt with specifics. Then, I went to Mississippi College and before long I was hearing questions about the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, and a lot of events they told me must transpire before the return of the Lord.

I majored in Bible at Mississippi College - before the Bible Department became the Religion Departments and Christian colleges shifted to the left. Though one of my majors was in Bible, I do not recall one professor who mentioned the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, or the millennial reign of Christ. Maybe they did, but I do not specifically recall it. As a matter of fact one of my all time favorite professors, Dr. E. R. Pinson, told me right after he celebrated his 92nd birthday that he had just started teaching the Book of Revelation to a Sunday School class and, “Last Sunday,” he said, “for the first time in my life I stood before a class and announced that I am a premillennialist.” Wow! That is amazing. It is amazing when a 92 year old man changes his mind about anything.

I spent a number of years studying Eschatology with a very narrow approach. Friends told me that if I wanted to pastor a big church or get a lot of revivals I would have to be a premillennialist. They told me the two greatest preachers of the day, R. G. Lee and W. A. Criswell, were both premillennialists.

The lines were definitely, if not clearly drawn. Amillennialists ruled the day in the classrooms of many, if not most Christian colleges and universities. The word simply means no millennium, no thousand year reign. Many of the Bible students held to a premillennial view, which they had been taught by a pastor or Sunday School teacher. Interestingly enough, we were still using textbooks written by postmillennialists, like A. T. Robertson, B. H. Carroll, and a host of other scholars who helped Southern Baptists gains a measure of respect in the theological community. By the time I made it to Mississippi College, most people assumed that the postmillennialists had gone the way of the dinosaur. World War I, the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and World War II had convinced most people that the world is not “evolving” into “Thy kingdom come” here on earth in a literal sense. There was no great revival going on at the time. Little did many college professors realize what Francis Shaeffer had discerned when he declared that England had entered the post-Christians period in her history in 1895 and America in 1935 (just ten years after the infamous Scopes Trial (the Monkey Trial) which opened the door to evolutionists and closed the door to creationists.

I spent a lot of time asking questions, reading the Bible, and praying for answers, but absolutely refusing to adopt my position from any individual. I was determined to let the Lord lead me to the position He wanted me to adopt. I spent a lot of time asking questions of people I respected. I heard a lot of interesting predictions. If some of them had been right there is no way the world could have survived the sixties!

I made some interesting discoveries along the way. I discovered that some of the biggest nuts I have ever seen were premillennialists! I will never forget the deacon who tried to label me a heretic because I did not agree with his position on end-time events. The first time he asked me about my position I asked him what he thought and he replied, “To be perfectly honest, I don’t know.” Within six months he had all the answers. Not only did he have all the answers, he started criticizing me for not agreeing with him. When some members told him they supported the pastor he left the church. Two years later he returned and after a few weeks confided that he had been forced to change his mind because “some of those countries over there didn’t do what I expected them to do.” That is not too surprising, is it.

In this series of messages from Revelation, we are skimming the surface, looking for the blessings promised in Revelation 1:3. We are not going often to Ezekiel, Daniel, or even to 1 of 2 Thessalonians. We are simply doing an overview that should help us to appreciate the blessings the Lord promises.

NOTE: Just as there is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, there is one here (in 10:1- 11:14)) between the sixth and seventh trumpet (11:15). What is the blessing to which we should look in this? It seems obvious that the Lord provides this revelation to encourage, not discourage; to reveal the truth, not hide the truth; to inspire us, not to frustrate us; to comfort us, not to trouble us. Amidst trials, tribulation, and severe persecution, the Lord never loses control. He is sovereign, and His sovereignty should never be questioned. The martyrs cry out for vindication and they shall be vindicated. No matter what the forces of Satan throw against us, we will ultimately be victorious. That fact will inspire and motivate believers during the Great Tribulation, but this assurance and hope is intended not only for them, it is also for us. Satanic forces are being mustered today against the Lord and His church. Satanic Islamic terrorists are fanatically committed to the destruction of Israel and of Western culture - and America is the main target beyond Israel. And let us never forget - all of Islam is of the devil. Even those who claim to be a religion of peace are the enemies of the Cross.

Not only is there an enemy from without, there is an enemy within our borders. The Bible clearly states that the world hates Jesus Christ, and it hates those who follow Him. This is being played out in liberal university classrooms where evolution has become the gospel and Christianity is portrayed as racist, sexist, ignorant, backward, and oppressive. Mark my word, it is going to get worse - unless there is a sweeping revival in this country. Will we have a revival? It has been over a century, and that was when America was considered a Christian nation. Today, America is moving deeper and deeper into the post-Christian era in her history. Christians are being restricted today - will they be persecuted tomorrow? If so, believers may well be crying out, “Where is God?” This chapter helps to answer that question.


“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like fiery pillars, and he had a little scroll opened in his hand. He put his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, and he cried out with a loud voice like a roaring lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders spoke with their voices. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ““Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”

1) This is a distinct mighty angel, 11:1-2.

Some have taught that this mighty angel is Jesus Himself, but that is not possible for the simple reason that the Greek word translated “another” means another of the same kind. This is an angel, but not one of the seven angels who sound the trumpets, nor is he one of the angels at the four corners of the earth. He is an angel of the highest rank in Heaven, one filled with greatness, splendor, and power (5:2; 8:3; 18:1).

a. He is “surrounded by a cloud” - the emblem of God’s coming judgment.
b. There is a rainbow above his head - He honors God’s covenant.
c. His face is like the sun - reflecting the glory of God, as Moses in leaving the Tabernacle.
d. His legs are like fiery pillars - he is awesome and mighty.

e. He had a little scroll in his hand - not the big scroll of chapter 5.
f. He has his right foot on the sea - his left foot on the land.

Though the beast with seven heads is about to arise out of the sea (Re 13:1), and the beast with two horns like a lamb (Re 13:11) out of the earth, yet it is but for a time, and that time shall no longer be (Re 10:6, 7) when once the seventh trumpet is about to sound; the angel with his right foot on the sea, and his left on the earth, claims both as God's, and as about soon to be cleared of the usurper and his followers.
(Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary - The Bible Navigator).

2) The mighty angel “cried out with a loud voice like a roaring lion,” 10:3.

a. His voice will not be ignored.

He has a message from the Lord and when he speaks it is with power and authority. He comes in the name of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, with the authority to speak for the Lord.

b. “When he cried out, the seven thunders spoke with their voices.”

The HCSB follows the Greek in providing the definite article - “The” seven thunders. Thunders are a part of the mystery and imagery of the Book of Revelation, associated with something spectacular and momentous. Here the seven thunders will prepare us for the seventh trumpet. Their full meaning may only be known at the grand consummation marked by the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet(Rev. 11:19), and the seventh vial.

3) John was commanded to seal this message, 10:4.

“And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”

The messenger was a mighty angel, and the seven thunders implied such importance that John was prepared to write down the message. However, the angel told him to seal what the seven thunders said - and not write it down. Why did he tell John not to write it down? I don’t know! Was it too awesome for us to hear the message? Or was it so mysterious that we could not comprehend it? Or, was God simply not ready to reveal more at this point? The angel was not through speaking, and maybe that is the reason John was told not to write this down. There is one thing we know for sure - God gave us what He wanted us to have.


“Then the angel that I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. He swore an oath by the One 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: ‘There will no longer be an interval of time, but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”

1) Standing with one foot on the sea and one on the land, the angel raised his hand to heaven, 10: 5.

His purpose is not to direct out attention to himself, but to the Father. When my favorite twins, Will and Joanna were preschoolers I spend a lot of time with them. I was holding both of them within hours of their birth, celebrating with Mike and Susan, my brother and sister-in-law. When they were a little older I spent a lot of time driving them around their house and through the woods every time I stopped by. Will was always begging me to take him for a ride in the truck with a hole in it (sliding back glass) and Joanna went along for the ride. When they were still in their high chairs I would visit and if I saw Joanna first and started toward her, she would point and say, “Will.” She wanted to be sure no one missed her brother.

The mighty angel did not appear before John to attract attention to himself. He is directing John’s attention to the One who sits on the Throne. There were times when He might have been inclined to fall down before and angel, but no angel ever desired this - not since Lucifer and his minions were cast down to earth.

2) He proclaims that “There will no longer be an interval of time,” 10:6.

“The mighty angel, who has a message from God the Father, ‘Swore an oath by the One 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: ““There will no longer be an interval of time.” John MacArthur (Study Bible Notes) says, “This initiates the last plagues of the Day of the Lord (11:15), indicating that the time the disciples anticipated has come (Matt. 24:3; Acts 1:106). The prayers of the saints will be answered (6:9-11; Matt 6:10).”

There will come a time when the Lord will proclaim from His throne, “the time has come.” There will be no more delays. Believe it or not, the time will run out on humanity, just as the time is running out on countless of millions of people today. My dear friend, if you do not know the Lord, the time is running out on you, whether you believe it or not. While waiting to preach to prisoners at Camp Four at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in 1958, I copied a poem. The title is NO TIME FOR GOD.

You’ve time to build houses and in them dwell,
And time to do business - to buy and to sell,
But none for repentance, for deep earnest prayer,
To seek your salvation you’ve no time to spare.

You’ve time for earth’s pleasures, for frolic and fun,
For her glittering treasures how quickly you run,
But care not to seek the fair mansions above,
The favor of God, or the gift of His love.

You’ve time to take voyages over the deep sea,
And take in the gay world’s jubilee;
But soon our hopes will be lost in the gloom
Of the cold, dark river of death and the tomb.

You’ve time to resort to woods, mountains, and glen,
And time to gain knowledge from the books of men,
Yet no time to search for the wisdom of God;
but what of your soul when you are under the sod?

For time will not linger when helpless you lie;
Staring death in the face, you will take time to die!
Then, what of the judgment? Pause, think, I implore!
For time will be lost on eternity’s shore.

3) God’s plan will be completed, 10:7.

“But in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”

We learn in the third chapter of Genesis that God had a plan and that plan was unveiled over a period of thousands years. When the time was right He sent His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and bleed and die for your sins and mine. Only God could have made such a covenant with any hope of fulfilling it. Only a Sovereign God, an omnipotent God, an omnipresent God, and omniscient God can cause all the prophecies of this book to be fulfilled. And they will be fulfilled exactly as He has planned it. He reveals a part of His plan to us, but we can look forward to learning a lot more when we get to Heaven.


1) John was commanded to take the scroll from the mighty angel, and eat it, 10:8-9.

“Now the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land. So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

This is a dramatic moment as the mighty angel commands John to take the scroll and eat it. John must take in the message of the scroll, digest it, reflect upon it, and proclaim it so that you and I may apply it in our lives.

2) The scroll was sweet in his mouth, but bitter in his stomach, 10:10.

“Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter.”

There is a parallel passage in Ezekiel:

“He said to me: ‘Son of man, eat what you find [here]. Eat this scroll, then go and speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth, and He fed me the scroll. ‘Son of man,’ he said to me,’eat and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you.’ So I ate [it], and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. Then He said to me: ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak My words to them” (Ezekiel 3:1-3, HCSB).

The message was sweet in John’s mouth. The Psalmist understood: “How sweet Your word is to my taste - sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalms 119:103). The Words of God are:

They are more desirable than gold——
than an abundance of pure gold;
and sweeter than honey——
than honey dripping from the comb.
Psalms 19:10 (HCSB).

John had seen incredible suffering in his lifetime. What Mel Gibson portrays in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, John witnessed - up close and personal. He was the beloved disciple who stood by Mary at the foot of the cross. He had been dragged before the Sanhedrin, thrown into jail, and threatened because of his faith in Jesus Christ. There is no record of his own persecution, but he was aware of the fact that all the other apostles had become martyrs for Jesus. He knew about the torture to which Paul had been subjected. He knew Paul had been beheaded for his commitment to the Lord. He knew what had happened to James, the half-brother of the Lord.

John himself had been exiled on the Isle of Patmos for the cause of the Gospel and, according to tradition, he was boiled in oil. We do not know how much John knew about the saints who were slaughtered in the Roman arena, not did he know how many believers had been put to death in other places for the cause of Christ. We have no idea what John knew, what he had witnessed in his lifetime. Is it any wonder that the message of hope and victory would be as sweet as honey in one’s mouth to John? The martyrs were crying out for vindication. They would be vindicated! Jesus would return and put all enemies under His foot (treat them as His personal footstool). There is a victory for Jesus and all the saints will share in that victory. The very thought is sweet as honey in one’s mouth.

There is more. The little book may have been sweet in John’s mouth, but when it reached his stomach it would be as bitter as gall. Why would the little book be sweet in his mouth and bitter in is stomach? There is a victory coming, but before the victory Satan would go on a rampage, the unsaved would mock Jesus Christ, and many professing Christians would be guilty of apostasy. That is a bitter pill to swallow!

We do not have to wait for the Great Tribulation to see all of that. Mike Dukes has worked and lived in China for sixteen years. His parents are close friends of mine and I have know about him for a number of years. Once (10-21-04) I visited his mother, Lois, in St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, LA, and Mike was there. He told me he cannot believe the changes he has seen since returning to America. To him the hatred for Christ and for Christians was shocking. Let us face it, there are many groups in America that hate anything and everything that has to do with God, Jesus, or the Word of God.

A caller in 22004 told talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, that he would probably vote for George W. Bush, but that he was not comfortable with all his talk about God. He was disturbed by the president’s testimony that he looked to God for guidance. He said, “I wish he would quote men rather than God, men like Cicero or Acquinas.” Rush Limbaugh responded that if you read the works of any of the Founders you will find that they were not quoting Socrates or Cicero, they were quoting God.

Apostasy denotes Christians who turn away from the Lord under pressure. The Lord is going to return for His church before the Great Tribulation begins, so when is there an apostasy? It is going on right now! You see it everywhere. New Age religious philosophies invaded the church during the nineties and many pastors never even saw it coming. In fact, many have encouraged it. The church is in trouble today because of the Gospel preached form the pulpit and broadcast across America - or better, the what is not being preached of the Gospel. Thousands of preacher across this nation today will be as likely to quote Rick Warren as Paul, John, or Peter. Some, I am told take Rick Warren’s book to the pulpit instead of the Bible. If you are wondering, that is not an indictment against Rick, but against those who forsake the Word of God for the message of man.

Morally, America is on the proverbial slippery slope. Mike Dukes, upon returning to America after sixteen years in China could hardly believe the change in the family in America. He says that family and community are very important to citizens of China. By the way, a lot of people in China were gloating over the problems with the election in Florida four years ago. Mike was shaking his head over how open homosexuals are, how so many younger people do not assume responsibility for their actions, and how the courts are changing our country.

America has some serious problems today. One of the most disturbing problem is that the church is in trouble. There is no sign of revival that I can see. Not only are lost people self-centered, pleasure-mad, and materialistic, many Christians seem to be trying to outdo them.

Church members stand in line with lost people to see the latest HARRY POTTER movie, or to buy the books, but if the pastor cautions against it he is some kind of nut. Cults have spread like wildfire, and occult activity is seen everywhere. If you mention the occult - that is satanic beliefs and activities - many Christians look at you as though they regret having left their net at home.

Islam is spreading across America. Muslims are building mosques all across Western Europe and America, and they are building them near Christian churches - bigger and taller than the church. Their members, we are told, can get interest free money to buy up property around the mosques. They are making a statement. They made a statement on nine/eleven, 2001. They are looking for an opportunity make that statement again. The media proclaims Islam a religion of peace. Try telling that to those who are being persecuted, and killed for the cause of Jesus Christ in various places in the world. Tell that to those who have been sold into slavery after their parents have been killed for professing Jesus Christ. It is going to get worse and worse. No wonder that little book was bitter when John ate it.

Let me stress this: whether we are talking about tribulations to which Christians may be subjected in our time, or to the Great Tribulation, Satan is our enemy, and Jesus is our Savior. He is our only hope today and He is the only One who has an answer to the end-time events.

4) John was told to continue to prophesy, 10:11.

John is told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” I might add that you and I are to continue to read this prophecy and proclaim it until He returns. What should we do? We are told to watch and pray. We must not go overboard on prophesy, but we must not neglect it either. What must we do? Watch, pray, and obey.

I spent a lot of time with the late Dr. H. Leo Eddleman, who had been president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when I was a student there. His father had been pastor of my home church and he and my pastor were good friends. In time, Dr. Eddleman became a close friend of mine. He gave me two books of sermons he compiled on the subject, LAST THINGS and THE SECOND COMING. He was trying to awakening an interest in the Second Coming and related events against a seminary backdrop that was less than friendly. Dr. Eddleman told me that when he was president of New Orleans Seminary “if you used the word premillennial you felt like you should go out behind the chapel and wash your mouth out with soap.”

In his book, LAST THINGS, Dr. Eddleman stated in the Foreword, “As Lord of history, as the supreme fact of history, Jesus is set forth as the only hope of this materialistic, pleasure-mad age - when America has never been so in danger of handing down its blood-bequeathed legacies reduced in quality and in quantity.” One wonders what he would think of America in 2004 (now, 2006). Dr. Eddleman stressed to me that the study of end-time events is a deep subject, clothed in mysterious language, and while we need to study the subject, watch and pray for His return, and study the Scripture, we may never find all the answers or always agree on what we read. He added that much of the New Testament was written to tell lost people how to be saved, and to tell saved people how we are to live until He returns. That we can indeed understand. We must trust and obey until He returns.

We must continue to watch and pray. We must continue to study the Word of God, and we must apply what we study to current events. We may keep an eye on the Middle East. We may be listening for the trumpet and the shout. We may be keeping an eye on the eastern sky. But, whatever we do, we must never let it distract us from our current obligation to live for Jesus Christ, to bring glory to His kingdom, and to be His witnesses. If you are in the Lord’s will, continue in the way you are going until He returns. Bertrand Shadwell understood this:

There is a King and Captain high
Who’ll be coming by-and-by,
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

You will hear His legions chargin’
In the thunder of the sky,
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes,
All the dead will rise in answer to His drums,
While the fires of His encampment
Star the firmament on high,
And the heavens are rolled asunder when He comes.

There’s a man they thrust aside
Who was tortured till He died,
And He’s find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

He was hated and rejected,
He was scouraged and crucified,
And He’ll find me hoein’ cotton when He comes.

When He comes, when He comes
He’ll be ringed with saints and angels when He comes.
They’ll be shoutin’ out hosanas
To the man that men denied.
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.


What is the blessing for me in all of this? There is the promise that, even though there will be trials and tribulations, in the end we will be victorious. The martyrs who cry for vindication will be vindicated. Not one believer will ever be disappointed in Jesus. God has never lost control. Our sovereign God will never wring His hands, wondering what He should do. He is absolutely in charge and that is our assurance. This message, though bitter at times, will one day be as sweet as honey.

What must I do in the meantime? Love the Lord and follow Him. If you are not totally committed to Him you must repent, find His forgiveness, and follow Him. If you are faithful to Him you do not have to do anything differently. Keep on watching, praying, and obeying.

Once again, if you know you are watching, praying, and obeying, just keep on what you are doing, until He comes. However, if you do not know Jesus as Savior and Lord, let me urge you to trust Him, call on Him, and confess Him right now. If you know Him but you would not have wanted Him to return any time this past week, then you need to repent and find His forgiveness and restoration.

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