Yesterday, I asked the question: how does heaven see judgment? And the answer was, “not with joy, but with solemnity.”
When the 7th seal was about to be opened, all of heaven, usually a place of joyful celebration, fell silent.
Today’s question is, “How do we view God’s judgment?”
Here in chapter 10, we see a mighty angel coming from heaven, holding a little scroll. (1-2) What is on the scroll? Probably what we see in chapters 11 and following. Words describing the persecution of God’s church, the coming of Christ, and God’s final judgment.
This angel stands on the land and the sea. It’s interesting that the two beasts (antichrist and his prophet) that join with the dragon (Satan) in chapters 13, come from the land and the sea, to form an unholy trinity.
So in standing on the land and the sea, and radiating with God’s glory, perhaps this angel symbolizes the fact that there is still only one God who’s in control, no matter what Satan tries to do. And judgment is coming.
You see that in the 7 thunders that John hears, which appear to be words of judgment, though John is told not to reveal those words. (3-4)
Then the angel proclaims, “There will be no more delay.” (6)
In other words, “the 7th angel is about to blow his trumpet, final judgment is coming, and all of God’s plans will now come to fruition.”
Then John is told,
Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land. (8)
He obeys, and the angel tells him,
Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey. (9)
John does so, and the scroll indeed tastes sweet, but then becomes sour in his stomach.
Then the angel told him,
You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings. (11)
What is this all about?
We see a similar occurrence in Ezekiel 2-3. Ezekiel is given a scroll to eat and it is as sweet as honey. And he is told to prophesy what is on the scroll, words of lament, mourning and woe. He is told however, that the people will not listen to him, and Ezekiel leaves the presence of God in bitterness and in the anger of his spirit (3:14).
Why is he bitter? Why is he angry? Perhaps he is angry at how the people will respond. And he is bitter because these are people he loves who will be judged.
I think John felt the same way. When he took in the words of God, they were sweet to him, as God’s words usually are. It’s such a privilege to have the living God speak to you, to understand his plans, especially his plan of salvation, and to be part of them.
But when people reject these very words you find sweet, and you realize that these people you love are facing judgment as a result, it is a bitter thing indeed.
And that’s how we as Christians ought to see judgment. Not as a sweet thing. But a bitter thing.
It’s bitter especially when we see people we love facing judgment. But remember: to God, it’s bitter for him to see anyone facing judgment, because he loves us all.
Sometimes, we look at passages like Luke 19 and the parable of the minas, and we think God almost delights in the destruction of his enemies. (Luke 19:27)
But we forget that shortly after teaching this parable, Jesus stood outside Jerusalem weeping over the destruction that would fall over Jerusalem, saying,
If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace. (42)
So let us never rejoice over God’s judgment of the wicked. Rather, let us weep. And like John and Ezekiel, let us pray and reach out to these people in love that they may never have to face God’s condemnation.