Sweet and Sour
There is a clear structure to the book of Revelation. Just as there was an interlude (parenthesis) between the sixth and seventh seal (chapter 7), so there is a similar one between trumpets six and seven. Richard Phillips suggests that perhaps we could use the term ‘intermission’. Citing the Oxford English Dictionary intermission is defined as ‘an interval between parts of a play, film, or concert.’ An intermission is designed not merely for the players to get a rest but also for the action to continue in the audience’s minds and conversation. John’s Apocalypse makes significant use of intermissions or interludes in the unfolding of the seven seals and the seven trumpets.
The sounding of the seventh trumpet will be described at 11:15, and the intermission which precedes it consists of two visions: the angel with the little scroll (10:1-11), and the two witnesses (11:1-13). As before, what is recorded for us in chapters 10 and 11 is not meant to be regarded as chronological, as though these visions describe something taking place after the blowing of the sixth trumpet. Rather, as in chapter 7, these visions cover the same period of time as those events described by the first six trumpets (and the first six seals). According to 10:6-7, whenever the seventh trumpet does sound, there will be no further delay in the plan and purposes of God. Consequently, in 11:15, whenever the seventh trumpet sounds we are ushered into the arena of the Day of Judgment.
As many have recognized, the basic structure of Revelation can be described as progressive parallelism. That is, the book is constantly covering the same general ground, returning to survey it all over again, adding further insight on each new visit.
We have already noted, for example, that the first six seals and the first six trumpets describe the same events but from different perspectives. Derek Thomas writes that the ‘seals are concerned with history from the vantage point of earth, looking up into heaven. The trumpets, on the other hand, view the same history, but this time from the vantage point of heaven, looking down upon the earth.’ John Stott writing with poignancy, offers yet another analogy:
‘We can understand the seals, the trumpets and the bowls as relating to the same period between Christ’s comings, but from a different point of view. The seven seals describe what Christ allows in his world (since things only happen when he breaks the seals). The seven bowls (still to come) describe how God judges his world. But the seven trumpets (which come between the seals and the bowls) describe how Christ warns the world and summons them to repentance.’
The two visions of chapter 10 and 11, then, provide us with an interlude (parenthesis) before the cataclysmic description of the Day of Judgment which is signaled by the blowing of the seventh trumpet (11:15). This provides John with the motivation and challenge to continue as a faithful herald of God’s truth. In particular, chapter 10 speaks of a re-commissioning of the apostle to the work of prophetic ministry. There are times when even the greatest of God’s servants need a word of encouragement to continue!
Eugene Peterson reminds us of the manner of the Spirit’s encouragement while summarizing this section:
‘It is the Spirit’s style, while preparing the Christian for the long work of endurance, to interrupt with interludes of assurance. The Christian faith is not unrelieved testing. In fact, the Christian faith is mostly participation in the life of grace, a ‘sabbath rest’. All the same, the Christian faith is embattled, and it would be fatal to ignore the dangers of tribulation and temptation. The Revelation is, in large part, a provisioning of the imagination to take seriously the securities, and so to stand in the midst of and against evil.’
I hope you can join us this Lord’s Day as we consider how Revelation 10:1-11 motivates us to stand strong in the Lord during this evil day. Don’t forget to pray for our services and invite others to come along with you.
Grace upon Grace,
Remember, we will not meet this Sunday morning at the civic center. This week (8/19) we will meet Sunday night at 6:00 pm at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church located at 2456 Decatur Hwy, Gardendale, AL 35071. They have graciously opened their hearts and their doors to us to worship in their worship center/sanctuary.