A bitter-sweet pill – Friday, 33rd Week in ordinary time – Revelation 10: 8-11

Yesterday we were in chapter five and today we jump to chapter ten. What links the two texts is the scroll which was worthy to be opened by the lamb of God who was slain for us.

To bring you up to speed and to hold our text comprehensively, I want to give you an overview of what has happened between Revelation chapter 5 to Revelation chapter 6. From chapter six, verse one, up to chapter eight, verse one, we read about a series of seven disasters as each seal is broken. This is followed by a similar series as seven trumpets are sounded (Rev 8:2–11:19) and as seven angels pour bowls on the earth causing plagues (Rev 15:1–16:21). These gloomy sequences are interrupted by longer or shorter scenes suggesting the triumph of God and his witnesses (e.g., Rev 7: 10; 11: 12; 13:14).

The scroll with the seven seals (chapter 5) was worthy to be opened by the Christ, ‘the lamb that was slain.’ The seals are broken one by one and we are given a ‘symbolic description’ of the contents of the sealed scroll. The breaking of the first four seals reveals four riders. The first rider (of a white horse) is a conquering power. The second (red horse) a symbol of bloody war. The third (black horse) a symbol of famine and the fourth (pale green horse) a symbol of Death himself. The breaking of the fifth seal reveals Christian martyrs in an attitude of sacrifice as blood poured out at the foot of an altar begging God for vindication. The breaking of the sixth seal reveals typical apocalyptic signs in the sky and the sheer terror of all people at the imminent divine judgment (Rev 6:12–17).The breaking off the seventh seal produces at first silence and then seven symbolic disasters.

These symbolic disaster bring us to the next part of a rather gloomy sequence of events, each announced by a trumpet blast. The first four trumpet blasts herald catastrophes modelled on the plagues of Egypt. The fifth trumpet blast heralds a woe containing elements from the eighth and ninth plagues of Egypt (Ex 10:12–15, 21–23) but specifically reminiscent off the invasion of locusts seen in the prophet Joel. In chapter nine, the sixth of the seven trumpets is blown ushering the end of all things.

Now, instead of the seventh trumpet blast we have another interlude until Revelation 11:15 of which our text is part of. There was a similar interlude after the opening of the sixth scroll. That interlude was in chapter 7 and then chapter 8:1 dealt with the last of the seals being opened. These interludes serve a dramatic purpose, but also show mercy in allowing more opportunity for repentance. It is as if God brought things to the brink, then pulled back a little to grant mankind more time to repent.

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