THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
Sermon #38 - Covenantal Curses and the Mighty Angel - Leviticus 26 and Revelation 10
INTRODUCTION - A covenant is an agreement between two or more people, usually involving promises and obligations, and often signed or sealed in confirmation. We deal with covenants all the time in our lives, whether in signing deals, making promises, or agreeing to contracts. When we come to the Scriptures, the idea of covenant is everywhere, as God is pictured as a covenantal God, bringing promises and obligations to men. In the Old Testament, God chose Israel as His people, giving them the blessings of mercy and forgiveness through His covenant of grace. They were His people and He became their God. In this covenant (as we saw expressed in Deuteronomy 28) if Israel followed the Lord, they would receive the blessings of God's grace. If they forsook the Lord and turned to idols, they would reap all the curses which were carefully laid out in great detail. In the New Testament, Israel turned away from the Lord through the rejection of the Messiah. Therefore, we should certainly expect to see covenantal curses falling upon that first century nation. This is the basis of the book of Revelation. This morning we will begin by looking at another covenantal chapter in the Old Testament, Leviticus 26, which once again describes the blessings and curses. In this chapter we also see a phrase which is actually the structure for the entire book of Revelation.
1) LEVITICUS 26 - COVENANTAL BLESSINGS AND CURSES - The first part of this chapter, like Deuteronomy 28, opens up with the blessings of the covenant. Israel is told not to follow idols, but to worship the Lord as He has made a covenant with them. The results of keeping that bond would mean agricultural blessings on the land (verses 1-3), and prosperity over their enemies (verses 6-8). The Lord promised that He would dwell among them and that they would be His people (verses 9-13). Then, the tone of the chapter changes as God puts forth the curses of the covenant, should Israel forsake Him. We see that their agricultural blessing would turn to failure (verses 14-18), God would bring plagues upon them (verses 19-21), their enemies would conquer them (verses 22-29) and their cities and places of worship would be torn down (verses 30-33). Once again, as we look at the destruction which Israel reaped in the first century we see the similarities in this passage. The rest of the chapter deals with the land enjoying her rest from apostate Israel, and the grace shown to any who would repent of their idolatries. Israel's history must always be read in light of these covenantal chapters. Yet there is one phrase in this chapter which the Lord repeats four times and which is of vital importance to our interpretation of Revelation. He says to Israel "If you do not obey Me, I will punish you seven times for your sins" (verses 18, 21, 24, 28). The number "seven" figures heavily into Israel's history. Blood was sprinkled seven times in ceremonies of purification. Naaman dipped seven times in the Jordan to be cleansed. Jericho was marched around seven times to purge it with judgment. Here in Leviticus 26, the covenantal judgment which would result in the purification and cleansing of Israel, is called "punishment seven times for your sins." It is when we come to the book of Revelation that we realize that the number of seven judgments is what holds the entire book together. There are seven seals of judgment, seven trumpets of vengeance, and seven bowls of wrath poured out. All these judgments are poured out in sevens, and this is what apostate Israel was warned about when they broke covenant with God. Judgment would come in sevens. The similarity between the first century judgment, Leviticus 26, and the book of Revelation cannot be overlooked - God was judging Israel because she had broken covenant in the first century and would reap the seven-fold judgment of God.
Now, let us turn to Revelation 10 to see the next picture which John presents to us.
2) THE MESSAGE FROM THE MIGHTY ANGEL OF THE LORD - Revelation 10
A) A MIGHTY ANGEL DESCENDING FROM HEAVEN - Commentators differ as to the identity of this angel. Some say he is simply the Angel of the Lord while others believe that he is Christ. It is the description of the angel, paralleled with the portrayal of Christ in Revelation 1, which makes one think that this is possibly Christ. The angel is clothed with a cloud (a characteristic of the ascended Christ), crowned with a rainbow (which has already been seen at the throne of God), his face is like the sun (as is Christ's countenance in Revelation 1), his feet are pillars of fire (Christ's are brass refined in fire), and his voice is strong (like Christ's in Revelation 1). Whether this is Christ or not, the message of the angel is a prelude to the triumphant seventh trumpet about to be blown.
B) THE MESSAGE OF THE MIGHTY ANGEL - The message of the angel is two-fold. First, the angel cries and seven thunders are heard. Yet John is told not to write down the message of the thunders. This is similar to Paul's comment on his own visions and revelations where some things are "not lawful for a man to utter" (II Corinthians 12:1-4). We are left with no meaning to the thunders, and so we should be content with this, knowing that certain things of God are still hidden from the church, and it is not up to us to try and pry into or interpret those things which remain hidden. There is, however, a second part to the angel's message. He raises his hand in an oath to the Creator, saying that there should be no delay for the fulfillment of the mystery of God when the seventh trumpet is blown. What happens when the seventh trumpet blows? We read in Revelation 11:15-19 that this trumpet declares the absolute triumph of Christ over the nations of the world. The mighty angel is a prelude to this trumpet blast, which will announce the establishment of the New Covenant, the triumph of Christ, the victory of the church and the conquering of the nations in Christ. No wonder God uses such a supreme and mighty angel to be the one to introduce this final trumpet which proclaims victory.
C) THE APOSTLE JOHN AND THE LITTLE BOOK - The final picture of Revelation 10 puts John back into the Old Testament with the prophet Ezekiel. Once again, we see proof that Revelation is a book describing the covenantal curses against Israel and is not a book about our future. Ezekiel is called to prophesy against Israel, just like John in the New Testament. Ezekiel, just like John, is given a scroll to eat, which is sweet like honey when tasted but becomes bitter when the prophet must prophesy against Israel (Ezekiel 2:1-3; 8-10; 3:1-4). The parallels between Old and New Testament prophets cannot be missed and certainly this is how the early church would interpret the text. John is a first century Ezekiel, calling out the covenantal curses against Israel. John becomes the one who prophecies "…about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings" (Revelation 10:11) So we shall see in Revelation, that John will not just speak about Israel, but will also deal with the nation of Rome and its fall, as well as the triumph of the people of God, the church.