Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation

Chapter 10

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

The symbolism of this short chapter imparts an important message to us!

"I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire." (v.1)

Our eyes instantly focus on the strong angel. By now we know that an angel is a messenger  not a cherub with wings. The artists of this world have given us a wrong image of angels, and have led us to falsely believe that heavenly messengers need wings to travel from place to place. People have not noticed that there is a difference between cherubim and angels. In the scriptures, cherubim are pictured with wings, and their wings typify movement in the heavenly realm The Greek word for angels is ANGELOS, and this word means messenger. It is the root word for evangelism and evangelical. These messengers can be spirit messengers or human messengers. But angels are never said to have wings, and are often called men in the scriptures. For example, the angels that visited Abraham were called men.

Who is this strong angel? The description of this angel gives us the clues we need to identify him. He was clothed with a cloud. There are many references in the scriptures that speak about the presence of God being manifested in a cloud. The presence of God in a cloud led the children of Israel in the desert. After Moses had finished building the tabernacle, a cloud covered it, and the glory of God filled it. The presence of God came in a cloud. In Hebrews 11 we read about a cloud of witnesses. Jesus was received in a cloud when He was taken up after His resurrection. The cloud signified that this strong angel was clothed with the glory and presence of God!

"And the rainbow was upon his head." In the book of Genesis we read that the rainbow was given as the sign of a covenant  the promise that God would not destroy this earth with water again! We are always thrilled with the beauty of a rainbow! This messenger came in the transcendent glory of one who keeps his promises! Only those who live out of the mind of Christ can be covenant or promise-keepers, for the carnal mind is full of lies and deceit. The rainbow on his head shows us that the covenant is in the highest realm  and the highest realm is the mind of Christ. Paul tells us that we have the mind of Christ!

The glory of God is His goodness. When the glory of God shines through His sons, it shines forth in the colors of a rainbow, for we all portray His goodness differently and uniquely, yet each color has a beauty of its own, as it blends in and harmonizes with the others. Each color is needed to bring completeness. The beautiful colors of the rainbow superbly typify the goodness of God as it is displayed in the diversity of personalities and gifts in His body.

The faces of those who are in constant communion with the Lord radiate God's glory, even as the face of Moses shone after he had been with the Lord on the mountaintop. Imagine the glory of Christ's body when each member, in glorious submission to the Head, has been thinking Christ's thoughts and doing His will! These are the ones who sit with Christ on His throne! The light that emanates from them will draw those who are living in the earth realm and in the sea realm to the Lord!

"And his face was like the sun." Imagine the dazzling brightness shining forth from this messenger! The face identifies a person. In Revelation 1 the Son of Man is described as having a face shining like the sun. So this messenger is none other than the Son of Man  the corporate body of Christ. The wonderful light emanates from Him because He is the light of the world, and Jesus said that we also are the light of the world! (Matt. 5:14) It is the light of His salvation that takes away our darkness! Saul of Tarsus, on his way to Damascus, encountered this light from heaven  a light so bright that his eyes were blinded! And he heard a voice saying, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" To whom did this voice belong? In response to Saul's question, Jesus said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." This is the light that brings conviction and repentance!

"His feet were like pillars of fire." In Revelation 1 the Son of Man is also described as having feet of burnished bronze glowing like fire. Feet represent our walk or our lifestyle. Pillars are used as supports; they need to be load-tested to make sure they are fit to carry a heavy burden. Fire purifies. Do you get the picture? These feet represent the walk of the overcomers. Their lifestyle has been tested and purified so they can now be a blessing to others. They have ascended into the presence of God (not physically, but spiritually), and now come down to share His message and His glory with humanity. God's messengers first have to ascend into the heavenly realm to receive a message from God before they descend in order to bring it to humanity. All other messages originate in the human mind and lack the glory and purity of God. This strong angel is none other than the corporate Son of Man coming down from heaven  and heaven symbolizes God's government, and it is in the spiritual realm.

In this picture of the corporate Christ there is no description of the physical body. Why? Because Christ Jesus will never appear as a natural man again! Those who want to see Christ have to see Him spiritually, and they also have to see Him in their brothers and sisters. No one can reveal Him in His entirety. It takes the whole body of Christ to reveal Him that is, Christ the Head together with His body of overcomers.

"And he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land." (v.2) The open book tells us that this is not a secret message, but one that is to be proclaimed! There are many secret societies in this world, and only the trusted ones are conducted into their secrets. God does not have secret societies; His message is to all and for all! Jesus said that He did nothing in secret!

"And he placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land." The right foot, even as the right hand, symbolizes authority. The angel placed his right foot, the foot of authority, on the sea, and the sea symbolizes the multitudes that don't know God. Although they don't know it, they are under an authority that declares they too will receive the message that is in the open book!

His left foot was on the land  on the Christians that are still living in their natural carnal mind. In this vision the mighty angel proclaims that the carnal Christians too will be brought into a higher plane of living!

To Abraham God said, "Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you." At that time the land was inhabited by various nations, but God told Abraham that it was his. He was to possess it, and walk in it wherever he pleased, for it belonged to him. It was his! This carries a powerful symbolic message. The land symbolizes the carnal mind, and the nations symbolize all the imaginations and lusting of that mind, for they are evil. Paul teaches us that all our imaginations need to be cast down. God's promise to Abraham declared freedom from the nations that were possessing the land, and God's promise to us is freedom from the domination of the carnal mind. Our walk in the Spirit puts all these wrong thoughts and desires under our feet - that is, we have victory over them! Whatever we walk on, belongs to us!

When Christ's body of called out ones reveals the nature of Christ by its lifestyle, actions and attitudes, the nations are placed under its feet. In Eph. 1:22-23 we read, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." What a glorious assurance we have in the knowledge that He has put all things in subjection under His feet. Our natural mind views these feet as belonging to the Jesus of Nazareth who walked on this earth many years ago. But Paul is not speaking of that Jesus. He is speaking of the spiritual Jesus, the Son of Man. He is head over the church - His body. Since feet belong to the body, they symbolize the walk of the believers, the overcomers! God wants us to know that we can walk in victory because He has put all that would exalt itself against God's authority, under the feet of the body of Christ. Let's live in this assurance!

This angel comes in the power and authority of the new covenant! This covenant proclaims that God is the Savior of the world! The fulfillment of this covenant does not depend on us, for He has made this covenant with Himself! He has reconciled the world to Himself! Accept this reconciliation and forget your warfare against God! Don't you know that your warfare has ended? In 1978 when we visited Guam, we learned that some Japanese soldiers were still in hiding  and this was many years after the cessation of hostilities. The news that their warfare had ended had not reached them. God wants us to know that He has reconciled us to Himself, and where there is reconciliation there can be no warfare. This knowledge will end our warfare against God.

"And he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices." (v.3)

This loud voice is compared with the awesome authority contained in the roar of a lion. This is the voice of the Lion of the tribe of Judah! A strange phenomenon is taking place! The lion cries out! When did the Lion of the tribe of Judah cry out? The authority of the Lion in the Lamb of God on the cross cried out, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." Hear this wonderful message! You and I are no longer guilty; we have been forgiven - every one of us! Let's receive our forgiveness, receive our reconciliation, receive our peace, and be reconciled to God! Let's quit striving against God! He has forgiven us!

"The seven peals of thunder uttered their voices." By now we know that seven symbolizes divine completeness, and thunder represents God's words being released upon the earth. Here the completeness and all-inclusiveness of God's covenant is being revealed. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 Paul writes that the Spirit of God reveals the unseen realm to us. He reveals things that the eye cannot see, things that our ears haven't heard, and things that are beyond our imagination! This revelation is coming forth in the seven peals of thunder!

"When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, `Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken, and do not write them.'" (v.4)

Here is a mystery, and our curiosity is aroused! The message in the open book was for everyone, but the message in the peals of thunder was not to be revealed at this time. We'd like to know what this special message to John is all about! Why did God tell John that this part of the story was not to be made known? Why could John know it, but not anyone else?

John represents the overcomers, so this message is for the overcomers, and they are to receive it directly from the Spirit. They can hear the Spirit and can dialogue with the Spirit. The Spirit can show them the heart of God! But those who cannot hear the Spirit will not receive the Spirit's teaching, for it is sealed to them. Not everyone hears God's word at the same time. There is a first fruit, a harvest and a "roundup time" when everyone is gathered into the fold. This is a word for those who make up the body of Christ, but each one gets it individually and at different times.

The word of God has to become alive in us! Isn't it amazing how often we can hear the message of God's love and salvation, yet it hasn't become alive in us! We only hear it in our religious carnal mind, give mental assent to it, and think we know it all. However, a word received in the religious mind does not change us. It may stir up our zealousness and dead works, but we are not changed.

In Matthew 16:16 Peter received the revelation that Jesus was the Christ, but he only received it in his carnal or natural mind. We know that anything received in the natural mind does not have keeping power, because even after that revelation Peter still denied Jesus Christ three times! Later, after he was baptized in the Spirit and received this word spiritually, he was no longer afraid of persecution! Now he proclaimed the message boldly! Anointed sermons have to be received by anointed ears; otherwise they will only be received in the religious mind. Not all sermons are anointed; some come in beautiful intellectual words, but they do not contain life! We need more than intellectualism; we need Christ!

Only Christ can make His words alive in us! The natural mind can only receive them in the letter of the law. When the Holy Spirit brings His illumination of the word to us, it changes us and brings us into joy! Repentance and change go hand in hand. Often we have a false idea of repentance, and associate it with remorse, weeping and crying. However, repentance is a positive experience, and implies a change for the better! Christ brings us His illumination, and it changes us into Christ's image!

"Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up His right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets." (vv. 5-7)

The angel raised his right hand to heaven. Hands are raised in worship, praise and intercession. Authority is vested in this angel, and he swears by the Creator of all things that when the seventh angel sounds, there shall no longer be a delay in bringing about the fulfillment of what was spoken by the prophets. Then the mystery of God is finished.

"In the days when the seventh angel sounds." The word translated as "days" means a period of time. Day also refers to light; the seventh angel is bringing a message of light and understanding! This message is being sounded today. We are always intrigued by mysteries; we want to solve them! God's ways are a mystery to us for they are beyond our natural understanding. The open book tells us that God does not want it to remain a mystery to us.

God's promises have to be understood spiritually. In the natural realm they remain a mystery to us, so we need clues to help us understand them spiritually. The prophets had proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, a release from all bondage, and the coming of a new day when there would be a new people and a new creation! But God's people did not understand that this new creation is a spiritual one. Since people thought that the fulfillment of these promises would come in the natural realm, it remained a mystery to them.

This mystery was not solved until Paul came and boldly proclaimed, "That I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:25b-27) This is the true spiritual fulfillment!

The formation of this new nation in Christ began when people from different parts of the world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit was poured out. At that time they also received a new law - the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus! The mystery was finished, but it was still not understood. Even the leaders did not understand that Christ had come to be in us, and that the Spirit was actually the Lord, and that Christ was the beginning of a new spiritual generation in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile. All are one in Christ. Since Christ is in us, we no longer see Him as a physical being. Even today, many don't understand the mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory"! However the angel has declared that the time is now, and the revelation of its meaning is entering the hearts of overcomers everywhere!

"Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, `Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.' So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, `Take it, and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.'" (vv.8-9)

What a surprise it must have been for John when he heard that he was to eat an open book! Have you ever tried eating a book? That pleasure is reserved for bookworms! What does the eating of this book symbolize? John was to take this wonderful message of a completed salvation into himself and digest it! Digested food can be assimilated and used by the body. It sustains and builds the body, making it strong and healthy. Spiritual food also has to be digested and assimilated in order to bring growth and strength to Christ's body!

Another surprise awaited John! In his mouth it was sweet as honey. Good news is always sweet! The Promised Land was described to the Israelites as a land of milk and honey. When we receive the revelation that Christ is our righteousness, our joy is complete! We no longer have to work for righteousness, and we are freed from the guilt of failure! What a tremendous relief!

But why should it turn bitter in the stomach? This symbolizes the bitterness and hurts that we experience from others as Christ's life is lived out through us. Let's look at the life of Jesus. He lived a life that revealed the nature of our invisible God! He did exactly what the Father wanted Him to do. He enjoyed perfect unity with the Father! He lived a life of intercession for a lost humanity! Did that make His life easy? No, it did not! He felt the rejection, the criticism, the loneliness, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails that pierced His hands and feet, and the agony of crucifixion just as we would! The bitterness in the stomach typifies these difficult experiences. When we speak the word of truth, it brings life to those who receive it, but those who reject truth will try to make life miserable for us. As we stand between heaven and earth as intercessors and mediators for a lost humanity, we too will experience the unbeliever's bitterness and anger against us.

Jesus endured the suffering "for the joy that was set before Him." He understood God's plan for His life. He knew that the sacrifice of Himself would bring total redemption for a lost humanity. He knew that the Father would not cause Him to suffer more than was necessary to bring about this great salvation.

Our confidence is also in the Father's plan for our life. Our joy of seeing resurrection life imparted to those who receive the word more than makes up for all the suffering we have to endure! God has promised that His word will not return void - that is, the word that He gives us to speak will accomplish His purpose. The Bible is not to be used as a means of beating people into submission and keeping them in legalism. This will not produce fruit, for there is no life in legalism. However, the word God gives us to speak is a living word, and it will accomplish what it was sent to accomplish!

"I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter." (v.10) John was obedient, and he found the angel's words to be true. We too will experience this when we are obedient to God's word to us!

"And they said to me, `You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.'" (v.11) The great majority of people have a wrong idea of the meaning of the word prophecy. They think it only means foretelling what the future holds for us. It actually means to speak under the inspiration of God! This can apply to past, present or future events.

To prophesy to many peoples, nations, tongues and kings, means to bring them the anointed word of God! We tell them what God wants them to hear  not what we would like to tell them or what they would like to hear. We are God's messengers and as such we proclaim the message God has put into our heart. Some will accept it and others will be offended by it. The result is not up to us. Our part is to speak God's message and leave the results up to God.

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