Revelation (Part 07): The Scroll’s Last Appearance
We have now discussed two of the three appearances of the scroll, but I am going to quickly recap them so that we can see the progression. In Revelation 5, a scroll appears in the right hand of God. It is sealed with seven seals. From our OT review and the prior and ensuing action surrounding God’s presentation of this scroll, we determined that the scroll provides the terms and details of the kinsman redeemer’s redemption activity. In chapter 5, Jesus, the kinsman redeemer, appears as a lamb slain, bearing the marks of the payment of the redemption. He is the only one found worthy to take the scroll from the hand of God. Thus, in this chapter, the sealed scroll is used to identify the kinsman redeemer.
Moving to chapter 10, we find the scroll opened in the hand of a mighty angel. I believe this mighty angel is Christ, the kinsman redeemer. There are several differences in this angel’s appearance from any other angel described in Revelation. This angel is surrounded by a cloud. (In the OT, only God comes in heaven or to earth in a cloud—e.g., the cloud pillar of the 40-year wandering, Ezekiel 1, Dan 7.) He has a rainbow over his head. (The rainbow is associated with God—e.g., after the flood and Rev 4.) His face was like the sun (see Rev 1:16 and also this is the exact Greek phrase used to describe the transfiguration in Matthew 17:2). His legs were like fiery pillars (linking both to the 1:15 feet “like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace” and to the fiery pillar of God leading Israel in the OT). In fact, God coming in a cloud and fiery pillar at the Exodus was to indicate his guidance of his people through the desert journey to the Promised Land, which is exactly what this angel, coming in a cloud with his legs like fiery pillars is coming to do—guide John and believers through the journey of this age to the final Promised Land destination of the new heaven and new earth.
Further, Christ is the Word made flesh. The Greek word for angel mean messenger—the exact function of Christ in bringing the word of God to us. This angel cries with a loud voice, in verse 3, like a roaring lion—which again is a description of Christ, the lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5).
Add this description to the fact that he is holding the scroll—which only Christ is worthy to do—and he swears an oath about the sequence of events. The sequence of events are all in God’s hands. It can be only God and Christ who could make such an oath. Certainly then, this mighty angel is none other than Christ himself.
While holding the scroll, the angel (Christ) places one foot on the land, one foot on the sea (10:2), and raises his right hand to the sky (10:5). In this position, Christ has reached out to all of creation—earth, sea, and sky—while holding the opened scroll—the opened title deed of redemption of all creation. He swears an oath by the God of creation (10:6) that there will be no more delay in claiming his redemption. And we find toward the end of this chapter that John must eat the scroll—take it within, making its message his own. Just as the scroll Ezekiel had eaten, this one taste sweet because of the redemption for those who are focused on God and Christ in faith. But also just like Ezekiel’s scroll, the redemption judges those who do not follow God. This is the bitterness in John’s stomach.
The third and final mention of the scroll is in Revelation 20. The scroll is opened, and the names of the redeemed are read. The scroll is read from before the throne of God because it is for God’s purpose that the kinsman redeemer redeemed. I Cor 15:25-28 tells us that Jesus would return this redeemed creation to God. Isaiah 49:6-23 speaks of the Zion purpose—that of everlasting love relationship between God and his image-bearing children—would be fulfilled. Revelation 20:11-15 is that description of God receiving his redeemed children.
As with the other presentations of the scroll, this one has both a prequel and sequel to it as well. The prequel is the first part of chapter 20 in which Satan is bound for a thousand years. Of course, this binding is a figurative binding and not a physical one. Satan is not a physical creature that could be held by a physical chain. As in chapter 10, we see an angel from heaven holding a key to the abyss. This should put us in mind of Christ’s statement in chapter 1 that he holds the keys of death and Hades (1:18). Thus, it is Christ again portrayed as an angel who defeats Satan at this point.
We learn that Satan is defeated by Christ at the cross in Revelation 12. There in verses 9 through 12 we learn that Satan was thrown out of heaven (verse 9), and with that, salvation and the kingdom of God arrive (verse 10). This conquering of Satan was accomplished by the blood of the Lamb (verse 11), which was shed at the cross. And yet, even though Satan was defeated at the cross in one sense, he still goes about on earth (as Paul says as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour) to attack God’s people and purpose (verse 12). Thus, it should not be hard to understand chapter 20 when it says the same thing. Satan is chained for the thousand years and yet during this millennial time (the period in which we live today) the Devil continues in attack albeit in a different way.
Well, if Satan was chained in some sense, what exactly is that sense in which he was chained? Satan had long been the accuser (as Rev 12:10 tells us). But he not only accused God’s people, but through them or by accusing them, he also accused God himself. The idea is that first when Adam and Eve broke covenant, death rightly was the result. Yet God continued to interact and work with and, by his grace, love those who turned to him. Was God not unjust in this? This creation deserved death. God had pronounced it so. And death means separation. And yet, God graciously continued to love. “No!” Satan would shout. “You, God, are unjust!” Further, when God made his covenant with Abraham, God had Abraham cut the animals in half and lay them on the sides of a path. Covenant-making required the parties to walk through these dead, cut animals, saying that just as they have been put to death, so too would the parties of the covenant be put to death if they would break the covenant. Recall in Genesis 15:17 that at night, the flaming torch representing God passed between the cut animals. Abraham did not also pass through. God passed through alone saying that he alone would ensure that the covenant commitment with Abraham would be held secure by God himself and only God. And yet, Abraham sinned. Isaac sinned. Israel sinned. The sons of Israel sinned. Countless incidents of faithlessness resulted. And Satan was filled with glee. “You, God,” he cried, “have failed. You have not kept the covenant you alone vowed to keep. You have been unfaithful to the covenant. You have been unrighteous!”
But then Jesus was born. And Jesus went to the cross, a perfect, unstained kinsman of God and kinsman of humankind. He died without guilt or stain. And that unjust death was offered to God’s image bearers to free them from their guilt and sinful heritage in Adam. They became free, righteous children of Christ. And in this all, God was shown to be righteous (Romans 3:25-26). God did keep the covenant through Christ for his Zion purpose. And by this, Satan was defeated—tossed out of heaven with no way any longer to accuse God of unrighteousness. He was conquered. His accusations were halted, limited, chained. They were proved false by the blood of Christ.
At the end of this time of gathering God’s people—this millennial period—the scroll will be read, and the redeemed of Christ will live with God forever. That, in fact, is the sequel to the scroll presentation. Chapters 21 and 22 describe that Promised Land fulfillment for God’s creation.
So then, the scrolls help frame our understanding of what Revelation is presenting and how it is presenting it. The three presentations of the scrolls (along with their prequels and sequels) and the prologue and epilogue account for 11½ of this book’s 22 chapters. Those other 10½ chapters include 2½ chapters—from 1:9 through the end of chapter 3—that concentrate on the God-focused image bearers of this age, and 9 chapters—from 12 through 19—that concentrate on the self-focused image bearers of this age.
The God-focused section begins with the presentation of Christ in the second half of chapter 1. He is presented as a priest—a mediator and intercessor—whose function (as all priests functions are) is to represent God to his people and represent his people to God. We see Jesus described in terms that do both.
1:10—his voice is like a trumpet represents truth from God
1:13—he is wearing a robe to his feet and a belt of gold signify both his judicial activity and his priestly garb
1:14—his white head and hair represents both wisdom and purity
1:14—his eyes like flames again show his judicial quality and his help in removing evil
1:15—his feet like glowing bronze also point out sin and show his righteousness wherever he goes
1:16—he holds the seven stars showing both control and relationship
1:16—his face is like the sun, displaying truth, wisdom, goodness, and beauty
After seeing him, John falls at his feet recognizing his perfection and his lordship. In care, Jesus reaches out and touches him, encouraging him to not be afraid and assuring him that he is in control, having endured already for him.
The letters to the seven churches, then, are letters that continue with encouragement, showing that Jesus knows them intimately and will guide them through this time until the end.
Chapters 12-19 concentrate on those who have rejected God and Christ. They have a self-focus, which is, as John described it in his epistles, the spirit of antichrist. This section is divided into 12–14---Spirit of Antichrist, 15–16—Judgment of God, and 17–19—Fate of Spirit of Antichrist.
Here is a graphic display of the framing elements of Revelation.