Revelation (Part 06): Jeremiah and Ezekiel
The closer kinsman sealed the agreement with Boaz concerning redeeming the land by giving him his sandal. At the time of the writing of the book of Ruth, that custom had already changed as the text implies. The story of Ruth took place in about 1200 BC. By the time of Jeremiah in the 500s BC, the formal sealing of an agreement was by documenting it on a scroll. In Jeremiah 32, we find that Zedekiah is king. He, a son of Josiah, was appointed king by Nebuchadnezzar after the rebellion of Jehoikim and Jehoiachin (aka Jeconiah). But Zedekiah had rebelled against Babylon just as his brother and nephew had, and Nebuchadnezzar was laying siege to Jerusalem again. Zedekiah had thrown Jeremiah in prison for prophesying against him, saying that Babylon would defeat him. This appears more than simple irritation that Jeremiah had nothing good to say about him. Zedekiah seems to have thought that it would be impossible for God—their God, the true God of the universe—would allow Jerusalem and their promised land to be lost to the Jews. Rather than understanding he was speaking the word of God, Zedekiah may have thought that this doomsday prophet Jeremiah was merely condemning Jerusalem for no good reason.
But Jeremiah corrects that thought by explaining God really is sending Babylon in to capture and defeat his people, but that won’t be the end. God would bring his people back. Jeremiah gets this point across by explaining how God told him to redeem land of a close relative. He was to redeem it and write the terms of the sale on a scroll to be kept there in Jerusalem as record of the redemption. That record would stand to the day when God would bring the Jews back to the land. The sealed scroll, then, was the title deed to the property.
So far we have connected the ideas of kinsman redeemer with the certification of the redemption on a sealed scroll. We can easily connect this concept with what was happening in Revelation 5. God held up a sealed scroll. The scroll was the title deed to his creation that had been lost to him. That creation needed a redeemer, but at first in Revelation 5, it seemed that no one was worthy to be redeemer.
We had learned from Ruth that a redeemer had to be a kinsman, had to be able to pay the price, and had to want to redeem. As John was about to despair that there was no redeemer, an elder tells him that Jesus was worthy—that Jesus would be the redeemer. Jesus comes in as a slain lamb, bearing the image of the price to be paid. And he takes the scroll indicating his desire to redeem.
The OT, however, has another use for a scroll. In Jeremiah 36, God had Jeremiah write his words of judgment against Israel and Judah on a scroll. From this scroll, read in the Temple, the people learned of God’s judgment and had the opportunity to repent. Jeremiah 51 also tells us of another scroll on which Jeremiah had written the judgment of God. But is a scroll of God’s judgment connected in any way to a scroll of God’s redemption? As we continue to move through the OT, I believe we will find that there is connection.
Ezekiel 2-3 shows us another scroll. We learn there that God gave a scroll to Ezekiel. It is a scroll on which Ezekiel could read of lamentations, and mournings, and horrible things. These were the judgments of God. Ezekiel was told to eat the scroll, to fill his belly with it so that this message would be part of him. As Ezekiel ate the scroll he remarked that it tasted as sweet as honey in his mouth.
The Ezekiel scroll reminds us of the event in Revelation 10 in which the mighty angel gives John an opened scroll to eat so that he may prophesy of it just as Ezekiel was to do. As John eats it, he too found that it was as sweet as honey in his mouth. But he also found that it was bitter in his stomach. This contrast relates to the message of the scroll. It was indeed a scroll filled with the judgments of God, making his stomach bitter. But it was also a scroll pronouncing the redemption of God’s people and therefore tasted sweet. Here then is the connection. I believe both the sealed scroll of Revelation 5 and the opened scroll of Revelation 10 are the same scroll. This scroll gives a complete accounting of our OT research. We find redemption and judgment in Revelation, anchored for us in the imagery of the scroll, which ties it firmly to the explanation found in the Old Testament. This will help once we begin to move forward in the details of Revelation as something to hang on to in order to keep our bearings.
As we examine the scrolls a bit more, we find that they anchor great portions of the Revelation detail. The first scroll is presented in Revelation 5, but it is Revelation 4 that sets the stage for it. Revelation 4 is not merely a scene to show us what God’s throne room looks like. Remember, God is spirit. He has no need for an actual physical throne. The imagery of Revelation 4 is meant to show us God’s holiness. Remember that holiness is a characteristic that is not necessarily something innate in God as is his essence of truth, goodness, and beauty. Holiness, which by definition includes separateness, necessarily needs something else to exist in order to be separate from something. The concentration on the images of holiness in Revelation 4 (the throne, judgment, thunder and lightning of anger, etc.) indicate that we are separate from God, deserving of judgment. The scene shows condition that highlights the need for the redeemer that comes in chapter 5. And just as we have a prequel set up in chapter 4 before the scroll presentation in chapter 5, we have a sequel following it in chapters 6 and 7 as the Redeemer opens the seals one by one, setting the redemption plan in motion.
The scroll presentation in Revelation 10 has its own prequel and sequel. The trumpet announcements in chapters 8 and 9 indicate the judgment of the opened scroll. The identification of God’s people at the beginning and end of chapter 11 shows the redemptive purpose of the opened scroll.
Thus, so far, besides the prologue and epilogue framing the two ends of the book with purpose, we have the scrolls giving purpose and meaning to a large block of chapters already. In chapters 4 through 7, we see the Kinsman Redeemer through the imagery tied to the sealed scroll. In chapters 8 through 11, we see the judgment and redemption through the imagery tied to the opened scroll.