The Finished Mystery of God
July 22nd, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE FINISHED MYSTERY OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-22-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Bitter-Sweet Little Book. If you will turn to the tenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, the message is an exposition of this chapter. Revelation chapter 10:
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven,
clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head,
and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars
And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his
right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and
when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was
about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto
me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered,
and write them not.
And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the
earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
And sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created
heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and
the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things which
are therein, that there should be time no longer:
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when
he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be
finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets.
And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again,
and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand
of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the
little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it
shall make thy stomach bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth
sweet as honey.
And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up;
and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my stomach was bitter.
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before
many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
Between each one of these septenary series there will be an interlude. Between the series of seven seals there is an interlude. In the series of the seven trumpets, there is an interlude. In the series of the seven bowls, there is an interlude. And the interlude is always in the same place, between number six and number seven. The interlude between the seals comes between the sixth and the seventh seal, and is in chapter 7. The interlude between the bowls of wrath comes between the sixth bowl and the seventh bowl, and is just one verse: Revelation 16:15. And the interlude between the trumpets, six and seven, is here in chapter 10 and most of chapter 11.
The shortest interlude is between the sixth and the seventh bowls of wrath. And by far the longest interlude is this one here between the sixth and the seventh trumpets. These interludes are for encouragement in days of great trial and for the comforting of God’s people in hours of dark persecution, and such marvelous revelations as they contain and such illimitable, immeasurable hope as they portray.
Now the interlude between the sixth and the seventh trumpets [Revelation 10:1-11:14] begins with one of the most impressive of all of the apocalyptic visions in time or type. In all literature there is nothing to compare with the tremendousness of this angel that John sees coming down from God out of heaven. I have copied here some reactions to the description of this angel. Here is one. "The description of this angel has been admired by every classical scholar. Abstracted from its spiritual meaning and considered merely as a literary production, it stands unrivaled by anything we meet with in all the pages of Grecian and Roman literature." That’s one comment concerning this vision. There’s not anything in all the literature of the ancients that begins to compare with the impressiveness of this marvelous apocalyptic vision.
Now here is another one that has some length to it.
Be pleased to observe the aspect of this august personage: All the brightness of the sun shines in his countenance; and all of the rage of the fire burns in his feet. See his apparel: The clouds compose his robe, and the drapery of the sky floats upon his shoulders; The rainbow forms his diadem: and that which "compasses the heaven with a glorious circle," is the ornament of his head. Behold his attitude: One foot stands on the ocean, and the other rests on the land: The wide extended earth and the world of waters, serve as pedestals for those mighty columns. Consider the action: His hand is lifted up to the height of the stars. He speaks and the regions of the firmament echo with the mighty accents, as the midnight desert resounds with the lion’s roar. The artillery of the skies is discharged at the signal; A peal of sevenfold thunder spreads the alarm and prepares the universe to receive his orders. To finish all, and give the highest grandeur, as well as the utmost solemnity, to the representation. . .He swears by Him that liveth forever and ever.
["Contemplations and Meditations," p. 197, James Harvey, 1816]
Now, that’s eloquence. And these are just a few of the marvelous reactions you will find in literature to this unusual and marvelous vision.
"I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven" [Revelation 10:1]. Came down from heaven, not so much his point of departure as the abode in which he lived. "Come down from heaven clothed with a cloud," a symbol of his indescribable, incomparable majesty. "And the rainbow was upon his head and his feet were as pillars of fire." Both of those great reflected attributes of God are found in this holy creature.
His feet, his legs, "as columns of fire. . . ." [Revelation 10:1]. That represents burning judgment. But the rainbow around his head represents the mercy, and the forgiveness, and the remembrance, and the compassion of our Lord. "And his face was at it were the sun." Imagine the brilliance, the indescribable glory and beauty of this marvelous angel. "And he set his right foot upon the sea and his left foot upon the earth" [Revelation 10:2]. He is taking possession of all God’s creation for the Lord God Himself.
"And he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth" [Revelation 10:3]. And the very ends of all God’s creation shall hear the wonderful challenge of this angel. "And I saw as he stood on the sea and upon the earth, I saw him lift up his hand to heaven and sware by God that liveth forever and ever that there shall be delay no longer – you have it translated, "time" [Revelation 10:5-6]. That there shall be delay no longer, but that in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be finished, even as God preached the glad tidings to His servants the prophets" [Revelation 10:7]. Why, I submit there’s nothing – there’s no imagery, there’s no imagination, there’s no fiction, there’s no literature, there’s no legend, there’s no anything that you will ever read in any literature comparable to this marvelous vision.
Now, practically everybody who interprets this thinks that this mighty angel is the Lord Christ Himself. And it would look that way. The cloud is always the accompaniment of deity, the shekinah glory of God, the – you have it here – "a rainbow" [Revelation 10:1]. The Greek is "the rainbow." You saw that in the fourth chapter around the throne of the Lord God [Revelation 4:3]. "And His face was as it were the sun" [Revelation 10:1]. That’s a description of Jesus in the first chapter. And His feet [were] "as pillars of fire, as burning brass." That’s a description of our Lord in the first chapter and the tremendous authority by which He speaks.
I have no quarrel at all with people who would identify this mighty angel as the Lord Christ Himself. Now I do not think that. I think he is indeed a mighty angel, but that he is just that. This mighty angel appears several times in the Revelation. The fifth chapter of the Revelation – the one that you just now read – the fifth chapter begins with a great and a mighty angel, speaking of a book that lies upon the hand of God [Revelation 5:2], and many times throughout the Scriptures, for example, in Revelation 18:1:
After these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
His face also shined like the sun, and the whole creation burned in the glory of that countenance. But there are very few who would say that this mighty angel, in Revelation 18:1 is the Lord Christ; and I do not think that any could possibly say that that mighty angel was the Lord Christ in Revelation 5:2. And in these marvelous descriptions of him, you have to remember that – that even God’s sainted children someday shall shine forth as the sun [Matthew 13:43]. And that’s just as great a wonder that we would shine forth as the sun, as that this angel should shine as the sun.
And then you have to remember that the angel, Michael – Michael the archangel of God, Michael – his name means, "He looks like God." His name means, "He is as the Lord. He is as God." Then another thing you have to remember – that is, to me – in the Revelation the Lord Jesus is always very definitely described. Every time He is ever mentioned in the Book, you will know exactly whom the seer is describing and talking about. He will appear as the Son of Man, and then He is described in the first chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 1:13]. He will appear as the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Revelation 5:5]. He will appear as the Lamb of God in the fifth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 5:6]. He will appear in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation as The Word of God [Revelation 19:13].
So to me whenever Jesus appears in the drama of this Apocalypse, He is always intimately, minutely described. And these angels are not Christ. I do not think they are. The angels are referred to, beside the angels of the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 7, 14]; the angels are referred to more than sixty times in this Book of the Revelation. And every time they appear as servants of God.
So this angel, mighty and glorious as he is, appears in all of the wonder and the authority of God. And for Christ, and in the name of the Lord, he possesses, he takes the earth and the sea and all things God has created [Revelation 10:1-2]. And he holds in his hand the title deed of that possession. Ah! What a marvelous, marvelous imagery.
Then he says, as he swears with his hand raised to heaven, he swears that delay shall be no longer; but that in the days of the sounding of that seventh angel, the mystery of God shall be finished. It is intended that it shall be finished, as He hath – and you have it translated here, "declared" – to His servants, the prophets [Revelation 10:5-7]. The word there is, eangelizo, evangelized as the Lord God evangelized to His servants, the prophets.
Now, we could stop there, and we shall for a little while and just speak – I do not know how much and how long – upon the mystery of God that shall be finished – the mystery that it is the purpose of the Lord to finish in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel.
The mystery of God is, why God delays in dealing with sin, and with Satan, and with hell, and with death, and with the grave. Why the long patience and forbearance of God? That is the mystery of the Lord. Why does God, for these thousands and thousands of years now, why does the Lord God allow Satan to hold this world in his octopus arms? Why does God allow truth to be crushed in the dust of the ground? And why does God allow the enthronement of evil? Why does God turn His back upon violence? And why does God hide His face from our tears and our sorrows? The most malignant attacks of Satan are against God’s own people. Why the mystery of God’s delay?
The mystery of God, in His delay to handle this sin, and this Satan, and this death, and this grave, the mystery of God in that delay has been the stumbling block of God’s people through all generations. Why does God allow evil to flourish and good to whither on the vine? Why the infidel rises up and he mocks us, and still lives. And the devils in hell seem to flaunt their challenge in the face of the Almighty, and God does nothing about it. And the years pass, and people are thrust into the grave, and they die a thousand deaths. And God’s people suffer in this earth. And sin is rampant everywhere, and you don’t look but that you see tears and sorrow and heartache. Why the mystery of God’s delay?
That angel raised his hand to heaven and swore that there is coming a time, after the sixth angel has sounded, and in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, he swears by God that liveth forever and ever, that in the days of the voice of that seventh angel, there shall be no longer delay. But the mystery of the forbearance and longsuffering of God shall come to its final and elected, and predestined, predetermined end [Revelation 10:5-7].
Evil, and wickedness, lust, greed, vileness and villainy, war and bloodshed, violence and death – broad as the River Euphrates – flows through all human history. And every other evil is a tributary toward it, as it flows toward a vast sea of corruption. Every generation inherits the accumulated evil of a previous generation and hands it down to the generation that is yet to come. And it looks as if sin and the swelling tide of iniquity will roll on forever and forever!
But – but beyond the stars there stands a herald angel, with a trumpet in his hand, and at God’s time, and in God’s purpose, that trumpet shall sound. And in the days of the voice of that last and final trumpet, the forbearance and the patience of God with Satan, and with evil, and with sin, and with iniquity, and with death shall come to an end [Revelation 10:7]. There is a barrier beyond which the swelling flood tide of evil shall not overflow. And there is a stated hour beyond which sin, and Satan, and death shall not exist.
And in the forbearance of God, this mystery of God, in the forbearance of God, these things shall work for the comfort, and the edification, and the everlasting glory of God’s people in the earth. And then shall we see that things that we thought worked against us actually were working for us. "For all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" [Romans 8:28]. Everything in this earth was not only created by Christ, but it was created for Christ! [Colossians 1:16].
And the mystery of God is that someday, when it is manifested, we shall see that all things work for the glory of our God and the edification of His saints. And he raised his right hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth forever and ever. . .that there should be delay no longer, but that in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, the mystery of God – why God’s long delay – the mystery of God shall be finished, as He evangelized – as He preached the good tidings of it – to His servants, the prophets [Revelation 10:5-7].
Now, I want you to see three things in there: first, the burden of all the prophets was this, that God hath prepared for His people some better thing [Isaiah 64:4], as He evangelized, as He declared the glad tidings to all of the prophets. As the prophets looked ahead, they saw storm, and they saw persecution, and they saw trial, they saw bloodshed, and they saw death; but they also saw the holy and heavenly day that was to dawn, as God evangelized through all of His prophets.
A second thing: that comes to pass in the days of the voice of that seventh angel, not when he sounds – not at the trumpet sound itself – but in those final and consummating things, the mystery of God shall – according to His intention, His elective purpose – be finished [Revelation 10:7].
Then, a third observation: then we live in a day of delay. As this prophet wrote – as John the seer saw – he himself belonged to the day of delay. And we ourselves belong in that day of delay, when God lets sin be sin, and evil be evil, and war be war, and iniquity be iniquity, and death be death. When God leaves Satan unchained, we live in this day of long delay. But God has been very careful in the Scriptures to point out to us and to warn His people of that delay.
For example, in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the apocalyptic discourse of our Lord closes with a parable. "Blessed is that servant – blessed is that servant who shall be watchful and waiting for coming of the lord." For if that evil servant shall say in his heart, "My lord delayeth his coming – my lord delayeth his coming" [Matthew 24:48], our Lord is saying there that it may be far beyond all anticipation, the Lord’s coming.
And in that same apocalyptic discourse, He said in verse 36: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only" [Matthew 24:36], intimating a long delay.
Then the next chapter, the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, is the same thing, in that parable of the five foolish and the five wise virgins [Matthew 25:1-13]. All them slumbered and slept – all of them – all of them. The five foolish slumbered and slept. The five wise also slumbered and slept. The lord’s delay was so long, and the bridegroom in His coming was so delayed, that they all – verse 5 – "they all slumbered and slept" [Matthew 25:5].
You will find it again in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Luke: "And Jesus spake a parable unto them," because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. Then He told the parable of the nobleman that went away unto a far country to receive a kingdom for himself, a long delay [Luke 19:11-27]. And you’d find it discussed in 2 Peter, the third chapter: "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" [2 Peter 3:3-4]. There’s no sign of it at all. Now that is the delay of the mystery of God. When shall our Lord appear? And when shall Christ come? And how long does this evil and Satan’s enthronement continue? It is a long, long time, God said, and we are in that delay now.
But there is a time coming, when the patience of God and the forbearance of the Lord shall reach its final limit. And, in the days of the sounding of that seventh trumpet [Revelation 11:5], then shall the Lord God appear in heaven. And then shall the Lord God seize that old devil, the serpent; and then shall the Lord God place him in that abyss for a thousand years in chains [Revelation 20:1-3]. And then shall the Lord God reign in this earth [Revelation 20:4-6]. And finally, shall the same Lord God thrust that devil into the lake of fire forever and forever [Revelation 20:10]. And then shall the Lord God create a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness [Revelation 21:1-5]. And then shall God’s redeemed shine forth as the sun [Matthew 13:43]. And then shall the earth be filled with righteousness as waters cover the sea [Habakkuk 2:14]. And then shall we reign as kings and priests unto our Lord in this very place; washed, swept, cleansed, made anew in the glorious likeness of the Lord our Savior [Revelation 10:9-11].
Well, that was my introduction. The title of the sermon this morning is The Bittersweet Little Book. And we have just now come to the bittersweet little book. I do not begin to have a moment even to mention it. So we will just pick up there next Sunday; and we will speak of this bittersweet little book next Sunday morning.
Ah! You know, I have tried to go faster through this Revelation. And that’s why I’ve tried to put so much in one sermon. I leave out ten thousand things, even going as I do now. Every one of these words, every one of these syllables, every one of these sentences is filled with marvelous meaning. It’s like going down into the caves of the earth and looking at God’s jewels. Ah! The pearls. Ah, the hidden treasures! It’s like dipping out the ocean. After you have labored and after you’ve got every container full, you look back, and there is just as much unsaid, uncaptured, as there was that you possess.
The – you could take any other book in this world – take Shakespeare, take Milton, take Dante, take Goethe take Homer – you could take any other book in this world and stand up here and preach it for a while, and people would come to you and say, "We are so tired of that same old stuff that we just are going to lose our minds." But you can take a lifetime and preach this Book, and when you get to the end of a lifetime, look back over all that you’ve done and say, "Oh! That I had a thousand lives more that we might continue to behold the jewels of God, the treasures of heaven, writ so large on this holy and sacred page." I love to study it. I love to prepare the sermon. And, oh! It’s a preacher’s reward for you to be here with an open Bible, and to look at it with us, together.
The Lord sanctify and hallow these blessed moments of preaching, and reading God’s revelation, writ so large on the sacred page. Now we must close. And while we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you to give his heart to Jesus, somebody you to put his life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song, you come and stand by me. Is there a family to come this morning? Is there one somebody to come this morning? While we sing this song, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.