Revelation 10:1-4

Sermon preached on February 17, 2013 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

My father was a policeman and one of the things about him was that he loved knowing secrets. It was childish in a way, but he would sometimes tease relatives about it. We'd be at a family gathering and people would be talking about a crime that was in the news or something like that, and my dad would indicate that he knew something about it that wasn't public. Being in law enforcement meant that you sometimes knew the inside story. But he wouldn't tell them what it was that he knew. I remember it used to drive one of my uncles crazy. If there was a secret he wanted to know it. He would start pestering my dad to tell him what it was. Of course my dad wouldn't tell him because it was fun for him to know something that my uncle didn't. He might dole out little bits here and there—but he would always keep a lot of things back. My uncle would be exasperated. He couldn't take it.

We human beings want to know things. We're curious. We like knowing secrets. We don't like being kept in the dark. We like to know the 'why' of things.

We're the same way when God does something to us. We like to know why He did it, what the purpose in it is. But one of the great truths that we see in our text is that

there are some things that God doesn't want us to know.

He keeps some things hidden from us. Our text says, (Revelation 10:1–4)

"Then I saw another mighty angel
coming down from heaven.
He was robed in a cloud,
with a rainbow above his head;
his face was like the sun,
and his legs were like fiery pillars.
He was holding a little scroll,
which lay open in his hand.
He planted his right foot on the sea
and his left foot on the land,
and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion.
When he shouted,
the voices of the seven thunders spoke.
And when the seven thunders spoke,
I was about to write;
but I heard a voice from heaven say,
'Seal up what the seven thunders
have said and do not write it down.'"

John heard what the seven thunders said. When he was going to write them down God told him not to, but to seal up what the seven thunders said and not write them down. This is surprising. It is the exact opposite of what we read near the end of the book of Revelation. In Revelation 22:10 the angel that was showing John these great things said to him,

"Do not seal up the words
of the prophecy of this book,
because the time is near."

So it seems in our text that we have something that is against of the tenor of the book. Something is kept from us. John heard it, but he wasn't allowed to share it with other Christians. Trumpets are used two ways in Revelation—in contexts of judgment and in terms of the glory and majesty of God, the awesomeness of God. (Revelation 4:5) Here it is in the context of judgment so what we are not told is something about God's judgments on unbelievers for their persecution of the saints. The voice of the thunders could also relate something about that persecution.

But the point is that God doesn't want us to know certain things. He keeps them secret from us. It was somewhat the same with the apostle Paul's experience in 2 Corinthians 12:2–4. He wrote,

"I know a man in Christ
who fourteen years ago
was caught up to the third heaven.
Whether it was in the body
or out of the body I do not know—
God knows. And I know that this man—
whether in the body or apart
from the body I do not know,
but God knows—
was caught up to paradise.
He heard inexpressible things,
things that man is not permitted to tell."

The great question is: Why would God tell us about the great thunders and not tell us what they said? He could have told John just to strike this whole section. But He chose to reveal that the thunders spoke—but what they said is kept from us. Part of the reason this text exists is because God wanted to teach us some important lessons.

The first lesson is that

God wants us to trust Him even when we don't understand what's He's doing.

One of the things that our text shows us is the great power of God to accomplish His will. Here we read about a glorious angel which comes down from heaven. He is described in such terms terms that this is probably none other than Jesus Christ.

The whole scene impresses upon us God's sovereignty, not only over us, but over all creation. The cloud and the rainbow point to that. Our text has parallels to Daniel and in Daniel 7 we read that it was one, like the Son of Man, who came 'with the clouds of heaven' and approached the Ancient of Days. He was given an everlasting dominion that ill never be destroyed.

The rainbow reminds us of the rainbow that surrounded the throne in Revelation 4:3. It is a representation of God's glory. The cloud and the pillar of fire harken back to the time of Israel in the wilderness when He led them by day with the cloud and by night with the pillar of fire. Here His legs are pillars of fire. His right left stands on the sea and the left on the land. This suggests His sovereignty over all creation.
These things suggest that He will lead and protect us. Even though a beast will come up out of the sea, and a beast will come up out of the earth (Revelation 13) we should know that Jesus is in control.

The cloud of the divine presence also came upon Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. His face shining like the sun is the way that John described Jesus in Revelation 1:16 and the way it was described on the Mount of Transfiguration.
The fact that Moses and Elijah were there with him, and were also glorified, suggests that He is going to lead His people to glory.

His voice is like a lion's roar. Jesus is described as the lion of Judah. It is His voice that compel the thunders to answer.

One of the implications from this is that God's power is very great.
The application we can make from this is that we can trust God even if we don't know exactly what He's doing. He will accomplish His will. We may go through persecution and even death—but God will protect us. He will lead us to glory. We ought to trust Him.

Grant R. Osborne writes, (Revelation, BECNT; p. 398)

"The major message is one of sovereignty. God is in control, and the saints do not need to know all the details."

Vern Poythress adds, (The Returning King, p. 125)

"We must be content to trust God in the midst of our partial knowledge, confident that he knows everything and governs everything for our benefit (Rom. 8:28-39)."

The placement of this text also suggests that we should take this lesson to heart.

The following chapters in Revelation describe how Christians are persecuted by non-Christians and how non-Christians are punished by God. During that persecution Christians are to be faithful. G. K. Beale writes of the first part of Revelation 11. He tells us that it, (Revelation, p. 521)

"reveals that Christians are sealed so as to bear an enduring and loyal witness to the gospel, which begins to lay a basis for the final judgment of those who reject their testimony."

The subsequent chapters in Revelation detail how evil beings will be elevated and of the horrible persecution that Christians will undergo. It's going to be terrible. As Revelation 13:10 says,

"If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed.
This calls for patient endurance
and faithfulness on the part of the saints."

We know the big picture. Revelation teaches us that God is going to save His people and bring them to glory. We may have to go through many difficult times (Acts 14:22) but God will always be with us (Hebrews 13:5) and He will take us to glory. We will be with Him forever and rule with Him. We will be made glorious and will be perfectly happy serving God in the new heavens and the new earth.

But one of the great truths that the book of Revelation teaches us is that we are to be good and faithful witnesses even in the midst of great persecution. We are here to be witnesses. We are to shine for Jesus when we know what is going on and when we don't understand at all what is going on. In either situation we should completely trust and rest on Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd. He will always take care of us. We should trust God even when we don't know what He's doing. That's what the saints of old did and that's what we need to do. For example, when God called Abraham, He said to him, (Genesis 12:1)

"Leave your country,
your people and your father's household
and go to the land I will show you."

God didn't tell Abraham where he was going to end up. Abraham had to trust God.

When Job lost his possessions, when he lost his children, when he was afflicted with great sickness—God didn't tell him why it was all happening. Job didn't know that Satan had come to God and God and asked Satan about Job, if he noticed how there was no one like him on earth, how he was blameless and upright, how he feared God and shunned evil. Job didn't know any of that. He didn't know that he was the central figure in a drama played out in front of the heavenly host.

Job asked God a lot of questions about what was happening to him—but even at the end of it, God didn't answer his questions. Rather we read, (Job 38:1–3)

"Then the LORD answered Job
out of the storm. He said:
'Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me."

It is significant that God answered Job out of the storm. There are things about God we don't understand. In Job 38 and 39 one of the basic points that God made was that Job was not qualified, to know (let alone debate) the great ways of God.

When Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave and taken to Egypt, I think it was many years before God's plan became clear to him. When Samuel anointed David to be King over Israel I don't think He told David that it would be many years before he became king, that he would have to be a fugitive for Saul because Saul would hate him and try to kill him.

We should trust God even when we don't know or understand His ways. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He rules all things. He loves us. He has promised to be with us. He has promised to bring us to glory. He will do that.

The second lesson we should take from this text is that

there are some things that are better for us not to know, or there are things that we think might be good to know—but God hides them from us so we can live as we should—by faith, and so bring glory to Him.

Would Job have done of better job of living to God's glory if God had told him beforehand about the trials that were coming—about Satan's challenge to God? It could very well be. Knowledge sometimes gives you power. But God didn't reveal his plan to Job beforehand. Job needed to live by faith and bring glory to God by trusting Him even when God seemed to have abandoned him. That was God's plan. Satan and the evil ones were proved to be wrong. Job brought glory to God by living by faith.

So that's part of the answer. God hides some things from us so that we can live by faith as we should.

Another part of the answer is that there are some things that are better for you not to know. The time and manner of your death for instance. Would it be better for you to know that or not to know that?

With Peter, it was better for him to know the manner of his death. Jesus told him about it. (John 21:18-19) But there were obviously special circumstances with Peter. He had denied the Lord in His hour of need. Peter was so broken up about it that he needed encouragement that he was going to be faithful to the Lord even to the death.

But for the rest of us—knowing the time and manner of our death might be difficult to bear. Jesus knew the time and manner of His death—and it was a great burden to Him because He was going to have to face His Father's wrath because of our sin. As He said in Luke 12:50,

"But I have a baptism to undergo,
and how distressed I am
until it is completed!"

His mission, the culmination of which was His suffering and death—truly made him a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

The same could happen to many of us if we knew the time and manner of our deaths. It might overwhelm us. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow, for, (Matthew 6:34)

"Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Trust God. He knows what is best for you and what you should know and not know. Trust the guiding hand of your Good Shepherd.

The third thing we should learn from our text is that

we need to devote ourselves fully to obeying what God has revealed to us.

In Micah 6:8 the prophet said,

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."

We should not try to figure out things that have not been revealed to us. In Deuteronomy 29:29 Moses wrote,

"The secret things belong to the Lord
our God, but the things revealed belong
to us and to our children forever, that we
may follow all the words of this law."

Michael Horton, (The Christian Faith, p. 363)

"We must not try to figure out God's secret providence, but must attend to the means he has provided for our salvation (through Word and sacrament) and earthly welfare (through vocations, friendship, and other common gifts we share with unbelievers)."

God has reserved some things for Himself. He has given us enough for us to live lives to His glory. As the apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3,

"His divine power has given us
everything we need for life and godliness
through our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness."

We are to live our lives to the glory of God. We do that by being obedient to God's commands. Enough has been revealed to us, and enough has been given to us so that we can, (2 Corinthians 3:18)

"all reflect the Lord's glory,"

And be,

"transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory, which comes
from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, enough has been revealed to you as well.

One of the great themes in Revelation is that unless you repent and go to Jesus you are going to be lost.

Revelation teaches you that things may go well for you for awhile—but eventually God's patience will come to an end and you will have to pay for your sins.

Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you. Find everlasting life in Him.