(10:1 I saw a mighty angel descending out of heaven, clothed with a cloud, and the rainbow on his head; his face was like the sun and his feet like pillars of fire; 2 and he had a little book open in his hand. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land, 3 and he cried out with a loud voice, just like a lion roars. And when he cried out the seven thunders uttered their voices. 4 Now when the seven thunders spoke I was about to write, but I heard a voice out of heaven saying, “Seal up the things that the seven thunders said,” and “You write after these things.” 5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to the heaven 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created the heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there would be no further delay, 7 but in the days of the blast of the seventh angel, when he is about to trumpet, the mystery of God that He declared to His slaves the prophets would be finished 8 Now the voice that I heard out of heaven was speaking to me again and saying, “Go, take the little book that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” 9 So I went to the angel and said to him, “Give me the little book,” And he says to me, “Take and eat it up; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” 10 So I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it up, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. 11 And he said to me, “You must prophesy again over many peoples, even over ethnic nations and languages and kings.”
This is our third week on chapter 10, looking at the way that Scripture came from God to us. Two weeks ago we looked at the angel and the little book. Last week we began looking at the divine attributes that Scripture has. This angelic messenger is clothed with the symbols of Christ because He is carrying the very word of Christ. Those symbols showcase the fact that wherever the Word travels (whether from Father, to Son, to angel, to John, or to us) it continues to be accompanied by the divine attributes of God Himself. And the first six verses that we looked at last week have hugely increased the faith of some in the power of God's Word.
And that's good, because it can be discouraging when you see the Word of God being so horribly abused. We live in a day when socialists, feminists, statists, and even homosexuals are twisting the Scriptures to support their own agendas. Politicians wave the Bible to try to get evangelical votes. And voters twist the Scriptures to support their candidate. Last week I saw a PCA elder use King David as an example of why we can vote for Hillary Clinton. His argument was that no one is perfect, David was a murderer too, and so even though Hillary is guilty of supporting abortion, we can vote for her because (he claimed) there will be less abortions under her. And I won't get into all the reasons why he thought there would be less abortions under her, but it is a clear example of Scripture-twisting. You may have noticed that the Hatmakers both now use the Scripture to support homosexual marriage. And with the avalanche of attacks on Bible it can be very discouraging.
And I've had Christians tell me that they don't know how to respond. They don't feel intellectually up to the challenge of defending Scripture. They can't answer every objection. But we saw last week that the Bible has a power of its own. You just unleash it by faith. Or as Revelation 12 puts it, you put it on your lips by faith. I like the way Charles Spurgeon worded it. He said, "The Word of God is like a lion. You don't need to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself." You read the stories of conversions and it is astonishing to see the way God instantly flipped people's lives upside down - sometimes with one verse. George Whitefield had that happen tens of thousands of times. One time an atheist was curious about why so many came to hear him preach. So he came to investigate. He climbed up into a tree, but was so irritated by the preaching, that he put his fingers into his ears so that he could watch the crowds and analyze them without being annoyed. But a fly kept landing on his nose and tickling it, and he tried to blow it off. But the fly was persistent. Finally, he took his finger out of one ear and slapped at the fly. And at that very instant Whitefield yelled out the Scripture, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" That Scripture hit him like a train, and as Whitefield spoke against the willful refusal of many to hear the Spirit's voice speaking through the Scriptures, God broke through and converted him. For me it was Hebrews 12:8. For one Ethiopian that we knew, it was the reading of a genealogy of nothing but names. How do you get converted with a genealogy? Well, he did. He was thunderstruck by that genealogy because it was the very word of God speaking to his soul. For a friend of mine at Covenant College, it was reading the Scriptures in Gary North's book, Introduction to Biblical Economics. He had been utterly resistant to God's Word, but seeing the Scriptures speak to his discipline broken all resistance and he bowed his neck under the feet of King Jesus. The famous Lady Huntington, a noblewoman who helped George Whitefield a great deal, was asked how she got saved. And she said that she was saved from hell by one letter in the Bible. When the person asked what she meant, she said,
In God's Word, 1 Corinthians 1:26, it says, "Not many noble are called. That 'm' saved my soul; for if he had said, 'not any noble,' I must have been damned. So God blessed the little letter 'm' before any to the salvation of my soul.
Let me assure you that even atheists have been saved by simple expressions of Scripture from ordinary people, and in one case, from the quote of a Scripture by a child. God's word is living and powerful. This is why it is such a shame that so few Christians are willing to use it in the public arena. Your testimony does not save or transform. Your testimony does not tear down strongholds and high things that exalted themselves against the knowledge of God. Only Scripture can do that job.
By the way, Scripture is just as powerful in hardening people's hearts. It always carries God's power and therefore never returns to God void. If God has determined to harden people's hearts with the Scriptures, those Scriptures will harden. If God has willed to bring repentance, those Scriptures will bring repentance. The only question is, "Do we bring the Word of God to bear in culture?" So last week we looked at many attributes of God that are also attributes of the Word of God.
The Bible is 100% God's Word (vv. 1-11 with 2 Pet 1:20-21; Eph. 3:3-5; Rom. 16:26-27). Yet this revelation is mediated through human language, experiences, emotions, and characteristics; In effect, the Scriptures are God's revelation incarnated in human form (10:9-11). See chart for specific sub-points.
Today I want to focus on the powerful imagery in verses 8-11. It is imagery of God's verbal revelation being incarnated (so to speak) into human language and experience. And I am going to devote an entire sermon to this because it is such a powerful image of how we got the Scriptures. Some of you can't think abstractly; you think in pictures. Well, this is a powerful picture that will help you to refute just about every heresy on how we got the Bible. If you can have this image anchored in your mind, you will be safe from those heresies.
One of the questions that people sometimes have is, "How can the entire Bible be the Word of God when it is so obvious that each book of the Bible was written by a man and has that author's own unique vocabulary, grammatical idiosyncrasies, expressions, and emotions? That confuses many people. How can the Bible be both God's Word and the word of a prophet? How can one New Testament verse say, "David said," and yet the same author will say about the same words, "God said"? How can it be both? How can the entire Bible be the Word of God when Paul can say "we do not know what we should pray for as we ought" (Rom. 8:26), or the Psalmist can ask God, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Ps. 42:9) That doesn't sound like God speaking; that sounds like a mournful human speaking. And those are all good questions, but I think they are perfectly answered by this passage.
In terms of how the very words could exist in this little book before John even ate them or knew about them, it is helpful to remember that God decreed everything about John before the world was made, and He made John, formed him, prepared him, and He providentially governed his language acquisition, his experiences, and knew how to use Him. So God gives every word, yet every word passes through John (so to speak) and then comes out of John. It is John's words. They are obviously John's words. There is a human dimension to Scripture. Hundreds of times the Scripture affirms that Moses said, Samuel said, David said, etc. And so there is a human dimension. Yet 3,808 times the Bible says that every portion of Scripture is the very word of God.
How can that be? How can it have human characteristics and still be the Word of God? And the best analogy theologians can give is of the incarnation of Jesus. Just as God the Son took to Himself a human nature in order to become the God-man, God's revelation took to itself human characteristics (you can think of it as a human nature) in order to become Scripture.
I’ve given a chart in your outlines that helps you to see the parallels. Virtually every heresy concerning the doctrine of Jesus has a corresponding error in the middle column concerning the nature of Scripture. And the right hand column gives the portions of chapter 10 and Ezekiel 2-3 that correct that error. So this morning we are going to be working our way through that chart to make sure we have a solid grounding on the nature of the Bible. You are going to have to put your thinking cap on today; it will be a little deeper than last week's sermon, but I think you will find it helpful. There is a lot of doctrinal confusion out there in the evangelical church, with very bad fruit. And unfortunately, this topic rarely if ever is taught in the pulpits.
And just so that you can have a crystal clear understanding of the background to this passage, I want you to turn to Ezekiel. This is one of those times where it would be helpful if everyone turned there. Ezekiel 2-3 expands hugely upon this image that we have in Revelation 10. And I am going to be reading most of chapters 2 and 3. Almost everyone agrees that the image of the angel giving a little book from heaven to John and having John eat it, and it being sweet in the mouth but bitter in the stomach, and then prophesying the contents of that book, was intended to bring to the reader's mind the similar image in Ezekiel 2-3. So it is critical that we have both passages in mind as we go through these points. Ezekiel chapter 2, beginning to read at verse 1.
Ezek. 2:1 And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” 2 Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me.
Ezekiel was already indwelt by the Spirit as a believer, so this entering of the Spirit inside Ezekiel is a different function than salvation. The Holy Spirit invades Ezekiel in this passage in order to turn him into a prophet. The Holy Spirit gives a special gifting that enables Ezekiel to infallibly receive revelation and infallibly communicate it. The Spirit within Ezekiel will receive the revelation from God the Son and the Spirit within Ezekiel will prophetically give the revelation through Ezekiel to others. And the rest of these two chapters will show how. Verse 3:
3 And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. 4 For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.’
Notice that He wants Ezekiel to speak for God; to give God's words. And notice that God's Words come to the people even though they are unbelievers. The heretic, Karl Barth, claims that the Bible only becomes the Word of God when we by faith receive an experience of Jesus in its words. His idea of the Word of God being found in the Bible means that the Bible becomes the Word of God only to those who experience it by faith. It is a subjective view of the Word of God, and it is a heresy. This passage indicates that it is the Word of God whether heard by believers or by unbelievers. And it was the Word of God before anyone heard it. And notice also that his prophecies are not just an "I think God is saying." They are not just a subjective experience. They are a dogmatic, "Thus says the Lord God." Verse 5:
5 As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words,
Notice the humanness of Ezekiel - "do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words." We will be seeing that there is a human dimension to his prophecies all the way through these two chapters. He goes on:
though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak My words to them,
Notice that Ezekiel speaks, but he speaks God's words, not man's. He says, "you shall speak My words to them..." And notice that this revelation is actual words. It is propositional truth. What often goes for prophecy is fuzzy feelings. But these two chapters show concrete propositions. Going on in verse 7: "You shall speak My words to them,..."
whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
Notice that he is not a robot. God commands Ezekiel not to rebel; not to refuse to speak. Obviously a prophet can sometimes run from his prophetic office, like Jonah did, but God will have his way. Jeremiah was so afraid of persecution that he quit speaking God's prophecy, but the prophetic Spirit within him burst forth. So you can see that man's will is involved, even though man's will does not originate the words of the prophecy. In Jeremiah 20:9 he gives this testimony of how he was forced by the Spirit to speak.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.
You see the Spirit moving him to prophesy God's Word. Back to Ezekiel 2:9.
Ezek. 2:9 Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.
So notice that the words were already on this scroll of the book. This angel hands Ezekiel not a blank scroll, but a written one. That is key. The words precede Ezekiel having them. And because of this background, commentators believe that the same must be true of John's scroll. And there are several indicators that it was the same. Continuing in chapter 3.
Ezek. 3:1 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”
So just as in the book of Revelation, Ezekiel must first eat the words before he can speak the words prophetically. But even the eating of the scroll is God's work, not man's. The prophetic Holy Spirit within Ezekiel must infallibly receive the little book and internalize it within Ezekiel. Notice verse 2:
2 So I opened my mouth [there is man's will involved], and He caused me to eat that scroll [there is God's will that makes Ezekiel receive it with his will].
Notice it says that God caused him to eat the scroll. Even the receiving of the word is not by man's will, though man's will is not bypassed. And we will be making applications of all these verses later. Verse 3:
3 And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. 4 Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.
Notice that the very words that Ezekiel would later prophesy are already written on the scroll from heaven. Though the words will be mediated through Ezekiel, word-for-word what God has said from heaven is what Ezekiel will say on earth. He prophesies what God had caused him to internalize, and God caused him to internalize what had already been determined to be written word-for-word. This is quite contrary to one theory of inspiration, which has the Spirit originating the words in the prophet's mind. But this is quite clear - the words precede the prophet even knowing about the words. Verses 5 and following even put this down to the level of the kind of language that Ezekiel is going to use.
5 For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel,
So he is not going to be writing in a different language. He will be speaking and writing in Hebrew, the language he is familiar with, just as John will later write in the Greek language that he is familiar with. Verse 6.
6 not to many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. 8 Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. 9 Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”
Then in verse 10, God reiterates that the words on the book that Ezekiel ate are the same words that Ezekiel will prophesy.
Ezek. 3:10 Moreover He said to me: “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. 11 And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, “Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.”
Verses 16-21 talk about Ezekiel's humanness, his emotions, his will that is involved in prophesying, but not originating the prophecy. But we are going to skip down to verse 22.
Ezek. 3:22 Then the hand of the LORD was upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you.” 23 So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. 24 Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me and said to me: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. 25 And you, O son of man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them. 26 I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.
Though it is Ezekiel who will be speaking, he will not be speaking on his own initiative. God will shut his mouth so that he can't speak (even if he wants to) and God will open his mouth so that he will speak. And it is always, "Thus says the Lord God..."
Now, there is so much more we could say about the inscripturation process from that passage, but I think I have said enough so that you can see that this was clearly the same kind of thing happening to John in Revelation 10. Both passages interpret each other, and that is what I have done with your chart. So let's compare the historical errors on the nature of Christ with the historical errors on the nature of the Bible in that chart.
Parallels between the incarnation of Jesus and the nature of Scripture
|Error on Incarnation||Error on Scripture||Rev. 10|
|Saying Jesus is two Persons |
(Failing to realize that the
Divine Person of God the Son
took to Himself a human nature,
not a human Person)
|Treating the Bible as have sections that are the |
Word of men and other sections that are the Word of God
(contrary to 1 Thes. 2:13; 2 Pet 1:20-21;
2 Tim. 1:20-21; etc.)
|Words already written on book |
before John writes them in his book (compare vv. 8-11 with
Ezek. 2:2-4,7,9-10; 3:1-4,10,26-27)
|Saying that Christ's human will |
could operate independentaly of His divine will
|Saying that we need to distinguish |
what parts of the Bible are simply man's will and ideas and what portions are God's will and ideas. (For example, some feminists reject as "wrong" Paul's statements about women as not reflecting the divine will.)
|Note exactly the same words |
that went into John came out of John as prophecy (compare vv. 8-11 with
Ezek. 2:2-4,7,9-10; 3:1-4,10,26-27)
|Saying that Jesus could have |
|Saying that Scripture has |
error. (The true faith has always maintained the inerrancy of all of Scripture.)
|Symbols show the divine |
truthfulness of the book from heaven (vv. 1-6; see last sermon)
|Saying that you can divide |
the human and divine natures (a Schizophrenic Jesus)
|Saying that you can separate |
what is human from what is divine in the bible.
|compare vv. 8-11 with |
Ezek. 2:2-4,7,9-10; 3:1-4,10,26-27
|Failing to distinguish between human |
and divine natures.
|Failing to realize that the grammars, |
vocabularies and personalities of the authors do come through.
|It is John who prophesies |
(vv. 10-11; see unique grammar of book)
|Failing to realize that any |
resistance to Jesus is resistance to God, not simply man.
|Denying infallibility to certain portions |
|Angel swears that what prophets |
have said is true (vv. 6-7)
|Docetic heresy, which says that |
the human nature is illusion.
|Treating the writers of Scripture |
as a dictation to passive scribes.
|"you must" implies the |
prophet is not a robot (v. 11; cf. vv 9-10; Ezek. 2:6; 3:4-6,16-20 - warning that Ezekiel better prophecy
|Nestorian heresy made Jesus |
a God-bearing man rather than the God-Man.
|Barthians claim that the Bible |
contains the Word of God but deny that it is the Word of God in every letter.
|Identical content of book |
from heaven and book that John writes (v. 4 with 7-11; Ezek. 2-3)
|Apollinarian heresy denied that |
Jesus had a human spirit.
|Failing to see the human |
emotion and spirit of the human prophets.
|See other interactions with this "mighty angel" (5:4-5; 19:10; 22:8; cf. emotion of Ezekiel in Ezek 2-3)|
|The error of thinking that |
Jesus was a human person who had a divine infusion.
|The error of thinking that Scripture |
is words of men that somehow have some divine extra added to them.
|We see the opposite in vv. 7-11; Ezek. 2-3|
The first error mentioned was made by both the Apollinarians and the Nestorians, who so separated the divine and human natures of Jesus that they treated Jesus as being two Persons. But the orthodox position is that Jesus is not a human person and a divine person. He was a divine Person who took to Himself a human nature. He did not take to Himself a human person; He took to Himself a human nature. So he is fully God and fully man, yet still only one person. This person existed before the incarnation and was eternal, yet in the incarnation this perfect Person took to Himself human characteristics.
You can see how this is perfectly parallel to the inscripturation process that we just read in Ezekiel. God's revelation preceded Ezekiel and God incarnated that revelation in a human vessel to communicate His will to us. This eternal Word is incarnated (as it were) in human language, grammar and historical context, yet without in any way giving up its totally divine nature. Man’s will did not originate any portion of the Scripture – only God’s divine will did. And that can be seen in the fact that the words were already written on the little book before John wrote them down in his book. And I have given some Scriptures that show that process in both Revelation and in Ezekiel. The Word came from heaven and was incarnated in John's mouth and pen and language.
And this is yet another reason why the Scriptures minister to us so profoundly. The divine side is wonderful because (as we saw last week) the Bible has God's very power and other attributes behind it. But the human side shows that God knows how to identify with our exhaustion, our tears, and our hurts. The Psalms contain every emotion known to man, and because they are authorized for us to pray, they can powerfully minister to us in the midst of our doubts, fear, and feelings of despair. You would have a hard time relating to the Bible if there was not that human side. And in the process, those Psalms release our emotions and resolve them by fixing our faith in God. Far from being a weak point (which skeptics claim it is), the human dimension of the Bible is a foundational truth for which we cherish it the more. Speaking on the Psalms, John Calvin wrote:
I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.
And throughout his introduction to the Psalms, Calvin states that God Himself enters into and most fully identifies Himself with us and with our needs. Can you see how cool and wonderful this makes the Bible?
But let's dig into this first point just a bit more. First, let's look at some other Scriptures that show that 100% of the Bible is divine in origin. Even the words were there before the prophet thought them. Turn first of all to 1 Thessalonians 2:13. When you come to the Bible, you are coming to God, and you must reverence God by how you come to His Word. So look at 1 Thessalonians 2:13. “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” Notice that Paul denies that this prophecy is the word of men. Though it has a human nature (after all, it came through Paul - it was spoken by Paul), its origin is divine. He said, “…you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” The divinity of the Word precedes Paul speaking it. So I think it is appropriate to speak of the Bible as the Word of God in human form. Can you see that it is like the incarnation?
Turn next to 1 Thessalonians 4:8. He had been giving some commands, and then says, “Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” People might have been tempted to say, "Well, I disagree with Paul." But they couldn't do that here, because this was God's Word. Yes, Paul said it, but to read verse 8 again: “Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” This is the logical implication of the previous verse. Even though Paul is the vehicle through which these words are written, and even though they contain human characteristics, emotions, grammar and color, they still represent God’s will, not man. To reject any portion of the bible is to reject God, not man.
I've had people arguing with the Scripture, thinking they were arguing with me. I've simply quoted Scripture on predestination, and people have said, "I don't believe that. I don't believe predestination." And I've told them, I wasn't interpreting the Scripture, I was just quoting the Scripture. And then I will open the Bible and show how the Bible itself teaches predestination. But in some cases they show their obstinate hardness of heart by saying that they don't believe it anyway. I had one noted church leader tell me that Paul was wrong in his teaching on male headship - that the chauvinism of Paul's day had colored his thinking. As you can imagine, we got into a big argument on that. But he tried to illustrate by saying that Paul had a vision of the Macedonian call. In that vision Paul thought that a man called him to come to Macedonia, but when Paul got there, he realized it was really a woman - Lydia. So he claimed that Paul's chauvinism kept him from receiving the vision correctly and communicating the vision to us in Scripture. But that is blasphemy. To reject those Scriptures because they are Paul, is to contradict 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and 4:8.
Turn next to 2 Peter 1:19-21. This is a verse that describes how every portion of the Scriptures came into being.
2Pet. 1:19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation [in the margin it is literally, of private origin - it didn't originate from a person. Verse 21:], 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
If you have those three Scriptures memorized, you will have everything that you need to refute most heresies on the Word of God. And they all teach exactly the same thing that is visually presented before us in Revelation 10.
The second heresy listed in your chart is thinking that some of the Bible is divine and some of it is human. And some people might scratch their heads and say, "But isn't that what you just taught? - that just as Jesus was God and Man, the Scriptures are both God and Man." But this is where fine distinctions are really important. This heresy teaches that you can trust the divine portions of Scripture but you can’t necessarily trust the human portions of Scripture. Do you see the problem there? They are saying that some portions of Scripture aren't divine and other portions of Scripture are divine. But that is quite different than the truth. The truth says that the whole Bible (every jot and tittle) is divine revelation incarnated in human language and experience.
Fuller Theological Seminary has unfortunately been teaching this heresy for decades. They call it limited inerrancy. But remember that 2 Peter 1:21 says that prophecy never came by the will of man. Never. Though it is men who give it, and therefore it has human characteristics, it is divine in origin, just as Jesus was divine in origin. And just as Jesus’ human will was in perfect unity with the divine will, the prophets’ wills were totally moved by the divine will when they wrote Scripture. So in the third column of the second row, I list several Scriptures that show that exactly the same words that went into John and into Ezekiel came out of John and Ezekiel. The origin was not in man.
Look at the third comparison on the chart. One of the heresies out there is known as "Peccability" - the theoretical possibility that Jesus could have sinned. Peccability comes from the Latin word, peccares, which means to sin. They don't say that He did sin, but that He theoretically could have sinned. I have known people who pictured the angels being on pins and needles wondering if Jesus would blow it and mess up our salvation. That's heresy. Though Jesus was human, His incarnation kept him totally without sin. Scripture absolutely denies that He could have sinned. Because He is God, it is impossible for Him to have sinned - even theoretically. So the true faith holds to Impeccability.
Well, let's compare that to the doctrine of Scripture. In the same way, though men wrote the Bible, the Spirit’s inspiration kept the Scriptures totally without error. After all, the Holy Spirit entered into Ezekiel to receive that little book and then to prophesy that little book. And we spent some time on that when we looked at the symbols of the first six verses last week. The angel is clothed in the attributes of Christ because He is bringing the very word of Christ. The angel swears that everything the prophets have said is absolutely true. By the way, this is another reason why I say that prophecy is the same in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, a false prophet could be discovered if even one of his prophecies was false. Well, in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus warns his disciples to watch out for false prophets who would come in their own day. And the way to test them was by their fruits. If there was even one bad prophecy, they were to be treated as a false prophet and rejected. I don't know any modern charismatic who claims to be a prophet that has had 100% accuracy in his prophecy; not one. They don't even claim it. Some of the best of them claim to have 60%+ of accuracy, but that's not much better than Nostradamus. That is not prophecy. And by the way, do not misapply Matthew 7:15-20 to Christians. Christians have good and bad fruits. They are always growing. That is not true of prophets. Some charismatics have said that this passage is testing individual prophecies, but not the prophet. They say that if individual prophecies don't come true, then yes, you can reject them. But read it for yourself and you will see that it is the prophet who is the tree, and the prophecy is the fruit. If there is even one bad fruit, then the tree must be judged as bad - in other words, as not being a genuine prophet. In fact, why don't you turn there with me. It is Matthew 7:15-20. Notice who is being tested in verse 15.
Matt. 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them [Who will you know? The "them" is referring to the false prophets, right? "You will know them"] by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [There is the judgment.] 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
A good prophetic tree cannot bear any bad fruit. Why? Because 2 Peter 1:21 says that prophecy never came by the will of man - never. Prophecy is inerrant. This is why the angel in Revelation swears by the God who lives forever and who has created and sustained all things that the mystery that all the prophets have spoken about is true. It will come to pass. But the passage also says that false prophets never have good fruit (in other words, they never have Spirit-given prophecies). It's either/or. If there is a failed prophecy, the prophet is to be rejected since even the prophecies that might seem to be right are not from the Holy Spirit anyway. You don't accept the accurate predictions of Nostradamus as being Spirit-given. Since his failed prophecies reveal Nostradamus to be a false prophet, you reject even the so-called accurate predictions as being false prophecies - even the accurate ones are bad fruit and not to be trusted. Inerrancy is absolutely vital to the definition of a prophet - any prophet. And we will see next week that all prophecy, and all prophets, ended in AD 70.
So the second heresy is that Christ's human will could operate independently of His divine will. The corresponding heresy on Scripture is to say that a prophet's human will could act independently of (and even against) the divine will when prophesying, and therefore could be theoretically wrong. But it can't.
Look at the next heresy on the chart. There were people who so separated the human and the divine natures that they turned Jesus into a Schizophrenic, sometimes being human and other times being divine. This is similar to the previous heresy, but a little bit different. It has to do with how the two natures related to each other. Let me read from the Council of Chalcedon their beautiful description of how the two natures of Jesus relate to each other. And I don't expect you to understand every nuance of this creed - entire books have been written on it. But in the middle of the creed it says,
... one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ...
Wow! What a mouthful! As I said, entire books defend that from the Scriptures. But here is the part that I want to apply right now - Orthodoxy says that what one nature experienced, can be attributed to the Person. And I will illustrate - even though God does not have blood, Jesus as a Person is God, and Jesus as a Person shed His blood (as to His humanity), but since anything experienced by one nature can be spoken of as being true of the Person, Acts 20:28 speaks of God purchasing the church with His own blood. His divine nature didn't have blood, but the divine Person did because it was inseparably united to the human nature. So even though what can be said of the divine nature cannot be said of the human nature (or vice versa) what can be said about each nature can be said about the Person.
Now, here is where modern evangelicals get freaked out. And they are freaked out because they don't know their doctrine. And unlike the Protestant Reformers, a lot of evangelicals don't affirmed those ancient creeds. Here's what they get freaked out about. The phrase right before what I quoted, said, "...born of the virgin Mary, the mother of God, [that is,] according to the manhood;..." It doesn't say that she is the Mother of God, period. It says that she was the mother of God as to Christ's manhood. The Greek word is Theotokos, and it is more literally translated as "God bearer." I prefer that translation. The Roman Catholics like to translate it as "the Mother of God," which is technically a possible translation, and would also be true (if you nuance what is meant correctly). Jesus was God, and Mary was Jesus' mother as to His manhood. So it is perfectly accurate to say that Mary was the mother of God - as to His manhood. But because of the Mariolatry that is rife in the Romanist and Eastern Orthodox churches, we Protestants prefer to translate it as "God-bearer." Here's the point - Jesus didn't become God later in His life - to think so is to be a heretic, not a Protestant. Jesus was God even while in Mary's womb. This is so important to understand. He was God even while His body was being suckled by His mother, Mary. To say otherwise is to heretically divide between the natures of Jesus. Protestants at the Reformation had no problem affirming Theotokos, and neither should we. They had no problem with affirming that the Person of Jesus was born, grew up, hungered, thirsted, died - as to His manhood (which the confession is careful to put in there). Even though His divinity could not hunger, thirst, or die, He as a Person experienced that. That is all that the Chalcedon Council affirmed. They were not worshiping Mary. That came much later.
If you want a name for this true doctrine, the Protestant Reformers called it Communicatio Idiomatum, which is Latin for "communication of properties." It means that what can be affirmed of either nature can be affirmed of the Person of Jesus. Is Jesus omnipresent? Yes, because He is God. But wasn't Jesus also local while on earth? Isn't He local in heaven right now? Yes He is, as to His manhood. He is seated in the heavenlies and must remain in the heavenlies until the Second Coming. His divine nature could not hunger, grow tired, or be ignorant of anything. But because Jesus was both God and man, it is appropriate to say that Jesus hungered, grew tired, and did not know the day of the Second Coming. But since Jesus was also God, it is just as appropriate to say (as Paul does) that Jesus upholds all things by the Word of His power, and in Him are hidden all the riches of God's knowledge - He knows everything. Now I know that this probably makes your head want to explode. We like to simplify things to make them understandable. But if you simplify the doctrine of Christ too much, it becomes heretical. And many modern uneducated evangelicals really hold to a heretical view of the nature of Christ. Well, enough on this complicated doctrine of Communicatio Idiomatum.
But let's apply this doctrine to Scripture. It is perfectly appropriate to say of any passage in the Pentateuch, "God said" or to say "Moses said." God and Moses are sort of like the two natures, and Jesus affirmed of the Bible as a whole, "God said," or an author said. And the Bible does this over and over again. For example, the very same words that are quoted and said to be the Spirit's words in Hebrews 3:7 are again quoted later on and said to be David's words in Hebrews 4:7. What David said by inspiration, the Spirit said. This means that they really shouldn't make a Red Letter Bible, where you affirm special authority to red words and lesser authority to black Words. That is a heretical teaching that rejects Communicatio Idiomatum. Unfortunately, my favorite Bible has red letters. But I ignore them. Why? Because the whole Bible is the communication of Jesus. So every facet of the human or divine characteristics of the Bible can be attributed to the Bible as a whole.
However, the next line of the chart keeps us from going to the opposite extreme. Though we cannot separate the natures (our creeds say that they are inseparable) we can distinguish between them. And if we don't distinguish between them we get ourselves into trouble. For some heretics the human nature of Jesus was so absorbed into the divine that there really wasn't any human any longer. The Lutherans aren't as bad as the Eutychians, but Calvin and others were right that the Lutherans were treading dangerously close to the Eutychian heresy. Think about it - to be able to munch on Jesus' literal body in every Lutheran church in the world, His body would have to be omnipresent. But if His body was omnipresent, it is no longer a human body by definition, and He is no longer human, and that makes our salvation in jeopardy. Now, Reformed people have given grace to Lutherans. We believe they affirm these things in ignorance. But it is still a serious problem to confuse or mix the natures. On another heresy, Christ is neither divine nor human, but a hybrid - something in between. That is false.
Well, let's apply that to Scripture. Though every word of this book is God's Word, we can distinguish the human characteristics of the language. And for that matter, you can distinguish between the human grammars, vocabulary and personalities of each of the various books of the Bible. There is an entire grammar book that is written for Revelation's grammatical style. It is the grammar, unique vocabulary, and other language pointers in the books of Hebrews, Luke, and Acts, that has convinced me beyond any shadow of a doubt that Luke wrote Hebrews. All of these things are obviously human characteristics. And we misinterpret the Bible if we ignore those. So when John (in obedience to the command in verse 11) prophesies the contents of this little book and then writes it down on paper, we see that it contains John's emotions, amazement, exclamations, joy, sadness, grammar, vocabulary, etc.
The next row emphasizes another heresy that has been rather common. I've got a book by Fuller on my shelf that says that Jesus made a mistake when He said the mustard seed was the smallest seed. Well, Jesus didn't say it was the smallest seed. He said it was the smallest seed planted in the gardens that they were looking - He points to them. But in any case, Fuller claims he is overlooking Christ's human frailties and submitting to Christ's divine authority. Nonsense. I've got another book by a so-called evangelical that claims that Jesus was accommodating Himself to the superstitions of His time when He spoke about demons, but that there really aren't demons. The book claims that the things He called "demons" are really just psychological problems. But he still claims to honor the bulk of what Christ says; he just discards the human frailty problems. I have another book that says that Jesus believed in a young earth because that was all that Jesus had heard, but now that science has supposedly "proved" that the earth is billions of years old, we need to take the kernel of Christ's statement and leave the husk. What all of these heresies have in common is a belief that you can resist some statements in the Bible and only be resisting man, not God. But Ezekiel 2-3 is quite clear that resistance to any of Ezekiel's words is resistance to God. We saw that Paul said the same thing in 1 Thessalonians. Resistance to what Paul was writing was not resistance to man, but to God. If we lose the infallibility of the Scriptures, then we lose the infallibility of Christ. Both were incarnations.
In the next row I give another comparison – that of the Docetist heresy. Just as the Docetic heretics denied that Jesus was human, saying that his form was an illusion, there have been some who claim that the writers of Scripture were mere typewriters, taking a direct dictation from God, and that they weren’t involved at all creatively in the crafting of the books of the Bible. This is actually the Muslim view of how they got their Scriptures. But that’s not how the Scriptures came to be. Now, you might think it did, because the words were already in the little book before Ezekiel or John ate it and before they prophesied its contents. Doesn't that make them robots? No. When the angel says, "you must prophesy again" in verse 11, he is recognizing that John's will is involved. He is not a robot. He is addressing his will. When Ezekiel is told that he must prophesy and not be fearful, it indicates that Ezekiel is very human. And you may remember that I said that God decreed everything about these prophets before the foundation of the world, and prepared their language, their emotions, and everything else about them to perfectly communicate to us in just the way that God wanted them to communicate. Ezekiel's little book had the words that Ezekiel was ordained to write. This has been the orthodox teaching of both Christ and the Scriptures for the last 2000 years.
On the other hand (and this is the next row), just as Nestorians made the mistake of saying that Jesus was merely a God-bearing man rather than the God-man, heretics today try to say that the Scriptures only contain the Word of God (or become the Word of God in our experience), but that the Bible isn’t the Word of God in every jot and tittle all the time. This was the error of Karl Barth that I mentioned earlier. He believed that the Bible becomes the Word of God when we have an encounter with Christ in it (in other words, when we have an experience with Christ), but that for most people who read the Bible, it was simply a human document. For him, faith alone can make it become the Word of God. So he believed we can find God's word within the Bible if Jesus meets us, but that the Bible itself was human. And we have Barthians all around us in Omaha. They sound like evangelicals, but they are not. They are Nestorians in a sense. Barthianism is a heresy. And the Scriptures we have already covered refute that. The little book was the Word of God when it was in the Father's mind. It was the Word of God when it was given by Christ to the angel. It was the Word of God when the angel carried the little book to John. It continued to be exactly word-for-word the same Word of God when it was inscripturated into John, spoken out of John, and written down by John. We saw earlier that it was still the Word of God when it was completely rejected by the hard-hearted Israelites of Ezekiel's day who did not have faith. The point is that it is not simply subjectively the Word of God; it is objectively the Word of God. At every stage it was the Word of God.
The next heresy is Apollinarianism. This heresy denied that Jesus had a human spirit. They said that the Logos (the Divine Spirit) took the place of the human spirit. So (they said) Jesus had a human body, but not a human soul. Well, the church called that a heresy because a body is not enough to make Jesus a man. It also makes nonsense of Scriptures that speak of Christ’s spirit being crushed, sorrowing, or being overwhelmed. It makes nonsense of Jesus saying that there were some things that he did not know. The Logos knows all things. As God He always knew all things. He was always omnipresent. At the very moment that Mary was holding Him in her arms as a baby, Jesus was upholding Mary in His arms, because Scripture says that he has always upheld all things by the Word of His power. As God, Jesus was all-powerful and could have done every miracle by His own divine power as God the Son, but He chose to restrain His power and to do miracles by depending upon the Holy Spirit as a model man. So the church rightly rejected Apollinarianism. Though Jesus was one Person, He was a Spirit as God-the-Son, and He had a human spirit that was in perfect unity with His divine Spirit. He was one Person, but had two spirits and two wills that were in perfect unity.
OK, applying that to Scripture, we make the same error if we do not recognize (for example) that Paul by inspiration records that he does not know whether he will be coming to Rome right away. He is sharing what he is thinking. That's in the Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 4:19 Paul says, "If the Lord wills, I will come to you shortly." Though God’s Spirit moved Paul to write down everything he wrote, God moved Paul to write in a way that showed his human character, emotions and limitations, but kept him from error. And when you look at the other interactions that the apostle John had with this mighty angel, you see his human spirit interacting. And I praise God that the Psalms have this human element because it allows me to express through the Psalms all my emotions of sadness, feelings of betrayal, frustration, loneliness, etc. Those aren't divine characteristics. Yet they are God's Word, and because God's Word was incarnated in real human soulish emotion, it makes us realize that God really does care about what we go through.
Having sweetness - the exquisite blessings of Scripture (v. 9-10; Deut 28; cf. Ps. 119:103; 19:10; Ezek. 3:3)
And of course, it is both natures of the One Divine Bible that give it such sweetness. The angel promised that when John ate the revelation, it would be sweet in his mouth but become bitterness in his stomach. And that is a perfect image of the nature of redemptive judgments - judgments bring salvation to God's elect but condemnation to the non-elect. Prophets rejoiced at God's purpose of redemption but wept at the hardness of heart of those who rejected it. Even Jesus wept over Jerusalem's rejection of the prophetic word.
But let's look at the sweetness of God's Word first. He said that it tasted as sweet as honey. And this is an allusion to at least three passages in the Old Testament. We have already read Ezekiel 3:3. But Psalm 119:103 says, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Psalm 19:10 is similar.
Now that is so foreign to the unregenerate mind. They don't understand how we can savor God's Word so much. They find the Word of God distasteful. They have been deluded into thinking that the Bible is legalistic, barbaric, outdated, even to be rejected. But Christians savor every Word of Scripture. They treasure it. They agree with it. They realize that it is for our good. We love to study it.
And though this sweetness was being experienced by the prophet, most commentaries make an application to all preachers and all believers. Scripture indicates that the moment a human heart is genuinely born again, it has an instant appetite for the Bible. As 1 Peter 1:22 words it, "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." There is something wrong with a baby if it has no appetite. And if we can say to God, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" it is a sign that things are well with your soul.
It has grieved me to see so many evangelicals becoming embarrassed by the Bible. The Hatmakers are the most recent causalities, calling homosexual marriage holy and honorable before God. When evangelicals have to change the Bible to make it palatable, I question whether they are even regenerate. I very much doubt that they are. Pagans can study the Bible on one level, and admire it on a literary level, but they cannot find it sweet to eat or sweet to live by. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." If any portion of the Scripture is foolishness to you and unattractive to you, it may be an indication that you are still a natural man - unregenerate. Romans 8:7 says, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be."
So in one sense, having a taste for God's Word is an evidence of regeneration. But certainly this prophet found God's Word to be pleasing to his palate.
Having bitterness - the sorrow over the resistance of others to Scripture (v. 9-10; Deut 28; cf. Numb. 5:11-31)
But what happens the moment you start preaching it? You get persecution and hatred and resistance. So the same Bible verses that you love and that minister to your soul end up bringing grief to you because you weep over the fact that others resist and hate those verses. And most commentators relate the bitterness to either the persecution and backlash that comes to the prophet or to his weeping over their hardness of heart. Douglas Kelly says, "No matter how sweet and wonderful the gospel is in your heart, there will be people around you who do not accept it and who may even hate you for where you stand." Beale says, "The nonrepentant response to his message in the church and the world is a 'bitter' or mournful thing for John to contemplate, as it was for the OT prophets and Jesus (Luke 19:41; cf. Jer. 9:1)." This is why Jeremiah, though he affirms the sweetness of the Word, speaks of the hurt that it brings him when people resist it. He said, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jer. 15:16). Yet he also said, “For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am mourning; astonishment has taken hold of me.” (Jer. 8:21).
So you can see why so many commentators apply this to the preacher of today. Though he loves God's Word and delights in it, there is a pain in his work when he continually sees believers ruining their lives by rebelling against the Word. I can tell that Rodney and Gary are good pastors because they not only love the Word of God, but also because I know it brings pain to them when they see you rejecting that Word. It brings pain to my heart when I see people blinded to it and fighting against it. There is a sweet and sour aspect to the ministry, and no one should enter the ministry without being prepared for such pain and bitterness of heart. Leon Morris says, "The wickedness of man grieved God at his heart (Gen. 6:6), and the true preacher of God’s word enters to some degree into this suffering." Commentators like Matthew Henry say that preachers who fail to bring the whole counsel because they are trying to avoid that bitterness, are no preachers at all; they are hirelings. We must be willing to endure the bitterness. And realize brothers and sisters, that when you resist the word of God from our ministry, it pains us.
The Bible has authority over every nation (v. 11)
Yet in verse 11, John is commissioned to bring this message of redemptive-judgment to all - yes, even to those who reject it.
And he said to me, “You must prophesy again over many peoples, even over ethnic nations and languages and kings.”
Too many people don't bring the Word of God to the public sphere because pagans don't believe in the Word of God. But that's ridiculous. Just imagine a murderer coming after my wife with a knife, and I yell at him to drop the knife or I will shoot him with my 357 Magnum. And this murderer says, "Ha. I don't believe in guns." What are you going to do? Are you going to sadly re-holster your gun because he doesn't believe in it? No. You will pull the trigger and make him a believer. And we need to do the same with the Word of God. Use it in the public sphere. It is the power of God unto salvation. We are in the mess we are in today because Christians use carnal weapons to deal with the strongholds of our nation. God calls us to use His weapons which are mighty in God for tearing down strongholds. May Revelation 10 cause us to have such faith in the Word of God that we put it on our foreheads, our hands, the doorposts to our houses, and talk about it in everything that we do. Amen.
Translation based on the Greek text of Wilbur Pickering's The The Greek New Testament According to Family 35 . ↩
John Calvin and James Anderson, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), xxxvi–xxxvii. ↩
G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), p. 552. ↩
Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. , (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), p. 140. ↩