The Mystery of God (Revelation 10:7) Has Long Been Finished


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and was adapted from our study of Revelation 10:

“…in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

Like so many of the visions and prophecies in the book of Revelation, this one has a rich background in the Old Testament. John was told that the finishing of “the mystery of God” had been foretold by “His servants the prophets.” For a long time, the prophets had been looking forward to what John was about to witness!

Before we examine verse 7 and the meaning of “the mystery of God,” let’s briefly consider the context of this verse. The first six trumpet judgments are featured in Revelation 8-9. (One earlier post discusses the third trumpet, Wormwood, and another discusses the fifth trumpet, the locust invasion.) Then in Revelation 10:

  • A mighty angel comes down from heaven, whose appearance (verse 1) is similar to that of Jesus in Revelation 1:15-16, and his behavior resembles that of “the man clothed in linen” who announces the shattering of the holy people in Daniel 12:7.
  • This mighty angel “sets his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land” (verses 2, 5).
  • He swears that, without any further delay (verse 6), the sounding of the seventh trumpet would bring about the completion of the mystery of God (verse 7).

The expression, “His servants the prophets” (verse 7), was commonly used in the Old Testament to refer to the prophets God sent to the nation of Israel (e.g. II Kings 9:7, Jeremiah 7:25, Zechariah 1:6, and especially Daniel 9:6). The expression, “the mystery of God,” should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the epistles written by Paul. He speaks of this mystery in Romans 16:25-26 (see also Rom. 11:25), but he covers this topic most thoroughly in his epistles to the Ephesians (1:7-10, 2:11-3:11, 5:31-32, 6:18-20) and to the Colossians (1:24-27, 2:1-4, 4:3-4).

Paul told the Ephesians that they could perceive his insight into “the mystery of Christ” which was not made known to previous generations as it had been revealed to the apostles and prophets in his day (3:4-5). Then in Ephesians 3:6, Paul explicitly defines this mystery, and this definition is most crucial to our understanding of Revelation 10:7.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Indeed, in the previous chapter, Paul had already declared that Jesus had “broken down the middle wall of division” between Jews and Gentiles, creating “one new man from the two” (Eph. 2:14-15). They were joined together “into a holy temple in the Lord” (verse 21) and were “being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (verse 22). This, of course, lines up with other New Testament declarations that, in Jesus, there is no difference, no favoritism, and no distinction between Jews and non-Jews (Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).

Here is one place where fulfilled eschatology and futurist eschatology can stand very far apart. Steve Gregg has edited an excellent book titled, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary).” His book features parallel commentaries from four different viewpoints regarding the book of Revelation. We have already observed how “the mystery of God” is clearly defined throughout the New Testament. Notice, then, how this phrase in Revelation 10:7 is defined in vastly different ways by [1] futurists and [2] preterists in Gregg’s book:

Futurist Interpretations of Revelation 10:7
Preterist Interpretations of Revelation 10:7
“Everything will then be made plain. The mystery of retribution—the mystery of predestination—the mystery of the great struggle between light and darkness and good and evil—all will be explained then” (H.A. Ironside, pp. 209-211).
“This ‘Mystery’ is a major aspect of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians: the union of believing Jews and Gentiles in one church, without distinction” (David Chilton, p. 208).
“The reference to the mystery of God seems to mean truth concerning God Himself which has not been fully revealed. It is often overlooked, however, that the mystery is said to have been ‘declared to his servants the prophets’ (v. 7). The mystery of God which is declared as subject to fulfillment is unfolded therefore in the Old Testament in many passages which speak of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth” (John Walvoord, p. 209).
“The completion of the mystery of God (v. 7) refers to the fact that the ‘predominantly Jewish nature of the church was to be ended by the destruction of the temple, the distinctive feature in which it centered.’ The mystery itself, of course, is… ‘that the Gentiles should come into the church on an equal footing with the Jews, not first having to become Jews themselves…’” (Jay Adams, p. 208).
[The mystery of God is] the secret of His allowing Satan to have his own way, and man too (that is to say, the wonder of evil prospering and of good being trodden underfoot)” [William Kelly, p. 209].
 
“How great has been that mystery! Evil had apparently triumphed; the heavens for so long have been silent. Satan had been permitted to be the god of this age deceiving the nations… And now the time has come when the mystery of God will be completed” (Arno C. Gaebelein, p. 209).
 

Each of these futurist interpretations of Revelation 10:7 completely miss Paul’s clear definition of the mystery of God. Perhaps, among futurists, there is a deliberate reluctance to compare Scripture with Scripture in this case, knowing that the first century transition from the old covenant to the new covenant (Hebrews 8:13) is easy to see here.

In this passage (Revelation 10:1-7), we can see the significance of the angel standing with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land (verses 2, 5). Numerous scholars have recognized a Scriptural pattern where “the sea” often represents Gentile nations and “the land” (or “the earth”) represents Israel. P.S. Desprez, for example, in his 1855 book, “The Apocalypse Fulfilled,” wrote the following concerning the expression “those who dwell on the earth” which appears often in Revelation:

“But the words in question are sometimes found qualified by governing considerations which define and determine their meaning, and this is always the case, when they are found in connection with the governing clauses ‘they that dwell’… Then they have, and can have, only one meaning; then they refer only to one land and to one people, and this land and this people must be the land and the people of Judea.”

My 3-part study on this pattern can be seen here (part 1, part 2, part 3).

So if the sea is interpreted as a reference to the Gentiles, and the land as a reference to Israel (i.e. the Jews, generally speaking), then the image of the angel with one foot on both suggests a bridging of the gap between the two. This is precisely what we see in Paul’s definition of the mystery of God and his teachings that, in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one. “Gentiles in the flesh” were once “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:11-12), but, in Christ, they were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens” (verse 19).

The picture of the angel bridging the gap between land and sea is a beautiful symbol of God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in Himself on an equal basis, having torn down the dividing wall by His work on the cross. This mystery was made complete in John’s day, in the first century. All delay soon came to an end (Rev. 10:6) and the temple in Jerusalem, the chief symbol of old covenant Judaism and Israel’s national pride, was brought down forever in 70 AD in favor of “a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22).

“…but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7).

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever! …Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple…” (Revelation 11:15-19).

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All of our studies on the book of Revelation can be seen here.

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