The Interval of Time

The scripture

Rev. 10:1 – Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like fiery pillars, 2and he had a little scroll opened in his hand. He put his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, 3and he cried out with a loud voice like a roaring lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders spoke with their voices. 4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”

5Then the angel that I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6He swore an oath by the One who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be an interval of time, 7but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”

8Now the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “God, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

10Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter. 11And I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (HCSB)

There will no longer be an interval of time (vv. 6-7)

The angel standing with one foot on land and one in the sea now raises his right hand to heaven and swears an oath by the One who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be an interval of time, but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as he announced to His servants the prophets” (vv. 5-7).

There are two phrases of special interest in the angel’s oath. The first is his statement that there will no longer be “an interval of time.” There would be “no more delay,” the English Standard Version renders it, as do other translations. The interval of time, it appears, is the long delay of our Lord in taking the kingdom unto Himself and establishing righteousness on earth. Human history is written with the blood of righteous men and women who wait patiently on the Lord’s judgment while the wicked prosper – and even mock. Noah preaches for more than a century to the vile people who are bringing a worldwide flood down upon themselves, and yet none repent. Lot’s righteous soul is vexed while the wicked in Sodom and Gomorrah indulge their fleshly passions. Many of the Lord’s prophets are imprisoned, tossed into cisterns, driven into hiding, carried away into exile, and worst of all ignored while the citizens of Israel and Judah insist that God will delay indefinitely His judgment or decide not to bring it at all against His chosen people.

The early disciples are beaten, imprisoned, threatened, shouted down, stoned, quartered, starved, shipwrecked, left for dead, beheaded, and even crucified upside-down while the enemies of the risen Christ insist they are doing His work – or deny His existence altogether. In Hebrews 11 we are told of many who suffer and die having not seen the promises of God fulfilled. In Rev. 6:10 the host of martyrs beneath the altar cry out to God, “O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?”

The apostle Peter addresses the scoffers who insist they will elude judgment, if it ever comes at all: “First, be aware of this: scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, following their own lusts, saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3-4). Peter goes on remind his readers that God destroyed the world by a flood and now holds fire in reserve for the earth’s final judgment, which will come in the proper time. “Dear friends,” he writes, “don’t let this one thing escape you: with the Lord one day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but it patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

The laments of the psalmists and prophets, as they implore God to avenge them and bring swift judgment upon the wicked, who prosper and mock, fill the pages of the Old Testament. In a broader context, what person, what family, what city, what nation, what people group has not felt the sting of sin and longed for the redemption of God? Sickness, sorrow, suffering, crime, corruption, aging, disease, death – all draw breath from man’s promise of utopia and leave him a lifeless corpse. Paul writes that creation itself “eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed…. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:19, 22-23).

As believers, we will not suffer injustice forever. We will not always be mocked, chastised, legislatively bound, outlawed, imprisoned, beaten, tortured and killed. A day of reckoning is coming. The wicked will not always prosper, live in the finest houses, and wield most of the political, economic, social and military power. Their day of destiny approaches as well, and they will watch the resurrected Christ they rejected return on the clouds of heaven in power and great glory. Their bodies will be meat for the vultures, and their souls and spirits will be cast into hell. What the believer gives up for Christ in time is exponentially compensated in eternity. And what the unbeliever keeps from Christ in time is lost forever in the consuming fires of outer darkness.

The angel declares what we have all been waiting for: There will be no more delay.