Saga of the Edible Scrolls - Part 1
At a time when many of God’s people were “waiting” in Babylon (literal and metaphorically spiritual) Ezekiel and John were independently commissioned to eat a scroll and then “witness.”
- Ezekiel’s message was to go to the “house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:5) regarding God’s judgments against them.
- John’s was against “many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11). His was to be a judicial warning, destined to go to the whole earth (Revelation 10:11, 11:4, 6).
Ezekiel’s messages detail what has displeased God through visions and living parables. John references the part of Daniel’s book that was sealed and is now open for study. Fascinating is the parallel warning mission of these edible books. A question beckons: Might both “documents” have a contemporary meaning for the end of time?
In 605 B.C. Daniel and his companions were taken into Babylonian captivity by Nebuchadnezzar during his first of three attacks on Jerusalem. Jehoiakim then became the appointed vassal ruler over Judah and served Nebuchadnezzar for three years (II Kings 24:1).
Ezekiel, a Jewish priest, received a prophetic call. After the second attack he observed:
- In spite of these exploits, rebellion against God did not abate (Ezekiel 2:4, 3:7).
- God’s people did not walk in His statutes (Ezekiel 5:6-7).
- They were even defiling the sanctuary with brazen idolatrous practices (Ezekiel 5:11, chapters 8 and 22).
During this era Jeremiah was also a prophet of warning – but his messages were rejected. False prophets predicted the yoke of Babylon would be broken within two years (Jeremiah 28:1-4). Rebellion deepened so much so that God told him that the people were like a basket of rotten figs (Jeremiah 24:8).
Heaven permitted that second attack on Jerusalem in the early spring of 597 B.C.
- It was then that Ezekiel was taken captive.
- Later, in a third merciless attack in the summer of 586 B.C., the city was burned and the great temple of Solomon was destroyed.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that Ezekiel was of the Zadokite line of priests (Ezekiel 40:66, 43:19, 44:15-16). This became a line of great spiritual leaders inaugurated in Solomon’s day (I Kings 2:35). The Zadokite priesthood, later in Ezekiel’s book, symbolizes the 144,000 in end-time imagery.
- Details regarding his priestly activity before his captivity are not known.
- Intriguingly, many of the expressions in his book are similar to Jeremiah’s, making scholars conclude that he was influenced by that prophet in his early years.
Ezekiel’s work was divided into two great divisions:
- He was a prophet of doom, warning his people to repent and countering any false hopes of quickly returning to the homeland.
- Once Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed he became a prophet of deliverance and hope.
He functioned as a watchman for God’s people while in Babylonian captivity. Though some of his messages were intended as a warning to other nations that had harmed Israel (chapters 25-32), the ultimate restoration of a people remained a golden thread in his writings.
As is often the case with other prophets, preceding major revelations come resplendent visions of divine majesty (cf. Daniel 10:5-6, Revelation 1:13-16). Before warnings, threats, corrective action and even hopes, an orientation to things above is referenced. So it occurred with Ezekiel’s vision of the four living creatures and a being like a man seated on a moving throne.
- It is from such a divine center that Ezekiel is commissioned (Ezekiel 1:28–3:11).
- It was from Christ that John’s apocalypse was inaugurated (Revelation 1:1-2, 10:8-11).
The mission of Ezekiel was unique. It became informative as to what brings displeasure to God, which forced them into Babylonian captivity. That did become a difficult “sell,” because he too was rejected and opposed. But his messages contained a promise of deliverance, designed to bring hope to those captive people. They are stunning missives, even for our day, as we await Christ’s return!
- Fascinating – John was given corrective messages for the seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3) in a special outline for those who will also be part of the end-time body of believers. In Revelation 8 and 9 God’s global wrath, with mercy, Trumpets one through four reveal God’s displeasure against evil. Then the nature of Satan’s final work through his minions is opened in Revelation 13, 17 and 18, leading to a cry to get out of Babylon.
- John’s Babylon became a symbol of last-day apostate Christianity, drawing on many parables from Ezekiel’s day. Yet, the unique messages destined for the world in Revelation 14 appeal to a time of decision because His wrath is pending.
Of interest are two profound matters that led to this study:
- The specific sins of Israel that led many into Babylonian captivity give insight into why God’s abhorrence of Babylon in John’s book is so profound! It annotates His deepest views of apostasy.
- The preparation Ezekiel and John had to undergo to begin this prophetic work is provocative.
- Both were required to eat a scroll before they “prophesied.” The “material” was to be fully understood.
- Both experienced its sweetness. Both would describe a following bitterness. Its contents would then give varied experiences.
The Call of Ezekiel
Fascinating are many prophets’ personal comments regarding their body conditions/positions as God communicates with them:
- Moses was to have bare feet (Exodus 3:5).
- Daniel was lying in his bed (Daniel 7:1).
- John was on the ground like a dead man (Revelation 1:17).
- Of Ezekiel it is said:
- “He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.’ As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me” (Ezekiel 2:1-2 – NIV).
- Not only did the Spirit lift him into an upright position but, later, would give him power and authority for his mission.
- John was able to approach “the angel” (Jesus Christ) (Revelation 10:9).
In Ezekiel’s commission, what “saith the Lord” is to go to Israel (in captivity) whether they listen or not (Ezekiel 2:5). His spirit was to be one of courage and fearlessness (Ezekiel 2:6).
Such a demeanor will accompany the two witnesses in their final gospel work (Revelation 11:5-6). And they will succeed (vs 7a)!
This now becomes fascinating.
- Ezekiel was commissioned by God (reference the first chapter) before he ate the scroll.
- The two witnesses were commissioned, symbolically, through John, “You must prophesy again,” after he ate a scroll. Both John and the two witnesses were referred to as prophets (Revelation 11:6, 10, 18; cf. Revelation 16:6; 18:20, 24; 22:6, 9).
For those apostate people already in Babylon, this “book” contained detailed messages as to why they were there! For John it would become a message warning of the antichrist’s hatred, his time-limited power, the driving issues of apostasy and a plea to get out of Babylon because of its sins. All was to be given with urgency.
- Jeremiah had similar “training” to warn this people before the Babylonian captivity began.
- “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation” (Jeremiah 15:16-17).
The depth of God’s justice and care brought sweetness as John and Ezekiel ate their respective scrolls – but, the non-repentant response to those messages brought bitterness – even anguish.
- Ezekiel’s scroll was filled with lamentations, mournings and woes (Ezekiel 2:10). John’s scroll was a “little open book,” the contents of which, after being eaten, prepares him/the two witnesses to warn of the arrival of the judgment hour, God’s standards and heaven’s restoration theme!
- Within Ezekiel’s sacred narrative is a warning that is also to go to those in “Babylon” at the end of time.
- The horrors of Babylon in John’s apocalypse are apparent – but details as to why Babylon is fallen are sparse! We know that it is the “habitation of devils” (Revelation 18:2), the harlot by that name gives abominations to the world (Revelation 17:2-4) and it is made up of three parts (Revelation 16:19). But – why is it fallen?
The answer must be found elsewhere. Much is revealed in Jeremiah (not the focus in this study). Ezekiel’s exile message defines: “This is why you got here!” This is why you are in Babylon.” It encompasses what still exists in most hearts: They won’t change (Ezekiel 3:6-7). This, in turn, actually becomes a supplemental narrative to the three angels’ messages in Revelation!
- When the cry goes out to “flee” or “get out of Babylon,” there must be a distinct “why” given.
- Ezekiel’s information now becomes invaluable.
God’s Warning Drama
Following the eating of the scroll, Ezekiel is told to act out the final doom of the people remaining in Canaan and the City of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-3), detailing Israel’s sin (4:4-8), a projected famine (4:9-17) and the nation’s fate (5:1-4).
- All this leads to a renewed focus on who God is and a deeper understanding of what He abhors (6:1-7).
- Finally, the end will be desolation (6:14) – the ultimate terminus of God’s wrath against apostasy (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14).
- This echoes what Daniel said of the end, where there will be an abomination that leads to desolation (Daniel 12:11).
The path to desolation is filled with merciful counsel and admonitions. Through Ezekiel the results of persistent rebellion without repentance are frequently highlighted.
- Then, in words of lamentations and woe, God explains His wrath and fury against Israel (Ezekiel 7).
- “That is how rebellion will end.”
The prophetic eschatological era, when Babylon has fallen, follows a similar pattern.
- In Daniel 8 the focus on the Medo-Persia and Greece symbols suggests that Babylon has already fallen (Daniel 8:20-21). The leader (the little horn) of its apostasy is highlighted. He is destroyed (8:25).
- In Daniel 11 the leader of apostasy is again described (vile person, king, king of the north). He, too, will come to an end (11:45).
This leader’s “death” was already portrayed as from a burning flame (Daniel 7:11).
In John’s apocalypse the term “Babylon” doesn’t show up until chapter 14. But a form of apostasy is seen within five of the Seven Churches and with Seals two and four. In the Trumpet rendition, God’s “tempered wrath” is seen in the first four Trumpets (Revelation 8:6-13); Satan and his minions are unleashed in the fifth Trumpet.
- The antichrist beast is introduced in chapter 11, verse 7.
- Its final hatred against God’s people, with the dragon’s support (13:2), is later depicted.
But – in John’s saga, out of the “clear blue” comes the dire picture of a fallen Babylon. The student/expositor would be left with assumptions as to that meaning unless a God-inspired prophet, Ezekiel, revealed specifically why Israel went into Babylon!
After a rendition of God’s perspective of Israel’s estrangement, God appears intent on riveting in greater detail His displeasure. It is as though He is saying:
- “Maybe you didn’t get what I’ve been saying in the past. Let Me go into greater detail!”
- “In fact, let Me describe how serious your rebellion really is!”
- “Your end is in sight” (Ezekiel 7:1-9).
Overflowing with emotion, God portrays the scourges of His people with:
- Social disruption (7:10-13)
- Military disarray (7:14)
- Economic distress (7:19-22)
- Political chaos (7:23-27)
- Ineffective spiritual leaders (7:25-26)
- All associated with something they do that God hates
What Really is in God’s Mind
In a new series of visions God shows why His final rejection and desolation are justified (chapters 8–11). This helps us understand the three angels’ messages, where His wrath is highlighted in relationship to a fallen Babylon. There, the symbols are changed, and Babylon is personified.
The seer is transmigrated to Jerusalem in chapter 8, when God now unburdens His heart: “This is what is really on My mind!”
The weight of evidence suggests that what Ezekiel now sees is stunning insight into the detestable rebellion of God’s people, leading up to the first captivity in 605 B.C. It would, in turn, characterize Babylon in John’s apocalypse.
God gives Ezekiel a guided tour of the temple. At that time it would be reflective of the “first” or “Solomon’s Temple,” later destroyed in 587–586 B.C., during Nebuchadnezzar’s final attack.
Intriguingly, God’s holy presence still resided there when these visions were given!
Ezekiel is told that there are four abominations or things He hates – given in increasing intensity:
- Image/idol of Jealousy (8:5-6)
- In that entryway was an inanimate image that God called “jealousy.”
- Who this “god” was is not certain – but –
- Men were worshiping this image from within the sacred court of the temple of a Holy God.
- Images were an outrage to God (Exodus 20:3-5). God even says, there, that He is a “jealous God.”
- North was the symbolic “direction” of Mt. Zion (Psalm 48:2) and God’s throne. Anything, any idol, that impeded the communication between God’s presence to this court and temple was an abomination.
- Secret Creature Cult (8:7-13)
- Ezekiel was told to dig or enlarge a hole he noticed in the temple wall. He subsequently entered there, coming into a side chamber where there was a door.
- He opened it and passed into the inner sanctums of the temple and saw firsthand secret animal worship practiced by the leaders of the nation!
- There, he saw a myriad of creatures that were being venerated depicted on the walls. Many assume that these were representations of Egyptian animal worship. In prophecy “Egypt” symbolizes the wicked world.
- Jaazaniah is a named leader of that group.
- His father was apparently Shaphan, a scribe who previously played a major role in Josiah’s reforms (II Kings 22:12).
- “Have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in darkness?” They were practicing pagan rites.
- At this time God’s presence was still in the Most Holy Place in Solomon’s Temple. But now God is creating a judicial argument as to why His presence must be vacated from the temple and Jerusalem (which was described in 10:4, 18-19; 11:23).
- They know who the true God is.
- Though God’s true presence must have been in their proximity in the Most Holy Place, they say that “He no longer sees us” – as they worship beasts in the dark (8:12), blindly thinking He won’t see them!
That wrath is anticipated against ungodliness and unrighteousness who conceal, silence or quash the truth – suggested by this temple worship in darkness. The Spirit already told Ezekiel that this would be part of the “greater abominations” (8:6) that we later see brings divine retribution. Paul deepens the meaning of “creature worship.”
- “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:22-23 – NIV).
- People, even God’s people, have a terrible proclivity to corrupt the knowledge of God through nature worship (plants, creatures) and even in homosexual relationships.
“Because of this [the latter], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones” (Romans 1:26 – NIV; cf.
I Corinthians 6:9, Ephesians 4:19).
- “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” (Romans 1:24 – NIV).
- “God gave them over to a depraved mind” (Romans 1:28 – NIV).
- The Tammuz Cult (Ezekiel 8:14-15)
Tammuz was an ancient “god of fertility.” Its history dates back close to the flood. By the time Ezekiel writes, it had become a god giving powers for new life to nature in the spring to what had been dead or dormant during the winter. This could be for plant life, especially the grains, but included animals.
Intriguingly, one of the Babylonian/Jewish months is “Tammuz.” It relates to our July/August each year when their festival called “Tammuz” occurred.
- Ezekiel expresses dismay at yet a greater abomination that is depicted! This mourning chant was a pagan practice associated with ritual prostitution in that festival. Life was “ebbing out” as summer moved forward. Sexual activity was to symbolize preservation of life.
- Ezekiel saw them involved in a rite which mourned the death of this god, hoping it would come to life once again. This vision shows that paganism had deeply affected the women in Israelite society as well. God hates it!
- “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:1-2 – KJV).
- These women have adulterated the worship of the true God, played a part in licentious practices within the sacred precincts of the temple and defied truth regarding life and death.
- Worshiping the Sun (Ezekiel 8:16)
“And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east” (Ezekiel 8:16).
- This is apparently near where the laver was positioned.
- The laver, or basin, was a large bowl filled with water, located halfway between the brazen altar and the Holy Place. Although God did not give specific measurements for the laver, it was to be made entirely of bronze. The priests were to wash their hands and their feet in it before entering the Holy Place (Exodus 30:19-20).
- It stood as a reminder that people need cleansing before worshipping God. The priests atoned for their sins through a sacrifice at the brazen altar, but they cleansed themselves at the laver before serving in the Holy Place to perform their sacred duties.
- The Neo-Babylonian Empire was just coming of age. It is not certain whether this honored the Assyrian god Ashur or the Babylonian sun got Shamish.
- But it likely is a “sun-rise” service that mocks God. That celestial object rises in the east.
The edible book of Ezekiel sweeps through the complex stories and sagas in his whole book, ending with the return of righteous leaders, restoration of land and a new temple or center of worship. All enemies will then have been removed. It morphs into an actual picture of the future kingdom of God.
What about John’s open edible book? (detailed in Part 2)
The unsealed “little book” (Revelation 10:2), contextually, is presented sequentially before the last three and a half years of earth’s history (Revelation 11:2-3). It is here open or unsealed. By way of reference, the seven-sealed scroll (Revelation 5) cannot be opened until after the Second Coming (the sixth Seal). This little book is opened long before that time.
- The only sealed document that couldn’t be understood anciently was Daniel’s ha·hazon record (which is this open little book) – the selected visions and narratives found in chapters 8 through 12.
- They weren’t to be unsealed until the “time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, 12:8).
- It had to be eaten to symbolically be understood!
When is that “time of the end?” Gabriel already informed Daniel that it would be at the “appointed time” (Daniel 8:17, 19). Habakkuk had recently shared that the “appointed time” would come after the tarrying time (Habakkuk 2:2-3) ends. We can see in a Revelation 10 study that Jesus will prophesy that a time delay (that “tarrying time”) is about to end (vs 6).
- The evidence is unimpeachable that these prophecies of Ezekiel and Daniel contain detailed links. This “little book” is the unsealed ha·hazon prophecy of Daniel.
- It is open in Christ’s hand, announcing that it can now be understood!
- In John’s eating it, God announces that He is qualified to effectively witness – prophesying again. The seer becomes symbolic of God’s final remnant, witnessing church.
Some relate this to the unsealing of the 2300-“day” prophecy of Daniel 8:14.
- That simply cannot be correct.
- That prophecy was part of Daniel’s mareh vision, which was never sealed.
- Even Daniel finally understood that part (Daniel 10:1).
What is the theme of the Danelic ha·hazon visions (scroll)?
- They are a group of distinct prophecies of how the conflict between Christ (the “ram”) and Satan (the “rough he-goat”) will end.
- And, amazingly, they include timed prophetic periods within which all will be accomplished! Daniel and Revelation are frequently linked to a three-and-a-half-year period (Daniel 12:7; Revelation11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
For the skeptical – the Hebrew linguistic expressions make pristine clear that they could not be understood until just recently, i.e., they were sealed until the “time of the end.”
Expositor White understood that link between Daniel’s sealed visions and “the end.”
“A wonderful connection is here seen between the universe of heaven and this world. The things revealed to Daniel were afterward complemented by the revelation made to John on the isle of Patmos. These two books should be carefully perused. Twice Daniel inquired, How long shall it be to the end of time? ‘And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand…. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days’ [Daniel 12:8-10, 13].”
“The book that was sealed was not the book of Revelation, but that portion of the prophecy of Daniel which related to the last days. The Scripture says, ‘But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased’ (Daniel 12:4). When the book was opened, the proclamation was made, ‘Time shall be no longer [delayed]’ (Revelation 10:6). The book of Daniel is now unsealed, and the revelation made by Christ to John is to come to all the inhabitants of the earth. By the increase of knowledge a people is to be prepared to stand in the latter days.” Did you note that? That little open book contains messages for every person on earth! It contains “time of the end” clocks!
They represent distinct eschatological messages for those who will globally convey the gospel of Jesus Christ just before the eschaton!
“The book of Daniel is unsealed in the revelation to John, and carries us forward to the last scenes of this earth’s history.”
It is important to note that this little scroll/book is called biblaridion (G) (10:2, 9-10). The seven-sealed scroll was called biblion (5:1-5, 8-9). If they were the same, it would be expected that the biblaridion would be preceded by the article “the.” It is not!
- The scroll of destiny (biblion) (Revelation 5–6) begins with the sequential opening of the seals and continues to the end of the Apocalypse.
- “Within that scope [of time], the little scroll deals with … [events affecting] God’s people during the final days prior to the end.” – the “appointed time.”
Thus – the setting invites our deeper understanding of the great prophecies in Daniel related to those ha·hazon visions.
- This suggests that the continued details of John’s vision will be more easily interpreted through that Old Testament information.
- It also reveals that Daniel’s “time of the end” relates to John’s eschatological end.
Next month we will visit what John learned from Daniel.
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EndTime Issues…, Number 208, December 7, 2017
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