Joy to the World: A Bitter Carol
by Joseph Franks
John has a vision where six angels sound their trumpets. In doing so, they are warning the world of the immanent discipline of God to follow. Following each blast, heavenly discipline, earthly disaster, and satanic demons decimate the earth. However, despite the heavenly warnings and the earthly woes, men will not turn to God and repent. They remain steadfast sinners tempting a very offended and angry deity.
At this point in the dream, one expects the seventh and final trumpet to be sounded. However, God is patient and longsuffering. He is not willing that men should perish, so there is a long intermission between the sixth and seventh blowing.
In Revelation 10, John sees an eighth angel descending from heaven. He is a thoroughly majestic divine being who holds the open scroll in his hand. It is safe to assume this is Jesus Christ, for he is the radiant Lamb of God who is the only one worthy to hold and open the scroll. In picturesque language, John presents him as Lord of the land and sea. When he speaks, he is much more impressive than a trumpet. This Lamb roars like a lion. More than that, he roars like seven thunders.
In his vision, the apostle takes out his writing utensil; what follows cannot be forgotten. However, he is commanded to put his pen and paper aside. Whatever Christ declares, this will be off the record.
Jesus, who speaks the truth and never lies, makes a vow before the Creator. The seventh trumpet is to be sounded, and when it is heard the Old Testament mystery will be solved. Adam will once again thrive in the garden. Noah will rejoice as God’s judgments are forever a thing of the past. Abraham will enjoy the land. Isaac will be the firstborn of many brothers. Jacob will have twelve sons ruling. Judah will have his descendent reigning as a lion. David will see his Son reigning on the earth forever. Isaiah will worship along with the nations. And perhaps, the international choir will sing:
No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of his love
This is so sweet that John can taste it; such news is like honey to the palate. However, there is an aftertaste. This revelation was became bitter when it reached John’s stomach. The reader is not told why, but the context gives the reason. God desires to save many more people. Therefore, John must labor on. He and the saints must preach and endure additional persecution. The glorious reunion is on the horizon, but a night of harvesting and hurting still remains.
Friends, perhaps this is like the night in which you were engaged. The mood was set and the dinner was sweet. Never has your spouse looked so handsome or beautiful. Then, on bended knee, the ring was unveiled, the proposal was made, and the answer was “yes.” It was wonderful! It was glorious! The two of you were going to be together for the rest of your days. But then it happened. The night was coming to an end, and it was time for the two of you to part ways for the evening. How anti-climactic! You loved each other. You were committed to each other. You wanted each other. However, it would not be righteous to roll around in each other’s arms until the marriage was formally finalized. So, out of respect for your lover and your God, you parted for the night. The evening was so sweet, and it became a bit bitter as you were not yet able to enjoy that which was coming your way.
So it is with Christians. We should long so much for paradise that we find ourselves less infatuated with this world. However, if we are honest, this is not the case. Therefore, with this thought in mind, I might suggest the following subjects for prayer.
First, let us meditate on heaven. Let us converse with God regarding our new bodies, our sinless existence, our righteous relationships, and the glorious opportunities we will have to gather for worship around the throne of God.
Second, let us be thankful for the glimpses of glory we experience on this earth. It could be much worse than it is. For many people, earthly existence is incredibly painful. We, who have tasted the blessing of God on this earth, should be very content and thankful.
Third, let us be anxious for souls. May we use our time wisely to preach at home and to the nations. May we bring specific names to God in prayer, knowing that God loves to seek and save those who are lost.
Fourth, let us sing “Joy to the World” with an end-time perspective in mind. Sure, it is a great holiday hymn, but the full ramifications of this hymn will not be experienced until his Second Coming. When the seventh trumpet sounds, hell is accelerated for some. When the seventh trumpet sound, joy is magnified for others.