As we begin chapter 10 this evening we come to another repetition in the book of Revelation. In the seals we saw earlier the first four were grouped together, then the fifth and sixth were grouped together, then there was a minor break or intermission, culminating in the moment when the seventh and final seal would be broken. So too, the trumpets we’ve been examining follow the same progression. We saw the first four as a group, the fifth and sixth as a group, and now before the culminating moment when the seventh trumpet is blown, we come an intermission once again. Or to put it simply, just as there was a brief break between the sixth and seventh seal, so too we now see a brief break between the sixth and seventh trumpet.

Here’s how it all breaks down. The intermission begins in 10:1 and ends in 11:13. The main content of this intermission is found in 11:1-13, which is prepared for and introduced in 10:1-11, our passage this evening.[1] Throughout these eleven verses two things are very prominent: the mighty angel and the little scroll.

In v1 we’re introduced to the mighty angel, “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.”

That John begins by saying he is seeing another angel reminds us that this isn’t the first time John has seen a mighty angel, it’s the second time. Back in 5:2 John met the first mighty angel, who with a loud voice cried out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” At this loud voice John wept because none were found worthy but John’s weeping ceased as he saw the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb of God standing, as though slain, come forth. John’s first encounter with a mighty angel in chapter 5 has much to do with this second encounter with a mighty angel here in chapter 10. Both angels speak in a loud voice and both speak about the scroll. But follow how these events unfold. Before in chapter 5 the mighty angel spoke with a question, about who could open the scroll and break its seals. We then see Christ, the Lamb of God break open the seven seals. Now we arrive in chapter 10 where John meets another mighty angel, who isn’t holding a closed scroll this time wondering about who can open it but holding an open scroll, giving it to John, for him to eat it, to take it in, and to preach its contents to his hearers.

The language describing this angel in chapter 10 has caused some debate about who the identity of this angel. The angel is wrapped in a cloud, a rainbow is over his head, he has a face like the sun, and legs like pillars of fire. Each of these images come from the Old Testament and are intended to convey might and power. A cloud descended on Mt. Sinai and on the tabernacle once it was completed and guided the people by day after the Exodus to symbolize the Lord’s presence with them. A rainbow appears earlier in the history of God’s people, (when?) back to Noah’s day. “Just as Noah emerged from the ark into a new world cleansed of sin and saw the rainbow of God hung in the clouds, the angel’s rainbow around his head anticipates the new heaven and new earth awaiting Christ’s followers.”[2] Or to say it a different way, “What God did for Noah and the children of Israel by saving them through judging their enemies, then bringing them into a new land, He is going to do again when he saves us through the judgment of this world.”[3] So as the rainbow was the sign of the covenant in Noah’s day it is so still as John sees it here. A face like the sun reminds us of Revelation 1:16 where John saw Jesus whose face was like the sun “shining in full strength.” And legs like pillars of fire reminds us of Revelation 1:15 where we saw Jesus’ feet were like “burnished bronze, refined in a furnace.” It also reminds us once again of Israel being led through the wilderness not only by a cloud by day (as we’ve already seen here) but also by a pillar of fire by night. Add to all of this the images of Daniel 7 about one coming on the clouds of heaven, you can understand why many arrive at the conclusion that this angel is Christ Himself. But I do not think it is.[4] Not only is the angel in Daniel 10 and 12 very similar to the angel in view here but there is evidence within Revelation itself that this angel isn’t Christ. As the previous angel in chapter 5 wasn’t Jesus but a messenger of Jesus to John, so too I think the angel in chapter 10 isn’t Jesus but a messenger of Jesus too. What then do we make of all of these images of power, might, clouds, fire, rainbow, and light? The radiance of the angel’s appearance marks him out as one who not only exists in the presence of Christ but who also bears the image of Christ, reflecting the glory of Christ, as he brings the message of Christ.[5]

v2-4 continue the intermission saying, “He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.”

We’ve seen the mighty angel, now we’re introduced to the little scroll. It’s open and it’s in his right hand. We hear about this scroll in detail later on, for now we get more information on this angel. The angel places one foot on (not in) the sea and the other foot on the land, likely to indicate: 1) the contents of this scroll have dominion over all the earth, usually to place your foot on something in Scripture is to have exercise authority over it (Psalm 110:1-2), 2) the contents of this scroll are for the whole earth, both land and sea symbolically represent all that is on the earth, and 3) the size of this angel is colossal to be able to do this. This last point is likely implied from the first two, and I tend to think it isn’t this angel that reigns supreme over all things on earth, but the message he is wielding in the scroll.

As v3 begins the angel calls out in a loud voice, that is like a lion roaring and once the roar went forth John heard the boom of seven thunders. Seven is used here to signify perfection, as it often does, but here it’s the perfection of the majestic voice of God. How do I get that? Seven is a number used many times in Scripture to denote perfection or completeness, similar to the way the number three is used. That John hears seven thunders when this angel calls out in a loud voice is telling. Thunder is often associated with God’s majesty and power and in Psalm 29 we read much of the thunder and glory of the voice of the Lord. In fact, Psalm 29 mentions ‘the voice of the Lord’ seven times (perfection/completeness again) while also stating the God of glory thunders. Lesson? The voice of the Lord is perfect and supreme in its power. Bring all that thunderous imagery about God’s voice forward and see this scene John beholds. The mighty angel, whose holding an open scroll, calls out in a loud voice and what follows is seven thunders. Lesson? The word of this angel held in the scroll is the Word of God and the Word of God has supreme power over all on earth. This would’ve been mightily encouraging for the Church in John’s day used to such trouble and suffering and persecution. To see the colossal size and might and power and authority of God’s Word would’ve easily reminded them that none can frustrate the purposes of God and none can thwart His will.

Moving on, in v4 John is eager to write down what he has heard in the thunders, which means they actually taught him something and communicated something to him. But now, we see something we’re not used to in Revelation. John is told, not by this angel but by a voice from heaven, to not write down what he heard in the seven thunders. What John heard in these thunders has caused an enormous amount of speculation and commentators and interpreters galore go to some strange places in their thoughts on this. For us this evening, I’ll not go into any of this. Why?[6] Because: 1) John was told not to write it down, he obeyed and didn’t, thus we can’t know what he learned, so any investigation into it will be as fruitful as a plate of bacon. 2) That John was told not to write it down, likely means what John heard was just for John and not for anyone else. 3) John was told not to write it down, therefore, when it comes to John’s apocalypse (the book of Revelation) specifically, and all of Scripture generally, we can never act as if we know all there is to know about God and His grand purposes over all things. John was certainly told much of the divine mysteries about what has, is, and will occur at the end, and we certainly know much, but there is much that is mysterious. Let us not arrogantly act as if we know all things. Humility in regard to the knowledge of God is a virtue that ought to be pursued by everyone, while arrogance or a theological swagger is a vice that ought to be avoided by everyone.

The mighty angel continues on in v5-7, “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him 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, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as He announced to His servants the prophets.”

In Daniel 12:6-7 a great angel spoke to Daniel, raising “…his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by Him who lives forever…” warning Daniel that in the end a great time of trial would come lasting ‘a time, times, and time and a half.’ We see something similar here in v5-7 of Revelation 10 as this angel (some say maybe the same angel[7]) in oath like fashion does almost the same thing in swearing by God but gives a message that indicates time itself will soon end. That God, the One who made all things (the heavens, the earth, and the seas) would not delay any longer, no. What He told the prophets would come to pass, prophecy would be fulfilled, and mysteries would be revealed when the seventh trumpet sounds. All of this then leads to what occurs in the verses that follow, so we’ll move through them one at a time.

v8, “Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

Like in v4 after the seven thunders we see here again a voice, not the angels, but one from heaven telling John to tell the angel to give him the open scroll. For the third time we see the important detail repeated about where the angel’s feet are standing…perhaps to remind us once again that this angel was sent to bring a message to John about the whole world.

v9-10, “So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.”

John obeyed the voice from heaven, asked the angel for the scroll, and the angel replies with words of his own, instructing John to ‘take and eat it’ warning him that it will do two things: it will be sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. These are words we’ve heard before many times. Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” Ezekiel 3:1-3, “And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” Perhaps more widely known, Psalm 119:103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

So John experiences what the prophets of old do as he takes in and devours the Word of God on this open scroll. The sweetness and bitterness he experiences has to do with the message of this scroll he has taken in. It is sweet to his taste, for it is the Word of God that’s living and active. But it is bitter once he takes it in, because the message is one of judgment and woe to the wicked. Therefore, John (and any preacher or Christian in general) does not delight in the death of the wicked.

v11, “And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

The way v11 begins might be a bit misleading. The ESV begins with “And I was told…” leading to questions of who told him? The scroll? The angel? The voice from heaven? All of the above? The Greek of v11 might clear some of this up. It literally begins saying “And they say to me…” likely meaning, the scroll he just devoured, or the heavenly counsel that did his first commissioning tell him he must now prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings. That John is told he must do this again shows us he has already done this, but now must continue to do it further, as if he is being recommissioned for extended service.[8] We’ll see more of what this leads to next Sunday evening as we enter into chapter 11 and continue on in this intermission. For now, allow me to end by giving some application on how we can take John’s experience here and apply it to ourselves.[9]

First, as the original audience was then so too we must be assured that God’s Word is true and that God will bring about what He says He will. Regardless what the world around us brings against us God, and therefore God’s Word, has authority over all things. Nothing or no one can stop its judgments or statutes. When God’s Word goes out it always brings about His purposes and never returns to Him void. In Him we trust and in His Word we find great encouragement to hold fast to the end.

Second, we too must receive and internalize God’s Word. John was commanded to heed and hear the Word of God and ate it up, or he took it into himself. We too must do the same. Consuming God’s Word looks like a diligent effort to know it, read it, study it, memorize it, linger over it, and apply it to our life. We must be creatures of the Word. And once that occurs, we must realize it will be to us as it was to John, sweet and bitter. Sweet in that our souls will be nourished, encouraged, enlivened, and softened as we marinate in it. The Spirit who inspired it will also be the One to illuminate it. But also bitter in that God will seek out and lay bare sin wherever it’s found. In us as we read, and in others as they hear the Word come through our lips.

Third, we too must see ourselves as commissioned by God to bring His Word to the peoples, nations, languages, and kings.

[1] G.K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015) 199.

[2] Richard D. Phillips, Revelation (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2017), 298.

[3] James M. Hamilton Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2012), 223–24.

[4] For one example that believes this angel to be Jesus, see Beale, 200-01.

[5] Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, First Edition (Phillipsburg, N.J: P & R Publishing, 2001), 158.

[6] Leon Morris, Revelation – Tyndale Complete Commentary, accessed via Accordance Bible software, 11/13/19.

[7] Phillips, Revelation, 302.

[8] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans, 2013), 554.

[9] Phillips, Revelation, 303–5.

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