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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Revelation 10

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

Chapter 10

THE UNUTTERABLE REVELATION (Revelation 10:1-4)

10:1-4 I saw another angel, a mighty one, coming down out of heaven, clad in a cloud, and with a rainbow on his head. His face was as the sun and his feet were like pillars of fire. He had in his hand a little roll which was opened. He put his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he cried with a loud voice as a lion roars, and, when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices. When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write and I heard a voice from heaven saying: "Set a seal on what the seven thunders said, and do not write it."

Revelation 10:1-11 and Revelation 11:1-14 is a kind of interlude between the sounding of the sixth and the seventh trumpets. The sixth trumpet has already sounded, but the seventh does not sound until Revelation 11:15, and in between there are terrible things.

The mighty angel in this passage is described in terms which show that he came straight from the presence of God and the Risen Christ. He is clad in a cloud and the clouds are the chariots of God, for "God maketh the clouds his chariot" (Psalms 104:3). He has a rainbow on his head and the rainbow is part of the glory of the throne of God (Ezekiel 1:28). The rainbow is caused by the light of the angel's face shining through the cloud. His face is as the sun which is the description of the face of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2). His voice was as the roar of a lion which is often used as a simile of the voice of God, "the Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem" (Joel 3:16; Hosea 11:10; Amos 3:8). Clearly this angel has come from the very presence of God; some think that he is none other than the glorified Christ himself.

The angel has one foot on the sea and one on the land. This shows his size and power, for sea and land stand for the sum total of the universe. It also shows that the power of God stands as firm on the sea as it does on the land. In his hand the angel has a little roll, unrolled and opened. That is to say, he is giving John a limited revelation about a quite small period of time. When the angel speaks, the seven thunders sound. They are most likely a reference to the seven voices of God in Psalms 29:1-11 .

Naturally, when the seer sees the open roll and hears the angel's voice, he prepares to make a record of it; but he is ordered not to do so. That is to say, he is being given a revelation which at the moment he is not to pass on. We get exactly the same idea when Paul tells us that he was caught up to the third heaven and "heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter" (2 Corinthians 12:4). We need not even begin to speculate about what the secret revelation was. We simply know that John had experiences which he could not communicate to others. God sometimes tells a man more than that man can say or than his generation can understand.

THE DIVINE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE END (Revelation 10:5-7)

10:5-7 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 for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there was no time left; but that in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he would sound his trumpet, there would be completed the secret purpose of God, the good news of which he announced to his servants the prophets.

The angel now makes an announcement and affirms it with an oath. Sometimes the announcement has been taken to mean that "Time shall be no more". That is to say, time as we know it is about to be ended and eternity to begin. It is more likely that the meaning is that there is no time left, that there is to be no further delay, that Antichrist is about to burst upon the scene in all his destructive terror. As the writer to the Hebrews had it: "Yet a little while and the coming one will come, and shall not tarry" (Hebrews 10:37). The hour has struck when the man of sin shall be revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Whichever be the meaning of the phrase, certainly the message is that Antichrist is about to invade the earth; the scene is being set for the final contest.

When this happens, as the Revised Standard Version has it, the mystery of God would be fulfilled. The meaning is that the whole purpose of God in human history will stand revealed. Much in life is difficult to understand; wickedness seems to hold sway. But, as John saw it, there is going to be a final show-down. God and Antichrist, good and evil, will face each other; final and total victory will be won, the questions will find their answers and the wrongs will be righted.

Beyond all the strangeness of the picture stands the truth that history is moving towards the inevitable triumph of God and that, though evil may flourish, it cannot in the end be triumphant.

THE JOY AND THE SORROW OF THE MESSENGER OF GOD (Revelation 10:8-11)

10:8-11 And I heard the voice which I had heard from heaven speaking again to me and saying: "Go, take the little roll which lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land." And I went away to the angel and asked him to give me the little roll. He said to me: "Take it and eat it. It will be bitter to your stomach but it will be as sweet as honey to your mouth." And I took the little roll from the hand of the angel and ate it; and it was as sweet as honey to my mouth and, when I ate it, it was bitter to my stomach. And they said to me: "You must prophesy in regard to many peoples and nations and languages and kings."

Before we deal with this passage in any detail, we note how twice the seer is told to take the roll. It is not handed to him; even when he asks the angel to give it to him, the answer is that he must take it. The meaning is that God's revelation is never forced on any man; he must take it.

This picture comes from the experience of Ezekiel who was told to eat the roll and to fill his belly with it (Ezekiel 3:1; Ezekiel 3:3). In both pictures the idea is the same. The messenger of God has to take God's message into his very life and being.

The sweetness of the roll is a recurring thought in Scripture. To the psalmist the judgments of God are sweeter than honey and the honey-comb (Psalms 19:10). "How sweet are thy words to my taste! sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Psalms 119:103). It may well be that behind these words lies a pleasant Jewish educational custom. When a Jewish boy was learning the alphabet, it was written on a slate in a mixture of flour and honey. He was told what the letters were and how they sounded. After the original instruction, the teacher would point at a letter and would ask: "What is that and how does it sound?" If the boy could answer correctly, he was allowed to lick the letter off the slate as a reward! When the prophet and the psalmist speak about God's words and judgments being sweeter than honey, it may well be that they were thinking of this custom.

John adds another idea to this. To him the roll was sweet and bitter at one and the same time. What he means is this. A message of God may be to a servant of God at once a sweet and bitter thing. It is sweet because it is a great thing to be chosen as the messenger of God; but the message itself may be a foretelling of doom and, therefore, a bitter thing. So for John it was an infinite privilege to be admitted to the secrets of heaven but at the same time it was bitter to have to forecast the time of terror, even if triumph lay at its end.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Revelation 10:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/revelation-10.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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