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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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E. Supplementary revelation of John’s preparation for recording the remaining judgments in the Great Tribulation ch. 10

John proceeded with his revelation to unfold the future course of events for his readers. We have already seen that God interrupted the sequence of the seven seal judgments with revelation concerning other events happening at approximately the same time. This took place between the sixth and seventh seals (ch. 7). Now He interrupted the sequence of trumpet judgments between the sixth and seventh trumpets with the insertion of other revelation (Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:14). [Note: See the chart "The Literary Structure of Revelation 6-18" at the end of my notes on chapter 7.] The emphasis shifts temporarily from the outpouring of God’s wrath on unbelievers to the consolation and encouragement of believers.

Verse 1

A few commentators have identified this strong angel as Jesus Christ. [Note: E.g., Wiersbe, 2:597; and Beale, p. 522.] But the evidence for his being simply another (Gr. allon, another of the same kind) strong angel seems more convincing (cf. Revelation 10:5-6). Other commentators have identified him as Gabriel or Michael (cf. Daniel 8:16; Daniel 12:7). [Note: Charles, 1:258-59; Smith, A Revelation . . ., pp. 153-54; Swete, p. 177; Mounce, p. 207; Johnson, p. 496; Beasley-Murray, p. 170.] But this is only guessing. He is probably not the same strong angel John saw before (Revelation 5:2) since there are many strong angels (cf. Revelation 18:21). John saw him descending from heaven as a messenger of God (cf. Revelation 20:1) and robed in a cloud signifying his celestial origin and connection with judgment (cf. Revelation 1:7; Revelation 14:14-16; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:24; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27). His crown was a rainbow, the symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy (cf. Revelation 4:3). His countenance was radiant, reflecting the glory and majesty of God. His feet (and legs) were fiery, reminiscent of the pillar of fire in the wilderness, a manifestation of God’s holiness, mercy, and judgment.

"This scene marks a significant change in John’s literary method. Here his personality re-emerges as it did briefly between the sixth and seventh seals (Revelation 7:13-14), but now for the first and last time in this drama, he leaves the observer’s corner and occupies the very center of the stage (e.g., Revelation 10:9-11). This new role also involves a change in location from heaven to earth, as the angel descends from heaven (Revelation 10:1) and stands upon the earth where John hears a voice from heaven (Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8) and goes to him (Revelation 10:8) . . . The new style is one element among others that heightens the anticipation and accentuates the solemnity of the apocalyptic events to follow." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 59.]

Verses 1-4

1. The appearance of the mighty angel 10:1-4

Verse 2

The little scroll in his hand may be different from the scroll Jesus Christ unrolled (Revelation 5:1; Revelation 6:1). John used a different and rare Greek word to describe it (biblaridion, not biblion). The tense of the Greek verb translated "was open" (perfect passive) indicates that someone had opened it and it was then open in his hand. It probably represents a new revelation from God (cf. Ezekiel 2:9 to Ezekiel 3:3; Jeremiah 15:15-17). The angel stood astride the earth and the sea symbolizing his authority over the whole world (Revelation 10:5; Revelation 10:8; Revelation 7:2; cf. Exodus 20:4; Exodus 20:11; Deuteronomy 11:24; Psalms 68:22; Psalms 69:34). The implication is that his message involves the whole world. Other less likely views, I think, are that his stance symbolizes the universality of the message, [Note: Morris, p. 137.] or that he was defying the sea’s instability. [Note: Swete, p. 127.]

Verse 3

His majestic, loud cry produced seven peals of thunder. Comparison with a lion suggests that his powerful cry concerns vengeance. This proves true if what he cried out appears in Revelation 10:6. Thunder warns of coming storms, more judgments. These thunders spoke.

Verse 4

An authoritative voice, probably belonging to God or Christ (cf. Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:19; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9), did not permit John to record the judgments these seven thunders revealed (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). This indicates that God has not revealed in Scripture all the judgments that will take place on the earth during the Great Tribulation. [Note: Newell, p. 142.]

Apparently John used the intervals between events in his visions to write down what he had seen and heard or at least to make notes.

Verse 5

The fact that the angel took an oath and swore by God seems to confirm that he is not God. Lifting the right hand toward God was and is a customary gesture when making a solemn oath (cf. Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:40; Daniel 12:7). The little book must have been in the angel’s left hand.

Verses 5-7

2. The announcement of the mighty angel 10:5-7

Verse 6

The oath emphasized the certainty of what he announced. What was about to happen was extremely important. He appealed to God as the eternal Creator who can cause whatever He pleases to happen. This appeal strengthens the force of the oath and the certainty of its outcome. His message was that there would be no more delay. The Greek word used here, chronos, commonly means "time," but that is obviously not what the angel intended here. "Delay" is the only acceptable translation that makes sense in this context. There would be no delay between this announcement and the blowing of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15). [Note: Alford, 4:652; Swete, pp. 126-27; Charles, 1:263-64; Beckwith, p. 582.] Revelation 10:7 explains this affirmation (cf. Daniel 12:7 a). The Tribulation martyrs would have to wait no longer for vindication (cf. Revelation 6:10). Evidently the seal and trumpet judgments will take some time to unfold, giving earth-dwellers time to repent (Revelation 6:15-17; Revelation 9:20-21), but the bowl judgments will come very quickly, allowing little or no time for repentance (cf. 2 Peter 3:1-9).

Verse 7

In contrast to (Gr. all’) delay, when the seventh (trumpet) angel spoke God would fully reveal His mystery. The "mystery of God" probably refers to previously unrevealed details of God’s plans for humanity that He was about to make known. Specifically it refers to what will take place so the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of Christ (Revelation 11:15). The mystery is finished (the aorist passive of teleo) in the sense that God would then have no more to reveal about these kingdom plans beyond what He revealed to John. He had revealed His plans for the future kingdom to His servants the prophets in former times, but only partially (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). "His servants the prophets" is a common description of the Old Testament prophets in particular (Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 25:4; Amos 3:7).

Verse 8

God or Christ (Revelation 10:4) then commanded John to take the little book from the strong angel with authority over the whole planet (cf. Revelation 5:7-8).

Verses 8-11

3. The instruction of the mighty angel 10:8-11

Verse 9

Evidently the little scroll symbolizes God’s revelation that John was about to set forth. It is the revelation that the remainder of the Book of Revelation, or at least part of it, contains. Eating is a universal figure for receiving knowledge (cf. Jeremiah 15:16; Ezekiel 3:1-3). The angel told John that this revelation would taste bitter at first but then he would find it sweet. This order probably suggests that what would come next was more judgment but John would find satisfaction in knowing these things.

Verse 10

John may have actually eaten the little book. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 74; Mounce, p. 214.] Or he may have only devoured it metaphorically. This revelation was pleasant at first because it was a revelation from God (cf. Psalms 119:103). Still, as John meditated on it and comprehended the fearful judgments that it predicted, he became distressed. The reason for reversing the order of these effects, compared with Revelation 10:9, may be to place the bitterness in closer proximity to the judgments that follow. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 74.] The little book may have contained the revelation in Revelation 11:1-13. [Note: F. F. Bruce, "The Revelation of John," in A New Testament Commentary, p. 649; Charles, 1:260; Lilje, p. 158; Charles R. Erdman, The Revelation of John, p. 99; Martin Rist, "The Revelation of St. John the Divine," in The Interpreter’s Bible, 12:442; Mounce, p. 216.] Or it may have contained more (perhaps chs. 11-19) or all of what follows in Revelation. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 74.]

Verse 11

"They" may refer to God or Jesus Christ (Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8) and the strong angel (Revelation 10:9). Many interpreters, however, believe this is a third person plural of indefinite reference that expresses reverentially the divine prompting that John experienced (cf. Revelation 12:6; Revelation 13:16; Revelation 16:15). [Note: Friedrich Düsterdieck, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Revelation of John, p. 305; Alford, 4:654; Lee, 4:638; Beckwith, p. 584; Robertson, 6:374; Ford, p. 160; Thomas, Revelation 8-22, p. 74.] "They" told John that he must (Gr. dei) prophesy again, as he had been doing (cf. Jeremiah 1:10; Ezekiel 4:7). They wanted him to communicate the new revelation contained in the little scroll that he had consumed. The new prophecies concerned many different peoples, nations, language groups, and kings (cf. Revelation 5:9). The specific mention of kings reflects God’s sovereignty and anticipates the judgments in Revelation 16:14; Revelation 17:10; and Revelation 17:12.

This renewed commission stresses that what follows would be more burdensome than what John had prophesied so far.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/revelation-10.html. 2012.
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