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This chapter is the prelude to the end of this section. The section ends with chapter XL The opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets have led up to the final scene in this part of Revelation; and the tenth chapter is preliminary to the culmination. It is to be observed that we have come to the last seal which bound that book which was put into the hand of Christ as the opener. The last seal issued in seven trumpets; and six trumpets have sounded and but one more remains to sound. We are still, however, among the events of the sixth trumpet.
V. 1. A mighty angel comes down from heaven. Heretofore the standpoint of the visions seemed to be in heaven; now it seems to be earth. This angel comes down to earth. Who is this angel? I take it that this angel is Jesus Christ himself, because of the description of his having a rainbow upon his head; his face as the sun; his feet as pillars of fire. One will recognize some of these features as being ascribed to Christ in the first chapter. There is no difficulty in his being called an angel; Old Testament usage has justified that.
V. 2. He had in his hand a little book open; rather opened. Considerable interest attaches to this book. What was this book? Why was it opened? Why called a little book? What did it contain? What relation did it bear to the book put in Christ's hand in the fifth chapter? Was it the same book or was it a new book comprising the prophecies in the last half of Revelation?
Evidently the reasonable explanation is that it was the same book that we saw in the fifth chapter sealed with seven seals; or rather what is left of it. The seven seals have been opened, so this book appears opened. We are now in the seventh seal that disclosed seven trumpets and we are in the events of the sixth trumpet. So therefore but little remains of the contents of that book and it is now described as 'little.' We are almost at the end of this series of visions. Let this be duly observed for it is a very important point in the proper understanding of the whole book of Revelation. The revelations of that book that was sealed with the seven seals evidently ends with the eleventh chapter; and the disclosures of the second half of Revelation are otherwise provided for.
Now we see Christ come down with that same book in his hand with every seal opened to declare that the time is up; and the prayers of his saints are to be answered; and the blood of his martyrs judged or avenged; and the last great catastrophe shall fall on the first great persecutor of the Christian church.
Vs. 3-4. These verses tell us that the bearer of this open book cried with a loud voice and seven thunders uttered their voices. The seven thunders uttered something in words, for John was about to write it, but a voice from heaven told him to seal them up and not write these things which the seven thunders said. No doubt they were too terrible to write. Their ears and hearts are to be spared the description. And we will find in the next chapter that when the end of this scene comes we are spared the description of the carnage and massacre and madness of that last scene. We are told in brief words what fate was to befall the altar and temple and city of Jerusalem. And we are told the purpose and the spiritual results; but all the sickening details are omitted. These very soon became a matter of history, and John did not need to write them in detail.
Vs. 5-6. These verses tell us that this heavenly messenger lifted up his hand as he stood upon the sea and upon the earth, and swore by the Creator of the universe that time should be no longer. This cannot mean that all time was at an end. On no scheme of interpretation could that be true. The rest of the book is full of events that are yet to come. But the meaning is that no more time could be given these sinners on whom this judgment was to fall; no further delay till the final stroke should descend. The Lord had delayed his judgments long; he is long suffering and slow to wrath; but the time had now come and no longer delay would be granted.
V. 7. We are here told that when the seventh angel sounds, and it will be soon, he is just about to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished; not all mystery, but as he hath declared by the prophets, doubtless here it is the judgments long foretold against Jerusalem for her apostasy and persecution. For such prophecies see Isa_65:1-25 ; Isa_66:1-24 and Dan_9:26-27 .
Vs. 8-10. Here we are shown that John, at the command of the voice from heaven, takes the book from the angel's hand and eats it. In his mouth it was sweet and in his belly it was bitter. There were some things glad and some things sad in the events revealed in that book, and about to be revealed. It was a matter of gladness that God heard their prayers and answered their cries, vindicated their cause, and destroyed the persecutors. But it was sad that men did not turn from their sins, sad that such judgments must fall, sad that the altar and temple and city and state so much revered should come thru the sins of men, to such a sad end.
V. 11. "And he said to me: Thou must prophesy again before (or rather concerning) many people, nations, tongues and kings.' " Though this book was ended and all its seals opened there would be other things to follow and we will see that this was true in the next half of Revelation.
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the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany